Testing Bid Management Tools

SEA: intelliAd, Kenshoo, Doubleclick Search or Adobe AdLens?

Kenshoo Bid Management TestsiegerThere are plenty of bid management tools:  intelliAd, Kenshoo, DoubleClick Search or Adobe AdLens (formerly Efficient Frontier). But which system should SEM manager rely on? Before we can take a decision, some important issues have to be clarified. Nowadays bid management tools can do far more than just mere bidding and especially in this field, tools work on a similar level.  Therefore it is all the more important to compare the functionalities for campaign management, tracking, reporting and usability.


In the period from 01/2012 - 11/2012 we have therefore taken a closer look at intelliAd, Kenshoo, DoubleClick Search (Google) and AdLens.


The following issues were analyzed:

  1. Used Technology
  2. Product Feed Integration
  3. Interface / Usability / Performance
  4. Campaign Management
  5. Tracking
  6. Reporting
  7. Bid Management

With increasing complexity of the campaigns, campaign-management, bid management and tracking are becoming ever more important. Therefore, we have weighted these points higher in the overall context. As the performance flows indirectly into the workflow of the campaign management , we show this point  in the infographic separately from interface and usability.

Infographic winner

Bid Management Tool Test

1. Technology Used: Only Kenshoo offers an offline editor

  • intelliAd: Web Application
  • Kenshoo: Web Application & offline editor (Windows)
  • DoubleClick Search: Web Application
  • AdLens: Web Application


2. Product Feed Integration: intelliAd has very precise settings



The user can embed a product feed via intelliAd and generate product-specific keywords. An own ad group is created for product-specific keywords. The keywords are then automatically grouped into ad groups and loaded into the account. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to check the search volume of keywords in advance. In the ad text we will use and work with the dynamic keyword insertion and ad parameters. In version 2.0, there are also advanced settings: Negative keywords are defined and then not included in the account. In addition, a minimum number of characters or words are defined. Other options: The removal of duplicate keywords, punctuation, spaces, strings, the replacement of umlauts or change of word order. The product feed can also be used for comparison shopping engines. Currently intelliAd offers the integration of 27 comparison search engines. The feature is, however, subject to charges.


Kenshoo Kenshoo as well offers, an integrated product feed and dynamic campaign structures can be created. This feature is called "RealTime Campaigns" and subject to charges. Similar to intelliAd an Ad Group is created for each product. Keywords are generated automatically based on self-defined rules. Unfortunately, the search volume of the keywords is also not checked in advance.  The ad text can be used with the dynamic keyword insertion and ad parameters. The Kenshoo interface unfortunately offers only very few options here: settings such as availability or campaign logic are created in the backend. Small changes must always be made directly through Kenshoo.


Doubleclick Search


DoubleClick Search also provides the ability to integrate a product feed. However, the integration is performed only via the Merchant Center. The feed must be first integrated into the Merchant Center and then linked to DoubleClick Search. The product feed can subsequently be addressed via certain filters and thus the campaign can be created. Unfortunately we could not yet take a closer look at this feature.




Via AdLens feeds can also be connected. Similar to the previously mentioned tools ad groups and ads are created with ad-insertion parameters. The user needs to first adjust the campaign settings and then provide with ad extensions. Negative keywords cannot be defined in advance they have to be defined manually at the very beginning. AdLens offers many configuration options: Changes will be made directly into AdLens without adjusting the feed. The most important settings such as "Minimum number of words" or "combined with modifier keywords" are available. However, important options the replacement of spaces or umlauts. Unfortunately AdLens cannot yet generate any Broad Match Modifier keywords.  If these are needed t, the keywords have to be integrated with a plus sign into the feed.



3. Interface / usability / performance: intelliAd convinces with interface. DoubleClick Search & Kenshoo through performance.

IntelliAd The interface of intelliAd looks clean and structured and you find your way right away. The performance however leaves a lot to be desired at times: it takes occasionally several seconds to load a page or to save settings. This makes the campaign management especially difficult. The long loading time is reduced when only the data from the previous day is loaded in the default view.




With Kenshoo it takes a while until the user finds his way and some settings are hard to find. Concerning usability some improvements are required the performance however, is very good. All pages can be opened quickly and the loading of several 1,000 keywords is quite fast. Unfortunately, it is not possible to change the default view in Kenshoo. Although the view can be adapted and saved, it cannot be loaded per default.


