Thanks to the rising popularity of online marketplaces, mobile or m-commerce, and social media shopping, it’s safe to say ecommerce is as popular as ever.
But, of course, with that popularity comes stiff competition for online retailers. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C ecommerce business, putting strategic digital marketing practices into place can be the make-or-break factor that determines your success.
Pay-per-click (or PPC) advertising is one of the most effective ways ecommerce businesses can connect with their target audience, increase brand awareness, and boost sales. And with our years of experience as an ecommerce marketing agency helping brands of all sizes reach their goals, we’ve learned a few secrets to success.
What is Ecommerce PPC Management?
Ecommerce PPC management is the process of creating, managing, and optimizing a paid search ad campaign to generate revenue for your ecommerce business. For this advertising model, the business pays a fee to a platform (such as Google) when someone clicks its ad after that ad surfaces in search results on that platform.
Search engines like Bing and Google have their own specific ad types, formats, and guidelines for ecommerce brands. Once you have a solid understanding of the nuances of ecommerce pay-per-click advertising, you can create better, more effective ads and campaigns.
While more traditional search campaigns hinge mainly on keyword research, ecommerce search ads are all about the product feed.
Basically, an ecommerce product feed is made up of files that contain all of your product information and details. Search engines and other channels use the information in these files when determining if they should display your product listings to searchers. Because of this, it’s key for your feed to be properly set up, accurate, and up to date.
Swimsuits Direct came to us for help meeting their ecommerce sales and achieving their ROI goals. Through our partnership, they were able to increase year-over-year SEM revenue by more than 109% and grow their Google Shopping conversion rate by nearly 20%.
Results From Our Clients
Conversions up 7x
Increased enrollment and filled seats in our sleep
Increased e-commerce conversion rates two fold
3x lead volume
30% increase in conversions
Doubled holiday sales
How to get started with ecommerce paid search advertising
If your ecommerce brand is already using an ecommerce management platform like BigCommerce or Shopify, you can integrate this account with Google Merchant Center.
To get started with Google Search Ads for ecommerce PPC advertising, you should:
- Make sure you set up your Google Merchant Center account properly
- Choose a product data input method
- Optimize all your available Merchant Center settings
- Keep your product feed updated
- Build your first standard Shopping campaign
From there, we recommend leveraging dynamic remarketing, testing your ads regularly, and exploring other search engines if your target audience is also using them.
The steps for getting started are similar for Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Not only that, but it’s easy to import your Shopping campaigns from Google Ads (fka Google Adwords) to Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) as well.
As Google explains, to set up your product feed (usually via XML, TXT, or CSV files), you first need to create a primary feed to which you can submit your data. The search engine will use this data to crawl when determining which product ads to show for which searches.
To update your products and keep them active, you can reprocess your feed or, even better, set it up to automatically process on a consistent basis, such as daily or weekly. The frequency will depend on how often you update your actual product inventory.
How can PPC benefit my ecommerce marketing?
If you haven’t yet integrated paid search campaigns into your ecommerce marketing plan, there are plenty of reasons to start. Nearly all businesses can see positive returns from PPC, including:
- Access to measurable performance data and other metrics
- Complements other digital marketing types like SEO and paid social
- Positive results can be achieved relatively quickly
- Multiple options available for ad types, budgets, targeting, and more
- A more well-rounded digital marketing program overall
Especially for ecommerce brands, leveraging pay-per-click ads can often result in more qualified leads and better ROI. Moreover, reaching the right shoppers at the right time with your PPC ads can help you increase sales and scale your business.
What makes ecommerce PPC ads different
- What’s unique about ecommerce paid search ads is where they show up. These ads surface on the search engine results page (SERP) based on the inquiry a user has typed into the search box.
- These ads appear on the SERP above organic results. And this isn’t just the case for the Google search result page. These ads can also appear on Microsoft’s Bing search engine (though they’re usually at the bottom of the page) and on Amazon’s SERP as well.
- Generally, you’ll see the words “ad” or “sponsored” along with these ads to differentiate them from organic results.
- Unlike other ad types which may online include text, ecommerce ads almost always include a product photo or other related visual.
Ecommerce PPC ads vs. display ads
While you can manage both display and paid search ads from the same platform (like Google Ads), there are a few key differences between these two ads types.
Namely, it’s what causes them to surface. For PPC ads, the algorithm is trying to pair paid ads with the most fitting searches. Display ads surface on third-party sites and apps based on a handful of targeting parameters. (This is a main reason why marketers have been dreading the demise of third-party cookies – because this data is helpful when it comes to retargeting the right people.)
