There is a long line of digital advertising agencies who tell you that they will “make your account perform better than anyone else.” Google has over 15,000 partners for AdWords, and each of them has their own approach or story.  

Ours is a complex industry that is getting more and more difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, most agencies have not been able to meet the complexity with improved technology, instead they compensate by stretching the truth, making empty promises, or worse; blatantly lying to their customers. 

I realize I’m complaining about agencies even though I own one! I’ve been in this industry for many, many years (19 years to be exact) I’ve seen all sides of digital advertising. Because of this, we built Finch on a platform that gets around all the misgivings and half-truths that plague this industry. 

As you enter into discussions about what to expect from an agency or an internal team, consider these seven areas as talking points to understand how they will make your account perform better to drive a higher ROAS for you!

LIE #1: “We will give you X% improved performance.” 

Anyone that has been involved in digital advertising knows that it is impossible to give a specific number for performance improvement.  There are simply too many moving pieces, including competitor’s constant changes, that change daily to be able to give a specific metric. 

Your response: 
Ask specifically HOW they will make this happen. The methodology to get there is ultimately what matters as that is sustainable, not the specific numbers.

LIE #2: “Don’t worry about attribution models, they don’t change performance” 

Let’s assume your agency does everything else 100% right in your account. If they don’t choose the appropriate attribution model it can kill your performance. Too conservative kills volume, too aggressive kills profit. It is critical to get this done right!

Your response:
Attribution modeling is about identifying relationships between ad spend and results (revenues, profit, leads, etc.) that can be replicated and scaled. Choosing the right model for your business goals is essential for success. 

LIE #3: “We do a lot of A/B testing.” 

This usually refers to A/B testing of ads, which is valuable if done right. However, most agencies use ad groups with 25+ keywords and 3-5 ads as their structure, and changing one ad may help 3 of the keywords and hurt 5 others; and as such null each other out.  

Your response:
You need to first understand how testing will be done in a way that results are absolute and actionable. Testing should be done to improve the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) to then drive more traffic and improve quality score (QS). Ask them what else they will do to improve these two metrics.

LIE #4: “PPC is getting more competitive and expensive.” 

Yes it is true that there are more advertisers than ever and average cost per clicks have gone up. But this is simply an excuse. Keeping technology and best practices up-to-date is difficult since there are so many advances. However, it is the job of any digital agency to keep pace.

Your response:
Never accept general statements like these because they are an excuse for expected bad performance. Simply ask why their technology hasn’t been able to keep up with industry advances. 

LIE #5: “We do not believe in automation”

A hands-on approach is all well and good for some areas of digital advertising. However, there simply is not enough time in the day to do what needs to get done in an account. It’s not a people problem, it’s a technology problem.   

Your response:
How do they manage accounts? Paying hourly for someone to do work that can be automated puts you at a disadvantage, understanding what will be automated and what will be done manually may give you a very good picture of what you are paying for and help you understand performance gains.

LIE #6: “Our campaign structure is superior”

In short, campaign structure does not matter when it comes to performance but the organization of ad groups and keywords does matter. This is where most of the actionable data and variables are located. 

Your response:
Campaign structure only matters to agencies doing work manually as a tool to keep things organized. For companies optimizing via machine, structure becomes very important because it can isolate the variables that most impact performance.

LIE #7: “We spent ‘X’ hours on your account last month.” 

The number of hours spent in an account is an irrelevant measure of value to you as an advertiser. More hours doesn’t directly correlate to more money or better performance. Sure there are some relationships between ROAS and time spent, but more often there is not, as the prioritization of where time is spent is ultimately what matters.

Your response: 
Why should you care how many hours were spent? You just need the job done. ROAS is the only relevant measure as that is how you make more money, the number of hours is only a measure of cost for the agency and they have a need to justify it.  

Like I said, I’ve done this for a long time and my goal was to make sure that I created something very different for our clients and that could keep up with industry demand and not "sell" clients on unfounded promises. This was accomplished with Finch. 

If you want to learn more how Finch’s structure and platform truly differ from other agencies, read here.


Photo credit: Kikkerland

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