My first consulting engagement was helping an SEO agency overhaul their PPC service.

They were (and still are) amazing at SEO and Web Design, but didn’t know what they were doing with PPC. The only reason they offered it was because they kept watching other agencies screw over their clients, who would then come to them and ask if they managed Google Ads. 

They turned them down until one PPC agency invoiced a shared client $5,000/mo for Google Ads and ad spend, but only spent $200 on ads (pocketing $4800). This was the final straw, so my soon-to-be client hired a freelancer with 10 years of experience and started helping their SEO client with Google Ads management for the first time.

Several months and about a dozen PPC clients later, I began consulting with them to help them bring their PPC service up to the level of excellence they demanded from their SEO and Web Design.

 I quickly found many issues at most levels and began my first Agency Overhaul.

Over the next 8 years I helped more than 20 digital marketing agencies to increase revenue and retention in their PPC service and I saw under the hood of a lot of agencies through consulting with them or working through client transfers for the agencies I was helping. I helped many more agencies on coaching calls and through emails or direct messages.

 I learned a lot about how to run a PPC service the right way and how to make life miserable for your clients and their future agency. This issue is aimed at giving you a shortcut to the lessons that took me years of experience to learn and that some agencies don’t bother to learn.

PPC Service Pitfalls

Most of these pitfalls catch agencies that are offering another service as their core competency and add on PPC because clients ask for it or as a value-add. They don’t want to turn down the additional revenue from leads that are already coming in or, as with my story above, they don’t want to see other agencies harm their clients with bad practices.

Sometimes, however, agencies that focus almost exclusively on Google Ads make these mistakes because they jump into the service without learning how to offer it. Maybe they had success with one or two clients and decided to start an agency or maybe they just rocked at sales and knew a little about Google Ads. 

Regardless of the why, let’s look at some pitfalls I’ve seen. You’ll roll your eyes at some of these, but some may have even tripped you up. 

No My Client Center (MCC) Account

Some agencies start with just a client or two and don’t know of the existence of manager accounts. As they grow, they just have their clients add them to each account or, even worse, they just create campaigns for each new client within a single ad account.

 Just having access to an account means you have to switch between accounts to see performance at any level, it takes you longer to switch between accounts, and adding access for anyone you hire is a nightmare. You also lose access to features that can be shared between accounts, which is especially painful if you’re managing accounts for franchises with a shared website.

Having a single account for all of your clients is a catastrophe that muddies the data and hamstrings the otherwise powerful automated bidding strategies (although less-so than when you could not set campaign-level conversion goals). The biggest issues come from setting up payments profiles and when you have clients that want to leave your agency. There is literally no way to give them access to the account because it would be a breach of privacy.

Do not fall into either of these traps. If you don’t already have an MCC for Google Ads, create one here and start linking your existing accounts using their customer ID numbers (CID). Here’s a video walkthrough about MCCs and linking accounts.

Shared Payments Profiles

I briefly mentioned this above, but it deserves more attention. Payments Profiles in Google Ads can not be transferred or freely edited without emailing Google Support and having the written agreement of every admin and/or primary contact on the profile. You can change payment methods and verify the account, but if you set up all of your clients on a shared payments profile (under your name, for example) and one wants to leave, they have to either create a brand new account or go through a hyper-tedious process of getting permission from Google to create a new payments profile for themselves. I’ve seen clients lose well over a month of advertising time and subsequent leads because of this hassle. It makes you look bad as an agency and it makes your clients never want to come back to you.

Every account should be separate and linked to your MCC, and every payments profile should be unique and created with the correlated account. The only exception I can think of would be franchises that have the corporate office paying for their ads. 

As a bonus pitfall to avoid, don’t pay for your clients’ ads and then invoice them for shared ad spend and management. Bill them for management and put their card on file in their payments profile in their ad account. It keeps things transparent and they are more likely to trust you. If they see a bunch of charges they didn’t expect from Google, Google can be the bad guy. If you bill them for a bunch of charges they didn’t expect, you’re the bad guy. It’s also easier to edit and if things go south, easier to part ways peaceably. 

Making it a pain for clients to leave does not increase retention, it increases animosity toward you and your agency.

Prioritizing The Wrong Metrics

This one gets a lot of agencies, but usually because they don’t understand Google Ads (and business economics) well enough to ignore the client when the client demands something.

 The big one I see the most is Cost Per Click prices. Many clients see CPCs over $5-$10 and freak out. They tell their agency that they’re paying too much for clicks and the agency, not knowing any better, slaps a max CPC bid on everything. 

