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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 5 , 2020

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

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper PPC ad foundation
  • Tips for keeping campaigns organized
  • Ways to optimize your e-commerce PPC ads
  • What to test when it comes to your campaigns

People are buying almost everything online these days. 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.

Let’s break down the must-haves when it comes to creating paid search ads for your e-commerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

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

1. Set a good foundation 

It should come as no surprise that proper setup is key to creating successful e-commerce PPC ads. But that doesn’t mean that plenty of companies, whether they realize it or not, don’t have their accounts set up properly — which can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you also 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.

2. Stay on top of your product feed

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. If you have a large amount, you can integrate your e-commerce platform with the merchant center. If you have fewer products, you can integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet or even add products one by one. 

Making sure your product feed is updated is just as crucial as proper setup. After all, 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.

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info. 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.

3. Get granular

Why is getting granular so important? Because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent, most likely. Therefore, the more you segment out your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will be. 

If you have a small number of products, each product can be in its own product group. Otherwise, you can split your campaign into ad groups, and then split those into product groups from there. 

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 also separate out traffic based on how specific the search is. You can do this by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to separate those searches.

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)

4. 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. 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.

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

5. Consider including prices in ads

Speaking of pricing, including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only is this another way to 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.

6. Test your ads — consistently

If you’ve read our past articles, we might sound like a broken record when we talk about the benefits of testing. But it can’t be denied that, if you want high-performing e-commerce PPC ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

With e-commerce ads, 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. 

Pro tip: The best testing comes with an open mind. You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

7. Leverage 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.

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

As we’ve mentioned before, setting up e-commerce remarketing often requires adding certain code to your site and making sure your GMC account is set up and running properly.

hawksem: e-commerce ppc ads

Amazon operates like a search engine in many ways, with ad types and structures similar to traditional paid search campaigns. (Image via Rawpixel)

8. Think outside of Google

It makes sense that, when you think of e-commerce PPC, 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.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing has a user base that searches nearly 6 billion times a month total. Its own ad platform, Microsoft Ads, encompasses advertising on Bing as well as Yahoo and AOL.

Depending on your e-commerce product, you could see less competition on Bing that you’d see on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC). Not only that, but Microsoft Ads has a simple process for exporting existing Google Ads campaigns into its own platform, making it easy for you to leverage both. 

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

The takeaway

Whether your e-commerce business has tons of competition or not, you’ve still got to work to make your PPC ads stand out.

Use the tips above when creating, optimizing, and testing your paid search campaigns to keep your digital marketing strategy going strong. 

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

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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Written by Neelie Palmer 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.

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.

Neelie Palmer

Neelie Palmer

    Neelie is a lead strategist at HawkSEM. As a digital marketing professional with more than 6 years of experience specializing in PPC & SEM management, she believes in making data-driven decisions with client business goals at the forefront of digital strategy. Since starting at HawkSEM in 2017, she's expanded her experience and produced results across a broad spectrum of industries and platforms, including social and Amazon Advertising. In her spare time, Neelie enjoys running, yoga, and gardening.

    Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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    Written by Jane Serra on Feb 12 , 2020

    Get ahead of the competition by optimizing your Google Shopping Ads campaign

    Here you’ll find:

    • How Google Shopping Ads works
    • How to target the right keywords
    • The reasons why adding negative keywords is crucial
    • Best practices for optimizing ad images
    • How Showcase Shopping ads can help your brand 

    The Google Shopping Ads feature is one of the best ways to get your products noticed. You upload your featured products to the Google Merchant Center, splash in some keywords, and images of your products will start to pop up on a Google search along with their prices.

    It may sound simple, but there are a handful of key things you need to know to bring in serious sales using this service. If you want to take your marketing game to the next level, consider these six must-know tips to make Google Shopping Ads work for you.

    HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

    Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. (Image via Rawpixel)

    How does Google Shopping Ads work?

