Is My PPC Agency or Manager Ripping Me Off? How to Stop Losing Money on AdWords

May 18, 2016

Winning Marketing doesn’t offer PPC services at this time so I have no skin in this game. What I do offer is insight as someone who managed small business PPC in the past and managed people and agencies who do this professionally. Let’s find out if your AdWords manager is ripping you off.


A Common Anecdote

My friend emailed me for advice – her boss was mad, really mad.


The issue surfaced, rather abruptly, when my friend’s boss wanted to know why their website traffic was down, by a lot.


My first reaction was to tell my friend to check her AdWords – paid search advertising (or pay-per-click [PPC]) – campaigns, as these are often the primary traffic driver for small business websites.


Sure enough… she quickly found the issue.


The contract PPC manager who was hired to run and optimize their campaigns didn’t know that the company’s ads have not been running for two weeks.


Sound familiar? This situation is, unfortunately, quite common.


Why are There So Many Bad PPC Managers Out There?

This one is actually quite simple. Pretty much anyone with a computer, and access to the internet, can set up an AdWords account and figure out how to use it using tutorials, YouTube videos, etc…



There is basically no barrier to entry for becoming a PPC manager, and it can be very lucrative.


Few business owners know, or have time to learn, Google’s AdWords platform, but almost all small businesses can benefit enormously from properly managed online advertising campaigns, which can drive traffic, raise awareness and/or generate new leads.


It’s very easy to half-ass AdWords management and produce no tangible results and, sadly, too many small business owners let bad PPC managers get away with it.


Why Wouldn’t Business Owners Just Manage Their Own Ads?

Because AdWords is essentially an auction, somewhat similar to EBay, except for online advertising instead of items, it can require a serious time commitment to manage properly.


There is quite a bit of work that should go into running a proper AdWords or Bing search campaign, like keyword research, competitive research, testing and optimization.


As a marketing manager, I have great respect for PPC specialists, because – when done well – paid search is an extremely competitive, time-consuming, full-time, job which requires an analytical, if not scientific, mindset. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they are doing.


How Can I Tell if I’m Being Ripped Off?

Fortunately, this is really easy. The first question is: are you getting results you expect? If not, you really should chat with your paid advertising person and figure out why not.



  • Are you getting weekly/monthly reports?
  • Is your PPC manager available when you want to talk?
  • Are new leads converting on your landing pages?
  • Is your PPC person driving traffic to the right place on your website?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no” – you are probably getting ripped off.


In my friend’s case, the PPC manager didn’t know the ads were not running for two weeks… That’s like not showing up to run a one-employee business for two weeks and wondering why you haven’t sold anything.


When I work with any agency or contractor, I always make time for a weekly reporting call or meeting. It doesn’t have to be long, but when I spend money – even if it’s my employers and not my personal money – I need to know it’s working for me.



  • How much are you paying?

The paid search advertising world is extremely saturated and competitive, so you will often see rates around 10% of your adspend – aka your monthly budget. If you’re paying someone $ 500/month to manage a a $ 700/month adspend – you are getting ripped off.


The highest rate we have seen – from a legitimate manager – is 40%, and that included daily optimization, testing, research and reporting on some fairly complicated campaigns.


If you’re paying someone even close to 40% to just create a few ads and set and forget them on AdWords – you are getting ripped off.


How Can I Tell if a PPC Agency or Contractor is Legitimate?

There are some basic ways even someone who isn’t – at all – familiar with online advertising can figure out if the person they want working for them know what they are doing:



  • How did you find them, or did they find you?

If you found your current PPC agency because they spammed you with a mass email, guess what? That’s how they will treat your campaigns as well.


The types of agencies, and/or people, who use poor marketing tactics to get your business, in the first place, are likely going to handle your account poorly and generically as well.



  • Does your budget align with their management requirement?

If an agency or manager is looking for clients with a minimum $ 1000/month budget, they will probably not spend as much time on your $ 500/month budget, even if they accept you as a client.


Can a manager who usually manages several $ 500/month clients handle you if you have a $ 6000/month budget? Maybe, but chances are they will not have the time.


Align your budget with your agency or PPC manager, and scale when appropriate.



While I am yet to be convinced that a Google Partner badge has significant meaning, it does mean a few key things: 1. The agency you’re hiring has at least one person who is certified in Google AdWords and 2. they manage a certain amount of money ($ 10,000) every month and 3. they have to have been around for at least 90 days. Basically, this lowers your chances of hiring a scammer.



  • Do they have references?

Most businesses check references when they hire new employees, so there is no reason you wouldn’t ask for references from a PPC agency or manager. If they hesitate, it may be a major red flag.



  • Do they want to know everything about your business?

Finally, a PPC manger or agency will want to understand at least some things about your business – namely your industry, your audience, what your product or service does. These are the basics. A good PPC manager will do research to figure out what the best keywords are, for your money, to get you the best results.


Final Thoughts

One of the reasons paid search advertising is so popular is because it’s a channel of digital marketing which has some of the, arguably, easiest and most measurable results. When done correctly, you can almost always figure out your return on investment from your PPC campaigns.


Not only that, but paid search is an excellent complement for organic marketing campaigns, and can provide some often-needed quick wins for small business owners.


If you have the budget, and this is also important, you will likely see some good results from paid search. One thing that is very important to keep in mind is, you must set a minimum AdWords budget at least a few months in advance. PPC takes a bit of time to ramp up, because your agency or manager will want to test various combinations until they get the right “formula”.


Like everything else, in marketing, paid search requires consistency. So, if you want results you must commit to a budget and stick with it for a few months at least.


Worst case scenario is: you are paying someone a handsome sum to essentially do nothing, as was the case in my friend’s unfortunate situation. Not only can this put a bad taste in your mouth or make you think PPC isn’t effective, but it’s literally throwing your money away. Stay educated and stay informed! Talk to your PPC agency or manager regularly.

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