Forrester Report: The Best PPC Bid Management Providers

Forrester, the large marketing technology analysis organization, has released the final of its quarterly Forrester Wave reports related to search marketing. The first, Forrester Rates The Top Large Search Marketing Agencies, offered an assessment of large, full service (meaning agencies that offer both organic SEO and PPC) and agencies who serve large clients of $1 billion or more in revenue. The second, The Top SEO Platforms, the relatively new set of tools that has emerged over the past few years to help SEOs automate and bring more efficiency to a broad range of search optimization tasks.

Today, a look at the final report, Bid Management Software Providers, covering systems that help large advertisers automate and scale paid search campaigns. Notably, the report highlighted that many systems are now capable of automating these processes not just for PPC ads, but across other types of biddable media including display and social media, and in the future for mobile, print, TV and radio. But the current report focuses exclusively on paid search due to Forrester’s own client needs. And since the report looked exclusively at proprietary platforms, agencies, providers licensing or reselling another technology, and technology vendors focused on managing non-search media were not included.

Forrester’s clients are large organizations, so that limited coverage to just five providers who offered solutions for very large advertisers. In addition to interviewing the providers and their current customers, Forrester developed 19 evaluation criteria, looking at things like campaign management tools, reporting, strategy, market presence and others.

The Current State Of PPC Automation: “Simple” and “Non-Visionary”

The Forrester report pulled no punches in evaluating the capabilities of both the tools and management of the companies they analyzed. While recognizing that large PPC campaigns now require automation, and technology options are gaining credibility among advertisers, the report concluded that the focus of all providers was on “one-upping” competitors rather than creating next-gen tools that could significantly boost the effectiveness of search advertising campaigns.

Each of the platforms had strengths – but Forrester also called out weaknesses that are important understand if you’re considering a bid management platform. Here’s how each of the five companies evaluated compared:

Citing strength in both the current offering and strategy sections of its review, Forrester named Kenshoo as the sole “leader” in its evaluation. Notable features included an easy-to-use interface, keyword identification tools and hyperlocal targeting, among others.

Both IgnitionOne and Marin Software were given “strong performer” billing. IgnitionOne was credited with customizable workflow and support for a wide range of biddable ad types, but dinged for its user interface and lack of support options. Marin was noted for strong tools and multilingual capabilities, but lagged due to a lack of a local media module and “average” marks from customers for ease of use.

Adobe AdLens (built from the company’s acquisition of Efficient Frontier) was called a “contender” notable for breadth of media support and superior bid optimization, while lacking in other areas including campaign management, testing and reporting capabilities.

And finally, Forrester minced no words in calling Google DoubleClick Search a “risky bet” and “not competitive” with the other platforms evaluated, across several dimensions. The report did express hope, however, that Google’s plans to integrate DoubleClick Search into its overall advertising suite will bring the offering up to snuff.

If you’re not a Forrester client, you can download a free copy of the Bid Management Software Providers report if you’re willing to share a bit of information with Kenshoo.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Search Ads | SEM Industry: Outsourcing | SEM Industry: Stats


About The Author: (@CJSherman) is a Founding Editor of and President of Searchwise LLC, a Boulder Colorado based Web consulting firm. He also programs and co-chairs the Search Marketing Expo - SMX conference series.

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  • Jason Lehmbeck

    Definitely agree that the”one-upping” approach leaves a lot of innovation on the table. That said, the report seems to be missing coverage of players in the market actually delivering next gen tools. There is a lot of exciting technology being developed to “significantly boost the effectiveness of search advertising campaigns.” Do you know if Forrester is planning to review tools beyond the core bid platform players?

  • Jason Lowry

    Continued innovation is a common problem with companies as they mature. They continue to focus on refining the technology that got them where they are (or patching the holes in it), rather than continuing to innovate towards new technology. That’s why radical changes typically come from new players who don’t have the software maintenance baggage. For example, these companies continue to improve their CPA and reporting, but don’t look for new ROI models.

    I work at Finch ( We deliver AdWords management in a much different way. We are focused on PPC for eCommerce businesses and have developed a model that works much better than CPA for online retailers.

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