In the constantly changing digital marketing landscape, it has never been more important to become an educated business owner. Relevant search traffic is at an all time high for local businesses, and SEM (or PPC) is one of the most effective methods to drive these potential customers to your site. Here are some questions to ask your current or prospective SEM agency to make sure you are experiencing maximum ROI for your dollars.

What makes you an expert in this field?

One of the first and most important questions to ask your digital agency – what makes them experts not only in SEM, but in your specific industry?  One of the major underlying issues with digital marketing agencies is that they try to be “everything to everyone”. Make sure your prospective agency has proper certification by the major search engines and has experience running successful campaigns in your specific business vertical.

What is your level of transparency?

When I say “transparency” I am referring to several different areas.  Transparency in management fees is equally important to transparency in campaign results. Understand you are paying for SEM services, both to the search engines and to the agency managing your campaign.  Transparency in SEM metrics is equally as important so you can clearly identify the PPC spend as well as your cost per converted site visitor.

What are some of your optimization techniques (specific to my industry)?

Asking questions such as “how are my adgroups going to be structured”, “how many text ad variants per adgroup will I have”, and “what are some recommended negative keywords you will implement” – are qualifying questions to the agency that help you gauge their level of expertise.  These are all simple questions for a seasoned and experienced SEM provider to answer clearly and concisely.

What are your cross-platform capabilities?

This question pertains to the agency’s ability to manage SEM campaigns on not just Google AdWords, but other search engines such as Bing, YouTube, or Facebook.  Your SEM agency should have the capability and expertise with publishers outside of Google, to make sure your business is prevalent on all highly searched sites.

Do you have a comprehensive reporting dashboard?

All too often SEM agencies try to rely on exporting data from Google AdWords into a detailed .csv file and pass it along to their clients to report on their efforts. Having a comprehensive reporting dashboard that integrates your Google AdWords data with detailed call and analytics is the “new standard”.  Integration with Bing/Yahoo as well as Facebook is an added but necessary function, especially if you are allocating dollars towards those publishers.

Who do I communicate with regarding campaign performance?

Often times you are speaking with a “sales rep” or “account manager” at your prospective agency, but making sure you have the ability to speak and communicate directly with the analyst managing your campaign is essential. The account manager can get to know the specifics of your business and goals to help better equip the analyst to optimize your campaign, but direct communication with the analyst brings a new level of transparency that often gets clouded when always using a middle-man.