 This seems logical because lower CPCs mean more clicks for the same budget, right? Sometimes, yeah. But the click quality usually plummets, you usually see converting clicks all but disappear. It’s not fun, but the expensive clicks are expensive for a reason. They tend to be the ones that convert the most and therefore bring along the highest level of competition. 

 Those willing and able to pay the most for a lead tend to outlast the competition, so higher CPCs will scare away weaker advertisers while the pros sweep in and nab them. The real trick to lowering CPCs is increasing Click-Through rates (CTR), which brings rewards of cheaper clicks from Google because you’ve proven you can drive clicks (money for them) and they want you to win more auctions. 

 If you really want to retain your clients and help them grow, prioritize profit. Seek to understand their profit margins, average close rates (if lead gen), average order value, and lifetime customer value. This will help you determine profit if they’re an ecommerce client and it will help you estimate profit if they’re a lead gen client. Reporting on conversions is all well and good, but if you drive 83 phone calls and 78 of them are for competitors or unqualified leads, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money for your client while everything looked great for you. If you’re driving great leads that close, or getting sales with high profit margin, then you report on the profit driven after subtracting the ad spend and your agency fee from net profit, it’s easy for them to see the value you’re providing and it’s easier for you to see actual growth in their account.

Doing this right takes ongoing communication with the client and transparency on their part and yours, but that’s what it takes to have a mutually beneficial working relationship between a marketing agency and their client. 

Weak or non-existent conversion tracking

Conversion tracking is essential. It’s how you tell whether your advertising is working or not. Yet… I’ve taken over a surprising number of accounts that had no conversion tracking at all, or that had weak conversion tracking that negatively impacted performance.

An example of this “weak” conversion tracking is prioritizing an action that does not indicate high intent to do business. This is usually something like a page view, time on site, or number of pages per session.

Yes, spending 2+ minutes on an ecommerce site could indicate an intent to buy, or it could be that someone left their session up to wash the dishes. Or it could be that someone is just window shopping, which could be the same if you’re tracking multiple page views per session as a conversion action. 

There’s nothing wrong with tracking these things, as long as you don’t report on them as KPIs or success metrics. Tracking these actions is nearly as bad as tracking nothing at all. Nearly…

Also, importing all of your conversion actions from Google Analytics is a weak form of tracking because GA4 tracks differently than Google Ads and you lose access to some key features if GA4 is your only conversion tracking source. I recommend learning Google Tag Manager and using Google’s conversion tracking tags.

Taking Bad-Fit Clients

I’ve written an entire newsletter issue about how to stop taking on bad-fit clients, so I’ll make this a brief summary. If you take on clients that are a bad fit for you, you’re unlikely to get them results (or at least good results). If you can’t get them results, you’re not going to keep them. You’ll pay more in customer acquisition costs and you’ll constantly be replacing revenue, rather than growing the bottom line every time you get a new client. The clients you do get will be at lower price points because larger accounts won’t trust you if you can’t confidently say you can get them results.

You’ll get fewer referrals and nobody likes being on a sinking ship, so you’ll have trouble keeping employees as well. You’ll have fewer case studies to market your business and you’ll have trouble selling new clients because you won’t be able to confidently share stories of prior success.

It’s a big downward spiral and you should avoid it at all costs.

Not Keeping Client-Info Docs

More on the operations side of things, this actually affects retention more than you might think. Not just client retention, either. When you take on a new client, you should put together a doc with all of their information. This should include website, point of contact, current budget, goals, profit margins, close rates, top competitors, top-selling products or services, channel mix, etc. Everything relevant to running a marketing campaign in Google Ads and beyond.

If you don’t create this document, you and/or your team will be constantly forgetting things or reaching back out to ask your client what their budget should be or who should be included on reports, what their goals are, etc.

It makes you look bad to the client and it harms the employee experience. I work with and have worked with many agencies in which this was not a practice and it’s always rough as an ad manager or strategy consultant to ask for the budget and/or CPL target and hear “I don’t know”.

Not Using Project Management Software

Piggy-backing off the above pitfall, having a client-info doc is great, but having a client-info doc in a universally accessible place is even better. It prevents new employees, contractors, and vendors from having to wait for access to be granted, and everyone knows where to find it.

That universal place should be a project management software for multiple reasons. First, you should have one anyway to assign tasks to your team. They need a single place to see what has and hasn’t been done, to read or write questions or updates about the account work, and to be reminded about what has and hasn’t been done.

Don’t have a team? Keep yourself organized. Remember what you’ve done and haven’t done. Remind yourself to do the things you often forget by creating task list templates. Report on project completion using a precise percentage. Share access with your client so they can follow along without reaching out to you for updates. Track your time on a task-by-task basis to improve your processes and efficiency, thus increasing your profit-per-hour. There are a lot of benefits. All of those benefits are increased many times over when you have a team.

