Pay per click (PPC) marketing is a simple and effective method of advertising - you define the keywords that you would like your ad to display for (or not), you build an advert and you wait for a match against the search query, get a click and hopefully a conversion. It's all based on relevancy.

As a client are you happy with the quality of your PPC?

Agencies are making PPC advertising more complex than it needs to be through a shortage of keyword research and a lack of good old fashioned marketing techniques such as consideration of buyer behaviour in the purchasing process.

Rather than doing a bit of groundwork at the start of a new campaign to get a feel for the right keywords, I see every conceivable keyword combination thrown into the adgroups, use of every match type on every keyword, lots of broad match keywords being used and not enough negative work being undertaken.

The result is a birds nest of cross-serving, irrelevant ads being displayed, low quality scores, high costs and low ROI.

I'm sure I've not taught anyone anything new about PPC so far, and I'm sure most people reading this blog know how to conduct some basic keyword research.

However, although everyone knows how to do it the right way, as a client I believe either lack of management in the agency or junior staff working on the accounts are making these mistakes.

Managing a PPC account goes a little deeper than simply knowing how to navigate around an adwords account and get an advert live.

Here are the things that separate a quality PPC agency from an average one:

1. Agency/Client kick off meeting

The Agency needs to probe for insights about how shoppers go about researching the product and ultimately making a purchase. Higher value products will typically involve more research, take longer to convert and use a different mix of keywords at different stages of the buying process.

The client may have content on the site which helps the customer with this decision making process so a good agency would get familiar with the website and it's content.

2. Commercial acumen  

It's important the person working on the account gets an understanding of what success looks like for the client. Conversions are simply not enough, an appreciation for profit margins separates the quality agencies from the average.

3. Keyword research

The take outs from the client meetings should make researching keywords an easy process. Clear distinctions between keywords used for researching and buying should be made along with notes about match types, landing pages and content that is either available or needs creating.

4. A good account structure

One that is easy to navigate around for both the agency and the client. Big keywords should be on exact and phrase match.

5. Feedback and optimisation

Two way communication is important. How is paid search performing against organic, are sales and profit growing? Seasonal high's and low's, challenging targets to hit etc.

Some of the items above are about client/agency relationships. Some are more about bringing traditional marketing techniques to the digital world and there is a skills gap as the distinction between the two disciplines gets wider.

Digital marketing can only benefit from utilising traditional marketing concepts and it's something agencies should consider investing in.


Published 28 September, 2012 by Ian Gregory

Ian Gregory is Online Acquisition Manager at Kiddicare and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (10)

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Nick Stamoulis

"Clear distinctions between keywords used for researching and buying should be made"

Agreed. You need to understand what keywords someone will use at various points in their buying cycle. Obviously you want to attract someone that is ready to convert right now, but it doesn't hurt to get their attention early on either.

almost 6 years ago


Jamil Kassam, Global eTrade Marketing Manager at Philips

I find many agencies trying to 'break new ground' when it comes to more sophisticated elements of search such as retargeting, attribution and ROPO which leads to them not paying as much attention to some of the basics you outline.

almost 6 years ago

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

Nice post. Pay per click (PPC) marketing is a simple and effective method of advertising when you have a small account but when you have thousands of products live it can get more complicated.

I think its important that your agency understands the importance of quality score as this will save you money and get a much better ROI on each of your products.

almost 6 years ago


Ian Gregory, Head of Online at Kiddicare

@Nick - When looking at attribution of different keywords it's interesting to see that different content can assist in the conversion so worth bidding on. Important to reign the agency in and stop them bidding on these "review" "compare" keywords if you don't have the relevant content.

@Jamil - Thanks for the comment. Running before walking is what springs to mind!

@Oliver - yes the account gets bigger and does get more time consuming to manage but take a closer look at the broad match keywords as these are what will be increasing the complexity. If you account is well structured of course! Spot on with the quality score though. Word on the street is that google is also moving to a quality score model that is based more on the landing page rather than CTR in the near future as well so bear this in mind.

almost 6 years ago

Andrew Tonks

Andrew Tonks, Senior SEO Account Manager at Red Blue Blur Ideas

for me account structure, split testing of ads and negative keyword research are the key things to be looking out for when determining the value of the services you're getting from your agency.

also allowing the account to develop overtime and letting the data shape the account I think are important factors - making decisions based on data, such as the split testing of ads, is an important way in my opinion to develop an account that's not only effective but also targeted towards your target audience.

almost 6 years ago


Ian Gregory

Hi Andrew - thanks for your comment. Your totally right about letting the data shape the account. There are so many reports available and different ways of looking at it that it's important for agencies to discover what success looks like for the client and the overall contribution of ppc to this success.

almost 6 years ago

Christopher Rose

Christopher Rose, PPC Marketing Director at Rose Digital Marketing

I agree with most of this but find that these days I am tending towards using exact match and modified broad match keywords rather than exact and phrase.

A modified broad match term is more useful for catching the random search term variations that people actually use and, if each word in the term carries the modifier, it is functioning as phrase match without the word order requirement.

almost 6 years ago


The Data Octopus

Very useful article. It's certainly true that the success of PPC is in the keyword research. We too are having more success with broad match keywords than specific words and phrases.

almost 6 years ago

Wendy Chamier

Wendy Chamier, Website and Internet Marketing Consultant at Sesame Internet Marketing

This is all so true - I sometimes get asked by a client to audit their adwords account to see how it's performing and whether it could be doing better. In general I see a plethora of Keywords that are not targetted with the ads being served, and a lack of relevance with the page the searcher is being taken to.

In our experience, it normally comes down to needing a better understanding of the client's business in order to drive the keywords. And then careful crafting of adgroups, ads and landing pages to ensure relevancy/quality ... and then comes the ROI.

@Ian - interesting you mention landing pages increasing in importance. We so often see all ads being driven to a home page with very little relevance!

almost 6 years ago


Ian Gregory

@christopher - your right, broad match modifier (bmm) is a great tool to ensure you still get good coverage but better relevancy than the conventional broad match. However, I still think this is over used in the majority of cases but it comes down to the products you sell. For products that don't have codes, model numbers and common brands I think bmm is perfect to ensure you cover all possible keyword combinations.

@Wendy - great point, anyone not deep linking to relevant content won't be offering the best customer experience and will often find ads being suspended by google as potential customers find it difficult to locate advertised promotions.

almost 6 years ago

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