Google AdWords (now called Google Ads) is a powerful digital marketing channel. With total revenues of $116.3 Billion dollars in 2018, and steady growth each quarter of 2019, it’s clearly working for some.
Countless marketing agencies offer their Google expertise to those that don’t have the time or in-house talent to handle it themselves.
Then there are consultants. Some herald themselves as a “Google Ads Consultant.” There are lots of Google AdWords consultants offering their services to business owners, but what are the services they’re offering? Taking a closer look, it’s hard to distinguish the majority of Google Ads consultants from the Google Ads freelancers or employees at a digital marketing agency.
The goal of this article is to help you identify what a Google Ads consultant actually is and when to hire one.
What Is A Google Ads Consultant?
The word “Consultant” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “one who consults another” or “one who gives professional advice or services” and refers you to the word “Expert” as a related term. However, the synonyms are adviser, consigliere, counsel, and counselor. While the definition itself would indicate that a consultant offers services, the synonyms would imply that those services are centered around guidance, direction, advice, and counsel.
This seems to mean that a Google Ads consultant would be one who counsels another on how Google Ads should best be used. There is nothing to suggest that the consultant is the one who handles the AdWords management. If you run across a Google Ads consultant that wants to manage your ads, you’re either talking to an ad manager or a digital marketing agency owner.
So why on earth would you want to hire a Google AdWords consultant instead of just getting a certified AdWords expert that works freelance to do all of your PPC advertising for a fraction of the cost?
Google Ads Consultant vs Google Ads Specialist
As with any type of consultant, the value is in having an experienced and highly knowledgeable expert to tell you the truth and provide a strategic plan for optimal growth. Many Google Ads experts get stuck in the mindset of “daily maintenance” and put little thought into the long-term direction and strategy of a Google Ads account. There are some ppc managers who excel in this area, but I have sought out, interviewed, and hired many expert Google Ads freelancers for my agency clients over the years and I have found that the vast majority are good at maintaining a lot of accounts, but often do not have the time or motivation to proactively seek out growth opportunities for each one.
This is one primary difference. The goal of a consultant is usually to dive deep into the data in Google Ads, Google Analytics, and similar platforms to uncover strategic or tactical opportunities for growth and competitive advantage, and outline a marketing strategy for the future. The goal of a Google Ads specialist is to build and run the account. Account management does involve optimizing the Google Ads campaigns for better conversion rates, but rarely involves active thought about what actions, outside of keyword research for increased coverage or raising the budget, will lead to revenue growth.
I have worked as both an AdWords consultant and a freelance ad manager. Even with my propensity toward strategy and long-term perspective, it was difficult to separate myself from the day-to-day numbers when I was managing ads. I would be laying in bed and it would suddenly occur to me that I had been ignoring major marketing principles and getting stuck in a routine of daily optimizations. In my work as a consultant, I could step in and look objectively at an account that was managed by someone else and see clearly the opportunities for improvement and future growth.
In my work training Google Ads experts, I frequently come across highly intelligent and capable people who unintentionally hinder future growth with a short-term solution. The reason for the change was always good and the logic was sound, but the long-term effects of the change would render the immediate results obsolete. Regardless of your skills and abilities as an ad manager, it’s surprisingly easy to miss the forest for the trees.
In the end, the difference between a consultant and a freelance ad manager is the focus and intent of the role. Consultants play the role of a General, overseeing the battlefield from offsite so that the high level strategy is successful in the end. Ad managers are like the troops on the ground making sure that the work happens and communicating essential information to the leaders. A General could do the fighting, but is more valuable off the field. The infantry could operate without the General, but may make critical mistakes without an objective view from outside the action.
What Does A Google AdWords Consultant Do?
So if they’re not managing ads, what are these consultants doing? We’ve kind of touched on this a bit in the examples above, but let’s get more specific.
In my work as a Google Ads consultant to digital marketing agencies, one of the most common services I perform is a Google Ads audit.
1. Google Ads Audits
A Google Ads account audit is a fairly standard offering by digital marketing agencies. They use it as a sales tool to point out what their competitors are doing wrong and how they could improve the account’s performance. They usually focus on improving impression share and ad copy, getting more clicks, and sometimes decreasing cost and increasing return.
The audits I perform as a consultant are very similar in their content, but I think that the intent makes all the difference. I perform audits as an objective 3rd party. My sole purpose in auditing a Google Ads account is to increase the return on investment of the business that is being advertised. My goal is not to get anyone fired or win the client’s business, it is to set the advertiser on a path toward long-term and consistent revenue growth.
