The 7 Deadly Sins of AdWords Management Agencies
by Jacob Baadsgaard • July 29, 2015
Let’s face it—winning on AdWords is no easy task. Between picking the right keywords, setting up bids, maximizing impression share, writing ad copy, optimizing landing pages and everything in between, there are a lot of ways to waste a campaign’s potential.
It’s no surprise that an industry this complex has its fair share of specialists. A good AdWords agency knows how to tweak and optimize every facet of a campaign to produce great, consistent results.
If you’re reading this post, though, you probably know all of that. You’ve probably seen a few campaigns inexplicably flush money down the drain. Or, you’ve tried an agency only to find that their self-proclaimed “expertise” seems to produce about the same results as your in-house efforts.
You know you need help to make your campaigns a success, but the question is, “How do you pick the right AdWords agency?”
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with agencies in every way imaginable.
I started my career at Adobe consulting on some of the largest AdWords campaigns in the country. I then became the digital marketing director at Copart, where I hired multiple agencies to manage AdWords accounts for me. Since then, I’ve personally managed over 100 accounts and started my own agency specializing in AdWords management.
Seeing AdWords agencies from so many different angles has taught me how to identify which companies and agencies are a great match. As the CEO of Disruptive Advertising, the ability to recognize when my company isn’t a good fit for a potential client has saved both Disruptive and our leads from a lot of heartache and frustration.
Picking an AdWords agency is a big deal—I get that—so let’s discuss how to identify a good agency-company matchup.
The Seven Deadly Sins
After working with and in AdWords agencies for years, I’ve identified what I call the “Seven Deadly Sins” of an AdWords agency: Yesaholism, Poor Communication, Inflexibility, Skin-Deep Strategy, Inexperience, Incompatibility and Defensiveness.
Okay, so while they’re not really “sins,” signing on with an agency with failings in any of these areas is almost always a bad idea. They might not be a bad agency, but they are a bad fit for your company.
Fortunately, once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to tell when you’re talking to the wrong agency for your company. So, let’s dig into the “Seven Deadly Sins” of an agency-company mismatch.
Yesaholic agencies are the classic “yes” men. If you say you want to double revenue on a $3,000 per month budget and the agency tells you, “Sure, we can do that!” you’ve uncovered a Deadly Sin.
To be honest, I’ve struggled some with this “sin” in the past, but I’ve been burned by it enough times to have learned that there are limits to what AdWords and my agency can achieve.
The right AdWords agency will ask you the right questions to determine what they can do for you. In fact, paying attention to the questions they ask (or don’t ask) during the sales process is one of the easiest ways to learn about an agency.
To make sure that Disruptive is a good fit for a potential client, here are some of the questions we ask:
- Have you worked with a previous agency? If so, why aren’t you working with them any longer?
- Some businesses simply don’t have the patience or budget to see an AdWords campaign through to long-lasting success. If the client’s expectations or limitations set a campaign up to fail, it’s in everyone’s best interest to explain what is actually feasible under the circumstances.
- What are your business goals?
- We often see a conflict between a company’s stated business goals and the campaign goals they want to set. Achieving a vanity position on a certain keyword may feel good, but it doesn’t necessarily put money in the bank.
- We’re most productive and effective when we’re helping clients with clear and solid goals achieve their dreams, so we look for companies who have a vision for how AdWords will improve their cost-per-sale and revenue.
- What is your budget?
- Different agencies are more effective with different budgets. At Disruptive, we consistently produce great results when our clients spend at least $10,000 per month on AdWords. While we’ve done great things with smaller budgets, it’s not really our sweet spot—and we’re willing to admit it.
There’s a lot of psychology to what an agency says and doesn’t say during the sales process. A good agency will push you to make sure that they are the right fit for you in the same way that you should be pushing them.
If they don’t, they’re guilty of Yesaholism.
Ever wonder how your campaigns are performing? If so, your current AdWords management resource struggles with Poor Communication.
Unfortunately, poor communication is one of the most widespread agency “sins.” Every marketing leader has a right to know how their AdWords campaigns are producing at any given time. In fact, campaigns are much more successful when there is great communication between agency and client.
To give you a little perspective on what this should look like, at Disruptive we roll out each new client by compiling a three-month road map that details how we plan to achieve the client’s goals. As part of that plan, we establish weekly deliverables and provide a weekly write-up of our efforts have gone, their results and any suggested adjustments.
This approach requires less than 30-60 minutes a week of our clients time and keeps them in the driver’s seat as we create world-class campaigns.