Doubleclick Search


The interface of DoubleClick Search is very similar to the interface of AdWords and Analytics, which is why you find your way quickly. Some Google functionalities however bear their own terms: this makes orientation difficult. Example: DoubleClick calls Tracking Pixel Search Floodlight tags. The performance is very good and the pages are built up very quickly.




The AdLens usability needs getting used to. Many of the settings are hidden and cannot be found intuitively. It might take some time before the user his way. In addition, the user interface is somewhat unstable, and may cause display errors. The performance on the other hand is good- working fluidly with AdLens is possible.



4. Campaign Management: Kenshoo is far ahead with the offline editor



The intelliAd interface, offers the usual campaign management operations, such as changing your daily budget, the CPC or the campaign's status. With an advanced filter the user can filter according to specific criteria. However, some filters are lacking (eg: average position or quality factor).


In addition intelliAd offers other campaign management tools, such as the Keyword Tool, the ad text tool, the placement tool as well as brand monitoring. However, these are not yet fully developed, and therefore offer little additional value.


The filter functions offer limited possibilities.  e.g. You cannot filter by campaigns that do not contain a particular word or a particular phrase. We would like to see a filter with regular expressions.


We are particularly pleased with the strategic groups. With their help, the user is enabled to set up a separate structure in the bid management and reporting completely detached from the Google AdWords structure.




In the web interface, the user selects the Advanced Search and filtering between multiple criteria. The Advanced Search settings can also be created as a template and associated with actions such as search and replace, enable, pause or increase the CPCs. The Advanced Search has definitely added value, as this account across the filtering possible keywords is inefficient. Especially for recurring tasks, the Advanced Search proves to be very handy: If one wants to start the adaptations for the beginning of an action or bid adjustments before the weekend. The stored templates can be accessed at a predefined time.


Kenshoo also provides strategic groups. The user creates these with Kenshoo using Dimensions. Unfortunately, these Dimesions cannot be used for bid management. They are rather to be regarded  as a label.


The offline editor of Kenshoo is also handy and definitely offers added value for campaign management. Thus, campaigns are duplicated across all channels by drag-and-drop and a new bingAds account is quickly created. Campaigns in an AdWords MCC (My Client Center - MCC) account can be moved overall. No other tool offers this feature at the moment. Unfortunately there is no management of placements, topics, and contextual keywords. Besides Google and bingAds accounts also Yandex and Baidu accounts are operated by the Kenshoo Editor.


Doubleclick Search


Since DoubleClick Search uses the web interface of Google AdWords or Google Analytics, campaign management is not a problem for the experienced user. Almost all known functions are to be found one to one. The filter function allows the user to search for specific criteria and then save this search afterwards. To DoubleClick Search will also work with labels. These are inherited from higher levels to underlying layers, so this can save some time. The labels cannot be used for the bid management. A very useful DoubleClick Search feature, are the automatic rules. Virtually all of these elements are selected according to certain criteria or paused. Also bid changes are possible through automatic rules. New elements can be uploaded via the bulk upload. For this no DoubleClick Search ID is required so that new keywords are loaded quickly into the old structure. Via a preview function, the user can test whether errors occur during the bulk upload.


AdLensThe AdLens tools strengths does not lie in the campaign management. Although the current campaign management operations are feasible via bulk uploads, but unfortunately not always via the web interface. This slows down the workflow. In addition errors messages occur occasionally with the bulk uploads which are not described in detail. Very practical: the bulk upload is planned and will be - tested before uploading errors – just like it is with DoubleClick Search. AdLens also works with labels. This allows the user to define the labels at all levels. The labels can be linked with constraints and thus are used in the Bid Management (For more, see section 7). A very useful tool in the campaign management is the URL Validation tool. With this tool, all existing URLs are checked in the account according to certain criteria. This ensures that no invalid URLs are to be found in the account.



5. Tracking: Only intelliAd offers a cookie filter



intelliAd provides more tracking options: The data can be directly measured via intelliAd over several other providers.  By choosing intelliAd as tracking method the orders can be either assigned to the date of the conversion or the date of the click. A tracking via URL parameters is also possible with intelliAd. Conversion chains can be taken into consideration across all channels. intelliAd also offers a cookie filter which matches the conversions with the correct channel according to the respective predefined rules. In order to ensure this, all channels have to be tracked via intelliAd, which can be expensive. Further options would be SiteLink tracking and Product Search-ad tracking.