Not using a project management software is a recipe for chaos in an already chaotic industry and you will get much more productive and efficient if you can use one and get your team to consistently use it as well.

The one I prefer above all others is Having used spreadsheets, Asana, Monday, Trello, Clickup, and more, I always come back to because it is the most user-intuitive, it’s made for agencies that offer recurring services, and it has many tools to help agencies operate more profitably and run their agency efficiently. Check them out with a free trial using either of my affiliate links above. I will make money if you pay them, which is an added benefit, but I’m an affiliate for some of the others and don’t send them referrals because I don’t like them. I like and referred people to them before I got commission for it. They’re just better.

Treating Google Ads As A Standalone Channel

Google Ads is a great starting point for paid advertising, but it’s not a standalone marketing channel. It’s great at driving traffic and capturing demand, but it’s awful at growing businesses quickly. 

Many agencies that sell Google Ads management as a service treat it as an isolated platform, rather than a part of the whole comprehensive marketing system. If you offer social media management, website design, and Google Ads management, are you aligning your Google Ads assets with the copy and imagery on the site and social posts? Are you harnessing the power of ad scent and the mere exposure effect?

In addition to consistency, many agencies ignore the indirect benefits of managing multiple channels for a client. If you manage the website’s content, for example, you can create blog posts that educate the market and drive traffic to it with search and non-search campaigns. You can also add CTAs that drive some of them to an optin page, build a list to upload to Google Ads as a customer match list, and market to lookalikes through a demand gen campaign or a search campaign using targeted RLSA if your list is big enough. Bonus points if you run the email marketing, too.

There are so many ways to use Google Ads to enhance the effectiveness of other channels that are overlooked because people just think Google should drive leads and anything that doesn’t directly convert is a waste. The more channels you control for your client, the more impact Google Ads can have if you use it as a strategic piece of the whole system. Don’t fall into the trap of just using it for demand capture.

Poor Account Structure

This one tends to be more of an issue with agencies that offer Google Ads as a bolted-on service to their core competency. It comes from looking at Google Ads and thinking “The more keywords I add, the more clicks I’ll get. The more clicks I get, the more leads I’ll get! Let’s target everything relevant.”

 This is generally a huge mistake. When I work with an agency to overhaul their ad accounts, I see a ton of campaigns, a ton of ad groups, and a ton of keywords in each. If there’s a theme to the keywords that were added to each ad group, it’s often based on relevance to the primary keyword, not based on the searcher’s intent. The longer agencies like this manage the account, the more you see them accepting Google’s recommendations and adding a bunch of keywords that are even less relevant and eventually tossing branded keywords into every ad group to improve conversion volume.


Keywords should be grouped within an ad group based on the intent of the search. This can be tricky, but you can get close enough by thinking “what outcome would someone be trying to achieve by searching this?”. You should then have few campaigns that are segmented by likely conversion cost or ROAS. For smaller accounts, I often have a “Brand” campaign with lower cost per conversion and higher ROAS and a “General Search” campaign with many ad groups that has a higher cost per conversion and lower ROAS because it’s higher up in the funnel and there’s more competition. 

 I then split out more campaigns as needed if I have more budget. This can include product campaigns, competitor campaigns (rarely, as the conversions often don’t close), top-seller campaigns, etc. This segmentation method allows your automated bidding strategies to have clean data with no weird outlying ad groups within the same campaign. If you had a campaign with one ad group converting at $32 per conversion and another with higher search volume converting at $480, Google would have trouble hitting your campaign’s CPA (cost per action) target of $35 because of the wild variance in traffic and bid prices.

You should also only have as many keywords as you need to consistently hit the budget and CPL or ROAS targets. Don’t let your accounts get bloated with hundreds of keywords that don’t generate conversions or even clicks. It slows down management and muddies the water with a bunch of isolated impressions and clicks from the odd search here and there.

Learning how to structure your accounts effectively is a big part of getting consistent performance and something that separates the pros from the amateurs.


No agency is perfect. Even the agencies I work with that are over $10 Million struggle with their own problems. A lot of the problems are even the same, just bigger. However, you can bet that the 8-figure agencies have fixed most or all of the problems listed above. 

You’ll always have pitfalls in running your agency, but they will change as you grow. Fixing or avoiding the pitfalls listed in this issue will help to position you for growth so you can start identifying and fixing (or avoiding) the problems that come when you hit $3 Million, $5 Million, $10 Million, and beyond.