Econsultancy’s PPC Bid Management Technology Buyer’s Guide published last week highlights an  increased reliance on automated campaign management tools.

But how necessary is it to use this kind of software?

The inherent competitiveness of the paid search market means it’s easy to see the appeal of part-automation in controlling and managing accounts on a daily basis.

Of the trends highlighted in our new report, three out of four point to the increasingly important role of technology within the search engine marketing industry.

  • Advertisers are turning to technology in order to improve campaign performance and measurement.
  • Technology suppliers are having to adapt, to keep pace with a constant evolution of the search engines.
  • Marketers are beginning to give greater attention to multichannel integration and attribution.

However, some search professionals still appear to be questioning the value of using these tools. This is an issue explored recently by Semvironment in two great articles. 

The first suggests that manual PPC management is very much dead. Or at least, it is if you want to be successful in the paid search environment. Author James Zolman explains how bid management technology allows you to maximise the potential of your campaigns. 

He argues that while your software is working hard to save you time in basic account management and bid control, automated bid management allows you to focus on: 

1. Writing and testing ad copy. 

2. Creating new landing pages to improve conversion rates.

3. Working closely with clients and other relevant parties to developing further paid search strategies.

4. Making changes to any campaign, at any given time, under any circumstances. 

5. Performing “millions (and even BILLIONS) of mini-tests between keywords and ads in every ad group and every campaign at every hour of every single day”. 

Still failing to see the value?

What if it was highlighted that many of the paid search management tools are self-learning... and use statistical prediction models which most normal people could never understand or compete with?

Technology is getting smart – and so are the paid search managers who use it, as it allows a significant competitive edge in an increasingly complex environment. 

I’m a big advocate of bid management software... and not because it allows me to kick back and browse YouTube when I’m supposed to be working on PPC campaigns. In reality, the idea that you can just plug in these tools and sit back is a misconception, as they actually create quite a large challenge to those practising paid search marketing.

Although the available technologies are automated, the individuals in charge of campaigns have to think smarter, in order reap success. The technology is only as intelligent as the person running it, meaning that sharp operators will see far greater performance than those who sit back and expect total automation. 

This is something that Zolman also explores in his second article, where he questions the myth that PPC software means total automation. In a nutshell, those who make little effort will not enjoy great returns, despite the promises of the tech providers.

But, it’s also worth highlighting that too much manual interaction can hamper the capabilities of the tool. A fine balance is needed, hence the importance of having someone skilled enough to oversee things. 

This is not to say that organisations should be put off from using PPC bid management tools, as those who do use them are likely to see substantial improvements across their campaigns. Ultimately, the benefits of using such technology can far outweigh the negatives of not doing so. 

[Image credit: meškašiaurėj]

Jake Hird

Published 9 August, 2010 by Jake Hird

Jake Hird is Econsultancy Australia's Director of Research and Education. Follow him on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn or see what he's keeping an eye on via diigo

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Comments (9)

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would be interesting to know what kind of ppc budget you need to have before this kind of tool might make sense?

almost 8 years ago


Mike Fantis

Manual management is still needed to get the most out of your PPC campaigns. The use of technology is great for flagging performance issues so you can focus your time on the correct campaigns/ad groups/keywords. However, PPC performance is influenced by so many factors and channels that I'd be reluctant to allow technology to make any changes on our client's behalf.

almost 8 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

We all automate to some degree, for example using key word research tools. BUT manual beats bid management software in most cases. We are always stunned when we take over management of a client's account how often automated bid management software is used, even for some relatively small accounts.  

almost 8 years ago

John Readman

John Readman, CEO at Ride25

Great article - and I agree a combination of human and machine is best. But what sort of person is the best to drive the machine? the most relevant part of the article in my opinion is... "Although the available technologies are automated, the individuals in charge of campaigns have to think smarter, in order reap success. The technology is only as intelligent as the person running it, meaning that sharp operators will see far greater performance than those who sit back and expect total automation" I don't believe PPC management is a typical marketing management discipline. It is really more suitable to a mathematician/statistician who really understands the significance of the data produced by analytics and AdWords. Then makes changes and decisions on statistically robust and relevant data - ideally based on conversion rather than emotional gut feel.

almost 8 years ago

Merinda Peppard

Merinda Peppard, Head of Marketing, EMEA at Adobe

Great blog post and thoroughly in-depth buyers guide as per usual! I completely agree with James Zolman. Any advertiser that needs to scale absolutely has no choice than to use automated bid management technology. However, it is not so much about bid management but really about the bid optimisation for those advertisers that want to squeeze the maximum out of their PPC channel. Successful paid search requires an advertiser to accurately model the maximum CPC, the effective bid position, and the resulting revenues. Predictive modelling is the key to this and is used by the most advanced advertisers as an optimisation platform to boost paid search. An algorithmic approach is the only way to bid accurately and it is the only way true automation can occur. I’m sure James Zolman will agree, technologies that require more human management undermine productivity gains.

almost 8 years ago

Femi Omoluabi

Femi Omoluabi, Vice-President UK at Pure Agency

A fantastic read. Agree with point John raised on deciding the best person to drive the machine. I would say experience counts for everything. There is only so much you can achieve with just the knowledge of mathematics and analytics. Clients in my view are more likely to go with someone with firsthand knowledge of both how the system operates as well as the market (minus gut feel). Don't' get me wrong I’m a big advocate of bid management softwares however with the continuous changes to the search landscape and consumer behaviour total automation is still a while away. Furthermore, as we haven't got fully formed "PPC cyborgs" walking around quite yet I'm happy with both "Man & Machine" working together in managing search campaigns.

almost 8 years ago

Antonio Scarfoglio

Antonio Scarfoglio, Digital Marketing Executive \ PPC specialist at Adamans

Jake Hird's article is very good and spots the current issues concerning Automated tools for bid management.

I deal with statistical tests carried out on PPC campaigns daily. I do agree with Jake Hird on balancing automated and manual management of PPC bids. I have used several automated tools and I reckon their biggest limitation concerns the level of complexity of the datasets. Which variables do they take into accounts at one given time? What's the sample on which predictions are made? What's its size (statistical relevance)? For instance, How can you possibly optimise the financial performance of a brand new campaign if you actually have not enough data to base your predictions on? No doubts Tools save much of your time. No doubts Tools make you effective on very large campaigns and their financial performances. Lots of doubts, though, on the way tools are nowadays adopted and used by many companies in the sector. I put in place a an algorithm which partly optimises automatically, partly flags those circumstances a manual check is required! That helped me avoid wrong bidding and potential big losses!   

almost 8 years ago


piotr klementowski

'The technology is only as intelligent as the person running it' This  sentence expains everything. It is great to have tools which allow you to do more working less. However I don't want to live in a world that is run by machines.

almost 8 years ago


James Zolman

Jake - I am so sorry to chime in so late! I have to say, I really enjoyed this post and your writing style...although I might be somewhat biased given the mentions. ;) Thanks for the mentions!

Excellent comments too. I think @Merinda hit the sweet spot when she said "technologies that require more human management undermine productivity gains." And she's right, I couldn't agree more!

Thanks again for the kind words and the excellent coverage Jake!

almost 8 years ago

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