“My current vendor is doing a great job and is taking great care of us” is something I hear frequently. What they may actually be saying is “I don’t know what is going on, they are nice people and seem to know what they are doing”. What if you knew exactly how to manage your PPC vendor? Here are a few tips:
#1. Define outcome: You are in business to make money? You make money from selling products for more than they cost you (including fees to Google and vendor). Know that cost and set a hard cost of revenue (Cost per Value) target and measure against that.
Fact: Recently most companies are tracking the revenues that comes from their AdWords ad spend, but 100% of the clients Finch starts working with did not use revenue data when deciding how much to bid for the next click. (hint: they are bidding for conversions (CPA) while expecting revenues (CPV).
#2. Keyword coverage: You sell products, your prospective customer are searching for products; make sure your product titles, UPC codes, etc. are in your keyword bank. Ask the question and do spot checks.
Fact: The average eCommerce company Finch starts to work with has less than 25% of their product catalog listed as keywords (hint: they ignore 75% of their market).
#3. Influence the Click-through-rate (CTR): Your CTR drives ad rank and how much you pay per click for a position. Ad copy, extension use and best practices, and ad parameters are key components that needs both strategy and structure to isolate the variables in order to influence them. Track the CTR on your top producing ads over time.
Fact: 100% of companies Finch starts working with groups keywords into an ad group with multiple ads associated with them. Isolating a high impression ad with a keyword becomes impossible and optimization is simply not feasible.
#4. Leverage how Google AdWords really works: How Google AdWords works is really simple in principle, you pay them $1 and you get a click in return. The challenge is that most your competitors are also willing to pay Google $1 for that same click. That is why Google developed a highly sophisticated auction platform where they sell clicks so that you can bid more or less. In addition Google developed a very sophisticated “black box” called Quality Score that for all practical reasons enable them to calculate which ad will give them the best click probability/revenue combination. That is what is called ad rank, you must have a strategy that you are executing against.
Fact: Exact match clicks have a higher CTR, fewer clicks means you are willing to pay more per click, higher bid/CTR gets a higher position which triggers top 3 ad features (extensions), which again gets a higher CTR, driving a higher quality score, resulting in a higher ad rank (better and more clicks for less).
#5. Google feature adoption: There has been more changes and enhancements to Google AdWords the past 18 months than the previous 10 years combined. This is more visible in the Ad than anywhere else; i.e. all extensions give you more real estate on the SERP (search engine results page) which means your competition gets less. Product listing ads best practices, remarketing for search configuration, bid adjustments on ad group level in the new Enhanced Campaigns (i.e. Desktop vs Mobile, Re-marketing for Search bid adjustment for different shopping stage profiles). Early adoption is key to benefit early and before others, proven best practices are key over time to remain competitive.
Fact: The above best practices can influence your CTR and profitability by over 50% just by turning on a feature, turning on all of them with best practices will change your business as it has done for most of our clients.
Bonus #6: Check your log file to monitor the vendor activities (bid changes, Ad changes, keyword additions, etc.
Fact: If you pay a vendor by the hour you will see a lot of activity, if you pay a flat fee or a license you will see limited activity. Unless you pay for performance in a model where your and the vendor’s outcome is aligned, one will always try to get ahead of the other.
Bjorn just hit publish on a brand new eBook outlining the AdWords strategies eCommerce companies must employ to grow revenue and profit with PPC.
If this eBook were written as a tweet (you know, 140 characters or less), it would read:
“Buy profit not acquisitions. AdWords must be a sales channel, not an ad expense. See how one company increased revenue by 310% and profit by 169%!”
While a tweet sounds intriguing, this eBook goes into detail about each of the steps necessary to accomplish this. This strategy addresses the unique requirements eCommerce companies have for PPC. Specifically, managing the complexity of offering multiple products, each with different prices and profit margins, and setting the right cost targets.
The key to this strategy, as laid out in the eBook, is to shift away from focusing on Conversions and Acquisitions, and move to Revenue and Profit instead. You’ll have to go read the eBook for all the details, but here are the major topics Bjorn covers:
The eBook closes with a quick look at the results for one company that applied these strategies to their own AdWords efforts.
Attribution is a hot topic in PPC and almost everybody has an opinion. I have read many different posts where so-called experts are comparing attribution to a football/soccer team where the striker is the “last-click converter” and the defender is the generic “assisted converted keyword.” It all makes a lot of sense to me, however each post lacked evidence to back their opinions. To me, the whole idea was too easily bought - perhaps because it logically made sense.
