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E-commerce PPC: The Ultimate (but Incomplete!) Tip List

E-commerce PPC: The Ultimate (but Incomplete!) Tip List

December 15, 2018

50 E-Commerce PPC Tips Every Marketer Should Read

Big e-commerce businesses can spend up to $50 million per year on paid search and earn twice as much.

The average small business using Google Ads, on the other hand, spends $100,000 to $120,000 a year and loses 25% of that investment!

Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

It’s an unfair world, but this ultimate (yet incomplete) tip list somewhat levels the playing field for small ecommerce retailers.

Ultimate, because you won’t find so many ecommerce PPC tips in any other article.

Incomplete, because there might be more tips out there which I’ve missed--but I’m looking for!

Have a read and see if you’re doing everything you can to maximize your success with Google Ads.

Keyword Strategy for E-commerce PPC

Google has come a long way in the last ten years, but it still depends on keywords to determine the context and relevance of PPC ads. Your keyword strategy also decides the ROI of your Google Ads campaigns. Here is a list of tips to help you bid on the right keywords.

#1. Find Core Keywords on Amazon

You need a starting point, and Amazon is the world’s biggest e-commerce platform. Search with some of your most obvious keywords (such as the name of your product) and jotdown the key phrases displayed in the search suggestions. These are the terms most people use to search for products like yours.

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#2. Extract Keywords from Google Search Suggestions

Search on Google with your product’s name and jot down the key phrases shown in the search suggestions along with those at the bottom of the search page.

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#3. Use the Google Keyword Planning Tool

Now that you have a bunch of keywords to start with, enter them into Google Keyword Planning Tool and search for new keyword ideas. Choose low-competition keywords with reasonable search volumes and that are related to your business and goals..

#4. Use Paid Keyword Tools

There are several effective paid keyword research tools offered by WordStream, MOZ, AHREFS, SEMRush, and other digital marketing companies. These paid tools offer additional metrics and value-added features such as keyword difficulty, domain rating, link profile, and more. I’ve found the AHREFS tool to be the best. (Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with AHREFS.)

#5. Pull Keywords from Competitors’ Websites

Enter your competitors’ URLs one by one into Google’s Keyword Planning Tool and click ‘Keyword Ideas.’ If you’re using AHREFS, use the Site Explorer Tool to discover your competitors’ top pages and keywords. Here’s a report for Nike.com in case you happen to be selling shoes!

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#6. Target Your Ads for Long-Tail Keywords

The beauty of long-tail keywords is that they capture user intent more accurately than short-tail keywords (or head terms), which are more general. 51% of search terms contain more than four words, so this is an important strategy not to be ignored.

#7. Create Compact and Cohesive Ad Groups

Ideally, you should create at least one Ad Group for each product. Keep them tight and minimize the number of keywords per Ad Group.

#8. Create Unique Ads for Each Ad Group

Make sure the ads you run in one ad Group are unique to the keywords in that Ad Group. If you scatter the same keywords across different Ad Groups, your ad might get triggered by irrelevant searches, and you’ll have no way of controlling it. You’ll also face difficulty tracking and prioritizing different ads, Ad Groups, and keywords.

#9. Include Ad Group Keywords in Ad Copy

Ensure ad headlines and descriptions within an Ad Group contain all or some of that Ad Group’s keywords.

#10. Keep Optimizing Keywords and Ad Groups

Pause or delete Ad Groups with keywords producing low-quality traffic or low CTR, or create new Ad Groups that are more relevant for those keywords. When you don’t optimize, you’re wasting money on traffic that’s not really interested in what you’re offering.

#11. Grow Your List of Negative Keywords

Log in to Google Ads and find the ‘Negative Keywords’ tab under Campaigns>>Ad groups. Create a new list and begin adding the negative keywords you found—these are search terms with irrelevant or negative user intent. Monitor your campaigns and keep growing your list of negative keywords. You may use WordStream’s Negative Keywords Tool to get ideas about different products.

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Bidding Strategy for E-commerce PPC

#12. Bid on Branded Keywords

Keywords with your brand name might not drive a lot of traffic, but they typically have low CPCs and indicate high user intent. Add them to your Google Ads campaign to claim ownership of your brand and preempt others from taking advantage of your absence from the scene.