    Before we dive into the tips, Google Shopping Ads – formerly known as AdWords – is a paid search advertising service that is available for e-commerce businesses to use to attract new clients.

    This service lets brands set up campaigns based on their budget. Your ad will appear in the search results page with your product, cost information, and product photo when a relevant keyword is used in a search.

    This will give you a marketing edge because consumers will see your products at the top of the page. It can also benefit you by pushing competitors farther down the search results page. 

    What do I need to know about Google Shopping Ads?

    Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. Let’s go over these 6 tips.

    1. Optimize your data feed

    When you log in to your Google Merchant account, you’ll want to ensure that your data feed has the necessary information for your product titles. Descriptions in the product title should include:

    • Brand name
    • Material type
    • Sizes
    • Color
    • Model number

    Do some keyword research to make sure you’re using the best keywords in your title descriptions. You can use Google’s keyword tracking tools such as Google Search Console and AdWords Keyword Planner to help with this.

    2. Target the right keywords

    You’ll want to leverage the same keywords a consumer would type into the Google search bar. For example, if your company sells coconut oil, “coconut oil” as a keyword would be too broad to use. 

    Instead, imagine the searcher is looking for more specific information about “coconut oil.” It’s best to use long-tail keywords like “best all-natural coconut oil” or “coconut oil for cooking.” Implementing long-tail keywords gives your product a better chance to reach the right audience.

    Being specific is important because you don’t want to waste money serving ads to people who aren’t looking for your exact product. Your coconut oil could be used for cooking, for example, while someone is looking for coconut oil body lotion.

    3. Add negative keywords

    Adding negative keywords tells the search engine platform that you don’t want your ad to end up in a specific search. Let’s go back to the coconut oil example. 

    Refined coconut oil goes through a lot of processing and can be used to make soaps, bath oils, or body moisturizers, while unrefined coconut oil is best for cooking. If you’re selling unrefined coconut oil for cooking, excellent negative keywords you’ll want to add would be “refined coconut oil” or “processed coconut oil.” 

    4. Optimize your images

    To grab a consumer’s attention, make sure you’re uploading high-quality images to associate with your products. Keep in mind that, per Google, your images need to be under 1024 kilobytes

    To get the best images possible, consider using a DSLR camera. These are cameras that provide the most detail and are used by professionals.

     Also, make sure your products are clear with no distractions or busy backgrounds. The most popular look is the product with a white background. Use good lighting and make sure the product is the main focus. 

    HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

    If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. (Image via Unsplash)

    5. Focus on your top-selling products

    Putting your top-selling products in their own ad group will give you the best chance at finding the right audience. You can track your top-selling products by using Google Analytics. Make your bids are on the higher side for these items for maximum exposure.  

    If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. This can help ensure you’re maximizing your marketing budget and not overspending.

    6. Use Showcase Shopping ads

    The standard option that most businesses use is Product Shopping ads. These are the ads that show up on the top of a search results page. They have a product photo, price, and star reviews all nicely packaged in a small box that consumers can easily click on. 

    Another option is Showcase Shopping ads. Showcase Shopping ads give your audience a preview of what your brand is all about. This option lets you feature more than one product. It’s also ideal for broader keyword searches. For example, if you sell summer dresses, you can feature multiple dresses you sell in one ad for that keyword.

    The takeaway

    The tips we’ve mentioned above are crucial for making your Google Shopping Ads campaign successful. Paid search advertising like Google Shopping Ads help your audience find your products. By following the strategies of keyword targeting, using negative keywords, and image optimization, you’ll be on the right track of making your ads pay off.   

    Want to find out how you can optimize your PPC campaigns even further? Let’s talk!

    Jane Serra

    Jane Serra

    Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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    Written by Caroline Cox on Feb 4 , 2020

    Competition is stiff for e-commerce — these SEO strategies can help you rise through the ranks

    Here, you’ll find:

    • The elements of a good e-commerce SEO strategy
    • How to set up your site for SEO success
    • Common e-commerce SEO missteps to avoid
    • The importance of proper tracking and reporting

    Whether you’re selling a hyper-specific luxury boat motor, a plain white t-shirt, or any of the billions of products in between — when it comes to e-commerce, good SEO matters.

