CPC Strategy Google Shopping expert and Director of Account Management Jeff Coleman was recently featured on 2X eCommerce to discuss Google AdWords campaign strategy. 2xeCommerce.com is a blog dedicated to ecommerce and multichannel marketing run by the show’s host Kunle Campbell.
Campbell is an e-commerce marketing consultant specialist for mid-tier online retailers. He helps drive business growth and profitability through customer acquisition, conversion optimization and customer retention.
“This is the first part of my AdWords for eCommerce interview with Jeff Coleman of CPC Strategy. CPC Strategy is a well respected paid search management agency with a specialist focus in retail,” Campbell said.
“In this part of the interview we will speak in depth about Google Shopping Ads or Google Product Listing Ads (PLA) and why it is the most important element in your AdWords arsenal as an online retailer. We cover pretty much everything retailers need to know about Google Shopping Ads today: from set up to management,” Campbell said.
01:28 – Introduction
05:39 – Google Shopping: the biggest and most important retailer tool
07:07 – Budget allocation and Google Shopping
10:00 – Click Through Rates (PLA ads versus Text ads)
11:00 – Mobile Bids versus Desktop Bids
12:20 – SEO Ranking
14:30 – Brand Bidding: pros and cons
16:44 – Trademark Terms and Bidding
17:54 – PLA Practices and Product Feeds
24:14 – Structuring of PLA campaigns
25:42 – Product Description and Titles
30:16 – Bidding Strategies in Google Shopping
32:06 – Long-tail Searches
33:55 – Custom Labels
35:30 – Third-party management tools for AdWorks
37:30 – Common PLA Mistakes
39:49 – Recommended New Google Shopping Features
48:05 – Photographs in PLA ads.
You can also check out the podcast’s full script here:
Kunle: This is the first part of my AdWords for ecommerce interview with Jeff Coleman of CPC Strategy. CPC Strategy are well-respected paid search buckets and agency with specialist focus on retail. In this part of the interview we’ll speak in depth about Google Shopping ads or Google PLA ads, Product Listing Ads. We covered pretty everything retailers need to know about Google Shopping ads today. You’re bound to take a lot of notes while listening to this one.
Welcome to the 2x eCommerce podcast show where we interview founders of fast growing, seven and eight figure ecommerce businesses and ecommerce experts. They’ll tell their stories, share how they 2x-ed their businesses, and inspire you to take action in your own online retail business today. And now here he is, the man in the mix, Kunle Campbell.
Kunle: Hi 2xers! Welcome to the 2x eCommerce podcast show. I’m your host Kunle and this the podcast as usual where interview ecommerce entrepreneurs and online retail marketing experts who help uncover new ecommerce marketing tactics and strategies to help you my fellow 2xers double growth metrics. It’s all about growth here. Today is a special show. It’s more like a tutorial really. It’s an interview. It’s with a company I respect. It’s called CPC Strategy. Some of you — most of you would’ve heard about it if you’re into online retail. They’re retail-focused, paid search management agency with specialist expertise in Google Shopping, traditional paid searches, we all know it, Amazon advertising, and sale acceleration, and product feed advertising which really is CSEs, Shopping — Comparison Shopping Engine [inaudible 0:02:04] and rest of them.
They’re respected and market leading agency in the space of retail which I’ve said before and paid customer acquisition with clients such as Sears, Clarks, the shoemakers which you’d know and Payless. I’ve informed the company on social media as well as attended their webinars for a while now for over a yea, two years now, and I’ve read some white papers and their guides and their blogs and they do know their stuff. I approached them to come on the show given that you guys who’re all into online retail and would love to grow your businesses and they agreed to join me in a three part series on paid acquisition which is just awesome. So this is the first one and who I have with me today is a gentleman by the name of Jeff Coleman. Jeff is Director of Retail Search at CPC Strategy and he also oversees their structured data department and the CPC training program. He founded the CPC University which is an internal training program which puts all their staff in the cutting edge of retail search strategies. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Jeff to the show. Welcome Jeff!
Jeff: Thank you Kunle. It’s very nice to be here. Thanks for having me on.
