When you talk to various search engine marketing firms, they all talk about their toolset. Same with potential investors, "What are you using for a tool?" if you are going to manage 1000s of keywords, how can you do it without an amazing automated tool. People expect all kinds of things out of these tools - they dance, they sing, they do all kinds of things. They have this mysterious black box quality seeing patterns no human can see.
Hmmm...so what's reality?
Well, most tools simply automate a set of rules that are established like: stay within position 1-3 as long as cost is not great than $1. They do not look at portfolio vs. volume. There's only a few that do that. None of these tools write ads, tune landing pages or improve quality score. I can show you the math, but trust me, there are more ways to improve your cost of acquisition then bid management.
Quality score, you ask, what's that? Well, the big search engine folks at Google, Yahoo and MSN don't just take your bid prices and show your ad based on what you're willing to pay. No they are looking for the most they can get per search engine result. That means they care about how many clicks you actually get. They also have their long term interest in mind, so they also evaluate how well your keywords, ads and landing pages match. They also look at how sets of keywords are organized in ad groups. There are even time delay factors. We think there over 50 of these factors. A lot of this has to do with how your campaigns are organized and managed.
So a simple automated tool doesn't completely do the trick. Even a great one does not work if you don't have enough data. This is where processes and highly trained personnel come in that work in a holistic way from strategy to keyword to click to lead to revenue. Bid management is important, but it's only one part of the elephant. Beware of those that seek to rope you in with fancy sounding technology, because this stuff is a lot of detailed effort that only works when there's a lot of focus on the campaign.
And yeah, we do have one of those more advanced ROI based portfolio optimization tools...