As with agency owners or freelancers, I draw on years of experience in hundreds of accounts. I am constantly learning about how to give the search engines what they want from many sources including Google’s Ad certifications and Specialist challenge. A big difference, however, is that I am also looking at the account as a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), a behavioral analyst, a business strategist, a neuro-marketer, and a consumer.
I draw on my experience in many different areas of life, study, and interest to better inform my decisions. I am platform agnostic and I have nothing to lose from telling an advertiser that they should stop running Google Ads if things are not working. I am paid to find the truth and share it. I am paid to find the best way for my clients to make more money with search engine marketing, even if that requires some difficult changes. This is a great segue into another service I often offer as a Google AdWords consultant.
2. Google Ads Strategy Planning
Having a list of things to fix in your AdWords accounts is helpful, but it’s not a strategy for growth. A logical next-step after your PPC campaigns have been audited is to identify how to use Google Ads to grow. This is immensely valuable because it’s not always a matter of just increasing your budget.
It’s often been said that you need to “spend money to make money.” This is obvious when you think about a platform like Google Ads. If you spend money to advertise, you can get more customers, who will pay you more money. What’s not always evident, however, is that sometimes you need to lose money to make money. It can sometimes be advantageous to make less money for a month or two to make much more in the months that follow.
A lot of marketers focus on the conversion as the ultimate goal, but there is so much more to business growth than getting a lead or a sale. Businesses that outlast their competitors are focused on the long game. This means taking into account the entire process of building relationships with customers and then maintaining those relationships. A strategy built around growth takes into account the lifetime value of a customer, not just the value of a single conversion. Companies like Starbucks think this way and are willing to pay much more than a conversion is actually worth, knowing that each acquired customer will bring as much as $14,099 in revenue throughout the life of the relationship with the customer.
Building a Google Ads strategy to market for growth is not an easily or quickly acquired skill and it’s not something that most ad managers take into account. It is well worth seeking out a consultant to have a strategy that you can then have an ad manager carry out.
3. Google Ads Training
I am often hired as a consultant to train someone in Google Ads management. You might wonder why someone would pay for Google Ads training when there are free resource from countless sources, including Google’s Skillshop. You could find a free or low-cost marketing course on sites like Lynda, Udemy, and even YouTube videos. I’ve taken a lot of training courses myself, however, including master classes and many an advanced marketing course, and most training resources neglect mindset and strategy, opting to focus on features and tactics instead. Features and tactics are great, but they don’t always apply to every scenario. Learning how to think and problem solve is far more helpful in the long run.
Another downside to those Google Ads training resources is that they focus on the novice or intermediate ad specialists. I’m usually training someone who is already a competent ad manager, but they want to get better. Because the people I’m working with already know how to use Google Ads, I mainly focus on strategic thinking and advanced tactics to provide tools that can be applied to all scenarios.
Google Ads can be as simple or complex as you make it. If a small business owner wants to start an ad campaign and get her name out in the local community, she can. If a multi-national corporation wants to split-test brand awareness campaigns in multiple languages and media formats in 12 different countries with automated bid adjustments based on regional engagement, that’s possible too.
One of the fun parts about Google Ads training is that there is always more to learn. I’m always training people at different levels so I can brush up on the fundamentals, but I can also dig deeper and teach Google Ads specialists advanced features and tactics that allow for intricate marketing systems.
Whether you’re a ppc manager at a digital marketing agency, an in-house ppc expert, or a marketing director, it never hurts to get more training.
4. Process Improvement
Having the right people is an essential part of running a profitable PPC Service, but not every AdWords expert agrees on best practices. You may run into a lot of problems if they all do things their own way. A big part of my goal as a PPC Consultant is to review and optimize processes. This ranges from the sales process to the reporting process and everything in between.
As I mentioned in my post on client retention, communication is key if you want to keep clients. Knowing how to communicate with them to set the right expectations during the sales process, asking for the right info during the onboarding process, sharing updates during the setup process, reports, and general communication throughout ongoing management all make a big difference in the client experience.
It’s not just the communication with the client that matters, though. Your team needs to have processes for how internal communication is handled as well. Who answers client questions, the PPC manager, account manager, or someone else? When do we escalate a problem? When do we use Google Analytics vs Google Ads? How is employee feedback handled? What happens when a PPC specialist can’t solve the problem alone? How often do we perform new keyword research and split testing? What’s the standard operating procedure when there’s a kink in the setup chain and projects are delayed?
