There are dozens of online tools available to help you manage paid search ads and optimize campaigns. The best tools allow you to research keywords, set a budget, create copy, run paid ad campaigns, automate bidding, and analyze results with ease. When done properly, the use of search engine marketing tools can help you bring your target audience to your website and is a necessity for keywords where you are not likely to rank high organic results with SEO.
SEM Tools for Managing Paid Search Ads
The most widely used SEM software includes free tools offered by search engines such as Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads). But there are also many cross-channel campaign management tools that have the capability to manage paid search, social, and display ads. You'll also find that many SEO tools have features for managing paid search ads or integrate with first-party tools like AdWords.
Some SEM tools also offer competitive analysis that will show you what search terms your competitors are bidding on. Besides the obvious benefit of seeing what is working for top-ranked competitors, competitive intelligence also helps you identify missed opportunities to increase your visibility in search.
3 Top Search Engine Marketing Tools
1. Google Ads Tools – Free with Account
Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is Google's pay-per-click online advertising program. With the Google Ads platform, you get a comprehensive set of tools to create and manage SEM campaigns, from setting your budget and choosing where your ads appear in search listings to designing ads and keyword research.
Ad costs are run off the budget you set, ensuring you never spend more than you budgeted for. Plus, there are no monthly or yearly contracts which means you can adjust your ad budget or completely pause your ads whenever you want. Pay Google only when someone clicks on an ad to visit your website or call your business.
Google Ads tools include:
- Account management tools
- Ads Editor
- Google Web Designer – an editor for HTML5 ads on Google Display Network
- Ad targeting tools
- Keyword tools to uncover the most effective keywords.
- Placement refinement tools
- Bid and budget management tools
- Ad Customizer tools that adapt ad text based on the user search query
- Troubleshooting tools help solve account issues
2. Microsoft Advertising Tools – Free with Account
Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) is Microsoft's search engine marketing and advertising platform that works Bing's ad network. Like Google Ads, you get analytics and a management dashboard for running pay-per-click campaigns.
Not only can you do paid search ads, but you'll also have access to the Microsoft Search Network to reach customers globally or locally. While Google is the king of search, the Microsoft Search Network holds a healthy 37% share of the U.S. desktop search market. Microsoft Advertising also makes it easy to import your Google Ads campaigns if you want to make the switch or use both platforms.
Microsoft Advertising tools include:
- Editor (desktop) to create and manage ads
- Microsoft Advertising Intelligence for research
- Keyword planner
- Ad preview tool
- Campaign experiment tool
- Microsoft Advertising scripts tool
- Competition tool for actionable competitive recommendations
3. WordStream Google Ads Performer Grader – Free in exchange for email address
The Google Ads Performer Grader from WordStream gives you a report that details 17 key stats that reveal how your ads are really performing. With this assessment, you get insights and actionable next steps for each category. An overall account grade lets you know what's working and where you need to get to work.
Why is a third-party giving you this free tool for Google Ads? WordStream is an industry leader in digital marketing and provides several paid services, including SEM, so giving them your email address is the small price you pay for such a useful tool.
Managing Your Own SEM Campaigns
If you have a website and a credit card, you can run search engine marketing on major platforms. Each platform provides detailed instructions on how to manage and optimize your campaigns, but the learning curve is a steep and hard climb. This leads many businesses to look for help in managing their SEM campaigns.
Luckily, easy budget control mitigates much of the risk surrounding getting started, testing out different keywords, targets, and ads to grow your website traffic fast. Whether you manage your own campaigns or outsource, paid search marketing stands out as one of the best ways to grow your business.