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Guest post by Susan Hankins, owner of Ask-Susan, LLC

So you're determined to get the most out of your online ad spending, and you've decided to hire a pay-per-click (PPC) consultant to help you in that endeavor. Where do you look? How do you evaluate a competent consultant from a swindler (and, sadly, many scammers exist)?

Precision Marketing Group recently did a survey of business owners who had switched PPC consultants and asked them why they made the switch. The primary reasons were:

  • Lots of money was spent with no apparent return.
  • There were miscommunications between the business owner and the consultant.
  • The consultant didn't get back to the business owner.
  • The consultant ran a fly-by-night company and went out of business.
  • The business owner received reports from the consultant that didn't mean anything and/or were filled with jargon.
  • If the business owner ended the agreement, the PPC account was gone.
  • The business owner didn’t know how much money went to Google and how much to the consultant.

So how do you choose a good PPC consultant? Here are 5 questions to ask prospective consultants.

1. Are you "Google Certified"?

The largest pay-per-click advertising service by far is Google AdWords. Google recommends that you select a Google AdWords Certified Partner (and if you're talking to a certified company, make sure you're working with a certified individual in that company). While it might seem self-serving for Google to say this, I actually agree with the recommendation. Google is the leader in the PPC world, and who better to learn from than the master itself? Using a Google AdWords Certified Partner will *likely* give your PPC campaign that extra edge.

A caveat: I use the word "likely" above because it's important to keep this in mind: Certification means that the person has spent a certain amount of money in the last three months and passed a proficiency test each year; it does not necessarily mean that the person will do a good job. That said, the certification test has gotten more difficult recently, and it would be difficult to pass it without on-the-job experience.

2. Do you offer free assessments?

In my business as a pay-per-click consultant, I provide free assessments of an existing campaign or recommendations and costs for a new campaign. I spend time talking to prospective clients about their business and their goals. I recommend that you ask any PPC consultant to do an assessment for you. In this process, you'll get to know the consultant better. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself as you work with the consultant.

  • Do you feel the consultant will take the time to understand your business? (Does he or she ask you questions about your business and your competitors?)
  • Does the consultant take the time to answer your questions in clear, understandable language?
  • Is the person responsive to your questions, requests, emails, etc?
  • Has the consultant shared his or her track record with you, without disclosing their existing client’s confidential information.
  • Does the consultant clearly outline where the money is going (i.e. which portion goes towards advertising and which portion goes to the consultant for managing the account)?
  • Does the consultant make promises? (Note: be wary of any promises; there are no guarantees in this field.)
  • Do you feel comfortable with him or her?

Remember, while there are many factors in running a good pay-per-click campaign, it's not rocket science. Your consultant should be able to explain what he or she plans to do in a way that you can understand.

3. Who owns the account?

You should have ownership of the account and be able to login, see everything that's happening, and make your own changes. Within your account, there is a place to designate the consultant as the account manager. This means that the consultant can make all the changes to your account and generate all the reports but cannot see your credit card information. It provides a separate login for the consultant that's different from yours or anyone in your office. This is helpful because Google maintains a history of changes made in the account, and in that history, you can see who made the changes by login name. So having separate logins provides a clear record of who made the changes to the account.

4. Are you simply doing an account setup, or will you provide ongoing management of the account?

If you want to manage the day-to-day aspects of your PPC campaign, make sure you work with someone who knows his or her role is simply to set up your account. If, however, you're looking for a long-term relationship, make sure the consultants you talk to have a clear direction for managing accounts on a regular basis. This includes monitoring spending and setting up and testing keywords, ad wording, and landing pages. They should also analyze the results of those tests and adjust those factors to optimize the campaigns to generate the most business for you for the least amount of money.

A good consultant will examine the Google analytics data as well as the AdWords data to see how the pay-per-click campaigns are performing in the context of the overall website performance.

A good consultant will also have suggestions for improving your website to increase the conversion of visitors to leads and sales.

5. What are the deliverables, how do you measure success, and how familiar are you with Google Analytics?

What information will the consultant provide to you and in what format? Ask for what will fit your needs. Ask to see a sample report so you know what you will be getting. He or she can simply block out proprietary data from the client report to show you the type of information provided.

Success should be measured by conversions (what's defined as a conversion -- a filled out form, a download, an email, a registration, a sale etc. -- is something to define with your consultant). To track conversions, a tracking mechanism needs to be set up. The consultant should work with you to determine what to measure and then provide instructions as needed to the webmaster to incorporate the tracking code, set up the goals in Google analytics, and import conversions into AdWords.

Google Analytics (GA) is a free program (and the gold standard, in my opinion, when it comes to understanding the performance of the website and Google AdWords campaigns). Your consultant should be well versed in GA and should provide the installation instructions if your webmaster has not already installed the code. Conversions are then used to determine which keywords, ads, and landing pages are providing the best return for your money.

And remember, that's the bottom line: it's your money, and any consultant (PPC or otherwise) should be respectful of that. The consultant who happily and honestly answers the five questions above is one you can confidently add to your short list of prospects.

Free Download: 9 Things Your Website Is Doing to Drive Visitors Away

About the Author: Susan Hankins, manager of Ask-Susan, LLC has been providing website marketing for small businesses for 11 years. She specializes in Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising because it provides great results that are measurable. As a Google AdWords Certified Partner, Susan has in depth knowledge and 10 years of experience in how to run successful PPC campaigns. Past and present clients include Business to Business clients that sell nationwide; ERC Wiping Products in Lynn, Thermofab in Shirley, and TriStar in Shrewsbury, as well as Vacation Rental companies; Outer Banks Blue Realty in NC and Sand ‘N Sea in Galveston, TX. For a deeper client list and to learn more, visit www.Ask-Susan.com.

 Tags: Guest Posts Marketing Strategy and Planning Paid Advertising / PPC

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