PPC Chat Streamcap – Agency vs In-House PPC Management

Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) was back today to host PPCChat with a great PPC topic “Agency vs In-House PPC Management”. The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: Melissa Mackey (@Mel66) blogged pros & cons of doing PPC in-house or hiring an agency, “PPC In-House or Agency: Decisions, Decisions” – Part I & Part II – Do you prefer to work in an agency working w/ several accounts or in-house working on just one company’s account?

  • Can’t speak to in-house, but I need variety in my life so I would think in-house would eventually wear on me. – Andy Groller (@AndyGroller) +
  • There is good and bad to both. Love the variety at an agency; also love the control I had when I was in house. I was able to get much more in-depth w/in house than I can w/agency, due to time & budget constraints. – Melissa Mackey
  • I’ve done both and in-house allows full ownership but agency has variety – pros and cons for both! – Anna George (@AnnaGeorge)
  • Even when I did work in house, I still had a lot of different “accounts,” in the form of different internal teams/products. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Agency all the way. While my in-house experience is limited, I’m way more inspired by managing multiple accounts than just 1. – John Lee (@John_A_Lee)
  • Personally, an agency. I like working on a broad & varied client base. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • I like the agency side because of the variation of campaigns I get to work on. Though I wish I had more hours each mon. for all! – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Much prefer the variety and pace of agency life. Done both, but for keeping on top, agency all the way. – Arianne Donoghue (@ArianneDonoghue)
  • Loving in-house. Get to know all parts of a company. The acct is under my control. No long discussions on strategy. They trust me. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem) ++
    • Interesting point about not having to earn/work for trust. – John Lee
      • Also, I don’t have to sell ppc as a benefit to the company. They already understand. – Michelle Morgan +
  • I’ve always wished I could really dive into the details of one account, which I can’t really do at an agency. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley) +
  • Having gone from Agency to Independent/In-house, I say major benefit in seeing/experiencing global trends w/ multiple accnts. – James Zolman (@jameszol)
  • Agency, I meet some fascinating people, learn all sorts about different businesses, variety is the spice of life after all. – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh)
  • Working at agency now, start working in house next month. sincerely looking forward to concentrating energy on 1 acct. – Kiko Correa (@obiwankikobi)
  • At the same time, I feel edgier and more competitive having the ability to go way more in depth, knowing customer, in-house. – James Zolman
  • I do think agency would be a ton of fun though. Lots of variety. In-house gets monotonous sometimes. – Michelle Morgan
  • I’m a bit special, I work only on one BIG account, in agency. I like that a lot, more depth. I’d prob be good inhouse. – Eloi Casali (@Eloi_Casali)
  • Agency really lets you explore beyond one niche – ecom, lead gen, branding etc plus big spend vs small spend. Hones your PPC skills. – Andy Groller +
    • And if a new feature comes along more likely at least 1 of your clients will be able to use it. – Matt Umbro +
  • I find I can’t always spend as much time on PPC in agency setting, due to other priorities, which is a downer for me. – Melissa Mackey
  • What I love about agency is that you’re on a TEAM of brilliant PPC’ers. Much easier to solve a problem w/ 10 brains vs. 1 . – Aaron Levy +
  • When Iwas on 12+ clients in the agency, i wouldn’t give them the amount of attention they needed. Only what they paid for. – Eloi Casali
  • No experience with agency myself, but echoing the other responses about in-house — I do like it, the control is nice. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • I have done both, at agency right now. I like it more then in house. More accounts=more work but its more exciting. – Justin Freid (@Justin_Freid)
  • I would like to test more on one client. Landing pages for example. I can’t do as much a/b testing as I would like at an agency. – Luke Alley +
  • In-house with multiple brands under the ‘umbrella’ is my perfect situation. – Anna George
  • You also can become somewhat of an expert in multiple industries. I have knowledge about some very weird subject matters. – Justin Freid
  • I miss the pace of the agency but love the focus of inhouse. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
    • So which has a faster pace? – Thomas Ballantyne (@Thos003)
      • Agency all the way, inhouse I see more fighting for the same resources and having to build cases and navigate politics. – Chris Kostecki
        • I thought you’d say that. I was just curious. In-house is fast enough for me, I’d hate to be going faster. – Thomas Ballantyne
          • Now I focus on all search too, including seo and onsite which i like. – Chris Kostecki
  • I would say, agency: better adoption rate of new technology & strategy. in-house: slightly more focus on the account. – Paul Maddock (@paul_maddock)
  • I’m a big fan of working across multiple industries–gives depth of experience & knowledge. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)

