26 Free Must-Have Tools for PPC Success

Nearly every craft uses tools to get the job done. Carpenters have hammers and saws. Doctors have expensive medical devices like MRI machines and tests. Writers have a computer (or a typewriter, or pen and paper).

PPC is no different. While it’s certainly possible to manage PPC using only the AdWords and Bing Ads online interfaces, doing so will be less than optimal.

I asked 20 PPC experts to share their must-have PPC tools. They responded with gusto. Here are their top recommendations for 26 free, must-have tools for PPC success.

When it comes to free tools, Google is king. One-third of the tools on the list are from Google!

1. AdWords Editor

A few of us old-timers remember life before AdWords Editor. It wasn’t fun. I was doing in-house PPC at the time, and we actually hired an intern to update ad copy for us, it was that arduous to do manually. With Adwords Editor and its many bulk editing features, those days disappeared. Several experts mentioned Editor, most with a comment like “Duh! It’s essential.”

2. Google Analytics

The AdWords and Bing interfaces only go so far. They don’t tell you what happens after the ad click. Use Google Analytics to gauge bounce rate, pages visited, and many other analytical gems that will help optimize your marketing efforts.

3. AdWords Scripts

We’ve recently started using AdWords Scripts, and it’s become obvious they’re a must-have. Use them for exception reporting, daily stats, and client reporting – amongst other things.

4. Google Plugin for Eclipse

Use this plugin to help develop AdWords Scripts. (Recommended by Leo Sussan.)

5. Google Documents

I love creating shared Google Docs for internal and external use. It’s even possible to have multiple users editing them at once – something you can’t do with Microsoft Office. (Suggested by Larry Kim of Wordstream.)

6. Google Drive

Google Drive is great for storing Google Docs and other files. (Suggested by my coworker Ben Nusekabel)

7. FTP for Google Merchant accounts

Who wants to update thousands of product listing ads manually? Use FTP to send your merchant feed to Google automatically. (Recommended by Matt Vaillancourt.)

8. Google Suggest

Google Suggest is a fun and enlightening way to do keyword research. (Recommended by Aaron Levy of SEER Interactive.)

9. Bing Ads Editor

Not to be outdone, Bing Ads has some great free tools of its own. While Bing Ads Editor isn’t as robust as AdWords Editor, it’s still a must-have PPC tool for those using Bing Ads.

10. Bing Ads Intelligence

I love this Excel plugin for keyword research. It’ll show search volume, create ad groups, and provide demographic data – all in Excel.

11. Facebook Power Editor

If you’re running more than one simple Facebook Ads campaign, you need to be using Power Editor. It’s like AdWords Editor for Facebook. Use it to create audiences, play around with targeting, and create an image bank for your campaigns.

12. Excel

OK, it’s free if your computer has Microsoft Office, which 90 percent or so of us do. Excel is necessary to analyze and manipulate PPC data. Many of the experts named it a must-have.

13. Excellent Analytics Plugin for Excel

Use this plugin to pull Google Analytics data into Excel and make reporting easier. I’m definitely going to check this one out. (Recommended by Arianne Donoghue.)

14. Statistical Significance Spreadsheet

This is a simple, yet often overlooked, way to streamline tracking of ad copy and landing page tests. (Recommended by Andrew Bethel.)

15. Analysis ToolPak for Excel

Use the free Excel plugin Analysis ToolPak to add advanced hypothesis testing to Excel at no cost. (Another recommendation from Sussan.)

16. Uber Suggest

Use Uber Suggest for keyword research. I’ve even used Uber Suggest for blog topic idea generation. (Another great recommendation from Levy.)

17. Keyword Wrapper

Use this easy-to-use tool to quickly create keyword sets in all match types. Build out your keyword list in minutes with this tool. (Recommended by Mark Kennedy of SEOM.)

18. Phrase Builder

Enter a few words, and Phrase Builder will mash them up into keywords. (Another tool recommended by Kennedy.)

19. Soovle

Soovle serves up common searches on a multitude of sites, including YouTube, Answers.com, and Amazon, in addition to the usual search engine subjects. (Yet another keyword tool from Levy.)

20. Convertable

Convertable is a free lead generation tracking service (in beta). If you aren’t ready to give Salesforce a try, check out Convertable.

21. SplitTester

SplitTester is my favorite free online statistical significance tester. Just plug in clicks and CTR (or conversion rate) for 2 ad variations to see which one is the winner, and at what level of significance.

