This week the PPC Hero team is looking at the different ways you can automate PPC and save time. Yesterday Kayla Kurtz wrote about self-automation (a fancy way of telling you to get your business together!), and some essential time management skills all PPC folks should have.
For today’s post I’m going to start with something that might be a little controversial: Bid management software is the future of paid search. There, I said it. Using software might offend the notions of a few elite PPC purists sitting in their ivory towers, but when used right, it can be a fantastic tool to help get the most out of an account. Some out there might be a little concerned about losing their jobs to the software – however, to all you Luddites, I can safely say that I’ve found the very opposite to be true. Bid management software lets you take the shackles off and really gives you the time to get the most out of your day – after all, which PPC manager is more likely to be replaced – the one using bidding software and having great success, or the one with the lousy account?
Before I go into too much detail, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons associated with using a bid management program:
Time saving: You’re a PPC manager, not a machine – it shouldn’t be your job to spend 4 hours a day working out your profit per keyword, looking at your profit margins, and manually tweaking hundreds, thousands or even millions of keywords. By taking this task out of your hands, you are free to look at the bigger picture, find growth opportunities, run experiments, optimize landing pages, and generally do all the other tasks that lead to great PPC campaigns.
Efficiency (Also known as algorithmic or rule based bidding): How do you know when to change a bid? Normally you might run an experiment for a set period of time or clicks, or just go on gut instinct (this bid looks too high etc.). Bid management software does all this for you, and it does it in a much more mathematically sound manner than the average PPCer too. By taking care of bid changes ASAP, and making sure bids are set exactly where they should be, the software can find clicks, save money, and generate conversions that you would have missed out on going it alone. The main advantage over AdWords CPA bidding is that you can bid on a return on ad spend (ROAS) model, so that keywords that have low conversion rates, but lead to expensive sales, don’t get overlooked.
Reporting: Whether in-house or working for an agency, almost all of us have to report on the success of our accounts to somebody – This might be all well and good if you only have to pull a quick report once a month or so. However, what happens when you get a fairly demanding client who wants to see reports every day? Do you eat up 30 minutes of your time every day? Do you tell the client you can’t do it and risk losing them? With bid management software you can generate reports in seconds, and customize to fit their needs.
Everything In One Place: Here’s an example of my old reporting flow chart – Open AdWords > Record AdWords Numbers > Open AdCenter > Record AdCenter Numbers > Open Facebook > etc. etc. Here’s a new copy of my flow chart – Open bid management software > See all numbers for all campaigns immediately compared to my key performance metrics and how far away I am from hitting my targets. Simple! Not only that, but you can manage your campaigns from one place rather than many, which saves a ton of time.
Cost: This is the biggest downside obviously. Costs can be prohibitive for accounts with razor tight margins. Most bid management software companies charge on a percentage of ad spend model, which adds up really fast on larger accounts. These companies will tell you that the software pays for itself in terms of the net gains, but that isn’t always the case. Make sure you are fully aware of your budget and how much it is going to be affected.
Errors: Automating everything has a few downsides. What happens when the keyword data isn’t pulled properly and new bids are set on bad data? How long does it take before you even notice? It can be tough to diagnose issues when you haven’t been touching bids for a while. Remember that you still need to be vigilant with your account.
Quick disclaimer* Not all bid management software is the same – the list above is a compilation of features from different platforms we’ve looked at. If you decide to choose one, make sure you know what you want to get out of it when you start shopping around. Some might be better at reporting, others at bid manipulation – if you know exactly what your goals are, you can make the most informed decision.
There are currently many great platforms out there such as Marin, Acquisio, OptiMine, Doubleclick, Search Force, Kenshoo and more (I’m not trying to slight anyone here, these were just the ones off the top of my head). I tried to stay away from making this post a comparison of all the different ones, as I simply don’t have the experience with enough of them to make a good call. What I will say is make sure you research each platform and choose one that suits your need.
If you have some smart people on your team you might also consider building your own system. If you have a programmer who understands the Google API, you can have them build something that records data for all keywords, and associates costs with revenue from your own back-end data. Using programmer devil magic you might be able to get a system set up without the long term associated costs.
So that’s it for my rundown of bid management software! If you have an opinion, or experience with any platforms that you’d like to share, please leave it in the comments below.