But as I dug into the concept, investigating this idea using actual data, I discovered that there is no such thing as “strikers” or “defenders”; instead, 95% of all keywords are “all-rounders”. Sometimes they function as the last-click converting keyword, other times they assist.
What is Attribution:
I live in the world of eCommerce and attribution is very important to understand. Let’s start the discussion by defining exactly what I mean by attribution.
Attribution can be a lot of things:
“Attribution is the process of identifying a set of user actions (‘events’) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then assigning a value to each of these events” - IAB Attribution Primer
Attribution is therefore very broad, for the sake of this discussion, let's scope the definition down to Attribution in AdWords Search for eCommerce. In this post I will use empirical data to explain how attribution affects AdWords Search for eCommerce businesses.
What did I do?
I had long discussions with several PPC experts (most of them Googlers) and we all came to one main conclusion involving attribution within AdWords Search for eCommerce:
What is the impact of assisted click conversions on an AdWords search account?
If we listen to the experts out there, then you might have a keyword like “smartphone” and this keyword almost never converts (a defender). However, a keyword like “samsung s3 smartphone” will have all the last-click conversions (a striker).
If you only have one last-click conversion on “smartphone,” but that keyword leads to 10 assisted conversions, then obviously that is an important keyword. There is a lot of hidden data not evident if you only look at the last-click conversions.
If your keyword sits in the top 3 position, then you already have that keyword in a good position. If the keyword sits below 3, then that keyword is potentially “under-valued” and could be bid up.
However, let’s look at the data first.
What did I analyze?
I examined 3 months of data for three large eCommerce clients, accounting for conversion lags by starting from 30 days ago. I have compared both accounts managed by Finch and accounts managed by others.
Based on my discussions with Googlers and other AdWords experts, we came to the conclusion that in order for it to be attribution within AdWords Search for eCommerce the data must show twice as many assisted conversions as last-click conversions.
Are there any keywords that have twice as many assisted conversions as last click conversions within AdWords Search?
If so, what is the impact of these keywords?
For the analysis, I only looked at keywords sitting in position 3.0 or lower and had received at least 1 click. If they had 1 or more assisted conversions, but zero last-click conversions, then they also fit this description.
For the analysis part, I compared the keywords I found with the total number for any keyword with either:
a) a last click conversion and/or
b) an assisted conversion
So basically anything adding value to the account (not including impression-assisted conversion value)
What I Found
International Home Goods Retailer:
139 out of 12,018 keywords fit this description = 1.16%
The 139 keywords of the 1,461 keywords with conversions = 9,5% represents:
UK Home and Garden Retailer:
18 out of 17,112 keywords fit this description = 0.11%
The 18 keywords of total 2,596 keywords with conversions = 0.7% represents:
Danish Electronics Retailer:
61 out of 10,487 total keywords fit this description = 0.58%
The 61 keywords of the 1,590 keywords with a conversion = 3.8% represents:
Thoughts on data:
The data shows that there are very few keywords matching my definition of attribution. The main reason: most keywords function as both assisted-click conversions and last-click converters. I found very few keywords functioning either as a strictly assisted-click converting keyword or a last-click converting keyword.
If you define attribution with AdWords Search for eCommerce as keywords that are so broad that they will almost never convert, but will have a lot of assisted conversions, then attribution within AdWords Search is almost non-existent. Very few keywords have this characteristic!
The assumption that keywords play a role as either first-click converters or last-click converters is not supported by the data. The story of “defenders” and “strikers” is fun, and intuitively believable, but in practice there are very few keywords that could be strictly labeled as “strikers.” The data shows 90%+ of keywords are actually “allrounders.” Keywords sometimes work as assisted conversions and sometimes work as last-click conversions. When you focus attention on keywords in the last-click converting role, you will actually be looking at 95% of the revenue-generating traffic.
Look for yourself in your AdWords account. Filter for “Search Funnel -> Click assisted conv / Last click conv.” Set that higher than 2 and add in another filter looking for keywords below position 3.0. You will most likely find only a couple of keywords.
The way we define and evaluate attribution is far too generic and should be updated. The only way to identify the best ways to optimize your AdWords efforts is with more data and less opinions.
Online advertising is constantly changing and we are here to help you stay on top of all these changes. We just held the first Customer Success Webinar for 2014, full of information on the ways we are helping you optimize your account and the many changes Google has made to AdWords.
Here’s a quick summary of the topics we covered, but you can listen to the whole webinar with the video below.
Profit is the ultimate outcome for eCommerce companies
At Finch, we are focused on one thing: maximizing your revenue and profit through AdWords. Many of our customers have already made the shift from a cost per acquisition (CPA) model to a cost of revenue (CPV) model. However, for most businesses with variable profit margins we know that the best way to optimize your AdWords account is to use Profit. By focusing all optimization efforts on profit, we can focus all of your budget on the keywords that maximize your profit.
