Elite SEM’s Top Tools for Online Marketers in 2012

Whether you are a seasoned online marketing veteran or new to the industry, it’s very important to know all of the different tools at your disposal.  Some tools help you measure on-site engagement, some help you create a marketing plan and budget, and others allow you to do certain tasks more efficiently.  There are plenty of tools available to make the labor-intensive job of online marketing more manageable.

So, if you’re just getting your feet wet in the space and looking for a list of all the vital tools you’ll need to get started and stay on top of your workload, then this list is for you.  On the other hand, if you are an online marketing guru who knows all the tools on our list and are just curious to know how we ranked them then you’ve also come to the right place!

Preseason Outlook and Introduction to Elite SEM’s Top Tools for 2012 (in alphabetical Order)

Adwords Editor – Bing Ads Editor

Description: A Free software application that allows you to quickly and efficiently create search, display, and/or remarketing campaigns.  These tools also make editing and tweaking existing campaigns extremely easy.  With the Google Adwords Editor/Bing Ads Editor you can do pretty much everything in terms of campaign and bid management that is possible within the Adwords or Bing Ads interfaces.  I find these tools particularly helpful for bulk changes to settings, ad extensions, or creating ads in bulk.  A final note about the editor tools is that they allow you to do productive work in times where you don’t have WIFI.  In these cases, you can make all of the changes you want and then push them live when you’re back on the grid!

Preseason Outlook:  A vital tool that is used on a daily basis by your average skilled search engine marketer.  A strong contender and a real shot at #1 overall tool.

Bid Management Tools – Marin, Search Rev, Kenshoo, Double Click DS3 for Search, etc.

Description: Used to automatically optimize bids for search engine marketing campaigns.  With bid management tools, you can manage an unlimited number of search campaigns and keywords across all major search engines with rules put in place to manage bids and multiple accounts/campaigns at scale (using an API).  Search agencies like Elite SEM like using bid management tools to manage client campaigns because of all of the advanced segmentation we like to promote in our accounts/campaigns.  We not only separate/duplicate campaigns by keyword match types (broad, exact, phrase, and broad match modified groups) but also by device type (mobile, desktop, and tablet) and geography.  The more segmentation you have, the more campaigns and keywords you need to manage bids for.

Additionally, bid management tools allow search marketers to easily report across multiple accounts and search engines.  While these types of reports are not impossible to put together without a bid management tool, using one certainly makes it a lot easier to do.

Preseason Outlook:  Bid management tools are a strong candidate to finish the year in a top spot in both the expert and agency polls.  With the majority of our agency using bid management this is definitely a favorite to end up in the top 3.

Google Ad Planner – Media Planning Tools

Description:  A free media planning tool that helps advertisers to identify publishers and specific ad placements where their audience is when browsing the web.  Media planning tools allow marketers to input specific demographics or interest-based targets and create lists of placements and publishers (a media plan) where you can focus your display advertising.

Preseason Outlook:  The early pundits forecast media planning tools to rank in the lower half of the 2012 top 10 list.  While Elite SEM  leverages runs display advertising campaigns for most of our clients the experts think a display only related tool is going to have a tough time cracking the top 5.

Google Ad Preview Tool

Description:  The Google Ad Preview and Diagnostic Tool lets users search for ads on the Google.com search results page without actually accruing any impressions.  This tool allows users on their desktop to check what ads should be showing in different locations (whether it’s specific cities in the US or even international locations) or on specific device types (mobile, tablet, etc.).

I know from personal experience that the ad preview tool is a huge asset when you’re worried your ads aren’t showing or you do a search and do not see the exact search ad you were expecting to see on Google.com.  Oftentimes something you’ve recently searched for in your browsing history or a specific circumstance results in seeing a different ad serving than the one you expected; or no ad serving at all when actually your correct ad is set to show.  If there is a problem such as a negative keyword blocking your ads or bidding too low for a keyword this tool will help you find those issues to make those changes quickly.

