Bid Management Software Is The Future of PPC

By , Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing


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:



Morpheus knows about the Ad-Matrix

Favorite PPC Movie: The Ad Matrix (I'm here all day)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.



  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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12 thoughts on “Bid Management Software Is The Future of PPC

  1. Tyler Cook

    I have yet to get around to using a Bid Management Software. I have considered creating my own by using the API, as stated above, because the cost is too high. I still am not entirely convinced that bid management software is the future (I’m still optimistically hoping that Adwords and Adcenter give the user more data to make better informed decisions) but only time will tell.

    Good post as always PPC Hero!

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      You make a good point about AdWords and AdCenter – I’m sure in the medium to long term they will introduce a few more tools to help users, but it could be 5 years, at which point your campaigns will already have been left in the dust.

      As for building your own – we had a guy do it in my last job and it was really successful from a bidding stand point – made a ton of money. However, it certainly lacked a few of the features / was a bit tricky to edit (lots of using the php my admin database). The guy did have a PhD from Cambridge, so I’m not sure if it was all that easy or he was just really intelligent.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. John Barth

    Great post! I investigated a few of the those platforms recently, but the costs were too high as compared to the possible benefits. Writing our own system might actually be the best way to go at this point, which I hadn’t seriously considered until reading this.

    In terms of time savings and efficiency, Adwords does have conversion optimizer which can save you from constantly tweaking bids, as well as optimize bids over different user settings.

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      Thanks for the reply! We’re going to cover using conversion optimizer on Thursday. It’s a great tool but it suffers vs bid management systems because it doesn’t bid on many-per-click, or ROAS levels, which some accounts need.

  3. DDG

    We run our campaigns through a 3rd party adserver, which has a simple rules based bid management feature, but I have yet to take a advantage of it. The reason being, most of our clients are hotel/casino. Our goals are always revolve around room reservations. However, most reservations occur under their branded campaign, which always rank #1 and the bids typically are $.05 to $.15, so not too much to worry about.

    The generic campaigns are usually introducers or informers and the people tend to end up coming back through some other method to close (whether that’s the brand paid search campaign or some other medium). I would like to use the bid management on the generic campaigns, but have yet to figure a way to use the bid management as it focuses only on CPA, ROAS, or position.

    Position seems to be the only likely candidate as conversions/ROAS are relatively low, but many keywords are on the path to conversion so the bid management would be skewed.

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      That is one of the problems you can find with optimized campaigns in general. If you have one ad group which you know brings in people who later convert through a brand term, you could set up separate rules for that one specifically. So long as you are regularly checking your Analytics to see which KWs/Ad Groups are driving the initial traffic you should be fine.

  4. Marcus Lo

    This might be the future of ppc given cost is disregarded. But, who gives free bid management softwares. For now, we could utilize Adwords and Adcenter until such time that bid management softwares are perfected. That’s the time i’ll be willing to spend on a fortune on this software. PPC management experts can still rely on Adwords and Adcenter that won’t compromise their client’s money at stake.

    You’ve given nice points here that would convince ppc people on buying such software and they were well explained. But it will still boil down to minimizing costs and getting good ROI.

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      Hi Marcus.

      You are definitely right about cost – I should have written that con in bold or something to emphasize it more fully. The thing about BM is that you have to factor in all variables before you decide to go with it: How much money do you save in your hours / opportunity costs spent on an account? How much more revenue does better bid management generate? Smaller accounts might not be as worthwhile, but some bid management charges as a percent of spend, so even then it still scales.

      Large E-Commerce sites who don’t have a team of mathematicians working out optimal bids for them will most likely benefit, but small lead gen sites might have to think more carefully.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Chris Kent

    I think there’s also the risk factor. By setting up rules you sometimes have unintended consequences that can come back to bite you. I have tried bid management software, and it did not feel that it helped too terribly much. I suppose if you were managing several accounts that had several thousand keywords each, it would be more useful.

  6. Matt Brown

    I want software that is basically just a skin on top of adwords. This is because I use a foreign Adwords account and even when I hit “translate” it still has half of my info in Spanish. This of course makes reading reports a bit exhausting as I am spending half my time trying to figure out what everything is. Some of the words don’t translate properly either and come out as strange words, or odd phrases that don’t easily make sense when just glancing at a screen. Are there any software programs that just let me use an existing Adwords account and not have to sign up for their “management” giving them all the control? Also I hate having to paid a “how much do you spend” price model, where if I spend more per month, they charge me more to use the program. I want to just spend a few hundred or whatever and have it done with, or even a basic monthly fee would be fine. I just hate having an arbitrary price plan that is more expensive if I spend more on ads. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  7. Chris Oliver

    We’ve looked at bid management software a few times however the cost is far too high at approx 4% – 5% of spend. We’ve been tempted to try it out however a 14 or 30 day free trial is too short to properly evaluate it. I think we’ll all be using it for larger accounts in the future when the prices come down.

  8. Mike

    Sam couldn’t be more right. Bid management software is the most effective way to manage PPC. I highly recommend trying out adCore, a free PPC automation tool. I started with it a few months ago and have seen immediate results in my CTR and conversions. It’s entirely free for up to 5 campaigns and has some really interesting features, such as creating all your keywords, ad groups, and ads based on a product feed.

    There’s trial. It’s genuinely free for up to 5 campaigns.


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