On Thursday, Christine Churchill, President of Key Relevance presented an informative webinar on How to Select a Paid Search Management Application.
This session presented by Search Marketing Now and sponsored by Marin Software was an excellent introduction in how to determine whether you need a third party search management application and if so, what considerations you need to make when selecting the application.
Ms. Churchill started by demonstrating that the projected growth of paid search is high. In fact, US paid search advertising revenues were $11.76 billion in 2007 and are projected to grow to $26.79 billion in 2011 (JPMorgan and Company reports “Nothing But Net”).
All indications point to paid search continuing to grow. New players are entering into the market and those involved are increasing their spend. Double digit growth is expected.
Yet – with all this growth, there are still many difficulties associated with managing PPC.
Difficulties Associated With Managing PPC
- Complexity of running paid campaigns has grown.
- Bid prices and ad positions are now longer transparent.
- Increased competition.
- Dynamic industry where change is the norm.
In the past few years, complexity has grown in PPC. The relationship between bid price and ad position has become less transparent. Now, the quality score affects the bid price and the position of the ad. Relevant ads are rewarded over less relevant ads.
The move away from transparency has made it more difficult for the PPC manager. More and more competitors are driving up the bid price, which created a tipping point where running PPC efficiently was very difficult and required a high level of proficiency.
Options for Managing PPC
Companies have many options as to how they manage their PPC campaigns.
- Train/hire in house staff
- Outsource management
- In house staff with outside consulting
- Above choices along with PPC management application.
Christine commented that as the complexity grew as noted above – companies realized that they needed trained personnel to manage the PPC. All of the above are options for your company; she says that each company needs to determine which one works best for their organization.
She then went through each of the potential options.
Train / Hire In House Staff
- Can be difficult/time consuming.
- MarketingSherpa survey (Sept. 07) found that filling in house SEM specialists was very challenging.
- Almost a third of respondents in the survey said it was very difficult to attract qualified employees.
- More difficult to fill SEM roles than filling other roles in marketing. Short supply of trained staff.
- Requires ongoing resources and commitment from company management.
- Most in house staff wear multiple hats and are pulled in many directions.
- SEM skill set portable and in demand – need incentives to keep good people.
Christine stated that if you want to make the in house staff option work for your organization – you need to support your staff in attending industry conferences and allowing them to read up on the area so that they stay current since the industry is constantly changing. The cultures of companies can make it difficult to keep good staff so management needs to be willing to provide ongoing support and resources to the internal search marketing area.
- The MarketingSherpa survey (Sept. 07) found that the number of companies getting outside help has increased in the past 12 months.
- More than half of the big paid search spenders use full service search agencies.
Churchill commented that outsourcing is a popular option for many companies. In paid search, more than Â½ of the big spenders use full service search agencies. Many clients like one stop shopping and will hire for services in addition to paid search.
In House With Outside Consulting
- This is an excellent option because both sides can help each other. The inside staff can learn from the knowledge and expertise of the outside company and the outside company can have internal players to draw on for internal business information.
- The agency recommends high end tactics and strategy.
PPC Management Using Software
Churchill cautioned that 3rd party software is not the total answer. While the tools are useful – they do have limitations such as:
- PPC management is more than just bid management.
- Some PPC management software is outdated:
- Some engines incorporated dayparting and other features into their standard interface.
- Bidding games don’t work anymore with the advent of quality score in the main engines.
- One engine dominance – Google has nearly 70% of search volume.
However, there are some definite benefits to third party software:
- The software allows the marketer to be more effective.
- Saves time and simplifies management – lets you create ads, adjust bids, budgets and creatives across search engines.
- The 3rd party tools have the capability to optimize for ROI or other metrics across campaigns and provide consistent reporting across ad networks.
- They provide better performance insight by providing a better understanding as to what is working across engines.
- Keep data private.
When To Consider PPC Management Software
Christine went through many scenarios where it would make sense to invest in PPC management software:
- If running an extremely large or complex campaign.