Online advertising is an extremely dynamic area of marketing, so you need to work with an adaptable agency. If your AdWords campaigns are running great and you still aren’t reaching your goals, maybe it’s time to try something else!
At Disruptive, we use a variety of techniques to get more out of our clients’ campaigns. For example, we’ve used conversion rate optimization on many of our clients’ landing pages to increase their conversion rate by over 200%. That’s twice the number of leads or sales for the exact same AdWords budget!
Over the years, we’ve found that it takes a combination of great AdWords management, landing page design and conversion rate optimization to get the most out of your campaign budget. To do anything less is selling our clients short.
A great AdWords agency should do more than simply write your ads and research keywords. They should have a flexible, multidimensional plan for achieving your advertising goals. If not, you’ve uncovered a Deadly Sin.
Are your results and success measured by impressions, clicks, click-through-rate, quality score or maybe even lead volume and cost per lead? If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, your current AdWords management is guilty of Skin-Deep Strategy.
Measuring your campaigns by anything but overall profitability and revenue is a good way to run “successful” campaigns that waste your marketing budget.
Unfortunately, because superficial metrics like click-through-rate are easier to set up and evaluate than click-to-close analytics, many agencies use trivial metrics as surrogates for success. However, there are numerous tools like Unbounce that integrate easily with CRMs like Salesforce, so a good agency should be able to set up tracking for the metrics that matter.
If an agency is unwilling or unable to track and hold themselves accountable to your cost-per-sale goals, run the other way! Skin-Deep Strategy can be one of the costliest sins; and, if you’re comfortable basing your decisions on trivial metrics, you don’t need an agency anyways.
On the other hand, if your agency feels accountable to your bottom line, then you’ve got a scrappy partner who will fight for your business almost as hard as you do.
There’s a lot of industry-specific nuance to AdWords success. Whether it’s using certain words in your ad copy or including specific legal phrases on your landing page, it’s worth your while to look for an agency that knows your industry.
In addition to directly asking about the agency’s experience in the industry, you can learn a lot about their experience by asking specific question about your target cost-per-acquisition, cost thresholds or specific campaign tactics.
Non-compete agreements can sometimes make it hard to find an agency with experience in your particular industry. If this is the case, ask if the agency has any experience with a related industry.
For example, Disruptive has a lot of experience in the pest control industry, experience that translates well into other industries like solar or home security sales. We’ve seen the same principle hold true for numerous other industries as well, so a lack of experience isn’t always a fatal flaw. It’s just something you need to factor into your decision.
Inexperience tends to be one of the lesser “sins”; so, if Inexperience happens to be one of the agency’s only “sins,” it might be worth taking a gamble on the agency.
Like Inexperience, Incompatibility tends to be a lesser “sin,” but it is one you don’t want to catch you by surprise.
Personality conflicts are inevitable, but you really don’t want to pay an agency for the privilege of working with someone who drives you crazy. The person who sold you on the agency may not be the Account Manager you actually work with, so it’s worth your while to interview your future Account Manager before you sign on.
At Disruptive, we’ve definitely had some Account Manager-client personality mismatches, so I’ve seen the problems that Incompatibility causes firsthand. When people don’t mesh, we’re okay with switching Account Managers around, even if it’s down the road a bit.
A good agency and Account Manager should make you feel comfortable and valued. If the relationship is disagreeable from the get-go, it’s probably not the right fit for you.
Everyone makes mistakes. Plans go awry and money gets wasted. I’ll be the first to admit it—I’ve made some major mistakes during my career.
Whether you’re on the agency or the company side, I’ve found that everyone is better off when we are willing to own the mistake and take care of it—even if that means reimbursing the cost for a campaign that shouldn’t have been running.
In addition, every test will not be a success. A competent AdWords expert will own their losing tests and use their failures to educate future decisions. An incompetent agency will give excuses.
Making mistakes isn’t a Deadly Sin. Failing to own up to those mistakes is.
To win at AdWords, you need the right people managing your account. Hiring the right agency, however, can be a challenge. Learning to spot the seven Deadly Sins before hiring an agency has saved me a lot of time and money.
After seeing AdWords agencies from all sides of the table, I try to keep Disruptive as far from the seven Deadly Sins as possible. Disruptive isn’t the perfect fit for everyone; but, if you’re interested in seeing whether or not we’re a good match for your company, hit us up for a free campaign assessment and proposal.
You’ve heard my two cents, now I want to hear yours. What do you look for in an AdWords agency? Are there any warning signs you’d add to this list?