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How much should search advertising management cost?

Search advertising, such as Google AdWords, isn’t like creating traditional print advertising – the realm of ‘creative’ people. Search advertising is a load of data crunching, testing and getting driven mad by spreadsheets. One good thing is that in a technical business there’s a better chance that you might have someone who can do it in house. There’s a lot to learn, but it doesn’t require natural specialist design talent. Keeping up to date does require a lot of time though, and the job itself is a bit tedious, so it gets neglected.

We focused BMON as a search advertising management business when it became clear that the demand was there from a lot of companies in industries that we understood. Clearly many companies see it as a sensible task to outsource. But how much should this cost you?

The reason that so few agencies publish a ‘price list’ is that there are so many variables. You’ll hear of some offering to run an AdWords campaign for just 5–10% of the total budget, but I assume they’ll charge extra to set up the campaign, to create new adverts and the like. Obviously you won’t get any extra help out of them either, unless you have a huge budget and that 5–10% represents many hundreds of pounds a month.

Your budget is an important factor if the charges are on a percentage basis. We’re all in business and none of us are daft; if a company is charging you £50 a month, what can it do in that time? What do you offer customers for £50? Your engineers probably wouldn’t do half an hour’s work for that.

So there’s got to be a minimum charge, because I’d have thought that even the smallest account would deserve at least half a day’s work a month. If that’s charged at even as little as £200, and your budget (including fees) is £600, you’re talking about the fees being 50% of the actual advertising spending.

Here at BMON, we try to include everything we do (which is a lot more than just managing the AdWords campaign) in a single fee. We’ll also set up the campaigns, amend them and do anything else that’s needed, without there ever being any extra charges. We’ll need around £250 to £1500 a month to do a proper job, depending on the size of your budget, so that could represent between 20% and 50% on top of the advert expenditure (annual budgets of between £9,000 and £100,000 are where we operate).

So for example, if you want total spending of £1000 a month on search advertising, I think it’s reasonable to pay an agency between 25% of the actual advert expenditure (£200) and about 50% (£350), depending on what else is provided. There will be agencies who’ll do it for less – perhaps even just 10% – but I assume that there’ll be plenty of additional charges for setting up the account, creating display adverts, etc., and there won’t be any additional support for your online marketing. Otherwise, you’d have to ask how on earth they’re managing to run your advertising in about 15 minutes a month.