Q4 is crunch time. For retailers with online operations the competition over shoppers’ share of wallet is ferocious and the competition just a click away. If you’ve got a pay per click (PPC) program contributing to the mix you need to get campaign performance dialed in and working to its full potential.
In this three part series we’ll cover key areas of PPC program optimization for online retailers. We’ll look beyond the basics to tactics that will help overall management and results. For retailers that have both on- and offline sales channels, management of your program in a holistic manner is crucial for success.
Our first tips start with PPC basics…
1. Integrate Shopping Cart Values with Conversion Codes, Analytics
If you sell online you must integrate your shopping cart with your PPC conversion tracking and web analytics. It’s easy and as long as your shopping cart allows access to its item value variables, there’s no reason not to do so. If your shopping cart doesn’t allow access, change it. It’s the difference between having rough idea of how your campaigns are doing and knowing your specific Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) or Return on Investment (ROI). Knowing these enable you to bid on the keywords that drive not just sales but margin dollars.
More advanced online retailers will take this further and integrate margin contribution. We’ve worked with a top-50 ecommerce site that managed to margin contribution and it was extremely powerful. Key metrics included Ad Spend/Margin Contribution (A/M) and Ad Spend/Sales (A/S). If you’re restricted by shopping cart data access limitations or technical ability, at minimum determine your average order size and apply the value to your conversion counts.
2. Stop Revenue Leaks
There are few activities more important to your program than the conversion funnel. Think about it, you’ve already paid for the visit (ppc charges, seo effort, other means) and the visitor has found a product and started the purchase process. Use everything in your testing tool belt to create an efficient check out experience. Even modest improvements can yield significant improvements in sales dollars. Your site analytics can be set-up to report on how visitors migrate through the funnel. Identifying steps where a disproportionate percentage fall out of the funnel indicates a problem area. Look into it, test fixes then move on to the stage with the next highest abandonment rate.
3. Keyword Organization: Brand vs. Manufacturer vs. Product Type
Separation of keywords into similar Ad Groups is a no brainer. Exactly how it’s executed for your specific product mix will vary. We recommend separation of your brand from all other keyword types at a minimum. If you have physical stores, consider additional groupings that include keywords with geographic qualifiers.
For resellers we suggest separating manufacturer’s terms into manufacturer + product type and manufacturer + model. The reason for this is a shopper’s behavior is different. When a manufacturer + product type keyword is searched a decision has not yet been made. When a specific model is searched on, the shopper has decided on the product and is looking at pricing, terms or shipping options to finalize their selection of a retailer.
4. Campaign Budgeting: Don’t Restrict Core Terms
While running a pay per click program you’ll learn what your core keywords are. Those are the keyword phrases that consistently deliver better sales results, lower acquisition cost and higher ROI. Insure you support these terms with a sufficient allocation of budget such that you are maximizing their contribution to the overall program.
For instance you may be a specialty retailer of athletic shoes. You’ll know which brands and styles are most popular. Allow terms which have historically worked to not be artificially restricted by having them fight for campaign budget with under-performers.
Frequently the core keywords will be brand terms or the names of manufacturer’s best known products. It’s not unusual for such terms to not only bring in traffic and sales, but to trigger sales of accessories and supplies increasing the average basket size value of the order.
5. Leverage Geographic Targeting in Paid Search
Specific geographies can be targeted to the country, state, metro and all the way to customized coordinates. The value of geo-targeting is easy: if you can’t service a region, don’t advertise in it. Looking at it another way, if your stores in Miami sell merchandise that’s different than what moves in Seattle, you’ll want to manage your program taking such factors into account.
First you need to understand how geography impacts retail vs. online sales. How far are people willing to drive to visit a store? Do you offer specials online? Geographic store density is also a factor. Do you have stores on every corner or a few regionally located? Set up your ad covering the areas your physical stores serve. Doing so enables tailoring of ad copy to in-store promotions or specials that can’t be delivered online.
In a separate campaign, target the geographies not supported by physical stores. Also take note of regional nuances in language. An example of this is “pop” versus “soda.” Some folks even use “coke” as a generic for any carbonated sweet beverage in a can. Use this knowledge to speak to your audience with the language they use.
Going international is often exciting for advertisers and holds much promise. There’s a sense of accomplishment to get orders from beyond your typical service area. Beware! More than half the world’s population is in the middle of their day before the sun rises in New York City. That means your budget can be exhausted before your key market wakes up. Separate International markets from your primary market enables better management of your budget. While bids may be less because of fewer competitors, significant planning needs to happen in advance of going international. Key considerations include localization of content, handling shipping/returns, taxes, customer support, serviceability and click fraud. Proceed with caution and have a plan in place.