There’s nothing quite like the feeling of running an ad campaign that generates gigantic returns. It’s what PPC pros thrive on. But let’s be honest, most of our days are spent doing repetitive, monotonous tasks – perfecting that campaign build, crafting variations of copy, or diving face deep into pivot tables.
Talk to any old timer, and they’ll reveal a collection of shortcuts, tools, and hotkeys to get the job done faster and efficiently. Discovering a new, useful tool provides a similar sensation as my grandma coming up big at a yard sale – pure joy.
Sharing the elation, I’ve included below my list of free PPC tools gained from mentors, blogs, and forums over the years. Hope you find some gems and may they aid your workflow.
Search PPC Tools
In 2007, Google revealed that 20 - 25% of search queries they see are new. Let that sink in. Testing long tail keywords can provide additional conversions, at attractive costs. However, pondering all the different variations by yourself can prove limited. Tools can help reveal new opportunities for keyword portfolio growth.
Google autocomplete reveals popular variations to anchor search queries. However, running through the variations can be timely. Übersuggest will take a root query and will run through the entire alphabet, revealing Google autocomplete data for each letter variation. Pick the ones that best fit, and you can easily copy or download the search queries (keywords) in bulk.
There are some keywords and verticals on Google or Bing that are just outright expensive. The Keyword Niche Finder can provide keywords with great opportunity, and ideas into new ad group themes.
Search queries can vary between different properties. Soolve provides insights into to search results across Google, Bing, YouTube, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Answers.com, in one central view.
Trends reveal the popularity of a search query over time, and can divulge any signs of seasonality. Especially useful for short-window B2C products, such as snowblowers.
Most of us can’t watch a TV show without scanning our tablet or mobile phones simultaneously. Typing mistakes happen, especially being distracted while typing on tiny mobile keypads. Use this to your advantage by finding common misspellings, testing them as phrase and exact match keywords. This is especially lucrative for emergency service based businesses. A desperate searcher is likely to click on the first ad they see in the case of an A/C outage on a clammy summer day.
Can we all have a moment of silence for Google’s Wonder Wheel. Deprecated along with Google Labs, advertisers used to be able to discover new root keywords using this visual model – jumping from spoke to spoke. Visual Thesaurus provides a similar experience and pairs well with brainstorming ad group structures.
Separating high volume keywords into ad groups by match typecan greatly decrease CPA (cost per converted click). However, the process is often grueling to do. Luckily, there's MergeWords.
MergeWords is a clean and fast interface to match wrap a long list of keywords. In addition, it can be used to build keyword variations quickly.
Ad Copy Tools
The largest component calculated into Quality Score is click through rate. A high CTR indicates your ad is relevant and helpful to the user’s search, and the advertiser is rewarded by paying a discount for an ad position. Meticulously testing ad copy is one of the biggest factors to improving CTR.
Do you have keyword bleed? Are your ads compelling? How does it render on different devices? What position do you show for in this geo? All these questions can be answered with Google’s ad preview tool. Quite possibly the most emailed link by agency staff to a client; in attempts to keep impression counts down when the client is searching for their own ad visibility.
Just because you receive performance data back, doesn’t mean it’s conclusive. Often, digital marketers will get trigger happy in attempts to irk out gains. The SplitTester calculator can be used to understand if your ad copy A/B test results actually yielded statistically significant outcomes.
PPC Competitor Tracking
While most of these tools are freemium models, they do give you an initial glance on how your advertising campaigns stack up against your top competition. Learn baselines for bidding, high conversion volume keywords, and examples of competitor ad copy.
PPC Ads Editors
Our VP of Product, Paul Wicker, famously says, “there are 3 types of advertisers – U/I, editor, and bulk spreadsheet people”. I’m an editor guy. Editors allow you to quickly edit, copy, or replace campaign, ad group, or ad entities in bulk. Often using hot keys; swoon.
The first native PPC editor to be released. Still the staple for power and functionality.
15. Bing Ads Editor
2016 is rumored to be the year that they release a mac version (finally). If not, I fear the 2,919 upvoters may picket.
PPC Automation Tools
Optimization time stretches thinner with every new campaign or ad group addition. Automation acts as a way to sequence tedious tasks, and lift performance with frequent, real-time adjustments.
16. Google Scripts
Scripts empower marketers with the flexibility to manage their campaigns like a programmer running an algorithm. Set the parameters, test the code, and automate the function.
Being honest, many PPCers can barely change HTML, let alone design a script from scratch. Luckily, there’s the Free AdWords Scripts blog with plug and play scripts to test.
PPC Reporting Tools
17. Google Sheets
While not as advanced and powerful as Excel, GSheets offer some great features to aid your PPC reports – such as team collaboration, add-ons, and cloud storage space.
BONUS: AdStage Google Sheet add-on
- Import your AdWords, Google Analytics, or Facebook Insights metrics into Google Sheets and easily segment by data type.
18. Return on Ad Spend Calculator (ROAS)
Simply tracking cost per lead or cost per sale is only half the picture. PPC campaigns can’t survive long-term if they are not profitable. This calculator helps keep track of your campaigns’ impact on the bottom line.
Social PPC Tools
Unlike Search which is intent based, social requires a bit of a different approach. As an advertiser, you’re revealing your message to an audience who isn’t actively looking for your product or service. Instead, you’re hoping to introduce your offering to a pinpointed audience serendipitously. This means your audience targeting is key to success.
19. Neilson’s PRIZM®
Neilson has been the central point of authority for demographic information in broadcast buys. Their PRIZM tool allows you to understand household and income make ups by zip code, helping you to refine your base level targeting.
This search engine reveals beautiful results for conversations related to your query across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and Vine. It’s a great tool for understanding trending topics, audience behavior, and sentiment.
It’s likely that your prospect won’t read the full body copy in your Facebook ad or sponsored tweet. Headlines and images are the main elements that drive killer CTRs. This tool provides insight into how strong your proposed headline will resonate.
In an ideal world, digital advertisers would have a plethora of creative to choose from; designed in every format and dimension size. The harsh reality is that you may need to reformat creative in a bind, or suffer waiting on going through a design team – who often view ad creative as lowest on the totem pole. Canva provides an easy, yet flexible way to create beautiful ads without dealing with Photoshop’s complexity. I love Canva, and use it religiously to quickly kick out creative (to my design team’s dismay).
23. 20% Rule Tool
In efforts to provide a better user experience, Facebook limits image creative to only reveal up to 20% of the total size in text. This helps to safeguard from spammy, click-bait CTAs that take up the screen. Unfortunately, this makes legitimate advertisers’ lives hard. 20% is not a lot of reality, and the bane to creative types who don’t like restrictions. Using this tool will save later headache of your ad getting rejected. I find it faster to find than fumbling for Facebook’s tool directly.
OK, I got a bit meta there. That’s a link to a blog containing a rich variety of royalty free stock photos to be used in your Facebook or Twitter Ads. It’s worth the look.
If you’re in a very time sensitive bind, this tool can adapt your display creative to meet Facebook dimension requirements.
Social Ad Editors
Power Editor is revolutionary in that it’s not a desktop standalone app. Instead, it’s an editor within a browser environment. Outside of ad management, it can also schedule and create organic posts.
This is for your bulk sheet Excel types. After logging into your Twitter Ads dashboard, find the CTA to download the bulk sheet. Populate the cells you’d like changed and upload it back into Twitter. It’s quite handy for campaign duplication with slight targeting variations to test.
It's likely I only grazed the surface in potential free PPC tools to add to your arsenal. Am I missing any tools worth mentioning? Please let me know in the comments below. I'll add it to the list and give you kudos!