In the cutthroat world of PPC advertising, you need every advantage you can get to stay ahead of the competition.
Below are 9 tools that will help give you an edge in the set up, management and optimization of PPC campaigns… either by saving you time, making your job easier and/or providing revealing data most of your competition don’t have access to.
Split testing is one of the most important actions involved in optimizing an AdWords campaign. It basically involves taking two ads and having them battle it out to see which one performs the best over time.
When you have a clear winner, you delete the losing ad, replace it with new ad variation and start a new split test.
But how do you know when a test has run its course and you have a clear winner and loser? Well, you can either do the math or you can make things easy on yourself by using the free tool at splittester.com.
It’s a very simple tool to use. All you do is enter how many clicks each ad has received, along with its clickthough rate. Then you click the “Calculate” button and you instantly get results that tells you, in percentage terms, how confident you should be that the ads will have different response rates over the long haul.
It’s great to send highly qualified traffic from your PPC campaigns to your website. However, success ultimately comes down to your website and how efficient it is at converting that traffic into leads and sales.
So as important as it is to split test ads, it’s also extremely important to split test your landing pages.
And Optimizely is a fantastic tool to help you easily split test landing pages… with no programming necessary!
The way it works is you enter the URL of your landing page and Optimizely will upload the page into their system.
Then you can edit text (even on call-to-action buttons), resize/rearrange/remove page elements, change colors, etc. And it’s all done in a WYSIWYG editor.
Once you make changes to your page, you put a single line of code on your landing page and Optimizely runs a split test of your landing page for you to see whether the changes improved conversions or not.
I’ve not come across an easier way to split test landing pages than this.
Google Keyword Planner
This is a relatively new tool offered (free) by Google. This tool (which can be accessed from within your AdWords account) essentially combines Google’s Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator into one.
There are a few ways to use it to build your AdWords campaign.
First, you can type in “seed” keyword ideas or a website URL and the Planner will give you a bunch of ideas for related keywords. It even creates sample ad groups you could add to your campaign. This is particularly useful for brainstorming keyword and ad group ideas.
When you find ad group/keyword ideas you like, you can add them to your “Plan” and, based on your bid range, the tool will give you estimates of what the clicks, costs, etc., will be if you added those keywords/ad groups to your campaign.
Another great feature of the Planner is you can get traffic estimates for specific cities, metro areas, etc. (In the Google Keyword Tool, you could only get traffic estimates for the entire U.S. or worldwide.)
This could be a very nice enhancement for those of you running local campaigns (though I have not tested it out enough to say how accurate the data is).
Already have a list of keywords? Great… simply upload them to the Planner and get estimates of how those keywords would perform BEFORE you add them to the campaign (understanding that estimates are just that, estimates, and should be taken with a big grain of salt).
AdWords Editor is a free desktop software application that allows you to build and edit campaigns offline. This tool will easily save you hours if you manage large and/or a lot of AdWords campaigns (Microsoft has an equivalent application called Bing Ad Editor).
Things that would take hours to do in the online AdWords interface can take you minutes in AdWords Editor because you can quickly copy/paste/drag keywords, ads, ad groups, campaigns, etc. You can also import and export data so you can massage it in Excel and/or share it with others who are helping to manage the accounts.
I use AdWords Editor more than any of the other tools mentioned in this article. If you spend any amount of time working in AdWords, using AdWords Editor is a must!
Let’s say you have a long list of keywords you want to add to your campaign. And you want to add them as both Exact Match and Modified Broad Match keywords. It could take a while to do this manually.
But with this handy AdWords Wrapper tool, it’ll take seconds. All you do is paste a list of keywords and then select what Match Type variations you want the list converted into. You can instantly build lists that include Exact, Phrase, Broad and/or Modified Broad Match keywords.
This screenshot from Mike’s Marketing Tools, gives you an idea of how it works:
I’ve used other “wrapper” tools before, but this is the first one I’ve come across that makes creating the Modified Broad Match keywords a snap.
Yes, Excel! There’s no shortage of ways to use Excel to help with AdWords… from planning and organizing your campaigns to quickly creating/editing large numbers of ads and keywords to calculating key metrics, like Profit Per Impression, that you can’t get directly from AdWords or Analytics.
But my favorite use of Excel is using pivot tables to analyze data. Some of the ways to use pivot tables include…
- Compare how specific ad copy (headlines, description lines, etc.) are performing across an entire campaign
- See how different match types are performing
- Check the Quality Score of keywords
- Analyze the performance of specific placements on the Display network
- And much more!
The beauty of pivot tables is how they allow you to easily organize and manipulate large amounts of data from AdWords and quickly see meaningful data you can use to optimize campaigns.
Certified Knowledge was created by Brad Geddes, generally considered the most knowledgeable and influential PPC pro around.
The paid membership area of the site includes an incredibly detailed education area with just about everything you need to know to become a PPC expert, a message board where Brad hangs out and answers questions, and some great PPC tools.
The tools include a Keyword Mixer, Mass Ad Copy Creator, and Geographic Keyword Finder. But the two that are my favorite are the Quality Score Analyzer and Report Analyzer.
For both of these reports, you simply upload a report (ie. Search Term Report, Ad Report) from your AdWords account and the tools do the rest.
In the Quality Score Analyzer, you end up with a list of ad groups (sorted by priority) that need the most attention when it comes to Quality Score.
When using the Report Analyzer, you end up with a color-coded spreadsheet that highlights profitable/unprofitable ad copy, search queries, landing pages, placements, etc.
Both tools allow you to quickly focus on the areas of your campaign that need the most attention and will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to optimization.
iSpionage is a “spy” tool that lets you keep track of what your competitors are doing when it comes to PPC (both in Google and Bing/Yahoo) as well as SEO.
Here are a few ways I use iSpionage to help with campaigns…
You can enter competitors’ websites and iSpionage will give you an idea of what keywords they’re bidding on/ranking for. This list is often helpful in finding long tail keywords and filling in the gaps from some of the other keyword research tools.
Keep tabs on competitors
Want to know what changes your competitors are making in their accounts? You can monitor them in iSpionage and see things like what new ads they’re running and what new keywords they’re bidding on.
Keep tabs on specific keywords
If there are certain keywords that are very important to your business, you can track them within iSpionage. This will let you see things like where you rank vs. your competition, Impression Share for both your ads and your competition’s ads and see how these things change over time.
AdGooRoo claims to have the world’s largest search intelligence database that looks at over 900,000 PPC advertisers across 14 search engines. For PPC campaigns, its SEM Insight™ is the most helpful tool that puts all AdGooRoo’s data to work for you.
Here are some of the ways AdGooRoo can help manage campaigns:
- Analyzing competitor’s campaigns/data to see what strategies they’re using that are working for them
- Identifying keywords in your campaign that have a low impression share
- A campaign alerts function that scans your account daily for common problems, and
- A “Top Ad Copy” report that shows the top ads in a market and much more.
AdGooRoo is a bit on the pricey side but is well worth it for agencies and larger advertisers.
Now it’s your turn…
What are your favorite tools when it comes to PPC management?