Tag Archives: e-commerce ads

Written by Sam Yadegar on Feb 17, 2022

For e-commerce companies, Google Merchant Center can aid in visibility, increased sales, and more.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How Google Merchant Center is used for marketing
  • Why this Google product is important for e-commerce
  • Tips to set up a Google Merchant Center account properly
  • How to add products to GMC

If you want to advertise your e-commerce products on Google, it’s a good idea to get familiar with Google Merchant Center (GMC). 

This digital platform from the search engine giant lets you provide data and assets (like images, descriptions, and product details) to showcase your offerings through various Google advertising tools.

Once you upload your assets and other data to GMC, they can appear in Google Shopping ads and on the search engine results page (SERP). 

Let’s take a closer look at what Google Merchant Center is all about and how it can enhance your e-commerce marketing plan.

Google Merchant Center

Google Merchant Center

What is Google Merchant Center?

Launched in 2010, Google Merchant Center is a centralized dashboard for all product data that you use for advertising through Google Shopping.

Without GMC, your products won’t appear on Google Shopping. Google Shopping Ads use information from Google Merchant Center to decide when and where to show your ads. Accordingly, without a GMC account, your advertising options through Google are limited.

To take advantage of all Google Shopping opportunities, e-commerce retailers have to work through Google Merchant Center. Basically, GMC simplifies your interaction with Google’s e-commerce tools by helping you manage all product information through one dashboard.

Benefits of using Google Merchant Center

One of GMC’s biggest benefits for e-commerce brands is gaining access to Google Shopping Ads and all the sales opportunities that come with them. Other advantages include:

  • Versatility – GMC allows you to add a wide variety of information about your products and upload different digital assets. This doesn’t just streamline advertising, it helps you create high-quality product descriptions for sales purposes.
  • Simple product editing – The platform allows you to edit and update product data in one place, instead of adjusting each ad separately. You can serve up changes in real-time, ensuring the transparency and relevance of product information.
  • Smooth integration – GMC integrates seamlessly with Google Ads, Google Display Network, and other Google advertising tools. With GMC, you can save time when designing and redesigning your advertising campaigns.
  • Access to foreign markets – Once you fill out product information, you can translate GMC product sheets to access foreign markets.

You can submit public product reviews to the Merchant Center so they appear on your listings with the star ratings visible. Products with high ratings get preferential placement.

You can add reviews to GMC through Google’s Product Rating program. You need to have a minimum of 50 reviews across all products to participate.

GMC doesn’t cost anything. You can create an account free of charge. Not only that, but free product listings on Google’s Shopping tab in the U.S. were announced back in spring 2020. 

How to set up a Google Merchant Center account

To get started with GMC, you need:

  • A Google account
  • A Google Business Profile
  • An e-commerce website
  • Product data (pricing, availability, shipping information, etc.)

To begin setup, visit the Google Merchant Center site and click “get started.”

Step 1:  Create an account

Go through the straightforward steps to share your business data. Keep in mind that the business name you share here will be used as the GMC account name and appear on all Google Shopping services.

Business country is the country where your company is registered. The time zone will automatically be set up according to the choice of your business country.

You’ll also need to share tools you plan to use, such as e-commerce platforms and payment systems like PayPal.

Once you complete these steps, take the time to read the Terms & Conditions and verify that you agree with them.

Step 2:  Link GMC to Google Ads  

To set up your Google Shopping campaign, you need to link your GMC account to Google Ads.  Do this by choosing “Linked Accounts” on top of the screen and adding the Google Ads account by entering the Customer ID. 

(Your Customer ID is under the Help (?) tab in the top left part of your Google Ads screen.)

You also need to accept this connection from your Google Ads account. To do this, go to Tools and Settings>Linked account>Google Merchant Center. Choose “view details” and click “approve.”

A look at Google Shopping ads on the search engine results page

A look at Google Shopping ads on the search engine results page

Step 3: Verify and claim website’s URL

From the Tools icon, choose “business information” and select the Website tab. Enter the URL of your e-commerce website and click “save.”

You can verify your website through your Google Analytics (GA) account or Google Tag Manager by using GA tracking code or container ID respectively. This will only take a minute.

Pro tip: If you have neither, you can add an HTML tag or upload an HTML file. Google can walk you through both processes.

Step 4: Add products to GMC

You can add products to Google Merchant Center manually. This approach is a bit time-consuming and comes with certain limitations, but it can be useful in situations when you don’t have a large number of items.

Creating a product feed involves uploading your product information through one of the available methods, including Google Sheets, SFTP, FTP, and Google Cloud storage.

Google can also crawl your website to retrieve product information. However, your website would need to have properly structured data.

When you add products to GMC, make sure they adhere to the platform’s product data specifications. The more info you add about the product, the more relevant your ads will be.

Pro tip: When you’re using Google Sheets to upload product data, keep in mind that you aren’t limited by the available data columns. Depending on what your customers need, you can insert additional data and improve personalization.

The takeaway

Google Merchant Center is a must-have tool for e-commerce retailers who want to use Google Shopping. 

By adding product information and uploading assets to your GMC account, you can streamline your Google advertising efforts while simplifying your product data management.

