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PPC Management: In-house or Outsource, What to Look For?

Struggling with the decision of keeping your Pay per Click (PPC) skills in-house or outsourcing paid search to a digital marketing agency?

To help with your decision making process here’s the comprehensive and candid list of advantages and disadvantages you should consider when sourcing ppc management services.

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Let’s get straight in to the pros and cons:

In Favour of In-House Management

Dedicated Employee(s) – being able to quickly and easily talk with someone in your office has its merits and is perhaps a key reason to remain in-house. If you’re a pro-active manger who constantly needs advert copy updating with new offers and pricing or urgently need that last minute change, being able to quickly communicate with your PPC manager who is in arms reach is a positive.

Thorough Understanding of Your Business – no one knows your company better than you and hopefully that translates to your employees too. Or at the very least you should expect all of your employees to have a solid understanding of how your business operate and your customer base. This ads value in their understanding of your marketing and of course should only improve with time.

Employee Accountability – there’s no hiding from the boss! In-house PPC managers are ultimately responsible for the success of a businesses paid search advertising efforts. When optimising the account and bringing forward recommendations for improvement, your company’s best interests should be paramount. Since your account’s performance can have an influence over employment, salary and advancement, you would expect your manager to do their best to meet your expectations and more.


No one knows your company better than you and hopefully that translates to your employees too

Against In-House PPC Management

Typically More Expensive than Outsourcing – employing a full-time in-house PPC account manager means you’re paying a full time salaried position. Unless your PPC account is particularly large this cost will often outweigh the cost of paying an external organisation to manage your paid advertising campaigns. You then have to consider holidays and sickness, in those instances who manages your critical paid search account(s)?

The Right Person for the Job – is easier said than done. Having to find and hire your own PPC manager means you need to understand their expertise yourself and vet them to a high standard. In addition, PPC agencies will have processes in place to attract and retain the best talent and high levels of experience. Not to mention hiring and getting someone new up to speed can be a lengthy process that could compromise your online advertising efforts.

Training and Refreshment – you need to budget to train your staff, keep their knowledge fresh and avoid them becoming complacent. This can be particularly tricky when you’ve only got one person on the job. Training should never be a secondary consideration when your bottomline, is on the line.

Losing Your In-House Manager – relating to the above, what happens if your trained and experienced staff members leaves? The process starts all over again and your account could be left in jeopardy.


To hire your own PPC manager means you need to understand their expertise yourself and vet them to a high standard

Against Outsourcing PPC Management

Time on Your Account – it’s normal for PPC specialists working at agencies to manage more than one client’s advertising, you should expect no less. Typically client hours are allocated based on complexity of project and management fees, it’s common for outsourced management to result in fewer hours of working time on your account. It should be a case of quality over quantity, but of course this requires a level of mutual trust.

Working with the Right Company – there is a level of risk that comes with handing your PPC campaign over to an agency. This is true of any service you pay for and that’s why further down we discuss a few key elements to help you better source a digital agency.

Lack of Touch/Contact – your PPC manager will likely be working in a separate office to you, perhaps even in a different city or even country. You can’t simply walk over and talk to them, you have to call them instead or perhaps schedule a time to discuss your account.


There is a level of risk that comes with handing your PPC campaign over to an agency

In Favour of Outsourcing PPC Management

Accountability – both a positive for in-hour and outsourced, just as an employee is responsible for the success of your advertising, agencies are also measured on your campaign’s performance. Not only that but a decent agency will operate ‘contract free’ and so their results will determine if you continue working with them, keeping them hungry for results.

Experience and Expertise – any agency worth their salt will have an experienced team of paid search marketeers. This is perhaps the biggest reasons why you should consider outsourcing your PPC management. From account structure to conversion optimisation and everything in between, agency PPC specialists are true experts in their field.

Agency Support Benefits – someone who has declared paid search their discipline means it’s also their passion. Search engine marketing companies benefit from dedicated agency support and vertical specialists who assist in everything from escalating ad approvals to providing competitive insight and access to new targeting tactics. Advertising platforms such as Google AdWords™ are constantly updating and changing, you can be sure of your agency keeping a breast and educated of these changes.

Cost Effective Service – employing someone full time can be more expensive than outsourcing your campaign management to a Search Engine Marketing company. Below we expand on this outlining typical PPC management costs and industry practises.


From account structure to conversion optimisation and everything in between, agency PPC specialists are true experts in their field.

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Procuring PPC Management Services Guidance

When approaching another company to do your bidding, literally, you need to considering many factors.

What can this PPC management company do for me and my business? This question is crucial when deciding upon a Pay per Click campaign management team.

The number one service that should be provided by your PPC consultants is a dedicated experienced account manager specifically assigned to your campaign. This representative is there to answer all of your questions and may have other team members aiding in the optimisation of your campaign. Perhaps most importantly of all, this account manager should be working directly on your account and not be a middleman or salesperson.

Beyond a dedicated account manager, bid management is the next service that must be considered, along with keyword research and selection. PPC bid management covers bid gap monitoring, bid price changes and bid queue maintenance. This type of management, in conjunction with the best possible keyword selection, can help your company’s website and advert reach an optimal position within the sponsored advertisements displayed on major Search Engines like Google, Google Partners, Yahoo! and Bing.


Perhaps most importantly of all, this account manager should be working directly on your account and not be a middleman or salesperson.

In your Pay per Click advertising research, also look at how fees and pricing are structured with each company. If a company offers pricing packages, be sure to pay attention to what services are included.

You might be working to a tight budget, but having a small advertising budget is no excuse for not having an online presence. It might sound critical and perhaps harsh, but if you’re not advertising you can bet in most cases one or more of your competitors are.

