Paid advertisements are a great way to drive targeted traffic and relevant people to a website.
However, if you’re new to the PPC game or have not optimised your campaigns to their full potential you could be throwing money away!
There’s a whole bunch of management tools out there that can help with optimising your PPC campaigns but how do you know which ones are the best?
In this article, I asked 21 PPC experts for the tools that they could not live without.
Their answers include a wide range of free, paid and free trial option tools. Take a look…
1. EXCEL (PAID)
– As recommended by Melissa Mackey of Gyro, Amy Bishop of Clix Marketing, Philip Wendell of Click Click Media, Heather Cooan of Infusionsoft, Aaron Levy of Elite SEM, Lisa Sanner of Point It, Kirk Williams of ZATO Marketing, Euan Brock of Screaming Frog and Christi Olson founder of iSEM Consulting
We’ve all used Microsoft Excel at some point in our online lives.
You may be forgiven for thinking that there’s not a great deal it can do to help improve the efficiency of a PPC campaign… but you’d be very wrong!
Knowing the ins and outs of Excel and fully utilising it is crucial for creating and understanding data whether you’re just starting out with PPC or you’re a fully-fledged expert (as proven by Excel claiming top spot!).
I couldn’t live without Excel. I love it and I’m always looking for more ways to expand my Excel expertise.” – Amy Bishop of Clix Marketing.
2. ADWORDS EDITOR (FREE)
– As recommended by Justin Freid of CMI Media, Kirk Williams of ZATO Marketing, Melissa Mackey of Gyro, Amy Bishop of Clix Marketing, Philip Wendell of Click Click Media, Aaron Levy of Elite SEM, Euan Brock of Screaming Frog and Christi Olson founder of iSEM Consulting
Ooh so close! Number 2 in our list is the free AdWords Editor.
Needing to make mass changes to an account? Wanting to implement a new AdWords feature across all your accounts to improve their performance? AdWords Editor is THE ultimate time saver and you can even carry on working when offline.
Working in the agency world, being able to quickly update ad text, make bid changes, add/remove ad text or keywords in a short period of time can help tremendously. – Justin Freid of CMI/Compas.
3. GOOGLE ANALYTICS (FREEMIUM)
Another Google product and another firm favourite for those in the know when it comes to PPC; Google Analytics is a crucial tool.
Well over 10 million websites across the world use ‘GA’ and there are hundreds of reasons why. You can track everything from organic website visits to the demographics of users who click a certain button on a Wednesday afternoon, for example. Potent.
Analytics is great for looking at accurate ecommerce data related to campaigns as well as helping provide insight to building new campaigns and looking at top performing pages/products. – Euan Brock of Screaming Frog
4. SEMRUSH (PAID)
SEMrush is an industry favourite for both SEO and PPC insights. This versatile, competitive intelligence suite has a multitude of paid features.
You can use SEMRush to generate analytics reports that allow for understanding your competitors’ strategies, utilise powerful tools to estimate keyword difficulty and cross-examine many domains all in one nicely-presented package.
SEMrush is an extremely versatile service with a great selection of analytical reports and tools for Organic, Paid and PLA competitive research. Why learn from your mistakes when you can benefit from your competitors’ success? Yulia Shevardenkova of SEMRush.
5. BING EDITOR (FREE)
Not quite matching up to it’s Google rival when it comes to votes from the experts, it’s Bing’s Ads Editor. Just like it’s AdWords cousin, the Bing editor allows the user to make huge changes to your campaigns in one fell swoop and upload them in bulk.
“For working with any level of volume, the editors are simply unbeatable in making changes en masse.” – Aaron Levy of Elite SEM
6. ADALYSIS (PAID)
AdAlysis is a hugely powerful advert testing platform for AdWords that offers a 30 day free trial. The tool allows you to easily find advert insights, increase workflow, automate tests and much more. This tool was one of the favourite ad testing tools amongst experts.
“AdAlysis is my favourite PPC tool for testing” – Chris Haleua of Adobe.
