DIY? No Can Do: More Companies Turn to Software for Help with PPC

DIY? No Can Do: More Companies Turn to Software for Help with PPC

September 24, 2012
Elisa Gabbert

There was a time when being a PPC manager necessarily entailed being an Excel ninja as well. Not a fan of spreadsheets? Then step away from the PPC account, my friend!

In 2001, however, a tipping point occurred – the majority of companies no longer managed their PPC accounts using Excel. And the trend continues in that direction. According to SEMPO’s recent State of Search report, the number of companies who manage their PPC campaigns DIY-style using free tools like those provided by search engines, Excel, or “a simple database” fell from nearly half (49%) in 2001 to just 38% in 2012. That’s a big drop! And a much bigger drop than the change from 2010 to 2011 (53% to 49%).

Here’s the survey data from SEMPO (the exact question was “Do you or your primary search engine marketing service provider use a special technology solution with features such as ‘bid management’, ‘campaign management’, ‘portfolio management’ and ‘dynamic optimization’ for paid search campaigns?”):

SEMPO State of Search

As you can see, there’s been a big rise in the number of companies that use a proprietary in-house solution (17% this year compared to just 4% last year) as well as those that license a third-party tool to use in-house, up to 22% in 2012 from 12% in 2011. A full 62% (almost 2 in 3) of companies now use some kind of software to help them manage PPC, whether it's a proprietary or third-party solution and whether they manage it in-house or use an SEM service provider.

Why Are More Businesses Investing in PPC Software?

The SEMPO report doesn’t delve into why this shift is happening, but here are some possible explanations for the shift:

  • AdWords is getting more complicated – AdWords is constantly launching new features (such as Shared Budgets) or changing the way existing features work (take the ad rotation setting changes from a few months back). Some advertisers may feel they can’t keep up and are falling behind.
  • People are advertising on multiple platforms – Almost all companies using PPC advertising (97% of them!) run campaigns on Google AdWords, but more than half use Bing/Yahoo (65%)  and Facebook advertising (56%) as well.
  • The PPC software industry is coming into its own – Search marketing is still a young industry. The available solutions are improving by leaps and bounds, and advertisers are beginning to realize that it’s a smart investment that delivers ROI – and/or PPC vendors are getting better at convincing advertisers that software is worth the investment! There are also more and better solutions targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), as opposed to just enterprise-level big spenders.
  • Marketing departments are increasingly feeling the pinch – With the economy still not fully recovered, it may be that fewer marketers are being held responsible for a larger number of roles. If, for example, a single search marketer is handling both SEO and PPC, they may need advanced tools that offer automation to get more done in less time.

Have You Made the Switch to a Paid Solution?

Are you one of those companies that has made the switch to a third-party or proprietary in-house solution for PPC management? Or are you still working your magic with AdWords Editor and Excel?


Larry Kim
Sep 24, 2012

I think the 62% use 3rd party tools might be a bit high, considering that SEMPO surveyed their membership of search marketing professionals (and most of the 3 million advertisers on AdWords aren't search professionals). But the trend towards 3rd party tool/platform adoption is significant and feels right based on what I'm seeing in the industry.

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 24, 2012

Yes, it's probably not 62% of ALL advertisers, but the trend is still going up in the same sample audience.

Robert Brady
Sep 24, 2012

Good point and while smaller advertisers may take longer to get on board with the trend, the trend is something I'm seeing as well with my clients.

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 24, 2012

Thanks for chiming in. Is there a single reason that your clients are starting to adopt software?

Mike Cornelia
Sep 25, 2012

I have found that ppc companies do an outstanding job with ppc management. I gave this software a whirl, and just felt I wasn't getting my moneys worth. I chose to go with a ppc company about a month ago and have found that they are much better at managing ppc than this software can. I would highly recommend atleast speaking to someone in ppc management before opting toward this software.

Sep 30, 2012

We have written for your free keyword tool at and we are recommending it to our clients as it is good.

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