Pay per click advertising (PPC) is an essential digital marketing tactic for small businesses. It often makes up the majority of budgets and is data heavy. Deciding who will manage your PPC advertising is critical to your marketing success.
Paying For Clicks
First, let’s be clear on what PPC is. At Marketing 360®, our PPC service is called Top Placement Ads® (TPA).
TPA covers any type of online advertising that follows a pay for placement ad. Most of these ads use a pay per click model, but you can also set up pay per impression and pay per conversion models (to keep things clear, we’ll use the TPA acronym in this post for all types of paid advertising).
TPA includes paid advertising on Google Adwords, Bing Advertising, YouTube ads, and all social media paid platforms.
For a frame of reference, you can contrast TPA to organic or earned traffic, which are tactics like search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing and social media marketing. With organic traffic, you don’t pay per click, but you have to earn your ranking and exposure.
TPA – taken in full – is a complex, multi-faceted channel that’s central to your overall marketing strategy.
This post will focus on who you should hire to manage this important channel.
What are My Options?
Like most digital marketing, your options for service providers run the gamut from absolute novice to full-service agency. Let’s break down each.
Hire an Intern
If you have no budget for TPA management, you can start by hiring an intern. You pay by allowing them to take the time to learn as they work on your account.
Given the complexity of TPA overall, and in particular with social media advertising, this is an option only the smallest business with the most modest TPA goals should use.
Say, for example, you’re a new barber shop with $50 a month to spend on Google Adwords. You might get away with using an intern to watch your campaigns.
Other than that, the price you’ll pay for using someone with no training or experience far outweighs what you’ll save.
The next option is an independent freelancer. Freelancers often have flexible hourly or project rates. They can work well if you need one-time set-up of an account or you want someone to debug an existing account.
For ongoing management of TPA, freelancers are not as good of an option because of the lack of accountability and transparency with their work. You’re dealing with one person, and if they’re suddenly unavailable you’re on your own.
The other problem with freelancers is knowing what their skill sets actually are. They can claim to be Adwords certified, but all that means is they passed a 100 question multiple choice test. There are no real qualification standards. Most freelancers just take it up and work out of their kitchen for from the local coffee shop.
Hourly rates with freelancers can be equally nebulous: anywhere from $45 to $150 an hour.
Pros of working with a freelancer:
- Flexibility. Freelancers can move from project to project easily.
- Payment options. You can elect to pay hourly, by the project, or on retainer.
- Low cost. Most freelancers come in at the low end on overall cost, and since they’re not an employee you don’t have taxes/benefits.
Cons of working with a freelancer:
- No loyalty to your business. They’ll sell services to the highest bidder (including your competition).
- Over-reliance on one person. If they’re sick or suddenly quit, your TPA is suddenly on hold.
- Lack of oversight. It can be hard to track what a freelancer is doing or what they’re actually charging you for.
- Unknown skill sets. Anyone can become a paid search advertising freelancer. With some tactics, a freelancer may be learning as they go.
The next option is working with an agency that specializes in online paid advertising. These are usually smaller agencies that handle just TPA tactics but don’t work in other areas of your marketing.
With an established agency, you can be more assured that the people know what they’re doing. They usually have teams that can cover the different types of platforms.
These types of agencies usually work on retainer, and some require a contract. They’ll be more expensive than a freelancer.
The most common payment model takes a percentage of your overall budget, anywhere from 25-40%. So if you have a 1k a month budget at 30%, $300 goes to the management fee, $700 to your ad spend.
Agency specialists are competent enough at paid search that they can lower your costs by making high quality, relevant campaigns the platform algorithms reward.
Paid search agency specialists are skilled in their area, but they have one major drawback. Because they work in a silo, they won’t integrate their efforts into other areas of your marketing.
For example, an agency will work on your Adwords, but they won’t help with content creation or design of your landing page. These things are really part of the same tactic, but you’ll have to manage those areas with other specialists.
For comprehensive marketing, this separation is problematic.
Pros of working with agency specialist:
- High levels of competency at paid search advertising
- Mid-level costs
- Lower campaign costs with high quality and relevancy scores
- Fair flexibility to work within your project or monthly needs
- No internal employee costs
Cons of working with an agency specialist:
- Works in a silo, making full marketing integration of tactics difficult
- Not always transparent with work processes or data tracking
- Connecting revenue-based ROI to their work can be difficult
Full-Service Marketing Agency
A full-service marketing agency has specialists in TPA, but also works with a team that manages overall marketing campaigns. Marketing 360® is this type of agency.
In many ways, this works like an agency specialist with one important difference. The full-service agency integrates your TPA into the rest of your marketing strategy. This means what you learn from TPA can be applied to organic, and vice versa. Your TPA specialists work with designers and copywriters to make sure all elements of the campaign are in sync.
Our agency, using our marketing software, is far better at tracking results across campaigns so you get a clear picture of how work translates into ROI.
Most full-service agencies charge by percentage of a budget like the specialists. We charge at 30-35% depending on your overall spend.
Also, our goal is to raise your quality and relevancy scores so we can lower what you need to bid to maintain a high ranking. When this is done effectively, it counters much of the fee. For example, we can often save a business 25% on their cost per click, making the management fee a nominal expense.
Pros of working with a full-service marketing agency:
- Full integration of paid search into other tactics and strategies
- Highly transparent with clear data and results reporting via marketing software
- High quality and relevancy scores save on management fees
- Only one resource needed to manage all marketing
- Mid-range overall costs with savings over in-house staff
Cons of working with a full-service agency:
- Contracts usually required
- Some businesses may prefer not to place all marketing into one resource
- Payment methods may not scale to larger campaigns
Hire In-House Staff
The last option is to hire an in-house staff member to manage your TPA.
This option is best considered only if you have very large campaigns and budgets that justify the expense of adding an employee.
For example, say you have a 100k monthly budget for your TPA. At agency fee structure based on 30% would mean you’d be paying 30k a month in management fees. Even with the best campaigns this simply doesn’t scale. Your best bet here is to keep it in-house so you have full commitment and transparency with your campaigns.
You may still need to outsource other marketing work, or you could consider a freelancer or agency that works on a project or hourly fee structure.
Pros of having an in-house staff:
- Full commitment and transparency with your campaigns
- Payment structure may be more favorable than working with an agency
- Good integration into your overall marketing strategy
Cons of hiring an in-house staff:
- May be difficult to find people with required skill sets
- Requires taking on the expense of a full-time employee
- Other areas of marketing may still require outsourcing
As of 2018, paid search advertising is integral for most businesses and may well be at the apex of its complexity. Facebook alone has such robust and varied targeting methods that it can even be difficult for TPA experts to keep up.
This leaves the novice intern in an almost impossible position, and most freelancers have a tough time running comprehensive campaigns.
For most SMBs, Marketing 360® offers the best bang for the buck. You get the expertise you need with full-service integration into all your marketing efforts. This is a superior solution for all businesses except those that are in the very low or very high end in terms of budget. Businesses investing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month (or more) in paid advertising are justified hiring in-house.
Eventually, marketing automation will probably take over most of the tasks within TPA campaigns, putting the focus on the strategy and creatives. Even then, the main way to measure how to manage this type of marketing is by assessing ROI.
However you choose to execute this work, it should pay for itself by creating consistent revenue for your business.