A Retailers Guide to PPC Optimization

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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A Retailers Guide to PPC Optimization

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A large portion of the world’s economy is driven by consumer spending. Basic human needs cover the bulk of that with things such as home goods, food, clothing, etc. There’s still plenty of discretionary spending taking place, including the luxury items we don’t really need.

man shopping onlineImpulse buys fit in that category and, while over 90% of online shoppers make the occasional impulse buy, that’s not how most people shop.

In fact, 81% of consumers take the time to research a purchase online before they make a decision. More than half of online shoppers start their shopping experience on a search engine to find a solution for a problem or check out specific products and brands.

An organic SEO strategy can help improve the visibility of your products, but it can take time to position content for target keywords—especially those with commercial intent.

Setting up strategic PPC campaigns can get your product and content in front of your audience immediately. That visibility isn’t enough, though; you also need those ads to effectively grab the attention of your audience, win the click, and convert that prospect into a customer.

The first ad you create might do well. Instead of setting and forgetting your ad campaigns, take a “constant improvement” approach so you’re always testing and optimizing your PPC campaigns to get the best return on your investment.

Start with these tips to optimize your PPC campaigns.

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Ensure price points are competitive.

PPC accounted for 48% of digital marketing spends in 2016. There are a lot of online brands putting budget toward shopping and search ads, making the competition for visibility and clicks more intense.

To capture the clicks and stand out, you need to make sure your pricing is competitive. When ads are displayed in Google, your products are lined up alongside competitor listings, which often include pricing information. This lets consumers find the cheaper solution without ever clicking your ad.

Google image price point comparison

Your audience is going to shop by price even if they’re concerned about quality as well. According to HubSpot, 80% of consumers rate competitive pricing as the most important factor in deciding where to shop.

Most important store features

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Stay competitive with the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool.

The best way to know if you’re staying competitive is to research your competition. Google offers an Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool to see how your ad stacks up against the competition.

AD preview and diagnosis

Like the image above, you can search specifically for your ad, or a variety of ads, using targeted keywords and commercial intent phrases you’ve selected for your ad. Google will show your ad alongside similar ads that you’ll be competing with. Use this to compare:

  • Promotions
  • Ad copy
  • Pricing
  • Landing pages
  • Images and graphics
  • Calls to action

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Product reviews are a must.

Take note of the above example, along with this one below. Which ad do you think you’d be more likely to trust and then purchase from?

Huffy kids bike

Most consumers would be drawn to the Sea Star Girls’ bike not only for the price but also because of the reviews and ratings.

huffy kids bikes star rating

Those reviews carry a lot of weight, with click and purchase decisions online, and they are a key part of retail PPC optimization. As many as 84% of consumers place as much trust in online reviews as they do recommendations from friends and family.

Part of customer engagement and followup should involve sourcing and asking for reviews from your customers. This will greatly improve the quantity of reviews beyond those that happen naturally from selling an outstanding product.

Craig Bloem, CEO of FreeLogoServices, recommends contacting customers directly after a purchase with a customer satisfaction survey, as a lead-in to get customers to leave reviews.

We want to know what our customers think about our products and services,” writes Bloem in a post for Inc. “Listening to your customers is the best way to improve your offerings—and get ideas for new offerings”

Don’t sweat the negative review potential; not only are bad reviews an opportunity to showcase your dedication to customer satisfaction, they also add authenticity to an otherwise unblemished review streak that some consumers may perceive as fake.

With the announcement of Google eliminating its “Google Trusted Store” verification, it will be shifting the program focus over to Google Customer Reviews, which are managed from your merchant center. This service gathers reviews from your customers on your behalf, making customer delight just as critical if you want to increase reviews and stay competitive.

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Incorporate remarketing ads.

Roughly 84% of consumers take the time to research a product before finally making a purchase decision. In addition to that window shopping, the average cart abandonment rate in retail is 72.8%, and they abandon their carts for a variety of reasons.

Primary reason for digital shoppers worldwide to abandon their carts

That means only a very small portion of customers will make a purchase the first time around. For those who split, you need to have a remarketing plan in place to ensure you get as many back as possible.

Part of retail PPC optimization is setting up remarketing ads that show dynamic products and ads to customers who took specific actions on your site. This way, you’re tailoring the content specifically to their shopping experiences to help win them back.

tailored remarketing content

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Filter your audience.

Every online brand and retail operation has customers who contribute more to the bottom line than others. Some customers are just worth more money. Customers also have different interests, barriers to making purchases, and different lifestyles that impact purchase decisions.

This is why segmenting and filtering your audience is a necessary part of retail PPC optimization.

