PPC Chat Streamcap – Free and Paid PPC Tools

This week Luke Alley (@LukeAlley) guest hosted with a great set of questions titled “Free and Paid PPC Tools.” In other words, unique strategies for writing & presenting ad copy. The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What do you consider a "tool" to help you with PPC? Only applications? Only paid tools?

  • The people that help me at the search engines. – James Zolman (@jameszol)
  • All of the above. Any app, tool, program, software that helps improve efficiency and performance. Paid or free – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • Best PPC tools I’ve worked with are paid. (Smart) Automation doesn’t come free.. – Emily Las (@emlas)
    • Out of curiousity, which paid tools do you recommend? – Dave Rosborough (@daverosborough)
      • I am a big fan of @KenshooSEM — and I have tested most of the enterprise platforms out there. – Emily Las
  • Can experience, education, and talent count as tools? – Tracy Henry (@tracy_a_henry)
  • For the most part, the free tools out there are useful for research, campaign building – Emily Las
    • That’s the opposite of my experience. So far the best tools have been free. Paid tools somehow rarely worked for me – Martin Rottgerding (@bloomarty)
      • Tools for management or research? What free tools work best for you? – Emily Las
  • Music. Coffee. Computers. Electricity. Abacuses. But seriously, ANYTHING that helps me do my job & interpret data = tool – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Anything that helps improve efficiency by improving performance and reducing time to manage. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Anything that helps? I consider Excel a "tool" that I use to help me organize & analyze data, for example. – Theresa Zook
  • The "tools" should help to accomplish a task, rather than a technique, for example. As Luke Alley told me, we should think outside of the toolbox. – Lisa Raehsler (@lisarocksSEM)
  • Mostly programs or apps, but sometimes inspiration can come from other sources – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • Is it wrong to think of PPCChat as a tool? Definitely get my best ideas from you guys at the moment – Katie Saxon (@ksaxoninternet)
  • What I *need* is tool that tells me exactly what to do at the moment to anticipate what’s going to happen tomorrow. LOL – Theresa Zook
  • Does that make PPCChat a tool or a resource?? Much different things – gettin’ all philosophical in here – Aaron Levy
  • Most of the time I use Google tools (Insights for Search, Correlate and some external kw tools). – Bart Schuijt (@BartSchuijt)

Q2: If you could only have one Free Tool and one Paid Tool, which would they be?

  • Recently had a meeting with Taylor Pratt. He showed me some neat ways how to use @RavenTools. – Tracy Henry
  • Easy – Excel (for both) – Andrew Baker (@AndrewBaker72)
  • I think you can get very far with Excel, the Editor & others that Google provides. Paid tools never seem to fit my needs – Martin Rottgerding
  • Excel! But whether you qualify that as free or paid is up to you – Mark Kennedy
  • Does Excel count as a free tool? Or paid? That is the #1 tool in my mind. – Ryan Campbell (@_ryancampbell)
  • Free = google keyword tool, Paid = Excel. – Aaron Levy
  • Excel seems to be the winner. How about other paid tools besides excel? – Luke Alley
  • Excel & am I alone in lovin the AdWords Editor/AdCenter Desktop? – Katie Saxon
  • I would add to those list of tools, Red Bull, Spotify, Free Wifi, and Happy Hours! – Keith Brown (@optimizethis)
  • Free = Google Analytics. Not a Mgmt tool, but IMO results are CRUCIAL to PPC success – Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
    • Thx, would have never thought about GA as a PPC tool, only used it for SEO and conversion testing so far. – Keith Brown
  • Automated bid management tools first come to mind… – Martin Rottgerding
  • Tougher ? than it seems. – Theresa Zook
  • Paid for me is @Acquisio – Ryan Campbell
  • Paid = haven’t found the right tool that is worth the investment… Magic is hard to come by these days – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I mostly use notepad, AdWords Editor, and Excel for PPC Management – John Ellis (@JohnWEllis)
  • Free: AW Editor & Super SplitTester. Paid: I’m starting to like DoubleClick Search, but am still learning that. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
    • Dart Search?!? I was a beta tester & used it for yrs…Has it gotten a lot better? Does it look just like AdWords now? – Emily Las
      • Yeah, it looks just like Adwords, only w/more robust tracking & bid rules, etc. Nice bulk upload features too. – Melissa Mackey
  • AdWords Editor and Excel – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • Free: Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool, Paid: Excel We don’t currently use any paid management tools. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • #1 Free=Adwords Editor – Ryan Campbell
  • I’ve been thinking about WordStream as they say they can show all Search Queries w/o a click. Seems interesting – Kristi Davis (@KristiBug)
  • Free – Adwords Editor Paid- Spyfu for keyword research/competitive research – Luke Alley
  • I can live without other paid tools (though I’d prefer not to). Write your own functions in excel for bid management – Aaron Levy
    • Can you give an example of a function you use? – Luke Alley
      • Just simple IF functions & conditional formatting. Post coming soon. – Aaron Levy
  • SEMRush is great for looking at competing ads – Kristi Davis
  • Someone must be using all those paid tools–but apparently not us. – Theresa Zook
  • For me: generating ideas = query reports, processing information= Adwords editor – Lisa Raehsler

Q3: What are the best competitive research tools you’ve found? How do you utilize them?