Expanding Keyword coverage
You lose 100% of auctions you do not compete in. Having keyword coverage that most accurately represents your entire product catalog is the best way to grow your market and reach more potential customers. We help you by connecting directly to your product catalog and by continually adding the keywords that bring you customers.
Remarketing for Search
Remarketing for Search is a way of targeting people who have been on your site previously, but who then later search again for something that you offer. The first stage of setting up RFS is to implement profiles for different potential audiences who have been to your site. As a general best practice, we will normally start with broad groups, such as any visitor on your site, and then work through your sales funnel all the way to past customers. Depending on your sales funnel, you might define anywhere from 3-5 different groups of site visitors based on this criteria.
Product Listing Ads (PLAs)
PLAs are the best way for you to own more of the search results page, stealing attention from your competitors and becoming more appealing to your customers. As with much of PPC management, Finch takes a different approach when it comes to PLA’s. We find that most eCommerce businesses tend to set up their PLA’s in such a way that their products are either grouped in one single large group, or broken down into broad categories for bidding purposes. At Finch, we split out your product feed and then bid individually on each and every one of your products. This helps to ensure your ad spend is being used where it will generate the most revenue for you.
Google has publicly announced the new Image Extensions, which adds your images to ads. They are still in beta, but we are working with a few customers to get early access.
Google recently made updates to the AdRank algorithm that factors in ad extensions, increasing AdRank for enabled and relevant extensions. AdRank not only gives you better positions, it also lowers your actual cost per click and makes it much more expensive for your competitors to acquire the same customer.
AdRank is one of the most important factors in AdWords success and the best way to influence AdRank is through your Quality Score. At Finch we have developed the right technology and processes to help you attain the very best possible Quality Score for each of the keywords in your account.
Watch the full webinar here.
If you have questions about any of these topics, please reach out to us and we will discuss it with you. If you are not yet taking advantage of everything Finch has to offer you, sign up for a free AdWords audit and we will tell you exactly how you can take advantage of these new Google features.
When your AdWords success is measured in terms of cost-per-acquisition (CPA), all of your activities support optimizing for CPA. CPA works well for businesses that are interested in capturing as many leads as possible. But for eCommerce companies, it is not the right way to measure and grow your PPC efforts. We have looked at hundreds of AdWords accounts and we repeatedly see four ways the CPA model stalls your AdWords growth and success.
1. CPA takes your eye off the ball
As an eCommerce business, AdWords is a channel for you to sell your products and generate revenue or profit. When you measure your PPC efforts in a CPA model your attention is shifted from profit to optimizing the cost of acquisitions. This distraction leads you to make tradeoffs between costs and traffic instead of improving the performance of your business. This distraction ultimately misaligns your goals with the goals of the rest of your company, making it harder to justify budgets and prove the impact on the business.
The majority of PPC vendors and experts have exceptional credentials about how to drive CPA costs down and volume up. They are armed with charts and dashboards about how fantastic your campaign performance will be. However, as an eCommerce company, CPA is an irrelevant metric for you. You are generating sales, not leads, and each sale brings in a different amount.
Solution: Keep your focus on profit and revenue, centering all of your activities around optimizing for revenue and profit. You know the ability for each keyword to generate profit. Use it when you decide to what bid for the next click. When bidding, make regular adjustments based on the profitability of individual keywords, rather than some average number everyone in your industry is using.
2. CPA simply makes you a part of the flock
Using the CPA model will make you a part of a flock of sheep, err, competitors. In any given industry, the common CPA target is roughly the same across all competitors, conversion rates are roughly the same, and the core keyword bank is about the same. The end result is a flock of sheep all doing roughly the same thing which only drives up CPC. When your company is stuck in this group-think method it’s impossible to stand out and effectively rise above your competition.
Solution: Stand above your competitors by optimizing your AdWords account on profit, rather than the same metrics your competitors are using. Conversion rates matter, but profit (or at least revenues) matter more when deciding where to spend your ad budget. You have the data on the value of each customer, use it to drive your keyword bank and adjust your bids.
3. CPA hides your real business performance
CPA creates a separation between an acquisition and the value returned to your business by focusing on the cost of getting a customer to your site, rather than how much the customer purchases. In this situation, you could double the number of conversions at a lower CPA and it could be devastating for your business. When you create separation between acquisition and profit, it creates a scenario where you are no longer able to quickly adjust your AdWords efforts to match your business goals.
