In The Trenches is a spotlight of tips, tricks, and news about the tools search engine marketing professionals use to give them a leg up on the competition.

My SEM Wish List: All I Want For Christmas is the Perfect Search Tool, Continued

In my last column, I explained how much I want a new perfect search tool for Christmas. Yes, there are some really good ones out there now that do specific things, but I need the kind of tool that I can pull out for every occasion.

Some of the features I outlined in my last letter included:

  • Landing page rotation
  • Intra day bidding
  • Giving credit to assisting keywords
  • Data guarantee
  • No need for redirects

These are all features found today in various SEM tools that I listed. However, to truly deliver in my stocking a perfect SEM tool, I’m going to need some more features, such as:

Insights and suggestions – Google AdWords’ Campaign Optimizer tool provides “an extra set of eyes” on the campaigns and suggests opportunities to expand your keyword lists, alerts you to poor performing creative, and offers bid choices to take advantage of more traffic. Even though most of our analysis as SEM pros is manual, there are a lot of best practices that I think could be setup to run in an automated fashion. For example, a tool could monitor creative click through rates and suggest that some campaigns are getting tired and you should rotate in some fresh ads.

SEO tools – Even though I’m a paid search guy, I see the value in organic tools such as position trackers, spider crawlers, link builders, etc. I even use them to help generate keyword lists and find competitor terms. I think there should be an SEM platform that merges the paid and organic worlds together as many advertisers and agencies doing search are engaged in both. Not only would this help increase work flow, but the integration would create some valuable advanced reports that may provide unique insight. I know current analytics tools can help marry these two data sources together, but that’s only for click data. A merged SEO/paid search tool could look at paid search impressions (usually 95% of the data) as well as organic position reports.

Advanced budget setting – Here’s something that’s more of a wish list item because I’ve never actually seen it. The engines allow you to set daily caps at the campaign level or account level budgets. Why couldn’t a tool take it a step further and help manage groups of campaigns, multiple engines, daypart budgets (such as 50% on the weekends), etc? What if I just want to spend $1000/day on all of my engine accounts? I know it would be hard to be 100% accurate here due to the lag in engine reporting, but why couldn’t a bid management tool come close… especially if it could use historical data and slow down accounts as they reach projected spend levels during the day?

Mobile interface – Many of us have smart phones. It’s time for WAP interfaces to make remote bid management easy using these devices. Right now, on my iphone, navigating through Google AdWords or other tools is a pain when you consider load times and the size of screens. Even if I only had limited functionality (and could switch to the full interface if needed), it would be great to have a WAP enabled tool to see click, cost, and conversion data.

Instant multi-tabbed reports – SEMPhonics’ CampaignTracker tool can generate very robust reports that can display weekly or monthly data, including top terms, top converters, costs, etc. From an agency perspective, this is a great feature when reporting to your clients. If you were to put the same report together by hand, it would take you at least two to three hours vs. CampaignTracker which takes five minutes once you have it set up correctly.

White label software – I visited with the Acquiso folks at SES Chicago last week, and took a look at their PPC management software. One of the highlights of this tool is it’s ability to be white labeled. For agencies, you can set up your own logos/colors and the tool looks as though its your expensive proprietary back-end solution. Report templates can be set up with your logos so you can export right from the tool with your letterhead.

Pivot tables – What do we all do with reports? We export them to Excel and then generate pivot tables, right? That’s a time consuming step that could easily be automated.

Click fraud monitoring & target auditing – One of the search world’s niches are services that help you monitor any issues with your account. For example, you can set up your current dayparting and geotargeting parameters and these tools will make sure the engines aren’t serving your ads outside of those targets. If they do, then you have the data to go back to the engines and make a case for a refund. These services can also alert you when they see the same user overclicking your terms. The perfect SEM tool would have this service integrated.

Engine integration – The big three engines make up 90% of the traffic for most. But for some niche advertisers, platforms like Shopping.com or Business.com are either essential or worth testing out. Some bid management tools don’t even support Ask.com which serves millions of searches monthly. I want a tool that has as many engines integrated possible—even if I never use them. DART Search does a good job in this area.

Dynamic landing page control – Online conversion optimization requires both a good stream of qualified users as well as carefully planned landing pages experiences for those visitors. Tools such as Google’s Website Optimizer and Omniture’s Test and Target help you create multivariate conversion pathways. As many SEM pros know, there’s nothing more frustrating than sending great traffic to a site and then getting poor conversion rates due to bad landing pages. The traffic is being controlled through your bid management tool, so elements on the landing pages should be controlled there too.

Bid change testing – Marin has a feature that allows you to set ideas for bids and then “tests” these changes without wasting your budget. If the tests look good, you can activate them. If not, no harm no foul.