    While ads can get you in front of the right prospective customers at the right time, having strong SEO will ensure you also have a steady stream of organic traffic coming your way. Not sure what steps to take? Keep reading.

    Start with standard SEO practices

    When it comes to SEO, it should come as no surprise that the standard rules across the board also play a big role on e-commerce sites. Some of those practices include making sure your site is well organized with a sitemap.

    You also want your site to be easy to navigate and interact with across devices, and secure like any other site. (Google has confirmed that there’s a slight rankings boost for sites serving content over HTTPs vs. HTTP, according to Ahrefs — yet another reason to follow suit.)

    Implementing these basic SEO practices into your marketing strategy will help you start your e-commerce SEO off on the right foot and ensure you’ve got the proper framework (literally and figuratively) to build on. 

    Find the right keywords

    Digital marketers won’t be surprised to know that, for e-commerce just as with other businesses, the right keyword strategy is table stakes for strong SEO. Focusing on long-tail keywords (along with site performance) is likely going to be the best way to see early wins when it comes to your SEO.

    SpyFu explains that you can also conduct keyword research through:

    • starting with Google Keyword Planner
    • using Google Search to see what’s currently ranking organically
    • leveraging a tool (like theirs) for competitor research
    • playing around with Amazon Suggest
    • entering target keywords into Wikipedia to find more related words and phrases

    Once you conduct your keyword research (with an eye on things like search volume, relevance, and competition), aim to use it just 3-5 times per page. This will give you the juice you need to start building up page credibility without looking like keyword stuffing. 

    HawkSEM: The E-Commerce SEO Strategy Your Website Needs

    44% of people begin their online shopping experience with a search engine and 30% of all traffic to e-commerce sites coming from search engines. (Image via Rawpixel)

    Use relevant product titles & descriptions

    Leveraging the proper keywords in your product titles and descriptions should also be a standard practice across your site. Instead of just keyword stuffing (which Google frowns upon), tag your items by categories, accurately title your images, and make sure those images are fast-loading. 

    Crazy Egg reports that 44% of people begin their online shopping experience with a search engine. They also say that 30% of all traffic to e-commerce sites comes from search engines. This is all the more reason why you should be thoughtful about your titles and descriptions. 

    Don’t just say what a product is — describe what it’s made of, what its purpose is, and how it’ll benefit the buyer. 

    Create a Merchant Center account

    Something we recommend all online sales brands do is to create a Google Merchant Center account with proper data feeds for the search engine to leverage in its shopping tab on the search engine results page (SERP). 

    This is a free feature that helps you organize your content in a way Google favors — and it gives great exposure to new customers with images (unlike search results). 

    With the Merchant Center, e-commerce brands can:

    • upload accurate product information
    • reach customers through paid and unpaid channels
    • view reports for your programs linked to Merchant Center
    • and more

    This is also a good feature to take advantage of if you create Google Shopping ads or might want to in the future. 

    Ensure your site is properly set up & reported

    Many online brands carry tons of products. Because of this, implementing all of these various SEO strategies into each of them can be a timely undertaking. 

    Plus, product SEO can be a bit trickier than standard website SEO. For example, you may offer one shirt in four different sizes and 10 colors all on the same product detail page, or PDP. 

    You have many more possibilities for canonical URLS (also called canonical tags), which help search engines understand that some pages will have very similar information on them and points to which ones should be given the most value or weight. 

    Making sure your canonical info is set up properly helps ensure that your monitoring and reporting will be accurate. This is also a good way to set yourself apart from the competition and boost your bottom line.  

    Pro tip: You can create a list that tells search engines which links are canonical through Google Search Console. Use the URL Inspection tool to determine which links Google considers canonical. (However, know that Google might choose a different canonical page than the one you designated for various reasons, such as content or page performance.)

