Google's search algorithms may be a black box, but their adtech is straightforward to use. Who needs a Google Adwords expert?
Not you — if your goal is just to spend money. That’s not a common goal, though.
Companies looking to see a return on their paid search spend should hire an expert, at least when it comes to the technical side of PPC execution. Experts know how to plan a creative strategy, structure PPC ad campaigns in Google AdWords and Bing Ads!, and optimize them for peak performance.
But hiring a high-quality PPC pro full-time can be challenging.
“The very best technical marketers, from a Facebook and Google standpoint — they don’t like being stuck with one company,” former ZipRecruiter CMO Ed Fu said in a MarketerLive webinar.
"The very best technical marketers, from a Facebook and Google standpoint — they don't like being stuck with one company."
So when it comes to the data and strategy side of things, it makes sense to outsource.
But when? And to whom? Plenty of agencies specialize in PPC, but they can be expensive: think $6,000 to $10,000 a month, and that pricetag grows in proportion with your ad spend.
Many brands see the highest ROI from hiring a consultant instead, ideally one who charges a flat fee.
We asked three experts in the field how to know it’s time to hire a new PPC expert — and how to find someone who really knows what they’re talking about.
- Casey Armstrong, CMO of ShipBob
- Matt Lally, founder of The GiftYak and growth marketing consultant
- Garrison Yang, head of growth at Incredible Health
Agencies are incubators for expert PPC consultants
Where do you find consultants who can replace, or even outdo, entire agencies?
Short answer: Look for agency experience. Our experts agreed that some of the strongest PPC consultants have worked for agencies in the past, where they likely learned how to manage big budgets, report regularly to account managers, and constantly adjust accounts across a portfolio of brands.
These experts can often double or even triple their income as freelance consultants, Lally said, without charging the client any more than an agency would.
Another upside to consultants: they can often dedicate more attention to your brand, and that personalized attention is key.
If you do choose a PPC agency, Lally recommends choosing going small. At a big agency, you might never encounter their top talent and instead find yourself working directly with a junior account manager who lacks longer term experience.
“I would want to find the scrappiest agency that doesn’t have a big budget client,” he said, “because I know I’m going to be one of their biggest clients, and they’ll give me the best people and their resources and time.”
5 signs it’s time to hire a (new!) PPC expert
How do you know it's time to invest in paid search? Expertise in the area is always powerful, but there are certain times in a business’s lifecycle when it’s especially impactful to hire a new PPC-focused consultant — or your first one! We asked our panel of experts to share some signs that the time is right.
You have no paid search strategy — and performance on your other paid channels has plateaued.
If you haven’t explored paid search yet, look to your other paid channels to see if you should, Armstrong advised.
“Do you think that you're starting to hit some level of plateau or diminishing returns [on your primary channels]?” Armstrong suggested asking yourself. “Do you need to start expanding other channels?”
"Do you think that you're starting to hit some level of... diminishing returns?"
If so, paid search would be a natural channel to test out.
Your budget changed significantly.
If your paid search spend spikes, you’ll want to make sure your current PPC manager has the know-how to handle it.
“If it just went from $5K to $5M, you need to validate that your marketer has done that [level of spend] before, or has a plan in place [to spend the budget],” Yang says.
If they don’t, their approach might be too cautious.
Someone spending $1 million a month for the first time “can be intimidated,” Armstrong noted — especially if they don’t have a more senior PPC management expert to mentor them.
If you work with an agency, a growing budget can also mean it’s time to jump ship to an independent contractor or a full-time hire. The more you invest in PPC channels, the more an agency costs.
Is it worth it?
“Agencies can be really good because they often see a lot of different accounts and they can take those learnings and apply them to their other companies,” Armstrong explained. “But they often don't get as deep into the funnel or into the weeds on the data… as your team will internally.”
Your PPC marketer just… stays the course.
Switching marketing strategies takes time, but there are a ton of opportunities that come along with change. If your PPC expert isn’t excited to shift gears and experiment, that’s an issue.
“If you are having to prompt somebody to explore or test or come up with a new strategy, it’s probably time [to hire someone new],” Yang says.
Your PPC ad performance is deteriorating.
When it seems like nothing is working, there are a couple common root causes, according to Neil Patel. Maybe you’re optimizing for leads instead of conversions, or you’re spending too much on broad-match keywords, or your ad copy is just... boring.
A new set of eyes can really help with identifying the core issue — even if you just hire someone to audit your campaign strategy.
You’re buying PPC ads, but there’s no overarching strategy.
As the needs of your business grow, you might find that the PPC expert you already work with is giving you value, but still isn’t cutting it.
“They might be really good at executing, but not good at the bigger picture thinking,” Lally said.
