It’s an age-old argument deciding between outsourcing your PPC strategy to an agency vs. hiring an in-house PPC professional.I’ve worked with companies that solely used an AdWords agency and then I’ve consulted or known of companies that only used in-house staff.
It’s not always easy to determine the best option as it depends much on the individual company’s particular set of circumstances. Each company possesses different opportunities for expansion, compensation and workload.
Don’t Let the Intern Do the Work
Please note that in this post I’m discussing the advantages of outsourcing your AdWords efforts to an AdWords agency vs. hiring an in-housePPC professional. The points made below are specifically directed to SMB owners so they will be able to make the best decisions possible concerning their AdWords efforts.
Please note that these suggestions are based on hiring an in-house professional. You will in most cases not get the same benefits by choosing a random intern or IT-manager to manage your AdWords campaigns.
I’ve listed the benefits and drawbacks of both outsourcing your efforts to an AdWords agency and hiring a PPC Professional.
Overview of Benefits and Drawbacks
Benefits of Hiring an AdWords Agency
- Expertise at your fingertips (It’s all they do - all day long)
- You can expect them to do all the work with little guidance
- Relatively small commitment
- No motivational needs
- Quick expansion to other areas of expertise
- Great for businesses with the need but that can’t afford a full-time position
- More eyes on your goal to spar on the task
- Dedicated AdWords Support Team
Benefits of Hiring an In-House AdWords Professional
- Knows your industry and company inside out
- The right hire will be able to influence decisions in all online aspects, not just AdWords
- Can lead big projects for a relatively small amount of compensation
- Cheaper, if the workload allows
- Quick collaboration
Drawbacks of Hiring an AdWords Agency
- You become dependent on the agency
- Higher hourly-rate than of an in-house professional
- You can be assigned a less-experienced contact
- They don’t understand your particular industry or competition dynamic
- They don’t understand the nuances of your business (profit margins, seasonality in sales or promotional value)
Drawbacks of Hiring an In-House AdWords Professional
- Finding the needed competencies can be very difficult (often you’ll have to compromise)
- Your in-house professional’s responsibilities will most likely be spread over a wide-range of fields to cover the costs
- Limited by the actual competencies of the in-house professional
Benefits of Hiring an AdWords Agency… Explained
Expertise at your Fingertips – It’s All They Do All-Day-Long
When I initially started working in a small AdWords agency, the biggest learning experience I gained there was having had the opportunity to witness trends and developments with over 100 accounts simultaneously.
If impressions were down in one account, then how did it look in the 10 others that we operating in the same gamut?
Did the downfall in conversions around the 20th of every month occur only in one account, or was it due to money running low before payday at the end of the month?
These questions and many more are easily answered when you have the opportunity to see trends in multiple accounts.
The Consultant Goes In-House
As a business owner, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. After working with Clients for 2 years, I went in-house and full-time within my own company,. I had challenges in this transitional period since I felt I lacked the needed perspective that I originally had in my previous tenure. .
I suddenly realized I didn’t have the possibility to compare performance with other accounts any longer. This made me experience a feeling of utter solitude due to the lack of resources that were previously available to me.
You Can Expect Them to Do All the Work with Little Guidance
When hiring an AdWords agency, you can expect them to do all the work associated with developing successful campaigns without much input from you.
You don’t need to come up with advertising, keyword or negative keyword ideas. They’re skilled in these tasks, and already know how to take an otherwise unfamiliar industry, and create the most successful of campaigns. It’s recommended that you spar (in a positive sense, of course) as much as possible with your agency - but it’s by no means a requisite for success.
This isn’t necessarily the case with a new in-house professional that you hire. They will have to get your input in order to produce the best results – at least at first.
Relatively Small Commitment
Most legitimate AdWords agencies work with small contracts, or contracts that are easily terminated if the results don’t measure up to Clients’ expectations.
You don’t have to pay severance or worry about your employee possibly quitting their job, etc. The agency knows that they’re working on a contract that only lasts as long as they’re producing results – and they’re used to this mindset!
No Motivational Needs
I once read an article about how to deal with web development companies. It mentioned that some developers have a God-like complex, where you’re required to compliment them/stroke their ego at least a couple of times a day in order not have them lose their motivation.
This might also be the case with in-house AdWords employees, but would rarely be the case with an AdWords agency.
You don’t need to pitch them on Monday mornings to get them to do their job. There are qualified/capable managers within these agencies with an eye on their personnel that handle that job for you.
This means less fuss for you.