Preseason Outlook:  Depending on whether other marketers at Elite have had similar positive experiences for checking their ads with this tool I could see the ad preview tool being a dark horse to finish high in the final rankings for 2012.

Google Analytics – Analytics Tools

Description:  Google Analytics and other analytics tools offer ways to not only track and measure conversion/sales data on your site but additionally give you key insights into how users are interacting with your website.  On top of enabling you to optimize your site to make it more user friendly and increase conversion rates, you can also see what terms drove users to your site across all channels, as well as where users were before they got to your site and where they go when they leave your site.  Using an analytics tool helps advertisers understand how different channels impact each other and their overall advertising program, and also gives those advertisers the data to build an attribution model that makes sense for their specific business.

Preseason Outlook:  Add another strong contender to the list of tools vying for Elite SEM’s top tool for marketers in 2012.  The chatter around the office is that analytics tools have a real shot at winning this race.

Keyword Creation Tools – Google Keyword Tool and Others

Description:  Keyword creation tools help advertisers enter one keyword or keyword phrase which then generates a larger list of additional word searches or queries that you can use in an online marketing campaign.  Keyword creation tools allow marketers to generate keyword lists for their campaigns fast and efficiently.

Preseason Outlook:  As keyword tools making the tedious task of keyword creation easier there’s a large sentiment that this tool has a high ceiling in terms of where it will end of for the end of 2012 rankings.

Microsoft Excel – Other Spreadsheet Programs

Description:  A spreadsheet application/software that allows users to make calculations, graphs/charts, pivot tables, and many other data functions/manipulations.  Microsoft Excel enables search marketers to create reports for analysis, as well as the creation of keywords, ads, and campaigns in bulk.  Microsoft Excel is without a doubt one of the most essential tools for any marketer.  You could make the argument this is “the tool” marketers can’t live without.  If you walk around any of the four Elite SEM offices in the United States odds are you’ll see Microsoft Excel open on most computer screens.  As an online marketer there is no downside whatsoever to learning as many of the functions and processes available using Excel.

Preseason Outlook:  The reigning champ, this is the tool that all the other tools are looking to beat.  Will it maintain its position as an online marketer’s top tool for 2012?

The Google Contextual Targeting Tool

Description:  While similar to the keyword creation tool, the Google contextual tool helps you build keyword lists for display campaigns utilizing contextual targeting.  This tool helps you create tightly themed groups for your display campaigns in minutes.

Preseason Outlook:  Similar to the ad planning tool the pundits are not projecting the contextual targeting tool to break the top 5 tools for 2012 because these tools only target campaigns for the display network.

Traffic Estimator Tools

Description:  Designed to give users keyword search traffic and cost estimates on the various search engines and search engine partner sites.  Estimator tools allow you to put in specific keywords, match types, budgets, CPCs, and geographic targeting to see estimates on potential keywords and campaigns.

Preseason Outlook: One of the harder tools to predict on the list.  With your everyday search marketer not needing to use this tool on a daily basis we’re expecting this tool to end in the bottom five.

Web Developer Tools – Firebug

Description:  Web development tools allow search marketers to monitor and “debug” different codes on websites.  Tools like Firebug are free and allow marketers to test their client’s conversion or remarketing codes.  Oftentimes if a new code has to be placed on an advertiser’s site or there are codes that aren’t working web development tools help marketers troubleshoot these issues.

Preseason Outlook:  One of the more technical tools on this year’s list of Ten.  In the hands of an individual with the “know how” to use it, a web development tool is truly powerful for debugging site code.  Will our voters remember the times that they have needed this type of tool to put out a tracking issue “fire”, or is this tool not used often enough to finish high on this year’s Top Ten?

 

Now on to the 2012 Top Tool Rankings!

