Adwords Tech Review: Marin Software

Oh Marin, Marin! How much we love ye and yet can’t stand ye!

I’ve worked with Marin Software for many years, on big campaigns—and I have many mixed thoughts about it, which I will summarize here.

First, let’s review the good thoughts. 

Marin is the best tool I know of—at the time of this article at least—to synchronize AdWords / Google Ads and Bing Ads accounts. The synchronization issue is a serious challenge. When you’re in optimization mode, you don’t want to repeat every little optimization twice. It doubles the amount of time needed, and it’s very annoying. Given that the AdWords to Bing audience is approximately 4 or 5 to 1 everyone tends to concentrate on AdWords optimization, to the detriment of Bing.

An ideal solution would be an instantaneous, automatic synchronization—but Google forbids that.

The closest it comes to solving this is Marin Software. Marin takes the campaign changes to AdWords and gives it to you in an easy-to-upload format for Bing. Only a few clicks, and BAM—there you go! Still a bit annoying, but way better than doing it manually. This alone may make it worth the large fee.

The other key power feature of Marin is automated bidding. If you want to create sophisticated rules to change the bidding, it gives you much more power than AdWords. For example, while on AdWords you can adjust bids by criteria such as “time of day”. Marin lets you aim for a target position, and then it adjusts the bidding (within the ranges you define) to try to get your position to that target. As someone who has often found position number 3 to be the optimal position—below that too few clicks, above that too expensive per click—the Marin platform is really helpful. And, yes, I know that Google is de-emphasizing the ad position…it smells to me like they will stop giving us that data at some point. 

All that said, it is important to acknowledge that Marin does have many downsides.

First, the cost, at 5% of the ad spend quickly becomes huge for non-trivial campaigns. For large campaigns, are the two benefits worth what amounts to another employee’s salary? Only you can judge that!

Second, the interface feels like it hasn’t had an uplift since 2002. As a result, you need to work through lots and lots of clicks and clunkiness to do simple bidding changes. 

Third, it doesn’t include many of the smart, smooth features, such as smart recommendations that it auto-implements, etc. Leave these up to one of the younger and newer competitors.

All that said, Marin is the lumbering giant in the AdWords tools space. They’ve been around forever, which can be both good and bad. It is feature-rich but clunky. So, pick your poison, no system has everything. In this case, the value is primarily in the two features mentioned above. The other features—reporting, automated changes, and so forth—are much easier and cheaper to get elsewhere, and through better UI-s.

Finally, how the heck do you pronounce your name, Marin? My instinct is always “MAH-rin,” which feels natural in English. But you’re based in San Francisco, where the trust-fund-hippy northern suburbs is “Marin County,” pronounced “Mah-RIN” (I characterize you that way full of love for you, Marin County!).

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