Setting up an account is easy and free of charge. Adding products may take some time. However, once it’s done, you’ll be on your way to crafting successful Shopping ads and campaigns.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jan 14, 2022

From getting started to optimizing and testing, these expert tips will ensure your e-commerce ads are set up to stand out. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper e-commerce PPC marketing foundation
  • Ways to optimize, organize, and test your PPC campaigns
  • How to grow your success beyond Google Shopping campaigns
  • SEM tricks to create successful ads that convert

E-commerce spending broke holiday records in 2021, with U.S. consumers spending a record $204.5 billion online.

But surprisingly, just 17% of brands say they’re ahead of the curve or leading in the e-commerce space in their industry. 

What that tells us is that there’s a wealth of opportunity for your e-commerce company to rise above the ranks. One of the most effective ways to do just that: paid search (also called pay-per-click or PPC) campaigns.

Whether you’ve been doing e-commerce for years or have recently switched to a digital platform amid the pandemic, it’s always good to know what elements make up a successful search engine marketing (SEM) ad. 

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with e-commerce ads, it’s all about the product feed.

Wondering how to get started with e-commerce campaigns? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down what steps to take when creating paid search ads for your e-commerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. (Image via Rawpixel)

1. Set up your Google Merchant Center account properly

It should come as no surprise that the right setup is key to creating successful e-commerce ads. But plenty of companies, whether they realize it or not, don’t have their accounts set up properly. 

This can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

Link your account via a shared email address

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you use for programs like Google Ads and Google Analytics. That way, your accounts will all be linked together. 

From there, you can link your Google Ads account to GMC. It’s also a good idea to install “Ecommerce tracking” in your Google Analytics account for even more insight into performance metrics.

Choose a product data input method

Next, it’s time to get your products into the Google Merchant Center. A few things to consider when determining how to get your product data into GMC are:

  • Which e-commerce platform will you be leveraging?
  • How many products will you be uploading?
  • How many product variations with individual SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all the product details organized?

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. If you have a lot of products and are using a popular e-commerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you should be able to easily integrate this with GMC. 

This will help you map your product feed and submit the most updated info to GMC on a regular basis, ensuring your product data is always fresh. 

If you’ve got a smaller number of products, you can simply integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first. 

Pro tip: If your product list is especially large, Google’s new file processor Centimani might be a great solution for you.

Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of things in GMC settings that often get overlooked. One is enabling automatic updates. 

Google will crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you opt in to get automatic improvements. 

This is great if, for example, you run out of stock on a product, because it keeps you from running Google Ads to a page where your products aren’t available. However, if you have your site structured in a way that keeps Google from understanding your pricing, it’s probably best to turn off the automatic price updates.

Once you have everything in GMC, you’ll connect to your Google Ads account. In April 2020, Google announced that they’d run free listings on Google Shopping. This Shopping section is a lot like Amazon in that you can filter by things like price.

This means it’s more important than ever to get your GMC created with your products and prices because you’ll start getting an organic lift from being on the Shopping tab for free. This can be especially helpful for local SEO.

Pro tip: Even if your business doesn’t have the budget for new campaigns, we still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for free listings in the U.S. 

2. Stay on top of your product feed

Once your GMC account is set up, don’t fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. 

Making sure your product feed is updated is just as crucial as proper setup. (The last thing you want is to have someone click on your ad and see that the item is out of stock or priced higher than advertised, right?)

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info, meaning they won’t be eligible to show potential customers. 

You can update your products either by reprocessing your feed or setting up automatic processing on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often your product inventory changes.

It’s also important to keep your prices updated. A 2021 GMC update increased the scrutiny on prices. Prices listed in your product data, on your landing pages, and at checkout must match. They’ll give you 28 days to resolve the mismatch before suspending your account.

hawksem: e-commerce PPC blog

Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. (Image via Rawpixel)

3. Set up your e-commerce ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. It’s usually a good idea to start with a standard Shopping campaign. 

Smart Shopping is usually best fueled by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, you may want to run a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experiment with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

Get granular

The #1 way to set yourself up for campaign success is to get granular. That’s because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be.

The more you segment out your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will be. It makes sense: someone searching for a specific brand, style, color, and size of running shoe is probably more motivated to buy than someone just searching with the term “running shoe.”

You can split products into separate campaigns and ad groups that can then be split further into product groups. If you have a small, manageable number of products, you can break everything out by single-product product groups.

An example: Let’s say your core products are sporting goods, but you also sell apparel as 20% of your business. It may be wise to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products. 

You can also divide in other ways, like by devices. Simply put a -100% bid adjustment to separate desktop and mobile. For your desktop campaign, you’d put in a -100% bid adjustment on mobile to show only on desktop, and vice versa.

You can separate out traffic based on how specific the search is by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to separate those searches. Google’s 2021 GMC updates include additional sizing attributes which may be helpful as well.

Pro tip: Google Shopping is unique in that it has a priority system — you can set low, medium, and high priority campaigns. If you have several Shopping campaigns, this system dictates which ones serve an ad first.

Include prices in your ads

Your GMC account isn’t the only place you want to make sure your prices are visible. Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only can this help qualify your traffic to ensure you get the right clicks, but it doesn’t take up a ton of valuable ad real estate.

As HubSpot explains, “This saves your ad spend for those qualified leads who saw your prices, know what to expect, might not be scared away by price, and are much more likely to convert into a sale.” 

Even if they don’t end up buying your product or service, you’ll have a higher chance of snagging them through remarketing, since they already know what your pricing looks like.

Google recently added a “Deals” feed to the SERP page. When you’re running a promotion, sale, or have products with a recent price drop, consumers searching for deal- or sales-related listings will see your products. 