Kunle: Fantastic. Fantastic. Okay I’ve said a few things about. Could you take a minute or two to tell everybody about yourself please?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Jeff. Like he said I’m the Director of Retail Search here at CPC Strategy so my responsibilities there include making sure that we’re implementing the proper strategy for all of our clients that come on board and you know every retailer is a bit different. There’s best practices obviously that we adhere to, but no two retailers are the same so we need to make sure that we’re utilising the right tools and using the right strategy for every retailer so part of my responsibilities include ensuring that we’re doing that. Another big part of my role here, like you touched on with the CPC University is making sure that all of our account managers are up-to-speed on what the latest best practices are, what the new tools are. I’m sure your listeners know Google is coming out with new features. It seems like every month.
Kunle: Yes indeed.
Jeff: So it can be a challenge to stay on top of all those new features but it’s something that you have to do if you want to stay on the cutting edge and so that’s what — part of my responsibility here is making sure that everyone is up-to-speed on what’s going on, knows how to use those things for their clients.
Kunle: Fantastic. Fantastic. I see you more like a filter right in front, getting everything in, knowing what’s more relevant and bringing it in and sort of you know making sure it’s diffused right through the…
Jeff: Exactly. Yeah.
Kunle: Organization. Fantastic. Okay. So today we’re going to be talking about AdWords for ecommerce. It’s quite a wide subject. I’ve spoken to guests on this show that have significantly grown their business through AdWords to a significant level through AdWords and paid search only, initially, and then they tried to figure out their business from there and then there was more traction. So it’s quite an important subject a lot of people say “Hey, I wouldn’t really like to buy traffic,” but the reality is it works. So let’s start off with a few questions. The first question I have is Google AdWords as far as I know, my knowledge, offers five advertising options at the moment. What areas should retailers you know put 80% of their time?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. So you know if we’re speaking specifically about retail Google Shopping’s going to be the biggest and most important service out there. The traditional text ad market is better known and often times we’ll see retailers that have really well-established text ad campaigns that they’ve been running for years, maybe even a decade or more. Program’s been out a long time and that by no means should that be ignored, but if you’re running a retail store Google Shopping should be where you spend most of your time. It’s going to have higher conversion rates than text ads or really any of the other programs. It’s going to see a stronger traffic with what we call retail intent, meaning a customer that actually has the intent to purchase something as oppose to someone who’s just browsing around, looking for more information.
And the tools that they give you to manage product data and product information are pretty robust. And so if you’re a retailer that’s starting out or even if you’re a retailer that has a pretty robust AdWords account and you’re just trying to figure out where should I go that I’m going to have the most impact, Google Shopping is where you should go and I know that we’re going to get into a little bit more detail on how to do that in different areas of Google. But PLAs and Google Shopping are where you should be spending most of your time.
Kunle: Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. So hypothetically speaking, I was a retailer. I have you know a bit of seed funding or seed capital. I don’t care where I raised it from, $100,000, a £100,000, how much should I — for the [inaudible 0:07:18] I have that all set aside, where should I put my 100,000? How should I break down that hundred thousand dollars or pounds?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s a common — it’s a common question like what’s the percentage and it’s — I don’t want to give too much of a wishy-washy answer. Part of it is that it depends a bit on what type of product you’re selling. Google Shopping can be great at capturing demand that exists. It can be a little bit difficult to build demand Google Shopping campaigns. So if you’re selling you know kind of generic items or branded items or there’s already you know a pretty fair market and a well-established market, I would say as much as two-thirds or three-quarters of that budget over the year should go into Google Shopping clearly because you have the ability to spend that much and the conversion rates are going to be stronger.
If you’re trying to introduce a new product to market where the demand might not already exist, Google Shopping is going to give you a great opportunity to capture the demand that builds over time, but it can be a bit more difficult to like I said to build demand for a new product that you’re introducing to market and so that percentage would be shifted more towards maybe more traditional text ads, even display campaigns that are brand awareness campaigns and product awareness campaigns that are going to covert at a lower rate and you need to kind of –basically a lot for the fact that this is a marketing cost, but in terms of demand generation that’s going to be where you need to start and overtime you can shift that budget more into Google Shopping to capture that demand.
Kunle: Fantastic. Fantastic. So I guess for commoditized — well retailers that sell a lot of commoditized products you know they can tap into Google Shopping, sorry.
Kunle: And if you’re trying to create the next say Graze Box or Conscious Box or you know subscription commerce where you’re trying to educate or you know trying to generate the demand, you might have to look at other alternatives with other formats of Google AdWords. You probably need PR to generate that demand. Interesting.
Jeff: There’s a lot of ways that you can go about that. Ours is not the only one.
Kunle: Okay, okay.
