Browse Business Software Categories


Paid Search Marketing

Automated Bid Management: SEM Boon or Bust?

Automated Bid Management: SEM Boon or Bust?

If you’re in the midst of a massive search engine marketing campaign, automated bid management software can go a long way towards making your campaign more profitable without being time consuming. But automated bid management isn’t the holy grail for a successful SEM campaign that many software providers would have you believe.

Because automated bid management systems can downplay the nuances of search engine marketing that separate a good campaign from a great one, automation isn’t the best solution for every business. Before you jump headfirst into an automated PPC bid management system, make sure you consider the potential downsides of this approach to search engine marketing.

Automated, but not Foolproof

Automated bid management software can bring a lot of value to companies with growing PPC campaigns. Sitting around and endlessly tweaking keywords and bid limits wastes time and energy better spent elsewhere. If you’ve got thousands of keywords to manage, automation can be a great way to grown your campaign while reducing the amount of time you spend managing and monitoring it.

However, it’s important to remember that your automated system will only ever be as good as the parameters you set for it, so if you’re not sure how to best optimize your bids, an automated system probably won’t dramatically improve your campaign. It’s tempting to fall into the “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to implementing a bid management system that promises to take care of everything for you, but letting the software take complete control can allow valuable leads to slip through the cracks.

Rigid Rules can mean Lost Leads

Automation systems can help you become more efficient, but it can’t fully replace human understanding and intuition. Oftentimes the parameters used by bid management software are too rigid to yield optimum results; if you’ve set your maximum bid limit at $10.00 but your keywords are delivering at $10.50, your automated bid system might end up losing you real, valuable leads. Then there’s always the risk of falling into a negative feedback loop- low performing keywords cause the software to reduce bids, which further decreases performance until the keywords are shut down.

Complexity and Cost Outweigh Use

Automated bid management software can have a lot of features, but for simpler campaigns, all the bells and whistles might be overwhelming. Ease of use is not a strong point for many of the bid management software options on the market – with one notable exception being Kenshoo, which Forrester called “the only leader” in bid management software this year.

Smaller businesses won’t necessarily need complex tools to run a successful search marketing campaign. Given that automated bid management software tends to be costly, money spent on complex functionality you’re not using would probably be better spent on your campaign itself.

Is Automation Worth It?

In the end, both manual and automatic PPC bid management strategies have their strengths, but neither can be considered the ideal solution for everyone. Automated systems can certainly improve your SEM campaigns, but manual management is your best bet when you’re just getting started and have simpler needs. One good middle-of-the-road solution is semi-automation. Flexible bid management systems like Acquisio let you set up a notification system that lets you approve changes before they are made.

For marketers who want to test the waters of SEM automation without fully relinquishing control of their campaigns, this approach gives the best of both worlds.

Still interested in learning more about your options when it comes to search engine marketing? Download our free Top 10 Paid Search Marketing Software Report to compare some of the industry leaders. You can also browse exclusive marketing resources by visiting the marketing software research center.

  • Top Expert

Ashley Dotterweich
Expert in Enterprise Software Selection
Ashley Dotterweich is a former marketing team member who writes about tech industry trends and the software selection process. She was on the marketing team at from 2012-2014.