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks

A look at how GMC reports free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

Remember to optimize

Without optimizing, your PPC campaign can only go so far. Optimizing will help you better manage your budget by putting more spend where you’re seeing more success. 

There are two major KPIs to consider when optimizing a Shopping campaign. If you’re on a manual bidding strategy, pay attention to conversion volume and the result of conversion value over cost. That will calculate a rough idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Many e-commerce companies optimize their bids by starting low, then adjusting accordingly. The more data you gather, the more informed your decisions will be. 

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or average. You can also increase bids on items that are producing the most conversion value when compared to ad spend.

With Shopping, you can’t run a traditional experiment within Google Ads, but you can switch over for a time period and compare after a while. Automatic bidding strategies are powered by data, so the longer you run them, the better they should get. 

If you’re going to try Smart Shopping, it’s a good idea to pick a mix of high and low performers, then exclude those from your regular Shopping campaign. Don’t simply pick all your low performers from your regular Shopping campaign and put them in Smart Shopping. You want a mix to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Other ways to optimize include:

  • Experiment with different ad types (like product listing ads vs. text ads)
  • Leverage ad extensions to give ads more context
  • Add pricing to ads for a competitive edge
  • Test different campaign structures and categories

Pro tip: We don’t recommend running the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

Leverage dynamic remarketing

Ah, yes, remarketing – otherwise known as “those ads that follow you around the internet,” as your friends or family may describe them. But the fact remains that remarketing works, particularly for cart abandoners.

If you’re running Google Ads, you’re already paying for people to get to your website. But, as consumers ourselves, we know not everyone buys the first time they visit a site or product page. That’s where dynamic remarketing comes in.

While remarketing (also called retargeting) can be effective in various industries, it’s particularly useful for e-commerce ads. It can help you land more recurring sales, increase your campaign’s clickthrough rate (CTR), boost your ROI, and more. 

Dynamic remarketing is a great way to nurture your funnel. At its core, this method aims to show users specific products they’ve viewed on your site. If they look at running shoes, you then show them that exact pair of shoes as a Shopping ad while they browse other sites on the web. 

To set up dynamic remarketing, you generally have to add a bit of code to your site. This is powered by your GMC feed, so you have to make sure your account is set up and working if you want it to be successful.

A lot of people put things in their carts while shopping online, then don’t end up following through with the purchase. You can remarket these products to cart abandoners and, if you have the e-commerce settings set up correctly in Google Analytics, you should already have some audiences available.

For even more tips for achieving success with e-commerce search campaigns, check out our webinar recording, Getting Started with E-Commerce Search Ads.

two woman looking at e-commerce site on laptop

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Test your ads consistently

If you want high-performing e-commerce ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

You can A/B test elements like your imagery, verbiage, call to action (CTA), and more. After all, what works on your paid social media campaign might be a flop when it comes to SEM. See how a flat-lay image of an item on a white background performs against an image of a real-life scenario. 

You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

Looking for more help with your e-commerce ads? You’ve come to the right place. 

5. Think beyond Google

It makes sense that, when you think of paid search e-commerce ads, you automatically think of Google. And while it’s holding strong in its place as the top global search engine, it’s not the only one worth looking into. If you’re seeing success in Google and topping your impression share, why stop there?

You can easily carry your Shopping campaigns over to Bing, now rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and other sites. 

Bing has a user base that searches nearly 6 billion times a month in total. Depending on your e-commerce product, you could see less competition on Bing than on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC).

If you already have a Microsoft Ads account, it’s easy to get a merchant center account set up right from the ad platform. Microsoft will process this data just like Google. Once it reviews the product data, you can create a Shopping campaign within Microsoft or import a Shopping campaign from Google that’s already working well.

In Microsoft Ads, you can even import on a recurring basis. If you set up a recurring sync, you can optimize in one place and make sure it’s carried over easily, instead of having to manually optimize within each platform. You can even optimize based on the different platform behaviors if that proves advantageous.

Pro tip: Think Amazon Advertising isn’t related to PPC? Think again. Amazon operates as a search engine in many ways, with ad types and structures similar to traditional paid search campaigns. 

The takeaway

No matter the size of your brand or number of competitors, you’ve still got to work to make your PPC ads stand out. E-commerce ads can help take your sales to the next level.

By making sure your Google Merchant Center account is set up properly, keeping product info fresh, experimenting to see what works well, and considering leveraging both Google and Microsoft, you’ll be set on the path to more sales and a strong digital marketing strategy that can help your company continue to thrive.

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 22, 2021

As much as 2021 has felt like “2020: The Reboot,” this holiday season is poised to be unique.

Here you’ll find:

  • Tips for creating optimized holiday ads
  • Expert insights into making your ads stand out
  • What makes up an effective holiday email campaign
  • How to tap into the mobile-shopping demographic

Do you smell that? Ah yes, pumpkin spice is in the air once again. 

And marketers know what that means: It’s time to talk holidays.

Simply recycling last year’s plan would be a disservice to your customers. However, going back to your pre-pandemic tactics because things are “going back to normal” would also be a mistake.

There’s a lot of nuance being overlooked between these two positions. COVID variants have many people still wary of shopping in stores. 

Making the online shopping experience as joyful, seamless, and stress-free as possible will be a top priority for many brands again this year. Conveying that message will largely be up to marketers. And with hybrid reality becoming a more prevalent way to shop safely, consumers expect options.