Elite SEM 2012 Top Tool Rankings

RANK

Tool

Expert Rank

Company Rank

Final Comments

1

Microsoft Excel

1

2

While Excel wasn’t the top popular vote for the #1 consensus agency tool, getting the top spot in the expert polls plus being the preseason favorite ensures Microsoft Excel the top spot in our 2012 poll.  While a few other tools on the list made a good run for the top spot, Excel gets the honor and continues to be the #1 tool to beat looking into the new year.

2

Adwords Editor

2

3

No doubt the Adwords Editor/Bing Ads Editor had a real chance to celebrate the end of 2012 as the top tool for online marketers.  A #2 finish on our list is nothing to be ashamed of but I’m sure the editor tools are going to be left wondering what more they could have offered to win our top spot.

3

Bid Management Tools

4

1

Controversy strikes as the Bid Management Tools end the year in the#3 spot on our 2012 list!  Bid management tools were the unanimous #1 popular pick as the top tool at Elite SEM.  While our expert admittedly uses bid management tools for all of his clients he didn’t feel like they were as crucial of a tool in daily management as Microsoft Excel, the Adwords Editor, or Analytics.

4

Analytics

3

4

Surprising news for a lot of folks as Analytics falls out of the Top three.  However, the outlook for the future of analytics remains strong and being rated as the 4th best tool in 2012 is something to be proud of!  It will be interesting to see if things like the new analytics remarketing lists and getting Google Analytics data in Adwords raise the ranking for this tool in 2013.

5

Keyword Creation Tools

5

5

Both our expert and the company rated keyword creation tools at #5 keeping this trusty tool in the top half of this year’s Top Tool List. An old trusted friend in the search community.

6

GGL Ad Preview Tool

6

7

I wonder if the Google ad preview tool could have previewed that it would be this close to making the top five of our list.  Undoubtedly a very useful tool and deserving of the 6thspot on our list in 2012 competition.

7

GGL Contextual Tool

7

8

Personally one of my favorite tools on the list.  A very underutilized and underpublicized tool.  I think the folks on the Google product team behind the contextual tool can be happy they made it out of the bottom three of this year’s list at #7.

8

Traffic Estimator Tools

10

6

Our expert has been telling people to take data from traffic estimator tools with a “grain of salt” for over seven years now and looking at the popular company vote, he might be accused of bias against this tool. These tools do provide the data a lot of people are looking and a place to start before launching new campaigns.

9

Web Developer Tools

8

10

Web developer tools finish the year at the #9 spot on our list.  I have a feeling if someone starts to have issues with conversion tracking on their site this tool would shoot up higher on your list of the most important tools very, very fast.

10

Google Ad Planner – Media Buying Tools

9

9

Rounding out the top 10 for 2012 is the Google Ad Planner – other media planning/buying tools.  A very powerful tool indeed to find out about your audience or find places to target your audience across the web on the display network.

 

How the rankings were calculated: After polling the search marketers of Elite SEM all votes were added for each tool and divided by the number of voters to get an average rank.  These average ranks were the scored by one to ten.  That ranking was then averaged by our Search Marketing expert voter who ranked the tools on our list one to ten.  The average of the expert voter and the popular agency vote was used to determine the final rank.  In the event of a tie, the experts ranking was the deciding factor.

Others tools receiving votes:

  • Competitor Analysis Tools – SEM Rush, KeywordSpy, Compete.com, The Search Monitor
  • Presentation Tools – Microsoft PowerPoint
  • The Phone
  • Email Programs – Microsoft Outlook, Gmail
  • Google Tag Manager

And that’s our list for 2012!  Did your favorite tool make the list?  Surprised by the rankings?  Let us know in the comments below or email me at Marc@elitesem.com .

Marc Weisinger completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. He has worked as a search engine marketing professional at Elite SEM for over 7 years. He is professionally certified in search and display advertising on both the Google AdWords platform as well as MSN/Yahoo’s Bing Ads platform. Marc is the Director of the Elite SEM Blog, and in addition to his full time job at Elite SEM Marc is an adjunct instructor at NYU teaching online marketing in the School of Continuing and Professional studies. Go Gators!

 

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