• James Grace

Show Me the Adwords! (Transparency shouldn’t be optional…)

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

At Wizely, we’re fairly passionate about transparency. “Stop Guessing. Choose Wizely.” isn’t just our tagline, it’s the principle we founded the company on.

In our efforts to help dealers better understand how their advertising spend is driving revenue and car sales through our “Dollars and $ense” product, the first step is making sure that their Google Adwords accounts are linked to their Google Analytics accounts. This step allows the dealer to see what kind of traffic their advertising campaigns and keywords are generating, and ultimately to link that traffic to sales and revenue.

Increasingly, we’re encountering resistance from advertising agencies when they are asked to enable this connection. The response normally looks something like this,

“No, we can’t connect your Adwords account to your Analytics account because that would reveal our proprietary data/technology/algorithm/secret sauce.”

So, the question is : is there any truth to this claim?

Here’s the TLDR (Too-Long-Didn’t-Read) for those of you in a hurry : No, it’s nonsense, if your agency won’t connect Adwords to Analytics, you need to find a new agency.

The more detailed and nuanced answer is a bit more complicated. Let’s explore the subject one argument at a time.


Argument : “Connecting Adwords to Analytics would reveal our secret sauce.”

Wizely’s Assessment : Misleading.

Let me start by acknowledging that there is a lot of art and science involved in a good Paid-Search/SEM strategy and not all agencies are created equal. The way campaigns, ad-groups and keywords are structured has a meaningful impact on bidding strategies and performance of campaigns. In our work using Dollars and $ense to help dealers optimize their ad-spend, the performance differences resulting from these strategy differences are obvious. While it’s true that everyone has access to the same Google toolchain, and the information required to make the tools sing and dance is a matter of public record on blogs all over the internet, agencies are right to protect all of the hard earned knowledge, expertise and lessons-learned encapsulated in their campaign structures. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a good Google Adwords account.

With this said, there is a huge difference between granting access to the Google Adwords account itself, and simply linking the account to Google Analytics. Getting access to the Adwords account lets you see every detail of the way things are set up. Linking the account to Google Analytics simply lets you see which campaigns are running, and how much is being spent on them.

Some dealers (and consultants) are passionate about getting access to Google Adwords. They want to be able to examine the details, make modifications, etc. While it’s perfectly reasonable for a dealer to want this level of ownership of their Adwords account, it’s also perfectly reasonable for an agency to decide not to operate that way if they really believe that their account structure provides a competitive advantage.

On the other hand, linking Google Adwords to Analytics doesn’t reveal the details of the account structure, it simply says “These are the keywords we’re bidding on, and this is how much we spent.” With dealers spending an average of $10k per month on Paid Search, the idea that they wouldn’t have visibility into how this money is being spent is, in our opinion, ridiculous.

So, by all means, have a conversation with your agency about how they view the contents of the Adwords account, and if you feel passionately that you need to own it, view it or edit it, find an agency who is willing to operate like that. But, even if your agency wants to protect their hard earned expertise, telling you what they’re spending your money on shouldn’t be optional.


Argument : “We’re not allowed to show you the spend data.”

Wizely’s Assessment : Sometimes true, but worth a fight.

This argument isn’t one that is often said out loud, but in some cases the agency is either prohibited or highly discouraged from sharing the actual advertising spend level with the dealer, and it is true that connecting Adwords to Analytics does reveal this information.

At this point, your blood pressure is probably on the rise, and rightfully so.

It is sometimes the case that the OEM or some other player in the value chain between the OEM’s Co-Op dollars and your Adwords account has decided that they won’t allow people “in the program” to share spend with dealers. The rationale behind this is that the pricing structure of the program marks up the ad spend before billing you and the people involved don’t want you to know how much (or how little) of the money is being spent on actual advertising.

In my experience, the agency is usually caught in the middle of this dynamic and most often their preference would be to tell you the actual spend, since that’s the amount that actually drives the performance you’re measuring them on.

So how do you handle this issue?

First of all, it only potentially applies to co-op programs so if you’re spending outside a co-op program, don’t take no for an answer.

Secondly, be understanding and reasonable. Every player in the value chain deserves to be compensated for their work. A desire for transparency isn’t an excuse to give people a hard time about how they make their living. If you want to just pay for advertising with no mark up, bring the effort in house.

Finally, ask the agency directly whether this is a problem and ask for an answer in writing. Then run the issue up the flagpole with the OEM until you get an answer you’re willing to accept. Most often, they will make an exception to their policy if you make a little noise and you’re reasonable.


Argument : “We don’t want you to know what we’re doing.”

Wizely’s assessment : Too common.

Ok, obviously they never say this one out loud but in our experience this is a common explanation for refusing to connect Adwords and Analytics.

In our experience using Dollars and $ense to help dealers optimize their advertising spend, most dealers are wasting about 40% of their budget on strategies that aren’t working. Additionally, it’s usually the case that more than 80% of the keywords you’re spending money on aren’t leading to sales.

All too often, we see money being spent in silly ways (example : $500 in a month bidding on a broad-match keyword of “cars for sale.”).

Spending more money on Google Adwords is super easy – there is nothing in the system that will ever tell you that you’re spending too much. It’s also super easy to make an argument that your budget needs to increase by bidding on way too many keywords and then telling you your overall impression share is too low.

There is a lot of opportunity to drive budgets higher and higher through obfuscation and salesmanship, and while I certainly don’t blame any business for trying to maximize their revenues and profit, basic transparency to customers shouldn’t be optional.

A good Paid-Search / SEM strategy is a combination of art and science, and of course it’s impossible to make sure that every last dollar you spend on advertising can be linked to revenue generated. But, if your agency is reluctant to submit themselves to the most basic of scrutiny with respect to how they’re spending your money, you probably need a new agency.

To learn more about how Dollars and $ense by Wizely helps dealers connect Ad Spend to sales and revenue in Google Analytics, check out our Whitepaper.

As always, questions comments and feedback are welcome!

Thank you for choosing Wizely.


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