How To Tell If Your Adwords Account Is Being Actively Managed

You’re paying an Adwords Manager to handle your PPC account. What is he doing?

Sure, you get an analytics report every month, and you may or may not understand it.  Regardless, the analytics report is simply telling you the results of your campaign, not if your Adwords account is being actively managed.  This post is going to show you how to figure this out.

To start, you should have read/analyze permissions from the firm handling your PPC account.  If you don’t, stop reading this and email your PPC manager now.

It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Great, now you have access to your Adwords account.  Let’s take a look at what is being done.

An actively managed account has changes being made on a regular basis.

Let’s take a look at what changes are being made.  First, log into Adwords and look for “Change History” under the tools tab:

is your adwords manager working?

Click on “change history” and you’ll see this screen:

This list outlines all of the changes that have been made.  If nothing has been done in 3 months, fire your Adwords manager. You’re paying for management that isn’t being done.

What if there are changes, but I don’t know what they are?

Let’s go through some of the changes that you should be seeing.

Your PPC manager is adding negative keywords.

This means that he or she is setting keywords that will prevent your ad from triggering.  Want to keep people looking for “web designer employment?”  Set “employment” as a negative keyword.  This is what it should look like in your change history:

change history screen adwords

Your Adwords manager is finding new keywords to bid on:

Anyone that is going through the search terms that are triggering ads will find new keywords that could be valuable.  Your manager should be adding them to your keyword list.

You’re seeing changes in the bid amounts”

Here you see that the manager is changing the amount that he is bidding for specific keywords, times of day, days of the week, or device.  It’s important that the account have some changes made to eliminate waste.

Your ads are actually changing:

Your manager needs to split test your ads.  There is going to be some magic combination of ad copy that drives the most business and the only way to find it is to test.  If you don’t see “text ad changed” somewhere in the change history, you’ve either already found the holy grail or your manager isn’t doing his due diligence.


Are there any changes that you feel need to be constantly done in an Adwords account?  Do you regularly check your account?









Should Your SEO & PPC Reports Be No More Than 3 Numbers?

The case for simplified SEO and PPC reporting.

Does in-depth reporting provide any value in the first place?

I work primarily with professional services firms, the majority of whom are law firms.  These clients are highly intelligent, extremely well-educated, and generally speaking, highly successful in their fields.  If anyone outside of marketing is going to be able to easily understand a typical PPC report, it would be the accountants, lawyers, and adjusters that we work with, but surprisingly, most do not.  Even after the meeting or phone call that explains a CTR or a CPA, I can tell that the majority do not entirely understand what the reports are telling them and that we need a new way to report to our non-marketing clients.

“All kinds of lines and graphs”

I recall a first meeting with a small firm in Philadelphia that was leaving a well-known attorney marketing firm from out of state.  I asked about the results that he had been seeing, what was working and what wasn’t, and he answered that “they send me an email with all kinds of lines and graphs every month, but it is impossible to read.  I’ll send you a copy of some of them and you can tell me.”  The forwarded email was a standard report that clearly outlined the changes in traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and all of the typical metrics that we use to track web traffic.  The client was a 38 year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania that was very comfortable managing most aspects of his website, so it was not an issue of not being “tech-savvy” or uneducated.

He just didn’t get what the numbers meant in terms of his business and the time that his agency put into those reports was wasted.

Pick three numbers and put them front and center.

PPC and SEO reporting must be simplified to the point that a child can understand it.  At 12khz, we have started creating dashboards for clients using Google’s Data Studio. These dashboards prominently feature the numbers that mean the most to that client.  What does your client care about?

  • Number of phone calls?
  • Number of people visiting the website?
  • Time on page?

By focusing on a few numbers that the client clearly understands and that you have mutually agreed impact the business the most, your reporting goes from being “an email with a bunch of lines and graphs” to being a document that communicates the progress and results of the work that they are paying you to do.  In the case of analytics reporting for non-marketers, less is significantly more.  All of the typical detailed reporting should be placed on separate pages as to not overwhelm or distract our clients, but still remain available should they choose to delve more deeply into the work that you’ve done.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any positive experiences with greatly simplifying your client reporting?  Am I totally wrong? Please share below.


How Much Do Agencies Charge to Manage Adwords?

What is the typical cost of having an agency manage your Adwords account?

You’ve come to the right place.  99% of the agencies we know charge fees to manage Adwords accounts for clients using one of the following models:

  1. A flat fee of $250-$1000
  2. A 15%-20% of your ad spend
  3. A performance-based model (i.e. $30 per conversion)
  4. A mixture of the above

From the client’s perspective, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each Adwords management fee structure?