So, how can you leverage the latest tips and tools to ensure the holiday ads for your products or services stand out? We’re glad you asked.

1. Take advantage of all the latest resources

Many of the companies you already trust for business-related products and services also have helpful guides on getting the most out of them. As a bonus, they often provide them for free, so there’s no reason not to use them.

Here are a few to get you started.

Facebook & Instagram

If you’re not advertising on Facebook, now’s a great time to explore this option. Not only do they have a huge platform teeming with potential customers to show your ads to, but their data and advertising advice is top-notch. 

Facebook already released its annual holiday advertising guide with concrete steps for creating an effective holiday marketing plan. The Facebook-owned app Instagram also just released its own guide with the latest best practices to make your “holiday szn” a success.

Google

In 2020, Google launched a hub of holiday marketing resources to help brands reach customers across their various platforms. The mini-site features personalized recommendations to help businesses reach more online shoppers across the Google suite. 

This resource includes useful elements like the Local Opportunity Finder and Grow My Store tool. The latter can analyze your website’s customer experience to tell you how your performance stacks up against others in your industry or retail category.

Google also published a 2021 guide to driving sales for retailers and brands.  

holiday ads

Add a customized touch by personalizing recommendations to drive more sales. (Image via Unsplash)

Search Engine Journal

Speaking of Search Engine Journal, they have some helpful resources of their own. In fact, they compile an annual marketing resource listing wiith every holiday, celebration, and event imaginable.

They also include free templates for Google Calendar and Google Spreadsheets to make using the info as easy as possible.

HubSpot

When it comes to free resources, HubSpot has no shortage of materials. They recently released their State of Marketing Report for 2021.

It’s got 50 data points, information on marketing trends, important insights, and strategies to help make the most of your 2021 holiday marketing.    

Pro tip: Just in time for the holidays, Search Engine Land reports that “Google is launching new sections in its search results to showcase deals, rolling out tools to highlight promotions and expanding reporting capabilities in Google Merchant Center.”

2. Personalize your campaigns

Email marketing company Mailchimp suggests adding a customized touch by personalizing recommendations to drive more sales. This way, you can leverage sales data to offer relevant product recs, showcase best-selling products, and highlight new arrivals. (This can also help address the dreaded issue of cart abandonment.)

Nurturing relationships is, of course, always a key marketing component. Just like last year, personalizing your holiday ads is one of the most effective ways to do just that.

Simply adding each recipient’s name to an email campaign via a token can bring you significant engagement (more on email best practices below). 

3. Embrace authentic messaging

It’s easy to play into emotions with holiday ads. It’s a sentimental season that, for many, symbolizes things like family, reflection, and the year’s end. 

Injecting emotion into your digital marketing is an acceptable, and even encouraged, tactic — when done correctly.

HubSpot has examples of how emotion works effectively in holiday marketing ads. Frequently, these have a message focused on themes such as giving, nostalgia, and gratitude.

However, you don’t want your campaigns to come off saccharine or like you’re using emotion to manipulate your audience. You can avoid that by keeping authenticity at the forefront when building your campaigns.

As Adweek explains, video content is one way brands can appeal to emotion and help foster connection, particularly when you leverage creators.

Forbes agrees — they suggest partnering with micro or “nano” influencers. These smaller social media figures often have 10,000-100,000 followers max and a more engaged audience than bigger influencers.

This is especially effective if you find people that would likely use your product or service. Rather than scripting the message, you can simply give them some bullet points to cover. They’ll seem like the regular target demographic because they are

Need help with your digital marketing strategy for the holidays and beyond? Let’s talk.

holiday m-commerce

Social media apps have made m-commerce more convenient than ever. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Leverage email marketing

We’ve talked before about how email campaigns remain one of the most effective tools marketers have at their disposal. And the holidays are a great time to get creative with your marketing emails. 

Shopify reports that email marketing consistently converts better than other channels, and it’s the method 80% of businesses count on to bring in new leads and keep existing customers coming back. Take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in your email campaigns to provide deals and a little extra purchase incentive.

No matter the season, emails that get the best open rates often include elements like:

  • An eye-catching subject line
  • A hierarchy of content (with the most important info at the top)
  • A mobile-friendly design
  • A strong call-to-action (CTA)
  • An interactive element

For example, an interactive email featuring a countdown clock, noting something like a limited-time-only sale, can boost your conversion rate

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with appealing visuals. Data shows more than half of marketers have used GIFs in email campaigns. 

5. Get social

The trend of mobile commerce (or m-commerce) continues to rise. Shopping via smartphone is projected to grow in popularity from 5.5% of total retail sales in 2020 to 8% by the end of 2023, according to Statista.

Social media apps have made m-commerce more convenient than ever. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a strong social media strategy focused on the holiday season. 

People are looking for fun, kindness, and compassion in their paid social ads, according to Search Engine Journal, so keep that in mind when crafting your campaigns.

These days, it’s not enough to just share your values on social media. Consumers want to know the brands they support are making a positive impact and that they truly embody and live out the values they claim to stand for.  

The takeaway

Unprecedented times call for swift pivoting and flexibility. Luckily, these are skills many marketers know well. As you put your brand’s holiday ads into play, it’ll be helpful to keep the above tactics in mind.

