With my evaluation of the major SEM platform vendors over the last few months as well as my time with demand-side platforms for display, I’ve finally experienced a productized version of business intelligence integrated with business process that scales across many different businesses.
While evaluating (and now using) SEM platforms, I have been impressed by:
1) how well-suited the tools are for the day-to-day activities of the paid search marketer
2) the dramatic improvements in process and time-savings realized with having reporting and intelligence integrated with the ability to act
We are able to find outliers and immediately cut or increase spend. Tasks that previously used to take several hours can now be completed in minutes.
Demand-side platforms (DSPs) for display advertising are poised to deliver similar operational improvements to display marketing.
Abstracting up one level, I find these tools fascinating in that they’ve been able to productize (and consequently scale) the integration of BI and business processes. What is it about digital marketing that allows this approach to work, as opposed to say a tool built on top of Salesforce? The data sources are fairly homogenous (the three major search engines) and the data itself is even more so (campaign structure, bids, clicks, and CPC’s constitute the majority of the data).
The major difference between users is how they define conversion and revenue; however, even here, every marketer has a revenue number and a fairly standard set of conversion events (registration, revenue event, login, etc). You specify the definition of conversion and then upload one or more related metrics to support analysis and decision-making in the tool. Bidding is driven by revenue and cost and improving CTR and revenue/click allows marketers to focus on improving ad copy and landing pages.
Thus, in this case, limited data and a fairly homogenous cross-vertical definition of success metrics allows a scalable, tight integration of business process and business intelligence.
With regards to the platforms, you do start hitting limits once you start getting very sophisticated e.g. custom bidding algorithms, complex keyword expansion, etc. But even in this area, the vendors are increasingly offering solutions that are more sophisticated than what most in-house digital marketing and analytics operations will develop e.g. attribution models for bidding, automated SQR-driven keyword expansion, etc.
I’m looking forward to watching these products expand over the next year and simultaneously watching how digital marketing processes evolve.