Flat Fee
  1. You know exactly how much your bill will be each month
  2. You won’t have an Adwords manager trying to get you to increase your spend
  1. Less of a motivation for your Adwords manager to get down your cost-per-action and overall account performance.  If your manager is less than stellar, he or she may do just enough to keep from being fired.
  2. We often see more complacency as time goes by


Percentage of Ad Spend
  1. You know exactly how much your bill will be each month
  1. Again, you run the risk of having someone unmotivated to get the most out of your account
  2. They want you to increase your ad spend so that their revenue goes up.
  3. Again, this model can lead to a PPC manager becoming complacent over time


  1. You have a higher chance of having a proactive, motivated manager
  2. Much less likely to have the account neglected over time
  1. If your metrics are tied to conversions, they also want you to increase your ad spend
  2. Much of the results of an Adwords campaign are out of the reach of the person managing it.  If you get a new competitor with a monthly budget of $45k, your results are going to diminish. Since the agency is taking on this risk, they are probably going to charge more than they would for a “safer” option such a flat fee or percentage of ad spend.


How to mitigate some of the cons of each fee structure

Ask a lot of questions

We wrote a piece entitled “5 Questions to Keep Your Adwords Manager Honest.” Read it and ask these questions.

Insist upon having “read” privileges” to the account

This will allow you to log into the account and see what is being done.  You won’t be able to make any changes, but you will be able to see what changes have been made to the account.  Changes signal active management of the account, and the information you see will allow you to discuss the results of the changes with your account manager.

How to check the changes to your Adwords campaign
  1. Log into Adwords
  2. Click on “Tools”
  3. Select “Change History”Check changes made to adwords account
  4. Set the date range that you want to check changes for in the upper right part of the screen

cost of adwords agency

There you have it.

I hope that this post will make you a little more comfortable about hiring an Adwords agency. If you would be interested in talking to someone on our team about having 12khz manage your Adwords campaigns, please reach out to us through the contact form on the sidebar to the right or call us


What Can You Expect to Get From An Adwords Campaign In 2017

Understandably, this is probably the most common question that we get from a client interested in PPC.

Since we’re not in business to break even, it’s important to get an idea of what it should cost you to get a sale or customer lead.  Fortunately, Adwords has its keyword planner, a tool that you can use to get a ballpark idea of what it should cost you to get a sale or lead.  When you log into the tool, you’ll see this screen:

how much does adwords cost

Don’t feel overwhelmed.  Click on “get search volume and trends.”  This will give you a good idea of what you can expect the cost-per-click to be for the keywords that you want to bid on within the market that you wish to target.

What percentage of the clicks that you pay for will turn into a sale?

This is the hard part.  This is the “conversion rate” of your website and/or ads; the rate at which visitors “convert” into paying customers.  You can typically see conversion rates range from 1%-5% depending on the industry that you work in, but many of the campaigns that we run have conversion rates up to 30%.  A good Adwords manager can maximize your conversion rate through a variety of techniques, developing the right ad copy, the right landing page for the ad, and the right placement for your ad.  However, it takes time to do all of that—what can you expect to see in month 1?

Let’s do a test run

I did a quick keyword check for terms related to an appeals lawyer in Pennsylvania.  How much should it cost us to get a case and what kind of profit can we expect?

how much adwords costs in 2017

I have found that the “average monthly searches” tend to be a bit off, and if you’re in a brand new Adwords account, you’ll get a really broad number like “0-100” searches a month.

If you’re just “average”

In the case of this firm, 100 clicks will cost $1,375.  The average conversion rate for the legal field is 4.35%, so this is likely to result in 3-5 client contacts, of which 1 in 3 is likely to be a “good case.”  Ultimately, if we are working with an average conversion rate, we’re looking at spending roughly $1,375 to get a $2,000 client.

If you have a good Adwords manager

A good Adwords manager could optimize this account to get a 5%-8% conversion rate.  In this case, the firm would be likely to get 2-3 cases for the same spend, cutting the cost of a client from $1,375 to $823.

If you have a rockstar Adwords manager

If you’re running a campaign that converts at 15%-25% (as many of our attorney campaigns do), then your $1375 goes a long way.  In this case, of your 100 clicks, 20 would be likely to contact you.  Of these, 6-7 would be good cases, bringing the cost of bringing in a new case to $211.  If a client is worth $2000, that is a nice return.

Ultimately, the skill of the person running your account is the deciding factor

But you can use some rules of thumb in calculating the results you can expect.
  1. What conversion rate does your Adwords manager normally get for clients like you?  Run the numbers based on your cost-per-click and see how profitable it would be.  Rule of thumb: don’t spend more than 33% of a customer value to acquire that customer.  Anything over $475 for this client should be suspect.
  2. What percentage of the leads that you receive are “good leads?”  If you’re like us, a good 4/5 of the web leads that we get are “good leads” that we can help.  If you’re like our attorney clients, that number is only 1/3.  Try to figure out what your rule of thumb is.
You Are Not In Business To Break Even

“You know, as long as we break even, I’ll be happy with the work you do.” – Countless clients we’ve worked with

What?  We’re not in business to break even.  If you are spending $95 to make a $100 sale, you are almost certainly losing money once you factor in overhead such as your rent, licenses, and electric bill.  On top of that, it might even be possible that you could make more money by closing up shop, taking your $95 and putting it in an index fund that delivers an annual 10% return.  Let’s get rid of the idea that as long as your Facebook ads, SEO, or Adwords campaign doesn’t lose money, you should be happy with the results.