That’s one of the biggest benefits to leveraging ecommerce PPC ads: When implemented correctly, your campaigns can reach people who are currently seeking the product or service you offer, meaning they may be more likely to convert than someone who’s passively surfing the web.
Winter apparel brand 686 was looking for a creative and strategic SEM agency to help meet their ecommerce sales and ROI goals. By partnering with HawkSEM, 686’s year-over-year SEM revenue increased by 562% while reducing cost per conversion by more than 67%.
Ecommerce PPC, Paid Search & Paid Social
You may be wondering, if PPC ads surface via algorithms attempting to match ads with people’s search queries, where does that leave things like paid search and paid social ads?
Paid search ads are a type of PPC ad, which can appear in search results, social media feeds, and video ads, whereas paid search ads only appear in SERPs. Paid social, then, refers to ads that appear in social media feeds, timelines, or on a page via promoted or sponsored posts.
With that distinction in mind, you can build your entire digital marketing strategy more holistically to create ads that will align with each tactic and yield the results you want to see. Now, let’s dig into each type of ecommerce PPC ad.
Ecommerce PPC ad types
Just like every other aspect of digital marketing, ecommerce PPC ads aren’t one size fits all.
Rather, there are a variety of platforms and ad types you can explore to see which ones resonate most.
Firstly, there’s Google Shopping. Since this is the most popular search engine globally, it makes sense that you’d want ads for your products to surface in these results. As mentioned above Google Shopping hinges on the product feed and managing your campaigns through its Merchant Center.
Google’s Shopping algorithm uses sophisticated machine learning to pair your products with active searchers. The Google Shopping ad campaign types are:
Product Shopping Ads
These standard Shopping ads include all the main product info a searcher would want, including a photo, title, price, your brand name, and a purchase link
Video Action Campaign
Video Action Campaign (on YouTube, which Google’s parent company owns) – Formerly called TrueView for Shopping, these ads feature a virtual storefront add-on showing shoppable product images below the video that link to product pages on your site.
Smart Shopping Ads
These ad campaigns combine standard Shopping ads with display remarketing campaigns, with automated bidding and ad placement to promote your products across in-networks sites and platforms
Local Inventory Ads
Formerly known as Local Catalog Ads, these ads let brands showcase products and store info (if they have a brick-and-mortar location) to nearby shoppers who are searching on Google. As the search engine explains, “when shoppers click an ad that shows your local product they arrive on your local storefront, a Google-hosted page for your online store or your omnichannel landing page if your website meets the necessary requirements.
Showcase Shopping Ads
These ads allow you to group related products together as a way to acquaint the searcher with your brand and its offerings
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Six ecommerce PPC campaign best practices
The competition is almost always stiff in the ecommerce space, regardless of your niche. Because of that, keeping these best practices in mind can help you beat out other related brands and rise through the ranks.
Prioritize getting to know your target audience
Having a deep understanding of who you’re marketing to will help you in every stage of your campaign creation process, from the ad copy you create to the images you choose.
Do your keyword research
While ecommerce keywords may not hold quite as much weight as they do in less image-driven industries, they’re still important for things like targeting, ad copy, and your landing pages.
We recommend focusing on transactional keywords linked to buyer intent. If you aren’t currently partnered with a PPC agency who can do this for you, you can conduct your own research with a tool like Semrush, Moz, or Google Keyword Planner.
Leverage negative keywords
Taking advantage of negative keywords can be hugely impactful when it comes to reducing wasted ad spend. Some keywords may be obvious to you, while others may not surface until you’ve started your campaign.
For example, if your brand only sells adult-size running shoes, you can use “kids running shoes” as a negative keyword to eliminate unqualified clicks.
Create thoughtful, strategic product landing pages
You want to make the experience of going from the paid search ad to completed sale as seamless as possible. With that in mind, it’s ideal to have a customized landing page that goes right to the product featured in the ad, so your potential buyer can specify things like size and color options, then add to cart in a snap.
Consider campaign structure
Our years of ecommerce marketing experience tell us that one of the top ways to set yourself up for campaign success is to get granular. The reason: The more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be. Basically, the more you segment your products, the more targeted your PPC marketing ads will be.
You can do this by mapping out a campaign structure that mirrors the structure of your online store. To get granular, you can start by creating a branded campaign, a category-level campaign, and a specific product category campaign.