It’s also fair to say that most Pay per Click management companies can create campaigns that accommodate almost any budget. Our advice if you’re spending less than £1,000 ($1,500) per month is to consider ad hoc consultancy services instead of monthly management. For example using an agency to setup and monitor your campaign for the first few months and then have them review and audit every other month thereafter. On a smaller spend this is a relatively safe option and with time if paid search works for your business, the returns should pay for an ‘upgrade’ to ongoing monthly management.

The Cost of doing Business Online

Some Pay per Click managers will charge a flat monthly fee based on your ad budget, while others will charge a percentage, again based on that budget. We’d suggest this fee should never be more than 25 percent of your monthly advertising budget with the industry average falling between 10 and 20 percent.

Be very wary of companies suggesting they can manage your account for a disproportional fee, low or high. Too cheap and you can’t expect results, too high and they need to work even harder to produce a sound return for you.


You might be working to a tight budget, but having a small advertising budget is no excuse for not having an online presence.

Transparency is Key

When relying on a PPC company to monitor all of your bids, rankings and ad copy, trust in the company is crucial. How do they handle data and results collected? How much do they know about your business? Make sure that the company you choose not only gathers the Pay per Click programs’ data but also gets under the skin of your business and understands the numbers on an intimate level.

Helpful link: Time For A New Digital Agency? Ask The Right Questions & Avoid Getting Burnt

You will also want to make sure you know how the reports will come to you and how frequently. The typical cycle on small to medium advertising campaigns is once per month. However, larger spending PPC campaigns may require a bi-weekly or even weekly report. However, our advice in many cases would be less is more. Once your PPC managers are up to speed you can dial down the frequency of reports, this frees up your time and theirs.


Once your PPC managers are up to speed you can dial down the frequency of reports, this frees up your time and theirs.

Experience Pays in Paid Search (pun intended)

Having an experienced PPC management team is extremely important of course. The company you choose must be able to not only gather information, but understand how to analyse that information, how to communicate to you the results and how to correctly implement the data for positive results going forward. Trust is the name of the game here.

One of the key reasons smaller advertisers fail at paid search is the lack of understanding and action. Ongoing campaign refinement is key to generating a sound return on so be sure your business is committed to staying the course. Ad hoc consultancy fees are typically higher than ongoing management so dipping a toe in and out over time can be counterproductive. Again it all boils down to thorough planning and understanding to avoid wasted time, money and opportunities!

And finally before we sign off, don’t be forced in to a long contract. Your PPC management company should be able to deliver results that keep your working with them.

If you need any further guidance please feel free to leave a comment.

Ed Leake

Author: Ed Leake

Ed is the director of Midas Media and has served in the technology industry for just shy of twenty years. Ed believes in the constant development, improvement and the maturing of ideas. Outside of work Ed enjoys motorsport, yet more fresh coffee and doughnuts.

  • Shane Hall

    Would agree whole-heartedly that the most important part of the agency search is making sure you do enough research to pick the right ppc agency for your business!

    I suggest making a list of the things you want and the things you don’t want in an agency before you start your search and anyone you talk to along the way that doesn’t fit all the criteria, move on. Might take a little longer, but worth the wait when you find the right fit. Anyway, great article, agree with it all.

    • Ed Leake

      Hi Shane – glad you like the article and good point, ultimately people work with people they like and making a list to suit your needs is definitely a good idea.

    • Ed Leake

      Hi Shane – glad you like the article and good point, ultimately people work with people they like and making a list to suit your needs is definitely a good idea.

  • Amber Gold

    Not all PPC firms will have the same answers you do of course. But they should all be generally identical. I think one of the most important aspects of hiring a PPC agency is the amount of transparency they offer. If they’re willing to share with you what they’re working on for your account on a daily basis then they have nothing to hide. You did miss one point though, both in house and agency need to keep up to date by reading all kinds of PPC and SEO related blogs to be they are keeping up with the changing industry. Oh and agencies also have Google, Yahoo and MSN representatives that let keep them in the know if new beta tests are available or if a new optimization is available. I’m picking at hairs though – great post, really informative.

    • MidasMedia

      Another great point Amber – staying fresh and on point with industry changes, product updates and latest technologies is not just important, it’s imperative to success!

  • Kathy

    Hello Ed. Interesting comments with regards SMBs of which we are one. How would you suggest we handle adhoc work on our account, we do currently manage adwords and bing in house (it falls to me!!) but frankly I know I’m missing a trick or three.
    Take care.
    Kathy

    • Ed Leake

      Hello Kathy, in your scenario as with many other people handing the reins over for the first time, it’s all about trust! Pretty much every PPC agency/company going will offer a free audit of some description. I’m not an advocate of working for free however, so it might be better to pay for half a day’s consultancy and get the agency to dive in to your account and produce a meaningful and ACTIONABLE report for you. That way, you can then save some money by implementing the changes yourself. Monitor from there and if results improve over time, re-engage with the agency and ask for another audit to keep your account momentum up!

  • Chris Cahill

    Great discussion points Ed. In my opinion, prospective clients make two main mistakes when selecting an agency. (1) They worry too much about whether the outside agency has clients in their industry. Real agencies can pick up the nuance of the business relatively quickly. (2) They prefer someone local, presuming it will be easier to work with them. With PPC being a digital marketplace, an agency’s location is relatively moot as long as language and time zone issues are cleared up. You are dead on about the trust factor for sure. Trust in the agency ( or internal resource) and the platform. Without it, they will never have the patience and commitment needed to get the results they are looking for. Disruptive ( I don’t work there) had this great GIF about what happens when you get help. The quick drop in conversions freaks people out, but I would wager they are the “bad” leads from overly broad keywords. The big boom after a few months is where we all prove our value.

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