Digital Marketing,
Paid search

Whether you’re looking to outsource your paid search for the first time or you want to switch agency partners, we’ve highlighted a few key considerations to help with your search for the right fit.

Google certification

Google’s advice to buyers looking for a paid search agency is “look for the badge”.

“The badge recognises companies that excel with Google’s products. Their businesses are healthy, their customers are happy and they use Google best practices.”— Google

  • The exams must be taken annually so clients can rest assured that their Google Partner has up-to-date knowledge and skills and that they know how to use any new tools and features that arrive on the market.
  • Google reviews client accounts to make sure partners are working in accordance with its best-practice standards, i.e. they are making the most of clients’ budgets!
  • Partners have direct access to a real person at Google. This gives them access to training and product updates, allowing them to stay on top of what’s going on with Adwords.

Google Partner agencies demonstrate that they have an active and healthy book of business, proving to Google that the company will stand the test of time.


Paid search specialists (not account managers)

Will you have a direct line in to the person or people who are actively managing your paid search marketing?

The most common agency structure means that account managers are responsible for managing the relationship with clients and therefore the person you will have the most regular communication with.

What this can result in is delays in information as it gets passed from the client to the account manager and then to the paid search specialist looking after the activity.

You may also find that questions or requests are misinterpreted because of having non-specialists on the front line.

Working with an agency that provides direct access to their specialists often results in more efficient communications and account handling and an overall better alignment and understanding of the paid search activity on the client side


Results and proof of ROI (not ROAS)

It’s very common (and straightforward) for paid search agencies to calculate a return on advertising spend (ROAS) for clients using their ad platform metrics and basic revenue information provided by an analytics package or the client.

However, unless they’re also considering things like profit margins, postage costs and other resource costs associated with delivering a product or service, they’re not actually demonstrating how profitable paid search is as a channel.

Look for agencies that provide true ROI figures, not ROAS masquerading as ROI. The alarm bells ring when the figures quoted are around the 1000% mark as this is most likely to be ROAS that doesn’t demonstrate profitability.

There is every chance the activity is profitable, unless margins are incredibly small but even with a 20% margin, on sales of £5000, gross profit will be £1000 so it’s important to deduct the cost of the paid search activity from this figure, rather than gross sales.

Look for an agency that are transparent and clear about what the campaign metrics demonstrate and want to show the true value of the activity.  


Strategy aligned with your business goals

Look for a paid search agency who are less interested in selling their services and more interested in solving your problems.  

Inquisitive agencies that are genuinely interested in finding out about your business and overall objectives and how they can help you achieve them, are far more likely to deliver results as they will structure the activity to focus on your core goals and the KPIs that are most important for demonstrating success.  

A paid search campaign with the goal of increasing high-quality leads from local customers, will have a very different focus than one to increase average order values of online customers.  

Find an agency who gets to the root of your business challenges and proactively comes up with a strategy to help solve those specific problems to help you achieve your targets.


Transparency and accountability

We’ve already touched on this within the ROI section and this is a good indicator of how open an agency will be with your campaign metrics and KPIs.

It is hard to believe, but there are still agencies that will resist informing clients about how well their campaigns are actually performing (who really cares about impressions, clicks and CTR if you don’t know what the conversion, revenue and ROI metrics look like?).

Find an agency who are prepared to be upfront about the conversions they are delivering and how much you’re paying per conversion.

The old adage is true that you can lead a horse to water…paid search agencies can’t actually force visitors to make a purchase or become a client and if your website doesn’t convert it will massively hinder the ability to turn visitors into leads or customers.

However, if the agency is forthcoming enough with you, together you can come up with the right solution for your target audience, which might mean developing optimised landing pages, improving calls-to-action or creating lead magnets.     

The other side to it is, when you decide to stop working with the agency, do you feel confident they would happily relinquish control of any accounts and be supportive about handing over?


take a holistic view

Ask yourself ‘is the agency only interested in this one area of our marketing? or ‘is this an agency that shows an interest in our other marketing and overall business goals?’.

Can the agency act as an extension of your team and help with overall digital strategy, or are they a specialist that may result in the channel being managed in a silo?

Paid search is just one element of digital marketing and is far more successful when used in combination with, to support and with the support of other marketing initiatives.    

Having the right people and technology is important but an agency who can also work across and understand other areas of digital marketing may add far more value than one purely focused on paid search alone.


Long term thinking

As much as you may not want to overcommit to an agency having never worked with them before, or even to paid search as a channel if you’ve never tried it to market your products or services, it’s worth looking for an agency who can be and wants to be in it for the long term.

The reason being, you’ll likely find they are more thorough at setting up or auditing your account and getting in place a best practice structure that will work for the foreseeable future.

They will also look for keywords and ad positions that will be sustainable over the long term and more targeted towards user intent (instead of chasing high volume generics!).

Their focus will be on driving conversions, not traffic.

You’ll also find they won’t be intent on setting out with spend volumes that may be uncomfortably high, rather they’ll build up keywords, ads and bids more slowly to seek out the most efficient level for your bids (as opposed to simply chasing 1st place position).

The most flexible agencies will be happy to run a paid search campaign proof of concept to demonstrate to the client (and to themselves) that they can deliver conversions and ROI before suggesting additional investment.



Larger SMEs and corporates are likely to have several team members and/or agencies involved in various aspects of digital marketing.

A paid search agency that can work collaboratively with other agencies, in an open and non-competitive way, are the ones to look out for.

Even better, find an agency whose team have client-side experience, as they’ll really empathise with your challenges, have more in common with your team members and the likelihood is they’ll talk the same language as you and the whole relationship will be that much better.  


Looking for a paid search agency?

If you’re reviewing your options, why not take advantage of our free consultation where we can discuss your goals and current challenges or carry out a review of your existing campaigns and make some recommendations.

Paid Search Review