What is your expected rate of return?

Without getting too much into MBA talk, how much money do you expect to make off a new customer? (profit, not gross sales)  Taking that into consideration, how much does an Adwords campaign need to make in order to be successful?  There are a couple factors that you should be considering before you answer this question.

  1. How risky is the plan?  If you’re looking at spending money on something whose likely results you are unsure of, you should be projecting a chance of making a lot more money than if you were to do something safe and tested.  If no one in your industry has ever successfully driven business through Snapchat geofilters, it may be something worth looking into, but it your forecasted sales are not sky high, it may be worth doing something with a more proven ROI.
  2. What is your customer lifetime value? When you think about that new customer, you need to consider the entire lifetime of your interaction with that customer.  Here’s a simple calculator to help you figure out your customer lifetime value.
    1. If you know that you have a high likelihood of getting a referral from a new customer, make sure that you take that into consideration.  Let’s say that one in ten customers send you a referral; take whatever your customer lifetime value is and multiply it by 1.1.

Please stop thinking in terms of breaking even.

Know how much you will make over the lifetime of a new customer and don’t spend more that 25%-33% of that number to acquire that customer.

If you are spending $9 to sell a product with a $10 profit, you may think that you’re making $1, but you’re not taking into consideration the overhead costs.  Running a marketing plan and a business like this is a sure way to fail.  If a marketing channel costs your $9 to sell a product with a $10 profit (or contribution margin), you need to pick another medium to advertise in.  Between Facebook Ads, Paid Search through Adwords or Bing, SEO, or any one of the myriad traditional advertising media, there will be a channel that will prove itself profitable.  The key is to recognize which are not profitable, because we are not in business to break even.



5 Questions to Keep Your Adwords Manager Honest

The following questions are all variations on the question “what optimization have you done to my campaign?”

Optimization involves finding the lowest performing part of your digital strategy and diverting it to the highest performing part of it.  I go into further detail into optimization in another post, but you should be asking your Adwords manager about the steps that they have taken to optimize your campaign and he or she should have an answer to each question that should sound something like this:

  • We found that the ads that we delivered to people on X devices were converting at the highest rate, while those on Y devices weren’t buying, so we stopped running ads to people that were on those devices.  Now we have more ad spend for those higher converting device X users.
  • For whatever reason, visitors were calling the business at a higher rate from 2pm-4pm, so we bumped up our bids by 15% between those hours.
  • We ran this test on your ads and gained this insight.

If your Adwords manager doesn’t have a good answer for your questions on how your account is being optimized and you haven’t verified that he actually made some recent adjustments to your account, you’re paying him for nothing.

First, why take the time to write this post?

We hear of shady hacks wasting the money of small business owners all of the time.  The most common story that we hear is that “things started off ok, but then the results seemed to dry up.”

In digital advertising, the exact opposite should happen.  As time passes, your account manager should learn what works for your business and develop a lean, mean paid search account for it.  Additionally, the algorithm should recognize that users like whatever they are finding on your page and reward you accordingly.

Question #1 – How are our quality scores and what have we done to improve them?

Unless your quality scores are all 10s, you have an opportunity to get more clicks for your budget.  Higher quality scores usually result in higher placement for ads and a lower cost-per-click.  There are a number of ways to improve quality score, all of which your Adwords manager should be able to discuss with you.  After you’ve had your discussion about how you can improve these scores, follow up the following month to find out whether they have improved.

Question #2 – What have we done to increase the conversion rate of our clicks?

If you’re running a campaign with the intention of getting sales, you need to watch your conversion rate like a hawk.  If you don’t, you may be paying for clicks from the wrong people.  Many Adwords managers focus myopically on clickthrough rate (CTR) even though the ultimate goal of the campaign is to drive sales, not visitors.  If your goal is sales, be sure to focus on your conversion rate.

Question #3 – What keywords have we stopped bidding on?  What time of day/days of the week should we stop running ads?

There are keywords that you are bidding on that do not drive as many sales as others.  Stop wasting money on them.  The same goes for certain times of day and days of the week—we’ve found that our attorneys’ conversion rates dip on the weekends, so we no longer run ads for any of them on Saturdays or Sundays.

Question #4 – What adjustments have you made to our ad extensions?

This assumes that your manager has set up your ad extensions.  If he hasn’t, fire him on the spot.

The lowest performing extension of each type of extension should get switched out regularly until all of your ad extensions are performing uniformly (which will likely never happen, there is always a clear loser).

Question #5 – How has our cost-per-action changed in the last couple months?

This is the canary in coal mine—your cost-per-action should have some sort of downward trend.  If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong.  If an Adwords account is regularly eliminating what doesn’t work and directing resources towards what does, your cost for getting someone call/email/buy should go down.  If it isn’t, your account is either being mismanaged or ignored.

We really hope that this will help you to make your advertising profitable.

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