Should you hire a PPC freelancer or a PPC agency?
PPC Freelancer vs PPC Agency
In brief, freelancers are usually less expensive than an agency. As well, often you could expect a larger commitment from a freelancer than an agency. On the other hand, you can anticipate more diversified experience from an agency, relative to a freelancer. However, such is not always the case with freelancers or agencies. Like anything else in life, buyer beware.
PPC Freelancers Based on Price
The rates that a PPC freelancer charges are not the only factors to consider when hiring. But generally speaking, a more expensive freelancer has more experience. It’s a good idea to check references. But even so, it’s important to ensure there’s communication compatibility. This is a position that is key to the very lifeblood of your existence: generating leads and sales for your business.
Here are some approaches to consider when evaluating pay rates.
a) Hiring an inexpensive and inexperienced PPC freelancer is the most unpredictable. It would be more acceptable if you are very experienced with PPC yourself and can closely scrutinize the details of their work.
b) Hiring a PPC freelancer with mid-pricing is less risky than hiring the least expensive resource. You should expect they’ll be able to follow your instructions. Although you’ll still need to scrutinize their work to confirm the job is being done per your requirements. But it’s a good bet that any required modifications will be done swiftly and competently as your needs come more info focus, from their perspective. Hiring a mid-tier PPC freelancer can be most workable if you are trying to save money compared to more expensive resources. Nevertheless, later on, you may still want to try a more expensive PPC freelancer to see if your PPC performance can be further improved.
c) In an ideal world, hiring the most experienced PPC freelancer at the top of the price range will generate the best results — at least in terms of seeing how effective the PPC advertising will be. But an ineffective marketing and sales funnel will not be made profitable by PPC alone (more on that below). Also, hiring the most experienced/expensive freelancer is a particularly good idea if you are not sufficiently experienced with PPC advertising and can benefit from more informed guidance. In other words, the less you know, the more expertness and experience you should hire.
Having said all that, the focus of this article is not on whether you should hire a freelancer versus an agency, or what approach to use when making hiring decisions; this is about how to make the overall experience more valuable and profitable after you’ve made the hire.
Marketing and Sales Funnel
In this article, when referring to Marketing and Sales Funnel, I mean the online evolution of:
- Raising awareness in the minds of potential buyers that your product or service exists
- Becoming a candidate in their decision process
- Closing the sale
PPC Search vs PPC Display
There’s a lot one can learn about PPC advertising. For the purpose of this presentation, I’m going to overly simplify PPC into two general categories of “Search” and “Display.”
Search PPC is getting your ads in front of people who are searching for your product or service right now. If someone is searching for “red shoes” and they click on your ad about “red shoes,” then your PPC ad did a good of targeting the right prospects. Now, of course, just because they clicked your ad and went to your website, does not mean they will buy your red shoes. But the point is that with this kind of search PPC ad, you are able to get in front of potential buyers right now.
Display PPC is a different animal altogether and it’s what most of us are already familiar with because we see them almost every time we go online — whether we want to or not. We may not be searching for red shoes. Instead, we might be reading a sports article or a new recipe. However, we may also see an ad for red shoes. In this case, the display ad is hoping to take us away from the content we are consuming to visit their shoes. Display PPC is not as effective as Search PPC. There’s also a substantially larger pool of placements for an advertiser to get their message out to a broad public via display than search. For both these reasons, display ads are less expensive than search ads.
Both search and display advertising have their respective merits. Your business might benefit from one more than the other, but many businesses benefit from using both, particularly for different parts of the marketing funnel.
About Retargeting and Remarketing
Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that can help you keep your product or service in front of visitors after they leave your website. For the majority of websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting is designed to help businesses reach the 98% of users who did not convert right away. Retargeting allows you to strategically position your ads in front of these audiences on other websites they visit later to remind those past visitors about your brand and/or to make a purchase.
