How to Scale Your Web and Marketing Agency – 7 Tips for Using Pay-Per-Click for Lead Generation

December 15th

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Building a consistent pipeline of sales leads is a necessity for growing your agency.

If you can’t build consistent leads, you can’t consistently grow your business. Without consistent growth and clients, your agency will flounder.

Agencies can find success mining different marketing channels for leads.

Some agencies do well with networking and word-of-mouth.

Others do well with content marketing.

But, not all of these channels are consistently scalable.

One channel we found success with, a channel that we’ve been able to scale, has been pay-per-click advertising (aka PPC).

PPC is great because it can deliver consistent leads to your business. With a particular budget, you can anticipate traffic and leads.

Optimally run Adwords campaigns can drive consistent leads and consistent business to your agency.

But what do you need for a killer Adwords campaign for your agency?

Treat Your Campaign Like You’d Treat A Client

I’ve seen many agencies that work on marketing themselves, and save their own marketing for last.

Similarly, I’m sure you’ve probably seen a web design agency that has a terrible website.

Because they spend so much time working on clients’ projects, that they don’t dedicate any time to working on their own agency.

This is way too common.

To actually ensure you dedicate the time you need to growing your agency, treat your agency like a client.

Act like your agency is your most important paying client.

Just like you’d do for your most important client – calendar time, create and assign tasks, execute on them, report back, and improve consistently.

During the process, you should expect to:

  • Build the campaign / implement changes
  • Run the campaign
  • Collect data
  • Review the data sources
  • Create an action plan for improvements
  • Repeat

Now, let’s go through everything.

Building the Ad Campaigns for Marketing Your Agency

Starting up, you will have zero data.

You might have some inklings about what will work well for your campaigns.

But until you test it out, you don’t know for sure.

I say this because I made that mistake.

And it’s a mistake I’d be upset with my agency over if they did it to me as their client.

Don’t make any assumptions, because the data will ultimately prove you right or wrong.

So, starting out, build many campaigns.

Each campaign should have its own theme.

For example:

  • [your target industry] website design
  • [your target industry] marketing
  • [your target industry] SEO
  • [your target industry] email marketing
  • [your target industry] advertising

Which reminds me – make sure you choose a niche.

You don’t want to advertise for “web design” – it’s too broad, too competitive, and it will be impossible for you to stand out.

Instead, pick a niche industry that you serve well.

Create landing pages oriented towards those clients, and oriented towards these campaign themes.

If you do restaurant website, create campaigns for “restaurant website design” and create corresponding keywords, ads and landing pages.

And repeat this process for the other types of projects you want to take on like social media marketing, Facebook advertising, SEO, etc. for businesses in your target industry.

Now, here’s the formula you should use: have many campaigns, with a few ad groups per campaign (5 is good), and roughly 15 keywords per ad group.

Using this formula, you will be able to get a lot of data to see what kinds of campaigns are successful.

As the campaigns get more data and advanced, future iterations could be identical campaigns targeting very specific geographic areas – so for example, if you do work in North America, that would mean campaigns targeting each state, or your metro area, or Canada – and see how the campaigns perform.

Setting the Budget and Running the Campaign

When you launch, set a good budget.

Spend more than you want to spend at first.

If you want to spend $1,000 per month, aim to spend $500 in the first week.

Then, let it run.

Get as much data as you can as quickly as you can.

After the first day, check it out, make sure nothing’s gone wild (e.g. spending way too much too fast, or, conversely, getting 0 clicks or impressions).

If you only run this campaign for two weeks out of the month, you have your data sooner, and can make adjustments quicker.

At our agency, we tell our marketing clients the same thing – spend more up-front, find out what works and doesn’t work, then once you have the data, you can reduce your budget and spend where you know that budget will be effective.

Collecting Data and Reviewing

After enough time passes, collect the data.

Aside from the data you’ll get from Adwords, find out about how the campaign performed for your agency’s lead gen.

Aside from the conversions Google Adwords tells you that you got, how many “real” leads did you generate?

You should know:

  • Which campaigns generated the most leads? (ie. Which campaigns had the lowest CPA (cost-per-acquisition) – Google gives you this data easily)
  • Which campaigns generated the most and highest-paying clients? (ie. Which campaigns had the lowest CAC (client acquisition cost) – to determine CAC, divide your total ad spend over the amount of clients you got (e.g. $2,000 to get 20 clients = $100 CAC)

Now, don’t be fooled – these two things are not the same.

Just because one campaign generates twice as many leads as another does not mean it’s a “better” campaign.

I say this from personal experience.

A campaign around “web design” might generate a ton of leads (making it look very attractive for where you think you should continue spending), but a campaign around “online marketing” can generate significant recurring revenue for your agency.

Be mindful of this.

Every month, review your data.

Do a deep dive.

And then create a plan for what to do next from what you see in the data.

Create an Action Plan for Improvement

Your campaign will not be perfect on Day 1.

It probably won’t be perfect in Month 3, for that matter.

