PPC Bid Management 101

Those of you who are managing larger PPC campaigns might be looking for an automated solution to help manage the bid process. Especially those of you in companies with large catalogs, numerous demographic and geo targets might need a bid management tool. At some point it becomes too difficult to manage all of the associated complexities.

A bid management tool allows you to manage PPC campaigns across multiple search engines and provides central source for tracking and analytics. This article will look at the tools that are available to help you with this and discuss some best practices for managing your bids.

Should You Use a Bid Management System?

There is a healthy debate out there on whether or not bid management tools are really effective. It comes down to the complexity of your campaigns and whether or not using a bid management tool will help you save time and money. Many times the cost, implementation and complexity of the campaign is too high to justify, given the results.

Basically you need to account for the time and cost associated with managing your campaign, and compare how the various tools available will affect either of those. In most cases, if you feel stretched you should give it a shot. Most tool vendors offer a trial, so you can get a feel for its effectiveness before you buy.

Bid Management Tools Won't Do it All

Bid management can be a useful tool, but it is important to understand that in today's advertising environment, you need to do much more in addition to what the bid management tool can do. For instance, ad copy and landing page testing and tuning will not benefit from a bid management tool. You need to have other processes in place to manage these.

On the other hand, using a bid management tool to manage your long-tail keywords can pay large dividends. For many companies, there is a fair amount of money that is made going after the long-tail keywords. Furthermore, long-tail keywords are less competitive than the major ones, but do require you to implement huge numbers of keywords.

Some Available Tools on the Market Today

Some of these tools are priced in the $200 - $500 range and others go way beyond that, depending on features.

  • Google Conversion Optimizer: If you're looking for a tool to help you manage your bids and you are only using Google, then you might want to consider the Google Conversion Optimizer. As with most of Google's tools, it's free if you are using AdWords. However, you need to achieve 30 conversions in the past 30 days to use it.
  • PPC BidMax: Formerly Dynamic Bid Maximizer, PPC BidMax is a bid management tool designed to help you manage campaigns with the big 3 search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • KeywordMax: Another tool for managing your bids with all of the major search engines within one interface is KeywordMax. In addition to its bid management tools, KeywordMax also offer a host of other PPC tools like keyword generation tools.
  • Omniture: Omniture has established a great reputation as an SEM tool vendor. They too have bid management tools, as well as a host of others that will help you manage your PPC campaigns. Although they may be a bit pricey, the suite of tools they offer will help you with many other aspects of your campaigns.
  • Other tools: I don't have enough space to include them all but here are a few more you might take the time to research: Clickable, Marin Software, SearchForce, Kenshoo, and Acquisio. I have not had a chance to use all of these tools personally, so feel free to share your experiences with any that you have used.

 

Manual Can Be the Right Approach

If you're spending less than $5,000 per month, then using the search engines' bid management system may be all you need. Did you know that approximately 65 percent of Google advertisers spend less than $5,000 per month?

The point is that you probably don't have enough data for an automated system to make a significant difference. Automated tools do better when there's a larger dataset to work with.

Another benefit of an automated system: it provides rapid responses to fluctuations in keyword value. Again, if your data set is small, this isn't a big issue.

Rules-Based Bidding

Rules-based bidding is the process of setting up special rules to manage the bidding process. The advantage here is that if the conditions are true, then the bids are adjusted automatically.

For example, let's say for a set of keywords you want to bid to position two if the bid is less than $3. If it's more than $3, then drop it down to position seven. In this example, the system manages the bids based on a hunch rather than actual data.

Predictive Modeling

Another way to approach bid management is through predictive modeling. In this case, you need to identify the value of the traffic you might get from your ads, and then set your bids to a fraction of the value you're willing to spend on your marketing efforts.

This requires analyzing past data you've collected, and a keen eye. You'll also need to make observations on events that might impact the variables.

For instance, let's say that historically you've enjoyed increased sales during Memorial Day weekend. You know this holiday will impact the variables. In this case, you can increase your bids by X percent during the weekend and then lower them to normal afterward.

Other General PPC Bidding Strategies

Your bid strategy needs to be different for each search engine. Each search engine has its own system that requires different approaches.

A common strategy is bidding for the top keyword or ad position. You need to be careful with this strategy, because the outcome could be very costly if not done correctly.

Searchers have a tendency to do a couple of searches and click on a couple of ads until they find what they want. A good strategy is to start with a bid position around five, analyze the results, and then gradually work it up to the desired position.

Human and Computer Balance

Whether you use an automated or manual system, it really takes a good balance of human and computer interaction to produce the best results. Always take time to analyze your results and make course corrections when necessary. Don't assume that you can just sit back and enjoy the ride if you use an automated system.

What other bid strategies have worked for you? Please add your comments below.