The “Best PPC Management Software” Doesn’t Exist

ppc management software for agencies

Functionality and Features

Before starting the PPC software research phase, it’s important to first have an understanding of all the workflows and processes your team wants to automate or improve. Do you need help with: account/campaign creation, bid automation, budgeting, reporting, competitor analysis, or all of the above? Identify which are non-negotiables, nice-to-haves, and/or unnecessary.

Focus your time researching only the platform(s) that meet your needs. If it’s clear that no one platform will solve all your needs, consider whether implementing multiple software solutions or building your own platform would be better.

Helpful Resources

  • Software Vendor Website/Demo Marketing websites and knowledge bases give you an overview of each tool’s core offerings. If offered, sign up for a demo for a more detailed feature deep-dive.

  • Software Review Platforms Sites including G2Crowd and Capterra are helpful to compare software solutions features and ratings.

  • Endorsements Search sites such as third-party blogs, Reddit, and Twitter to see what software other digital advertisers are using and loving.

Agency vs. In-House Solutions

PPC software needs may vary dramatically depending on whether you work in-house on a single account or at an agency managing multiple clients.

Many agencies turn to PPC management software to help them scale processes and performance profitably or to add new services for their customers. PPC management software for agencies may be needed to automate time-consuming workflows (reporting, budget/bid changes, ad creation), surface performance optimizations, or automate processes at scale (exporting PPC costs to an invoice system). By making team members more efficient and effective at their jobs, PPC software helps agencies retain valuable clients, grow their client bases, and improve employee satisfaction. When evaluating different platforms, know how the software helps or hinders managing multiple clients and advertising accounts.

In-house teams also have performance and efficiency goals they need to achieve to make PPC software pencil out. In this case, PPC Software may be implemented because it offers a highly-specialized solution that helps the company grow their campaigns as profitably as possible. For example, ride-sharing company Lyft uses Kenshoo to help create, launch, and optimize thousands of region-specific campaigns and ads across multiple ad platforms in 300+ markets. Conversely, a small local business may implement one or two affordable solutions to address specific needs for their PPC campaigns (ex: cross-platform reporting, landing page creation)

Helpful Resources

  • “Questions to Ask” Free Download Download our questions to ask before you purchase PPC management software. There’s a special section on agency versus in-house tools.

  • Software Vendor Website/Demo Check out each tool’s marketing website or schedule a demo to understand how each product functions differently when used by an agency or in-house team.

Ad Platform Integrations

A key consideration in purchasing PPC software is the ad networks and channels your ideal platform supports and if the platform has one or two-way APIs. Optimally the software you select would integrate with all your ad platforms plus more that you could expand into. But what would you do if a software solution only integrated with four of five ad networks you operate on? You’ll have to weigh the benefit of using software to manage/automate four ad networks against any manual work (or secondary software) you’ll need for the fifth.

The type of API integration a software solution offers is also highly important. Tools with one-way integrations most commonly use these to populate your data into their tool. This should suffice if you want to analyze, visualize, or report on your PPC data without making any changes from the tool. But, if you need to be able to push changes via the tool into the ad platforms, your ideal software will need to offer two-way integrations with the ad platforms you utilize. Taking this a step further, some businesses may need to programmatically push data from internal company systems into their PPC software solution. Does the software make this easy or impossible?

Helpful Resources

  • “Questions to Ask” Free Download Download our questions to ask before you purchase PPC management software. There’s a special section on integrations.

  • PPC Software Integrations Quick Guide:

  • ppc software integrations

Price

Selecting a piece of software based on price seems like a simple process. Can you afford this software? If yes, buy. If not, pick a different software. The truth is pricing is one of the most important factors in choosing a software and often one of the most prickly to navigate.

Pricing should be one of the considerations you spend the most time evaluating and that you are most prepared to defend to your bosses. The following are all points you should know about each product. Is pricing:

  • - A flat fee
  • - Tiered (based on a metric)
  • - A percentage of spend (or similar metric)
  • - All-in-one pricing
  • - Piecemeal pricing
  • - Discounted with volume increases
  • - Discounted with time commitments
  • - Month-to-monthg
  • - Bound contractually (ex: length of contract, additional fees, etc.)

Once you’ve researched pricing, pitching software to your bosses may be the next major hurdle you face. Optimally, your company would have already provided you a software budget from which you can build your software stack. But if not, you’ll have to build your case on how the financial gains created by the product outweigh the cost. Start by analyzing if the PPC management software will help you: 1) Expand and grow your service/product offerings 2) Reduce costly errors created by manual workflows 3) Increase the accounts and spend you manage without adding employee headcount.

Helpful Resources

  • “Questions to Ask” Free Download Download our questions to ask before you purchase PPC management software. There’s a special section on pricing.

  • Software Vendor Website/Demo Check out each tool’s marketing website or schedule a demo to understand how their pricing works.

  • Software Review Platforms Sites including G2Crowd and Capterra may display software solutions pricing structures and discounts or provide you a link to request a quote.

Free Trial/Tier

Optimally, you would be able to test every PPC software you’re considering before you purchase. This helps you understand how the product works and how it integrates with your existing processes. It also allows you to see whether it lives up to the promises made about the software before you get locked into a purchase agreement.

