Some of the most talented search people in the business are in the UK market and although it’s relatively small there is a lot of competition. So if your campaigns aren’t being managed correctly, you could be falling behind.

Here are five ways you can assess your Pay Per Click (PPC) Agency, even if you don't have direct access to your campaigns…

PPC marketing continues to grow and take increasingly larger chunks of marketing budget. But where is all the money going? Do you know how much your clicks actually cost? Are you bidding on all the keywords you should be? Are your ads any good? What would happen if you stopped using pay per click?

More and more Financial Directors are now asking these questions of their marketing departments and agencies.

Thankfully, unlike other forms of marketing PPC is extremely transparent. I have picked five ways for you to rate how your campaign is performing (and your agency), even without accessing your PPC account.

1. Use Google’s Preview Tools to check up on your campaigns

Performing searches on Google can have a detrimental effect on your campaigns. Every time you search for your business you are driving up number of impressions.

When you don’t click on the ad you could be lowering your Click Through Rates (CTR) and therefore, increasing your costs.
Worse still, clicking on your competitor ads actually reduces their costs – because it gives them 100% CTR.

Google provides two handy preview tools - one for computer searches and one for mobile searches.

For computer searches go to:

The mobile tool can be found here at You can use it to see how ads are being displayed on Smartphones, iPads and WAP phones.

Not only do these tools give you a safe environment to check your ads and keywords, they also allow you to see how your ads are performing in any location. So if your agency is supposed to be running a localised campaign in New York, but you are based in London you can set the preview tool up as if you where situated in New York.

Did your agency tell you about these preview tools?

2.    Is your agency defending your brand term?

You have spent a fortune on building your brand, so is your PPC campaign helping you defend your brand? Is your agency bidding on your brand term?

In general, bidding on your brand term is a good thing as it increases clicks and conversions for both PPC and SEO traffic. Searchers tend to have more trust in companies when they own both the PPC and SEO terms on the search results page. It also helps defend you against others bidding on your name.

In this example the Consumer Credit Council Service (known as CCCS) is being hijacked by its rivals:

Look at the Debt Advice Trust. It has both the top PPC and SEO positions and owns the search results page:

Is your agency running a brand campaign? Are they hijacking your rival’s brand campaigns?

3.    Long tail keywords

If you want search to drive direct response then you need ensure that your long tail keywords, the users search query and the ad’s headline and text are all relevant and that they are all closely linked.

In this next example, the search query is ‘book 3 star hotel central London’. The results returned are very generic, with no mention of 3 star or 3* anywhere:

On the other hand, the query ‘4 Star Hotel Manchester’ shows that Millennium Hotels has taken the time to make sure their ads match the search query, therefore increasing their chance of a better click through rate (CTR).:

Is your agency producing the most relevant, compelling ad copy they can?

4.    Keyword Spy

The tool allows you to peek not only into your own campaign, but also that of your rivals. Simply enter your domain to see an approximation of the PPC account:

Keyword Spy

Be warned! While it works well for those spending more than £10,000 per month, those spending less may find the results less useful.

It will even tell you what your best performing ad is and your Cost Per Click (CPC) bid for each ad:

Keyword Spy

Does your agency use tools like this to keep up with your competitors?

5.    Google Analytics

Google has just upgraded Analytics to give you more information about AdWords. Even if you haven’t got access to your AdWords account you should be able to get access to your Google Analytics either by asking your Agency, or setting Analytics up yourself and asking your agency to link your AdWords and Analytics accounts together.

You can find the new AdWords report in the Traffic Sources Menu:

Google Analytics Traffic Sources

One of the most useful reports is the Destination URL report which shows you how your landing pages are performing, and gives you your goal conversion information.

Analytics Conversions

The Day Parts report is also very powerful. This shows how your campaigns are performing on an hourly basis. This is useful for optimising your campaigns.

Analytics Day Parts

I’ve focused on Google AdWords but you can use Google Analytics to check your AdCentre, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook PPC campaigns by going to the Traffic Sources tab and selecting all Traffic Sources.

Does your agency supply you with regular reports? Do they then go on to use the information in the reports to optimise and improve your campaigns?

So how did your agency rate?

So how does your campaigns stand up? Out of five, what rating would you give to your agency?

