What Makes A Great PPC Agency

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with another great question set titled “What Makes A Great Pay-Per-Click Agency.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: How do you ensure that your agency and employees are keeping up to the date on the latest features and trends?

  • Follow #ppcchat. – Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
  • “Share what you know” is a key mantra that we take seriously! (almost as much as our email management). – Gil Hong (@Gil__Hong)
  • An hour of study/day & one blog post per week minimum. – Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
  • Passion got them hired in the first place. And if I don’t get excited at least once a week running from office to office going “did you see that” It’s a down week. – Steve Hammer (@armondhammer)
  • Weekly lunch & learns and 30 minutes a day reading blogs and participating in twitter chats and sharing with the team! – Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
  • Have someone own training. Plan it, schedule it, follow up on it. It’s too easy to fall back on your exisiting knowledge. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • Share, share & share some more. The amount of discussion we have around new features and product lines is awesome. – Steve George (@Sjorge3442)
  • We hold weekly meetings centered around new features, trends and strategies. Also block off 30min/day to catch up on articles. – Davis Baker (@davisbaker)
  • Regular ridicule. And a “sharing is caring” policy. I send out links to decks of my top picks after a conference also. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • Following all the big names in PPC on Twitter and of course, joining PPCChat! – Evan Cummins (@cummins_evan)
  • We have weekly meetings where we can go over new features and discuss/collaborate and train on them. – Garrett McGregor (@mcgregor212)
  • Teaching often sharpens the skills, so at Fidelitas, we encourage everyone to contribute to the blog. Huge/multiple benefits. – David Prochaska (@DavidProHQ)
  • Regular reading, monthly PPC team discussion & monthly agency discussion on how web, PPC, SEO & social affect each other. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • Blogging everyday helps your employees keep up to date and research features. – Matt Umbro
  • Weekly team strategy huddles are conveniently timed directly before weekly happy hour. Participation skyrockets. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • We also have weekly PPC team meetings, and bi-weekly company meetings to cover more broader digital topics, not just PPC. – Francis Shovlin
  • Constant blog reading, Twitter chats, open conversations with coworkers, conferences or workshops, so much more. – Joe Martinez
  • Making sure individuals are working on different things, so when we all get together during happy hour we can share learnings. – Orlando Valencia (@OValencia_3)
  • Twitter is extremely helpful, as I follow PPC peeps and leaders, I get a lot of insights and info there. – Garrett McGregor
  • Hopefully people work in a place where education is encouraged. Unfortunately there are many agencies out there that don’t. – Joe Martinez
  • We have a great company culture that encourages taking the time to learn as well as taking care of our clients. – Sarah Holder (@SarahAHolder)
  • Regularly updating via blogs, webinars, but also help each other out! Send around articles, test results, etc u find most useful. – Kim Thomas (@PPCkimpossible)
  • With teammates that are newer to PPC it helps to let them explore and learn instead of jumping in to correct too soon. – Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
  • We have weekly, company-wide “Tuesday Talks” where a team member presents. I shared FB Audience Insights 2day. – Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)

Q2: What do you believe the ideal structure to be in an agency in terms of positions (i.e.: AMs, project managers, etc)? Why?

  • Communication structure should be flat as possible. Other structure can be hierearchical. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
    • Agreed. I personally prefer not going through an AM. Less chance for anything to get lost in translation. – Joe Martinez
      • A very useful distinction. Big mistake to talk about one when you mean the other. – Richard Fergie
  • I believe the ideal structure should be somewhat flexible. Some clients require different skill sets and amount of team members. – Gil Hong
  • No ideal structure. Play to your team’s strengths. My team has client facing roles and support staff behind the scenes. – Mark Irvine
  • AMs are client facing, and everyone else reports what’s been done and future strategies. SOMEtimes team members talk to clients. – David Prochaska
  • There needs to be structure & promotional path that aligned to the size of the agency. Titles & Promotions based on experience. – Christi Olson
  • A somewhat fluid structure is key. If less experienced team members aren’t empowered, you’re likely to miss out on innovative POVs. – Joe Levinthal (@joelevinthal)
  • Our structure depends on the size & complexity of the acct. Most analysts work directly with clients, large accounts have an AM. – Andrew Miller
  • The lens approach where associates are focused on the hands on aspects of each acct and AMs and managers have a broader scope. – Sarah Holder
  • It would depend per client, but ideally you’d want a clear structure in order to operate smoothly. – Orlando Valencia
  • I believe the struggle of too many cooks in the kitchen is real. New POVs are good as long as work is getting done efficiently. – Evan Cummins
  • Completely depends on size and scope of agency. Different agency scope demands different things. – Kurt Henninger (@KurtHenninger)
  • One point of contact for client. Gets schizophrenic otherwise. When analyzing, one project owner, but possibly many hands. – Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
  • Client facing role w/support team in background. Both take development of skills & multiple POCs leaves margin for error. – Kim Thomas

Q3: What makes your agency stand out against all others? Why?