Q2: In an agency setting, how many accounts is reasonable for 1 person to manage? Keep in mind account budgets, sizes, etc.

  • In my ideal world, 2-3 mid-size to large accounts is ideal. I have managed up to 20 and it is *really* hard. – Melissa Mackey
  • I max out at about 20 mid sized accounts. Any more, I lose focus. – John Lavin (@johnnyjetfan)
  • Budget and size of account should play a large role in that. It also depends on if you have a junior SEM doing reporting 4 you. – Justin Freid
  • Depends on how the agency manages their PPC accounts and what other responsibilities the person has, but 5-6 is reasonable. – Harris Neifield
  • The number varies based on experience, size of ad spend, needs of client/account. But agree with Melissa that 2-3 is manageable. – John Lee
  • Hard to answer b/c of budget differences ($2K up to $15K). 1 or 2 Big ones, 10 small ones in my experience. – Andy Groller
  • Depends on campaign sizes & hours dedicated & whether in same of different verticals. Same verts are easier on trends & tasks. – James Svoboda
    • To that point it also depends on verticals. All in the same vert means easier to manage typically. – Andy Groller
  • Depends on LOTS of things-how the agency is structured (is there support?), level of experience, budgets, client needs, etc. – Crystal Anderson (@CrystalA) +
  • I would say 1-3 larger accounts with a couple of little guys sprinkled in there. – Justin Freid
  • There is a minimum amt. of work required for ANY PPC client regardless of size, you can get overwhelmed quickly. – Melissa Mackey
  • I’ve worked with anywhere from 12 – 18 at a time. – Matt Umbro
  • Ideal situation is where no single person is 100% responsible for any account. Have layers of responsibility. TEAMWORK. – John Lee ++
    • Agree & disagree. Would be nice to have backup, but don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen. – Matt Umbro +
    • What kind of layers do you think are best? – Luke Alley
      • Some variation of Account Manager/Client Contact, Analyst (reports, trends) and Grunt (assigned tedious tasks). – John Lee
  • Depends on the budget, but anything from 1-20. Depends on how much profit the agency wants, and whether they wish to kill staff. – Eloi Casali
  • Spend might be the best way to figure this out. We’re managing between 20-25 small to mid size clients. – Luke Alley
  • I have exactly 20, but I redefine as small , not average. – John Lavin
  • Problem with running several accounts is you miss small stuff at times – search query reports, high spending keywords, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • What does everyone consider a Small VS Medium VS Large account? – Luke Alley
    • I would add client needs and interaction into this defintion of small vs medium vs large account. – Matt Umbro
    • Good Question, Medium about 5K spend, small <5K. – John Lavin
    • I think that depends! I don’t think budget dictates that.. I think it’s client needs, demands, etc. $5K to one client may be the same as $100K to another. Smaller accounts can be MORE work sometimes than larger – in terms of budget. – Crystal Anderson
    • I would put medium anything above 25K and you get to large when you start spending hundreds of thousands. – Justin Freid
    • The level of client hand-holding needed impacts the size of the account considerably. – Harris Neifield
  • Can make a huge diff based on fees too – if you’re a premium priced agency then adjust workload to deliver premium results. – Aaron Levy
  • I’ve had up to 250 tiny accnts & 35 med accnts b4 inhouse. Now i can slice & dice my data quite a bit & work more w other channels. – Chris Kostecki
  • What about age of account, an account 3 years plus etc. could have a lower work load? – James Hume (@zerospin)
  • Top # 1 person can mng? Depends on whether or not they have to do the client contact. Guessing 15-20. – Theresa Zook

Q3: For agency PPC managers, how much time do you generally spend on accounts per week? How did you come to this figure? (Obviously this question involves many variables, but looking for your thought process here as well.)