Solution: Measure and optimize based on the profit returned to you. When optimizing for profit you can exponentially increase traffic without having a negative effect on your business. When you have a direct correlation between ad spend and profit, you can easily decide the target profit you want to achieve and adjust your bids accordingly.
4. CPA forces decisions according to averages
The CPA model creates an AdWords account structure that supports your CPA target. When assembling keywords and ads into groups that match your site structure or product categories, the CPA model adjusts only to changes in the averages, rather than individual changes. For instance, an ad copy change can have a positive effect on one keyword and a negative effect on another, but when you have keywords lumped together these effects get lost in the averages.
Solution: Separate each keyword and each bid, recognizing the individual contribution to profit differently than the rest. Control, accuracy and leverage are your favorite tools to buy the best and most profitable clicks, you need all you can have of all three. Averages = Bad, Real data = Good. It is there, use it!
As you know, online competition is fierce and the competitive landscape changes on a daily basis. The most reliable way to win on AdWords is to leverage every advantage in your favor. Get a free AdWords audit to see how moving from the CPA model will help drive more profit and revenue for your business.
So you have an ecommerce website but your traffic sucks? If you want to boost traffic and profits then you need to use search engine optimization (SEO) to help people find your site and make them stick around when they to. Here are 17 tips to get you started.
1. Choose your keywords wisely. Keywords may no longer be the most important SEO factor, but they are still relevant to how people will search for and find your website. You need to strike a balance.
Some of your keywords will be the terms people are already searching for (you'll find that via Google Webmaster Tools, now that Google Analytics has ceased to provide usable keyword data). Others will be terms that make sense for your site, which you can identify via the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
This KISSmetrics article suggests choosing keywords with a high exact match local search volume while avoiding those that are too broad. Most importantly, the Google Hummingbird update showed the importance of using long-tail keywords and optimizing for semantic search, which will become more and more important.
2. Map each keyword phrase to a page on the site. Creating a good ecommerce website is about information architecture – in other words, having a structure that makes sense. I'll get back to that in a minute, but in terms of keywords it makes sense to make each keyword phrase correspond to a page on the site.
This approach will help you avoid duplication, which could incur a search engine penalty. In addition, if you use related keyword phrases for related pages and interlink them properly (another SEO tip we'll discuss later in this post), you guarantee that anyone who searches for a particular product type will have access to all the relevant pages on your site.
3. Make URLs friendly. In other words, create URLs that make sense when people see them in search engine listings. Which would you rather click, a URL, that says "product details plus a number" or a URL that actually spells out the product you are looking for?
As you would imagine, the second option is much better and increases the chance that people will actually visit your site when product listings come up in search results. It's a big relevancy factor, which is important for good SEO. It's also a good idea to keep URLs short – too long and they won't appeal to web users.
4. Optimize site structure. One of the keys to good e-commerce SEO is having excellent information architecture. The structure should be logical – allowing web visitors to easily navigate the site and find anything they are looking for.
Ensure that category pages flow naturally to sub-category pages and then to sub-sub categories. Hey, it works for Amazon – and have you ever noticed how often their products appear in search listings?
Use breadcrumb navigation so users can always find their way back to the main categories and see what they have just visited. Mark Macdonald recommends no more than three layers of links for maximum crawlability.
5. Get smart about internal links. Internal linking encourages search engines to go deeper into your site, so you need to get smart about this by linking to related products from your product pages.
It is essential to link to the most popular products in the category to further boost sales. And links to related products that other people have bought don't hurt either. If your site has customer reviews, manufacturers' descriptions and the like, include links to these where relevant.
6. Craft unique titles. Using unique titles for your products makes them more useful both for web visitors and the search engines. Don't worry – you don't have to create every title by hand. The key here is to choose the right ecommerce site template that makes it easy to generate unique titles for products, categories and subcategories of the same kind.
7. Create unique product descriptions. Descriptions are the most important pieces of content for ecommerce websites. They tell users what they are going to get, whether they're in a physical store or doing some online research. And they provide an important opportunity to engage web visitors and sell them the product.
To do that, ditch the dry-as-dust standard product descriptions and replace them with writing that appeals to buyers' emotions. Not only is this good for business, but it will help you create more unique search engine content – and you already know how important that is.
8. Dedupe content. Titles and descriptions aside, it's a great idea to avoid duplicate content penalties by removing some of the main causes of duplicate content on e-commerce websites.
With some products appearing in multiple categories – and the provision of session IDs and URL parameters – duplication can happen. But as Search Engine Land points out, paying attention when planning your site can help avoid this.