Jeff: No that’s [inaudible 0:09:36].
Kunle: Alright. There’s been a lot of, especially in SEO world, a lot of you know people not being too happy with Google, with paid search you know taking so much spaces, so much real estate you know on search results especially for commercially or retail intent searches. What kind of click through rates are you seeing for text ads above the fold? Above the fold basically just means just above the organic for you listeners out there as compared to PLA ads. Sometimes Product Listing Ads I believe could be above the fold and sometimes they’re put to the side.
Jeff: Yeah they’re usually — they’re usually above the fold for the Product Listening Ads and sometimes they can drop below if the ad box is long enough. But the click through rates are typically higher for Product Listening Ads. I would say ballpark it maybe one and a half to two times as high and that might be — you know there’s a lot of variability there. And so if you’re running both and you’re not seeing click through rates as high as that, maybe they’re only you know a small percentage higher. You know that’s not abnormal. But the main thing that we see is that click through rates, not just click through rates but also conversion rates tend to be quite a bit stronger for retail on PLA ads.
Kunle: Wow. Wow. Oka. Okay. What about mobile versus desktop? Does it change you know when devices — when mobile is introduced or they are relatively the same result?
Jeff: Yeah. No. It absolutely not. No it’s — it’s very very different. And actually one of the biggest mistakes that we see retailers make is that they’ll have similar bids sometimes even higher bids on mobile than they do on desktop and part of the reason is that Google tries to tell you to increase your bids on mobile and we have to tell our clients not to do that and we rarely do that. But the conversion rates are typically much lower on mobile and that goes even if you have a responsive site or a mobile optimized site. Usually the conversion rates are still lower and part of you know it’s — you can come up with all sorts of theories why, but part of the reason why is that it’s just more difficult to buy something on your phone when you got to input your credit card information and put your shipping address and things like that. So the process is usually difficult even if you have a mobile optimized site. So we usually advise our clients when we’re managing them, on behalf our clients we’ll set mobile bids quite a bit lower than the desktop bids.
Kunle: Interesting. We’re going to talk about this new buy button further down again [inaudible 0:12:19] that seems to be game changing and yeah. Okay. In regards to are there any data backed benefits of having page one organic SEO ranking as well as an AdWords presence be it PLA or you know a text ad? Does CTR actually improve or does the organic presence eat up their AdWords? CTR – click through rates. Sorry, for you guys.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. No. It’s important to [inaudible 0:12:53] the definition. You know this is a tough one because ranking first organically is you know the Holy Grail for a retailers and there are tons of SEO companies that will try and work on that. We typically don’t see that it will hurt your AdWords presence. Usually if anything, it will improve the overall visibility to your site. Now, you know we’re not an SEO agency. You know we typically just manage the AdWords, text ads, and so if there was any cannibalisation it might you know kind of hurt our performance hurt our ability to buy traffic. But to be honest, we typically don’t see that. If anything, if you have the ability to, even for really, really specific searches that might not be getting a lot of volume, if you have the ability to rank well that’s always going to help. And so you know I — there’s a lot of strategies that you can use to try and rank well organically, but don’t ignore those efforts. I mean those definitely help because often times the factors that Google was looking at to determine if you should rank well organically are similar factors that they’re looking at to determine how well you should rank in the text ad auction. There’s a lot of other factors other than bid that decide where you’ll rank in a text ad auction or a PLA auction and there are actually very similar factors that will determine how you rank organically. So often times the work that you do in one area will have benefits in another.
Kunle: Good point. Good point. There were some leaked — in the SEO world there was some leaked quality guidelines Google released and very similar to quality scoring in AdWords.
Kunle: Okay. Another question I really want to ask, there’s been arguments online, twitter and all kinds of stuff. It’s in regards to some brands never, never bid for their brand name and could you sort of delve into the pros and cons of brand name bidding…
Kunle: In scenarios where you should bid for your name and scenarios where it’s just not worth it?
Jeff: Yeah. One of the most common objections that we get is that you know retailers think “Well I’m getting that traffic. If I’m ranking well organically, you know for my branded search, I’m going to be in the first organic ranking. Why do I need to pay for that traffic?” One of the most common you know — or that’s one of the most common I guess objections to it. One of the most beneficial times to do that is when other retailers are bidding on your brand name. And even if you do a search you know and you don’t see another retailer bidding on it, Google will constantly be experimenting with how the SERP shows up and so continue to do searches for your brand name and see if other retailers, other agencies, other anybody are popping up there.
