If you are a marketing professional or business owner looking for guidance on how to choose a search engine marketing agency, there are several factors for consideration. Ideally, a partner will offer SEO, PPC, Analytics, Reporting and integration with your social media strategy. A few considerations as you begin your research: Does the SEO firm promise quick results for rankings on search engines? If so, run, don’t walk away from the firm. SEO is a long-term investment and has become even more competitive in the last year. Be wary of any promises or guarantees. Google updates their algorithms up to 500 times per year. It is part of the job of your agency/partner to stay current on changes at Google and how it affects your site. Most clients need to focus on a 1-2 year strategy for an existing site and this can be longer if launching a brand new site. Does the agency promise to assign one person exclusively to manage your paid search account? We believe there are risks to the client with assigning one exclusive person to a large paid search account. Part of our philosophy and success managing paid search includes quarterly account reviews and adding or changing search managers as part of the overall account structure. Bid management tools, reporting and analytics are crucial to all paid search campaigns, but the human factor in paid search management and oversight is a crucial component to success. Is your agency spending tons of budget on your brand name? Typically a client will rank well for their brand and should consider focusing budget on keywords that will convert the highest. A paid search program should always have an ROI strategy. If you’re not making money through increased revenue and leads, the program needs to be evaluated. Typically for clients new to paid search, we recommend a 3-month pilot program that will include lots of testing, defining benchmarks, CPL (cost per lead) and return on ad spend (ROAS). Why does someone need to hire an agency to manage my PPC account? The Los Angeles Times’ David Sarno’s article on Facebook marketing also points to the need of having expertise manage paid placement on social sites to determine the ROI for clients. With the amount of demographic targeting and high cost per clicks, Facebook campaigns need to be tested, refined and proven or shut down if not successful. Paid placement management expertise brings this perspective to cost effective campaigns on social sites. Should my agency be a Google AdWords certified partner? Part of the job of a search firm’s expertise is to stay current on industry best practices, trends, and changes that will potentially affect the client’s search program. Look for firms that have Google AdWords certified professionals, experience with a variety of bid management tools, analytics packages, and reports that will fit your needs. Most search professionals follow industry blogs, attend conferences, and knowledge share on conversion strategies and PPC best practices. Look for agencies that have certifications status such as Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and related expertise.