  • Not Enough! – James Svoboda ++++
  • As much as possible. This is where rubber hits the roads. Emails and reports are important, but don’t improve accounts(directly). – Luke Alley
  • As much time as is needed to get the account working well. – Harris Neifield
  • Depends on how things are performing – which accounts needs the extra few hours of attention. Which is more important to the agency. – Justin Freid
  • Just a guess: 25+ on average (more or less as needed). Rest of time is in client meetings, and agency business. – John Lee
  • Agree with others, as much time as needed. Will vary by client by week. – Matt Umbro
  • I’ve done as many as 40 but only w/someone else helping do the person-to-person client contacts. – Theresa Zook
  • Each client is different. Depends on their needs, how their account is doing, their budget, etc. – PurePPCCom (@pureppccom) +
  • My time is given to those with greatest need or worst performance. It’s often not who SHOULD get the time (on paper that is). – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils) +
  • As a percentage of time? Probably 80-85% of working time – as far as how many hours, depends on the week! – Aaron Levy
  • Varies all the time. At the end of the days its about driving results & exceeding goals, so spend the hours needed to do so! – Crystal Anderson
  • Agency PPC Managers hardly ever get to work 40 hour weeks. – Justin Freid +
  • We have benchmarks based on budget, but of course things flex depending on client needs. – Melissa Mackey
  • Hard to model time to spend on accnt based upon their budget. Many other factors incl level of comp & quality of site. – Chris Kostecki
  • I wish I could give a real answer here, but have too many other things to do outside of PPC. Usually based on monthly hours. – James Svoboda
  • And I also think this depends on your agency & how many PPC staff you have, etc. – Melissa Mackey
  • Are we including weekends? – Andrew Baker ++
    • Absolutely – Matt Umbro
  • Often the squeaky wheel gets the grease when really it should be the client paying us the most. Sad but true? – Luke Alley
  • Also, -1 hour per week on Tuesdays at 11 CST. – James Svoboda
  • Totally depends on the week. Some accounts need more attention at certain times! But over time I think the hours even out. – Claire Remmetter (@cremmetter)
  • 2-4 hours for the small accts we work with. More time at first but after optimization it’s largely maintenance & testing. – Theresa Zook

Q4: What are some additional responsibilities that in-house PPC managers have that agency PPC managers do not?

