SEM Agency Checklist: 3 Questions to Ask When Looking for an SEM Agency

When you're looking for a search engine marketing agency, it can be difficult to know the right questions to ask. There 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, making it harder to separate the good agencies from the bad.

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. All of these strategies serve a common goal – making an agency appear to be indispensable to your business, or holding your data hostage.

If transparency is a key concern for you—and it should be—ask prospective SEM agencies if you'll have direct access to your keywordscampaigns 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. Contrary to common misconception, 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 Advisor is an online advertising management platform that offers several benefits to search engine marketers:

  • The 20-Minute PPC Work Week: This guided, prescriptive workflow allows busy business owners and non-experts to quickly and easily manage their PPC accounts by following WordStream Advisor’s intuitive, intelligent recommendations based on their account’s performance.
  • 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 Advisor 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.

WordStream Advisor 20-Minute PPC Work Week screenshot 

With all these features (and a low monthly price point) you may find you can get by without hiring an SEM agency.

WordStream Managed Services: Let the Pros Take the Wheel

Even the most determined search marketer only has so many hours in the day. Although WordStream Advisor can help you handle your PPC management in just 20 minutes per week, sometimes you need a little extra help. That’s where WordStream’s Managed Services team comes in.

WordStream’s Managed Services team is comprised of PPC professionals with years of experience under their belt. These paid search professionals can handle every aspect of your PPC campaigns for you, giving you the precious time you need to focus on what really matters – taking care of your customers and growing your business. With Managed Services, you don’t need to do a thing; just tell us what you want to accomplish, and we’ll work tirelessly to make it happen.

After working with you to identify the main obstacles you’ve experienced with PPC, our Managed Services team will set to work on accomplishing the goals you agree upon, whether it be increasing search volumes or decreasing your average CPC. You’ll receive regular reports and updates highlighting the work that has been done in your account, as well as summaries of how the actions taken by your Managed Services representative have had a positive impact on your campaigns.

Every single one of our Managed Services PPC professionals are fully Google AdWords and Bing Ads certified, meaning that you can rest easy in the knowledge that only PPC experts with years of experience are working on your account. We’ve saved our clients millions of dollars, and we can help you achieve your paid search goals.

To learn more about WordStream’s Managed Services offering, check out this page and get a free, no-obligation consultation.

Want to learn more about WordStream's SEM Solutions?

Sign up for a live product demonstration, or check out our product overview to see how WordStream can help you maximize ROI and grow your business through the power of paid search.