Paid search marketing is a staple of today’s
More and more business owners are buying into, quite literally,
the idea that paid search marketing is a surefire way
to drive traffic to a website and to increase Return on Investment
(ROI). Their confidence shows in their spending.
According to eMarketer.com, next year’s spending predictions
include a $7 billion increase in online ad spending.
The competiveness of the paid search game is enough
to make the average business owner’s head spin. And, making
the decision to keep these efforts in house or to outsource
them to an agency is a battle in itself. There are pros
and cons, of both, that need to be considered. Experts on
both sides of the fence agree.
The extent and the type of experience that a team offers
should be top of mind for any paid search marketing campaign.
The in-demand individuals that make up these
teams possess the skills and expertise to develop strategy
based on client goals; conduct market research to apply in
the campaign’s execution; identify and employ opportunities
to expand client visibility and profitability; create targeted
messaging for the campaign’s creative development;
For in-house efforts, there are individuals who can tackle
the above objectives, and do them well, but there are other
objectives that must be met, which require more than a oneman
Tom Shapiro, CEO of a strategic marketing and design
firm, Digital Marketing NOW, outlines a best-case scenario
for in-house teams.
“Keeping the efforts in-house could work well in the case
that the internal team, one, is comprised of experienced marketers,
as well as paid search marketing specialists; two,
comes from different industries with deep marketing experience;
and, three, has the analytical and strategic chops,”
said Shapiro. “It really is critical that the team has both
general marketing experts, as well as paid search specialists.
The two perspectives complement one another and ensure
that the campaigns are fully aligned with the overall branding
and business goals of the company.”
With that said, Shapiro gives the upper hand to agencies,
as an in-house team is not going to have the same breadth of
experience and perspective as a marketing agency.
“An agency team has the luxury of seeing many different
accounts and many different tests on each of these accounts
on a continual basis,” said Shapiro. “The learning
that is uncovered through this type of broad exposure is invaluable,
as it is often the cross-pollination of ideas that leads
to the most significant breakthroughs.”
AMP Agency’s Account Director Amy Seeburger agrees
with Shapiro and offers further insight.
“With multiple clients and tactics in motion, agencies
gather best practice insights across industries, which benefits
clients in delivering innovative, high-performing solutions,”
said Seeburger whose company, AMP, is an integrated
There are others who think the higher number of accounts
can actually hurt individual campaigns.
“When you work for an agency you have several accounts,
so you aren’t able to spend as much time on a particular
account as you would like to,” said Jennifer Yaniz,
Search Engine Marketing Manager for 7Search.com. “On average,
you have 12-13 accounts, which doesn’t allow you
much time to think of new strategies.”
Time, or lack thereof, is a challenge across all verticals.
There are software solutions to help (more on that later),
and there are certain aspects of paid search marketing that
are also obtainable — like a well-rounded team that is comprised
of individuals capable of thinking strategically and
In an ever-evolving landscape, search marketers need to not
only be aware of trends, but also stay ahead of them. This
is a challenge in any industry, but one that may be more
difficult for internal paid search marketing teams, as the individuals must commit to educating themselves. Whereas,
the reputation of top agencies provides natural ways to learn
about marketplace needs and find ways to meet them.
Agencies like AMP are able to work with search engines,
technology partners and industry thought leaders and are
often invited to test beta programs, which allow it to evaluate
new opportunities, a luxury small- to medium-sized
businesses aren’t often afforded.
The Cost Factor
From equipment upgrades to pay increases, operating costs
are a continuous expense. Outsourcing certain aspects of the
workflow is one way companies are reducing these expenses,
but at what cost?
