low-hanging-ppc-fruitIf you’re a PPC veteran, it’s tempting to devote all your time to the bigger picture and finding creative new ways to drive cheap, conversion-friendly clicks. This is especially true for ecommerce businesses, which are playing in an incredibly complex space, particularly when using PPC. As a result, it’s quite common to overlook some of the low-hanging fruit -- the kind of stuff that’s easy to implement and delivers fast results.

That’s why I wanted to examine some of the quickest, easiest PPC levers that ecommerce marketers can pull that allow you to be smart with your digital ad spend, and keep that online edge over competition. All of these tips still allow you to be inbound-minded with your PPC spend -- finding fantastic opportunities to keep your business top of mind for consumers right when they're looking for you. Here are some of your biggest, low-hanging fruit ecommerce PPC opportunities, and how to take advantage of them.

Model Number Campaigns

Imagine you sell tires and rims for a living. You just opened a location on the same street as a number of different auto dealerships (I know, you're an ecommerce marketer, but stay with me here). You see customers walking in every day that are still in research mode and have no idea what brand they want or which size tire they even need. You find that many of those walking into your store tend to talk with your employees for advice and end up leaving with you in mind, but clearly go look elsewhere for a better price now that they are more informed in the decision making process.

Now let’s imagine you came across a number of customers who knew exactly which tires they needed, down to the specific model number. These customers who are much further down the sales cycle are much more likely to purchase from you if they walk in your store first.

There is a very similar scenario being played out in the ecommerce space for those bidding on competitive terms, for example “Cheap Tires” or “Tire Deals Online”. Users may click on 4-5 different ads, use your site to do some research, and then purchase from whoever has the lowest price.

While you may never escape the vicious cycle of paying for expensive clicks on the more general and competitive keywords, you can begin to balance it out by targeting the other end of the spectrum -- the ultra-specific keywords like model numbers, part names, UPC codes, that sort of thing.

You will probably (nay, almost certainly) not see the same volume of users typing in queries with this level of granularity. But there are plenty of potential customers out there who know exactly what they want and just need to figure out the easiest way to get it. Not only are the clicks significantly cheaper due to the low competition on model number keywords, but the conversion rates are incredibly higher, which will help bring your overall CPA down. Additionally, when someone clicks on your model number ad, you can send them directly to your product page which gives them everything they were looking for in one step.

Long-Tail Keyword Expansion

Let’s continue on the same thought process but work our way backward from model number keywords, to those customers who know may know a lot of the specific details they're looking for, but aren’t quite typing in a UPC code just yet. These are your long-tail keywords, things like "red capri pants in petite," or "Red Sox bleacher seats."

In the AdWords interface, take a peek in your Search Query Report (if you're having trouble finding it, look within a campaign under "Keyword Details"), which shows the exact keywords being searched that triggered your ads from either phrase or broad keyword match types. Sort by the keywords that have converted and try to identify those long-tail keywords, which will tend to contain a few specific product details.

For example, if you were bidding on the term ‘New Rims’ in broad but someone searched the brand + size + color rims they were looking for and ended up purchasing from your site, you should definitely add that long-tail keyword to the appropriate ad group and bid on it aggressively, since you already know it converts well. Think of your broad keywords as casting a wide net -- they will catch a great deal of volume, but ultimately, in order to find those gems you'll need to dig through the data to see which keywords actually converted, and how many of those were long-tail keywords that you were missing.

Competitive Campaign

Now that you've covered those users searching for specific products, why leave out those searching to buy specifically from your competition? Plenty of searches come from those who have heard about a specific brand to buy from ... but they’re not entirely convinced yet, and are open to other options should you make yourself available with a better offer.

Could you imagine someone about to walk into a Michelin while you're holding a sign right in front of their door saying you can beat their price, and have a much larger selection? It sounds extreme, but this is essentially what you're doing when you create campaigns targeting competitor keywords with a simple ad making customers aware that you are an alternative option should they decide to explore their options. 

Now, I want to clarify one thing. This is not a recommendation that you target a competitor's branded keywords. A few things might happen if you target your competitor's branded keywords:

  • You'll be paying for less qualified traffic
  • When your competitor notices, they may drive up your costs dramatically by bidding just a little bit more themselves (because they have a higher quality score)
  • Your competitors could complain to Google and you'll get a slap on the wrist (or worse)
  • You'll look like a poor sport, some might even say a bit of a jerk

None of those are too appealing. Instead if directly targeting competitors' branded keywords, take cues from your competitors' PPC ads to help inform your own strategy. For example, if a competitor is bidding on keywords that are important for your business, you might consider getting a paid presence for those terms, too (unless you're already winning organically). Or maybe it's the flip side of the coin -- a couple competitors are winning organically for keywords that are important to you, but it's going to take you a couple months to edge them out organically. In the interim, using PPC to win some traffic for those terms is a great stopgap.

Pricing in Ads

With the limited amount of characters we can use in text ads and the rising cost per click, it has become increasingly important to qualify your traffic the best you can before they actually click on your ad. What I mean by this is that you may want to target certain keywords, but there is only so much you can infer from a person who types in general terms. You can’t ask them how serious of a buyer they are, whether they are still in research mode, or what their level of intent is.

However, what you can do is make sure to screen out less qualified people by setting an expectation of your pricing ... by simply putting prices in your ads. Seems simple, right? It is; that's why it's low hanging fruit. If you let someone who is only willing to spend, say, $40 on a product know beforehand that all your products are on the higher end from $75 and above, chances are they will not click your ad. This saves your ad spend for those qualified individuals who saw your prices, knew what to expect already, and are much more likely to convert into a sale (or at least less likely to suffer sticker shock).

There you go, four great tips on increasing your sales while lowering your cost per conversion
without any fluff or jargon-filled explanations. Go ahead and test them out in your own campaigns and see how it affects performance. Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an ecommerce PPC strategy. For a more comprehensive understanding of how to take your business to the next level, reserve your spot on our webinar co-hosted by National Positions & Google.

Chris Darabi is an SEM Analyst for National Positions, an industry leading internet marketing company with over 1,000 clients around the globe including Wal-Mart, Land Rover, Club Med and Samsung. If you'd like to learn more advanced techniques on a how to create a well-rounded PPC strategy, you can also join our discussion as we co-host a webinar with Google on Tuesday, April 30th.

Image credit: DieselDemon

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Originally published Apr 18, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017