in-house-google-ads--might-be-a-gamble

Here’s a question we get from time to time: Why should our company hire an agency to manage ads? Why not just manage the ads in-house?

Short Answer: While managing ads in-house is easier now than it’s ever been before, there’s still a lot of value in hiring an outside expert. Agencies like ours can identify strategic opportunities, maximize quality and efficiency, and minimize waste. Very often, the cost of hiring an agency is more than covered by improved advertising performance.

Longer Answer: Keep reading!

Google Ads Is Deceptively Simple (Emphasis On Deceptively)

If you look at Google’s marketing materials and/or talk to one of their ad salespeople, Google Ads seems simple:

  • Select some keywords and write some ad copy
  • Give Google a budget and type in your credit card number
  • Get rich!

The truth?

  1. Ad management is a lot like spinning plates. It requires great processes and experience to be successful. And beginners end up wasting a lot money before they get good at it (eg breaking a lot of plates).
  2. The online advertising ecosystem is not for amateurs. Google Ads is incredibly competitive – many billion dollar companies (aka 800 lbs gorillas) have entire teams of people devoted to advertising for the same exact keywords you’re looking for. As a result, experience and expertise are vital to success.

In fact, the number of 800 lbs gorillas in the auto parts and accessories industry make it even harder to find Google Ads success.

NOTE: At this point, you might be convinced to hire an agency. If so, check out our pay-per-click ad management services page here.

What Makes Google Ads So Complex?

Let’s assume you’re selling lift kits online and you want to start with some good old-fashioned text ads. What keywords are you going to advertise against?

  • The keyword “lift kit” is too broad. It’s unlikely that you’re going to carry every kind of lift kit for every make and model.
  • The keyword “Chevy lift kit” might be better (assuming you sell Chevy lift kits), but is that specific enough? If you have a Chevy Silverado, wouldn’t you probably search for “Chevy Silverado lift kit”?
  • You should also create keywords that don’t include the word “Chevy” – some people just search for “Silverado lift kits” and you want to make sure your ads reach them too.
  • Of course, some people don’t use the words Chevy or Silverado. Some might use “GM 1500” to describe their truck, “K1500”, or maybe even just “1500”. Let’s add those to the pile.
  • Let’s not forget that “Chevy” and “Chevrolet” are used interchangeably. You’re going to need to cover both versions.
  • What about the brands of lift kits you carry (like Tuff Country, Fabtech, Rancho, and so on)? You should probably advertise against those keywords, too.
  • In order to make sure your ads don’t show on searches for “pictures of lift kits” or “lift kit instructions,” set up some negative keywords next.

Depending on how thorough you are, you could easily generate a few hundred keywords here…and you haven’t even written any ads!

With us so far? Great! Keep reading!

Keywords have to be organized into ad groups, and then ads have to be written for keywords. You’ll probably want to focus ads tightly to get the maximum return on ad spend, so you’re probably going to create dozens of ad groups and 100+ ads.

Note: Google has recently begun telling advertisers to do the opposite of the approach we lay out here: Create really vague and general keywords and ads, enable Google’s automation systems, and then just let Google handle things.

While Google automation certainly can provide great results with this approach, we have yet to see it be as cost effective as a hybrid approach that leverages both granular campaigns and automation.

Then, you need to determine bids for every keyword and a daily budget for the campaign. Sound complicated? It gets worse.

What About Google Shopping And Retargeting?

Google Shopping ads are great, but you’ll need to setup a merchant center account, make sure your feed is up to date, and then setup a shopping campaign to advertise your parts. And you’ll want to set bids at the part category, brand, and/or fitment level because some products are more popular than others.

And once you start digging into shopping ads, you often find that certain brands and/or categories of products perform very differently, with different return on ad spend targets and profitability. So, very often, you want to break your big shopping campaign up into smaller campaigns.

Next, to maximize ad dollars, you really ought to set up some retargeting campaigns. You’ll need to set up audience tagging on your site, come up with some banners and/or ad collateral, a retargeting strategy based on frequency and recency, and then monitor the placements so you don’t pay for a lot of bogus impressions or clicks. (You can learn more about retargeting in this article.)

What About The Competition?

Once you’ve done all of the above and your ads are up and running, the real work begins. You want to analyze and re-evaluate everything in your account regularly, test different ad copy, monitor search terms, adjust targeting, adjust bidding, and so on. Lots of little stuff to do – none of which is hard – but all of which is time consuming and important.

Remember this guy???

If – for example – you bid too much for a keyword that doesn’t convert, you waste budget. If you bid too little, you miss opportunities.

But the hardest part is that your competitors are constantly adjusting and testing, just as you are. This means that bids, keywords, and ad copy are constantly in flux, especially on competitive terms. It’s dangerous to “set it and forget it” with Google Ads, even if you rely on Google’s automation for help with bidding and search queries.

Finally – and most importantly – all of the above doesn’t touch on managing your ads to be profitable:

  • Are you measuring conversions correctly?
  • How are you attributing all sales?
  • What impact does online advertising have on offline sales? On the phone?
  • Do you know how much you’re really spending to generate a sale (online and offline)?
  • Are some part numbers performing better than others? Why?
  • Are unrelated keywords triggering ads?
  • Could you bid more to improve impression share and revenue, even if it means a lower return? Should you?
  • What if you test completely different messaging? Emphasize different features and benefits in both your ads and your landing page copy?
  • How does video advertising fit into the picture? Social media advertising? Multi-lingual advertising?
  • What can be done to improve landing pages?

And so on. Google ads is a beast.

Summing Up

Is there an Ads certification in your future?

If you’re willing to spend time and money learning about Google Ads, you can become an adequate ad manager. If you’re willing to devote more energy to learning advertising – maybe attend some conferences and invest in some training – you can probably become a good ad manager.

Or, you can hire an agency that specializes in this stuff, and make sure they hit your goals and objectives.

While it will cost a little money to hire expertise, it’s usually less than you’d spend learning everything in-house.

NOTE: At Spork, we’ve managed tens of millions of dollars in Google Ad spend since 2006 (back when Google Ads was called “AdWords”). You can learn all about our pay-per-click ad management services here.