Top 6 PPC Tools Every Digital Marketer Should Have in Their Back Pocket

Top 6 PPC Tools Every Digital Marketer Should Have in Their Back Pocket
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Brad Geddes

Last updated September 7, 2017


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Pay-Per-Click (PPC) tools are an indispensable part of any campaign manager’s life. Tools make you more efficient, provide you better data insights, and allow you to easily scale, test, build, share, and manage accounts. If you’re not using the right tools, then you might be missing out on some key opportunities and insights that can help you execute paid campaigns effectively.

PPC tools aren’t just for managing bids and tracking conversions, they are for staying organized and improving your account performance. The scope of PPC tools is staggering and your toolbox should go beyond just using the basics to include organizational tools, collaboration tools, insight tools and automated recommendations.

With so many PPC tools at your disposal, how do you choose which one is right for you and your business?  In this article, I’ll walk you through some tools that every marketer should be using to ensure that they are managing and growing their PPC accounts efficiently.

Insight Tools

Your journey to PPC management starts with generating insights. These insights can be a look at competitor intelligence, keyword data, demographic information and more. Below are a few areas to concentrate on:

  • Understanding your ads versus your competitors’ so you can ensure your offers are relevant, timely and targeted, and as good as or better than your competitors’ ads.
  • Knowing your competitors’ keywords to determine where you have coverage gaps and where you might want to add keywords. You can also find areas where your competition is weak and use that to your advantage by driving more traffic in that area.
  • Getting to know your audience so you can create targeted messages that prompt them to respond more favorably to your ads.

Using these insights into your data, your competitor data and your audience, you can improve your overall marketing performance. 

One of my favorite, underused, insight tool is Bing Ads Intelligence. Bing Ads Intelligence is a free Microsoft Excel plugin that allows you to easily work with keyword lists, perform research and other items that the Keyword Planner tools can do.

Where Bing Ads Intelligence is different from the other tools is that it allows you to collect demographic- and location-specific data for your research. It’s one of the fastest ways to get demographic data on keywords before you allocate budgets on keywords. 

Two other insight tools that provide a lot of competitive intelligence information by tapping into your competitor’s ads and keywords are SEMRush and SpyFu

While some of their features are similar, I find that with competitor data, it’s easy to have this information skewed by varying demographics. These are not absolute numbers; they are directional numbers that are reported. I like to use both these tools—that way you have two data points in your directional comparisons in case some data points are being skewed in one way or another. 

Build Tools

Once you use some insight tools to understand the market; you need to create new campaigns or expand your existing PPC accounts. 

A combination of Excel, AdWords Editor and Bing Ads Editor can make this happen pretty well. However, where these tried and true tools break down is at the landing pages.

For landing pages, I like Unbounce or Wordpress. If I need dedicated pages, Unbounce works well. It is easy to build landing pages using Unbounce and it has multiple integrations with analytics and call tracking vendors to combine all your data in one place.

However, if I’m managing an entire microsite that’s built for conversions outside of a company’s typical CMS; Wordpress is very useful. There are many templates, plugins, and developer tools to easily manage your microsite.

Collaborative Tools

As you build and manage accounts, you will need a central repository to share documents, images, files, and so forth. Dropbox, OneDrive, G Suite, and Box are all good contenders that allow your entire team to have access to the assets used in the account.

Ongoing Management

Once you have an account built and everyone has access to information, it’s time to manage the account.

Project management

One of my top picks for PPC tools straddles the line between being a collaborative tool and being an ongoing management tool—and that “tool” is project management.

I like to manage PPC like a project, and therefore, I need a tool that allows multiple users with different permission levels, the ability to manage recurring tasks, templates so a new account can easily be deployed, among other things. 

Picking a project management tool is a team exercise. You need a tool where people feel it’s helping them to get work done more efficiently and things don’t fall through the cracks as opposed to yet another place to document work. I find that one team will love a tool and the next will hate it; which is why there isn’t a ‘best’ project management tool for everyone; but you should be using one.

There are many strong project management tools on the market and here are a few of my favorites: 

  • Trello: Easy to learn and use kanban style management 
  • Jira: Enterprise level management for those with software & teams to manage
  • Basecamp: Great for teams and permission control
  • Podio: Very easy to control workflows from sales to onboarding to fulfillment
  • TeamworkPM: Built for those who like Basecamp’s feature; but not the interface.