Custom metrics – Omniture’s SearchCenter allows you to create custom metrics that live inside the tool via a slick, AJAX drag & drop interface. Say you need to see impression to conversion rate for a client. Sure you can export the reports, drop them in Excel, and manipulate them that way. However, having the flexibility to hard code them into the GUI makes more sense.

Misc. Keyword tools – Permutations, misspellings, common jumbles are common techniques we use to build out our keyword lists. KeywordLizard.com is a simple program that can generate substantial keyword lists by combining words. Let’s get these things into the perfect SEM tool.

Agency tools – Marin has some handy features for agencies running SEM; one of which is that you can add in your fees into the tool. This is huge as there always seems to be a disconnect between “what’s the budget” and “what’s the budget minus fees,” especially when you have account teams working out budgets and tech teams running the tools. Also, ROI, ROAS, or CPA measurements should include agency fees into the calculations to be accurate.

Pay my API fees – That’s right! The top bid managment tools must run billions of API operations all of the time. Make a deal with the engines and pass that savings along to me. I know Efficient Frontier pays your API charges and it eliminates the worry of optimizing “too much” just because you’re worried about your API charges.

Free! – Not sure how this could happen, but, man, that would be icing on the cake if it could be ad supported or open source. Hey, this is my wish list to Santa so let me dream.

24/7 support – Duh, this is a no brainer. Don’t give me 24/5 or 9am – 9pm. 24/7 or no deal. If every client paid just a few bucks more per month, I’m sure that would cover these costs. Even if I never call on Saturday, it’s great knowing that I’m a phone call way from solving an issue if needed.

Bid transparency – If you can’t show me how your bidding system works, it’s hard for me to know if it’s working well or not. I know Efficient Frontier has set up their system to show you with almost complete transparency why the automated system made bid changes at the granular level.

Alerts – Most good tools have alert features which are so important when you think about what it takes to steward a million keyword or more account. Alerts such as if keywords drop in volume, budgets max out, etc can be crucial in large accounts.

Project manager with reminders – How about not just alerts, but reminders as well, in a project management format for all to see? Set a reminder to drop budgets, rotate in promotional creative, etc and the entire team can know if it’s been accomplished. It can not only increase the efficiency of your SEM team, but it can help keep track of who did what and when.

Notes – This is something I’ve been requesting for years. Every keyword, ad group, ad, campaign, etc should have it’s own notes field. This way we can remember why we paused that campaign or to only run that ad during the holiday season. From a developer standpoint, it’s one of the easiest features to implement but I haven’t seen it anywhere. Omniture SearchCenter does have a feature (probably borrowed from the SiteCatalyst product) where you can set notes based on dates. This is very handy, for example, to remember later if your budgets change, large offline campaigns kick in, etc. This isn’t as robust as having notes for every part of your account as I’d like, but it is very helpful in management campaigns—especially when it’s years later and you’re looking through historical data and wonder why spend dropped in January 05.

Ad scheduler – Another useful feature that I’ve seen in Marin: set up ads to automatically pause or unpause. Not much explanation needed here why this is a great feature that all bid management tools should have. If you’ve never stayed up until midnight to activate Black Friday promotional creative, you can’t call yourself a true SEM vet.

SEM community portal section – More of a thought than an actual must have feature, but if I’m already logging into my platform everyday to manage my accounts, why not have a “portal-like” home page with SEM news/blogs/articles? It would be easy to set up an RSS reader and provide some extra value in the tool. As well, it might foster a “community” of other users of the tool that could chat and engage with one another.

Documentation, training, on-demand video – The more, the better. Certainly, Google AdWords has nailed it. If you have an issue, you can almost certainly find an answer via their online help desk. The on-demand training (albeit a snooze-fest) is really great and you can really learn to be a top SEM pro from these resources.

Auto append URLS – My current Mediaplex MOJO SEM tool has a great feature in which you can automatically append all destination URLs with Google Analytics tracking codes (i.e. utm source, utm term, etc). As much of our industry’s technology requires data being passed through the URL, this feature is a time saver.

elfThank you, Santa, for hearing me out. Not sure if you can help me with this, but, from what I’ve heard, the elves are brilliant SQL programmers so I’m hoping they can knock this out before the big day.

Merry Christmas -In the Trenches

P.S. – Here are links to the tools mentioned either above or in my last letter.

Omniture SearchCenter Mediaplex Double Click Atlas SearchRev Marin BridgeTrack Google Adwords Ad Gooroo Keyword Discovery Wordtracker Keyword Lizard SEMPhonic Acquiso

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Toolbox

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About The Author: is the director of marketing research for Kenshoo, the leading provider of bid management software. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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