Search Engine Marketing: Key Questions to Selecting a Vendor Partner

We recently went out in search of a partner / vendor for our pay-per-click activities, and we decided to enlist the help of local provider of search engine marketing services, Topside Media.

They keep a nice blog on their site, and they recently posted a nice list of the “Twelve Questions to Ask Providers of Search Engine Marketing.” It’s a great list, and it also shows off a key reason I decided to work with them: transparency. In fact, Topside was forthcoming enough to bring up most of these topics on their own, and the list is a nice one, so it merits sharing here as well for all of you to review.

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Without further ado…Twelve Questions to Ask Providers of Search Engine Marketing

“Here are questions to ask any provider of search engine related services

  • Are they using an automated search platform for traffic?

If you don’t get a definitive “NO”, ask if they can:

  • Let you experience the results month-to-month without having to sign a time based contract (This is a good question to ask all providers…)
  • Provide you with written reports that clearly shows the percentage of clicks, conversions and cost of discovery searches (searchers who did not enter your company name and are looking for your type of service or products ) vs. recovery searches (people who searched for your company by name). If not, you may be buying your own goodwill and have no way to know how much. Note: there are some good reasons and best practices re: using your company name in keywords. You can learn more on this topic in our other blogs
  • Tell you what percentage of your monthly budget purchased traffic to your website and what percentage was their commission, overhead, etc.
  • Provide account structure, budget allocation, and reports that analyze your traffic and conversions by segments of your business (categories of your service or products, profit margins, geographic service areas or targets, etc.)
  • Provide keyword and conversion data from PPC advertising that can be used to support your longer term SEO needs?
  • Provide a breakdown of the quantity and quality of phone calls, including: duplicates from the same number, hang-ups, missed calls, length of call, recording of call, customized analysis
  • Give a breakdown of how much traffic is search traffic from the major search engines and how much is contextual traffic or some other category
  • If they are using contextual traffic, what kind of filters or controls are they using to see that your ads are appearing on websites that are a- appropriate for your company’s reputation and b- effective in producing online leads or purchases
  • Provide customized geotargeting, such as areas other than DMAs or circle around one point.
  • Increase, decrease, or pause your flow of traffic and monthly costs, based on your workflow and budget as they change
  • Change the message or offers in your ads upon request. Examples: seasonal ads or different “dollars off” specials
  • Include a phone number in your text ad. This works surprisingly well for some business categories”

They indicated on the page linked above that they will do a similar list for providers of customized services, which is what TopSide offers. I’ll share that one as well when it is posted just to be thorough.

Have you used these questions in the past? Any others you see missing?