A Few More PPC Tools

Several experts suggested tools that are fixtures in any office, and yet are essential for PPC. Microsoft Outlook and Spotify were two that Lisa Sanner from PointIt finds necessary. I have to agree.

Finally, no list would be complete without the tools that each and every PPC expert uses every day:

  •     Experience (Sanner)
  •     People (e.g., sales teams, live chats) (Sanner)
  •     My brain (Michael Madew) and Matt Vaillancourt)

Special thanks to Aaron Levy, Andrew Bethel, Arianne Donoghue, Ben Nusekabel, David Szetela, Larry Kim, Leo Sussan, Lisa Sanner, Mark Kennedy, Martin Roettgerding, Matt Umbro, Matt Vaillancourt, and Michael Madew for contributing your suggestions.

In addition to these free tools, here are 18 Must-Have Paid Tools for PPC Success.

Hopefully you’ve learned of a few new helpful free PPC tools from this list! What are your must-have PPC tools?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on March 11, 2014. It was so popular there that I had to share it with my readers! Enjoy!

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The History of PPC

Once in a while, it’s good to look back on where we came from. I didn’t start out in PPC – in fact it didn’t exist when I started working. My PPC career began in 2002 when Google announced the CPC version of Adwords.

But the history of PPC, surprisingly, doesn’t start with Google. It started with GoTo back in the late 1990s. GoTo turned into Overture, and then Yahoo bought them in 2003.

Recently, some of us on PPCchat started a new hashtag, #ppctbt. It’s an homage to Throwback Thursday, but specifically related to the history of PPC. It’s been fun to reminisce about all the retro PPC engines that aren’t around anymore: FindWhat, LookSmart, Kanoodle, Enhance, and many more.

Back in the day, when I did in-house SEM and CPCs were a lot lower, I tested so many of these early engines. We tested FindWhat (so-so), LookSmart (decent), Kanoodle (not good), Enhance (pretty bad), Findology (not good, although shockingly, they still exist – which I didn’t realize until today!), and Quigo (which wasn’t bad, although time-consuming to manage).

It’s so funny to look at that list and realize that I was actually able to manage all of those engines and not lose my mind! Although, if you think about it, today isn’t that different. We just have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn instead of Kanoodle and FindWhat.

In those early days of history, PPC was so new that there was only a small group of professionals doing it. We hung out on search forums like IHelpYou, Search Engine Watch, and High Rankings, sharing tips and asking questions. In those days, I learned so much from Danny Sullivan, Andrew Goodman, Jill Whalen, Brad Geddes, Kevin Lee – and many others who’ve since left the SEM field.

It’s interesting to look back and see how much the space has changed. We didn’t have Twitter in 2002; in fact, the Search Engine Watch forums didn’t exist in 2002, and SES had just started (I’m still getting used to calling it ClickZ Live, folks). Few blog posts on PPC strategy existed. We learned by trial and error. It was great!

Lest I sound too much like PPC Moses, I’ll just say that it’s fun to see the industry evolve. PPC is both easier and harder than it used to be: easier, because the engines have improved so much usability-wise; and harder, because the competition is so fierce. 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of paying more than $2-$3 per click; now, $20-$30 CPCs are common.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s been a great ride so far!

What about you? What do you remember about the history of PPC? When did you get your start? Share in the comments, or on Twitter using #ppctbt – you don’t have to wait till Thursday to chime in!

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Intro to PPC: SES Chicago Presentation

SES Chicago was last week, and as usual it was a great show with record attendance. This is one of my favorite search marketing conferences: it’s close to home for me (a mere 4 hour Amtrak ride), it has a Midwest feel, and attracts search newbies. I’ve always enjoyed teaching others – I come from a long line of teachers in my family.

This year, I was honored to do a solo presentation on Intro to Paid Search. This session is an SES mainstay, with a storied history of search industry luminaries as presenters: Dana Todd, who was one of the speakers I heard at my first SES back in 2003; Matt Van Wagner, a dear friend and one of my favorite speakers of all time; and Brad Geddes, another good friend and great teacher of PPC goodness. Honestly, I feel pretty out of my league following these superstars, but anyway…

I thoroughly enjoyed giving this presentation – like I said, I love to teach people about PPC, and the session attendees were engaged and asked great questions.

So with that, here is the presentation for your viewing enjoyment! I’d love to hear your feedback: share in the comments!

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