Brushing up on the latest resources, getting creative with ad platforms and messaging, personalizing where possible, and staying on top of social media trends are all ways to keep your efforts in good standing through the 2021 holidays and beyond.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 8, 2021

Social media platforms are making it easier for brands to sell products on their apps — here’s why your e-commerce company should hop on board. 

Here you’ll learn:

  • How social media e-commerce has evolved
  • What e-commerce looks like on a variety of social platforms
  • Ways to improve your social selling game
  • The latest stats on social selling

In response to the global pandemic, online shopping experienced an unprecedented boost in 2020. While overall purchase power declined, millions of people opted to shop stores virtually over brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Not only did this breathe new life (and competition) into the e-commerce space, but social media brands took notice. In recent months, many of the most popular social platforms added new features to enable e-commerce brands to sell more easily through their apps, also called social selling. 

social selling on mobile

It’s clear that m-commerce and social media will have a big impact on the future of online shopping. (Image via Unsplash)

The rise of shopping on social media

Instagram recently added more functionality to its shoppable posts, rolled out a dedicated “Shop” section to its home screen, implemented an in-app checkout option, and launched Instagram Live Shopping

In May 2020, Facebook introduced Facebook Shops, “a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Facebook and Instagram” (Facebook owns Instagram). Pinterest introduced shoppable pins, a new Shop tab on its search bar, and an enhanced product tagging tool. And TikTok has recently partnered with brands like Shopify and Walmart.

With all of these updates, it’s clear that m-commerce (or mobile commerce) and social media will have a big impact on the future of online shopping.

Why social media selling deserves more attention

Getting the desired results with your main e-commerce digital marketing strategies already? Here’s why social selling is still worth your consideration.

  • 78% of companies that use social selling outsell the competition that doesn’t. (Forbes)
  • 76% of buyers are ready to talk to the brands selling their products on social media. (LinkedIn)
  • 78% of millennial salespeople use social selling tools. (HootSuite)
  • 89% of top salespeople are using social selling tools. (LinkedIn)
  • Companies that create a high-quality social selling strategy are 40% more likely to reach revenue goals than those that don’t. (Digital Marketing Institute)

Social selling is more than just using these platforms to sell your products. A successful strategy often involves paid promotion, thoughtful organic content, and being mindful of the differences in each platform. The good news: If you’ve got an active business account on these platforms, you’re off to a good start.

Let’s take a closer look at e-commerce social selling tips.

blue sky instagram

Post organically and thoughtfully to stay top of mind with followers. (Image via Blue Sky Planners on Instagram)

1. Use a holistic approach

While these new tools and features are appealing to e-commerce brands looking to sell on social media, don’t forget about nurturing your organic following as well. 

Just like search engine marketing, a well-rounded social selling plan involves both paid ads and non-paid efforts. Leaning too heavily on one or the other likely won’t help you reach revenue goals.

Outside of creating compelling virtual storefronts and shoppable ads, don’t forget to post organically and thoughtfully to stay top of mind with followers. Your content should be high-quality and accurately reflective of your offerings. And, if you have the bandwidth, there are even more ways you can build a relationship with your digital audience, such as:

  • Posting Stories or temporary content along with regular permanent posts
  • Following back those who follow you
  • Liking and responding to comments on your posts
  • Sharing user-generated content (UGC) that include your brand

A well-maintained account helps cement trust. It can also help push prospects further down the sales funnel.

2. Create content with a purpose

Social media has evolved significantly from the early day of Facebook, Friendster, and MySpace. Today, it’s not just about connecting with others — the platforms are also places where we get news, explore topics, find inspiration, and much more.

With that in mind, think about creative ways you can engage your followers through text and images. From quick bites of industry news to “how-to” posts and video tutorials or tours, work on bringing valuable and educational content to your social media accounts.

pinterest outdoor voices

Pinterest has rolled out numerous tools for merchants in both the U.S. and U.K. (Image via Pinterest)

3. Don’t ignore Pinterest

Companies sometimes overlook Pinterest when building their social selling strategies in favor of focusing on the big four (that’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram). But, for e-commerce businesses in particular, this platform can be a beneficial resource for sales and marketing efforts. 

Firstly, consider its reach: Pinterest has 442 million monthly active users worldwide, with 98 million in the U.S. In 2020, the percentage of users who leveraged the platform for shopping reportedly increased by 50%. 

In response to the growing demand, Pinterest rolled out numerous tools for merchants in both the U.S. and U.K.

For brands using Shopify, there’s even a special app that can help streamline your Shopify and Pinterest accounts. This way, you can easily turn your Shopify products into Product Pins on Pinterest.

Need more e-commerce marketing help? Let’s talk.

4. Consider product videos

The power of video marketing continues to increase in popularity. These days, more than 70% of potential buyers make a positive purchase decision after watching a product video. This makes social media platforms the perfect place to post and promote video marketing content.

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube all allow the use of paid video ads. While different platforms have different ad specs and requirements, once you determine where most of your audience is, you can begin creating, optimizing, and modifying video content that can be leveraged across each with success.

For example, Instagram added a “shop featured products” option to Reels (an Instagram video content type that allows users to post longer videos than in-feed video post time limits permit) in late 2020. This allows for seamless purchasing of items shown in the videos.

tiktok shopify

Though TikTok’s audience often skews younger than that on Instagram or Facebook, the purchasing power of these users still offers high potential for many brands. (Image via Shopify)

5. Keep an eye on TikTok

In October 2020, TikTok made a huge step toward e-commerce by entering a partnership with Shopify. Shopify users can now connect their accounts to TikTok for Business and sell products through in-feed shoppable video ads.