Each campaign can have multiple ad groups, and each ad group can have multiple ads.
ABT: Always be testing
Our philosophy is that there is no “done” when it comes to digital marketing campaigns. You can always be testing, optimizing, and improving your efforts for better results. Keep an eye on performance in Google Analytics to see where campaign strengths and weaknesses lie.
You can A/B test elements like ad copy, images, formats, and ad extensions (like ratings, now called assets, to see what resonates most with your audience.
If your ecommerce biz is looking to drive actionable insights, full-funnel attribution and high-quality conversions that continuously improve your bottom line, then you’re in the right place. Our ConversionIQ platform syncs with your CRM and features a robust reporting dashboard so you can easily keep track of performance, KPIs, and other actionable data.
We recommend including pricing in your ads if possible. This can help you beat out the competition and garner more qualified leads, resulting in a lower cost per click.
How Small-Business Ecommerce PPC Campaigns Achieve Results
Because PPC ads are designed to show up in response to people’s search queries, small businesses can reap major rewards by earning those coveted top spots in the SERP.
In addition, people are more likely to click on a PPC ad when ready to make a purchase, which makes earning one of these spots an excellent way to gain brand exposure, a killer click-through-rate (CTR) and more new customers.
It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to optimize, organize, and continually test your PPC campaigns, but when you hit a groove, the results speak for themselves. Google Ads in particular boasts an 8:1 return on investment (ROI), meaning for every dollar a small business spends, they potentially generate $8 in profit. And if you’re looking for quicker results than SEO can bring, we think that’s pretty darn good.
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Ecommerce PPC management for small businesses
For small businesses in particular, it can feel like creating and managing your ecommerce paid search campaigns is just another task to add to your never-ending to-do list.
The good news: You have resources at your disposal that can help streamline this process. For example, there are a handful of management tools (both free and paid) that can save you time and sync your efforts, including Skai, Adspert, Semrush, Marin Software, and ConversionIQ.
If you’ve hit the limits of what you can accomplish with in-house marketing, you can put your program into capable hands by partnering with a data-driven ecommerce marketing agency with extensive experience in paid search advertising strategies that can also work within your small business’s marketing budget.
While partnering with HawkSEM, Beverly Hills-based furnishings brand Grayson Living was able to receive almost 6 times their return on ad spend (ROAS) over three years and grow ecommerce sales by 279% in the first year alone.
What does an ecommerce PPC agency do?
If the ins and outs of an ecomm paid search plan seem like a lot to manage, well, they can be. That’s why many brands opt to partner with a digital marketing agency that specializes in ecommerce and paid search.
Not only does partnering with an agency take tons of tasks off you and your team’s plates, but you get the combined experience and skills of a team that knows how to ramp up your PPC strategy, fine-tune your plan, maximize your budget and take your efforts to the next level. These teams have already seen what works and what doesn’t in your industry, which means less trial and error, and more business growth.
What should you look for in an ecommerce PPC agency?
Before embarking on your PPC agency journey, it’s wise to start by mapping out your budget, goals, and needs. By being clear with agencies about these important factors, you can more easily narrow down which ones are and aren’t a fit.
From there, you can leverage online research, word of mouth, and review sites to find solid potential candidates. After you’ve created your list, start reaching out to set up exploratory consultation calls. During these calls, you can ask questions like:
- How hands-on is your agency? Do you suggest optimizations and other updates or do you make those adjustments yourselves?
- How would you make sure our PPC strategies result in revenue?
- How frequently do you pull performance reports on KPIs and other metrics?
- How do you all typically conduct check-ins and client meetings?
- Can you share case studies or testimonials from businesses similar to ours?
- What level of management will be working on my account?
- What does your pricing structure look like?
While being prepared and asking specific questions is important, it’s also crucial to follow your gut. If you don’t get a good feeling from the call or the agency doesn’t seem like the right culture fit in the long-term, take time to determine if you really want to move forward with the partnership. The right agency should make you feel confident, heard, and valued.
The bottom line
Having a solid, fine-tuned PPC strategy as part of your ecommerce marketing plan can bring your brand serious ROI. By following the latest best practices, ensuring your product info is accurate, and regularly optimizing your campaigns, you can build a paid search strategy that’ll set your brand apart.
That’s why we’re here: between our team of senior-level marketing scientists and our proprietary ConversionIQ platform to maximize results, we know how to take your ecomm plans to the next level.
Connect with us to learn more about how we can help you grow.
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