Should You Choose a PPC Agency or In-House PPC Management?

I recently received a call from a prospective client who was looking for temporary assistance with their PPC program. Their in-house marketing manager had resigned and, so far, they had been unable to find a suitable replacement. In the meantime, the CMO was covering the position.

They didn’t want to make a rushed hiring decision just to resolve the issue. But they desperately needed some help.

So they asked if my agency might step in temporarily to bridge the gap — this in spite of the company having a strict “no agency” policy due to past bad experiences. Because my agency doesn’t require long-term contracts, we agreed.

But when we opened the account, we uncovered many issues.

For example:

  • The account was in desperate need of a restructure. Many campaigns had hundreds of mixed themed ad groups.
  • Almost every ad group contained plural and singular versions of keywords and was riddled with duplicates.
  • Hundreds of ad groups had no live ads.

I suspect that these problems were the result of work overload rather than incompetency. As I understand it, previous account managers had their hands full managing multiple marketing tasks, not just PPC.

This whole situation got me thinking.

Which approach is better to avoid problems of work overload and poor management: in-house PPC management or agency PPC management? Or some combination of the two?

Pros of In-House PPC Management

The most obvious benefit of in-house PPC management is that your PPC manager is entrenched in your business. By being part of your organization, they’ll acquire insights and understanding almost by osmosis.

They’ll sit in meetings, be privy to internal communications, and be much more plugged into the strategic direction of the company. And, as an employee, they may also have more loyalty and commitment to the company.

Cons of In-House PPC Management

As we’ve seen, a “con” of in-house management is that the PPC manager can become overloaded with responsibilities.

PPC managers are rarely left to manage PPC alone. More likely, they’re also in charge of SEO, email marketing and all things digital.

Each of these areas alone can require a lot of time to perform well.

This arrangement leaves little room for specialization or development of expert knowledge. It’s difficult for one person to master all of them.

It also isn’t uncommon for in-house executives to not recognize or prioritize the training needed to keep up these demands. They may think that “throwing up an ad” isn’t so hard. And it can be difficult to persuade them otherwise when you’re more junior.

In-house PPC management also comes with a cost. It requires additional headcount, a long-term commitment, and lots of training to get the employee up to speed.

Pros of Working with PPC Agencies

It’s the job of agency reps to be experts in their field. They have to be excellent at optimizing and managing accounts or (at least in theory) they won’t stay in business.

Because they recognize the importance of expertise, agencies usually prioritize learning. They also have the advantage of learning from other accounts and other people at their agency. They also have a broader perspective on what they’re doing and are less likely to suffer from tunnel vision.

They also have the advantage of preexisting relationships with different advertising platforms. They often have insider knowledge of and early access to developing system functions.

Cost can also be an advantage of working with agencies. When you hire an agency, you don’t have to pay salaries, benefits or overhead costs. And, depending on your contract terms, you aren’t locked into a long-term relationship.

Cons of Working with PPC Agencies

As alluded to above, communication between agency and client can sometimes be a problem. We have some clients we’re in almost constant contact with. They respond quickly to our calls and emails, and we have standing meetings for updates, feedback, and approvals.

But we also have clients where communication isn’t so robust. We struggle to get approvals and feel disconnected from what’s going on.

For the agency-client relationship to work well, both sides must be committed to open and regular communication. And usually, this means appointing someone on your staff to act as a point person.

Hiring an agency also comes with risks. Picking the wrong PPC agency (i.e., they’re either inept or not a good fit) can be detrimental to the business. If you leave everything to an agency and things go off the rails, you won’t have the in-house expertise you’ll need to see the problem developing and change course.

The Best of Both: In-House & Agency PPC Management

Sometimes we get too strict in delineating agency versus in-house PPC management models.

Clearly, there are pros and cons to both. But, by combining the two, you can get the best of both worlds.

I can see this playing out in two ways, depending on the resources you have in-house.

For example, if you have a junior PPC person in-house, then the agency can provide direction and support. The agency could set strategy and conduct quarterly reviews to identify issues.

The agency could even provide training to the junior person on an ad hoc basis for the performance of daily tasks.

I’ve seen this work in practice. I know of one company in a high tech field that struggled to find the right in-house PPC person. An agency worked with the company to find the right person, including sitting in on applicant interviews! Once an in-house person was hired, the agency continued to provide support until the new hire got up to speed.

A different scenario may apply if your in-house team is strong in marketing leadership and strategy, but weak in day-to-day admin. Here, the in-house team could set the direction, and the agency could use its resources for day to day management.

These scenarios will only work if there’s trust between the agency and the in house team. The in-house team has to be open to the input of the agency. And the agency can’t use the arrangement as a backdoor way to get more of the client’s business.

Get Creative with Your PPC Management

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to PPC management. So don’t limit yourself to the two traditional models of agency or in-house.

With the right agency by your side, you can develop a hybrid solution that will give you the most positive aspects of both.

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