Here at Remora, we pride ourselves on not only being 100 percent transparent within our business practices, but also in properly educating dealerships from across the country when it comes to their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising operations. If you're a dealer that's looking to hire a PPC agency or would like to garner a better understanding of the services offered up by your current provider, then this is the post for you.

So just how can we help you make a smart and educated decision on this front?

To start, we want to point out some major issues that are all too common in the industry when dealing with an organization or individual who is not managing your paid advertising in an appropriate or effective manner. Once you have these warning signs in hand, your dealership will have all the tools it needs to find the right match for its PPC needs - and to kick any substandard service providers currently leeching off of your valuable marketing budget to the curb for good.

The 10 Red Flags Waved by Your PPC Agency That You Can't Afford to Miss

Ready to dig into the potential warning signs that point to your current (or prospective) service provider leaving a lot to be desired? Then keep an eye out for the following red flags:

1. They Own Your PPC Account

You want to ensure that you own your dealership's PPC account. It might not seem like that big of a deal at first, but failing to be in control of this account means losing the freedom and flexibility to leave or transfer your service to another provider should the need arise. Additionally, this approach also allows for greater transparency as you'll be able to see the exact amount of money being spent each month, how this spending breaks down, and what you should actually be billed for by your PPC agency - all things that are the bane of agencies that attempt to cut corners or employ underhanded tactics.

2. They Have Not Linked Your Analytics Account

This red flag only applies to organizations that use Google AdWords. The big key here is that you want your Google Analytics account linked to the corresponding PPC account - as well as your Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) account - so that you can get your hands on even more data for future campaign optimization and enhancement.

Unfortunately, plenty of agencies won't go through the steps needed to link all of these accounts; primarily because they would rather not let you have the ability to see what they have built on your behalf, what they are doing (or not doing) to promote your brand, or what is truly being spent out of your budget. In other words, keeping dealership customers in the dark, and hindering transparency, is the major motivating factor behind failing to link these accounts.

3. They Are Focused on the Wrong Metrics

If your current agency only cares about certain engagement metrics, vehicle display pages (VDPs), search result pages (SRPs), map views, or contact page views, they are measuring the wrong metrics. The truth of the matter is that they should actually be tracking paid phone calls, various lead forms, monthly sales for both new and used vehicles, leases, "Ups," and overall incoming phone calls to the dealership. Page views do not equal sales, phone calls, or foot traffic and can easily be manipulated by the more dishonest members of our industry.

4. Bad Communications Plague Your Relationship

If you haven't been offered the opportunity to schedule monthly meetings to review your account or it takes more than one business day for a reply to a question or service inquiry, then something is clearly awry in the communications relationship between you and your service provider. Strong channels of communication are vital to the success of your ad operations, so it's imperative that your agency be in line with any monthly vehicle specials, payments, and other incentives currently being utilized by your dealership.

5. They Are Behind the Times

Google, Bing, and Facebook all introduce new features or make changes to their platforms on a regular basis. Because of this, it's more important than ever to ask the following question: Is your current agency using these latest features on your behalf or even talking with you about them? Failing to keep abreast of these new features can cause you to miss out on advantages that could otherwise be leveraged to help improve your return on investment (ROI) and get a leg up on the competition.

6. They Leverage Generic or Duplicate Ad Copy

Want to know just how unique and engaging your ad copy is when compared to the rest of the marketplace? Then perform related searches in other geographical areas and see just how close this copy is to the content offered up by other dealerships. You especially want to take notice of what's being used by dealerships that serve as direct competition within your local region.

Example of duplicate PPC ad copy for competing dealerships in same area.Example of competing dealerships in the same area displaying duplicate content. (Identifying information has been removed to preserve privacy.)

Does your ad copy look like the content utilized by these competitors? Are they all displaying the same generic messages like "test drive now" or "lowest prices"? Worse yet, are these dealerships and their PPC agencies simply copying the manufacturer's message?

Example of duplicate PPC ad copy for three competing dealerships in same area.Another example of multiple dealerships that do business in the same market displaying duplicate (or excessively similar) ad content. (Identifying information has been removed to preserve privacy.)

If your ads bear any resemblance to these low-quality selections, then it's time to make a change. You want your copy to stand out from the rest of these mundane offerings, grab the viewer's attention, and give them a real reason to not only click on your ad, but also to buy the vehicle they are clearly searching for online.

7. Their Only Focus Is Display Traffic

While display advertising is great from a branding standpoint, it won't help you drive more foot traffic to your dealership when someone is searching for a specific model vehicle. The big issue here? A lot of people have become blind to banners or even run ad-blocking software and extensions within their browsers as a way to circumvent this content. As for mobile platforms, banners on these screens are much smaller and people want their information quickly, so many ignore and scroll past this kind of content without a second thought.

Going a step further, display traffic will usually spend less time on your site, with some of this traffic even coming from automated sources (think bots and other sneaky programs) and not real people.

Compounding this problem is the fact that only 50 percent of a banner needs to be displayed on a page to count as an impression, thereby skewing viewership and interaction metrics significantly.

Don't be fooled into thinking a campaign is successful just because it receives hundreds of thousands or even millions of impressions every month. How many of those were full impressions and displayed to an actual person on the other side of the screen? Not as many you might initially think…

8. You Only Deal with a Customer Representative or Account Manager

You always want to be able to talk directly to the person who actually manages and modifies your PPC account, as this is the person who can help you weigh your options and discuss the implementation of new strategies and tactics each month. On the flip side, only being able to talk to a customer representative or the person managing your overall client account is not good enough since he or she does not have the full knowledge needed to run your campaign on their own. Making it a point to have direct communication with the person handling your PPC operations can help cut down on wasted time, reduce the need for "go-between" messages, and provide you with the ability to initiate better and more timely marketing strategies in the long run.

9. You Are Required to Sign a Long Contract with No Way Out

Working with any agency that requires a long-term commitment up front and does not offer you a way to end this agreement early can be dangerous for your business. Despite this fact, it is all too common for some agencies to require you to sign a prohibitive and restrictive six- or 12-month contract that allows them to own your account and keep you in the dark regarding what is being spent on your behalf. Is being locked into a one-sided agreement that doesn't place a premium on transparency and results really in the best interests of your dealership?

10. All of Their Information Is Proprietary

When working with a PPC agency, they should be able to clearly define their strategy and elaborate on the tactics they'll use to help your dealership achieve the maximum possible ROI. You want to sell more cars, not manage a paid search campaign.

If they are unwilling to share with you what they are doing month over month, or simply use terms like "third party platform," that should set off a major alarm and confirm that they have no idea what they are actually receiving in exchange for your dealership's vital advertising dollars.

Making the right move for your PPC operations.

Making the Right Moves Going Forward

At the end of the day, finding out that your current or potential PPC agency utilizes practices that send up one or more of these red flags is clearly cause for concern. However, by educating yourself and putting an end to the problem now before any more damage can be done, you ensure that your dealership is poised to revamp its paid search operations and create a thriving - and profitable - digital presence going forward.

As always, if you have any questions regarding paid search, please let us know and we'll be more than happy to bring you up to speed. The team of digital marketing experts here at Remora is more than willing to break down every facet of how we can drive more traffic - and more importantly, more sales - to your dealership via a transparent and effective approach to PPC and paid search operations that keeps you in control.