9. Use rich snippets. Schema markup is becoming a bigger part of SEO, providing rich snippets in search listings and feeding into Google's Knowledge Graph. That means it's a good idea to include this when optimizing, product, category and subcategory pages. The number of markup categories includes several that are useful for ecommerce sites, including reviews, and there will be more soon.
10. Create buyer's guides. In a content-hungry world, buyer's guides are SEO gold. Customers get lots of information on the products that interest them and search engines get lots of unique, rich content they can feature on the results pages. Of course, each guide has to be unique and should be listed in your sitemap so that search engine spiders can find the content easily.
The better your content, the better your website as a whole will rank. So make sure that you include plenty of useful information on choosing products, product ranges and using products that will guide buyers in their decision-making.
11. Optimize images. Product images help sell your product. In fact, according to Jeff Bullas, they’re a key factor for 67% of consumers. They also make it easy for others to share your products on image-centric sites like Pinterest.
If you want to get maximum SEO juice from product images, you need to optimize. That means filling in alt text and descriptions for all images and using keywords related to the product to name the images. These all have to be unique, of course.
12. Use video. Using video is a sure way to create engagement and click-throughs on your ecommerce site, with the obvious effect on product sales. Video is a great way to create social shares and to get video rich snippets in the search results, helping your products and website to be more visible. And with more people watching and sharing video on mobile devices, you can't afford to ignore this SEO tip.
13. Encourage sharing. As mentioned earlier, every social share adds another signal to the search engines that you are producing quality content on your ecommerce website. Amplify this process by including social sharing buttons on your product and content pages.
It's also a good idea to respond to any positive – or negative – feedback you get. Building a social community around your ecommerce site is one of the best ways to improve your customer base and build links at the same time.
14. Leverage social proof. Social proof is a sales strategy that gives you another way to mark up your content for semantic search. Reviews are one of the markup categories, and you can get more search engine listings by encouraging customers to review your products and publishing these on your site.
It's another double whammy, allowing you to boost the popularity of product pages while improving optimization.
15. Optimize for mobile. The Google Hummingbird update was a big win for the mobile content economy. And as Mashable notes, more than 17% of Web traffic comes from mobile devices, and it is only increasing. It is more important than ever to make sure that your site works well on mobile devices and that it is easy for people to complete necessary actions. It's back to usability, this time for mobile.
16. Speed up your site. Sites that don't load quickly are likely to incur a penalty from Google, and shopping cart abandonment will rise too. Fix this by identifying and eliminating the usual causes of site slowdown so that it works well for users and ranks well in search results.
17. Build links. Link-building isn't what it used to be, but it still has a place. In addition to internal links, it's wise to build inbound links to category and product pages. Encourage customers, industry experts and others to review your products on their sites and offer your expert opinion to others on matters relating to your niche.
Put these 17 tips into practice and you'll be well on the way to a perfectly optimized e-commerce site. You can't relax, though; you'll need to keep checking these areas whenever you add new products to your range. E-commerce optimization is a continuous process. Never let your guard down, and always be ahead of the curve.
About Dave Bascom Dave Bascom is the CEO of Fit Marketing. Dave has been doing SEO since the pre-Google days, helping companies large and small get found online. You can request a consultation with Dave and his team at Fit Marketing here.
At Finch we’ve started 2014 off with a bang and we want to celebrate with you! Over the next 2 weeks our founder Bjorn Espenes will be hosting breakfast meetings with eCommerce companies across Europe and we invite you to join.
After a successful Holiday season, new AdWords goals and objectives are now demanding attention. Google keeps making changes to AdWords and your competitors are breathing down your neck.
But we have good news! We continue to add new features and services targeted specifically for eCommerce companies, like yours. After working with hundreds of eCommerce companies, we know exactly how to help you get more profit and revenue. Let's talk about your new AdWords goals and how we can help you achieve them.
Some of Bjorn’s favorite topics include:
Come join us for breakfast and let’s see what we can do together.
Register here for the city nearest you and we will confirm with the venue details. We hope to see you there!
If you can’t make it in-person, start a free AdWords audit and we can talk you through the best way beat your AdWords goals for 2014.
Recently our own Bjorn Espenes sat down with Murray Newlands at Search Engine Journal and shared important tips for getting the most out of your AdWords campaigns.
If you regularly follow Finch, you know we talk about these tips frequently because they work:
Want to see exactly how Finch could help your AdWords efforts? Sign up for a free AdWords audit and we will review these tips using examples from your account.
"Our collaboration with Finch on optimizing our AdWords account on two e-commerce platforms has significantly reduced our time spent managing our accounts"
CEO, GREAT Communications