The processes around your SEM Service dictate how consistently and efficiently you serve your clients. In the Customer Experience world, we know that a consistent experience is more important the wowing your clients. The SCARF model of social threats and rewards tells us that people are motivated by a need for certainty. If things keep changing when your clients interact with you, they will begin to lose trust and question the value you provide, even if they have solid ROI.
Having a consultant review your processes can lead to optimal performance in the Google Ads campaigns and in the office as a whole.
How Much Does A Google Ads Consultant Cost?
Google Ads Consultants generally price based on perceived value. Not the value the client perceives, but the value they perceive their services to provide. This comes down to personal confidence and experience as well. Some PPC consultants give away their services for free, performing free Google AdWords audits to sell their services as an ad specialist. As discussed earlier, this is usually a sign that they are an ad manager, not a consultant.
Some consultants charge tens of thousands of dollars to offer advice on what companies should do with their AdWords accounts. This can be well worth it, depending on the level of ad spend and the ROI drawn from the changes.
Google Ads consultants generally charge in one of three ways: by project, by hour, or by retainer. No one way is better than the others, but I personally prefer to shy away from charging by hour or project. Payment by retainer allows me, as the consultant, to ignore the constraints of project-based billing and the nickle and diming of hourly rates. Charging by project always has you worrying about the scope of the project and trying to rush, whereas hourly billing has you adding up every little correspondence and finding ways of increasing the time spent.
Billing on retainer allows me to focus exclusively on delivering value and being there for my client. If the majority of clients take an exorbitant amount of time, I’ll increase my rates to compensate. Generally, however, I find that clients are concerned about taking up too much of my time, which often results in me trying to over-deliver and everything balances out in the end.
So how much does a Google AdWords consultant cost? It depends on what you need. If you’re a relatively small agency with about 20 small ($500-$3000 in monthly ad spend) PPC Clients and you want to hold me on retainer for a few months, you can expect to pay somewhere between $3000 and $5000 per month at this time (December 2019).
When To Hire A Google Ads Consultant
People hire consultants for a wide variety of reasons. There isn’t one best time to hire a Google Ads consultant, but I can list the times my clients usually hire me. Business owners tend to reach out to me when they have been failed by multiple digital marketing agencies. “Failure” generally looks different to different people. It could be low conversion rates, a lot of wasted spend, a different account manager every month or two, unclear reporting, or shady billing practices. My role here is usually to audit their accounts, verify their suspicions, provide a marketing strategy and road map, and introduce them to an agency they can trust.
Digital Marketing Agency owners tend to contact me when they’re sick of losing PPC clients. Most agencies I work with are strong SEO providers that offer PPC to diversify revenue or because their SEO clients asked if they “do SEM”. When their SEO clients get sick of poor SEM results, they pack their bags and take both services elsewhere. This can wreck an agency fast, as SEO tends to be their bread and butter. They reach out to me and we start digging deeper to find the root issues.
Some agency owners reach out to me because they’re doing fairly well, but they want to know how to scale. This includes getting more clients and getting more money from existing clients. I’ve worked with agencies who were considering kicking their PPC service to the curb and we were able to turn things around and 10x the revenue (to mid 6-figures) from their PPC service in 12 months without focusing on new client acquisition.
If things are great, keep on trucking. If things are rough, refer to the old saying: “The best time to hire a consultant is yesterday, but the second best time is right now.”
To summarize all of this, a Google Ads consultant is not the person to go to if you need AdWords management. They usually have a history of being a certified AdWords manager, optimizing PPC campaigns for a higher conversion rate and minimizing wasted spend. However, AdWords certifications don’t teach you how to think and problem solve. They teach you how to structure each AdWords campaign in a way that makes Google more money. A Google Ads consultant is a PPC expert, yes, but they are much more than that.
As a business owner, what you’re looking for in a PPC consultant is someone who can look at the data and objectively tell you what to do for optimal growth. They will be able to look at all facets of your marketing strategy and see how Google Ads could affect each one. Search Engine Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Facebook Ads, Bing Ads, organic social media, and other forms of online advertising, should all be taken into account and viewed as pieces of the whole marketing machine.
As the owner of a digital marketing agency (specifically one that rocks as SEO, but could use some help with paid search), you’ll want to find someone who looks at all facets of your Pay Per Click service. Improving account performance is helpful, but it’s not enough to turn around your business. You’ll need to optimize your people and processes, too. If you’re just paying to improve account performance, you’re putting a band-aid on a broken leg.