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    Agency

    A Buyer's Guide to the Best Agency Reporting Software

    Are you in the market for an automated reporting tool? Some agencies see PPC software as an extra cost and stick to Excel or Google Sheets. Others build solutions in-house.

    If you're reading this, you're likely neither of those. Your agency might have outgrown Excel -- and you don't have the engineering resources to build (and maintain) reporting software in-house. Maybe you reached the tipping point when your junior analyst sent a report with data errors to your key account. Or, you lost your agency’s best marketer over the tedium of manual reporting. Making the switch from spreadsheets to PPC automation software is a daunting, yet necessary step if you want to scale your agency and retain top talent.

    What should you be looking for in a PPC reporting solution? Most agencies just want accurate performance data and the ability to send professional reports that impress their clients. Some care about granular metrics and white labeling. All have specific needs and custom technology stacks that should be considered in the RFP (request for proposal) process.

    Here's a quick guide on how to select the best agency reporting software.

    Checklist for selecting PPC reporting software

    1. Identify your major pain points
    2. Check the ability to report on custom conversion data
    3. Check if the vendor has certified partnerships with major networks
    4. Evaluate the ease of onboarding
    5. Evaluate the responsiveness of support team
    6. Secure client buy-in
    7. Secure executive buy-in

    1. Identify your pain points

    Start by making a list of the pain points that your team, boss, and clients have with reporting.

    Do these sound familiar?

    • Reporting takes too much time
    • We often have mistakes in our data
    • Staff hates doing weekly reports
    • Our reports look and feel unprofessional
    • Our clients are not impressed with generic reports in Excel
    • Our reports have missing data sources
    • It’s too hard to add new data
    • There’s no standardization across accounts
    • Stagnant reports don’t communicate our agency’s value

    When you identify the problems you’re solving for your agency, such as inefficiency or lack of standardization across the organization, think of specific scenarios and use cases. Your list of reporting pain points will help you better define what you want from a PPC reporting tool and come up with good questions to ask vendors in the process.

    2. Check the ability to report on custom conversion data

    Gone are the days when a marketer could just pull up a spreadsheet and show impressions and clicks across paid search and display advertising. Naturally, your clients still want traditional web analytics and performance data across channels. Of course, they expect you to show a breakdown by desktop, mobile, and tablet users and how you hit performance targets for each. But that data doesn’t paint the full picture.

     

    ppc reporting dashboard Conversion tracking on the network level defaults to last-click attribution and doesn’t reveal the real business impact. Especially for your B2B clients, you’ll want the ability to report on deeper metrics, such as opportunities, MQLs, SQLs, and revenue.

     

    Internal data, such as sales data pulled from Salesforce, Pardot, Eloqua, HubSpot, and Redshift, can connect your performance advertising data to clear business results for closed-loop reporting. Your PPC reporting solution should allow you to combine multiple ad networks and custom data sources to build dashboards for everyone from a PPC account manager to the company’s CMO.

    3. Check if the vendor has certified partnerships with major networks

    Your PPC reporting solution must show accurate, granular data -- and do it quickly. Technology solutions that have established partnerships with the major ad networks (AdWords, Facebook, Bing, Twitter, etc.) guarantee you'll only see clean, accurate data.

    In addition, check the speed of data exports and granularity level.

    • How quickly are conversions reported on?
    • Is there an API for uploading your offline conversions?
    • How easy is it to select and compare date ranges to see trends?
    • Can you run a report across all or your accounts or across account groups?
    • Can you easily access data beyond campaign level?

    4. Evaluate the ease of onboarding

    Of course, you want to buy reporting software that actually gets used. But just as in Newton’s first law of motion, any change typically makes people uncomfortable. To avoid software adoption struggles, check for the following:

    • What is it going to take to set up this technology?
    • How long will it take to implement?
    • How does it integrate with our other systems?
    • Who will own the relationship and ongoing technology implementation?
    • What does it take to onboard the team?
    • How does the technology fit into current processes and workflows?

    As you create your short list of PPC reporting solutions to match your technology needs, scan for software integrations. If your team is on Slack, can you share a report there? If your paid search team lives in Google Sheets, is there an easy way to export your data in different formats? Easy setup, quick implementation, and handy integrations with your team’s favorite tools will speed up software adoption.

    5. Evaluate the responsiveness of support team

    If your vendor has an outsourced support team, it may take up to 24 hours or longer for them to respond to your questions. That can be frustrating, especially at the end of the month when you’re pulling a last-minute report, and something doesn’t work. With a local support team, you can resolve many issues in real time.

    Consider the strength of the company’s technical team and their turnaround time for bug-fixing. Check social media to see if people have posted any feedback. If you partner with a local company, you will not only get your technical issues resolved faster but also benefit from the expert help of their customer success team.

    helpful and speedy customer support -- what to look for in a ppc reporting tool

    6. Secure client buy-in

    Ultimately, you'll send your reports to clients. So why not ask them if they like the new reporting format?

    Create reports using different PPC reporting tools and share them with your client. (Here're tips on how to build a good PPC report from a top agency marketer).

    The client comes first -- and clients often have a very clear notion of what’s right and wrong for their business and reporting structure. Getting client buy-in will help you earn the client’s trust and ultimately simplify decision-making.

    7. Secure executive buy-in

    It’s not just about getting the money to buy the tool. (Okay, that, too). The new PPC reporting tool will be used across your whole organization, and your boss can help you speed up adoption.

    You started the process by identifying your pain points. To get the executive buy-in, now rate the products on their ability to solve your pain points and see if the cost is worth it.

    • Lost a client over bad data? How much did that cost your agency?
    • Team spending five hours a week on reporting? How much is five hours of that person’s time worth?
      (Check how BusinessOnline calculated their ROI on analytics and reporting)
    • Lost a good analyst over the tedium of monthly reporting? What’s the opportunity cost of that analyst bringing in new clients through his connections and expertise?

    Very simply, as you pitch the new PPC reporting tool to execs, think a little less like a marketer and a little more like an accountant. (To help with that, we've built an ROI calculator. Check it out.)

     

     

    Anya Pratskevich

    A senior content marketing manager on the AdStage team, Anya manages AdStage's blog, co-hosts the PPC Show, and curates a weekly newsletter with top news in ad tech. Send her tips, pitches, and guest post ideas to anya (at) adstage (dot) io. Anya tweets, occasionally, as @pratsaa.