- If running campaigns across multiple engines.
- If media spend is in excess of $50k per month.
- If you want to optimize in bulk.
- If the manager is spending more time doing the math than being creative, planning, or doing other efforts to improve performance.
- Have well defined metrics and goals.
What To Ask When Selecting PPC Management Application
Breadth of Service
- Which engines does the application support?
- Does it scale to the size and volume of my business? Is there a limit on the number of ads, keywords or changes per day?
- Is the reporting sufficient? Can it email reports? Does it generate graphs and charts? Does it track different digital media types and conversions across different engines?
Churchill stressed that these questions are important. For example, if the software doesn’t support your most important engine, then it doesn’t make sense to investigate it further. As for reporting, different managers will want different reports – make sure the reporting will meet your needs.
- Does it offer features not supplied in search engine interface (i.e. dayparting for engines that don’t offer it, monitoring competitors bids, performing global campaign changes).
- Is dynamic keyword insertion supported?
- Does the tool support how you measure conversions? Are these separate conversion tracking modules?
- Does the tool include keyword generation options?
- Does application offer click fraud monitoring?
- Transparency – is it a black box or is there defined logic for the bid change?
- Does the tool learn over time and automatically adjust bids?
- How does the software handle low volume tail phrases or infrequent success metrics?
- How does it hand the Google minimum bid?
Ease of Use
- How difficult is the tool to learn to use? Is training available?
- Does it provide one centralized platform to manage the account?
- Does the application provide a dashboard for top level metric tracking?
- Does the application have mature help text and online documentation?
- How difficult is it to import or export data?Can the software adapt quickly and easily for seasonal campaigns.
- How long has the tool been on the market?
- What are the demographic characteristics of targeted tool user?
- Does the application stay in sync with the search engines?
- How does it handle changes made by the search engines such as when they suddenly upgrade their systems with little warning?
- Is it an online or downloadable tool?
Christine suggests that mature software tends to be more stable and have more of the features that people really need. Ask the questions above to help you determine the maturity.
Pricing and Support
- Is there a free trial to test out the application?
- What are the terms of the contract?
- What is the pricing model?
- What level of technical support and customer service comes with the tool?
- Are there service level agreements regarding the performance and availability of the tool?
- What rollout support is included?
- How much testing time should be allotted after initial setup to confirm that setup is correct?
- Is it a management service or tool? (For a company wanting to do it themselves, the service may be overkill. Paying for a service you may not want is an unnecessary expense. For others, a full service experienced team to handle the account may be desirable.
- Confidentiality – is the data kept private?
- Does the tool act as handcuffs? Is it easy to leave application without hurting or rebuilding the campaigns?
After reviewing everything a company should consider when selecting a 3rd party PPC management tool, Christine discussed whether PPC management software is a replacement for the human in the campaign.
Is PPC Management Software A Replacement For The Human In the Loop?
- Christine emphasized that absolutely NOT – the software is simply a way of reducing the drudgery of managing a large account – it is not a replacement for the human brain.
- It frees up the human to do more creative work such as:
- Developing and testing new landing pages and ads
- Strategizing and planning out new campaign ideas
- Focusing on the big picture instead of the minutia
The tools are a great way of removing much of the tedium of managing a PPC campaign.
- Several options exist for managing a search marketing campaign (hiring, training, outsourcing, doing a hybrid solution, all of these options and combine with PPC software).
- PPC management is more than just bid management. Bid management is just one variable of successful search engine marketing – it involves bidding, using effective keywords, creating successful landing pages etc.
- PPC management software can be an effective way to optimize a large complex paid search campaign.
- PPC management applications can save time and free account managers from the drudgery associated with managing a large campaign. This allows managers to make better use of their time, increase creativity and make better decisions.
I found Christine Churchill’s presentation to be very informative and provided the audience with excellent information to have on hand when selecting a paid search management application. I would like to thank Christine Churchill from Key Relevance and moderator Claire Schoen for another excellent Search Marketing Now webcast!
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