All posts in Paid Search

Google Shopping Goes to a Pay to Play Model

If anyone has been paying attention to tech news, this story has probably been one of the biggest to hit the virtual newsstands. Google has announced they will begin testing a pay to play model to replace their current “organic” search standards for shopping online. This is big news, and I’ll tell you why.

First let me how explain how it worked up until recently. Let’s say your planning a camping trip next month and when going through your gear you realize that your tent you used to use in college will no longer accommodate you and your new family. So you decide to take a look online and see what’s out there. So you hop on your laptop and Google “tent”. You’re probably going to get a result that looks a bit like this:

The top left and smaller right column are populated by paid Adwords (as in someone has paid Google to be placed there) ads. Both areas are clearly marked as ads in grey text above them. Within the tan box below the Adwords you would see a few products, these are paid products listing. Underneath the product listing ads you will have your organic results including an area defined as “Shopping results for…” in this case, “tent”. Up until May 31st these results could be anyone’s product listing provided your product is relevant and you’ve done your SEO homework, no money needed to be dished out to Google. Pretty cool right? Provided you have submitted your data feed you may even get a little picture of your product next to the info. Well I am afraid this is no longer the case.

Type in “Tent” now and you’re going to get results that look something like this (Google says it will be experimenting with a few different looks along the line):

Again you start your results with AdWords text ads at the top left and down the smaller right column. However now you’ll notice that, rather than having separate Product listing ads and Google Product Search, they are combined into the single Google Shopping box. Finally after all this you will see the organic Web Search listings. The difference is this: You must pay Google to appear in the Google shopping box, no more freebies.

So how much do you pay and how does it work? Well it’s not quite set in stone yet, there is no hard date but Google says that it should be official sometime in the fall. Google also says that it will work very close to the way Product Listing Ads works now where merchants don’t bid on keywords but instead bids on how much they are willing to pay if their listing appears and is clicked on or a sale is produced. Google is offering two incentives to get merchants going:

• All merchants that create Product Listings Ads by August 15 will receive 10% credit for their total PLA spend through the end of the year
• Existing Google Product Search merchants will get a $100 AdWords credit if they fill out a form before August 15

So what affect will this have on shopping online? It hard to say but there are many feelings floating around out there both positive and negative. Some think that this will provide a serious advantage for bigger companies that are able to bid a lot higher than the little guys. Some think Google can be trusted to keep it fair and that it is not really that different then what is going on now. Some think that this is pushing Google into a more AOL-like model where you’re getting more and more trapped in the Google universe. Personally I don’t see this being a great thing but I am willing let it play out and give Google a chance, I suppose I don’t have a choice!

Google provides more information and as always if you need any help with this topic or anything else web-wise drop us a line!

Your Holiday Plan – Time to “Turn the Crank”

Ah, the holidays…   time with the family, good cheer, snowflakes on kittens and the crush of eCommerce retailing.

For many eCommerce retailers, this is the sales performance Super Bowl.   This post is to designed to give a few quick marketing tips to help you “get yourself right” for gameday.

 

CPC

 

If you did CPC last year, look at the corresponding keyterm performance reports for comparable periods of time last year.   It’s always interesting to me that different parts of the product selection seem to have different curves during the holiday season.   Some items peak earlier than others. Some items tend to be more for last minute shopping.   Peak season is the time to pay special attention to these trends. There are a lot of companies that don’t play the CPC game aggressively until the peak season.   You’ll see an influx of competition and price pressure to maintain position. You want to maintain your position on the terms that you are profitable on.  You need to have clarity on which terms those are. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of smaller retailers give away a lot of profit by being overly aggressive on their terms during the holiday because the prices went beyond where good ROI could be had. Conversely, you leave money on the table by not bidding aggressively on your best terms during the buying frenzy.

Consider testing a discount as a way to differentiate from the competition. For example, you might try a 10% off offer in your ad text or landing page. Run it as an A/B test with two different ads with two different tracking urls.

Lastly, double down on the holiday blitz by using Microsoft AdCenter. I’ve been impressed with the volume coming from Bing and Yahoo and you might find different veins of opportunity in the bidding environment in the AdCenter. Again, now is the time to try. There is volume and opportunity.

Email

 

Turn the crank!   Have you a had a meeting to talk about ramping up your email strategy for the peak season? Whoever is in charge of email should be at the top of their game right now. This is the peak season! If ever there is a time to be aggressive, it is now. How aggressive? Short answer is “VERY”. Do you have data from last year? Use it! Unless you saw some real blowback from over mailing – ADD SOME MAILINGS. You really don’t know where the line is, until you push up against it.

Also, this is the time where you have the best chance to do some testing. Segment your list. Try 3 messages per week vs 2 messages per week and compare results.   You are trying to maximize your ROI for this year and learn for the future. The peak season is a great time to run statistically significant tests.

