A Buyer’s Guide to Paid Search Advertising Agencies

Who are the key players in the paid search arena? The “Buyer’s Guide to Paid Search Advertising (PPC) Agencies” from Marketing Sherpa has the inside scoop.

Paid search marketing has exploded in three years since Yahoo acquired Overture, and Google introduced AdWords. Despite the industry’s relative youth, developing successful paid search campaigns requires extensive industry knowledge and experience.

Firms specializing in paid search campaigns generally have one of three backgrounds, according to the “Buyer’s Guide.” There are traditional search optimization firms that acquired paid search experience to service all their clients’ search marketing needs. Traditional ad agencies joined the game to service their clients’ online ad needs. And because the field is so lucrative, individuals wanting to start their own business have piled into the space, too.

Each type of firm is likely to take a different approach to a paid search marketing campaign and to deliver very different outcomes. That poses a challenge for companies wanting to engage a PPC (define) professional’s services to develop and manage a search advertising campaign.

The guide is designed to help companies make this selection. The first part of the guide covers paid search campaign basics and how they’re typically priced. It also offers general advice on selecting a paid search agency.

Much of this information takes the form of answering common questions: Why not let your ad agency handle your paid search? Should you hire an agency or do your own paid search campaign in-house? How do you determine a baseline search advertising budget?

If you’re not familiar with how paid search agencies work, the answers to these questions can save you a lot of time and trouble. Sample contract and negotiation tips are also helpful when you get down to brass tacks with an agency.

The bulk of the guide, like the companion “Buyer’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization” I reviewed last month, is a directory of 61 paid search agencies, detailing the services they offer. The guidelines for inclusion in the directory were similar to those for SEO (define) firms. To meet these guidelines, a company must:

  • Have paying clients since March 2004 or earlier
  • Have one in-house staffer who focuses at least 75 percent on paid search services and has been a professional since 2002 or earlier
  • Derive a significant portion of revenue from paid search advertising services (not including ad buying fees paid to engines themselves)
  • Make $75,000 or more fees from clients that engage the firm specifically for paid search advertising
  • Be based in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand

Firms could either self-nominate or be nominated by a client. Marketing Sherpa distributed a 172-point questionnaire to nominated firms and followed up with email and telephone interviews to compile profiles. Companies not disclosing information weren’t included in the guide.

Firms aren’t rated for quality, but each lists two clients that can be used for references and study of how the firm is managing a campaign.

Marketing Sherpa’s “Buyer’s Guide to Paid Search Advertising Firms” – $199

This column was adopted from ClickZ’s SearchEngineWatch.com. A longer, more detailed version is available to paid Search Engine Watch members.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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