  • Despite an obnoxious answer that I could give, Tech + creativity is what we center ourselves on. – Steve Hammer
  • Owning up to your work is something seldom seen. Shows commitment to the client in taking things personal. – Gil Hong
  • Half of all the fees go directly to people doing the work. More motivated employees who are paid better = happy everyone! – Aaron Levy
  • Our spirit of collaboration is amzing. Everyone is always willing to give guidance and lend a pair of eyes. – Sarah Holder
  • Broader mkt experience & knowing where we can kick ass & when we are not the best fit & acting accordingly. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • We 90% focus on PPC so I think that’s a big advantage – not trying to sell many solutions. – Matt Umbro
  • Creative enough to find new options and strat, tech enough to measure complexity and scale. – Steve Hammer
  • I believe, the most crucial differentiator is the Client satisfaction after on boarding them. Clear reporting. – Shiva Teja (@ShivaTeja1707)
  • No interns. Only experienced PPCers. Along with a network or partners who can help in other needs. – Joe Martinez
  • Care about your client’s customers more than they do. – Francis Shovlin
  • Our analytics and focus exclusivity on PPC. Our team is small but is comprised of people with heavy quant background. – Mark Parent (@parentmark)
  • Personally, no matter what the agency says or how it differentiates itself, it all comes down to the passion of the employees. – Matt Umbro
    • While I think that’s true, it’s so easy for even crappy agencies to say. – Steve Hammer
    • Passion is great, but if it is not backed by skills & smarts, it is not worth all that much, IMO. – Julie Bacchini
      • Exactly, unfortunately clients don’t know until they’ve signed on. – Matt Umbro
  • More seriously; terrifying for agency owners that the only thing making their business unique walks out the door daily. – Richard Fergie
  • Being able to adapt and help companies grow regardless of industry is key for any PPC agency. – Evan Cummins
    • Agreed! Adaptation is a MUST for a fast-paced industry like digital marketing. – Erika Schmidt
  • We are all about putting clients first, while also making sure the team is collaborative, innovative, and having fun. – Erika Schmidt
  • Our values include “helpfulness” & “joy”. If we grow & begins to hurt culture or current clients (bandwidth), we pull back. – Kim Thomas
  • We take things personally. We consider ourselves more of an extension of our clients mktg team, than an agency partner. – Steve George
  • Having an account specific team managing the relationship is important. Combined with the analyst in front of them quarterly. – Tyler Juhola (@Tyler_Juhola)
  • I think an agency has to have at least a bit of knowledge of SEO, code and especially Social and other marketing environments. – Roxana Hassel (@RoxanaHassel)
  • We also have a culture that encourages community engagement. Many of our team speak at conferences, teach at schools, etc. – Sarah Holder
  • Care about the clients success, don’t just try to drive bigger budgets to get the fee’s up. Clients success = my success. – Orlando Valencia
  • We’re a full service agency, so can integrate PPC into the larger digital marketing picture, design graphic ads ourselves, etc. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • I’m going with “Thought Leadership” and the way it translates into our work through strategies and tools. – Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)

Q4: How does your agency recruit top talent, both entry-level and experience professionals and does your agency actively recruit talent right out of college?

  • Referrals are important since they add context to standard resume and linkedin profile. Extensive interviewing helps too! – Gil Hong
  • Recruiters, though some of best talent comes from referrals – & cultivating our own talent through helping others develop skills. – Kim Thomas
  • Don’t burn bridges in this industry. I’ve hired more than a few of my past coworkers, vendors, and clients. – Mark Irvine
    • So true! Such a small industry. You never know who will end up being your boss or your client. – Kim Thomas
  • For entry level, I look for 3 things: Organized (explain how), creative (give examples) & likes working w/ numbers (stare em down). – Tyler Juhola
  • People I know are the best source. About to start teaching a continuing ed class too. – Steve Hammer
  • Maintain a great network of other PPC pros. No other industry is as helpful to each other as we are. – Julie Bacchini
  • Really, getting the top talent in your company has been becoming increasingly about who you know. Referrals are a large part. – Evan Cummins
  • Referrals. Stay close to ex-team members who parted ways mutually. Work with local colleges (teach, intern, etc.) – Francis Shovlin
  • Used to post online job ads for entry positions. When my time got eaten up by other responsibilities used agencies begrudgingly. – James Hume
  • Finding top experienced talent is HARD. The problem w/ PPC is that it’s niche and a lot of people learn babysitting than opt. – Erika Schmidt
  • Also culture fit!! This is necessary. Wasted a lot of time and money on people who don’t fit and leave after a couple months. – Tyler Juhola
  • Recommendations from fellow PPC marketers in the area always great. We’re lucky to work in a easy to network community. – Joe Martinez
  • We’ve gotten away from recruiting straight out of college. Small agency here feels like it makes it harder to take on training. – Kurt Henninger
  • Students who’ve participated in Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC) have been killer entry-levels. – Francis Shovlin
  • Yes, we will get those eager to learn out of college into associate positions – get them experience, moving up through the team. – Josh Kelson (@JoshKelson)
  • Tapping into our team’s networks and creating a culture that attracts driven & happy people. – Alex Turbett (@alexonbass)
  • Love hiring college grads, great at analyzing data (excel class) & busy work that needs to be done during the training months. – Tyler Juhola
  • Yes! Actively recruit college interns to train and develop. They will feed your employee pipeline! – Christi Olson
  • We look mostly for innate traits, like passion, curiosity, desire to learn, analytical thinking, strategic, creativity & comm. – Erika Schmidt
  • College grads also are fountains of references, with friends graduating soon or looking for work. – Josh Kelson
  • Don’t be afraid to go nontraditional either. Moms looking to re-enter work or do PT can be fantastic finds. – Julie Bacchini