  • Agency is about retention, just as Google has its goals, agencies are protecting their business, occasionally at the expense of other clients. – Chris Kostecki
  • I did website optimization, TONS of integration w/online & offline, and internal reporting tasks when I was in house. – Melissa Mackey
  • I’m also in charge of all of our analytics data & now big part of revamping our landing pages. – Michelle Morgan
  • Not having worked in-house before I would conjecture more of a focus on what happens with leads, website performance & analytics. – Matt Umbro
  • When I was in house I was also involved in more site optimization and SEO. – Justin Freid
  • Different levels of reporting, forecasting, educating different teams. – Chris Kostecki
  • Everything – sometimes an in house person gets everything dumped on their plate. Banner ads are probably the most common. – Harris Neifield
  • When I worked in house they threw me in w/ Analytics too, plus tons and tons of reporting/forecasting. – Aaron Levy
  • In most cases I would guess more direct SEO and landing page optimization + more time to look at a keyword’s overall impact. – Dennis Petretti
  • Never worked in agency but we work a lot with other departments and we constantly perform QA. – John Ucciferri (@johnucciferri)
  • I’m guessing perhaps more digital marketing – SEO / Analytics / CRO / etc. – Andrew Baker
  • Also have a hand in designing & writing copy for display ads. I work with lots of different teams to optimize our business. – Michelle Morgan
  • My role in house is Search Marketing Analyst: incl Paid, SEO, & Onsite – each one take a lot of focus, involves different needs. – Chris Kostecki
  • I work in more of an agency setting, but I also handle analytics for my clients’ accounts. – Claire Remmetter
  • It seems like many PPCers also get involved in their in-house or client analytics. – James Svoboda
  • Might be walking on thin ice, but I’m curious about pay for In House VS Agency. Maybe it’s a question coming up? – Luke Alley
    • Yes you are probably underpaid. – James Svoboda +++
  • Mine is a 60/40 split with most time on PPC then the rest on ‘digital marketing’ aspects. – Anna George
  • At an agency it seems almost impossible to ONLY do PPC either. Have to help clients w/ all aspects of website & business. – Neil Sorenson ++
    • Agree with Neil, if you are client facing you will need to be up to date on a manifold of projects and be able to update client. – Justin Freid
  • I would suspect benefits are better in-house than agency – was for me, anyway. – Melissa Mackey
    • Yes, benefits are expensive for agencies. – John Lee
  • Follow-up, do any in-house #ppcers get hired JUST to do PPC?– Matt Umbro
    • I didn’t – fell into PPC from an offline role when Adwords launched in 2002. But I’m old skool. – Melissa Mackey
    • I did originally. Then analytics got handed to me as I got more integrated. Funny thing was, I had no idea what PPC was. The only real criteria for the job was that I “really enjoyed & was ready to learn.” – Michelle Morgan
      • Same when I first started in the field! In fact, I wasn’t hired for strictly PPC. – Matt Umbro
      • I got my job the same way! Funny how that works. – Claire Remmetter
      • I think a lot of us got started in our jobs from the sameee job description. – Aaron Levy
    • Yes, I strictly work in PPC. there’s a clear divide between PPC/SEO/Affiliate, etc. – John Ucciferri
    • I just did. In theory… in actual practice i am predicting some overlap. – Kiko Correa
    • I got hired as an “expert” (despite the analyst title), but search is seen as a channel. – Chris Kostecki
    • As with most jobs you end up doing a lot more than you were hired for. – Matt Umbro ++

Q5: Is there a certain point where in-house PPC management becomes necessary over agency management. If so, at what point?

  • I believe there should be both, ideally. In-house should be strategy, biz direction & mgmt. Agency = software, consult, implemnt. – James Zolman ++
  • Yes – when the account grows to the point it becomes a major acq channel, it is worth putting a full time in house person on it. – Melissa Mackey
  • When you need an in-house team?? e.g. massive ecommerce site? – James Hume
  • Don’t tell my clients, but if account is large enough and you can find a quality PPCer, then that is the time. – James Svoboda +
  • I think the blurrier the lines of return are, the closer in-house the campaign should be. – Claire Remmetter
  • Kind of, not over, but along with. I contractually cannot write ads or adjust bids (but can write detailed/specific emails!). – Chris Kostecki
  • At least in my experience it seems like the threshold for taking it in-house seems to be once spend hits around $100k/month. – Neil Sorenson
  • When it makes fiscal sense! Check the #’s, may be worth hiring internal rather than spending on an agency & vice versa. – Aaron Levy +
  • I think at a certain point in-house becomes necessary. Ends up acting like a bunch of tiny PPC accounts. – Michelle Morgan
  • Ultimately the business’ choice. There are pros/cons of agency vs. in-house. Not sure that there is a definite “point”. – John Lee +
  • No, agencies aren’t much more expensive when all the other personnel and office costs are considered. Plus agencies can be better. – Harris Neifield
  • I think it’s all about finding ‘the’ awesome PPC chap if you want to bring stuff in-house. – Eloi Casali

Q6: In which setting, agency or in-house, have you personally provided the best PPC results?