Bidding

If you’re not using CPA bidding or rules baked directly into the search engines; you will need a bid management company. Typically Acquisio is wonderful for agencies and Doubleclick, Marin, and Kenshoo are best for larger companies.

There are some good speciality providers out there, such as Finch for ecommerce. 

Automated Recommendations and Testing

Your PPC account will generate a tremendous amount of data. The problem with so much data is that it’s impossible to make sure you are following best practices and staying on top of every piece of data.

The other challenge to avoid is wasting your time checking for something if, in the end, there’s nothing to do. It’s very easy to waste a day analyzing your setup, only to find that you didn’t have to make any changes.

This is where automated data testing and recommendations come into play. These tools analyze the data on the backend for you and then alert you only when you have actual work to do. This helps take away redundant data crunching and allows you to spend more time on getting things done. 

For instance, a program can automatically monitor and alert you when any of these issues arise:

  • Ad testing
  • Negative keyword suggestions
  • Positive keyword suggestions
  • Quality score insights and recommendations
  • N-gram analysis
  • Broken link detection
  • Missing ad extensions

As PPC accounts continue to evolve, you may want to consider an automated software to keep up with the changes, monitor for items you need to do and then proactively alert you when there is a task to be accomplished such as ending an ad test, adding extensions, or fixing a broken structure. Our favorite recommendation engine is Adalysis (Disclaimer: I’m a co-founder).

Reporting 

PPC accounts are an investment. Your business partners and customers want to know how their money is being spent, what insights they can learn from their investment and what they can expect to see as it continues to grow. 

In order to streamline reporting so everyone has fast and accurate data insights, you should consider using reporting tools. If you are using a bid management system, like Acquisio, typically reporting can be done directly from you bid management interface.

If you need a reporting solution without integration of too much third party data, then Google Data Studio is a great solution as it connects with Google Analytics, AdWords, and some other third party data sources and lets you create reports on many different data dimensions that are automatically updated. It can take a while to build your reports; but once they are built, refreshing the data and generating monthly reports is a breeze.

If you need to bring many sources of data together for reports, take a look at Ninjacat. Ninjacat integrates with vast amounts of data sources and will also help you create your reports, so that you have beautiful looking reports that can be automated month over month.

Wrap Up

Not all tools are equal, and not all tools will work for everyone. If you’re just getting started, I’d highly recommend starting with a project management tool. This tool can tell you what to do and when to do it. It dictates the usage of other tools.

Once you have your project management setup in place, then move to recommendation engines. These are a new part of the PPC game, but as they are scanning your account and crunching the data for you; they will bubble up a to-do list without you having to check your project management tool every day. These tools will help you make sure tasks don’t get missed.

The next place to automate is reporting. It is important that your company and your clients understand how your accounts are performing and pull data as necessary to share in other departments or find new customer insights. Reporting is one of the largest time sinks in any company and agency, and you can free up a lot of time by automating your reporting efforts. 

Now that you have project management, automated recommendations, and reports automated; these tools will tell you what needs to be done. This could be keyword research; so you’ll want to look at keyword research tools; or it could be bulk changes, in which case, the editors are great to use. 

PPC accounts can be time consuming to build, optimize, report, and manage. That’s where PPC tools come in. They can help you stay organized, easily build and grow your account, and automatically take over the data crunching and bidding for you so that you can focus on ensuring that your accounts are hitting its goals and staying profitable. 

Learn how to keep your PPC account profitable by taking a look at our PPC training. The Simplilearn PPC training course will show you how to build and manage accounts, so you’ll be equipped to successfully build and run your own PPC account. 

About the Author

Brad Geddes is the author of "Advanced Google AdWords", and founder of Certified Knowledge, an online source where the Paid Search community comes together for PPC training, tools, and advice. Brad makes it his mission to share his expertise in Paid Search with online marketers so they can build successful online campaigns that generate business. He frequently writes columns for Search Engine Land, co-moderates the AdWords forum on Webmaster World, has spoken at more than 35 conferences, and has led more than 60 AdWords seminars.


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