Q5: How important is having a great company culture/comradery to you? Why? (I’m talking also about company events like quarterly parties, happy hours, etc)

  • Who wants to work with jerks and people you don’t trust? – Francis Shovlin
  • Culture is very important. Enjoying where I work and who I work with will keep me there longer than the pay. – Josh Kelson
  • Extremely important. I see these people during the week more than my wife and kids. If we can’t get along, it won’t work. – Joe Martinez
  • Couldn’t be more important. If you hire someone who doesn’t fit culture, they’ll leave and you’ve wasted time and money. – Tyler Juhola
  • It’s very important! While $ is a great motivator, culture and camaraderie will help colleagues thrive in the long run. – Gil Hong
  • It’s more than friendship. It’s approach. There are things that can’t be taught (curiosity) that are essential culture. – Steve Hammer
  • As crazy as it sounds, people don’t want to work where they are treated poorly and aren’t valued, so pretty important. – Evan Cummins
  • Maybe it’s just me, but as I get older I’m not as concerned with company culture as I am the company being the right fit for me. And by company culture I mean being friends with people at work, going out after hours, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • One person on your team who doesn’t fit has the potential to bring you all down. – Tyler Juhola
  • One of the biggest factors. I can think of times it’s pushed me to look & times it’s pushed me to pass up bigger opportunities. – Jason Stinnett (@JasonStinnett)
  • An agency or team must be able to function as a unit. How that is achieved can vary, but the state of harmony cannot. – Julie Bacchini
  • Culture outweighs most skills. Our industry changes so fast, skills are taught/learned yearly any way. – Steve George
  • SUPER IMPORTANT! Work shouldn’t have to be a job, it can be a place to have fun & grow. A happy team makes for smooth sailing. – Erika Schmidt
  • Very! United teams also keep “lazy peers” away as they would not feel at home amongst people who love what they do. – Roxana Hassel
  • Culture is very important. If you hire / promote someone who doesn’t mesh with culture the company can go south quickly. – Christi Olson
  • Your teammates should be looking forward to team meetings. You spend way too much time with these people not to. – Tyler Juhola
  • You spend more time with team members than family & friends. Y’all need to get along to be motivated. – Francis Shovlin
  • Events are great to help bond our team, but I think the people are really what makes the difference in our culture. – Sarah Holder
  • I went from always going out together to an org that is more exp.older & not go out. Don’t see much diff in work morale. – Doug Thomas
  • Cultures can get too clubby. Saw this at a former company. If you didn’t have a liver of steel you didn’t fit in. – Steve Hammer
  • It’s a balance. Everyone likes working with good people, but if you don’t enjoy what you do/how you’re compensated, it’s a wash. – Justin Roberts (@phillyjrob)
  • Culture also means work life balance. A company that squeezes life out=no good. Ski days balanced with hard work = good. – Josh Kelson

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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.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
• Alex Turbett (@alexonbass)
• Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
• Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
• David Prochaska (@DavidProHQ)
• Davis Baker (@davisbaker)
• Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Evan Cummins (@cummins_evan)
• Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
• Garrett McGregor (@mcgregor212)
• Gil Hong (@Gil__Hong)
• Jason Stinnett (@JasonStinnett)
• Joe Levinthal (@joelevinthal)
• Josh Kelson (@JoshKelson)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Justin Roberts (@phillyjrob)
• Kim Thomas (@PPCkimpossible)
• Kurt Henninger (@KurtHenninger)
• Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Mark Parent (@parentmark)
• Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
• Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
• Orlando Valencia (@OValencia_3)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Roxana Hassel (@RoxanaHassel)
• Sarah Holder (@SarahAHolder)
• Shiva Teja (@ShivaTeja1707)
• Steve George (@Sjorge3442)
• Steve Hammer (@armondhammer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Tyler Juhola (@Tyler_Juhola)


What Makes a Great Streamcap? This Guy!

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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