5 Reasons Why PPC Advertisers Shouldn’t Switch from Agency to Agency

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Lately I’ve come across a couple of account audits in White Shark Media where I could see that the potential Client had started and ended relationships with several agencies over the last two years.

Every time this happened they apparently started from scratch, got disappointed with the slow progress, ended the relationship and contacted the next agency  in line forever chasing the agency that could magically propel them into riches.

ppc accounts

However, you should always cut ties with an agency that doesn’t fit your needs or can’t deliver on their promises. To prevent you from going from agency to agency I’ve listed some of my thoughts on why it’s not beneficial to change agency too often.

Even though it’s the only way to go if you’re not reaching your results, simply blaming the agency is the easy way out. You always need to ask yourself if you could have done better, provided better feedback, analyzed the results better or been more communicative.

1) They Have To Start From Scratch Every Time

Every time you start up with a new PPC agency they will most likely start from scratch again. Almost all AdWords consultants have their own style and way to categorize campaigns and ad groups. This process is often crucial to how productive they are.

Personally, I use my own specific way of setting campaigns up with every single Client account. Whenever I open one of my own accounts I can very easily see what’s going on and where I need to work first.

However, when I audit potential Clients (especially from other agencies) it can take me a long time just to get into the groove of how their accounts have been built.

Starting up with a new agency will therefore often mean that they start from scratch. The best PPC agencies will take your previous results into account when building your new campaign, but I also know that most will try out previously failed keywords, ads, benefits etc. because they think they can do better.

I do this myself and it’s a perfectly legit strategy.

However, when you keep switching agencies you’ll never get to enjoy the results that come with an agency taking a systematic approach to optimizing your account on a weekly basis.

2) You Will Never Explore Retargeting, Display Or Other New Ad Formats

If you start from scratch again and again you will not have the opportunity to try out new features in AdWords. Personally, I rarely advise new Clients to dive into remarketing, Display advertising, Bing Ads or search retargeting as part of our initial strategy. For most advertisers the investment in time (and thereby my consulting fee) is usually too high for an initial investment.

If you always try to work with the search network you will be missing out on golden opportunities. Who knows if your industry/product is a perfect match for the Display Network? I’ve seen several cases where the Display Network produced better returns than the search network did on Google.

Stick to one agency and they’ll be forced to try out new things throughout your relationship in order to keep you as a Client. Agencies that just stick to the basics are often not the best choice for you.

3) Already Failed Approaches Will Be Tried Again

You can take several approaches with PPC. Should you solely use your product names as keywords? Are generic keywords your best approach? Will long tail keywords provide enough volume at a low cost?

For sure if you don’t stick to the same agency then all the different agencies might try out some of the same approaches. They might give you some long story about how it will be different this time around (many agencies are one-trick ponies), but you shouldn’t believe them.

If your new PPC agency only proposes one approach or can’t come up with another type of approach then the risk you’re taking is much greater.

Testing an already failed approach will in most cases just result in yet another failure. But in some cases the ads that were originally tested didn’t work with your website. And creating better ads could swiftly ensure that you could get better results while using the same keywords/setup. But I wouldn’t count on retrying an already failed approach.

Sticking to, or choosing, an agency that has several approaches up their sleeves and is willing to discuss them with you is very beneficial and can allow you to be a lot more efficient.

4) AdWords Need Time To Perform

Bigger Clients know this and are aware that optimizations are the true value of having a PPC agency that really pays off. Even though you’re often able to get great results with an initial account setup from a skilled AdWords consultant, the initial setup will rarely show the true potential of your account.

A competent AdWords agency will really start paying off when the agency starts adjusting, excluding, expanding and stopping areas in your AdWords account according to the metrics.

This process could take from 1 to 12 months, but it will rarely take less than three months.

If you’re too unforgiving and you expect to see amazing results from your AdWords campaigns in the first month or two, you’ll most likely end up disappointed and keep chasing a goal that isn’t possible.

5) Sticking To The Same Agency Will Allow Them To Truly Know Your Industry And Seasonality

Truly getting to know my Clients’ industry and all the small little tricks that work best takes time.

A good example is a time when I tested an ad that advocated free and safe shipping for an ecommerce store selling bike parts. The ad was an instant success and increased our conversion rate by 50-100% in most ad groups where it was implemented.

However, when I tried the same wording in some of the Client’s ad groups for bike clothing, the new ad tanked. Nobody really cared about safe shipping for clothes. Clothes don’t break so from a marketing point-of-view the safe shipping argument wasn’t very strong.

When I look back, the difference is obvious, but as an agency you see these kinds of things every day. Something that works wonderfully in one industry completely tanks in another.

If you keep switching from one agency to another you risk ending up with little expertise in your own industry and having to build up experience from scratch every single time.

Choose the Right Agency From The Beginning and Work Closely With Them

The most successful businesses who rely on a search marketing agency are the ones who have been with the same agency for a long time.

Some might say that they got “lucky” and simply chose the right agency for their needs the first time around. However, the other side of the story is that these businesses carefully investigated their options and found the most suitable agency for their needs.

Once they found their #1 agency they committed to them by letting them do the work and they didn’t cut themselves off completely. The successful businesses worked closely with the agency in order to understand how they work and figure out how to help them do a better job.

Agencies Are Like Clients

Working with the right agency is very much like working with Clients. It’s far easier to spend a little bit more time on making sure that your Clients stay with you than it is to chase new Clients all the time.

Likewise, it’s very time-consuming to investigate the market, have hour-long conference calls with a sales agent (“business consultant”) and try to figure out the best choice for you.

If you instead invest more of your time in ensuring that the relationship with your agency turns out profitable you’ll most likely end up happier and better off than if you left all the responsibilities for being successful to your agency.

Like the great Seth Godin says in The Dip (rephrased):

“Why even start something if you don’t have the intention to do whatever it takes to make the relationship/position/career the best in the world”.

I can strongly recommend reading my friend in crime David Rodnitzky’s post on what it costs you to freeload SEM audits. It goes great with this subject.

Andrew Lolk

Andrew Lolk

CMO, Co-founder White Shark Media® at White Shark Media®
Andrew Lolk is the author of the 189-page free AdWords ebook The Proven AdWords Strategy. He's worked in AdWords since 2009 and have co-founded White... Read Full Bio
Andrew Lolk
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  • Christina

    Hi Andrew,

    Good post! While all of your points make sense, I don’t really agree with #2. If it’s a good agency and the account has gathered data for at least a few months (depending on the budget of course, but you talked about an account that has been active for 2 years), I don’t think that the client chose a good agency/SEM consultant if they do not point out other opportunities within their first audit. Yes you probably shouldn’t jump in head first and optimize everything in the first week. But once the second month rolls around, I think no matter how far along you got with optimizing the search campaigns, there is always room for a Display or Remarketing campaign to test.

  • Sean Hecking

    Andrew – Great insights here into why a company may fail to reach their PPC goals by switching agencies with no long term commitment. I have found though in taking over past accounts that not every consultant or agency has the same approach or strategy. Some agencies are just throwing the client’s money away in PPC without best practices. On the flip side, a client that can only spend a $100 or so a week on ads should not expect great results. The combination of an adequate budget and proper strategy are key. Clients and consultants must work together to find that right mix that will generate ROI.

    • Andrew Lolk

      Thanks, Sean.

      I agree completely. You need to have the necessary requisites in order to expect success. I’ve seen agencies stringing Clients along in highly competitive industries (health – law – sex) with very small budgets.

      It will never work 🙂

  • Andrew Lolk

    Hi Christina,

    It’s an interesting point, but I must admit that I don’t agree. I don’t think you should start Display or Remarketing no matter how your Search campaigns are running. It of course depends on the size of the campaign, but usually there will be plenty of work in optimizing the search campaigns.

    Starting to focus on Display that early, no matter how the search campaigns are performing, will in most cases take away the much needed attention that the search campaigns require.


  • Petr Macek

    Very nice summary of reasons why not to switch. I do PPC audits from time to time and and rather often than not I see that many agencies don’t really try hard enough, in that case I advise my clients to ask agencies for adjustments, more proactivity, I usually provide them with very concrete recommendations and if agency’s work isn’t improving after this step then there usually needs to be more radical step because now we see that it is not going to improve. So sometimes there is a need to switch…

    • Andrew Lolk

      Hi Petr,

      I agree – There are definitely times in which you need to switch agencies. I’m not advocating staying with an agency who doesn’t innovate or where your campaigns are not trending like you’re expecting.

      The essence of the blog post is that you shouldn’t just switch from agency to agency in an attempt to find success. Do proper research and when you finally choose an agency, commit to them. Take responsibility for the results as well and make sure they get all the requisites for success.

      I can’t tell you how many times we’ve waited several weeks for Clients to install certain tracking tools or provide information needed to optimize a campaign and thereby wasting valuable time. Today we handle most of the tracking installation etc. in-house free of charge. We could simply not rely on our typical Client to manage this process.

  • Christina

    Agree to disagree. 😉

    I just think that you can do both at the same time, especially if you have a small account. I am also not saying that you should just focus on Display/Remarketing and not focus on Search anymore. But it’s just too easy to set up a Remarketing campaign, even if it’s just one ad group so that you can start testing.

  • James Turner

    Andrew, lots of good points and a good read. Thanks. In general I agree with your consistency has its value points, but every year we get 3-6 clients who come from other agencies because their PPC campaign is not generating results. In pretty much all cases we can see some improvement and in sames cases we get more than a 300% improvement in terms of ROI. I am not saying we are great at PPC, we are always learning and trying to improve, but we work hard and professionally to get results. I think the issue is in part that for a lot of firms PPC is easy money and they don’t put the effort needed into really doing their KW research, setting the campaign up, building quality landing pages and analysing results. Set it and forget it if not a motto is at least the effect they achieve. So at the very least getting independent audits as Petr mentions in the comment above , are a worth while consideration to see if things really are working reasonably well, If they are not, then perhaps a more motivated firm or internal team is worth considering.

    • Andrew Lolk

      Hi James,

      I couldn’t agree more. Check my reply to Petr for a more ellaborated reply, but I definitely think that there are times where changing your agency is necessary.

      Nobody should be allowed to coast.

  • Jacob

    i think there also has to be some business sense when it comes to choosing an agency or bringing it inhouse. Most agencies that send me offers try to get me for 10% of ad spend. If you are spending like i am over 250k a month on adwords it makes more sense to bring it in house even if it was 5% of ad spend. At least you get somebody very senior and the person spends 40 to 50 hours instead of the 25 to 30 hours. Agencies are great with small budgets but the cost is too much most of the time that leads to failure