And with the app’s white-hot rise in popularity across regions and demographics, TikTok is likely to launch more e-commerce features in the near future. Though this platform’s audience often skews younger than that on Instagram or Facebook, the purchasing power of these users still offers high potential for many brands.

The takeaway

As more and more consumers shop online and via their smartphones, selling products on social media is bringing serious sales to e-commerce businesses far and wide.

Social media is a great way to connect with your target audience, build a relationship, and target new customers in a way that’s streamlined and direct. To stay on top of your selling game, it’s imperative to monitor social media selling tool updates and take full advantage of them when it makes sense for your brand and audience.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 13, 2020

From building your merchant accounts to optimizing your ads, here’s everything you need to know about e-commerce marketing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What e-commerce marketing is
  • Different types of e-commerce ads
  • How to leverage social media marketing
  • Best practices for creating e-commerce ads

The e-commerce space has boomed in popularity over the last several years. And with the convenience of ordering, speedy delivery, and a wide range of products and services that can be browsed through online, it’s easy to see why.

For marketers, this means more potential customers — and more competition. That’s where a solid e-commerce marketing strategy comes in. 

Below, we break down everything you need to know about the state of e-commerce marketing today, from the latest social media trends to ad options and everything in between.

What is e-commerce marketing?

The aim is e-commerce marketing is to drive awareness, interaction, and sales to a business that sells products or services online. E-commerce marketers can do this through paid digital avenues such as pay-per-click (PPC or paid search), display ads, paid social ads, remarketing, and more. 

Organic, non-paid methods of e-commerce marketing include organic social media posts, content marketing like blogs, an optimized website, and email marketing. A well-rounded e-commerce strategy likely includes a mix of these two kinds of marketing. 

retrieving package: e-commerce marketing

Paid search campaigns are a great way for your e-commerce brand to showcase what you have to offer. (Image via Rawpixel)

Build your e-commerce marketing plan

The steps to building your e-commerce marketing plan don’t deviate much from a standard marketing plan for any business. 

First, you want to define your ideal client persona. (Most companies have a few different target audience personas they’re marketing to.) You want to keep these personas in mind when making decisions about copy, images, and other ways to attract the right people to your offerings.

From there, you want to determine which tools and platforms you want to leverage to manage your program. Tools could be anything from Google Analytics and CRM software to Shopify and BigCommerce. 

As far as social media, which we’ll dive into more below, it’s wise to create accounts on the major platforms. (Plus, many of these boast e-commerce-specific features.) These include:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

You also want to establish your goals and KPIs. You can do this among your internal team, or partner with an experienced digital marketing agency to help with the workload. 

How to start e-commerce paid search

Paid search campaigns are a great way for your e-commerce brand to showcase what you have to offer. Rather than mainly relying on keywords, these campaigns focus on images and product feeds that feature descriptive info paired with accurate inventory availability.

As we’ve highlighted before, the steps to getting started with e-commerce search ads include:

  • Choose a product data input method: There are a few different ways to input your products into the Google Merchant Center; the one you choose will depend on things like how many products you have and which e-commerce platform you’re leveraging
  • Optimize your Merchant Center settings: This involves things like enabling automatic updates and connecting to your Google Ads account so you can be eligible for free listings
  • Set up your e-commerce search ads campaign: Decide which campaign you want to run (we recommend starting with standard Shopping), split products into separate campaigns and ad groups, and separate out searches based on specificity
  • Optimize your campaigns: Once you’ve run your campaigns and gathered some data, you can decrease bids on anything the underperforms and increase bids on what’s producing the highest conversion value 
  • Export successful campaigns to Microsoft Advertising: If you’re seeing positive returns on Google with your paid search ads, consider transferring those campaigns to Microsoft Advertising — they’ve made the process easy 

Boost sales with e-commerce remarketing

Remarketing, also called retargeting, is a type of ad that highlights your product or service to a targeted audience of people who have already visited your site or mobile app. Setting up dynamic remarketing will show users specific products they’ve previously viewed on your site.

This type of marketing can help combat obstacles e-commerce brands often run into, such as cart abandoners. Remarketing can be an effective way to nurture your funnel and turn “window shoppers” into customers. 

Pro tip: Usually, setting up remarketing involves adding code to your site that’s powered by your Google Merchant Center feed. 

online shopping: e-commerce marketing

From paid search to display ads to social media and CRM software, there are a variety of platforms you can leverage for your e-commerce marketing. (Image via Rawpixel)

E-commerce SEO tips

Of course, all businesses should follow the standard SEO practices for best results when it comes to traffic and rankings online. But with e-commerce competition being especially fierce, brands in this industry often have to get creative — and strategic — to truly stand out.

Finding the right keywords is a solid place to start. E-commerce brands can do this in a few ways, including leveraging Google Keyword Planner, manually searching to see what already ranks organically, and leveraging tools like SpyFu and SEMrush. 

Other e-commerce SEO tips include:

  • Use relevant product titles and descriptions
  • Create a Merchant Center account (as mentioned above)
  • Ensure your site is properly reported and set up with canonical info
  • Keep CRO in mind and regularly test layouts, filters, and product images

Lastly, consistency is key to avoiding common SEO errors. This means monitoring things like how your products are organized, keeping inventory up to date, leveraging img tags and metadata at a product level, and making sure image sizes are consistent across your site.