For paid search marketing, it could be at the cost of disconnecting
a brand’s message or goals. Remember the telephone
game? It’s difficult enough to communicate a message
to, and for it to resonate with, multiple parties under one
roof, let alone communicate it across several channels to
reach an agency. One way to avoid this is by having stakeholders
communicate directly with their paid search marketers,
rather than a go-between employee listening to an
executive’s message and then taking it and communicating
it to someone else. When decision makers speak directly to
the person in charge of their campaign, that person is able
to ask follow-up questions at the source. The alternative is
that the go-between person may take it upon himself or herself
to answer these follow-up questions, and he or she may
not provide the best answers and, thus, cause a disconnect
between the company and its agency.
Other best practices for developing and maintaining successful
client-agency relationships are the same as any other
relationship type: treat the relationship as a partnership, be
respectful, set expectations, define what success means to
both parties, check in regularly, etc.
While there is give and take for both in-house and outsourced
paid search marketing efforts, typically the bottom
line for most businesses is cost. Outsourcing in itself does
not guarantee companies save on costs, but hiring an agency
who knows what it is doing can.
The way Digital Marketing NOW typically saves their
clients money is by achieving better performance than the
clients’ historical results.
For example, within six months of taking over a software
company’s paid search campaign, Digital Marketing
NOW increased conversions by 278 percent, increased conversion
rate by 80 percent and decreased cost per conversion
by 44 percent. One of the first things the agency did
when taking over the account was go through a revamp of
the landing pages, which it immediately identified as a bottleneck
In addition to providing an objective view of current
practices, agencies are also able to take companies out of
their comfort zone to reduce costs and increase ROI.
“The main ways that we’ve achieved cost savings for our
clients in general is through granular account configuration,
strategy development, and testing, testing, testing,” said
Shapiro, CEO of Digital Marketing NOW. “Often what we
find is that clients who come to us have historically managed
ad groups that were too broad, which by its nature limits
the ability to target and test. We also find that clients tend
to be comfortable with certain types of testing (i.e. ad copy
testing, landing page testing, etc.), yet aren’t focused on other
types of tests (i.e. retargeting testing, ad format testing, offer
Another variable to account for in the in-house versus
agency debate is software solutions, which both parties can
use in the same capacity. Blue Shield of California recently
found success when its agency, AMP, deployed Marin Software
in an effort to increase its online lead volume and revenues
and decrease cost per lead (see sidebar).
The myriad of platforms available to agencies and inhouse
teams can really even the playing field between the
two. One of the biggest areas of focus for Marin Software is
to evangelize best practices and improve efficiency, which
can be used by a wide range of advertisers.
“Without a platform like Marin, online marketers spend
significant amounts of time in Excel stitching campaign and
revenue data into reports or making adjustments to creative
and bids,” said Matt Lawson, VP of Marketing for Marin
Software. “Marin streamlines the search marketing process,
improving visibility, workflow and, ultimately, revenue acquisition.”
In-house or out, search marketing requires strategy, collaboration,
continuous education, accountability and best
practices that are strong enough to reach both sides of the
fence. Without any of these, the race for online revenues is
a fruitless one.
As AMP’s Account Director, Amy Seeburger, so eloquently
said, “At the end of the day, search is about connecting
individuals with the information they seek. Add value in
that experience and brands are sure to find success.”
Outsourcing in Action
Blue Shield of California, one of the largest healthcare providers in The Golden State, recently
increased its online lead volume and revenues through AMP Agency’s deployment of Marin
Software Enterprise Edition. The easy-to-use predictive bidding capabilities of the platform
allowed AMP to maximize lead volumes (a 78 percent increase), while maintaining control
over cost per lead (CPL reduced 16 percent).
“Health providers are up against a competitive and distinct environment when it comes
to search marketing,” said Troadio Satizabal, Online Marketing Manager at Blue Shield. “Marin
Software’s flexible advanced bidding optimization capabilities played an integral role in helping
AMP Agency achieve Blue Shield of California’s aggressive lead generation and efficiency
goals within such a unique search atmosphere.”
Marin also offers a mid-market version of its product called Marin Professional Edition,
which used in tandem with best practices can provide small paid search teams with the
same foothold as the big guys.