Many of our partners dipped their toes into the waters of digital marketing long before they met us, and many of them are (or were) engaged in contracts with third-party advertising networks. We have no problem with this and we work well with others! It has, however, also given me the opportunity to review reports from these other networks and platforms, and what I’ve found generally leaves a lot to be desired.
If you’re paying a company thousands of dollars each month to advertise, you have the right to know exactly where those dollars are going, exactly what you’re getting out of it, and in as much detail as you request. An honest and transparent relationship with your agency is a basic, minimum expectation.
In this post I will cover three companies, which I am choosing not to name for the sake of diplomacy. Two offer advertising within their site/network, and one manages PPC campaigns in Adwords.
Quick definitions – “In-Platform” refers to any network that serves ads to its users. Think Facebook, Angie’s List, Houzz, Yelp, etc. “Adwords PPC Manager” refers to any company/agency that builds, manages, and optimizes your Google Adwords account.
Company A: In-Platform Ads
Report Grade: C-
- Impressions – the number of times an ad appears or is viewed
- Clicks – the number of times an ad gets a user click
- Cost Per Click – how much you pay for each click
- Ad Spend – the total amount of money you spent on ads during a specified period
- Misleading Metrics:
- Leads – this term can have a hazy definition, and is often debated among sales and marketing folks. Some argue a “lead” is a consumer who has expressed interest via an inquiry of some kind or has provided their information; others define it as any prospective consumer. The important thing to know is how your advertising company defines a lead and how valuable the “leads” are. Company A claims a lead is any user who clicks through to your website. In my experience, this is certainly not a lead – it’s a user who clicked to your website, and Company A does not provide any further tracking on that user’s actions.
- Organic v Ads – Company A lumps all important metric sources together. This platform generates a very high amount of organic traffic, and they do not separate organic from ad profile views. Do you even need ads? Company A won’t tell you.
- Revenue Estimate – this metric is the number of website clicks multiplied by an “average customer value” and it’s reported as a dollar amount. Specious to say the least. This number supposes that every user who comes to your website makes a purchase. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!?
- Actual Leads – Company A does track phone number clicks and clicks on your specific call to action. These metrics are the closest to actual “leads” reported on, and the info is actually bit hard to find.
- Leads from Ads – again, the calls to action and phone calls are reported, but there’s no way to separate which came from ads and which came organically. If you have a profile, many users will find you without ads. As an example, when our partner stopped paying Company A $3,000/month, they retained 80% of their traffic without ads.
- Cost per Lead – since you can’t determine ad leads from organic, you’ll never know how much you’re spending for a lead.
Company B: In-Platform Ads
Report Grade: D
A quick note – this company does not provide reports, even for a business paying $2500+ each month for advertising, and they require a 12-month contract. They provide a “dashboard” with a 30, 60, and 90-day windows to view metrics.
- Impressions – the number of times your listing appears
- Profile Views – the number of times your profile is viewed
- Contact – emails and phone calls from profile
- Add to Ideabook – number of times your photos are added by a user to their board
- Misleading Metrics
- It’s all slightly misleading – paid and organic are not automatically separated, it requires an extra action by the user. With a profile on this network, you’ll get user traffic without ads, which is referred to as “organic.” Advertisers should report clearly the number of users from ads, separate from those who arrive organically.
- Calls, emails, and in-platform messages are not separated. Each of those actions is defined as a conversion, but they are not created equal, and these numbers should be separated so you know if ads are driving calls, messages, OR emails. Each method of contact is different and will have different implications for your marketing strategy.
- There is no measurement of ROI, no metrics for cost per lead, cost per click, etc.
- This platform does not make any effort to push users to the company’s website, which is likely how most companies would eventually be able to track leads.
Final note on Company B
As a company paying for advertising, you’ll work with ever-rotating account helpers who do very little to assist and provide very little to track progress and performance. In the case I watched over several months, our partner paid thousands of dollars, never received a report, had one 15-minute monthly conversation with their account helper, and when their “leads” (phone calls or emails) were costing $500+ each, their account helper reminded them of the 12-month contract and the impossibility of exiting.
Company C: Adwords PPC Manager
Report Grade: C-
- Impressions – the number of times your ad appears or is viewed
- Clicks – the number of times a user clicks on your ad
- Click-through Rate (CTR) – clicks divided by impressions
- Average Cost-per-click (CPC) – the average cost each time a user clicks on the ad
- Cost – combined cost of the ad spend and management fee
- Misleading Metrics
- Ad spend on Adwords and the management fee are lumped together for several of the reported metrics, but not all. For example, your CPC might look very low! But if you multiply it by the number of clicks, you’ll find a MUCH smaller number than the overall spend reported. In my opinion, we’re now bordering on scam. You should be told EXACTLY how much you are paying for ads, separate from the agency fee you’re paying.
- Conversions – Company C does not track any kind of conversion or user action beyond an ad click. Without a solid conversion you can’t track leads, so there’s strong impetus to drive sheer volume of traffic to the site without any emphasis or concern for whether or not those clicks are qualified potential leads.
- Bounce Rate – no surprise here, based on what I just mentioned about conversions. As a side note, I was able to see the bounce rate in Google Analytics and it hovered close to 90%. This means that 90% of users came to the site via an ad and left without taking any action, likely because the ad wasn’t relevant to them. As a side note, a consistently high bounce rate like this can negatively impact your Adwords quality score over time.
- ROI – without tracking any clear conversion, there’s no way to track ROI on any level.
- Appropriate breakdown of dollars spent – the management fee should be removed from ad spend on all metrics
- What they did to manage the account and optimize performance
PPC Metrics You SHOULD Consistently Receive
The three companies above don’t actually tell you what you’re getting for your money, or what they’re doing to help you. We regularly provide our partners with the following information:
- All the basics – impressions, clicks, CTR, CPC, etc. That’s the minimum you should expect from a company running any kind of ad for you.
- ROI including AND not including our management fee – even if you do not run an ecommerce business, it’s possible to approximate an average return per lead. We like to work with our partners to establish these numbers so you know exactly what you’re getting from your dollars.
- What we are doing for you – we’ll let you know what we did last month, and what we plan to do this/next month. We’ll also let you know how we’re using the data we’ve found to form our strategy.
- Your goals – we base our reports around the numbers that are important to you.
We are usually very happy with our PPC performance metrics, and we report them to you no matter what. We care about our partners and stand by our values: if you aren’t making money from Intuitive managing your ads, then we will recommend you spend it differently, even if that means not spending it with us at all. As the partner, you should always come first with your advertising team! If you find yourself wondering about your latest PPC report, talk to your agency, and feel free to shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.