Choose the right e-commerce platform

From paid search to display ads to social media and CRM software, there are a variety of platforms you can leverage for your e-commerce marketing. The ones you opt to use will depend on a few different factors, including your bandwidth, budget, and goals.

Overall, when you’re exploring e-commerce ad platforms, a few things you want to consider are:

  • If your various vendors integrate together cohesively
  • Where your audience is already shopping
  • What types of e-commerce ads are most successful for your brand
  • How you can use seller ratings in your ads

Leverage e-commerce email campaigns

If you’ve ever purchased something online (and the odds you have are very high), you’ve likely also been the recipient of an e-commerce campaign email. Email remains one of the most popular digital marketing strategies around, and that especially goes for e-commerce brands. 

Often, brands will create an opt-in option for customers to sign up for emails when checking out on their websites. And, much like remarketing, email campaigns can be an effective way to combat cart abandonment. It’s also a great way to let your audience know about a special offer, upcoming sale, or other deals they might be interested in.

Pro tip: The most successful e-commerce emails often include eye-catching visuals, concise copy, and an unmissable call to action (CTA). 

Consider content marketing for e-commerce

Creating high-quality e-commerce content can do wonders for your SEO. Once you’ve done the front-end work of defining your audience and determining where your content will live on your site, you can start building your content strategy.

This plan should include:

  • Ways to illustrate what makes your brand different from others in the space
  • Creative methods for educating your audience and helping them problem-solve
  • An emphasis on storytelling
  • Plenty of on-brand, high-quality visuals

How often you create content will depend on your goals and bandwidth. Creating a calendar with planned-out content around things like your keywords, outside-of-the-box initiatives, and new company updates will keep you organized and on track. 

mobile shopping: e-commerce marketing

More than half of all online shopping is expected to happen on mobile devices by 2021. (Image via Unsplash)

E-commerce social media 

There’s plenty of value in e-commerce brands leveraging social media platforms, both paid and organically. That’s because it’s a highly effective way to reach users where they already are in a way that’s unobtrusive and seamless.

Creating organic social media content is a great way to raise brand awareness and attract followers. By regularly posting content, you can show off your company aesthetic, get creative with your marketing, and increase followers without spending a dime. 

If you’re just starting out with the paid side of social media, aka paid social, you can try out boosting organic posts that are seeing decent engagement on platforms like Instagram. You can also reach out to industry influencers who have their own engaged followings and explore an ad partnership with them in exchange for products, services or a fee.

The main social media platforms also offer standard ad options that allow you to do things like create and monitor a campaign, target a specific audience, and showcase products while directing potential buyers to your site. 

Another reason it’s worth being active on these platforms: they’re often adding new tools and features that are beneficial to e-commerce brands. Instagram and Pinterest, for example, recently unveiled shoppable posts that allow you to link items in your images that go straight to the product page on your website for a seamless buying experience. 

Prioritize mobile-friendliness

Optimizing your store for mobile “means more than having a responsive design,” as Shopify explains. It also means you’re designing your e-commerce site “with mobile visitors in mind from start to finish.”

And with Statista data suggesting more than half of all online shopping is expected to happen on mobile devices by 2021, keeping mobile in mind will be more crucial than ever.

Luckily, there are quick fixes you can perform to ensure your site is mobile-friendly. These include:

  • Making call-to-action buttons large and easy to see
  • Keeping links far apart so they’re easier to click 
  • Keep navigation menus organized
  • Anchoring things like “add to cart” buttons so users don’t have to scroll to add items

The takeaway

With so many aspects of business taking place online, it’s wise for e-commerce marketers to use all of the tools and tricks at their disposal to effectively stand out, connect with their customers, and beat out the competition. 

By defining your ideal customers, creating a multi-channel approach that takes advantage of paid search, social media, email and more, and staying on top of the latest industry trends, you can create a strong e-commerce marketing plan that’s both agile and built to last. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 7, 2020

Because getting your products in front of the right people at the right time is key

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to set up your e-commerce search ads
  • Expert tips for optimizing your ads
  • How to import Google Shopping campaigns to Microsoft
  • Why you should consider dynamic remarketing

Here’s a stat for you: recent data shows that just 17% of brands say they’re ahead of the curve or leading in the e-commerce space in their industry. What that tells us is that there’s a wealth of opportunity for your e-commerce company to rise above the ranks. One of the most effective ways to do just that: paid search (or PPC) campaigns.

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with Shopping campaigns, it’s all about the product feed. You want your feed to show your products in the best light, with accurate info and up-to-date inventory. Wondering how to get started with e-commerce search ads? You’ve come to the right place — let’s get into it.

HawkSEM: E-commerce search ads

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Choose a product data input method

When you’re getting into Google Shopping, your first step is to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account under the email you use for other Google programs, like Google Ads and Google Analytics. This way, all of your Google accounts are linked together, making it easy to stay consistent.

Next, it’s time to get your products into the Google Merchant Center. A few things to consider when determining how to get your product data into GMC are:

  • Which e-commerce platform will you be leveraging?
  • How many products will you be uploading?
  • How many product variations with individuals SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all of the product details organized?

If you have a lot of products and are using a popular e-commerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you should be able to easily integrate this with GMC. This will help you map your product feed and submit the most updated info to GMC on a regular basis, ensuring your product data is always fresh. 