PPC Marketing and Sales Funnel Advertising
PPC advertising is often only one part of an overall marketing funnel. But different PPC campaigns can target different parts of the funnel. For example:
- “Top of the Funnel” campaigns are about introducing potential buyers to your products or services. Although display PPC or search PPC can be used here, if there’s not enough search ad volume, you can find more robust volume via display ads. And “what” is being advertised might be content that is relevant to the type of prospects who would buy your product. For example, if you sell financial services, you might promote financial “How to” guides to get in front of potential prospects.
- “Middle of the Funnel” campaigns are intended to insinuate your offering into the potential buyers’ decision process. Depending upon the product or service and market, these types of ads might be directed to more detailed descriptions of your product or service. To continue the above example, if you are promoting financial services, you might direct retargeted ads to those who got your “How to” guides to direct those prospects to detailed information about your financial services.
- “Bottom of the Funnel” campaigns (often remarketing and retargeting) are intended to generate sales. These have a call to action and often some type of special “Buy Now” offer. And just like ads for the other parts of the funnel, you’ll want to test many variations to find better-performing messages.
Many business owners want to focus on bottom-of-the-funnel advertising. If that works for your product or service, by all means, do it. On the other hand, unless you have an inexpensive product and known brand, many prospects will need to see your ads multiple times before they’ll buy from you. Hence, the whole idea of providing different PPC ads to different types of prospects is to make your PPC advertising more effective and provide more value for the same expenditures.
PPC Freelancers vs Marketing and Sales Funnels
For some businesses, PPC may be the primary means of generating traffic and sales. Nevertheless, it’s still only a part of the entire marketing and sales funnel.
PPC freelancers are generally not hired to inform your overall marketing strategy. They focus on the platforms themselves, whether that be Google Ads, Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, Amazon Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the industry norm.
To underscore the obvious, a PPC freelancer or agency is only one part of a solution towards making your sales funnel more effective. What this boils down to is if you are hiring someone to administer your PPC, ideally you would also be savvy enough with PPC and marketing yourself to maximize the value of the partnership.
If your marketing and sales funnel is already well-optimized, then the PPC advertising will amplify your sales, as long as the cost-per-conversion is profitable. But if you don’t have an efficient funnel and offer, then the PPC will result in more traffic but the conversion costs will run in the red. (Even so, the PPC may still be desirable in a number of businesses, since the financial loss on the initial conversion may be surpassed by the percentage of buyers who make further purchases after they become a customer).
PPC Opportunity – Use the Data!
It’s a wasted opportunity if a business owner or marketing manager is not using the PPC platform data to inform improvements in the overall marketing strategy and sales funnel (not just the PPC strategy). Yet, in most cases, it’s not the freelancer’s role to consult the business owner about overall strategy or the business sales funnel, even if/when the freelancer or agency is aware of such.
As a simple example in another field, if you were hiring a company to execute your direct mail campaign, in most cases, you wouldn’t expect them to also inform your strategy or even your copywriting. Their job is to print the letters, stuff and stamp the envelopes and get the mail to the post office. In many cases, they aren’t even qualified to discuss strategy or copywriting — that’s simply not their job.
As a comparison, any PPC freelancer or agency should, of course, be technically qualified to interact with the details of their respective platforms. But that does not suggest their expertise extends outside the platform itself. For example, a common suggestion PPC freelancers or agencies may make when asked about increasing ad performance is to “spend more money.” Although that may generate more traffic and sales, it may also be contrary to the best interests of your business if it’s not going to increase ROAS (return on ad spend).
A more meaningful suggestion would be “Look, we’re spending 30% of your PPC budget on a product that is only generating about an 8% response. If we move that budget to the higher converting products, we’ll see a better ROAS.”
As a business owner, you may say, “Thanks. Let’s do that right away.” Or, on the other hand, “Yes, I see, but that 8% response is for our highest-profit product.” In the latter case, dedicating 30% of the budget to a lower PPC performing product may be a perfectly valid business decision. In certain cases, it might even be worth increasing that part of the budget, regardless of the lower response, if it’s making more money.
