4 Biggest e-Commerce PPC Mistakes

Editor’s Note: Today’s awesome guest post comes from Point It’s Maddie Cary! Enjoy this in-depth post on e-commerce PPC.

Managing e-Commerce PPC campaigns can be a blast! There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with the immediacy of tracked revenue that gives you a little kick in your step. Different KPIs come into play like Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), Average Order Value (AOV), and Profit Margin that present new optimization opportunities. Each of these metrics adds a new lens to view your paid search strategy through – are we seeing a decent return on our investment? What’s the average amount our customers are paying when they checkout? Are we actually profitable in our SEM efforts?

But building long-term successful e-Commerce campaigns can be challenging, especially if you’re in a highly competitive retail environment. Trying to build a program that not only is profitable, but can maintain profit at scale across multiple online stores, product lines, or business groups can make any great PPC marketer to want to pull out their hair.

Don’t fret, it is possible! Especially if you start out on the right foot and go into it with some knowledge about what common e-Commerce PPC pitfalls to avoid. Below are some of the biggest mistakes myself or others have made and learned from when running e-Commerce campaigns in paid search:

#1: Lackluster or Broken Product Feeds

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Shopping campaign click and ad spend share is on the rise QoQ, and e-Commerce advertisers know they can’t ignore this tactic if they want to grow their revenue. But more often than not, brands launch Shopping ads with product feeds that are barely filled out, let alone optimized to incentivize searchers to click through and buy. No matter what you try to convince yourself of, consumers aren’t drawn to product ads with SKU-heavy titles, stock product photos, and irrelevant product details.

Your product feed is the core of your Shopping strategy – you wouldn’t launch a search campaign with janky keywords or broken tracking parameters! So before you start driving a car with a flat tire, consider what steps you can take to optimize your product feed. (and good news, Google recently announced Merchant Center rules, making it a lot easier to optimize your feed directly in Merchant Center!)

•    Does your feed contain all of your available products?
Don’t pre-filter your feed, but load all products into your Merchant Center. You can use a bidding methodology to favor higher priority products and organize product targets within your Shopping campaign structure

•    Do your product titles and descriptions contain phrases people will actually search for?
Do you have products called “Sandy Pants” that really are Khaki or Tan colored? How do you think a majority of consumers will search for that you offer but maybe aren’t showing ads on because of fancy marketing or brand terminology you’re using? Take into consideration how you could revamp synonyms in your product details to match to more searches.

•    Are all fields properly filled out?
Don’t auto-populate feed categories with all the same value, or even worse, leave non-required product feed categories completely blank. The more you leave unfilled, the more you tie your hands and limit what you can do from targeting standpoint within your Shopping campaigns (which means leaving revenue on the table).

•    Does your product image stand out or blend into the crowd?
Do a search for a computer monitor or a type of Nikes right now. More often than not, a majority of the Shopping ad results will all be using the same stock image. Test different image angles or views to stand out on the SERP and try to get that CTR boost vs. your competitors in the product ad block!

•    Are you utilizing Automated Shopping Extensions?
This free Shopping campaign feature launched back in July 2015 allows you to automatically highlight your offering to searchers, such as free shipping or price changes noted within your feed. It’s another great way to get a leg up on the competition and further stand out on the SERP.

#2: Poorly Thought Out Location Targeting

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Does setting up your locations strategy for your campaigns make you feel like you’re throwing a dart at a map? Not all geo targeting is created equally, especially when it comes to optimizing e-Commerce campaigns. Far too many times I’ve found a client’s e-Commerce campaigns targeting cities, regions, or countries that they can’t deliver to or sell in. Before you begin launching e-commerce PPC across locations, answer this question: can you deliver or sell your product in that geo?

•    Yes I can!
Alright, you’re already off to a great start! Focus on a lower-funnel, high intent keyword strategy to achieve the best ROI

•    Maybe?
Maybe you can offer products in the geo, but aren’t sure if it’s worth investing there yet. If you can fulfill purchases in a timely fashion without negatively impacting the perception of your brand, it’s likely worth testing out

•    No, I can’t
You can’t deliver, can’t sell – some sort of roadblock? Then running e-commerce PPC campaigns targeting that geo is not the right fit for you. Don’t actively target and/or add as a location exclusion!

Targeting the wrong geo isn’t the only place where PPCers make mistakes when approaching location targeting for e-Commerce. It’s also important to understand and leverage how geos you target perform differently and shape your bidding strategy accordingly. Pull a user location report from your dimensions tab to get a sense of where the majority of your orders & revenue are taking place. Test layering geo-bid modifiers for better performing cities, regions, or states to stay aggressive and see where you can further move the needle on profitable revenue.

#3: Running “Fluffy” Ad Copy

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Any marketing you run is a reflection of your brand, which includes your brand image and voice. But don’t let brand messaging “fluff” cannibalize the limited ad text you have available in PPC ads. The copy you run in magazines, TV, or even Display ads may not resonate with your ideal searcher – the one who is ready to buy!

