The Promise of Paid Search Bid Management Tools
There are a million paid search management tools. Well, maybe a million is an overstatement, but the paid search and bid management space is quite saturated with companies promising the latest and greatest tools to do the work of an analyst.
Most of these tools have similar offerings with 1-2 killer features that are used to differentiate them from a sea of similarity. When an excellent search marketer uses their product, they often take credit for the success in their marketing materials. Case studies are published and everyone looks like a hero; the client, the agency, the analyst and the software they used. One big pat on the back for all parties involved.
Paid Search management tool makers and marketers use this success in their marketing materials, showcasing the great results that come from their software as expected results for anyone else using the tool. It's hard to argue with such compelling numbers and the promises of efficiency gained while using the tool, and these results effectively lead to software sales for the tool maker.
Lured by the results and efficiency promises, agencies and in house marketers purchase these tools and undergo an extensive configuration and tagging process to get up and running. Often configuration will take 3-6 months, a complete re-tagging of all websites using the tool, and 20-40 hours of training in the nuances of the tool.
Assuming that they survive this indoctrination and the tool is implemented successfully, the analyst finds it's time to start trying to achieve the results they witnessed in the case studies provided by the tool provider, only to find…
The Reality of Paid Search Bid Management Tools
The first few days of using a paid search bid management tool are often underwhelming. All of the promise is met with a learning curve. Basic edits that were easy to make in AdWords Editor or AdCenter Desktop now take 5 times as long in the new interface and involve executing a series of actions in a specific order to make sure you don't break your bi-directional synchronization with search engines.
You begin to fear making major changes in the tool and miss the days when management was so much easier using your primitive tools. Bid management is much more complex than you were lead to believe, and your implementation representative warns you that implementing bid rules should be done by a highly trained consultant. The package also does not have any bid rules to choose from, but rather a blank canvas that you are expected to use to paint your way to bid rule paradise.
The other tools aren't much better. Reporting only works for the period of time after you implement the tool, so you have no historical data to work with. Managing multiple search engines is not as easy as they made it out to seem either. You still have to tag each search engine separately, so the only thing you gain is consolidated reporting, only this doesn't work as you expected either. While the tool has every report you have ever dreamed of built into the product, none of them are as good as you need them to be.
Your web analytics tool starts to show funky URL parameters at the end of your top content report, much to the dismay of your analytics team. Your web team is concerned that the new tags you add to your site will break other tracking and slow down the website… and that the next release is in 2 months.
Then there is the the biggest issue for agencies; the fact that the monthly charges for the tool are based on a percentage of the ad spend you run through their systems. This can be anywhere from 1-5% and will significantly cut into the margins the agency makes off of paid search management services.
Suddenly, you are looking to see if there is a way to end your contract early and revert back to our primitive methods.
How to Succeed Without Paid Search Management Suites
Here is how you succeed in the world when you don't have the patience or budget for a management suite:
Hire great analysts
This should go without saying, but a great analyst is better than any tool will ever be. Sure, we have programmed computers to play chess better than humans, but paid search management has far more variables at stake – and most of these variables are not available to anyone outside of the engineers at Google and Bing!
Use the best tool for the job, for each job
If you are not tied down to a management suite, you can piece together your own system using the best tools in class, usually with incredible cost savings.
Technology as an enhancement to intelligence, not a replacement
There are only so many bid strategies that you will need. Be smart about what strategies you are looking to implement and implement them! Don't wait for technology to do your job, because it will never love the results like you will!
- AdWords has bid rules; use them
- Conversion Optimizer has access to variables you have never dreamed of using, take advantage
- Use AdWords Editor for bid changes. It's super efficient.
- Integration between Google Analytics and AdWords has always been strong, and now Google Analytics is allowing you to import your cost data from other engines! You can now have all of your reporting in one place
Bottom Line: Tools don't create efficiencies, thinking through problems is what creates efficiencies
You come up with the strategy, and the tools do your bidding. Not the other way around.
Great Investment or Save Your Money?
Save your money for now. Use that money to invest in a superior paid search tactician and provide them with the best in class tools needed to do each function of their job.