9 Simple Ways to Know It’s Time to Fire Your PPC Agency

There’s a lot of shady ad agencies out there in the PPC world. Shady agencies that can create nightmares like this for your business:
PPC Agency Horror Story

Via Reddit /r/PPC

And unfortunately, stories like this are hardly uncommon.

PPC Agency Reddit

Via Reddit /r/PPC


The truth is that it’s hard not to be lured in by the promises these PPC agencies make. After all, who wouldn’t mind getting more customers without having to do any extra work?

I bet you wouldn’t settle for a lawyer or an auto mechanic that set off red flags in your head, would you?


Then why settle for a PPC ad agency – a company that quite literally holds a lot of your business’s potential revenue in its hands – that does the same?

But how do you know you’ve found a good PPC agency you can trust?

Well to start, check out this list of 9 PPC agency warning signs that should make you RUN…and take your PPC ads with you!


1. Your PPC agency is more worried about ‘vanity metrics’ than ROI.


Okay, so we’re all at least a little guilty of this.

We just can’t help but get those warm fuzzy feelings when we see our post has received thousands of views or that we’ve got X number of new followers. The pleasure from this kind of social validation is simply human nature.

PPC Agency Likes

But these numbers – ones that come from impressions, likes, followers, or non-converting web traffic – are called ‘vanity metrics’ for a reason.

In other words, they feel great (which is exactly why your PPC agency loves to share them with you), but they don’t always translate to more business and better ROI.

A study analyzing engagement and conversion rates of  Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hotels.com demonstrates this point perfectly.

Ultimately, the study found that Airbnb dominated in their viewer engagement, pulling in the longest average site time and 70-80% more pages per visit.

But although Airbnb had the highest engagement of the three, they still had significantly less traffic and bookings overall than its competitors did. Simply put, Airbnb’s high engagement didn’t translate into a higher conversion rate.
PPC Conversion FunnelPPC Conversion Funnel 2PPC Conversion Funnel 3

[Image source]

Ask your PPC agency this:Do you focus on ‘vanity’ metrics? Or do you focus on conversion metrics and actual ROI?”
The answer you want to hear: “We focus on conversion metrics and ROI including actual leads, submitted forms, purchases, sign-ups, and more.”
The answer that should make you RUN!: “We tend to focus on impressions.  Getting your brand name out there will eventually lead to sales.”


2. Your PPC agency doesn’t let you be 100% in control of your own PPC accounts. (Or worse, they actually OWN your accounts.)


Though you may be hiring a professional to help out, your PPC accounts are exactly that: yours.

In other words, you have every right to speak up and give input if you don’t agree with something the agency is doing. And any agency worth its salt should remember that YOU are still the one in control of your ads and they should take your input and discuss it with you as necessary. Any agency that doesn’t take you seriously and refuses to let you have the final word is one you’ll want to stay away from.

But even worse than PPC agencies trying to stop you from having any say in how your accounts are run are those that insist on OWNING your accounts themselves.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT work with any PPC agency that wants full ownership over your accounts.

This is the equivalent of you hiring an electrician to fix something in your house…and then deciding to transfer him your house’s deed. Which is hopefully not something you’d do. (If so, we’ve got a bigger problems on our hands.)

Basically, sketchy PPC agencies try to scam you into giving them ownership of your accounts so they can hold your account “hostage” if you try to break free of their services.

There is literally zero reason a PPC agency would EVER need your account’s ownership and they can do their job perfectly fine without it.
Ask your agency this: “Who will own the account? Me? Or you?”
The answer you want to hear:
“You, of course!  If you don’t have an account, we can set it up for you and make you admin.”
The answer that should make you RUN!: 
“We need to have full ownership to give you the best results.”


3. Your PPC agency doesn’t let you see your own ads.


This should probably be a pretty obvious red flag.

If they don’t want to show you your own ads that you are paying them to make, you can probably assume one of three things:

  • They haven’t actually done anything. (In which case, you’re probably wasting a lot of money.)
  • Their ads are tanking. (In which case, you’re probably still wasting money as well as losing out on potential customers.)
  • Their ads are just really, really bad and they don’t want you to know it. (In which case, you’d probably be embarrassed to have your company’s name on them if you saw them.)

PPC Agency Bad Ad Text Example

How would you like to have these ads running in your company’s name….and not even know it! [Image Source]
Seriously, please ignore any and all excuses the agency gives you about how you seeing the ads harms your campaign. Though perhaps true if you click the ads, there are plenty of ways for them to show them to you.
Ask your agency this: “Will I be able to see the ads you run?”
The answer you want to hear:
“Absolutely! You can see the top performers in your weekly reports, or you can log into the account and see them all.”
The answer that should make you RUN!: 
“Why do you want to see the ads?”


4. Your PPC agency hides metrics from you.


This is yet another pretty blatant red flag.

Your ad agency can say as many soothing words about your impressions, clicks, and other metrics….but without being able to look at the metrics to verify yourself, all you can do is take them at their word.
PPC Agency Metrics

If I made your metrics look like this, then I’d want to hide them too. [Image Source]


What to ask:  “Will I be able to see ALL my PPC account metrics….whenever I like?”
The answer you want to hear:
“Yes, in addition to your weekly reporting, we will set up a dashboard for you and your team.  Here’s how you can access your metrics…..”
The answer that should make you RUN!: 
“Unfortunately, we can’t give you access to your own metrics for reasons of privacy/proprietary info/some other big-word-filled B.S. excuse”


5. They aren’t making your account grow.


Well, first things first – if you aren’t given control of your ads or the ability to see your own metrics, you won’t actually be able see if this is happening or not.

