Three Challenges For Paid Search Managers

Managing paid search campaigns is hard.

But why?

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three primary reasons why it’s so hard to manage paid search campaigns efficiently and effectively:

  1. There is a lack of clarity. It is amazingly difficult to get accurate and complete data on campaign performance and results. Much of the data you need to see is scattered across three to five different tools and interfaces. Other data is presented in formats or based on calculations that just aren’t right. (they’re wrong.) Still other information is seemingly unavailable. There is no quick and accurate way to get reports which are satisfying.
  2. It’s tough to assign priority to possible actions. This is directly related to the clarity problem in many ways, but given the size of today’s campaigns, and the information provided by both the engines and even with leading analytics and paid search tools, it’s hard to know what is the most important next step to take. There are so many choices and the functional and mathematical basis for clearly making these decisions are just not available.
  3. Actual paid search management is horribly inefficient. A huge number of the things one needs to do to manage campaigns are dreadfully difficult to accomplish. Many involve potential campaign reorganizations. Some depend on keyword expansion or match type filtering. Others require bid modifications or target landing page testing. Almost all are about 100x harder to accomplish at the scale they need to be done than I wish they were or anyone has time to complete.

These three issues – clarity, priority, and efficiency – are holding back the paid search industry. Perhaps not in terms of pure industry spend – because fear is still driving a lot of rather uninformed dollars into the game – but certainly success and returns from the advertisers point of view are suffering greatly.

While I don’t think they’ve been identified or considered in quite this way, the overall feeling of being ‘out of control’ or ‘without control’ pervades the comments I’ve received in recent discussions with both practitioners and executives responsible for paid search.

When was the last time a search marketer told you how in-control of their campaigns they felt? How sure they were that both expenses and revenues were where they should be?

Does anyone feel this way?

Over the next few posts I’ll dive deeper into each of these problems, attempting to clarify the issues and try to start identifying solutions.

There’s always a lot of talk about the ‘future of search’ but it usually focuses on the searchers or the search engines. I’d like to try and think about it relative to the future of search managers and search management tools.



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