    Stay consistent to avoid common errors

    When adding new products is a frequent task, making sure they align with the same strategy as your others is key. This is because you want to set things up so each product has a fair chance at performing its best online. 

    Consider creating a checklist for adding new products to your site so nothing slips through the cracks. This can include everything from the optimal image sizes and product name formats to the tone of descriptions, URL parameters, and more. This will also make it clearer which items are performing better than others.

    Other common SEO missteps that e-commerce brands should avoid include:

    • Poorly organized content that makes navigation or filtering products difficult
    • Out-of-stock items showing up in lists without being able to be filtered out 
    • Not having individual images for different variations offered
    • Not properly making use of img tags or metadata at a product level
    • Inconsistent image or video sizes
    • Slow-loading sites
    • Non-responsive sites or limited options by device
    • Unclear return policies
    HawkSEM: The E-Commerce SEO Strategy Your Website Needs

    It’s key to keep CRO in mind and consistently test elements like layouts, filters, and images for products, to see which ones result in better performance. (Image via Rawpixel)

    Remember that conversion rate optimization (CRO) is part of SEO

    Because of the high competition that surrounds many e-commerce brands, your site’s ease of use can really be a make-or-break factor in its success. 

    That’s why it’s so key to keep CRO in mind and consistently test elements like layouts, filters, and images for products, to see which ones result in better performance. 

    Pop-ups, for example, may not be as effective as banners and may even turn off some users. You can also analyze your site’s performance through the use of heatmap, scrollmap and confetti reports. These reports track your site visitors’ behavior to illustrate where people are gravitating, where they’re bouncing, and more. 

    As we’ve discussed before, you can set your site up for maximum CRO by optimizing your checkout process and being mindful of not overwhelming your shoppers with too many options.

    The takeaway

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult for e-commerce brands to stand out in the saturated online space — that’s why SEO can be such a game-changer. 

    The brands that climb the SEO ladder successfully following best practices like making use of the right keywords, taking note of what audiences do and don’t respond to, and having a consistent listing process. While solid SEO takes time, it’s a worthwhile endeavor for e-commerce businesses that aim to be around — and thriving — for the long haul.

    Ready to take your e-commerce ads to the next level? We can help.

    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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    Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 13 , 2019

    Having quality e-commerce content on your website is one of the most effective ways to improve your SEO rankings.

    Here, you’ll find:

    • How content benefits e-commerce brands
    • How to determine your content topics
    • Why visuals are the key to quality content
    • How to define your brand’s content voice

    Quality content and SEO go hand in hand — and that includes e-commerce sites. If you don’t think your website needs content, you may be opening your brand up to being lapped by the competition.

    Whether you write it yourself, leverage a team member, or outsource to an agency, these are the elements you need for e-commerce content that’ll make your brand an industry thought leader.

    How to Create Quality E-Commerce Content

    The most effective content speaks to your audience in their language and with terms they know well. (Image via Unsplash)

    Define your voice

    Hopefully, you already know exactly who your audience is — from where they shop to how they search. Your voice should reflect your audience while being true to your brand’s mission and values.

    The most effective content speaks to the audience in their language and with terms they know well. If your target audience is millennials or Gen Z, for example, you’ll likely have different verbiage and communication styles than you would if your target audience was affluent couples over 50.

    Once you define your voice, consider codifying it via a brand-specific content and style guide so that everyone on your team is on the same page. This can also be referenced by the person writing social media posts, since brand voice should be consistent across those platforms as well.

    Pinpoint where your content lives

    Content can be many things: from videos, blog posts, and your “About Us” section to landing pages, social media, product descriptions, and more.

    Not all of these content types will make sense for all e-commerce companies. But if you think a content strategy has no place in your business plan, think again!

    Look at all of the content your brand produces and ask yourself things like:

    • Is your tone consistent across your various content spaces?
    • Is the audience you’re speaking to consistent across your various content spaces? (This excludes landing pages that may target different audience subsets)
    • Does the verbiage across these content spaces accurately reflect your brand?