Quick Expansion to Other Areas of Expertise
Boy have I seen a lot of job ads in my life. I started out in sales at a job board in Denmark and have advised more than 500 companies on how to write top-quality job ads.
The biggest challenge was to get the companies to lower their expectations. They were basically looking for an octopus that could handle absolutely everything for them but of course these people are very hard to come by, costly and are often found in some of the most sought-after positions around the world.
If you choose an AdWords agency instead of hiring in-house, then you can be confident that they can expand your business to other online areas with the same kind of expertise as you’ve been used to with your AdWords campaigns.
Great for Businesses with the Need, But That Can’t Afford a Full-Time Hire
Unless you’re an ecommerce-based business or otherwise manage huge AdWords campaigns, then you will not have enough work to justify creating a full-time position within your firm.
Seeing that you’re unlikely to hire a professional part-time, you’re better off hiring a consultant right out of an agency. You pay them only for the time spent on your campaigns, and you can quickly reap the benefits.
More Eyes on your Goal to Spar On the Task
With agencies, you’re blessed with the opportunity to have more PPC Account Executives reviewing your account on a regular basis.
In White Shark Media, we have monthly reviews of all AdWords accounts where Account Executives and Account Supervisors provide each other feedback. The Director and Chief of SEM regularly drop in on these reviews to give their input.
Besides our official monthly reviews, all Account Execs work in teams and are placed closely-together in order to spike the collaborative spirit.
This helps everyone complete their tasks faster and at a higher success rate than they would have done by themselves.
Dedicated AdWords Support Team
If you hire an experienced AdWords agency, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have a dedicated Google AdWords Support Team at your side.
This basically means that your emails get responded to within 24 hours and that you’ll have a phone number you can call with campaign-related emergencies at any time.
This is great for battling out site reviews, disapproved ads or other challenges that can be otherwise very time-consuming to solve by oneself.
All cards on the table… the AdWords Support Team has helped us out of some rough feathers with difficult Clients in the past!
Benefits of Hiring an In-House AdWords Professional
Knows your Industry and Company Inside Out
After having had an in-house professional within your company for a month or two, you will have the huge benefit of knowing that they’ve acquired the company and industry know-how to really make an impact in your overall efforts.
They will know:
- What days are the most crucial sales days for you
- Promotion schedules
- Product seasonality
- The image your company wants to portray
The Right Hire will be able to Influence Decisions in all Online Aspects, not just AdWords
If you find the right person with the right AdWords experience, you will be able to get his take on various other online efforts in your company.
You can get quick feedback on promotions or what kind of products to introduce. One company I was associated with decided what different colors they needed to introduce to the market for their products based on Google AdWords searches.
By accessing data like this, or reviewing competitor information, your in-house PPC manager will be able to have his say in multiple areas that are beneficial to your company.
Can Lead Big Projects for Relatively-Small Compensation
One thing that can be extremely costly is to have agencies take the lead on huge projects. It usually involves a high project manager fee besides what additionally need to be paid.
However, with an in-house employee that has experience in other areas of online marketing, you’re able to have him head big projects like:
- Landing page creation and testing
- Create marketing material for other areas
- Review sales emails for wording
- Teach sales staff email writing techniques
The advantage is that your employee will know what headlines and ads are working in AdWords and from there, help your sales staff craft the most appealing material.
The experiences garnered via AdWords can be taken a lot further than just AdWords.
Cheaper If the Workload Allows
If you’re a big company with a lot of work that is suited for an AdWords professional, having him or her in-house can save you a lot of money.
Many agencies are expensive on an hourly rate, but by hiring in-house staff, you have the opportunity to lower that hourly rate.
This can however be successful only if you have enough work for that person. You may be paying a lower hourly rate but if your projects take twice as long, then it doesn't matter in the end.
The skill level of the employee should also be taken into account. Sometimes the agency’s results will by far outweigh the increase in staff cost, so remember to consider all factors.
Even though we’re living in an age where Skype, email and cell phones allow access to everyone at any time, it’s often still easier to explain something to a guy sitting right in front of you.
With an in-house AdWords guy, you can quickly shoot him a note about the product categories going on sale next and collaborate about how this might influence ROI and sales numbers.
Drawbacks of Hiring an AdWords Agency
You Become Dependent on the Agency
One of the biggest drawbacks from dealing with an agency is that you become utterly dependent on them.
The same is true with an in-house AdWords professional, but the agency is more likely to demand higher fees from one day to another (not at White Shark Media though; our first Client is still paying the incredibly-low introduction price of $149 a month).