You can segment customers in a number of ways, including:

  • Geographic location
  • Language
  • Operating system
  • Age, gender, and other demographics

When you segment your audience, you can create more focused ad groups and campaigns. While those campaigns will serve a smaller audience, that audience will be far more likely to convert so you make the best use of your PPC budget.

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Take the time to configure match types.

A major part of getting your ads in front of the right people is knowing and targeting the right search phrases. Where marketers commonly struggle with retail PPC campaigns is that they target a laundry list of keywords which are vague, lack commercial intent, and can be interpreted different ways, resulting in poor matches.

Keyword match types range from broad to exact:

Broad match – This matches the keyword with any search query that contains part of your keyword, as well as variations of that keyword and synonyms. This results in a generic spread that can generate a lot of visibility—but not only is that visibility less targeted, there’s a lot more competition from other industries targeting the same broad keywords.

Broad match with modifier – If you add a “+” symbol to your keyword, it narrows the scope somewhat, so only queries that include your keyword or a very close similarity to it will trigger your ad.

Phrase match – When loading keywords, you can apply quotes around your keyword so that your ad will only appear for queries that contain the exact keyword phrase you designate or a very close combination in the same order you specify.

Exact match – This match type ensures that your ad only matches to and displays for keywords that match the query exactly (or very closely). This is very useful if you want your ad to appear for a specific phrase with commercial intent. Exact match is configured by putting brackets around keywords when you load them.

Negative match – Negative match is important with keywords that could apply ambiguously to various industries and generate results from an interest not related to your products or ads. It’s a good idea to apply these to product names, activities, and phrases that are unrelated to your company or product but which share a common lexicon.

Keyword graph

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Test variations of your ad copy to optimize ad performance.

Even if you’re creating different ads for each audience segment, you want to create more than a single ad for those audiences. The words, titles, and calls to action you use can have a significant impact on conversions, so it’s important to test ad variations.

Use the results from testing to continue to optimize your ads for improved clicks. A few key things to remember when adjusting ad copy and ad configuration while split testing ad variations:

Optimizing your ad

  • Test one element at a time. If you test multiple elements, it’s impossible to know which change made an impact on your conversions.
  • Highlight different features and benefits within your ad copy variations to find the ones that garner the most clicks with each audience segment.
  • Try different, personalized calls to actions. Don’t neglect to tell the audience what you want them to do.

A/B testing is the better approach for this because it allows you to test multiple slight variations side by side rather than changing one thing on one ad at a time and waiting for results to make another change.

Using the data from your tests will help you determine the winner and continue to optimize your PPC ads and landing pages accordingly.

Variation testing

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Boost ad performance with ad extensions.

Google offers up a variety of ad extension types for its search network to help your ads look more professional and capture the attention of users. These extensions are intended to provide additional information in the ad without adding a lot of content bulk.

The site extensions most relevant to PPC optimization and improving conversions include:

  • Site link extensions, which list internal navigation relevant to the needs of the user.
  • Callout extensions, which are additional lines of text to provide extra information, like “24-7 customer service.”
  • Call extensions, which add your phone number to your ad with a click to call function for mobile users.
  • Review extensions, which let you showcase mentions from reliable third party sites in your ad.
  • Price extensions, which make it so customers can browse your products and pricing from search.

There are a variety of extensions to choose from and incorporate into your ad to improve its performance and effectiveness. Just make sure you choose the right extensions for your campaigns.

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Choose the right settings for ad campaigns.

Part of launching and running any kind of winning retail PPC campaign is in the campaign settings. Run through this bullet list, when optimizing your PPC campaign, to improve performance.

  • Don’t rely on automatic bidding. You lose some control and can’t create keyword-specific bid strategies. Start with manual bidding even if it’s a little more time-consuming.
  • Create bid modifiers to help improve your budget. Use modifiers for things like devices, days of the week, times of day, and geographic locations.
  • Set your ads to run only during the hours and days of the week that bring the best engagement and conversion for your audience. Customer data and insights can provide this info, but if you’re lacking the data then start with running ads around the clock. Then use your PPC campaign data to refine the ads so they only run during optimal times to control your budget.
  • If you’re running local ads for your retail business, then show your ads to people searching for your products but outside of your immediate geographic area.
  • Make sure you set your ads to rotate indefinitely. If you’re running ad variations, you need to do this to distribute the traffic evenly across your variations. This is the most effective way to test your ad campaign variations.

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There are countless ways to set up and optimize retail PPC campaigns. The tips included can be used as guidelines to get you started. From there, you need to analyze your current market, your customers, and your competitors to continue refining your PPC campaigns for success.

Optimizing your site Quote

Optimizing keywords, ad copy, and even the landing pages or product pages on your site will all improve your quality score, which can reduce your cost per click. That refined targeting also helps zero in on the right audiences so you reach more relevant audience segments which are more likely to convert.


A Retailers Guide to PPC Optimization

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