    Leveraging these content areas can be highly beneficial, not only by making your brand stand out, but by showing your target audience that you’ve taken the time to craft clever, eye-catching copy that speaks to them on their level.

    E-commerce brands can leverage content in a number of ways. If a photo you post on one of your social media accounts does well, you can consider adding that photo to a blog or other page of your site.

    The same goes for professional product photoshoots you do for products — consider using those images on social media in collages, carousels, or even Shopping ads if they resonate well.

    Highlight what makes your brand unique

    It’s simply a fact that no two brands are exactly alike. Because of this, content is a great way to showcase what makes yours unique. Write about your company’s mission, journey, and origin story.

    Do you source your materials sustainably? Did your grandmother ignite your love of fashion design? Are your products cruelty-free?

    These days, an increasing number of consumers want to buy from brands that are trustworthy and sustainability-minded — content can remind them that there are people behind your business.

    HawkSEM: How to Create Quality E-Commerce Content

    No matter the type, the most effective content has great storytelling at its core. (Image via Unsplash)

    Use e-commerce content to educate and problem-solve

    Content marketing shouldn’t be about trying to game the search engine system. Rather, the primary role of your e-commerce content should be to educate your consumers and help them solve problems.

    This can have many different interpretations, depending on your industry. If you sell camping equipment, you could highlight how certain products could be best used in warm and cold climates. If you offer career coaching, you could post a blog article highlighting all the different professional stages where talking to a career coach could be beneficial (and how).

    Focus on storytelling

    “How tos” are widely understood as one of the most effective types of content you can publish. And while this may be true in the B2B space, B2C can be a bit more tricky. But no matter the type, the most effective content has great storytelling at its core.

    According to Social Media Today, “Storytelling is one of the best, most effective ways in which [e-commerce] businesses can connect with prospective buyers, and also generate traffic and social shares.”

    Think about the marketing campaigns or pieces that stick with you. Most likely, there’s an emotional element to the story the brand is telling, which helps make it more memorable to the reader.

    Great storytelling comes from great writers — if your team doesn’t have the chops (or the time), you can consider partnering with an agency or hiring freelance writers via sites like Upwork.

    As far as topics go, think about the stories you want your brand to tell. It could be anything from an inspiring customer journey to the way your business gives back.

    Prioritize visuals

    Visuals can take your content from good to great in a flash. Not only do images help us retain information better, but content with images often results in more engagement and shares as well.

    While it’s not required, it’s also a good idea to make sure the graphics on your site are accessible to visually impaired people through descriptive text or captions.

    Like your brand voice, the images on your website should be in line with your mission and audience. Add visual elements to your e-commerce content through things like:

    • Licensed or free stock photos
    • Well-designed graphics
    • Videos
    • User-generated images

    Speaking of user-generated images, this can be an effective way to add a visual element to your content while highlighting your customers. See if someone’s tagged your business on social. If the image is high-quality (and in line with your brand’s aesthetic), use it!

    Just be sure to ask their permission before sharing. Let the person know when the content is published so they can re-share with their networks for an extra boost of exposure.

    Pro tip: When uploading any images to your site, it’s important to title the images beforehand to serve as alt text, which helps improve your SEO.

    HawkSEM blog: How to Create Quality E-Commerce Content

    User-generated images can be an effective way to add a visual element to your content while highlighting your customers. (Image via Unsplash)

    The takeaway

    For e-commerce brands looking to boost visibility and sales (and what brand isn’t?), implementing a solid content marketing strategy is the way to go.

    By publishing content that’s authentic, in line with your company ethos, and speaking directly to your target audience, you can continue to see your SEO rankings improve.

    Curious how we help e-commerce brands improve their SEO, SEM, and more? Let’s chat.

    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 Jane Serra on Nov 8 , 2019

    Here’s how your e-commerce brand can ensure that this holiday season is your best and (most profitable) yet — while surviving the end-of-year rush.