If you’ve got a smaller number of products, you can input product data simply by uploading a text file Google Sheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first. 

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. After that time, the platform will expire those products, meaning they won’t be eligible to show. Because of this, you want to either reprocess your feed or send your data continuously on a regular basis. Depending on your products and how much they change, daily is generally a good frequency for updates.

2. Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of things in GMC settings that I often see get missed. One is enabling automatic updates. Google will actually crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you’re opted in to automatic improvements. This is great if, for example, you run out of stock on a product, because it keeps you from running Google Ads to a page where your products aren’t available. 

However, If you have your site structured in a way that keeps Google from understanding your pricing, it’s probably best to turn off the automatic price updates.

Once you have everything in GMC, you’ll connect to your Google Ads account. The good news: Google recently announced that they’ll start running free listings on Google Shopping. This applies to the Shopping tab on Google. This Shopping section is a lot like Amazon in that you can filter by things like price. This means it’s more important than ever to get your GMC created with your products and prices, because you’ll start getting an organic lift from being able to be on the Shopping tab for free.

HawkSEM: Google Merchant Center

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

Pro tip: Even if your business isn’t in the financial place to give budget to new campaigns, I still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for those free listings. Then, once you’re ready, you can start leveraging all that Google Shopping has to offer.

3. Set up your e-commerce search ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. I recommend starting with a standard Shopping campaign. Smart Shopping is usually fueled better by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend doing a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experimenting with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

The #1 thing you can do to set yourself up for success when it comes to your campaigns is to get granular. You can subdivide everything into product groups. You can split products into separate campaigns and ad groups that can then be split further into product groups. If you have a small, manageable number of products, I suggest breaking everything out by single-product product groups.

An example: Let’s say your core products are sporting goods, but you also sell apparel as 20% of your business. It’s probably a good idea to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products. 

Another one of my favorite strategies is to separate out searches based on how specific they’re getting. The more specific a search, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be. It makes sense: someone searching for a specific brand, style, color, and size of running shoe is probably more motivated to buy than someone just searching “running shoe.”

Pro tip: Google Shopping is unique in that it has a priority system — you can set low, medium, and high priority campaigns. If you have several Shopping campaigns, this system dictates which ones serve an ad first.

HawkSEM: e-commerce search ads

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

4. Consider dynamic remarketing

If you’re running Google Ads, you’re already paying for people to get to your website. But, as consumers ourselves, we know not everyone buys the first time they visit a site or product page. That’s where dynamic remarketing comes in.

Dynamic remarketing is a great way to nurture your funnel. At its core, this method aims to show users specific products they’ve viewed on your site. If they look at running shoes, you then show them that exact pair of shoes as a Shopping ad while they browse other sites on the web. 

To set up dynamic remarketing, you generally have to add a bit of code to your site. This is powered by your GMC feed, so you have to make sure your account is set up and working if you want it to be successful.

A lot of people put things in their carts while shopping online, then don’t end up following through with the purchase. You can remarket these products to cart abandoners and, if you have the e-commerce settings set up correctly in Google Analytics, you should already have some audiences available.


Here’s a short clip from the webinar I hosted on e-commerce search ads.

5. Optimize your campaigns

There are two KPIs I consider most important when optimizing a Shopping campaign. If you’re on a manual bidding strategy, I’d pay attention to your conversion volume and the result of  conversion value over cost. That will calculate a rough idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or your average. You can also increase bids on items that are producing the most conversion value when compared to ad spend.

With Shopping, you can’t run a traditional experiment within Google Ads, but you can switch over for a time period and compare after a while. Automatic bidding strategies are powered by data, so the longer you run them, the better they should get. 

If you’re going to try Smart Shopping, it’s a good idea to pick a mix of high and low performers, then exclude those from your regular Shopping campaign. Don’t simply pick all of your low performers from your regular Shopping campaign and put them in Smart Shopping. You want a mix to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Pro tip: It’s not a good idea to run the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

HawkSEM: E-commerce search ads

No matter the size of your e-commerce brand, search ads can help take your sales to the next level.

6. Carry the success to Microsoft Advertising

If you’re seeing success in Google and topping your impression share, why stop there? You can easily carry your Shopping campaigns over to Bing. As we’ve mentioned before, Bing Ads recently rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and other sites. 

If you already have a Microsoft Ads account it’s easy to get a merchant center account set up right from the ad platform. Microsoft will process this data just like Google. Once it reviews the product data, you can create a Shopping campaign within Microsoft or import a Shopping campaign from Google that’s already working well.

Recently, Microsoft Ads made it so that you can import on a recurring basis. If you set up a recurring sync, you can optimize in one place and make sure it’s carried over easily, instead of having to manually optimize within each platform. You can even optimize based on the different platform behaviors if that proves advantageous.

Microsoft usually has cheaper CPC and less competition. If you’re in a saturated market, your Microsoft Ads campaign might perform better than on Google.

The takeaway

No matter the size of your brand, e-commerce search ads can help take your sales to the next level. By making sure your Google Merchant Center account is set up properly, keeping product info fresh, experimenting to see what works well, and considering leveraging both Google and Microsoft, you’ll be set on the path to success — and more sales. 

Want even more tips for achieving success with e-commerce search campaigns? Check out our webinar recording, Getting Started with E-Commerce Search Ads.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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