Sometimes Google will throw in a text ad that’s only vaguely related because they want to have something to put there. But anytime there’s any sort of paid traffic for your branded searches, you want to make sure that you’re showing up there. If no one else is bidding on those terms or Google wasn’t displaying any text ads, the benefit can be quite a bit smaller. I would still say there can be some benefit and the reason is that often times in the organic SERP, when someone does a search for your branded name, your link will be first which is great but often times links two, three, four might not belong to you especially if you’re selling your product on eBay or Amazon or another type of market place like that. Those Amazon links, those eBay links will be showing up in the organic SERPs and you’re paying for that traffic one way or another because if you get the sale there, you’re paying the commission. And so often times there can be a benefit to pushing those other listings that aren’t linking directly back to your site farther down on the SERP so that you can own more real estate at the top of the Google search page.
Kunle: Absolutely. Wasn’t there a point in time, correct me if I’m wrong, you could sort of trademark your name or your brand or has Google sort of stop that from happening? So I recall that you could as a brand, say okay — say I was Sears, I could say you know — I could sort of trademark that name and then if another sort of competitor try to bid for that name something be flagged on their AdWords and they you know there’d be like there’s a trademark term.
Jeff: Yeah. So the interesting is Google will, if you have a trademark term, Google will allow you to file a complaint if they’re using that in the ad copy but that doesn’t prevent anyone from bidding on the term. So let’s say you’re Sears in that example or you know let’s say you’re Macy’s and you want to bid on the Sears term, you can bid on Sears term as long as you don’t use Sears in your ad copy. And so even if you know you file a complaint with Google or anything like that there’s still going to allow Macy’s to bid on that term and they won’t take the ad down.
Kunle: Google’s like a casino. It always wins.
Jeff: Exactly. Exactly.
Kunle: Okay. Okay. Let’s move swiftly into Google Shopping. We sometimes refer to Product Listing Ads which are PLAs, so you know, we’d just switch over sometimes the names. Okay. So product feeds are the foundation of PLA advertising or Google Shopping advertising. I just wondered what your thoughts are on the proper structure, standard PLA structure, best practice retailers and online e-tailers should adopt for their PLA product feeds.
Kunle: Yeah. Absolutely. Typically the structure that we start out with will either be based on category or the brand of the product and what I mean that is if you’re selling you know winter apparel and things like that, you might have a number of different categories that you’re selling in – jackets, pants, gloves, things like that. And you might have you a number of different brands like The North Face or K2. And so you’re going to want to start with one of those different available options that Google will give you and both of those are default. The way that we pick which one to start with is based on what we perceived to be customer search behaviour and often times you can get that search behaviour within your existing you know AdWords performance.
But what I mean by that is if you have a product that is more likely to be searched by brand where the customer knows the brand name, the brand already has a lot of loyal customers, a lot of loyal supporters that are going to buy whatever products come out from that brand, then you’re going to want to sort your products by that and you’re going to want to structure your campaign according to brand name to start. And within that brand you can break out you know different categories, different custom groupings, things like that whereas if you sell ever more commoditized, more generic item that doesn’t necessarily need a specific brand name and the example that I always give for this is something like Windex. It’s a very familiar brand name but there are so many other you know cleaners out there, window cleaners that often times it doesn’t matter which one a customer buys.
They just want a window cleaner and so you can categorize your products according to category and when you structure your campaign, you can build out the category specifically for window cleaners, for example, and then within that maybe there’s certain brands that you can break out. But you want to start by how your customers are looking for a product. If they’re looking for a brand structure your campaign by brand first. If they’re looking for just a general product type start by using the categories.
Kunle: Okay. So I guess it still boils down to keyword research and trying to understand their behaviour from keyword research and then deciding the strategy to go down.
Jeff: A bit, yeah. And you can always adjust it. You know sometimes we’ll build out a campaign according to the retailers brands and we see that hey often times the customers search actually involves specific categories and can adjust the structure. Google makes it pretty easy to do that on a fly.
Kunle: Okay. Let’s talk about product feed size. Some product feeds that could have you know 500 or less skews, some of listeners would have 500 or less skews. Others might have 500 to a 1000. Others might have 1000 to 5000 and others might have 5000 or more. Somebody actually came on the show and I can’t quite remember off the top of my head, but I think they started off with 15 or 18,000 skews.