  • I’m a big fan of Affiliate Elite (paid tool) for competitor research (ads & keywords). – Melissa Mackey
  • SEMRush – Tracy Henry
  • For me, nothing beats looking at the competition websites. All you need to know is there. – Theresa Zook
  • I’m happy with @spyfu and have been for a while. Use it to find new kwd ideas and laugh at competitor broad match – Richard Fergie
  • I’m a big fan of Affiliate Elite (paid tool) for competitor research (ads & keywords). – Ryan Campbell
  • Currently testing ispionage, but finding results a bit inconsistent with reality. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Hitwise is best competitive research tool (if your brand can afford & give you a seat). Others I use = SEM Rush, SpyFu – Emily Las
    • What does it offer to make it the best? – Cassie Allinger (@_CassieLee_)
      • Hitwise is great, but often seems like more than is needed. Usefulness of competitive tools depends on the niche. – Dennis Petretti
      • Tons of useful rpts for paid & organic; one major plus is PPC competitive intelligence via their AdGooroo partnership – Emily Las
  • SpyFu & Keyword Spy are one and the same IMO – helpful but not amazing, plus questionable data. – Aaron Levy
    • Agreed– I usually describe SpyFu as ghetto and/or shady! – Emily Las
  • I like both Spyfu & SEMRush, having a good old look around the SERPs and websites also help. – Andrew Baker
  • And ads in the wild/competition websites is REAL TIME, accurate data in comparison to relying on others data scraping. – Lisa Raehsler
    • Good point. You never know how old/accurate the scraping is. – Luke Alley
  • What’s our people using to see what competition is spending ? SEMRush, Compete, Spyfu are all over the place – Patrick Tigue (@patricktigue)
  • For some of these tools(Aff. Elite, SEMRush, Spyfu, Ispionage, KW Spy), what makes them best or better than other tools? – Luke Alley
  • We’ve noticed inconsistent data in regards to most competitive "spy" ppc tools on the market – Nicole Mintiens
    • I notice inconsistent data within my own campaign in Bing, I can only imagine "spy" services. – Tamara Fortner (@aramatf)
  • Competitive research tools like SpyFu/SEMRush are all over the place. Check your own data & you see it is beyond OFF. – Emily Las
  • All those comp tools do is scrape SERPs. ALL of the SERP’s. You can see what rando crap people show for, notwhat they bid on. – Aaron Levy
  • At Maxlead (the search agency I work) we’ve developed a competitor tool ourselves. – Bart Schuijt
  • GA can provide a lot of value for both paid & SEO. New Advertising reports and Multi-channel funnels are invaluable – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Kombat is cool. But don’t know if it is a unique feature any more – Richard Fergie
  • To me, most tools are just "guessing w/software" instead of doing your own analysis. Waste of time. – Theresa Zook
  • Only accurate way to measure PPC demand & competition is to start w/ small budget and go. Then, slowly expand. . – John Ellis

Q4: What tools do you use for keyword research?

  • Google keyword tool, insights and trends mostly to start. Then maybe check some others once the campaign is rolling – Mark Kennedy
  • Google KW tool, Insights for Search + Trends, Permutator for misspellings, then SQ reports on repeat.. – Emily Las
  • Google keyword tool & search query report – McCarthy-Stott (@mcstot)
  • My brain, Google searches, AdWords Keyword tool, SEMRush, Raven, my website, competitor’s website, Excel… probably more. – Tracy Henry
  • Google suggest, Google keyword tool, competitors, wordstream (negatives) and then review search query reports ongoing – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Not a tool, but the client and the client’s website. Often things are described various ways. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • KW research tool = GKWT then Modified Broad Match campaigns – Andrew Baker
  • Googlemonster, Soovle/Ubersuggest (a MUST bc of instant), SQ reports/analytics (free data!) – Aaron Levy
  • Super buggie + time-consuming method BUT Google Instant Search is extremely helpful.. Anyone else leveraging the search box? – Emily Las
    • Google Suggest is often quicker than Keyword tool if you don’t need detailed data. – Jeremy Brown
      • Totally. I find the Instant/Suggest feature most useful for expanding Brand term list – Emily Las
  • LSI Keywords (http://t.co/GQNyXPhf), SpyFu, and Wikipedia are some of my favorites. – Mark Jensen (@Just_Markus)
  • Anyone used a content spinner to get synonyms? – McCarthy-Stott
  • To start… KW Tool, "suggest feature" in SERP, and spyfu. Spyfu kombat lets you see overlapping kws between competitors. – Luke Alley
  • Google’s keyword tool. SQ reports, and Opp tab in Adwords – Ryan Campbell
  • Rarely I use kw tool by @yoast. Most of the time: kw reports! I never use the kw tool by Google, because it sucks. – Bart Schuijt
  • If you guys haven’t used it before… ubersuggest.org (fixed link) – Google Suggest scraper for all geo’s. AND you can export! – Aaron Levy
  • ubersuggest.org is really useful – Richard Fergie
  • Competitor Tools never perfect, but great way to get started. This is how I use keywordspy http://t.co/WNJpULfC – Bonnie Schwartz (@bonnieschwartz)
  • Instant/Suggest can also reveal rep mgmt issues for brands. . – Melissa Mackey
  • For campaigns that have been running I use the adwords search terms report for more targeted KW’s – Alma Smith (@Alma_Smith)

