Bid Management Tools and a SearchCenter Review

A thread in a forum came up recently from someone wanting advice on whether they should use SearchCenter, or some other Bid Management tool like IndexTools or Atlas. Most of the responses were that you should be very careful about using any PPC bid management tool at all. Naturally, I have an opinion ;)

Omniture SearchCenter Review

I'm currently using Omniture SearchCenter for one of my clients. I also genuinely like the folks at Omniture, and have been to an Omniture Summit.

Here is what I like about SearchCenter:

  • I can edit Yahoo, MSN and Google listings, all with the same interface. This is worth it almost by itself!
  • You can assign multiple categories to keywords. I can then create rules that work only on those keywords. The same keyword could be an "Easter", Montana, and Automotive keyword, if necessary. This allows for all sorts of possibilities for reports, metrics and rules, such as "During Easter, increase the maximum bids for Easter keywords by 20%, unless they are aimed at a country that doesn't celebrate Easter". Then give me a report on our Easter Campaign. All without making a separate "Easter Campaign".
  • Rules are good for dealing with very large numbers of keywords, especially if the criteria you are using for the rule is more complicated than "if CTR is less than 2" or somesuch.
  • The consolidated reports are really nice. No, seriously. If you report to a client or management and they don't understand PPC, these reports can help you. Very powerful.

Here is what I don't like so much:

  • It's expensive, like most bid management software, it costs 4-8% of your spend. In order to use SearchCenter well, you really need to also have Omniture SiteCatylist. Even more expensive.
  • Although rules are helpful, only one rule can apply to each keyword. This sometimes makes writing rules complicated.
  • If you make any changes to the campaign on the PPC site, you have to "sync" the info or you lose it.
  • Minor, but a personal Pet Peeve: In SearchCenter, if you run a rule it sends you an email. Fine. Except the email runs even if it doesn't affect any keywords. Further, the email sent just says "these are the keywords that we acted on" with no explanation of *what* action was taken. This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. These emails are a daily annoyance and reminder that I hate this. BTW, you can't tell it to NOT send them. I ended up writing an Outlook rule that automatically deleted them. A rule to counteract a rule. What a waste of time. Omniture, get your act together and stop spamming your users!

Bid Management Tool Best Practices

Since they work with the API and the search engines charge for the use of the API, there will be always be a cost to using bid management tools, even if it's only the fee the search engines charge.

It's up to each tool to decide what to charge above that, however. This guaranteed fee means you have to factor in the cost of the tool into your ROI. This usually means it's not worth using bid management tools unless you have a large enough campaign to justify the additional API and software fees. These are usually based on a "per use of API" basis, which means that if you are checking or changing things several times per day for a million keywords, then you are paying several times a day a million times. This can get pricey, and is one of the costs of doing business on that scale.

The best practice for bid management software is to only use rules for the great unwashed masses of keywords. You'll find that there will be a small group of really well performing or in other ways special keywords within that mass. Those you single out for special attention. Usually hand edited. The categories function helps with this.

Overall, I think that if you are already using SiteCatayst and are planning on doing PPC, then SearchCenter is worth it, if only for the centralized editing and reporting.

But unless you have a HUGE inventory of keywords, I'm not so sure of the value of bid management software in general.

Bid management software is the PPC equivalent of SEO software like WebCEO or WebPosition. They make reporting and data collection easier, but you simply can't use them to replace a live human skilled in what needs to be done.

If you are looking for centralized reporting and perhaps some help with a very large set of keywords that you would otherwise not be able to work with, then get bid management software. But if you are hoping that it will make your PPC campaigns better than you can, then I'm not sure they can do that job very well.


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