This is a question I get quite often, and my response is always the same; it depends. It depends on your unique situation. But before I explain some of the factors that go into determining your situation, let me begin by pointing out some things which make my business model different from what you might have found when speaking with other agencies or consultants that offer search engine marketing services.
The term search engine marketing (SEM) encompasses both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC). See my article entitled PPC verses SEO for a detailed comparison of the two methods. Each method has its pros and cons, but the point I want to make here is how most agencies charge for these services and the perceptions most advertisers have about them.
Most agencies price their services as a monthly fee. This has two distinct advantages for them. First, it sets your sites on the longer time horizon, meaning when you can expect meaningful results and second, it commits you to paying that fixed monthly fee even when the campaign matures and the agency’s actual costs are much lower, even zero!
My business model is different. I charge by the hour ($100/hr). If you need to keep your monthly expense to a lower fixed cost, that’s fine, it will just take longer to get the job done. On the other hand, if you want to reach your goals and begin reaping the benefits as quickly as possible, we can proceed full speed ahead. Whether the work is done over the course of a couple weeks or several months is largely up to you. Then, when the campaign matures, your costs are reduced because my workload is reduced. Maybe to zero!
So when you ask the question, “how much will it cost?” I won’t be answering with a fixed monthly amount unless you need to stick to a budget. My response is more likely to be about how much work will be required and how quickly you can expect to see results. When it comes to seeing results, see my article on AdWords Conversion Tracking.
Here are some of the factors that determine how much work will be required and therefore what the cost will be:
- How many products do you want to promote or how many ways are prospects likely to search for your product? The implication being, the number of keywords, ad groups and campaigns needing to be created and managed.
- Do you already have an established AdWords account with Google? If we need to go through the account creation process, it will take additional time.
- How much history is there in your AdWords account? There is no keyword tool in existence that can compare with a rich search term history from your own AdWords or Analytics account. If there is little or no search term data, it means you will have to purchase it through experimentation. This will increase the cost to optimize your account.
- If your goal is to have a truly optimized AdWords campaign, then you must have an appreciation for the fact that there are other important factors that need to be considered, beyond the mechanics of Google AdWords. See my article titled PPC essentials.
- How many search engines do you want to appear on; Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
- How many networks do you want to appear on? It’s important to understand that the way you create and manage a search campaign is different from how you create and manage a display campaign. See my article titled Display network advertising.
- How involved do you want to be in the process? If you are the kind of person who wants to know what’s going on and why, or you want me to coach you so you can eventually manage the account yourself, it will take longer and cost more.
- Are you currently using Google Analytics? If not, you will need to create an account and install the code on your website.
- Does your web developer have experience installing event tracking code (JAVA, HTML, etc.)? Can they easily create new custom landing pages on your website? If you don’t have a good relationship with a competent web developer that has a intimate knowledge of your website, it can really bog things down.
- Are you using AdWords Conversion Tracking? If you are using it, what percentage of your conversions come from an AdWords conversion verses over the phone? See my article titled Telephone conversions.
- How responsive you are to my requests and how quickly the process moves. If for some reason we need to stop or slow down, I may need to spend more time refreshing my memory as to what we were working on and what needs to be done next.
In many ways, using my service is a lot like getting lessons from a professional golfer. How do you think they would reply to the question “How long will it take for me to become a really good golfer?” They might say something like, “How committed are you to being really good?” or “How good do you want to be?”
Most novice AdWords advertisers think having an optimized AdWords account is a destination, when in fact; it’s more of a journey, because it’s a matter of degree. I can’t predict how long it will take to reach your goals, what your priorities will be, what path we take or how involved you will be. These all have an enormous effect on the process and what the ultimate cost will be. The fact that there are all these variables, is one of the advantages of my unique business model because you have so many options.
Here are some other things to consider. What issues and opportunities we will discover. What tactics will we use. How in-depth we go. Do we focus on keywords, campaign architecture, ad copy, landing pages or conversion optimization? My approach is a collaborative process and you play an important role in establishing priorities because you know your business better than I do.
My suggestion is to make the commitment to invest at least ten hours of my time. I’m sure you will know pretty quickly whether we are on the right track or not. If it isn’t working for you, just ask me to stop and I will return the unused portion of the advance.
In most cases, I’m going to choose the quickest path to getting the first campaign up and running so you can see how the process works. Even then, there is still a lot of work to be done, like fine-tuning, reviewing the design and the on-going performance with you, etc. Please try and be patient and avoiding making judgments too quickly. I like to say that patience is the best tool in my bag.
How much you spend on click charges with Google is almost impossible to predict. It depends on how much you pay per click, what position your ad appears in, how much competition there is in your geographic market, how much available traffic there is and the daily budget you set, just to name a few. However, if you need to stick to a budget, we can set the daily budget to limit your spend.
Any estimate I make as to the number of hours it will take is only as good as the level of analysis I perform and how much interaction I have with you. The right amount of analysis is what I do as part of my consulting. I don’t provide quotations or proposals, and even balk at giving estimates.
Sorry I can’t be more specific, but it is an honest answer.
It’s rare that I can get a client’s account created (or fixed) and to a mature state in less than ten hours of my time ($1,000). If there was an overall average amount of time I spend on a client account account, it would be between 25-30 hours. So if that figure concerns you, it brings into question are we a good fit? With that said, I have several clients who I’ve worked with for years that have purchased more than 300 hours of consulting. These clients are firmly committed to AdWords as an important channel for their business and they value the services I offer; day after day, month after month and year after year.