The Six Best Free PPC Tools

When managing a pay per click advertising account, it helps to have a lot of software tools to help you manage your account, discover new keywords, track success, and perform split-tests for you. There are a lot of people out there who would love to sell you an expensive software package to accomplish these tasks. But, in my experience, everything you need to do in a PPC account can be accomplished through free tools that are easily available online. Read on for my choices of the six best free PPC tools:

6. Google Insights For Search – This tool gives you access to the vast amount of data that Google has collected on keyword searches and internet traffic trends. Simply type in the search terms you want to learn more about, select the time frame and geographic area you want to analyze, and you can view trends and relative popularity of any search term that has enough search volume to matter. This is great for discovering how popular your PPC keywords could be, as well as getting a look at likely seasonal trends before they happen.

5. MSN AdCenter Desktop – MSN AdCenter usually has the lowest traffic of the big three PPC providers, but this will soon change once Yahoo’s web properties switch to Bing search. If you’re doing PPC on either Yahoo or Bing right now, you’d better learn MSN’s tools now before your traffic increases drastically. Fortunately, MSN has recently released a desktop editor for their MSN platform, although it is still in beta. If your account meets the right requirements, you could be eligible to download it – see the above link for the steps you need to take. This desktop editor can help you make mass changes to your MSN AdCenter account, like adding multiple keywords, creating text ads in bulk, or other mass campaign/ad group changes. It certainly makes managing an MSN account a lot faster, since you don’t have to wait for multiple pages to load and re-load like in the web interface.

4. SEO Book Keyword Tool – There are lots of good keyword tools out there on the web, most of which are provided by the search engines themselves. But who wants to go back and forth between multiple keyword tools to make a single keyword list? SEO Book has a really awesome aggregator that pulls keyword data from multiple keyword tools like Google, Yahoo, and WordTracker. It’s one-stop shopping for all your keyword research needs. This tool does require that you have an SEO Book account, but registration is free. You also get access to a lot of other SEO Book resources, so it’s a pretty good deal.

3. Google Website Optimizer – Have you heard about how awesome split-testing and multivariate testing are, but the thought of doing all those statistics makes your head spin? Well, you’re in luck. With Google’s Website Optimizer tool, all you need to do is create a few variant pages, cut and paste some javascript code snippets, and the tool does the rest. It even crunches the numbers at the end to tell you conclusively which of your variant pages performed the best. And, with it’s multivariate testing feature, you can choose a set of elements (buttons, images, blocks of text, etc.), and the tool will automatically mix them up in different combinations to see which is the most effective. Split testing your landing pages couldn’t be easier.

2. Google AdWords Editor – After managing accounts with AdWords Editor, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. In fact, I hardly ever use Google’s web interface to work with PPC accounts anymore. This desktop application lets you download your account info, make whatever changes you need, then upload the changes to the web interface. It’s easy to copy and paste any element, from campaigns down to keywords. You can even select multiple keywords and change bids by percentage or dollar amount. I could do a dozen posts about all the features that it has, so it’s probably better to just read Google’s own documentation about this product. And, of course, it’s 100% free. Probably one of the best bargains on this list, considering the wide range of functionality it has.

1. Google Analytics – If you’re going to run a PPC account effectively, you must have a reliable web analytics system in place. Period. You need to be able to keep track of your web traffic, monitor how your organic and paid site traffic is interacting, and look at what keywords people are using to find your site. Google Analytics does all of this for free, and is incredibly easy to implement – just cut and paste a javascript snippet on to every page of your site, and you’re done. What’s more, there are infinite filters and segmentation formulas to allow you to customize your data. You can even set up alerts to let you know when key metrics are rising or falling. With all of this functionality, you’d probably expect to pay a hefty monthly fee for the privilege. But, unlike a lot of similar web analytics packages, this one is 100% free.

Got any more great free PPC tools? Let’s hear about them in the comments.

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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