"They might be really good at executing, but not good at the bigger picture thinking."
That doesn’t mean you have to cut ties. If someone can’t quite scale with your vision, it might also make sense to hire an additional, more senior freelancer, Lally said, to manage your current PPC expert and innovate on strategy.
6 key interview questions to ask a PPC expert
PPC experts are abundant, but before you hire someone — even on a contract basis — you want to make sure they have expertise in an industry like yours, spending a budget like yours.
So what's most important to ask a PPC marketer, specifically? We rounded up the questions you shouldn’t skip when assessing a candidate’s qualifications.
Do you feel most comfortable with B2B or DTC clients?
You’ll want your PPC expert to have focused on your business model in the past, because paid search for B2B and direct-to-consumer e-commerce operations work really differently.
For example, when it comes to B2B, you’re often looking at a sales cycle from one month long to two years long.
That means you don’t know what’s converting in real time. Instead, a B2B PPC expert should be able to look at engagement in the context of your full digital marketing funnel, Armstrong said, and translate the price you’re paying per click into a price-per-future-lead.
In DTC, PPC experts see a much quicker feedback loop. That means PPC experts need less ability to forecast — instead, they need to be able to iterate quickly based on real-time conversion data.
Have you managed a budget as big as ours before?
Smaller budgets can be easier to work with. Quite simply, options are limited.
But as Armstrong mentioned above, when it comes to budgets of $50K a month or more, the wrong PPC marketer might be intimidated, or lack the knowledge of where to allocate that money.
Can you tell me about a PPC campaign you created from scratch?
An expert should be able to talk you through their process, starting with core sets of keywords and building out into more experimental territory using keyword research and A/B testing.
They should be able to speak about the metrics that helped them decide what worked and what didn’t — think click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and more.
In other words: They should be able to go beyond “broad-strokes statement” here, Armstrong said.
Ideally, they're volunteering granular information about the marketing campaign — like whether there was a remarketing component, the sort of landing page it linked off to, and how the creative echoed the client's other online marketing messages, on social media and beyond.
Can you tell me about a strategy you scaled in a competitive area?
In competitive spaces, search engines make a mint. Before Google banned ads for payday loans in 2016, the cost per click (CPC) for Google ads on terms related to short-term loans was sky high, Armstrong said.
Situations like that force PPC advertisers "to get creative in how you're going to expand your search set,” Armstrong said, “because you can't just fish where everybody else is.”
"You can't just fish where everybody else is."
This question is a great way to ask about creativity without asking about it, and assess how your PPC candidate finds high-intent keywords off the (pricey) beaten path.
What would you do if your manager was out of office for a month?
Hopefully, the answer is “more or less the same thing” — because a PPC expert’s real boss is performance data.
“The best marketers I’ve seen live in the data,” Yang says. “They know their business back and forth by the metrics, they understand where their customers are, the journeys their customers are taking to experience the product, and they just know their numbers.”
"The best marketers I've seen live in the data."
They don’t wait for someone else’s say-so. They’re constantly pulling new data from Google Analytics, tracking any fluctuations in your quality score, and searching for new insights, unprompted.
As a PPC expert, “you have to be willing to learn and to grow on your behalf, rather than [waiting for] somebody to tell you what to do,” Lally said.
What do you think of the benchmarks we’ve set for your role?
You should prepare for an interview with a PPC expert by getting a basic grasp on your company’s funnel, PPC’s role in it, and the goals and benchmarks you want your expert to hit.
In the interview, though, ask for their take! It’s a two-way conversation.
Based on their prior experience, they should be able to set expectations, float performance metrics you might not have considered and generally refine your vision.
“They should be able to speak pretty competently and, honestly, get to get excited about that kind of stuff,” Armstrong said.
Once you’ve found a PPC specialist to hire, you’ll want to have them do an audit of your existing PPC advertising strategy and areas of opportunity.
“They’re going to go through and nitpick everything that’s bad at the account, for better or worse,” Lally said.
Usually, that’s followed by a transition phase. Typically, accounts get progressively migrated to a new hire over 4-6 weeks, according to Lally.
“Every new structure takes time to ramp up,” he explained, because you “don’t want to lose the continuity of performance.”
Don’t expect this hire to be a one-time problem to solve. When it comes to PPC marketing, your org structure will fluctuate with your business needs. You might work with an agency at one stage of your business, then a consultant, and then hire someone full-time.
“If I need someone who is deep and focused on one thing, I am absolutely hiring a consultant,” Yang said. “You need people who can solve problems fast, and if that one problem goes away, then you need someone who is adaptable.”
Looking for a paid search marketer? Hire PPC experts through MarketerHire today.