Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on July 29, 2014. It has been updated to reflect offering changes, as well as newly available tools and solutions.

Pay-per-click (PPC) levels and democratizes the playing field when it comes to advertising. It removes two of the biggest obstacles to success with traditional print advertising — high cost, and the nagging feeling that nobody’s actually seeing your ad — with a model that only charges when your ad is actually seen and clicked.

That sounds simpler, but the lower barrier to entry makes for some fierce competition. A PPC ad campaign, like its print and broadcast counterparts, isn’t just something you can set up without a bit of research. You need to understand the age, gender, income levels, and buying habits of your target demographic; you need to manage and bid on the best keywords to reach that demographic; and, finally, you need to constantly test and iterate to ensure your signal cuts through the noise of everyone else’s paid and organic search results.

Dozens of companies have taken advantage of that complexity (and the confusion that goes with it), offering solutions that help SMBs hit their SEM targets by automating several parts of the process. To simplify your research, we’ve identified the top twenty PPC management vendors.

Acquisio– Software that uses machine learning to drive proprietary High-Frequency Predictive Algorithms that adjust and optimize your PPC bids 24/7. Those algorithms touch on each Acquisio product to ensure your marketing spend works smarter.

AdCore– Ecommerce businesses will benefit from the digital advertising platform’s dynamic campaign tools, which update automatically based on your inventory. It will allow you to go beyond basic bid management so you can automate your daily SEM tasks and add or exclude search terms or automatically turn auto placements into managed placement.

AdWords Express– Google AdWords is the 800-pound gorilla in the PPC space. Little surprise that the company offers solutions that are easy to scale and automate. All that’s required is an AdWords account and a $10/day minimum ad budget.

Criteo– Criteo Predictive Search, formerly DataPop, uses machine learning-driven “Predictive Search” to optimize for Google Shopping. While they’re used by 30 top US ecommerce companies, the solution scales to SMBs as well.

Finch– Their approach to automation ditches rules-based automation in favor of machine learning that makes granular use of the information provided in keyword research. What results is smarter targeting and higher profit.

Flimbu– Combine bid optimization, quality score, and search terms in one hub for higher performance. Flimbu’s terms — which include designing your first campaign for free, no-credit-card signups, and no charge for customers spending up to $150/month, make them a good point of entry for SMBs new to the PPC game.

IgnitionOne–  Get clearer answers on your budgeting assessments with IgnitionOne. It uses an algorithm that individually scores your customers based on interest, value, and on-site activity to help you increase conversions across multiple channels. Not only will you know where your customers are, you’ll know who they are and how best to reach them.

Kenshoo– Take advantage of the world’s most advanced ad solutions technology. While Kenshoo offers many of the same tools as its competitors, it has a global reach via partnerships with Baidu, Yahoo! Japan, and Yandex in addition to the usual suspects like Google and Bing. That makes them an ideal vendor if your SMB has international ambitions.

Marin Software– PPC is more than Google AdWords. Marin’s smorgasbord of PPC, display ads, and social media advertising lets you work across platforms from a centralized location, complete with robust analytics and automation.

Opteo– A streamlined dashboard gives you an overview of your PPC marketing but also lets you drill deeper on specific segments and suggests improvements — even suggesting keywords that outperform the average by conversions so you can maximize your budget.

Optmyzr– Manage your PPC accounts more efficiently by automating tedious and repetitive tasks using Optmyzr’s tools. Take advantage of their 30-day free trial to test drive their One-Click OptimizationÔ Tools, Data Insight Tools, Enhanced ScriptsÔ for AdWords, and PPC reporting. While it works for any industry, Optmyzr is particularly well suited for automotive and home services PPC.

Searchforce– A combination of reporting, revenue tracking, seasonality, platform intelligence, and proprietary analytics allow for better bid management. The same tools that drive traffic for the yellow pages, Berkshire Hathaway, and others is placed at the disposal of your small business.

SEMrush– Goes beyond PPC management and analytics to give SMBs insights on other aspects of their web presence. There are additional tools to audit your backlinks and your website as a whole in addition to the usual advertising and keyword research utilities.

SiteWit– What sets them apart is their patent-pending analytics are easy to install (a single line of code in most types of websites, including Wix and WordPress) and free to use. You’ll only pay extra for more in-depth metrics. Paid plans add features like lead generation, coupons, Facebook offers, and a plethora of other useful tools.

TEA Software– Automated bid management for Adwords with a particular focus on automated engagement fraud protection and click fraud protection. It provides a visitor threat score for all the visitors and an engagement score only for real visitors. TEA will help you combat wasted ad spend by monitoring visitor behavior in realtime and it has the ability to pause keywords that do not perform.

Top Placement Ads– Statistically speaking, the lion’s share of business leads click on one of the top three ads on Google. Top Placement Ads gets you there.

TranslateMedia – Given the size of the travel industry, one would expect to find more companies catering to its PPC needs. TranslateMedia is a full-service shop that provides PPC and other services to travel sites in more than 90 languages.

Unbounce– Quickly and easily build custom landing pages and high-converting overlays (Convertables) for any campaign using this platform. Unbounce helps you convert traffic into leads and sales on any web page, blog, or ecommerce store. It also integrates with a variety of email, marketing automation, analytics, and CRM tools to make the process even more efficient.

Webtrends– A platform that provides SharePoint analytics, optimization, split testing, and more, across search engines and social media. The company excels in presenting those analytics in an easily-digestible form that lets you translate insights into action.

WordStream– By using a three-step process — Analyze, Optimize, and Maximize — WordStream benchmarks and optimizes your PPC campaigns. In addition, they offer a suite of resources that help SMBs better understand the mechanics of PPC and web marketing.

SMBs all too often operate on razor-thin margins. That’s especially true when you’re just starting out and it feels like every penny, and every minute of every billable hour, counts.

Automating your SEM processes doesn’t just save time and money. It gives you valuable insight into what works or what doesn’t. That, in turn, helps you reach the right people with the right message and boosts your bottom line.

If you don’t have the time to implement these PPC tools for your campaigns consider checking out a PPC agency near you

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Leilani Wertens
Content Manager at | More Posts

Leilani is an established digital marketing professional, fine art and editorial photographer, and journalist. She has over 10 years of experience writing, editing, and publishing content for the web.