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Hiring The Right Search Agency

Posted on 1.05.2009

Finding the right agency for your search marketing needs can be a daunting task. What questions should you be asking yourself? What questions should you be asking the agency and what questions should the agency be asking you? Search marketing agency Engine Ready developed a 57-point checklist to help those in pursuit of the right agency, and Website Magazine has selected a few sample questions from the broader white paper to ask yourself, ask the agency and for the agency to ask you.

Reviewing these questions will prepare you to find the right agency to optimize your search marketing and meet or exceed you goals. Be forewarned, though, armed with this checklist you are likely to catch some agencies off guard. When that happens, listen carefully to the response. Sometimes you’ll be able learn more about the agency by what they don't say. In any case, if you experience any resistance to any of these questions, seek out another agency.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

What are the goals of my paid search marketing initiatives?
While most advertisers are looking to directly acquire new leads or sales, there are also important branding aspects inherent in search marketing. Also, be sure to understand the primary action you want your visitor to take upon reaching your site. Do you want them to request a quote, download a white paper, call you, order any of your products or order a specific product?

For goal setting, remember the acronym SMART – your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

How will I evaluate the success of the agency’s efforts?
Campaign success needs to be tied to a quantifiable metrics. For most lead generation companies, cost per lead will generally be the key metric. Cost per lead is calculated as Advertising cost divided by Number of leads generated. E-commerce companies sometimes also use CPA (cost per acquisition), however a more accurate measure may be return on ad spend (ROAS), which is defined as Sales generated divided by Cost of advertising.


Questions To Ask The Agency:

What kind of testing does the agency perform and how frequent?
Your agency should always be testing your ad creative and have a scheduled plan in place for landing page testing. At a minimum, you should request that each AdGroup contain an A/B split test on ad creative, and at least 1 landing page test every 2 months. If your traffic numbers are large, be sure to ask about their experience running multivariate tests. Additionally, the agency should be able to demonstrate a track record in developing high converting landing pages and be adept at using A/B and multivariate testing tools. Some agencies might charge for landing page development and testing. Be sure to negotiate those fees up front.

What happens to your accounts when you terminate?
It’s important to find out who owns your account setup if you terminate. Some agencies may charge an extra fee to allow you to take over your campaigns in the optimized setup. Some agencies will refuse to allow you to take over your campaigns. Not only do you lose the setup, but you would lose historical data.

Do you get visibility into your accounts?
Even if you think you may not want to log into your Google AdWords account, it’s important that contractually, the agency gives you that option. Having access to your account is a great way to independently review keywords and creative, and review the activity log to see how much work is being put into your account. This will also allow you the ability to pause your account in an emergency if the agency is closed.


Questions Agencies Should Ask:

How much can you afford to pay for a lead/sale what is your average order value and gross margin?
Assuming that your goals are tied to generating leads or sales from your paid search campaigns, you’ll need to arrive at a break even estimate of how much you can pay for that lead/sale. If you don’t hear this question with the first 2 minutes, move on.

What has worked/not worked well in the past? What could have been improved?
Prior successes and failures will help the agency plan out their testing strategies. It’s important to alert the agency of the specific areas in your campaign management that did not live up to your expectations.

There are fifty more questions you could be asking (or answering) for the benefit of your paid search campaign.
Download the entire report at EngineReady.com.

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