    Here, you’ll find:

    • How to leverage the busy season
    • Ways to make holiday e-commerce email campaigns work for you
    • Tips for beefing up your PPC ads
    • Ideas for optimizing your product pages

    As the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season picks up and Q4 quickly comes to a close, you want to end the year not with a jingle, but with a bang.

    According to Deloitte’s 2019 retail holiday survey, shoppers are expected to spend nearly $1,500 per household during this holiday season. On top of that, those surveyed expect to spend 59% of their holiday budget shopping online.

    Even if the weather outside is frightful, a boost in holiday e-commerce sales is always (you guessed it) delightful. So, how can you make the most of the seasonal madness? We’re glad you asked: start with these e-commerce holiday tips that’ll help you turn sales season into growing traffic and a better bottom line.

    HawkSEM blog: 10 Ways to Take Holiday E-Commerce Sales to the Next Level

    Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the busiest days of the year for most online retailers. (Image via Unsplash)

    1. Create a personalized shopping experience

    Page journey tracking (or what Google calls flow visualization) can identify a customer’s cursor at every stage of the shopping process through checkout. Not only can this help you identify strengths and weaknesses on your site, but you can use these details to reveal different information and products to different customers based on their browsing history and content interaction. 

    Add a call to action (CTA), reduce page length, or insert an exit-intent popup to help engage the customer more effectively. You can also re-engage repeat customers through remarketing ads that include similar products or special offers like a discount or free shipping.

    2. Leverage peak promotions

    If it seems like every other company is blowing up ad space and social feeds with holiday catchphrases and Santa Claus memes, that’s probably because they are. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the busiest days of the year for most online retailers, with the month of December not far behind. 

    Google Trends suggests people begin to holiday shop in September and are in full purchasing mode by mid-October. This means it’s wise to form a strategy early so it can be ready to roll before the big buying push — not afterward. To make promotions as effective as possible, figure out when peak purchasing times are and design campaigns to be released ahead of time.

    3. Prioritize customer service

    As the number of shoppers and purchases increase, so do the questions. 

    Here are just a few FAQs to be prepared for:

    • How many days does it take to ship a product out?
    • Are there any additional promos or deals going on?
    • Will it be here by the holidays?
    • How can I find or track my purchase?

    Adding an FAQ page to your website makes it easy for shoppers to find the info they’re looking for, and it gives your team members a link they can send to those with the same questions.

    However simple you make accessing this page, some shoppers will likely still reach out in an email or through social media messages. In some cases, shoppers will even want to talk to an actual human being and will make a phone call. To handle the increase in these types of customer questions during the holidays, have multiple communication options available to customers. 

    Pro tip: While you can hire a seasonal elf or two to handle the phones, a chatbot might also be necessary for those nocturnal shoppers who need help with purchases in the middle of the night.

    4. Create holiday e-commerce email campaigns

    Email is one of the most effective marketing methods you can leverage when it comes to holiday e-commerce strategies. Cyber Monday drove $7.9 billion dollars in e-commerce sales in 2018, according to Big Commerce. Furthermore, Shopify reports that approximately 24% of those sales were through email.

    Holiday email marketing lets you meet your customers and potential buyers where they already are — but to stand out in an overflowing inbox, you’ve got to get creative. 

    When crafting your emails, we recommend you:

    • Keep the message short and include eye-catching, themed visuals
    • Create a “holiday countdown” email that tells recipients how much time they have left to place an order for overnight delivery, free shipping, etc.
    • Always include a clear CTA that leads back to your site
    • Add a limited-time offer (LTO) — customers are more likely to take action when they know the deal won’t be around for long
    • Segment your email lists so you can send the most relevant products to each group
    • Optimize for mobile, as the percentage of people purchasing straight from their phone continues to rise

    Is your company participating in any philanthropic initiatives during the holidays? Whether it’s donating to a nonprofit organization or volunteering, highlight this in your email. Consumers tend to favor brands that give back over those that don’t. 