  • Uh, in-house? Yes, definitely in-house. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Only been an Agency, so that’s the one I pick. – James Svoboda ++
  • Agency. But my in-house experience is measured in months. Not years like my agency experience! – John Lee
  • I provide great results wherever I am. – Justin Freid ++++
  • I’ve only worked in agency, too. Have many of you worked in both? – Claire Remmetter
  • Tough one. I grew a PPC program from scratch in house to the biggest acq channel for the co; I’ve done cool agency stuff too. – Melissa Mackey
  • Moi / Agency, I’ve not had the pleasure of working in-house to see what I can do. – Andrew Baker
  • I guess I’m most proud of growing a winning program from nothing, whether it’s in house or agency. – Melissa Mackey
  • I am having a hard time comparing the 2…i never expected to see performance as good as it is inhouse when i was at the agency but there have been some great wins that have given smbs a leg up and allowed them to grow faster than they thought. – Chris Kostecki
  • It’s a trap. Loaded question. Any of your answers are a direct reflection of you. Only reason one would be diff would be experience. – James Zolman
  • As I’ve only been in-house. I’m going to say in-house. – Dennis Petretti
  • Agency had great highs, along with lows … inhouse has been one steady high, but havent peaked – yet! – Chris Kostecki
  • Can’t compare the two, was way younger/less experienced/a super intern when I worked in house. – Aaron Levy
  • Jest aside, I’d say one could have great results as either if they have adequate ppc experience. I’ve had great results as both. – James Zolman +
  • Agency. Although I say agency because to date I have always worked at agencies. – Harris Neifield
  • Follow up question, have any agency PPC managers lost accounts to in-house PPCers and if so was this move justified?– Matt Umbro
    • Yes & Yes…they were not a squeaky wheel. – Chris Kostecki
    • Not yet! — Let’s keep it that way. – Claire Remmetter
    • Not that I know of. – Luke Alley
    • Lost several to in-house. A few made sense, most left without warning thinking they could save money (which they didn’t). – John Lee
    • Haven’t lost any, but have taken some! – Tracy Henry (@tracy_a_henry)
    • Taking PPC in house to save money is not a good business decision to do so unless you also have an inhouse PPC pro on staff. – Melissa Mackey ++
    • Losing clients is part of being an agency. Them calling up later and wanting you back is just a bonus! – James Svoboda +++
    • Lost many accounts to in-house. Sadly, most of the time it was not justified, i.e. taken over by someone not familiar w/ PPC. – Neil Sorenson
    • The conundrum of your agency getting amazing results is that clients start to think its easy and they can do it on their own. – Neil Sorenson +++
      • The sad part is that if they take over your account they will still see good results for a couple of months with minimal involvement on their part that is (assuming you crafted a great campaign). – Matt Umbro
      • I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen that happen, or at least play out in conversations w/ clients. – John Lee
    • Nope! They know what side their bread is buttered. – Andrew Baker +

Q7: AdWords has MCC & MSN the adCenter agency-client relationship feature. Do Facebook and LinkedIn need tools like these?

  • Yes! God Yes! – James Svoboda
  • HELL YES!!!!!!!!!!! Long overdue. – Melissa Mackey
  • Facebook sort of does through their Pages management system (multiple logins that also give access to ads). But overall: YES! – John Lee
    • Then put tight restrictions on the account so 1 client cant see the rest. its a hack, but it will work. – Chris Kostecki
  • I know FB is working on it, plus LinkedIn just did something w/ accounts for Business. A start! – Aaron Levy
  • Have run very few FB & LI campaigns, but definitely need better user access. – Matt Umbro
  • Facebook already has it…for bigger advertisers though. – James Zolman
  • I’m just glad LinkedIn finally added company accounts! – Tracy Henry
  • While we’re on the topic, FB needs WAY better reporting options. Custom date range, anyone? – Melissa Mackey
  • Sounds like an agency question … I can admin as many FB pages as I want, if my profile was like a dashboard wouldnt that work. – Chris Kostecki
  • Yes Please! Like now! – Andrew Baker
  • Yes or at least decent API/reporting features for integration and to save time with creating and managing campaigns. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • FB needs a lot better everything. – Michelle Morgan
  • Facebook Ads Power Editor – James Zolman
  • I’ve just added my account as a user for client accounts and it works just like a MCC. WAY better than Adcenter at least. – Luke Alley

More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.

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About the Author

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe, Search Manager at WebRanking in Eden Prairie, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap putterer togetherer, rarely an seo blogger, SEO Padawan, Tweeterer @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’er PaulKragthorpe.

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