Testing ideas:
Try an A/B/A test. Break your list into three parts. Depending on your list size this could be 33%, 33%, 33% or 10%, 10%, 80%.  Test an offer on two of the parts and roll the winner to the remainder. This allows you to optimize your offers for more than half of your audience.

Abandoned Cart Emails

Do you have them in place?  There are incremental sales to be had here at no additional cost. Peak season is the time when you have the most abandons. If you don’t have abandoned cart emails in place there is no quicker route to ROI than to implement them now.

Likewise, Product Reviews and Review request emails. The holiday season is the time for you to get a good volume of these to build up the quantity of reviews on your site. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an abundance of fresh content for search engines and site visitors in Q1 2012?

 

Shopping Engines

 

Just make a point to revisit your feeds and tweak your listings before Thanksgiving.  Make sure your listed products are up to date and in stock.

 

Your Webstore

 

Freshen up your category list. Does it make sense to make a “Gifts” category or “Holiday” category? Consider some seasonal “Hero Images” for your homepage or category pages. If you don’t have any, there still might be time. Circle the wagons and schedule a photo shoot.

 

SEO

 

Not much to talk about here.   SEO is not something you can change quickly.  Hopefully the peak season is the time when you can reap the benefits from your natural listings (and the work you’ve done to make your site search friendly, fresh and content rich all year).

Godspeed!

Adwords Position Reporting

It’s no secret that those paid search ads at the top of google search results get the most attention and the most clicks. Eye-tracking heatmap studies have long identified this “golden triangle” as the area where online shoppers focus.

If you’ve ever wondered just how big a difference there is between and average AdWords position in the top yellow box (typically 1-3) or down right side (usually 4 or more), now you can find out.  The new segmenting option in AdWords allows you quantify just how big a difference placement can make. Top vs. Side stats can be readily accessed inside AdWords:

Select the Campaign, Ad groups, Ads or Keywords tab
Click the Segment button in the toolbar above your data
Select Top vs. side from the drop-down – you’ll see the results in rows beneath each of your ads.

New position reporting in Adwords

We’ve seen top ad placement clickthrough rates over 10 times greater than right side placements. Suddenly, that slightly higher bid seems a lot more appealing, doesn’t it? It’s certainly worth examining your data, and looking at ways to optimize your bidding and take advantage of top placements. With a significant lift in clickthroughs, those higher bids may pay for themselves before you know it.

The Next Big Thing: Multi-channel Funnels

Want to see how all your marketing efforts work together to create a conversion? The new Multi-Channel Funnels feature in Google Analytics does this by showing you all the marketing efforts (or channels) a buyer interacted with prior to purchasing. It includes everything: organic search, paid search, affiliates, ads, social networks and more. Here’s an introductory video on multi-channel funnels.

Google Product Extentions: U.S. School Supply

us-school-supply

I’ve pointed out product extensions before as a great way to increase AdWord effectiveness. Here’s another example of how powerful they can appear in relation to a growing number of product photos in the limited ad space Google provides. U.S. School Supply not only gets the usual blurb with the usual link, but five additional links, photos of product and price listings… all for no difference in the CPC (cost per click).

You can read more about enabling Google Product Extensions here.

Oh, and did you notice the stars in the lower right corner, next to the Pottery Barn ad (PBTeen.com)? That’s another neat little trick for increasing conversions from AdWords. It’s called “Seller Rating Extensions” and Google claims they get an average 17% higher CTR (click through rate) than ads without them. You can read more about them here.

Using Dynamic Keywords: 5 Tips

Earlier I blogged about using Dynamic Keyword Insertion for paid links. Here are five tips to maximize your return using DKI.

1)  Tighter adgroups work better.

Dynamic Keywords can help make your ads more relevant, but they can also make you look silly. Have you ever seen an ad that says something like, “Buy Abdominal Pain at Amazon.com!”? I know I have, and I doubt it performed very well.  You need to look at your keywords and make sure that they will work properly when the dynamic content is in place. It is simplest when all of the ads are on the same theme and have the same syntactical requirements.  After you launch your campaign, you can use Google’s Ad Preview tool to check your work.

2) Specify a good default.

The Ad Copy rules regarding character limitations still apply in the case of DKI. So if the dynamic ad including the dynamic search term exceeds the space alotted, the engine won’t show the ad that way. Instead it will show the fallback default option that you have supplied.  Don’t just punt here and write something that will fit.  Work the ad! Write something that fits AND sells.

3) Use case properly.

Each engine has it’s own rules for case. The help links will give you the details.  Remember to use the casing abilities you have at your disposal and test different versions.  Though the example above doesn’t include it, I’ve found that an ALL CAPS word can make a big difference in ads. Give it a try.

4) DKI is not just for titles.