7. ADWORDS SCRIPTS (FREE)
Google AdWords Scripts are an amazingly efficient and underrated way of optimising your campaigns. Not only can you generate historical Quality Score reports and automate account health check ups, you can also find underperforming keywords and use insights to improve them.
A great time saver if you’ve inherited a large account. See all broken links in a simple spreadsheet report. – Sam Hurley of Midas Media
8. GOOGLE KEYWORD PLANNER (FREE)
In at number eight is Google AdWords Keyword Planner which allows you to get keyword ideas, see performance insights and generally plan Search Network campaigns.
We’re just surprised this isn’t higher up on our list as Keyword Planner is many an Expert’s go-to for keyword and ad group ideas, as well as historical data. It’s also completely free to use.
Keyword Planner is a great tool for researching keyword variations and taking your AdWords account further than just the broad search terms. It’s also great for seeing average search volumes, competition & average CPC’s around a variety of keywords. – Ryan Lees of Limelight Digital
9. FACEBOOK POWER EDITOR (FREE)
– As recommended by Michelle Morgan of Clix Marketing and Heather Cooan
Facebook’s very own ‘Power Editor’ tool allows the user to create multiple ads at one time and have ‘precise control of their campaigns’. However, it’s recommended that if you don’t have to create hundreds of ads at a time, you should simply use Adverts Manager instead.
Power Editor is only currently supported in the Google Chrome browser but it’s completely free to download.
Facebook campaigns used to be pretty laborious but the new editor makes things so much easier and allows for easy scaling through campaign duplication. Definitely a must for Facebook (and Instagram) advertisers! –Michelle Morgan of Clix Marketing
10. BING ADS INTELLIGENCE (FREE)
Bing Ads Intelligence is a keyword research tool that allows you to easily digest the performance of keywords on the Yahoo Bing Network.
It’s free to download and allows you to work with keyword lists of up to 200,000 words, align ads with Bing’s policies, tailor your bidding strategy and much more. No wonder so many PPC Experts loved this tool!
Bing Ads Intelligence gives search marketers insane details no other tool does. Want to know the number of clicks in position two for the keyword [cheap auto insurance] or the number of searchers 25-34? The data comes straight from the search engine. – John Gagnon of Bing
11. OPTMYZR (PAID)
Optmyzr is a leading Google AdWords optimisation tool for advertisers, consultants, and agencies alike. It offers a Quality Score tracker, landing page checker and a free trial! What’s not to love?
Me and my cofounders saw the challenges of managing AdWords and Bing Ads first-hand while working at Google and at PPC agencies. We set out to create the equivalent of a swiss army knife for PPC so that account managers could do common optimisation and reporting tasks in a fraction of the time other tools would take. – Frederick Vallaeys of Optmyzr
12. ACQUISIO (PAID)
Acquisio is a popular search marketing platform that enables the user to optimise campaigns as well as offering the ability to report on social, mobile, and display initiatives.
Having reportedly hired a rocket scientist to help design the program, Acquisio claim that: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to use the Acquisio search marketing platform. It did, however, take one to design it.” Awesome!
13. SPYFU (FREEMIUM)
– as recommended by Sam Hurley of Midas Media and Christi Olson of iSEM Consulting
Spyfu is a brilliant tool for competitor research and both PPC and SEO insights due to the huge database of information that it possesses. See adverts, sources and keywords for over 300 million sites in a concise and smoothly designed interface.
If I’m pitching a new client and need to do competitive research I can’t live without access to SpyFu to dig into apx budgets, keyword lists, and ad copy variations.- Christi Olson of iSEM Consulting
14 – 42: THE BEST OF THE REST
The following tools all received a single mention each from one of our experts but no PPC Management tools list would be complete without them!
Check them out…
POWER MAP FOR EXCEL (FREE)
Microsoft Power Map for Excel is a 3D data visualisation tool that allows for analysing data in a totally unique manner
Plot geographic data on a 3D globe, display it over time, create visual tours and much more all in one handy tool!
Facebook has the richest data out there, which includes point of sale, your matched email and web customer files, and their behaviors. It’s not just what they like or did on Facebook like a few years ago. This the equivalent of showrooming, where you can try on stuff for free in the store and then go buy it elsewhere.” – Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics
SUNNY REPORTS (PAID)
– as recommended by Ryan Lees of Limelight Digital
SunnyReports helps you to automate customisable and professional AdWords reports. With the ability to easily add the statistics and visualisations that you want and build reusable reports, SunnyReports takes the hassle out of reporting.
When looking to understand market trends, consumer behavior and other cross account trends, Doubleclick Search’s Executive Reporting tool has been extremely helpful. I can easily aggregate information from all or select accounts and splice the data any way I want. This eliminates the need to mess around with large excel files and gets me the information I need quickly to look at SEM from a holistic viewpoint. Justin Freid – CMI Media
the tool I use for landing pages, it is easy to use, implement, optimise, and create. It’s also very affordable. Kirk Williams – ZATO Marketing
Bizible allows you to see your campaign data alongside your Marketo data to easily track leads and spend to closed customers. This has made my life much easier when making optimizations in my lead gen accounts. – Michelle Morgan – Clix Marketing
Plug all your existing keyword ideas into Phrase Builder which concatenates them, creating brand new experimental terms. Now, copy this list and enter it into Keyword Wrapper to quickly grab every combination of broad, phrase and exact match. See how they each perform in AdWords and apply the search terms report. The broads can be used to investigate elusive, less competitive terms which achieve clicks. Boom! – Sam Hurley Midas Media
MERGE WORDS (FREE)
– Ryan Lees – Limelight Digital
Great for building out campaigns with longer tailed keyword variations and doing it quickly. For example, adding location keywords onto the end of a bulk amount of broad keywords in one go. – Ryan Lees of Limelight Digital
AdStage is one of the few campaign management solutions out there that has LinkedIn API access. In AdStage, we’re able to see LinkedIn performance and track conversions. AdStage has been a major victory for my clients who advertise in that channel and want to actually track through to a conversionMichelle Morgan – Clix Marketing
Search Query reports are the oil changes of PPC. They need to be done on a regular basis to both prevent problems and improve performance. Using a suggestion tool like Keywordtool.io can get a lot of the work out of the way ahead of time. It’s a common tool for positive research, but underused for proactive negative keyword research. Insert your search term, remove it from the results and see what junk you want to exclude ahead of time. –Aaron Levy – Elite SEM
– as recommended by Lisa Sanner of Point It
Marin Software is a cross-channel advertising platform that allows you to Optimize your Search, Social & Display ads across channels and devices.
With Marin you can simplify your workday and ‘Win the battle for revenue across search, display, social & mobile.’
My agency currently utilizes Sysomos (for social listening), and by tapping in and understanding what your target audience is talking about on social media can help you find new keywords and phrases to target both through paid search and content/organic that may not be spit out by Google’s Keyword Planner.
Justin Freid – CMI Media
ADWORDS WRAPPER (FREE)
– Ryan Lees – Limelight Digital
AdWords Wrapper speeds up the process of keyword wrapping and makes life a lot easier when building out your ad groups with a variety of keyword match types. – Ryan Lees of Limelight Digital
SEARCH TERMS REPORT (FREE)
-As recommended by Margot da Cunha – WordStream
Search Terms Report is less a standalone tool and more a feature within Google AdWords that helps marketers fine-tune their campaigns.
Utilising Google’s Search Terms Report helps you to understand the searches that are triggering your adverts and helps you to learn what the intentions of the users performing those searches are.
– As recommended by Lisa Sanner of Point It
Kenshoo is a huge name in Digital Marketing and in 2015, brands will reportedly generate over $350 billion in sales through their award-winning ‘Infinity Suite’.
Kenshoo also claims that each second, web users click 4,000 Kenshoo-served ads across the world. Those stats don’t lie!
– as recommended by Margot da Cunha of WordStream
WordStream has created a great little checklist, accompanied by a handy video, that helps you optimise your PPC accounts.
They have produced a workflow guide outlining the tasks that will make the most impact on your bottom line.
– as recommended by Larry Kim of WordStream
Facebook Ads are notorious for their precise, laser targeting and ability to target the exact demographic that you wish to view and engage with your brand.
Facebook Adverts Manager is the social media giant’s very own tool for managing adverts and analysing their performance. There is now an Adverts Manager app, too.
– as recommended by John Gagnon of Microsoft
Optimizely, or Optimisely if we’re using the Queen’s English ;), is an enterprise-level A/B testing platform that helps you personalise and optimise pages across desktop, mobile web and mobile apps.
Used by such high profile companies as Sony, The New York Times and NBCUniversal, there’s no doubting it’s prowess!
BOOMERANG FOR GMAIL (FREEMIUM)
Boomerang helps you empty your inbox by adding scheduled sending and integrated email reminders to Gmail.
Tracking client correspondence is as important as optimising campaigns –Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics
– as recommended by Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics
Basecamp is one of the most respected project management and collaboration tools out there. If you’re working on a collaborative PPC campaign and want to share information or changes made in the account then Basecamp is perfect!
Features include: To-dos, files, messages, schedules, milestones and much more.
CHANGE HISTORY (FREE)
– as recommended by Heather Cooan of Infusionsoft
Another feature of AdWords rather than an individual tool, Change History is a hugely underused view that can be found in the ‘Tools’ menu.
The tool lets you see changes in the campaign such as when it was paused, which user added or removed keywords and budget changes.
MONITOR BACKLINKS (PAID)
– as recommended by Zac Johnson
PPC Experts can analyse where their site is ranking in Google and based on the search volume, competition and CPC decide what keywords should be optimized more for PPC. In Monitor Backlinks, you can also see where competitors are ranking organically for the same keywords. Felix Tarcomnicu of Monitor Backlinks
as recommended by Elizabeth Marsten of CommerceHub
The Google Analytics Solutions Gallery features dashboards, custom reports, segments and other insights to help you make the most of Google Analytics and utilise the data provided.
This tool is great for both PPC newbies and experts alike and is another tool that is greatly underrated.
US CENSUS DATA (FREE)
As recommended by Elizabeth Marsten of CommerceHub
Data is always vital when it comes to starting a PPC Campaign and the more you can gather together the better.
Whilst the United States Census Bureau’s website might not be everyone’s go to PPC ‘tool’ of choice, reliable data is a huge commodity online in 2015!
ADOBE MEDIA OPTIMIZER (PAID)
– as recommended by Chris Haleua of Adobe
Adobe Media Optimizer is an ad-buying solution that allows marketers to choose the best mix of ads depending on your budget.
It’s automatable and even suggests the best way to deliver the content to your audience. Take a look.
LONG TAIL PRO (PAID)
– as recommended by Zac Johnson
Long Tail Pro is the keyword research software that enables marketers to find the best long tail keyword ideas. Boasting over 70,000 users, this competitor analysis software has a multitude of features including, but not limited to, pay-per-click analysis, real-time filtering and a rank checker.
GOOGLE PLANNING TOOLS (FREE)
Google has a variety of planning tools on their ‘Think with Google’ site that is great for road mapping any campaign, especially a PPC one. For example, Google Trends uses real-time search engine data to help you understand user search patterns. The ‘Consumer Barometer’ tool displays the source of purchases and details the process from start to finish.
My favourite collection of tools is Google’s Planning Tools, especially Trends & the Consumer Barometer, as they can help you understand an audience. Adam Devlin of Google
– as recommended by Ryan Lees of Limelight Digital
Keyword Machine is a powerful and easy to use PPC tool for search marketers that specialises in improving ad relevance, accelerating campaign builds and improving ad copywriting.