The so-called SubID tracking allows campaign tags or other tracking parameters to be automatically passed to the URL. With intelliAd the user can use its own place holders.



With Kenshoo the user selects either the own Kenshoo  tracking or the tracking of other providers. Unfortunately, the Kenshoo tracking not assign the date of the conversion clicks. The conversion is always assigned to the date of the order. This makes the comparison with the Google conversion tracking difficult. Kenshoo tracking offers the option to track either via a tracking pixel or via URL parameters. Both options are not combinable. Sitelinks are registered via Kenshoo. Kenshoo provides the opportunity to automatically pass parameters to the URL. However, the free of charge options are limited here. The synchronization process of deep links is very easy and fast.


Unfortunately the definition of several "cookie livespans" for different conversion types in a profile is not possible with Kenshoo.


Doubleclick Search


Conversion tracking is done via so-called Floodlight tags. The integration of third-party tracking is not possible.


Based on the DoubleClick Search Links it is not possible to detect to which page the redirect is redirected to, since DoubleClick Search completely rewrites the URL,. This is very annoying when you quickly want to search for a URL in AdWords Editor.


In addition, the tracking links can only be set at the keyword level, but not at the ad level. The synchronization process of deep links is easy and runs quite fast.


DoubleClick Search offers own customized placeholders, which are automatically filled. DoubleClick Search is so far the only tool that provides an interface to Google Analytics. Via this interface Google Analytics onsite data can be imported.




The tracking is well engineered. The Site Catalyst integration is a clear added value for all marketers who have Omniture in use.


Via the AdLens user interface so called "Apend parameters" are defined on account and campaign level. Via these parameters campaign tags or other tracking parameters can automatically be passed on to the URL. Own placeholders can be used. However, these are hardcoded in the URL. Problem here: If an item is moved, then the placeholders are no longer updated. This is not optimal.


Just as with intelliAd it is possible to assign the conversion to the day of the click or the day of the order. As with intelliAd and Kenshoo we have the option to track via URL parameters.


The automatic synchronization process with the search engines must be optimized. New campaigns are synchronized within 24 hours, but unfortunately the destination URLs are not rewritten. For that AdLens needs to synchronize these campaigns again. Since AdLens only synchronizes once a day, it takes up to 48 hours for the process to complete. A manual synchronization is possible. The problem with this solution is: We need AdLens to always synchronize the entire account in order to find the new campaigns. With several 100 campaigns this can take several hours.



6. Reporting: AdLens has a flexible solution and provides the most extensive reports



The intelliAd reporting is extensive, as it offers all the important reports for in-depth analysis. The reports can be downloaded directly via the interface or via the reporting tab. The reporting tab offers the option to generate the report in PDF or CSV. XLS reports shall follow. PDF reports,  can be customized by the user and adapted to the corporate identity. Unfortunately, the pre-defined building blocks for custom reports are still very low and thus most reports have yet to be prepared manually.


Therefore we can actually only work with the CSV format. Here, however, some important reports are lacking, such as a complete contact chains report. intelliAd can however provide these on request via FTP.




Kenshoo also offers all the necessary reports for an in-depth analysis. The reports can be downloaded directly via the interface or via the reporting tab. However, these are only offered for Excel (XLS and CSV). The reports are very extensive, and it will be all you need. Moreover, it is possible to generate general customer or cross-channel reports.


Some Excel reports have a macro malfunction. This is either because of the German regional settings or the Exel versionl (Excel 2011 is not supported). Unfortunately, Kenshoo stores some of the reporting data only for 90 days (e.g. attribution model).


Doubleclick Search


Via the DoubleClick Search user interface, all data can be reported directly. Reports can be planned and are to be found  under the reporting tab. Predefined reports do not exist, which is why, unfortunately, important reports, such as search-chain-report or the development of the quality factor are missing.


It is easily and fast to create report templates via the user interface. Filter segments and custom variables can be used.


The period of comparison captivates through clarity in the report.




Reporting is very flexible. It can be combined with almost all key performance indicators in different report templates and downloaded. With each conversion report, there is also the possibility to observe different conversion distributions (attribution models).


In AdLens, a specially defined Excel template can be stored, which is then filled with the latest data. This is a very good feature, since the reports are customizable and the user can work with different Excel formulas. What we do not like about this: The automatically generated reports are not delivered before 9 o’clock in the morning.