    Pro tip: Plan to launch your holiday campaign before Black Friday. Data shows that Thanksgiving Day is actually the fastest-growing day of cyber week for e-commerce sales.

    HawkSEM blog: 10 Ways to Take Holiday E-Commerce Sales to the Next Level

    Customers value sustainability more and more — and it can affect a purchase decision. (Image via Unsplash)

    5. Focus on video ads

    Video ads on sites like YouTube and platforms like Instagram’s IGTV can produce better results than a text advertisement in some instances.

    The current generation of shoppers mostly prefers video ads, and this type of ad tends to be a better way to engage consumers. Live-action features like Instagram Live also make it easy for e-commerce brands to get traction through promotional videos.

    6. Use ad extensions and sitelinks

    Because pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns encourage targeted traffic, they’re on the top of most e-commerce brands’ wish lists. When your company ad comes up, give customers the option to click on sales products, special holiday gifts, bonus offers, and similar promotions. 

    Using ad extensions and sitelinks gives you the chance to add more context to the ads you publish. When a brand is searched for on Google, sitelinks can appear below the ad’s main URL. Similarly, Google Ads can include ad extensions that provide more info about whatever your ad is about through copy.

    These sitelinks and extensions reduce the amount of work shoppers have to do, which can encourage them to click the link. You can also use review ad extensions to mention price reductions, special holiday shipping information, and more.

    7. Target the eco-consumer

    Customers value sustainability more and more — and it can affect a purchase decision. Get creative by highlighting any eco-conscious efforts you have at your company (hopefully you have a few). It may be the tipping point that gets someone to choose your product over a competitor’s. 

    Consider (and following through with) the following to comfort shoppers concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases:

    • Reduced packing material
    • Re-usable boxes
    • Recycled (or recyclable) packing materials
    • Eco-friendly package transportation
    • Packing a multiple-item-order in as few packages as possible

    8. Create a holiday gift guide (or related content)

    Who doesn’t love a gift guide? Adding a fun branded gift guide into your email newsletter can be a highly effective way to grab the attention of shoppers and help boost sales. It’s safe to guess that subscribers are already familiar with and fans of your brand, so these guides connect with consumers through convenience as well. 

    It saves shoppers from having to scroll through page after page or list after list of older or less relevant products and showcases the new merchandise or services alongside (ideally) special promos and ways to save.

    If you only have one or a few products or a gift guide just doesn’t mesh with your brand, you can also consider creating holiday-specific content, such as a gated guide or e-book that provides value to the consumer and incorporates your product.

    9. Focus on review sections

    When 91% of customers who browse internet products read reviews, you know they’re incredibly valuable. Online shoppers tend to pass over or red-flag products with no reviews or too many negative ones. 

    You can beef up your credibility by adding review sections, making them more prominent on your product pages, or asking previous satisfied customers to provide reviews via automated emails.

    10. Ensure your site is speedy

    Oh, what fun it is to shop on a site with an average load time of under two seconds! (…Not.)

    Radware found that after three seconds, 57% of site visitors left a page they were unable to interact with. Simply having a fast load time can double traffic — no sleigh required.

    Site speed can also influence repeat business, as 79% of shoppers who had a poor impression of website performance are unlikely to purchase from or revisit that site, according to Kissmetrics.

    HawkSEM blog: 10 Ways to Take Holiday E-Commerce Sales to the Next Level

    Deck your site with holiday cheer and watch the sales grow. (Image via Unsplash)

    The takeaway

    The holidays should be a time of cheer — not a time to run yourself and your team ragged trying to keep up. Hopefully, these tips can put you at ease and show you how your e-commerce digital marketing holiday campaign can be your most successful yet. 

    Now that you’re excited (or at least a little less Grinch-like) about the holidays, it’s time to deck your site with holiday cheer and watch the sales grow.

    Jane Serra

    Jane Serra

    Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

    Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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