Updated: December 4, 2018
Whether you’re managing one pay-per-click account or forty, chances are that a million different tasks vie for your attention on a daily basis.
Have you added negative keywords lately? Did you respond to your client’s email with their requested report? Will your campaign hit your target spend and conversion rate? It can be impossible to manage everything without some serious dedication and tooling.
If your PPC “management style” is to track of all your accounts and campaigns in your head, the best-case scenario is that you’ll hit your performance and spend targets most of the time. The worst case is that you overspend your budget so badly you lose a client or even your job.
Luckily, ppc budget management tools exist to help digital marketers manage PPC performance and spend. Each have standout features that improve spend management, but they also have limitations as well. We outline the pros and cons of each to help you choose the right option for your organization.
Google, Bing, and Facebook each offer functionality to help advertisers manage campaign spend directly within their advertising platforms.
All three offer the ability to set up “Rules.” Rules can be set to pause an individual campaign once its total spend reaches a predetermined cap. Google and Bing also offer shared budgets which can be used to control spend for a group of campaigns. Shared budgets work by tracking the combined daily spend across several campaigns. Once the daily spend reaches the budget cap, all campaigns in the shared budget stop showing ads for that day.
Finally, account limits can be implemented to manage total account spend. Account limits can be implemented through billing methods (prepay/postpay settings) or by setting an account lifetime spending cap. However, controlling account spend using payment settings is not recommended. Your billing thresholds may rise over time as you accumulate a history of successful payments which could lead to overspending.
Pause single/multiple campaigns automatically based on spend
No cost to implement
Update rules instantaneously in advertising platforms
Track spend for any combination of campaigns (using Shared Budgets) in one platform*
Set email alerts to notify you when a campaign is paused
*Only available in Google and Bing
Cannot track/manage spend across multiple advertising platforms together
Cannot enable campaigns automatically at beginning of new budget cycle
New rules must be created/applied to all new campaigns
If managing multiple advertising accounts, limited account-level spend insight
Must click into each account on each platform to see campaign status
Shared budgets only limit per day spend
Budget caps cannot be set for custom timeframes (ex: month or two-weeks)
Spreadsheets (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.)
Many digital marketers consider spreadsheets an irreplaceable tool for everything from reporting to PPC budget management. Spreadsheets work well for managing multiple PPC accounts across several advertising platforms because they allow marketers to combine and track data from many sources in one place.
With some training on spreadsheet functionality (including pivot tables, vlookups, and macros), you can create a custom budget tracking solution as simple or advanced as you wish.
Google Sheets is also making it easier for marketers to import and refresh data automatically from sources including Google Analytics, Google Ads, and more with both free and paid data connectors.
Track spend across multiple advertising platforms together in one place
Aggregate PPC performance data together in infinite combinations OR
Split and analyze data by channel, networks, campaigns, ad groups, etc.
Refresh data automatically with a few clicks using Google Sheets add-ons
Low or no cost to implement (Google Sheets are free, Excel is not)
Setup may require advanced spreadsheet/Excel knowledge
Tracking relies on formulas or manual data entry
Errors can be difficult to catch
Spreadsheets are for budget tracking/reporting only
Can't push budget changes to the advertising platforms from the spreadsheet
Must be monitored regularly and can't automatically prevent you from overspending
Requires regular monitoring to ensure spend matches advertising platforms
Must regularly update spreadsheets when you add a new client or campaign
Templates must be replicated and updated for new accounts, clients, and campaigns.
Risk of overwriting historical data
Must create template/workflow to track historical data in spreadsheet
The larger a spreadsheet/Excel document, the longer it takes to run analyses
Google and Bing Ads Scripts
Scripts can be used to track and manage PPC budgets. For example, a script will allow you to track when a campaign hits its budget cap. The next time the script runs, the script will pause the campaign.
Make changes automatically to Google or Bing Ads campaigns based on performance
Ex: Pause or enable campaigns with a Budgeting script
Many resources available for Google Ads scripts (see Budgeting Tip below). Bing scripts are relatively new but can be adjusted from Google Ads scripts.
Scripts can be scheduled to run on a regular frequency (hourly, daily)
Scripts can generate email alerts to notify you when changes are made
Create and edit scripts directly from the Google or Bing Ads interface
Scripts only available for Google Ads and Bing Ads
Incorrectly editing a preexisting script could lead to budgeting mistakes
Requires extensive testing to ensure script works as intended
Writing new custom scripts requires costly development resources
Cost to implement varies (free and paid resources available)
Several software solutions have tried to take on the challenge of PPC budget management. Among their numerous other features, major PPC software providers such as Marin and Kenshoo provide advertisers the ability to monitor campaign spend and change campaign status directly from their platforms. Smaller PPC reporting providers such as ReportGarden, NinjaCat, and SuperMetrics have also more recently added spend reporting to their offerings.
But, few option exist for affordable PPC budget management software that does it all: tracks client and campaign spend across multiple advertising networks; automates budgeting processes such as pausing or enabling campaigns based on available budget; and provides intuitive reports that show how campaign spends are progressing toward their budget goals. Full disclosure: that's why we decided to build a platform to do just that: Shape Integrated Software. Keep reading for more information about Shape and how to connect with us below.
Report on campaign spend across major advertising platforms (M,K,R,N,S)
Push budget changes to Google, Bing, and Facebook directly (M,K)*
Create combined rules to control campaign spend across different networks (M,K)
Manage hundreds or thousands of clients together in one platform (M,K,N)
Duplicate spend and performance reports across clients efficiently (M,K,R,N,S)
Additional tooling/features offered (M,K,R,N,S)
Major software can be cost prohibitive and require a lengthy onboarding (M,K)
Smaller platforms don’t offer two-way changes or budget automations (R,N,S)
Lack flexibility to group accounts/campaigns together to monitor performance (M,K,R,N,S)
Ex: Difficult to track a campaign against multiple budget targets (monthly and quarterly)
PPC software lags behind advertising platforms on product releases (M,K,R,N,S)
Teams can’t utilize certain software features if they don’t have enough data (M,K)
Inconsistent communication/help from support teams and account representatives (M,K)
*M=Marin, K=Kenshoo, R=ReportGarden, N=NinjaCat, S=SuperMetrics
Budgeting Tip: Trial or demo multiple software solutions before making a decision. Platforms often offer similar features but you may find they lack the tools or customization you need.
In our previous roles as PPC Account Managers, we cycled through all of the solutions above and found that no one solution was perfect. That’s why we created Shape—to help PPC marketers improve their budgeting processes for a fraction of the cost of major software solutions. Shape automates repetitive, tedious budgeting processes; provides marketers flexibility in how they group and optimize campaigns; makes recommendations to advertisers that they can increase spend and performance; provides basic reporting; and much more.
We know there are no shortage of options to choose from when selecting a PPC budget management solution. It may take time to find the best solution for your organization based on your needs and tooling budget, so don't be afraid to test multiple solutions before you commit!
Let us know your thoughts on PPC budget management tools you’ve tried and loved/hated at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, try Shape free for one client to see how it compares.
Author: Nicole Mears, VP of Marketing at Shape