7. Bid Management: All providers have a portfolio-based approach



With intellliAd it is possible to optimize keywords based on regular and/or portfolio-based bid management. A main strategy with several constraints can be thus determined. intelliAd therefore represents an evolutionary Bid Management System


The use of constraints should be done with caution, because the more of them are set, the less will be optimized according to the main strategy. intelliAd can distinguish conversion types and  therefore optimizes according to different  conversion goals. In addition, the intelliAd bid management is also able to control placements, audiences and topics.


Particularly positive in intelliAd: At the level of strategic groups bid management strategies can be awarded. An optimization based on user metrics is not yet feasible.


Another benefit of intelliAd: On-Site Data (bounces) are considered in the bid management, decisions can be made in favor of specific keywords.




Kenshoo also offers the possibility to optimize the keywords rule-based and/or portfolio-based. For each main strategy several constraints can be set. The focus of Kenshoo is clearly on portfolio-based approach, this works best when it is combined with no additional rule-based constraint. Kenshoo detects and regulates seasonal trends. This feature, however, works only with a high data base and must be purchased separately. Based on the bid management settings a preview can be created to define an optimal strategy.


Unfortunately, it is not yet possible for Kenshoo to determine the bid management policy based on dimensions (strategic groups).


The bid optimizations are mostly made ​​through Kenshoo pages. This can save a lot of time and at the same time, the optimization process is unknown (black box). In the Kenshoo bid-change report no transparency of the actual basis of decision-making is created.


Less than positive is that low performer keywords are paused. In addition, Kenshoo has problems to deal with low-traffic keywords. If a sufficient data basis of keywords is unavailable, the Kenshoo keywords can only be optimized starting from a certain portfolio size. We desire an opportunity to also integrate on-site data into the bid management, so that we can create a database for each keyword as quickly as possible.


A major disadvantage of the bid management is that the user can only work with a single portfolio strategy per Kenshoo profile. If we pursue several portfolio strategies in an AdWords account, it can be difficult to illustrate that.


Doubleclick Search


The Bid Management at DoubleClick Search also works rule-based and / or portfolio-based. The portfolio approach can work well with low-traffic keywords. Trends are recognized by the bid management. DoubleClick Search effects four bid changes a day. Cancellations and changes in sales can be imported via DoubleClick Search. The user can weight and rate various conversion types and deposit in the bid strategy. A major disadvantage of DoubleClick Search: To date, no search strings are mapped. It is therefore not possible to store an attribution model.


Each bid-change is tracked via the change history in the bid management. The change history also displays when bid strategy settings are competing. For example, if the max CPA is below the minimum position.


AdLens AdLens works exclusively portfolio based. Unfortunately, there are no rules-based bid strategies. All elements can be labeled and given constraints. This is very similar to the the rules-based bid management. The advantage here is that the rule-based constraints can be independently defined from the campaign structure. That means that with AdLens we are enabled to optimize the CPC and campaign budgets via the portfolio approach and we can also adjust the labels associated with constraints independent of the structure of the CPC bids. However, the administrative effort is very high.


The portfolio-based bid management calculates a bid for each keyword-unit forecast and optimizes according to this. With each bid strategy a cost-and revenue-half-life model can be deposited. Through this, a certain number of days can be defined after which the revenue no longer needs to be fully accounted in the Bid-Units. Thus, the bid management does not only regulate based on attribution models, but it can also be optimized according to an additional time component. This is important for any marketer who has a longer SEM click funnel.


Other useful settings in the bid management are the goals (objectives), according to which the bids are to be optimized. These can be weighted in AdLens.


It's hard to say which tool is suitable for which clients. The customer should always create a list of requirements in advance and choose a tool depending on the desired requirement.


AdLens is a very powerful tracking and reporting tool, Kenshoo is the most powerful campaign management tool, intelliAd very efficiently covers the multi-channel viewing and attribution modeling. DoubleClick Search is insanely fast with new product features and has a close proximity to AdWords and Analytics, but is not yet competitive.


Concerning bid management, AdLens and intelliAd are the most flexible tools, since the user can work with labels and strategic groups. intelliAd additionally incorporates on-site data in the bid algorithms.


Kenshoo has very clever bid algorithms and is ideal for marketers who optimize for an overall goal.


DoubleClick Search sadly still does not offer attribution models (in bid management) and is therefore not recommended.


We will gladly assist you in choosing the right bid management tools. Please contact us!




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