#13. Be the Top Result for Branded Searches

When bidding on your brand, make sure your ad appears at the top of the page. Set your bid high and write ad copy that includes keywords with high Quality Scores.

#14. Calculate Your Maximum CPC Bid

Start with the formula: Max CPA Bid = CPA Goal x Conversion Rate. For example, if your CPA Goal (the money you want to spend on each acquisition/click) is $20, and your conversion rate is 2%, your maximum CPA bid would be $0.40.  The formula is -- $20 x .02% = $0.40.

#15. Set Your CPC Bids

When you set a bid at the Ad Group level, it applies to all the keywords in that Ad Group. You can still bid for individual keywords in that Ad Group.  In that case, your keyword bid would supersede the Ad Group level bid.

#16. Adopt a Portfolio Bid Strategy for Expansive AdWords Accounts

If your Google Ads account grows beyond a certain threshold and contains a large number of campaigns, Ad Groups, and keywords, it might be impossible to manage your bidding manually. Adopt a portfolio bid strategy groups together campaigns, Ad Groups, and keywords, and set automated bids that correspond to your goals. Follow Google’s guidelines to create your first PBS.

#17. Create Custom Landing Pages for Each Ad Group

You should design a dedicated landing page for each Ad Group. The landing page should reflect the customer intent and keywords specific to that Ad Group. Specific and separate pages will enable you to analyze your results to measure the efficiency of your ad campaigns.

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#18. Handle the “Below First Page Bid” Warning

When launching a new campaign or adjusting your bids, you’ll often see a warning for some of your keywords that they are “below first page bid.” While you should take note of this warning, do not raise your bids blindly without looking at your campaign data. WordStream reports that on average, more than half the keywords displaying this warning still appeared in the first ad position.  

#19. Be Prepared to Set Higher Bids for New Campaigns

You’ll often notice that the first page bid estimates are irrationally high for new campaigns. You’ll need to meet these estimates for some of your keywords, but the actual CPC you pay will likely be lower than the estimate. For new campaigns, Google doesn’t have the data to predict your Quality Score, the metric that controls the CPC and ad position.

#20. When to Raise Your CPC Bids

It’s important to keep an eye on your campaigns and analyze your conversion data. If you see a keyword or an Ad Group generating a healthy conversion rate at a relatively low CPC, you should try to capture more of that high-converting traffic by raising your bid.

#21. When to Lower Your CPC Bids

If you notice a particular keyword or Ad Group is delivering a high conversion rate and capturing more than 90% of the impression share, it’s probably safe to lower your bid a little and still drive the same amount of traffic.

#22. Adjust Your Bids for Mobile

You can increase or decrease your bid for mobile devices depending on how your mobile traffic is converting compared to desktop traffic. To adjust your bid for mobile, find the ‘Bid adj.’ column next to ‘mobile devices’ under the ‘campaigns’ tab. Here, you can set the percentage by which you want to increase or decrease the bid.

Example: if your current bid for a particular device is $1 and you enter 20% in the Bid adj. column, your new bid is $1.20. For decreasing your bid, enter the percentage with a minus (-) sign. In this case, an adjustment of -20% would result in a new max bid of $0.80.

#23. Use Enhanced CPC for Important Keywords

The Enhanced CPC bidding option automatically raises or lowers your manual bid depending on the likelihood that a particular click will convert. You should enable it for Ad Groups and keywords that are important to you. It’s a good idea to use this with your branded or high-converting keywords.

#24. Mind Your Keyword Match Types

Google Ads offers four types of keyword matches—broad match, modified broad match, phrase match, and exact match.  You can define the match type on a campaign, Ad Group, or keyword level. Use the correct match type to drive more qualified traffic and avoid paying for unwanted clicks.

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#25. Run Remarketing Campaigns

Remarketing allows you to reign in lost customers by retargeting them after they leave your website. Remarketing ads have demonstrated higher CTRs and conversion rates at lower CPCs.

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This remarketing ad hits me when I’m visiting Forbes.com.

