Oh man.  I nearly didn’t write this article.  It’s sort of akin to a magician revealing how another magician performs his tricks.  Well, maybe not exactly.  More like a captain of a ship revealing that another captain isn’t actually sailing his passengers in the right direction towards their destination.  They had a feeling that they weren’t, but at sea everything looks the same.

Unfortunately, digital marketing is susceptible to shoddy workmanship and practice.  Google Ads are confusing and overwhelming. Any time that there’s a lack of understanding in an area of need, it creates a market in which suppliers don’t need to provide any real value to justify their rates.  I’ve seen countless clients, colleagues, friends, cross paths with agencies or freelancers that aren’t doing a good job at managing their hard earned advertising money. Most of the time, they just have to assume that the manager is doing a good job.  How would they know otherwise? In this article I’m going to give you a few ways of detecting a misdirected voyage, but first a story.


This story is about me.  Ten years ago I purchased an existing brick and mortar business and started using Google Ads immediately.  I’d never used the platform before, but had a data management and analysis background so figured I could work it all out. Things went well, business improved significantly.  My service-based business was perfect for the search network. Then came ‘the pitch’.

A large and renowned digital marketing agency showed up with their presentation about how they can help me do even better with Google Ads.  I saw first hand the benefits of the platform, so was excited to have some experts now working on my account. I signed up for a 12 month contract and we were away.  However, as time went on, I realised that I began to have more and more questions that just weren’t being answered to the level that I would have expected, if at all.  My sales started to tank a little. I began to genuinely question whether or not any of my account managers (I had three over that 12 month period) actually knew more than I did.  They certainly didn’t know much about my business. How could they? They never communicated with me. After much contemplation and anxiousness, I decided to take the plunge and go back to managing the account myself.  My sales jumped back up dramatically, and stayed that way. I’d learned my lesson.

Since then I’ve had a chip on my shoulder and made a point of learning everything I could about Google’s advertising platform (as well as others) and invested heavily in quality education, applying it to my company and eventually others’ companies.  Even today after all of these years, it angers me to no end to see mismanagement, whether deliberate or not. It’s true that some account managers may genuinely think that they are doing a good job, but others are knowingly not.


So here we are. I don’t like seeing people taken advantage of, so here’s what you can do right now to identify if you’re potentially sailing off into an unwanted sunset.


Do you have access to your Google Ads account?

This seems basic, but a lot of companies that I talk to don’t actually have access to their account. This can be a warning sign in that the manager just doesn’t want you to see what’s going on (or lack thereof). Sometimes a lack of understanding on the part of the client can cause them to pop in and start tinkering, which as an account manager can be a little frustrating. However, if they are being transparent with you, then they won’t mind you looking at the numbers and educating you about different areas and strategies.


Do you actually own your Google Ads account?

Again, this seems obvious but it isn’t. I’ve taken over accounts for clients where the previous agency managing the account claimed that the account was their ‘intellectual property’ in the contract, so had the right to remove the account if the client terminated their services. Creating forced dependence is a good way to get a client to resent your work. If the manager is doing a good job, shouldn’t the client actually want to work with them?


Are you locked into a contract?

Following on from the last point, are you locked into any sort of contract? This one isn’t as much of a red flag, but certainly worth mentioning. If you aren’t in a contract, chances are that your manager charged you a fee to setup the Google Ads account. Depending on the account, it can certainly be a large job so that time needs to be billed accordingly in some capacity. Sometimes a manager will recoup those costs up front and forego a contracted ongoing management service, other times they’ll spread the cost across a period of time and use the contract to get commitment of payment. Personally, I think that a setup fee and contracted term is a little rich, but typically it’s something that you’ll see larger agencies do in an attempt to help with budgeting, forecasting, cash-flow. My view on contracted terms is simple:  if you create measurable value for the client then there’s no reason that they wouldn’t want to continue working with you. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t be taking the clients money.


Does your account manager ever talk to you about your business?

It’s important that your account manager know your product and service at least adequately. When designing Google Ad strategies, the manager needs to try and put themselves in the shoes of your customer and work out how they would communicate their search terms, what traits are typical of your customer, where they congregate digitally, and many more factors. They can only know this if they spend some time trying to learn your product or service.


Does your account manager put an emphasis on clicks, or conversions?

In my mind, the most important metric is return on investment (ROI). If your account manager is sending you the default monthly report on impressions, clicks, cost per click, without any mention of conversions, then that’s a huge red flag. Without conversions you can’t calculate your ROI, and if you aren’t focused on ROI then why are you advertising? Granted there are campaigns that are designed for brand awareness where the primary objective isn’t to convert directly from the immediate ad, but outside of that, you’re looking to turn your ad dollars into revenue. If your account manager isn’t concerned about your ROI, they might just be worried that it won’t be good enough to justify their employment.


Are you allowed to ask questions?

Or have you been given the age-old line, “just trust us, we’re the experts”? And do you get logical and reasonable answers to your queries? An account manager doing the best possible job for you should have an answer for how everything is set up and functioning in your account.


Do you still have the same account manager that you signed up with?

I see this all too often. A company signs up to have management and is assigned a great account manager (or signed up because of that account manager). That person eventually (and inevitably) ends up leaving the company and they are replaced by a sub par alternative. It’s not until sales performance declines that the problem is identified.


How’d you go? Did your current account manager pass? I genuinely hope so.  At the end of the day, the main purpose of an account manager is to create measurable value over and above what you could do yourself. If at any point they aren’t being transparent about how they are doing that, or how well they are performing that task, then you are well within your right to question what’s going on.


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Whether you're managing your account on your own, or someone else is managing it for you, I offer open and honest account audits completely free of charge.

  • Get peace of mind that you're running your account effectively
  • Sleep well at night knowing that your account manager is doing a good job
  • Find out what else you could be doing to improve your return on investment

Just enter your details and I'll be in touch asap.


Whether you're managing your account on your own, or someone else is managing it for you, I offer open and honest account audits completely free of charge.

  • Get peace of mind that you're running your account effectively
  • Sleep well at night knowing that your account manager is doing a good job
  • Find out what else you could be doing to improve your return on investment

Just enter your details and I'll be in touch asap.

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Ryan Thwaites

Google Ads & Analytics
Data & Business enthusiast and over-analyst
Lantern Room is a collection of my analytical musings.