But if you are given access to your metrics, you should be wary if you aren’t seeing any growth.

That’s why you hired them, isn’t it? To get a better ROI on your PPC ad campaigns. So if you’re not seeing that, it’s time to give them the boot.

PPC Agency Lead Gen Infographic

As you can see here, there’s a lot of potential to be had from PPC platforms like Google AdWords. So make sure you’re getting your share of the success! [Image source]

Ask your agency this:  “How do our conversion volume and rates compare to last week / month / year?”

The answer you want to hear: “Great!  Your overall conversions have grown by 100%, and just last week we had the best week ever!”

The answer that should make you RUN!:  “Um… we’ve been tracking the number of impressions.  Look at how many times your ad has been shown!”


6. Your PPC agency isn’t regularly monitoring and updating your account.


PPC ad campaigns are NOT like a fine wine. You can’t just prepare them once, then let them sit around until they hit their prime.

PPC ad campaigns are a lot more like a demanding puppy. They both require patience, careful consistency, and regular attention.


It’s critical to make sure your PPC accounts are being checked on and fine-tuned often to….


  • …reflect any changes in the search engine’s algorithm.
  • …keep up with what your competitors are doing.
  • …cut wasted ad spend by testing what works best.
  • …catch any accidental mistakes that are costing you a lot of money.

But unfortunately, people (including agencies) can get pretty lazy when it comes regularly monitoring their PPC accounts. In fact, only about 1 in 10 AdWords accounts are optimized even once a week! Is yours one of them? (Hint: you definitely want it to be!)


Ask your agency this: “How often will you monitor and update my account?”
The answer you want to hear:
“Minimum once per week.”
The answer that should make you RUN!:
“Well, we’re awfully busy….so whenever we remember. But don’t worry! Monitoring your campaigns isn’t that important once you’ve already set them up.” 


7. Your PPC agency doesn’t bother with proper conversion tracking.


Tracking your PPC campaigns is absolutely ESSENTIAL to getting results. In fact, tracking your campaigns makes you 17X more likely to see a positive ROI than companies who don’t track.

According to the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” The same runs true for your PPC ads. If you aren’t tracking your campaign conversions to see where they actually came from, how can you possibly manage and improve your campaign?

But what’s really alarming is how few people and agencies actually track results. A study of 2,000 adword audits found these surprising results:

PPC Agency Analytics Implementation


In other words, it’s worth checking to see if your agency falls into that green slice.
Ask your agency this: “Do you track conversions? How?”
The answer you want to hear:
“Yes!  We set up conversion tracking before the campaigns started. We set up tracking through your analytics platform, and you should be receiving data in your weekly reports.”
The answer that should make you RUN!: 
“Nah….who needs conversion tracking! Just look at all the nice clicks you got instead!”


8. Your PPC agency works for their bottom line, NOT for their clients.


You’ll find some sort of client-centric message on basically all PPC agency websites.
PPC Agency Client Promises

But often these are just empty words (if you need a reminder of this, just refer back to the PPC horror stories at the top).


…if you run into an agency that is always asking for more time to give you results, then they’re probably prioritizing their time over yours.

…if you run into an agency that claims the campaign is failing because of something you’re doing, then they’re probably just trying to shift the blame.
…if you run into an agency that’s regularly transitioning you from one director to another, then there are probably some internal issues that you want to stay as far away from as you can.


Ask your agency this: “Can I see reviews from past clients? Will I only be working with one person?”
The answer you want to hear: “
Yes and (at least mostly) yes.”
The answer that should make you RUN!:
Basically any answer that isn’t ‘yes.’


9. They don’t have an easy-to-follow pricing model.


When you invest in something as important as your PPC ads, the price you pay should be crystal clear.


The money you spend on a PPC agency will go one of two places:


Place #1: directly to the advertising platform (such as Google AdWords)

Place #2: directly to the agency for their service

Here’s a look at the difference between an agency with a good payment plan vs. an agency with a bad payment plan:
PPC Agency Pricing Example

Which one looks better to you?

As you can see, the agency with the bad payment plan ends up pocketing a lot of your money and doesn’t spend much on your ads.

Ask your agency this: “How much of what I pay goes to your agency and how much goes directly to my ad platform?”
The answer you want to hear:
any honest-sounding number that you are okay with
The answer that should make you RUN!:
“Let me check with my manager and get back to you.”




Though nailing your PPC campaigns can really pack a powerful punch for your business, there’s plenty of bad PPC agencies out there that’ll do more harm than good.

On that note, I want to compress all the tips above into two points for you to remember when choosing your next PPC agency:

1) RUN from any company that doesn’t give you full insight into all that they do – from their pricing, to their metrics, to the ads they create for you.
2) RUN from any company that just doesn’t know what they’re doing – from not tracking conversions, to focusing on vanity metrics, to not keeping the client’s best interests in mind.