Hopefully you should already have a close relationship with your PPC agency and be talking to them regularly about how you can improve your campaigns and use them to engage with your audience.

If not, speak to them and tell them your concerns and get them to review your account with you. In the long run, you’ll both benefit from a closer, more collaborative relationship.

Ian Howie

Published 14 June, 2010 by Ian Howie

Ian Howie is Chief Technology Officer at 1upDigital and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments (10)

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I agree great points but I need to raise a big red flag with #4 as it seems to be a campaign data hoarder as Ive seen data from campaigns the client hasn't run in 1-2 years showing up.

There are other solutions out there that might have fresher data or clean out old campaigns, but its not a prefect solution based on past experience.  The actual data it provides can provide some interesting initial insight but needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

about 8 years ago

Ian Howie

Ian Howie, CTO at 1upDigital

Hi David, Good point - take any data from tools like KeywordSpy with a good bucket of salt since these are approximations of the account. BTW: We also use the tool.

about 8 years ago


Micheal Mullen

While I'm not currently in charge of the company's PPC efforts, it is interesting to see with these tools that those here did their homework. New tools always bring more insight and these also could be useful for knowing which keywords to use in my content. 

about 8 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

Some good technical points but the best....have a close relationship with your Internet Marketing agency. Client and agency should be continually talking about which products/services/brands should be promoted. PPC isn't something that can be done in isolation!

about 8 years ago

Jayne Reddyhoff

Jayne Reddyhoff, Director at Zanzi Digital

I have a couple of comments on point 1:

1. Are you sure about the mobile preview tool in point 1? it seems to show mobile search results, not mobile Google Ad results. I don't think this is actually a preview tool

2. Re "When you don’t click on the ad you could be lowering your Click Through Rates (CTR) and therefore, increasing your costs." This might be true if you are only getting a small number of impressions or you do this test hundreds of times! Otherwise, I think this is a very misleading suggestion.

3. Re "Worse still, clicking on your competitor ads actually reduces their costs – because it gives them 100% CTR."
WHAT - my click is going to suddenly give my competitor a 100% CTR - I don't think so!

And on point 2:

Only relevant if you are a recognised brand. If you are a small local business, your PPC agency could be just wasting your  money if they are bidding on your name.

I completely agree with John Courtney's point.

Overall an interesting article - if only because it irritated me so much!

about 8 years ago

Ian Howie

Ian Howie, CTO at 1upDigital

Hi Jayne, Sorry to have irritated you. In terms of defending your Brand term - it is good point about smaller businesses. I think it really depends on the business. If the business is a local business that is established. In that case a Brand campaign may be worth doing. For small business that have no Brand - then these guys may want to consider hi-jacking the brand terms of more established players. I strongly agree with John point that PPC isn't something that can be done in isolation! And that relationship between a PPC agency and its clients should be a close one. Ian

about 8 years ago


Climb Digital

Can definitely see number 2 as a massive problem. Although the example above is not run on affiliate program there is lots of brand hijacking goes on with affiliates. We work with to help clients monitor their brand keywords, and see it all from cloaked redirects to partners/competitors bidding on brand and driving up cost per clicks.

The problem mainly is education and responsibility. I.e the brand thinks the agency or affiliate network should be monitoring it and so pass the buck and quite often larger brands pass it up as just being a cost.
The problem is deeper than an affiliate being paid out for brand commissions it comes down to the attribution model for the search channel and it not being properly tracked and managed leading in some cases to clients turning off their pay per click campaigns.

I guess this is another post in itself, thats my two pence. Great post by the way :-)

over 7 years ago


Garry Davis


Great blog post and i agree totally with Johns point regarding the relationship your have with your agency. Ultimately its a business of trust.


over 7 years ago


Katie Saxon

Some very interesting points, not sure I 100% agree with them all. E.g. personally I tend not to worry too much about the competition as long as I'm seeing good results.

That said it is very important for companies to be aware of what their PPC agencies are up to, so thanks for highlighting this.

almost 7 years ago



Hi, this is a nice article and useful one to point our potential clients to, however all the images are broken - you can see this more easily in chrome (rather than Firefox) it would be great if you could fix the page up, so we can link to it.

over 6 years ago

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