#26. When to Use Automated Bidding

Familiarize yourself with the Google Ads automation options such as Target CPA Bidding or Dynamic Search Ads, but know they’re more suitable for mega-retailers. Automation will save you time and hassle, but not money! With that said, you can decide if you want to enable automation during high seasons or when you don’t have time to actively manage your campaigns.

Ad Design for E-commerce PPC

E-commerce copy plays the dual role of attracting your buyer and optimizing your site for SEO. As a rule of thumb, customer experience should always come before SEO. Observe the following tips to write compelling SEO copy for your web store.

#27. Target Local Customers

You may not be a local business, but more than half (56%) of your mobile customers search with local intent. Use location- and jargon-based keywords in your ad headlines to attract customers looking to buy their products locally.

#28. Make the Value Proposition Explicit

Clearly state what your customers will get and how much they will pay. You have a total of 360 characters (three headlines and descriptions), so use them wisely.

#29. Include Keywords in Ad Headlines

These are the words your customers look for. Mirror their queries and don’t fluster them by trying to write something too creative or too ‘out there.’

#30. Make Ad Descriptions Compelling

Write clear and compelling calls to action in the ad descriptions that entice your customers to click.

#31. Use Expanded Text Ads

The latest Google Ads update puts a third, 30-character headline and a second, 90-character description at your disposal. The extra space is available at no additional cost, so make sure you use it—and use it well.

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#32. Use AdWords Ad Extensions

Google Ads allows you to add at least ten different types of extensions to your campaign. The call, message, location, price, and site link extensions work best for e-commerce businesses. Read more about Google Ads ad extensions in this informative article.

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#33. Run Google Shopping Campaigns

Google Shopping ads are part and parcel of Google Ads that no e-commerce advertiser should ignore. In Generally speaking, Shopping ads let you feature product photos and drive more qualified traffic at a lower CPC. For more details, here’s Shopify's guide to Google Shopping. Do not, under any circumstance, run a paid search and Shopping campaign together.

#34. Don’t Ignore the Google Display Network

Google Display Network (GDN), with its two million affiliate websites, reaches more than 90% of internet users. The average CTR for Display Network across all formats is 0.05%, which means you get miles of free publicity. Display ads work particularly well for e-commerce retailers who depend on product photos to sell products.

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#35. Unleash the Power of Video Ads

If you think your product or service is too exciting for text ads, try Google TrueView video ads. Simply select the ‘video’ campaign type and follow the instructions.

Additional Resources for E-commerce PPC Ad Design

Use competitive intelligence tools such as iSpionage, WordTracker, Search Monitor, or SimilarWeb to monitor your competitors PPC and cross-channel performance.

E-commerce PPC Landing Pages

If you sell high-value, high-involvement products or services, you might need lead generation (or squeeze) pages to gather a customer’s email address. Most e-commerce vendors, however, drive traffic directly to their product pages.

You have to make sure people like what’s there on your PPC landing page enough to  take the action you want them to take—convert! A high conversion rate will not only earn you revenue, but also a better AdWords or Google Ads Quality Score.

#36. Synchronize Landing Pages with Ads

You must offer a consistent and relevant user experience all the way from thead through the landing page and checkout sequence. Have consistent visual branding and tone of voice throughout the customer’s journey.

#37. Use Stunning Product Photos

Online customers can’t touch and hold your product. Photos are all they have to help them make a decision. Make it easy for them by posting high-quality product images on your landing/product pages.

#38. Highlight Your Unique Selling Points (USPs)

Emphasize one or two major points about the product or service through the headline and hero image. Showcase the rest of the USPs using bullet points and subheadings in a clean and easily readable format.

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#39. Provide Trust Signals

Customers need to trust you before they will decide to buy from you. Boost their confidence by featuring customer testimonials, product reviews, and other trust signals on your landing page.

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#40. Create the Urgency to Buy

The fear of missing out (or FOMO) is one of the strongest action triggers for e-commerce purchases. Let your customers know they have a limited time to buy your product or avail your offer. Showing your stock levels, displaying a countdown timer, and promoting a special offer are just a few  ways to create urgency.