Searchers are motivated by pricing, free shipping, promotional offers, and strong CTAs, especially when comparison shopping between sites. A 2015 report from Mintel found that 69% of US online adults shop online at least monthly, with 48% of online shoppers admitting to increasing the size of their orders to hit the free shipping threshold.

Running product-brand focused PPC means doing an ongoing balancing act between protecting the brand voice vs. best growth-driven paid search practices. While it’s important to ensure that how you message and present your products is in line with brand guidelines, don’t sacrifice revenue in order to do so. Following through on some of the below e-Commerce ad copy principles will help increase CTR, improve Quality Score relevancy, and create trust with you consumers who engage with your ads.

•    Pricing info should be prominent (headline when you can), transparent (don’t try to hide tax details or cents), and whenever possible, competitive.
•    Save characters to call out free shipping or minimum cart size amounts
•    Use strong CTAs like “Buy Now” or “Order Today”
•    Create & maintain promo calendars for your PPC activities so that you’re highlighting available online offers to those searching
•    Mostly importantly, follow through on what you offer in your copy! Make sure all of the above is clearly messaged on the landing experience you direct them to!

#4: Under-utilizing Audience Targeting

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Part of running any successful PPC campaign is knowing your target audience (and of course, persuading them to convert). An additional crucial element for all e-Commerce PPC accounts is a well-thought our remarketing plan. Consumers may bounce between sites as they peruse sales, product assortment, or prices. They may also make multiple searchers during their research process, including on you brand vs. non-brand keywords, as well as using or not using purchase-intent verbs in their search terms.

How searchers interact with your site tells you a lot about them, and it’s data you should be utilizing across your PPC efforts. Don’t limit yourself to just Standard Remarketing banners, but be sure to also set up RLSA campaigns to layer on rich audience data on top of keyword search intent to get the smartest bang for your buck.

The most important step in setting up remarketing is determining what audiences make the most sense for producing the best revenue results. Below are some audiences every e-Commerce account should be testing (including some audiences commonly opted out of!):

•    Abandoned Shopping Cart
Do you have a sizable audience pool of folks who made it all the way to filling the shopping cart and just didn’t click “buy”? Target this audience who almost pulled out their credit card and consider offering them something that would incentivize them to buy, including discounted shipping or a coupon

•    Product Page Visitors
What products are your highest sellers or see the best conversion rate? What searchers are visiting that site but not converting? This is an audience which you can target with ads specific to their expressed product interests and show ads to bring them back in to learn more or convert

•    Repeat Purchase Products
Do you sell products that need to be refilled, restocked, or repurchased in a shorter window (maybe 60-90 days?) Build an audience of those who purchased the products and set up remarketing campaigns prepped to message to them right before they may be looking to stock back up.

•    Sales Page Visitors
If someone engaged with your Sales Page, whether they converted or not – it means they are either interested and/or regularly aware of your discounts and reductions. Consider messaging to these searchers differently in RLSA, highlighting specific promotions or biggest discounts available to pull them back into the site.

•    Non-Converters
This one may seem like a pretty straight forward audience, and one many e-Commerce PPC marketers target. It’s also likely one of your largest available pools, so a good one to test out across your remarketing tactics and then narrow down further by layering on additional parameters based on pages visited, duration on site, or other site actions.

•    Previous Converters
Many e-Commerce advertisers may immediately opt to exclude any previous converters – why would we dedicate marketing dollars to people who have already ordered, which is what we wanted them to do? Don’t devalue the repeat purchaser or loyal brand buyer, who already has a strong association with your company and will likely come back, whether that be through a remarketing banner or while doing a search on your brand name. Be sure to be there with a remarketing ad when they do

•    Blog Visitors
Similar to previous converters, those reading & following your blog likely are dedicated to your brand. Consider remarketing to your audiences built on what blog pages they visit or how often they’re visiting, possibly offering them incentives, loyalty program sign-ups, or early promo exclusives to continue fostering that brand love and on-going content engagement and sharing.

On-Going e-Commerce PPC Success

The above is just the start of the many different tips, tricks, and best practices to create a successful e-Commerce PPC strategy. If you’re able to implement even some of the above, you’ll set yourself up for a more relevant online shopping experiences for your target search audience, as well as elevate your PPC brand presence in your e-Commerce space to the next level.

What are your biggest learnings from running e-Commerce campaigns? Share in the comments!

Maddie Cary is the Director of Paid Search at Point It Digital Marketing in Seattle. Her role involves overseeing and developing an amazing team of PPC account managers, while also running the global SEM program for Point It’s largest client. In 2015, she won the US Search Award for “Young Search Professional”, as well as was acknowledged as a “Rising Star in PPC” by both SearchEngineLand & PPC Hero. You can also find her speaking & learning at great conferences like SMX, HeroConf, & PubCon, or writing monthly posts for the Wordstream blog. Outside of PPC, her biggest loves are her family, friends, and her idol, Queen Beyoncé.

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