Additionally, significant data is available from the PPC advertising that can inform your overall marketing: such as demographics, geographic locations and keywords used by those who engage with the ads. For example, what if you’re selling motorcycle jackets and you find that 20% of your buyers are women but all your messaging is targeted to men? Or what if you are marketing consulting services to divorced parents and the PPC data reveals a significant percentage of respondents are also using legal keywords as a basis of their search and you barely mention this part of your service on your landing page? These represent important opportunities to change your marketing strategy and sales funnel. In the former, you would be wise to set up special landing pages for women with photos of women wearing the jackets. In the latter, you would be wise to expand the messaging of your legal-related services and test specific ad campaigns and landing pages targeted to those visitors.
Greatest PPC ROAS
The greatest ROAS re PPC expenditures can be derived from adjusting the overall strategy and sales funnel, not merely optimizing the logistics and details of the ad platform. (Although, of course, optimizing the on-platform PPC performance is mandatory).
The strategy and sales funnel (as well as PPC) may be best viewed as a living, dynamic entity that needs continual maintenance, evaluation and optimization, as opposed to something that is left on automatic.
For example, the best PPC technicians are worth their weight in gold because they may be able to generate a few percentage points better ROAS than someone who is competently experienced but not at the highest echelon of PPC performance.
Companies spending enough advertising money recognize it almost doesn’t matter what the high-level freelancer charges because the improved performance surpasses the money the advertiser would save on someone less experienced.
Regardless, the biggest gains are on the over-arching advertising/marketing strategy and funnel, not the PPC logistics.
Hence, you can hire the best PPC expert in the world and lose money if the PPC expert is only focused on maximizing the platform value of driving traffic to the funnel rather than leveraging the data to optimize the funnel. (Again the former is typically all they are expected to do. It’s YOUR responsibility to strategically leverage the data).
In other words, the existing funnel may simply not provide enough opportunity. Furthermore, the PPC expert is typically not getting paid to consult the business owner on sales funnel points, even when the PPC freelancer is aware of them.
You can derive much greater value and ROAS when hiring a PPC expert if you personally are:
1) Experienced enough to provide optimal instructions and know when the instructions are being followed, or not.
2) And most importantly, able to evaluate the ongoing PPC data yourself.
Unfortunately, that’s not practical or real for many business owners and it’s an understood fact by the freelancers. Hence, the overall value of the partnership with your PPC provider may be lower.
You need a well-conceived marketing and sales funnel and it needs continual optimization. And the PPC metrics are a source of important data that can inform the sales funnel and strategy, not just the advertising on the specific platform.
Whether the PPC advertising is successful or not is relative to how much it costs to keep a stream of traffic flowing through your funnel profitably, while continuing to revise and optimize the ads and funnel before consumer response begins to lag while going through natural longer-term performance cycles.
A PPC freelancer or agency represents a partnership between the PPC platform and your own website and strategy. But the PPC platform can provide more value than just the PPC itself if you harness the data that it’s aggregating each and every day while you’re paying for advertising.
For Google Ads, this means you should have access to the online Google account controlling your ads so you can regularly analyze the data. For Facebook advertising, the Facebook Ad Manager is where you will gain the available info. For every other PPC platform, there is a respective interface to monitor analytics.
Log into them.
Look at them.
If you use the metrics, your marketing and business will benefit from more than just the PPC advertising itself. It’s part of what you are paying for on a PPC platform, so take advantage of it. Furthermore, it will provide more value in your relationship with whoever is managing your PPC.
Avid hiker, bicyclist, motorcyclist and long-time advertising pro. Founder of Skyworks Marketing, Nonprofit Fire and Our Ventura TV (cable TV). One career highlight was working on a small team that built a business from nothing to over $100 Million in 3 years. Skyworks Marketing provides video advertising and lead generation services. We create custom marketing funnels that provide the highest-quality leads and sales.