When you're looking for a search engine marketing agency, SEO and pay-per-click agency , it can be difficult to know the right questions to ask. There are are a lot of agencies out there, and results and costs can vary greatly. Plus, if you're in the market for an SEM agency, there's a good chance that you lack search marketing experience and expertise. It's worth doing your research to find an agency that can deliver a real return on your investment. Below are three good questions to ask about any SEM agency you consider before enlisting their services.
1. Does the agency value transparency?
Some SEM agencies create a frustrating cloak of mystery around the work they do for your company. They may silo your data off so you can't see it without going through them. Worse, they may manipulate reporting to paint a rosier picture of results. If transparency is a key concern for you—and it should be—ask prospective SEM agencies if you'll have direct access to your keywords , campaigns  and reports. In fact, ask them to show you a sample client report, and to walk you through their process.
2. What is the agency's pricing model?
A lot of paid search  agencies charge on a per-spend basis; in other words, their fee is determined by what you spend on PPC search engine marketing . This model can be problematic, because your service charges scale with your paid search spend. If you operate on a lean structure, look for an SEM agency that offers flat, hourly, or performance-based pricing.
3. Does the agency add real value?
Ask yourself if the SEM agency in question will be doing more than you can do yourself. This actually isn't a given. Find out what the agency does beyond just reporting results back to you, and ask what they offer that you couldn't replicate in-house. An agency is only worth the premium if they can offer results beyond what you have time to accomplish on your own.
There's one more question you should ask, possibly before you address any of the above issues.
Are You Putting the Cart Before the Horse?
You should probably ask yourself exactly why you're seeking an agency in the first place.
If you're a small business, working with limited resources and looking to maximize ROI on SEM without breaking the bank, you may be surprised to learn you don't necessarily need an agency. If you have some time to devote to search engine marketing, the right SEM software  might be all you need to get great results at a fraction of the cost. You can save money and leverage your deep market knowledge to drive traffic and conversions through SEM.
Sound appealing? Try WordStream . WordStream is a keyword management solution that offers three clear benefits to search engine marketers:
- Relevance: Proper keyword grouping and organization  are the key to creating more relevant ad groups , ads and landing pages, which boost your Quality Score .
- Productivity: WordStream SEM software makes strategic use of automation  so you can get more done in less time, while maintaining control of your marketing efforts.
- Value: A more productive marketing team and better results from your PPC campaigns without raising your budget—WordStream offers real value and real ROI for SMBs.
With WordStream, you can efficiently and effectively:
- Research and discover keywords 
- Group  and organize SEM keywords 
- Create ad groups 
- Write text ads 
- Manage ad campaigns 
With all these features (and a low monthly price point) you may find you can get by without enlisting an SEM agency.