It will take a lot of time and effort to see the real consistent, predictable results that you are looking for.

So, once you’re reviewing the campaigns, make a plan for what you’re going to work on next:

  • If the CTR is low – Do you need higher bids? Better ad copy?
  • If the conversion rate is low – Are your keywords bad? Are your landing pages not compelling?
  • If the CPA is too high – how is your Adwords quality score? Are you bidding on too expensive keywords?

Write down exactly what you want to do for next month.

Set aside time.

And then take action.

Then, repeat the process.

But now, as a quick aside, here are some tips for the improvements you might need to make on your ad campaigns.

Common Adwords Campaign Issues and Their Solutions

Low Clickthrough Rate

Real quick: In my experience with Adwords, I consider clickthrough rates under 1.5% low and having potential for significant improvement. So that’s where I’m coming from in case you are wondering.

So, you may find that, for whatever reason, people aren’t clicking on your ads.

Why not?

There are a few reasons, generally.

First – you’re not bidding enough.

Generally, the higher your position, the more likely your ads get clicked.

Check out your Average Position. If it’s below 2, increase your bid.

Positions 3 and 4 I’ve typically found to not have as much of an impact, in particular because those spots do not usually include ad extensions (which help increase the likelihood the ad gets clicked).

Second – you need better ad copy.

Look at your ads.

Do they have a call to action?

Do they inspire trust and confidence in your brand, and encourage people who are searching for your keywords that you have the solution they are looking for?

As an exercise, look at your competitors’ top ads.

They may not be doing things better, necessarily, but it might give you some inspiration.

Third – A/B test your ads.

Try out new ads with different messaging and copy.

See which get more clicks.

And keep trying out more ads based on variations of the “winning” ads.

Low Conversion Rate or High CPA

So, you’re getting clicks but those clicks aren’t turning into clients.

Or, is getting a conversion costing too much so you’re thinking this isn’t worth it?

You might assume, “PPC is probably not right for our business.”

That’s not necessarily true.

There are a few things that you could do.

First – make sure the traffic you’re getting is relevant, and negative-out bad search terms.

The best-designed landing page in the world won’t help if the people who come to your landing page don’t want what you’re selling.

Check your keyword search history.

Find out what people are searching to get to your landing page.

If their queries are not relevant, negative out those keywords.

Second – create a better landing page experience.

Once you’ve ensured that the people coming to your landing page are people who should want what you have to offer, you need to encourage them to sign up.

You should have a few different elements on your landing page:

  1. Relevant headline – A headline that mirrors your ad headline (so visitors immediately recognize they’re in the right place)
  2. Good copy – Body copy that succinctly touts the benefits of your service, not the features
  3. Social proof – third-party validation like snippets of reviews or case studies to show that other people like and trust your service
  4. Call to action – a contact form and phone number prominent with only the fields you absolutely need (e.g. Name, Email, Phone, Message (optional) – and that’s it)

No Ad Extensions

Google has ad extensions you should take advantage of!

One rookie mistake I see with some advertisers is that they build the search ads but don’t take the time to build ad extensions.

Ad extensions are that bit of extra information – a phone number on the ad, links below the main ad, extra call-out words, pricing – that appear around your text ad. Ad extensions show up for certain ads if you have a good enough position and the Google Adwords gods want to include an ad with extensions for a particular search.

Go into your campaign Ad Extensions. Create as many as you can. Do it.

Tools for Killing it in Adwords

You can’t go it alone.

You will need some apps and tools to help your agency build, track, and measure your campaigns.

Here’s what we recommend.


You need to know how many calls you are getting from your campaigns.

Callrail helps with that.

Callrail is call-tracking software that helps you determine which clicks turn into calls.

Basically how it works: every visitor who comes to your website gets a phone number assigned to their visit. So, when a particular visitor calls your agency, Callrail can tell you how they came to your site, what keyword they used, and what page they landed on. Callrail integrates seamlessly with Google Adwords and your website (just a quick insert of a Javascript code or adding in a simple WordPress plugin to turn it on).

Callrail has been an indispensable tool for us and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


We built our agency entirely on Offsprout. Offsprout is a page-builder platform that helps agencies and freelancers more easily and quickly build websites. With Offsprout for our PPC campaigns, we built a few landing pages, saved them as templates, and then did A/B tests using those templates. Creating A/B versions was quick and easy, and saved us a lot of time in the process.

What’s Next

Over time, you’ll start seeing predictable results.

Once the campaigns are tweaked and you are bidding only on keywords that are likely to turn into clicks, conversions, and clients, you have a predictable source of new business.

And this is how your agency can scale.

With a predictable source of new business, you can know that, for example, that if you spend $1,000 on advertising, it generates 3 new clients paying you $500 per month each for your agency’s services.

And then you can just keep investing in PPC as a marketing channel to consistently grow your business.

If you have any questions or experiences with using Google Adwords to build a recurring pipeline of business for your agency, feel free to comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo Credits – Paul Bence, Glen Carstens-Peters

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