- October 1, 2019
- Digital Marketing
How In-House vs Agency vs Freelance PPC Analyst Positions Differ?
Pay per click (PPC) marketing is a young industry. The first known PPC advertising platform was the Planet Oasis desktop app which launched in 1996.
In spite of its short existence, PPC marketing has evolved in many ways. In the early days, you needed to be technically savvy as much as marketing savvy. As the ad platforms have matured, they’ve become easier to use and various tools have launched to make it easier to launch, manage, and optimize PPC campaigns.
If you’re thinking of becoming a PPC analyst, you have three main paths to choose from – in-house, agency-based, or freelance. Let’s look at the differences between the three and the pros and cons of each.
What is a PPC Analyst?
PPC analysis can include several types of work:
- Analyzing ad performance
- Optimizing existing campaigns to improve ROI
- Developing marketing strategies
- Projecting and budgeting for ad spend
You could be responsible for any or all these things, depending on how much of the marketing plan you’re looking after. The size of the team looking after the company’s PPC campaigns and whether you’re in-house or an external contractor usually plays a part.
Skills Required for PPC Analysts
The skills you’ll need depend on exactly what parts of the marketing plan you’re handling but generally, a pay-per-click analyst needs to have skills in math, advanced knowledge of Microsoft Excel and other reporting software, and knowledge of various web-based tools for managing and tracking PPC campaigns.
While a lot of the job is working with numbers on a computer, it’s also important that you have good people skills. You’re not only going to be selling to the people who see and click on your ads, but also selling your ideas to management and other decision-makers within the company itself.
The amount of influence and decision-making power you have will vary with how you’re related to the company. The three primary roles – in-house, agency, and freelance – all have different degrees of separation from the business you’re running ads for.
Agency vs In-House vs Freelance PPC Work
A PPC agency provides its services to multiple clients. The agency can handle a small piece of a company’s marketing campaign or it can manage every part of the campaign.
If you’re working for an agency as a PPC analyst, you may focus on a single client or you may be responsible for several different clients. The agency itself, however, likely handles many different clients.
In-house PPC analysts work in the company they’re managing PPC campaigns for. You might be part of a team of analysts or you might be solely responsible for managing the company’s marketing campaigns.
Freelance analysts provide services to one or more companies on a contract basis. This is similar to an agency in many ways but rather than a team, it’s usually a single-person operation.
Each of the three has advantages and disadvantages.
Agency-Based PPC Analyst
One of the biggest advantages of working for a PPC agency is the breadth of knowledge and experience you can get. Because agencies work with many clients, often across various industries, you’ll get exposure to multiple campaigns. This will let you leverage the experience you get while working on one client’s campaign with other clients.
This can be helpful even if they are in completely different industries. Often the lessons you learn in one can apply to others and you can sometimes get insights that you may not get if you focus on a single market the way you would if you were working in-house.
Another big advantage of ad agencies is their strong relationships with the different ad platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and so on.
Agencies work with many clients on one hand but they consolidate all their clients’ spending through their accounts. This gives them more leverage with the ad platforms since the total ad spend is higher than all but the largest companies with in-house PPC management.
Potential Disadvantages of Agency PPC
One of the biggest challenges of working for a PPC agency compared to in-house is that communication can be more challenging. You don’t necessarily have a direct line to the company’s management so you may find you have to wait for decisions to be made or approvals to come back.
When a company first hires an agency, they’re an unproven entity. This can lead to over management of the campaign until the agency can show its ability to handle the campaign effectively.
In-House PPC Analyst
An in-house PPC analyst is an employee of the company. Being part of the business itself has some definite advantages. You’ll likely be more familiar with the day-to-day workings of the company and if you’ve been with them for any length of time, you’ll have learned a lot of things by “osmosis” even if it isn’t a direct part of your job.
You’ll likely also be privy to confidential information that may not be available to outside contractors. While this may not be directly applicable to the ad campaigns, it can help you optimize them for the best possible return on investment (ROI).
As an employee of the company, you likely have more loyalty and commitment as well. This can help keep you motivated to continually test and tweak your ad campaigns.
Getting decisions and approvals from management will be easier and you can work with other departments within the company both to gather information you can use in the PPC campaigns and help them make the most of leads generated through the ads.
Potential Disadvantages of In-House PPC
One of the most common challenges for in-house PPC analysts is getting overloaded with too many responsibilities. You may start by looking after the PPC marketing but over time other related things like search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and email marketing may creep into your responsibilities.
This is particularly dangerous if you are the sole PPC analyst in the company. Any search engine marketing (SEM) related work could end up landing on your desk.
It can also be harder to find time to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends in the PPC world when you’re working in-house. Most agencies dedicate a certain amount of time to this type of learning because staying on the leading edge of the industry is to their benefit.
Sometimes it can be difficult to convince management of the value of this type of learning when you’re working in-house. Again, this is even more of a problem if you are the only analyst there. Time you spend on developing your knowledge and skills is time you’re not spending on managing campaigns.
Freelance PPC Analyst
A freelancer typically has the most freedom of any of the three options. As a freelance analyst, you can offer your services to a company directly or to an agency that needs to supplement its own team.
And while a freelance PPC analyst is often the most affordable option from the client’s perspective, it can also be the most lucrative from the freelancer’s side of things. Because you’re paid directly, all the income is yours to keep.
If you’re working for an agency or in-house, you’ll likely be paid a flat salary. As a freelancer, you can work out a percentage deal with your clients. This could be based on performance, where you get paid a percentage of sales generated by your ad campaigns, or it could be a percentage of their ad spend.
Potential Disadvantages of Freelance PPC
As a freelancer, you need to generate leads and find new clients, particularly if you’re doing smaller projects. This will be up to another department if you’re working for an agency and it doesn’t apply at all if you’re in-house.
Some clients may not be willing to share as much about their business with a freelance analyst, even compared to an agency, so in some cases, it can be more difficult to get useful data for your campaigns.
Which is the Right Choice for You?
There’s no single “best” choice when deciding whether to work as an in-house PPC analyst, work for an agency, or strike out on your own as a freelancer. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each option and consider them against how you want to work.
If a wider variety of clients is attractive to you, the agency or freelance route is probably best. If you like the idea of really digging into a single market with the most in-depth knowledge of the business you’re promoting, an in-house position is probably best.
Whatever you choose, many aspects of the job will be the same. Your ad copy best practices will be consistent no matter who signs your checks. The PPC management tools and ad networks you’ll use won’t change.
Developing Your Career Path
Remember, you don’t have to stay in the same role forever. You could do some freelance work or work for an agency to get some experience then look for an in-house PPC analyst role to settle into. PPC analysts are in high demand and that isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Whatever path you take, you’ll want to have a set of powerful tools in your arsenal to help you maximize your ads’ ROI. PPC Ad Editor offers a powerful campaign preview and collaboration tool for Google Ads. It will let you ditch the spreadsheet and easily collaborate with your clients to get instant feedback on your campaigns. Get in touch with us today to find out more.
Co-Founder of PPC Ad Editor. I am a leader in digital marketing, specializing in strategic planning, implementation, and optimization.