In our recently published PPC Bid Management Technology Buyer’s Guide, we set out some of the issues that companies should consider when investing in bid management technology.
To provide the best advice, we approached people working at the coalface of paid search and bid management and offered them the opportunity to share their wisdom.
As usual, we received far more material than we could fit in the guide. Here are some of the expert tips to consider and pitfalls to avoid that will help you get the best possible success out of bid management technology.
Oscar Romero, Starcom MediaVest
The main thing companies need to remember is that there is no Holy Grail when it comes to bid management solutions. They need to consider the business requirements, KPIs and what the competition are doing, plus check that the technology they decide to use will integrate with their ad serving and analytics packages. They should also look into the reporting capabilities, service levels and how the algorithm works to make sure that it is well suited to their needs.
It is vital that they recognise that a bid management technology is no substitute for good account management: it merely assists in driving incremental improvements on campaigns which have reached a plateau of productivity.
Laurent Boninfante, Acquisio
Don’t think that algorithms will solve all your problems. Many advertisers expect their platform to automatically generate better results by simply optimising bids, the truth is that campaign optimisation requires a solid foundation - campaigns without proper structure and which have not been taken care of cannot be optimised by changing bids - lots of work needs to happen before this can work effectively. While it’s true that bid management is an important part of a successful campaign, it is also true that it is only PART of success.
Do not underestimate the integration effort. The associated support from the provider is also a key factor in selection. Make sure you have the account management, set-up and ongoing hand-holding you need to make best use of the service - despite what anyone might tell you, no platform is truly self-service.
Though our platform has a relatively short and easy implementation process, and it does not force the advertiser to deploy our proprietary tracking (though there are very significant benefits to using it) – some time and effort need to be allowed to learn how the platform works, and to deploy any tags onto the website and build out campaign automation rules, build reporting templates, etc.
Make sure you pay the right price for your bid management technology. Costs of third party technologies can have a big impact on margins. Pricing based on activity helps but look closely at the overall pricing matrix, including both start-up and ongoing costs. Ultimately, paying the right price for your technology protects your margins.
Lee Brignell-Cash, FusePump
Companies should make sure they know how the process and strategy works end to end. It’s no good utilising the technology if you don’t know how to key it in to your overall campaign and sales goals.
Mark Batson, Intelligent Reach
Look for good technology and good people, neither alone is enough to generate successful campaigns.
Nick Blake, Kenshoo
Every advertiser has its own unique set of goals and objectives from search marketing and it is therefore extremely important to work with a bid management technology that has flexible bidding mechanisms to help you to achieve those goals. This includes options for manual keyword bid management, rules-based algorithmic bid management and portfolio bid optimisation.
You’ll want to look for a solution that offers forecasting and automatic keyword clustering. You shouldn’t spend time worrying about what impact a change to your bids will have on overall performance nor how to categorise keywords for data sufficiency.
Ollie Bath, IgnitionOne
Ensure that your bid management solution auto-optimises relative to de-duped and attributed data. Having a bid management solution that doesn’t bid against de-duped and attributed data is like having a Mac-meal without the soda and fries…disappointing and bad value.
Robin Davies, Mediaplex
For companies operating in multiple regions and currencies, look for a platform that can accommodate exchange rates.
For companies with different search budgets, make sure the platform can allocate the correct engine cost to the correct budget, especially in terms of your generic business keywords.
Matt Whelan, Digital Marketing Consultant
Cost out your bespoke requirements in full with your preferred provider before making a decision. The larger platforms now all tout custom data integration as a big feature, and this is where real value can be added for the in-house marketing team, with the ability to make bid decisions off the final ROI of a keyword, rather than simply the revenue figure or lead number recorded at the point of online conversion.
However, custom integration comes at a cost, so be sure your supplier fully understands your requirements and you fully understand what you get for their pricing, to avoid unexpected technical charges.
Jonathan Beeston, Adobe
Don’t fall into the trap of a features war between vendors. While it might be nice that you can schedule a report if there’s full moon, that isn’t going to give you a real advantage over your competitors.
The real questions are whether a technology gives you better performance, help you scale, forecast accurately and figure out how search should be understand within multi-channel campaigns.
Paul Shearing, Search Laboratory
Knowing how to buy a bid management system (i.e. the right questions to ask) is always a problem. Buyers should make sure they understand the algorithms used by the system and understand why it will improve their profit. Whether it is a rule based, portfolio or hybrid system – you need to feel comfortable that you know what approach to bid management is being used. If in doubt you can choose a random keyword from the campaign (not a highly searched ‘head’ term, but a typical keyword) and ask how bid decisions will be made on that keyword.
Look at the data required to make appropriate bid decisions in your PPC campaign to see if it stacks up. Remember that most keywords have low-volume, so the conversion rates are not accurately known. Dig deep into your account and ask yourself about how a bid management system will improve bidding. Be aware of the difference between a tool for intelligent bidding and one for managing bulk PPC operations.”
Try not to get sold on the bells and whistles. The industry can be full of hype and jargon and really the important thing is that you understand how usable the tool will be, how easy it is to understand, and what support is going to be available to you long term. Users of the technology should be involved in the buying process to ensure they are able to use and have need for all the tools being provided.”
Ed Stevenson, Marin Software
A lot of buyers in this sector only compare breadth of features when looking for bid management technology. However, if you have a technology platform with tonnes of features but don’t know how to use them, then this devalues the technology’s features. Whilst buyers need to look at features, they should also consider how the vendors will offer support in terms of training and client services to maximise the potential of their online advertising management platform. There’s not much value in having a tool and utilising a small percentage of features.
Can you add any more tips?
What should companies be looking for when considering bid management technology? Have you fallen into (or successfully avoided) any of the pitfalls listed above? Or should some companies wait before taking the plunge?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.