I admit that I’m usually pretty skeptical about paid search marketing software. A lot of good, free tools are out there, and they usually do just as much (if not more) than some of the paid tools that are available. But there are a few tools out there that deserve some of your marketing budget dollars. One of these is Raven Internet Marketing Tools.
I have had the privilege of using Raven Tools for the last couple of months at my day job, and I have to admit that I have been quite impressed. Raven is primarily an SEO tool, but it offers a lot of useful functionality for PPC marketing as well. For the purposes of this review, I’m just going to cover the aspects of the software that are relevant to PPC management.
First off, I should explain some limitations of the platform. Raven doesn’t do any kind of automated bid management, statistical analysis of ad testing, keyword optimization, or any of the other fancy PPC management gimmicks that come with some of your high-end PPC software packages. Raven also does not offer integration with Microsoft AdCenter as of the writing of this review. These are some significant downsides that I hope Raven will fix in later releases. But on the other hand, Raven is much more affordable than the more comprehensive software platforms, so the cost-to-usefulness ratio is actually pretty good.
Raven Tools excels as a paid search management platform in two areas: reporting and research. With Raven, you can get side-by-side comparisons of your AdWords and Analytics data, as well as data on top ranking SEO keywords. Here’s an example (with metrics blacked out to protect client confidentiality):
This is pretty handy for easily measuring how much your AdWords efforts are contributing to your overall site traffic and performance. You can also add in additional dashboard modules like Google Analytics Keywords or Google Analytics Referrers to get a more granular look at where your traffic is coming from.
For keyword research, Raven gives you a lot of options. Your monthly subscription gets you access to keyword research from data sources including Google’s keyword tool, SEMRush, SEOMoz, WordTracker, and Open Calais. If you do a lot of keyword research for new campaigns and ad groups, then you’ll probably save some money by getting Raven Tools instead of subscribing to all of the paid tools it has access to.
You can research keywords in several different ways. A good start would be to use the Research Assistant, which mashes up data from Google, SEMRush, SEOMoz and Open Calais. Here’s a sample report:
Here, you get data on estimated CPC, search volume, and competition. If you want to get information from individual sources within the data mashup, you can do that too. Here’s a look at the same report using only SEMRush data:
The Google keyword tool integration is nothing special, since you can get that data for free anyway. But it is nice to have it available in the same interface that you’re getting your other keyword data from. There’s also a WordTracker option. I’ve never been a big fan of WordTracker, since Google seems to provide more relevant and useful keywords (for free, I might add). But if you want to round out your research with another data source, you can do that too:
Another handy tool for paid search optimization is the Keyword Opportunities report. This one pulls data on your paid search keywords from Google Analytics to show you what you can improve on. The example report below provides site engagement metrics like visits, percentage of total visits, and bounce rate by keywords. With a report like this, you could see which of your paid search keywords have a high bounce rate, then go back to your account and add negative keywords or improve the ad and landing page to improve the bounce rate and increase customer engagement (and hopefully conversions as well).
With monthly subscription plans starting at $99, Raven is both affordable and a must-have for any agency or business with a serious search marketing program. The data insights you get from the platform will easily help you recoup the cost of the subscription by improving your return on ad spend. And unlike most other PPC software packages, your monthly fee is not a percentage of your ad spend. You’ll pay the same for Raven if you spend $1000 a month on PPC or $1,000,000 a month. Raven is in my PPC toolbox, and I recommend that you put it in yours too.
If you want to see for yourself, Raven is offering a free 30 day trial. Setting up your Raven reporting is as easy as inputting your AdWords and Google Analytics IDs – it took me about 15 minutes to enter all of my accounts and set up the dashboards I wanted. I don’t normally endorse products, but Raven Tools is a worthy exception. Give it a try today and tell them I sent you.
Full disclosure: I was not paid by Raven Tools for this post, nor did I receive any free products in consideration. However, I am participating in Raven Tools’ affiliate program via shareasale.com.