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#41. Get Creative with the Call to Action (CTA)

Don’t restrict yourself to the old and tired “Buy Now” and “Subscribe Now” CTA copy. Experiment with creative CTA copy, but keep it simple. There are tons of ways to customize CTA. HubSpot offers a whole call-to-action kit containing 50 CTA templates that you can download and use.

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EventBrite asks a question before inviting users to take action.

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Neil Patel’s CTA gives two opposing options to users.

#42. Offer a Free Trial

You must offer a free trial if you’re selling intangible services or software. Free trials increase your page stay and conversion rates which increase your Quality Score and reduce the average CPC.

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#43. A/B Test Your Ads and Landing Pages

Some of the key elements to test are your ads, headlines, CTAs, landing page layout, and page length. Remember, you need good traffic on your website before you can test successfully. Testing also takes time and money, so be very discreet.

Additional Resources for E-commerce Landing Pages

Read 100 conversion optimization case studies to gain knowledge and inspiration.

Use Unbounce, Instapage, LanderApp, or LeadPages to create and optimize landing pages.

Use VWO, Optimizely, Google Optimize, or Five Seconds Test to test different versions of your page.

E-commerce PPC Analysis and Tracking

#44. Link Google Ads to Analytics

This enables you to pull info from GA into Google Ads and send cost and click data into GA, so you can view your paid search and multi-channel traffic side by side to help you make better-informed decisions. Watch this video to do it yourself!

#45. Set Up Conversion Tracking

How can you adjust your bids if you don’t know which keywords are converting into sales? Go to Tools > Conversions > +Conversions and paste the Google Ads tracking code on your corresponding product page. Watch this video and follow the instructions:

#46. Use Semantically Related Words

Use TF-IDF (term frequency–inverse document frequency) analysis to find the gaps in your on-page content. A TF-IDF tool such as Ryte or Text Tools can help your new and old content rank higher, faster. It can also help you reduce CPC, increase conversions, and improve your page rank. Read this article on SEMRush for more on TF-IDF.

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#47. Check Your Ad Impression Share

The new Google Ads experience allows you to track the visibility of your search and Shopping ads by tracking two metrics—Impression Share (IS) and Absolute Top Impression Share (ATIS). These metrics show the number of eligible impressions your ad is receiving and if any impressions were lost due to a low ad rank or your budget running out for the day.

To learn more and to view your impression share, follow Google’s guidelines.

#48. Track Your Closest Competitors with Auction Insights

You can transform the static Google Ads Auction Insights data into a dynamic report that tracks your competitors’ AdWords performance. Follow this helpful step-by-step guide by Daniel Gilbert.

#49. Track Google Search Query Data

The Search Query Performance Report within the Google Ads interface is incomplete, as a large number of queries are labeled “other unique queries”. You can pull the details of these search queries from Google Analytics by creating a new profile, using filters, and implementing insertion tags.

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#50. Know the Metrics You Need to Track

Regardless of who runs your PPC campaigns, you need to continuously track a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to know how your ads are performing and to earn a high return on your investment. The key metrics every e-commerce PPC advertiser must track include: Clicks, Click-Through Rate (CTR), Quality Score, Cost Per Click (CPC), Cost Per Acquisition/Conversion (CPA), Conversion Rate (CVR), Impression Share (CPM), and Average Position.

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Please Help Complete this List

We have compiled this ultimate list of e-commerce PPC tips just to help you earn more for each dollar you spend on PPC. If you find it a bit overwhelming, do not hesitate to call us for assistance with any aspect of your marketing.

What are some of your favorite PPC tips? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this list with your associates. We’d love to see their best tips too!

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Josh Meah

Hi, I'm Josh. I founded 4 profitable marketing companies currently serving clients in over 20 industries. Our one rule in assessing new client relationships is that you and your company must be very good at what you do.

Beyond that, my consulting practice JoshMeah.com, LLC is a perfect fit for any business or organization seeking local customers and is uniquely qualified for special projects involving startups, unique industries, special market penetration challenges, innovative technologies, cross-cultural communications, business model/sales process development, process engineering, sales training, internal marketing strategy and leadership, or the transition from local to regional or national. Let's achieve aggressive growth!

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