In 2000 I took the skills I had learned in pay per click advertising and set up an agency to manage pay per click campaigns for companies.
Google Adwords didn’t exist.
The dominant pay per click engines were GoTo.com (soon to become Overture) and Espotting (which later became Miva).
When Google entered the fray, their proposition was similar to what it is today, in that you were buying advertising from Google owned properties, but it was originally sold on a CPM basis and Google soon realised that they were not making the sort of money if they charged for the traffic on a CPM basis.
So that is what they did.
They moved the goal posts.
As they were late to the party they had to compete with the market conditions at the time, which meant they had to compete with Overture, but they also had to compete with traditional media (TV, radio, print) where the media was typically bought through an agency, with a 15% discount off the media price, being paid to the agency.
That model has stood the traditional agency/advertiser relationship for the longest time.
It should have stood the same test of time in the digital eco-system. But it didn’t.
Ultimately, digital agencies were (and indeed are( enabling the traffic sources to not have to recruit so many people.
Pay per click agencies had sales people selling advertising space on Google Adwords and other platforms and it evolved very nicely.
Google saw their market share increase month on month until it tipped over 50%.
At that point, Google moved the gola posts for their pay per click agency partners.
They said that they wanted the auction to be fair.
They said that advertisers who were buying through a pay per click agency were getting a price advantage over those that were not.
A 15% agency rebate was quite a catalyst for many agencies and for pay per click advertisers.
Rather than agencies and advertisers playing fair, a good number played dirty.
Their sales pitch moved from providing great service, to providing execution-only service, with a share of the agency discount being paid to the advertiser as a kick-back.
If a blue-chip advertiser paid $1 million a month for their PPC traffic, a deal could be done with a pay per click agency where the spend was routed through the agencies books.
The advertiser got say 10% discount, the agency got 5% for routing the business and Google got 85% of the money they might have received if the buy had been done direct, or, as they preferred, through the growing sales team they were putting in place.
The end user was completely unaware of this internal squabble that was taking place. They saw an ad, liked what they saw, clicked on it and went about their business.
Yet, Google said it was for the end user’s benefit that the auction playing field had to be level.
Rather than levelling it UP so all agencies got the 15% agency discount, they levelled it down, so nobody got an agency discount.
To prevent mutiny, the agency discount model was replaced in the short term by something known as “best practise funding” where there was a payment to the agency to assist their marketing efforts.
It was based on spend but it was a lot less (capped at 8% for massive spending agencies).
Fast forward to today, their is now a program called Google Engage for Agencies.
It enables third party agencies to support new and existing advertisers in the form of training center material, marketing collateral, coupons for new advertisers, agency events, sales collateral, access to research and more.
It gives qualified agencies a listing in a partner directory.
The video below shows the results of a directory search for an agency.
As much as I might disagree with the way the listings are found, it’s important to be indexed.
I am currently working towards becoming a Google Qualified Individual and then to get my company to be a Google Qualified Company.
It’s meaning I have to forget a lot of the “tricks” I use to get clients good results, in order to pass the Google Adwords Professional exam.
The qualification, such that is, is one of the few benchmarks companies looking for help can use to sort qualified vs. unqualified.
I just wish the search directory was more robust and accurate in terms of the capabilities of each agency.
My previous agency was particularly good at working with small, aggressive, entrepreneurial businesses who wanted to dominate their space, and do so in a hurry. We helped launched many companies and grow them to the point of sale, expansion, acquisition of others, sector dominance.
My agency 2.0 (Spades Media) is more likely to be assisting existing advertisers where they are working with big budgets, big ambition, lots of competitors. These advertisers will want more scale, diversification of channel, local, national and international domination.
If that is you then contact us and let’s talk.
I would love to know what you think an agency can do for you. Please, leave a comment below.
If you want to see the Google Partner Search page you can visit it at https://adwords.google.com/partnersearch/
It’s been improved since I shot the video, but it’s still not the best results, and the things you might look for or need in agency partner could do with being broader scope.