Last week I participated on a panel at SMX Advanced on the topic of PPC audits. I won’t regurgitate the content of the session (you can get a great summary here), but suffice to say my fellow panelists and I gave the crowd many, many reasons to jump out of their chairs and instantly find someone – anyone – to audit their PPC campaigns.
I actually perform both external and internal PPC audits. Not only do I conduct free “mini-audits” (i.e., about an hour of my time) for potential clients, but I also regularly audit PPC Associates’ existing client accounts, to make sure that our team is actually following the best practices on which they’ve been trained. Audits work as great quality control, either inside your company or for your existing agency.
And audits are especially important for online marketing, because the variance in style and effectiveness across different marketing teams and agencies is massive. Unlike a well-established, well-documented profession, like accounting or law, online marketing has no clear-cut guidelines and best practices. As a result, simply having someone from a different agency or company look at your AdWords account will almost always result in a suggested improvement that never occurred to you.
Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that someone who doesn’t regularly seek out audits of their accounts or – worse still – rejects offers of free audits, is making a horrible mistake. I recently had an experience with a potential client that exemplifies this point. I was at a networking event and was introduced to the VP of marketing of an up-and-coming company. The person making the introduction was one of my clients and said something to the effect of “you’ve got to talk to PPC Associates, they are the best agency we’ve ever worked with!”
We exchanged business cards, and I followed up a few days later to see if the VP wanted to talk further. The VP introduced me to his online marketing manager, with the following email (names changed):
Nice to meet you as well. Henry is our PPC guy and I’m sure he’d be interested in meeting you. Henry, Bob Smith said that David is the best SEM guy on the planet. :)
That’s about as good an intro as I could want, so I immediately followed up with Henry with a basic email suggesting we chat via phone. After a week or so or radio silence, I wrote back again to check in and got the following response (name changed again): “Hi David, We’re using Acme Agency for the moment. Maybe later.”
No, I don’t think that on principle marketing managers should talk to every agency that knocks on their door, and yes, I suspect that this manager is probably very busy. But when your VP tells you to talk to a guy who is allegedly “the best SEM guy on the planet”, one would think that would be reason enough to at least have a phone conversation. And during that phone conversation, if this superstar SEM offered an audit (which I would have done for free, if I thought there could be a client fit), one would think that such an audit would be valuable, even if the manager was hell-bent on continuing his relationship with his existing agency.
But doing nothing? That, to me, is not the right course of action. An outright refusal to talk to a highly recommended agency is a sign of:
4. Having the most awesome SEM agency in the world that no other agency could possibly come close to matching.
In other words, there’s a 75% chance that this marketing manager erred in blowing me off completely (by the way, if I sound bitter, I’m really not. The truth is the company wasn’t a fit for our agency anyway).
On the most recent installment of Mad Men (Season 5, episode 12), Don and Roger meet with the very smug management team of Dow Chemical. Don gets right to the point and tells them he wants their business. “We’re very happy with our current agency,” one of the marketing execs snorts, “and we have 50% market share in our markets.” Don responds with a tirade that leaves the Dow team speechless:
You’re happy with 50 percent? You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful for now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50 percent of anything. I want 100 percent. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it, you want all of it – and I won’t stop until you get all of it. Thank you for your time.
Internet marketing success is fleeting. After all, it often only takes a few pennies to get outbid by a competitor on AdWords. Audits – and, more specifically, ongoing testing and questioning of your people, partners and methods – are vital to continued success. Complacency doesn’t result in staying still; it results in falling behind!
– David Rodnitzky, CEO