Dynamic keywords are most often used in titles only.  Indeed, that’s a fine place to start.  In my experience, the titles make the biggest difference. However, I think agreement between titles and description can also make a big difference. I definitely suggest testing a version where you try a dynamic insertion in the description lines too. You can also test dynamic insertion in the display url.

5) DKI works in MSN/Yahoo too. Try “param” values in MSN/Yahoo

Not only does MSN/Yahoo Adcenter have Dynamic Keywords, it’s also has something that Adwords does not that can make your ads more relevant. That’s right, the Alliance is out ahead in this area. The feature is called “Placeholders”.  Placeholders allow to change your ads throughout your campaigns by changing parameters that are inserted in your ad.  These parameters are referenced as {param2} and {param3}.

Example: The ad text “All roses are {param2} and {param3}” could change throughout the ad campaign to:

All roses are 10% off and shipped anywhere in the country.
All roses are 25% off and shipping is free.
All roses are half-price and guaranteed fresh.

Like dynamic keywords, you can (and should) specify default copy for your placeholders. Learn more about placeholders here.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion Intro

Here’s a Quick Tip to help you get more out of your CPC ads.

Do you know what Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is?  If you do Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising, you should.  Dynamic Keyword Insertion allows you to insert the individual keyterm that triggered your ad into your text ad creative.  I’ve used dynamic keywords many times in Adwords and AdCenter campaigns and I can tell you that, in my experience, Dynamic Keywords DO generally improve your clickthrough rates. However, they are not a silver bullet and you need to know the details of how Dynamic Keywords work in order to get the most out of the functionality. This article is broken into two parts: this basic Overview of Dynamic Keyword Insertion and 5 Tips to Remember when Using Dynamic Keywords  Overview of Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)

Dynamic Keyword Insertion allows you to display a different ad for each person based on what they searched. Specifically, it allows you to include the keyterm from the search in your text ad. This can be helpful if you have adgroups with many different keywords (or keyphrases) that are similar and will work when inserted into your ad dynamically. Done well,  the usage of the keyterm related to the search makes your ad more relevant to the searcher, i.e. “a better match”, and it will garner your ad more clicks (higher clickthrough rates).

Here’s an example. Imagine that you have a store that sells handles and knobs, including doorknobs.  You have an adgroup with keyterms for doorknobs, e.g. Glass Doorknobs, Chrome Doorknobs, Cherry Doorknobs, Bronze Doorknobs, etc.
If you wrote a single ad for the adgroup in the typical way, someone searching for “glass doorknobs” would see:

Doorknobs
100s of knobs to choose from. Free Shipping.

Using DKI, you could write an ad like this:

Buy {KeyWord:Doorknobs Here}
100s of {keyword:doorknobs} in stock. Free Shipping!

Now the customer looking for “glass doorknobs”, would see:

Buy Glass Doorknobs
100s of glass doorknobs in stock. Free Shipping!

Is that better? I think so (but I’d be sure to test!).

So, how do you do it? Basically, you have to put some code-like language within curly braces.  Of course, the engines each have their own requirements and using the exact syntax is important.

Here are the help pages you need:

Google Adwords
Microsoft/Yahoo AdCenter

Next up: 5 Tips to Remember when Using Dynamic Keywords  Overview of Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)

Product Extensions Drive AdWord Conversions

google-product-extensions

We’re always trying to find ways to increase conversions from AdWords, and here’s a great one. You can expand your AdWords listing with extremely specific merchandise information by enabling what Google calls “product extensions”. As you can see from the photo, when I search for “order soccer trophies online” I get the expected collection of ads down the right side of Google, but Dinn Trophy has enabled product extensions, so their ad stands out in the crowd. They’re paying the same CPC (cost-per-click) regardless of whether a user clicks on the main text or any of the specific offers within the product list.

So how do you get this working? This article from Google walks you through it. You need to be using Google Merchant Center, but you’re already doing that, right? :)

The Power of Personalized Online Ads

My friend and colleague Andy Dunn was struck yesterday by the extreme personalization being done by Zappo’s, the now Amazon-owned shoe retailer. Andy had been checking out sneakers at Zappo’s and then left without buying.

Later, thanks to Zappo’s remarketing campaigns across a broad swath of third-party websites, Andy began seeing Zappo’s display ads everywhere — and the ads cycled dynamically through images of the very same products he’d been browsing at the Zappo’s site.

Dotomi, an ad platform, claims personalized remarketing campaigns like these can lift response 34% when compared to ordinary ads not customized to individual users. Dotomi and others have rolled out a slew of personalized products including direct text messaging, ads that address the shopper by name, and other tactics that might make George Orwell roll in his grave, but which many online merchants just love.

For merchants interested in learning more, the DMA is sponsoring a November 3 webinar entitled “The Future of Media Is Personal”, in which Dotomi COO and CMO Ken Treske will talk about the power of personalized remarketing ads and other media tailored to specific web users.

The Future of Media Is Personal