But in some cases, Clients become too dependent on the agency and the agency can from one day to another shut down. This is obviously very serious for an AdWords campaign that produces 50% of the monthly revenue for that firm.
It will take time for a new agency to achieve the same results as your old agency. As a result, changing to a new agency can then prove to be quite costly.
Higher Hourly Rate Than of an In-House Professional
In most AdWords agencies that use U.S.-based personnel, the hourly rate is higher than what you would pay your own in-house employee.
The agency has more expenses than just the Account Executive assigned to your campaign, which results in the higher rate.
Note: Give your potential agency a hard look if they’re offering their “AdWords Experts” at a rate lower than $50-100 an hour. How many experts in an industry do you see charging lower than $100 an hour if they're located in the US?
You Can be Assigned a Less-Experienced Contact
This is what I can see as one of the most unpleasant experiences dealing with an agency. If the agency doesn’t have enough account-reviewing phases in place, you can end up with an inexperienced Account Executive and not attain any of the success you were promised.
This is more often seen in big agencies than in lesser-sized ones (below 10 employees).
Make sure that your agency has sparring and collaboration systems in place to assure that it’s the most-experienced PPC managers who are the bottlenecks of your account – Not the least experienced.
They Don’t Understand your Industry or Competition Dynamic
One of the biggest moments of levity we experience here in the White Shark Media Search Team, is when a new Client arrives for us and works within a totally obscure industry.
We’ve had Account Executives read up on everything from doll clothes, pet prosthetics to safety standards in the concrete industry.
We joke a bit about how much knowledge we acquire from such industries.
If the AdWords agency doesn’t carry out their groundwork diligences properly (or think that they can create a successful campaign for you without getting the proper insight about your business), then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
They Don’t Understand the Nuances of your Business: Profit Margins, Seasonality in Sales or Promotional Value
If you or the agency doesn’t understand the importance of properly collaborating on the nuances of your business, you will find yourself puzzled as to why the results aren’t coming in.
Without the knowledge of profit margins or the promotion schedule in your company, you will have nowhere near the success with AdWords as you otherwise could.
It’s crucial that you collaborate with your agency in the same way you would with an employee. Request – no, demand you have monthly meetings with your Account Executive to discuss the month’s results and better focus in on the goals for the next 30 days.
Drawbacks of Hiring an In-House AdWords Professional
Finding the Proper Competencies Can be Very Difficult (Often You’ll Have to Compromise)
Finding the right employee can be a very difficult task. Especially for a position that you don’t know much about. If you’re coming from an agency and are looking to hire in-house, chances are that you’re not that experienced in what makes a good AdWords manager.
At first, you will find it very difficult to find anyone with the right set of skills you seek. Secondly, assuring that the work they offer is of a truly acceptable quality-level, will be next to impossible.
You will often have to make a compromise between the skills that you’re looking for and then finding a person willing to learn what you have to teach.
Your In-House Professional’s Tasks will Most Likely be Spread Over a Wide-Range of Fields to Cover the Costs
Especially with companies handling AdWords campaigns that aren’t big enough to justify that person dedicating themselves 100% to AdWords, you will most likely see that person also handling:
- Landing Page Optimization
- Social Media
And even sometimes IT-administration (OMG!).
It’s not possible to be a well-rounded expert, or even be very good in all these areas. So, what you’ll end up with, is an employee whose focus is scattered all over the place. Jack of all trades – Master of none!
This brings us to my last drawback.
Limited by the Actual Competencies of the In-House Professional
You will become utterly limited by the competencies of your in-house AdWords employee. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
If you find the right person for the job, the sky is the limit.
But you can risk much in hiring a candidate that doesn’t have the experience to take your company to the heights that are actually possible.
By counting on your one guy to lift your company up, you put all your eggs in one basket.
Combining an AdWords Agency and an In-House AdWords Professional
If you’re dead-set on hiring in-house, then I have a couple of recommendations for you:
Especially at the beginning of a hire, you could consider hiring an AdWords agency to review the person’s work over and provide feedback in order to weave out the mistakes that will come.
As long as you’re not paying for the actual manual labor of building an account, you’ll be able to retain services at a reasonable price.
Another recommendation for dealing with in-house AdWords employees, is to have a general account review performed by a professional agency every 3 to 6 months. This will ensure that you have a fresh set of eyes reviewing your campaign and finding overlooked opportunities.
Now It’s Your Turn
Do you have any experiences in dealing with situations as described above? Do you have any other benefits or drawbacks you’d care to add?