Many agencies and web development firms outsource their paid search management work. This often makes sense. Clients ask for these services, the agency wants to provide them but often does not have a level of in-depth expertise. Meanwhile, the agency wants to keep all of the work through one single source. Thus, the agency hires out the PPC work and represents it to the client as their own. This is a common and accepted practice and is often referred to as white labeling. We do a fair amount of white label ppc work here at Netvantage.
White labeling can be a great approach for all three parties; the client, the agency, and the PPC partner. The client gets quality work in an area of need. The agency is able to offer a service they don’t necessarily possess a lot of knowledge in. And the PPC partner gets the project and the work. It’s a win for all. However, it is critical for the agency and the PPC partner to be on the same page, establishing work flow expectations immediately so that the client stays informed and satisfied.
Challenges of White Labeling
White labeling can be fraught with challenges, both on the lead agency and PPC agency side. Some of the common pitfalls are discussed below.
Problems can start right away with AdWords and Analytics account access. If the intent is not to have the end client see another login with an unfamiliar email address (that may have an easily searched end domain name, such as firstname.lastname@example.org) accessing the AdWords or Analytics accounts, things can be difficult right off the bat. If the PPC partner can use an agency login to get into the account and analytics, then this should alleviate the problem.
It is critical that the PPC partner and agency agree on a reporting style, metrics, and frequency. Most baseline reporting in paid search has similarities, but there can be nuances in templates and data that the agency, PPC partner, and end client prefer. Frequency is another large issue. If the end client is accustomed to a semi-weekly report and the PPC partner only does reports monthly, there can be problems. Be sure to talk through reporting elements at the beginning of the engagement.
From my experience, having the agency as the intermediary between the campaign and the client can be the hardest part. While reporting should be on a pre-set basis, day-to-day communication with the client is where things can get muddy. If the client is on the demanding side, there may be many PPC questions that come up. This forces the agency account manager to buy time, then track down their account manager with the PPC partner and get the questions answered. Depending on the PPC partner’s cue and schedule, getting an answer may take longer than desired. It is always a good idea to set the expectations on a reasonable response time for campaign-related questions. Everyone wants the client to be happy—but make sure that this relationship and management is realistic given the multiple layers of knowledge and personnel.
Benefits of White Labeling
Despite these and other challenges, hopefully, the white label experience has more positives than negatives and proves to be a valuable path for the agency to take. Some of the many benefits include:
Subject Matter Expertise
For agencies, they have media buyers, brand strategists, web designers, among others with specific talents. SEM is another knowledge silo that someone on the staff must have. It is one more area of expertise that an agency must on board, but it may not be enough to justify a full-time hire. Additionally, there may be some on the agency side that are familiar enough with paid search to look at accounts, download campaign reports and understand the basics. However, they do not have time to work closely enough with campaigns on a daily basis to actively manage them. Hiring this out and white labeling the SEM work solves that problem.
Expanded Service Offerings
Having a trusted partner in paid search creates another services opportunity for the agency. When clients want a campaign developed, or a new website built, paid search is often a priority to get the digital presence exposure, leads, and/or sales. Paid search can also provide supplemental support for traditional campaigns agencies work on, such as billboard or print.
Often times AdWords management consists of campaign setup and then babysitting. While this can work for a smaller campaign, most of the time it is not ideal. At an agency where there is much going on, someone assigned to manage PPC for a client may only have a half hour every two weeks to peek at them. This leads to a campaign that does not perform to its potential. Having a dedicated resource on the PPC partner side means that the campaign is getting checked, tested and worked on an ongoing basis, not just once a month come reporting time.
For an agency, outsourcing and white labeling their PPC work can be a great way to expand quality service offerings for clients. For clients, they get another marketing campaign that is well-executed. Along as inevitable hurdles along the way are managed, it can set up as a very effective relationship.