When eCommerce businesses want to scale up their pay per click (PPC) campaigns, they may wonder if PPC management software can help.
Companies selling this type of software promise simpler and quicker campaign management, automatic recommendations and bid adjustments, along with savings on hiring costs for PPC consultants.
This begs the question: Are PPC campaign management tools really better than hiring a PPC consultant?
In this post, you’ll get our take (based on 11+ years of running eCommerce PPC) on whether you should use this type of software to manage your PPC campaigns, or if you should invest in hiring a PPC expert instead.
You’ll learn about:
- What PPC management software tools are and their capabilities
- The pros, cons, and use cases of these tools
- How to choose between PPC software and a PPC consultant
Note: Our paid advertising experts would love to learn more about the PPC goals of your eCommerce business. Get in touch.
What Is PPC Management Software?
Businesses use PPC management software to monitor their campaigns and optimize ad spend.
Running campaigns for a large number of SKUs and ad groups across different digital advertising channels can be labor-intensive. When you have 1000s of product ads at once, PPC management software can make it easier to track and optimize your marketing spend across each SKU.
Here is a short introduction to the different PPC channels, most popular PPC management tools for them, and the campaign types they can manage:
Top PPC Advertising Channels
As 3rd party tools, PPC management software is mainly built to integrate with the most widely-used PPC advertising channels:
- Search engines (Google Ads, Bing Ads, Yahoo Ads)
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram)
- Online marketplaces (Amazon, Etsy)
- Remarketing on sites across the web
Popular PPC Management Software Tools
Some of the most well-known brands geared toward automating PPC campaigns on one or several channels are:
Types of PPC Ad Campaigns
PPC channels provide their own varying types of campaigns and ad formats. PPC management software companies build their software around tracking and optimizing for these campaign types:
- Search ads campaigns
- Product listing ads (like Google Shopping ads)
- Display ads
- Social ads
- Remarketing ads / Retargeting ads
- Local service ads
- Gmail sponsored promotions
Now that you have the basics in mind, let’s get into comparing these automated PPC tools against the alternative of hiring an experienced expert.
PPC Management Software or a PPC Manager?
One of PPC management software’s biggest appeals is its promise of automation.
With the rise of automation in a variety of digital marketing tools, letting a computer take over the time-consuming parts of running paid ad campaigns can be appealing.
While artificial intelligence (AI) seems like where the world is moving generally, leaning on an AI tool isn’t necessarily the way to go when it comes to running your paid ad campaigns.
For a piece of software to have a place in your company’s tech stack, it should provide a return on its cost. In addition, that software needs to seamlessly integrate with the needs of your business.
AI or not, without the product/market fit, your company will struggle to make that software deliver (when it should be making things easier).
In that case, will software or a consultant be more suited toward:
- Making quicker optimizations
- Providing automatic recommendations
- Scaling ad testing
…based on the particulars of your business?
Based on our experience, for most businesses, an experienced PPC consultant is better.
Why We Recommend a PPC Manager Over PPC Software
To be upfront: We don’t use PPC management software and tend to steer clients away from it.
This is because we still see the best results from human-managed campaigns, and the creativity that goes into them. In reality, PPC management software can’t match the creativity needed to perform effective analysis and create compelling ad creative.
To get the best performance from campaigns, you’re much better off with an experienced analyst. Unlike software, an analyst considers variables ranging from the individual particulars of your business, industry, and competitive landscape, all the way to the current ads, historic performance, best products, and more.
Then, that person is able to create strategic ad placements that also have effective and targeted creative.
This is a lot to ask from an automated tool. If you need to do the analysis and creative work, and you don’t have 1000s of SKUs to advertise, then why do you need the campaign management tool?
A fair question. So, do these software have any good use cases? Let’s look at the pros and cons of using them.
PPC Management Software Pros and Cons
- Automated bid management rules: You can set up automated “if this, then that” rules by setting parameters around KPIs like ad spend, campaign spend and CPA. These rules have to be developed by a person, but the management tools can help in automatically adjusting them. However, grown up ad platforms like Facebook and Google already have real time bid adjustment features built in.
- Friendlier reporting interfaces: This is one big time-saver offered by these tools if you need a certain type of interface beyond the native reporting on the PPC advertising channels.
- Multivariate A/B testing at scale: Some of these tools are built for bid optimization and budget management at scale (Facebook can’t do 1000s and 1000s of SKUs and campaigns). Good for large enterprises, but an average business or agency won’t need this.
- Questionable results: While it sounds great to hit “play” and let software do your advertising work, we have seen that the results from these campaigns aren’t usually very impressive. To get good results still requires significant human input, strategy, and analysis. Automated rules can be programmed natively into the platforms, if they are on Facebook and Google.
- Setup requires investment: The ROI of these tools is probably not there when you factor in the cost of the tool, integrating it into your training, and then relying on it to perform well.
- Features overlap with native PPC channels: As 3rd party tools, they are subject to the whims of the native ad channels which update all the time. When it comes to the biggest channels like Google and Facebook, their platforms have all the features needed to replace external software already built in including automated rules, reporting, and ad testing.
For example: Facebook has multivariate testing internally called Dynamic Ads. Google also has their own machine learning algorithm that can automate Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) by mixing and matching creative, keywords, and copy.
Note: See our recommended Google Ads Automation strategies for eCommerce.
Conclusion: PPC Software or a PPC Expert, Who You Gonna Call?
If you have 1000s of SKUs you want advertised, this type of software could fit well with your needs. If you don’t have that many products, AI can automate things, but it may do so inefficiently.
No business wants to pay subscription or licensing costs for a tool that doesn’t deliver a return on its costs. Unless a tool perfectly fits into your business’s workflow as a natural extension, it could be more work to maintain then the effort it’s worth. This is why AI automation isn’t always the way to go.
On the other hand, we do recommend you use a PPC research tool. Research tools provide a natural extension of what humans can do, in a way that improves the value humans can provide through research.
For Facebook ads research, a simple 3rd party research tool you can use is Facebook Interest Explorer. This tool will suggest 25 audiences at a time such as your competitors, public figures, books, blogs, and more to help your research process for FB.
Research tools like these can display more information at a time. This cuts the time cross checking keywords and interests to target, and makes your job easier on the research side. Complementing and augmenting, but not replacing the value humans provide in PPC marketing.
To manage your campaigns independently, we recommend that you simply use the internal PPC account management tools already built into these platforms.
If you need to advertise at scale, we recommend that you hire an expert who understands how to both leverage these tools and optimize PPC ads.
Note: Our eCommerce PPC experts are ready to help you meet your advertising goals. Get in touch.
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Caesar Barba comes to Inflow with a diverse online marketing tool belt. Having his bachelor's degree in mathematics, he spends most of his time in the trenches with analytics and spreadsheets. Caesar believes every online marketing question has a data-driven solution and is constantly exploring new ways to track and present valuable insights.View Author’s Profile