A free trial should last long enough that your team can understand the key product values. For example, prior to switching to a free tier, Shape had a 45-day free trial. At the time, most of our customers utilized month-long budget cycles to monitor their clients’ ad spends. During the trial, customers did not need to update their budget tracking spreadsheets or pause/activate campaigns during the budget cycle. Eliminating this mundane work freed up time for the teams to spend more time optimizing campaign performance. When Shape offered a 14 day free trial, this was not the case because it did not cover a full month budget cycle.

If the software provider offers a free tier instead, utilize it! Keep in mind, the company may limit certain aspects of the product (user seats, product features, etc.) to entice you to become a paying customer.

Helpful Resources

  • “Questions to Ask” Free Download Download our questions to ask before you purchase PPC management software. There’s a special section on integrations.

  • PPC Software Free Trials Quick Guide:

  • ppc software integrations

Implementation

As you near the finish line of selecting a PPC software, it can be thrilling of thinking of the immediate improvements that software will bring. Not so fast. No matter what, any software you select will have some implementation and onboarding work to get your team fully set up and running. The key here is to understand how much work will be required of your team and how long an average implementation takes (hours, days, weeks, months).

The more robust the PPC software solution you choose and the more clients you manage, the higher the likelihood full implementation will take weeks or longer. For example, in order to utilize the full functionality of an all-in-one software such as Kenshoo, you’ll likely need to onboard all your clients, set unique automation rules, schedule reports, implement tracking pixels on your clients’ websites, and receive multiple trainings.

The vendor you choose may offer some tools (or even an onboarding team) to help you accomplish some of these tasks in bulk while others will require you to do much of the heavy lifting. Some tasks, such as implementing pixels on client websites, may be frustratingly slow depending on how many clients you have and who controls their websites. Make sure you have clear expectations for what implementation and onboarding looks like for the vendor you select!

Helpful Resources

  • “Questions to Ask” Free Download Download our questions to ask before you purchase PPC management software. There’s a special section on implementing/onboarding.

  • Software Review Platforms G2Crowd's comparison tool specifically asks reviewers to rate the quality of setup.

Ease of Use and Scalability

By the time you onboard your PPC software of choice, hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to get in and use it with your data. But if not, some major software providers may offer to walk you through their software in sandbox mode. This allows you to see how the software would function with fake data.

It’d be great if every PPC software solution was easy to use from the start but this just isn’t the case. Some software is intuitive, beautifully designed, modern, and fluid. Others not so much. If the software you select has a steep learning curve, consider if: 1) The software is complex, but once you are fully trained, it becomes intuitive and easy to accomplish tasks 2) The software is complex, functions slowly, and is full of bugs and you will hate it until the day you terminate your contract. It’s hard to know this fully without trialing the software.

Along with ease of use, another key consideration is how difficult it will be to grow your business using the platform. If you’re an agency, you’ll want to ensure the platform allows you to quickly onboard new clients and spin up strategies, reports, etc. Secondly, it’s important to know how pricing will increase as you grow based on the number of accounts, ad platforms, or spend you manage. Finally, whether you’re an agency or in-house team, be wary if the initial time savings and profitability gains you saw after onboarding disappear as you add more clients.

Helpful Resources

Training, Support and Customer Success

Once you’ve onboarded, optimally it won’t take long until using the software feels second-nature. A great training program paired with excellent customer success and support teams can make a huge difference in how quickly your team ramps up to speed.

Before you choose a PPC management software solution, ask what training is offered by their team. Is there a structured training plan or is it trial-by-fire? One-time or ongoing? Online or in-person? How long should your team expect that to take? The more complicated the PPC management software you choose, the higher the likelihood that you’ll need a fair amount of training and time-spent-in-platform to become true power users.

Rest assured, PPC software solutions don’t want to onboard your company only to have you leave unhappily a few months later. That’s why customer success and support are very important. Software gets released with bugs, settings get misconfigured, and tools don’t work as expected. Your chosen software solution should make it easy to contact a customer success or support representative and/or access self-guided help resources.

If you aren’t assigned a formal customer success representative, ask what resources are available to you. Even when smaller software tools don’t have formalized CS programs, they want to: 1) Ensure you, their customer, is engaged and happy with the product and 2) Hear your valuable feedback!

Helpful Resources

  • “Questions to Ask” Free Download Download our questions to ask before you purchase PPC management software. There’s a special section on training, support, and customer success.

  • Social and Software Profiles What are reviewers saying about the company and the vendor’s team online? Check Facebook, Twitter, Google My Business, Capterra, and G2Crowd profiles along with less commonly thought-of sites including Better Business Bureau and Glassdoor.

Ongoing Product Releases/Updates

PPC ad platforms are constantly launching new ad products and updating their existing platforms. In fact, there were 55+ new features or announcements made by the Google Ads team in the second half of 2018 alone.

Will the PPC management software solution you choose keep up with that pace of innovation? Even if software tools have the resources to do so, it’s often not possible. Google, Facebook, and Bing have waited weeks or months to update their APIs after new feature releases. This can throttle third-party PPC platforms from supporting these new features. The key thing to understand is if the PPC software you choose will become harder to use or obsolete if it’s not on parity with the ad platforms.

Similarly, how will you be alerted about major changes to the platform and how often do they occur? Many software platforms publish product announcements or maintain a release notes page on their website. If a platform change is big enough, the customer success/support team may email and/or personally reach out to you. Know where to look for new product releases otherwise you may miss out on some really awesome announcements!

Helpful Resources