Q5: What are the best management tools(bids, writing ads, etc.)?

  • Geddes has some very good tools on Certified Knowledge. (paid) http://t.co/AMHue1Eq – Theresa Zook
  • Still leveraging AdWords Editor… However, Click Equations aligns more with my PPC objectives over other paid tools. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • ‘Best management tool’ is kind of subjective. Big accounts use tools well, small ones it’s not usually worth it to do paid. – Mark Jensen
  • For writing ads you don’t need much besides Excel + LEN – Dennis Petretti
    • Depends on size of acct. For a really big one, some mix & match tor headlines & calls to action can be easier w/tool. – Theresa Zook
  • AdWords editor and… Excel! – Bart Schuijt
  • Write my ads by hand – McCarthy-Stott
  • Excel still reigns king in these woods w/ custom functions & conditional formatting – Nicole Mintiens
  • Side tangent on Excel: Maybe it’s just me, but I want to give Bill Gates a high five every time I use a pivot table. – Mark Jensen
  • For ad copy writing inspiration @tenscores provided this great "tool": http://t.co/L41eosfC – Martin Rottgerding
  • I’m not 100% confident using them, I’ve used simply & in moderation, no issues as yet, slowly building confidence – Andrew Baker
  • What’s the general consensus on solutions such as @Trada? Trada has a unique pay-on-performance structure where you only pay if they improve your metrics. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Kenshoo has an amazing Advanced Search feature that saves me tons of time. It’s esp. sweet with large campaigns. – Eric Farmer (@click_eric)
  • Never tried any of them. As a small agency, can’t see paying someone else to do some of my work? – Theresa Zook
  • I don’t think that any bid management system can work miracles. It’s a tool that has to work. – Martin Rottgerding
  • Does anyone swear by a bid management tool and has seen great results?
    • We work with @Kenshoo and it has lots of top-class functionality. – Jeremy Brown
    • Marin and OptiMine have great bid automation. RKG does too + they have an amazing strategic team/services side to them. – James Zolman

Q6: What tool would you like to see that is currently unavailable or not satisfactory?

  • One that brings coffee from the kitchen to my desk. That and a good/cheap ad copy testing tool. – Aaron Levy
  • I would love to see more metrics/tools for negative keywords (impressions blocked, conflicts, true effect on imp share,ect) – Mark Jensen
  • Would be great if Google would extend Conversion optimizer. Factor in revenue, for example – Martin Rottgerding
  • Manage across all marketing channels – doesn’t take a % of my revenue. Attribution, call tracking, life cycle & revenue. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I would love to see a solid mobile app where I can manage bids, keywords, and even ads produced by @Google. – Sterling Green (@sterlinggreen)
  • I know of a major one for me, I’m designing it at the moment w/ a view of developing later this year. Can’t say more than that – Andrew Baker
  • Would love a tool that creates a negative keyword cloud – Matt Umbro
  • From Google, a "tool" to have Search Partner only campaigns. – @adwords, you listening? 🙂 – Jeremy Brown
  • Mobile app for Adwords, PPC reporting ONLY tool – Lisa Raehsler
  • I’d also like to see better history reports, maybe even with a timeline to show effects like Google Finance Charts. – Mark Jensen
  • I’d like a mega ad copywriting and auto-testing to my biz rules app/tool. – James Zolman
  • A slick @AdWords Mobile App would be Awesome!!!!!!! – Andrew Baker


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


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About the Streamcaptor

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe Jr; Search Engine Marketing Manager at WebRanking in Minneapolis, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, Search Blogger … sometimes, Tweets Live from @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’ing from PaulKragthorpe.

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