Jeff: [inaudible 0:21:23].
Kunle: That’s a lot. I think it was motor parts — car parts. So let’s got to less than 500. Is there any structure, any set structure you’d suggest in terms of the product feed set-up for 500 or less skews or…?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. So you know pretty much regardless of feed size you know we always, I always — my rule of thumb is to try and group products on large enough scale that I’ll be able to identify trends but still be granular enough to where I can be effective with my bidding. And so what I mean that is even if you have a smaller feed of just a few hundred skews there’s always going to be some products in the feed that really just don’t have a whole lot of traction. And you know even if you do a really careful job with hand selecting every single skew that you put onto your site and that you list in your feed, there’s going to be some that you know might be a little bit of a mess and there’s going to be some that don’t get a whole lot of impressions or don’t get a whole lot of search volume.
And one of the more common mistakes that we see retailers make is that they’ll break every single skew out so that they can bid on every single product which sounds good in theory, but often times what ends up happening is you have a number of those products that aren’t just really getting a whole lot of data. So what do you do with those? There’s no statistically significant data if you’re only getting a couple clicks a month on a particular item. So what you want to do with those skews is bundle them together into categories or brands or custom groupings according to you know product attributes or things like that and then leave the more popular skews broken out into their own you know groups where you can just bid on that one particular skew and so that’s kind of the rule of thumb regardless of size.
For retailers with smaller catalogues, we tend to be a lot more aggressive building out individual skews just because the catalogue tends to be a bit smaller and so you don’t necessarily need as many large groupings. You can still manage things on a pretty effective level by breaking out individual skews and in those cases, often times it helps to bucket skews by performance and you can use custom labelling to do that. So over time you’ll see these top ten skews are really my core drivers. I’m going to put these into their own ad group, break out each individual one, but this is going to be my best sellers group. That kind of helps you keep things organized that way.
Kunle: Okay. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Speaking of structure, what’s a recommended campaign product group structure in PLA campaigns? Is it a blanket structure across the board based on size of the store or would you structure campaigns according to size?
Jeff: Not necessarily size of the store. I mean like I said what you want to do is use that rule of thumb. So you want to by default leave products in you know in like groups. So like groups of you know brand or category. I mentioned you know performance is a good one over time to build out. Also often times, we’ll bucket products by price as well probably because lower price products tend to have a poor margin and so you can kind of use margin to group them as well. But the main rule of thumb regardless really of size of the catalogue is you want to bucket products by like groups you know however that may be, so that you can identify trends and patterns in the data and see the bigger picture, You don’t want to get too granular like I said and build out every single product and you start to not be able to see the forest or the trees.
Jeff: And so you want to bucket them into like groups, but you will see over time that there are skews that are consistently getting a significant amount of clicks or a significant amount of orders that you do want to break out because you do have enough data, statistically significant data, to make a decision just on that one skew.
Jeff: There’s a going to be a number of skews that are like that so continue to break those out over time and within those buckets.
Kunle: Okay. Okay. What about descriptions, product descriptions? Should you have different product descriptions in your PLA ads as compared to what you have in store? Should it be more keywords rich? Would Google look into the description and figure out –? Where does Google look in to determine what to feature in the SERPs? In the headline or the description?
Jeff: So they look at both but they’re not going to be necessarily looking at your site. They’re going to take all that information from the feed and Google doesn’t care if the description or the title in your feed is different than what it is on your site. You have free reign to modify that as much as you want. I will say that the titles tend to be weighted more heavily and so what you want to do is make sure that your titles are as descriptive as possible, but limited to just the core you know terms that a customer might be searching for. And the rule of thumb that I always use is that, if a customer is reading your title they should be able to purchase the product just by reading the title alone.
Jeff: And if there’s not enough information in your title for them to do that, then your title is not descriptive enough. If there is enough information and maybe there’s more than enough information for them to do that then you might be able to pull out some wasted terms in your title or maybe play around with the structure there. But you want to keep them concise and readable, but long enough or descriptive enough to where the customer can buy it. With regard to does it need be different than on your site, like I said it doesn’t really matter. But if you’re going to build a title to rank well on Google and you find that hey this title structure ranks well in Google Shopping, that probably means that that title structure is looked favourably upon by Google and you should probably do that on your site too. It’s not going to impact PLAs but it can maybe impact your organic rankings for terms that you care about. So that would take the same approach.
Kunle: Makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense. