Click Media

The AdWords agency problem

By Rob Drummond

This is part one in a two-part article

It’s easy to forget how much AdWords has changed in the last two or three years.

The interface looks similar to the interface we have today, but the machinery under the hood is completely different. In 2011 we had the search network, and the display network. And we had a brand new display network feature called remarketing. And that was about it.

Today, from the same interface, you can create:

  • Shopping campaigns
  • Youtube campaigns
  • Mobile app campaigns
  • Gmail ads

And of course remarketing campaigns, which are now more sophisticated because you can upload lists of customer email addresses, and build remarketing lists from Youtube channel interactions.

And those aren’t the only changes.

We’ve also had the great ‘right side wipeout’, where all the right hand ads were axed from the search results page.

We now have audience targeting within a regular search campaign, meaning you can combine keywords and interests.

Sitelink click through rate has become a component of quality score.

Mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic in available search volume.

We now have the ability to set separate bids for tablet traffic. (Hurrah!)

Oh, and don’t forget about the API changes. If you want to automatically customise your ads with your latest prices and inventory information, you can do that. If you want to raise or lower bids based on the weather forecast, you can do that.

Are you keeping up?


Here’s the secret.

Nobody is keeping up.

AdWords is really six mediums rolled into a single interface. No one human can reasonably be expected to know all of it, and certainly not be a true expert in all of it.

The rise of the specialists

What we’re seeing now is a fragmentation of expertise. Savvy AdWords consultants have realised that specialising in a particular aspect of the AdWords machine is the most profitable way to run an AdWords consulting service.

As a few examples, David Rothwell has become one of the world’s leading experts on Google Shopping campaigns. Talor Zamir does local PPC. Ryan Masters and Tom Breeze do Youtube ads.

Working with a specialist brings deeper experience and knowledge, but at the same time you run the risk of losing sight of the bigger picture.

The agency alternative

One alternative to working with a specialist is to work with a ‘full service’ agency. An agency will typically charge more than a freelance specialist. Normally they’ll have plush city-centre offices and slick sales teams.

An agency will try to convince you that they do indeed know the entire AdWords system. The big problem in the agency model is the people selling the projects are rarely the people delivering the work. And while an agency may have in-house specialists in the different areas of AdWords, often these specialists will be relatively junior members of staff. Usually they will have no direct experience spending their own money on AdWords.

These people may know the technicalities of AdWords quite well, but often these are salaried employees with no real investment in the success of your project.

They have no real skin in the game, and often it shows.

The DIY alternative

If you manage your AdWords campaigns in-house, you’re broadly left with the same problems only from a training perspective.

Whoever is managing your AdWords campaigns cannot be a true expert in all aspects of the AdWords system, and will almost certainly need guidance on how to direct their attentions. Whoever is managing your AdWords campaigns not only needs a solid understanding of AdWords mechanics, but also a deep understanding of your business goals.

In practice somebody on your team needs to be responsible for your AdWords results, even if they are not the ones doing the work. You can outsource your AdWords work to an agency, but it is naïve to pay no attention to what they are doing.

At some point as your account spend grows you’re going to need the help of an external specialist or agency.

The agency – specialist conundrum

So, we have a dilemma. We know that some part of the AdWords machine will be central to your lead generation efforts. We know we need help with AdWords. But getting the right help for your particular situation has become a minefield.

If you choose to work with a specialist you have to correctly diagnose your situation, and select the most appropriate specialist for your requirements. Most specialist hiring decisions are based on limited knowledge and assumptions. Sometimes you actually need the help of a consultant to correctly identify what support you actually need!

Finding good specialists is also notoriously hard. If you need a Google Shopping expert for example, you have to rely on either personal recommendation or directory listings such as Upwork (Elance). The latter is a lottery, no matter how good the seller ratings.

If you choose to work with an agency they’ll deliver a smooth pitch, but in my experience the quality of work rarely stacks up to the billing.

The answer is to go in with your eyes open and a solid foundation in place…

Read part 2 of this series »

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond is a copywriter and marketing automation expert based in the UK. This article first appeared on Web Design From Scratch.

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