PPC Tools: Marin Software Review

For most businesses, your pay per click account is going to be small enough where you can manage all of your campaign elements within the web interface of your chosen provider. For medium-sized accounts, free tools like AdWords Editor and MSN AdCenter Desktop can help with account management. But once you get up to enterprise-level PPC accounts, sometimes you need a little something extra in your PPC tool to help manage bids, make bulk changes, and see how your PPC accounts are affecting your revenue. Marin Software is a pretty good choice for accounts of this size, although it does have its drawbacks.

I’ve had the privilege of working with Marin Software for about a year now, and I’ve had my ups and downs with it. I must admit that I have kind of a DIY ethos when it comes to PPC. I don’t like paying for tools when I can probably create a workable solution using a spreadsheet program and the tools that the PPC networks provide. But, I have been impressed with one major feature of Marin that Google and MSN lack: integration with revenue streams.

We all want a good ROI from our PPC accounts. But this can be a difficult thing to track when you’ve got PPC numbers coming from one source and revenue numbers coming from another. Marin can act as a bridge between the two, if you set it up correctly. You can send revenue info from your systems into the Marin tool, where it analyzes your ROI at the keyword level and adjust bids according to the rules you set up. You can select what your target ROI is, what positions you want to target, and how much to boost your bids after the revenue calculations are completed. Using these rules takes the guesswork out of bid adjustments and creates a more formal algorithm that puts your bid adjustments on auto-pilot, freeing your staff up to work on other PPC tasks.

However, these rules can be a double-edged sword. If not set up properly and monitored carefully, the calculations can get out of hand. You might end up bidding down keywords to get a better ROI, only to get fewer conversions, which in turn reduces your ROI and forces Marin to enter a vicious cycle. Think carefully about your profit margins and the implications of getting low positions, or else you might regret your automated bidding in the long run.

Marin Software can also help manage large and unwieldy accounts. Personally, I prefer AdWords Editor to Marin’s interface when making bulk changes in Google. But, since MSN still has a buggy desktop editor and a poor web interface, AdCenter accounts are a little easier to manage in Marin. I haven’t had experience working with Facebook accounts in Marin, but I would imagine that the Marin Software interface is probably a lot better to work with compared to the Facebook interfaces I’ve seen. Campaigns and ad groups can be grouped into “folders” to manage similar changes across accounts, saving you the trouble of having to make changes in each PPC account. This was a bigger deal when there were three major PPC accounts to work with (Google, Yahoo, and MSN), but might become more useful if Facebook PPC takes off this year.

So is Marin Software a good choice for your business? It depends. Most accounts probably aren’t large enough to really need the functionality that Marin offers. But, it is a good choice for large businesses that need to automate some aspects of their PPC accounts to save time, or regularly need to make bulk changes in their large PPC accounts. Think of it this way: what would you rather have, a new tool to make your current PPC manager(s) job easier, or another staff member that would cost an equal amount of money to hire?

You can read more about Marin’s product offering at http://www.marinsoftware.com/.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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2 Responses to PPC Tools: Marin Software Review

  1. Alex says:

    Hey Shawn,

    This is one of the few reviews of Marin that I have read that seems fair.
    What do you think about the costs though? It seems pretty crazy to take a portion of my spend and just hand it over to Marin. I understand bigger account require more out of Marin, but there is already a monthly charge…

    Oh and for Facebook, there are currently 14 approved advertising tools, one I would promote would be DryLeaf. There is a free version if you just want to test it out. They have a responsive team that has mentioned that dayparting is in the future for DryLeaf. That alone would make the paid version (already low cost) worth it.

    Have you done much with Facebook? Any thoughts on it?

    Thanks for your great blog,

    Alexander Pokorny

    • Thanks for the comment, Alexander. Like I said in the post, I think you should weigh the benefits of the Marin tool vs. the quality of hired help you can get at the same cost. Marin management fees can get pretty pricey if you spend a lot of money on PPC, but at a certain level of account complexity it starts to make sense. I’m a firm believer that a well-paid analyst is going to be much more effective for improving your account than an expensive tool that no one knows how to use effectively. But then again, I am a well-paid analyst, so I’m probably going to be a little biased.

      I haven’t done a lot with Facebook because the companies I’ve worked for haven’t seen good results with it in the past. I think it might work well for some companies but not others – a Groupon-style service might generate a lot of business while someone who sells oil drilling equipment probably wouldn’t find a relevant audience. Like most other PPC efforts, you just have to try it and see.