SEM agency checklist – How to choose the right agency for you

SEM agency checklist – How to choose the right agency for you

Most marketing professionals understand the importance of search engine marketing (SEM), but only a few have the experience on how to evaluate a SEM agency. Choosing the right SEM agency can boost your profits and will be vital for your business’ growth. The wrong agency can be a financial disaster. Most of the time agencies are chosen based on media buying or traditional advertising relationships. This is a mistake.

Today we want to give you some tips on how to choose the right SEM agency for you:
1. Identify your needs

What are your core needs? Check what services the agency offers and where they are experts. Differentiate between a full-service agency and a specialized SEM-agency. Ask yourself the following questions: How important is Web analysis or conversion optimization for you? Keep in mind: It is not only key to drive the right traffic to your website, also what happens after they visit your website? Are your Landing pages optimized? Have you ever thought about running A/B tests? The best approach, in that case, would be to look for a SEM agency that offers 360° SEM services including PPC, SEO, Analytics and Conversion Optimization.
2. Check client references and case studies

One easy and efficient way to check the quality of the agency’s work is: Ask the agency for a few representative clients and then go to Google and look for their clients’ ads and/or search results depending on if the project was a SEO or PPC project. You can do this already in the meeting with live examples. Is the ad text targeted and compelling? What search snippet appears in the SERPs? When you click on the result, is the landing page targeted to the keywords and likely to generate a conversion e.g. lead, sale? Don’t rely on a salesperson to tell you how great their SEM services are, check it out for yourself!
3. Decide which agency-pricing model is the best one for you

There are four basic agency/consulting pricing models in SEM: percentage of spend (if PPC only), hourly rate, fixed monthly fee, and performance-based fee. Think about what is most suitable for you. There are no industry standards, so negotiate what is the best for you. A good agency will adapt to your needs.
4. Determine if your agency is outsourcing to another agency

You have the right to know who is doing what for you. If you are uncomfortable with the agency sharing your campaign/project data with other agencies or using sub-contractors, make sure to you ask the potential agencies to tell you if they are planning to this.
5. Ask who will manage your SEM project

What happens most of the time is that a senior sales person will visit you to tell you about their agency, but once the project starts it might happen that a junior account/ project manager is assigned to you. If you are making your decision based on the quality of the agency staff, make sure that you meet the actual people who will be managing your project on a day-to-day basis before you sign the contract.
6. Spend Time analyzing the Contract

Our final tip in finding your perfect SEM agency: Read the contract before you sign it! Does your prospective agency want to lock you into a long-term contract? Did they even put a penalization fee in, in case you want to get out of it before the end date? Does the agency give you access to tools used or your AdWords account? Question if they plan to give you an extra Interface where you should log in. Work with the agency that’s most willing to work on your terms. All contracts are negotiable and it’s your loss if you don’t try to change the language to benefit your company.