May 04, 2016

Written by Mark Smith

Draw Virtual Shopping Crowds: Capitalize on Shopping Improvements for SEM Success

Shopping cart of crowdsIn 2012, 42 million people died during the bloodiest Black Friday weekend in history.

Okay, that’s not really true. That was The Onion’s unique satirical style chronicling our quest to get the best shopping deal. Today’s post, fortunately, keeps us away from the literal bloody fray. But online marketers are engaged in their own very real shopping battle as they fight to get in – or stay in – one of the all-important top ad spots.

Previously, we explained how recent changes in Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) layout affect your opportunities for ad exposure. With up to 30% fewer ad placements on a page, winning one of those spots is imperative for marketers. We looked at how to be strategic in your search engine marketing efforts and how to improve your targeting to achieve better results.

This is the fourth in a five-part series on how to win the search engine marketing (SEM) race. To tell the story, we’ve used analogies involving athletes and competitive sports: runners, hockey and basketball. Today, we dive into the ultimate “contact sport” – shopping.

Gaining Advantages in Ad Campaigns

At first blush, losing those side ad spots seems like a major blow to online marketers. But the glass-half-full view sees a strong benefit: fewer distractions. The top four spots will stand out in the cleaner one-column layout. Smart retailers can use shopping campaigns and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) to gain additional advantages.

Since the SERP changes took effect, the click-through rate for the top spots has increased. That’s incentive to continue working hard on refining your ads so you can claim one of those lofty positions. For those who aren’t in one of those top four spots, shopping ads are a good way to stand out when customers do scroll to the bottom of the page. Either way, you have to get smarter and stay smarter about how and when your ads appear so you can enhance your chances of turning browsers into buyers.

Focus on Campaign Structure

For online retailers, the first order of business should be in taking steps to capitalize on shopping improvements within Google. Consider splitting out product groups, increasing bids and testing different tactics to discover what performs best.

Look first at your campaign structure, which needs to be well thought out. All too often we see one shopping channel with all of the retailer’s products tossed into it. This is akin to setting up a four-foot cube in the middle of your store, then filling it with one of everything you have to sell. Your customers have to dig through everything to find the specific item they want. They may start digging, because they really want to buy your product, but they will quickly abandon the search.

That’s why we encourage you to break each product into its own ad group. If you have an enormous amount of SKUs, that’s not practical, but with hundreds, even thousands of products, it’s still manageable. Splitting products into discrete ad groups helps to ensure the right product is showing to the right people at the right time. You will have far greater success with this strategy than if you simply toss all of your products into a virtual “bin” and let Google reach in and pull one out to show your prospects.

With a strong campaign structure that has separate product groups, you can also employ techniques such as phrase matching and negative keywords to exact much more control over which products will be displayed.

For example, if someone is searching for “contact lenses,” you may have hundreds of SKUs that would match. To increase the chances of conversion, you could use keyword fencing to limit the SKUs that will show to your top five best sellers. This increases conversions and prevents prospects from having a bad search experience that displays items in which they have no interest.

With fewer ad placements on a page, competition is going to get fierce. That means you must fine-tune your campaigns so they can work harder for you.

My next post will explore other advertising channels. Google is still the big dog, but there are alternatives, and some of they may be right for you.

[avatar user=”marks” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”/people/” target=”_blank”]Mark Smith True Interactive Co-Founder[/avatar]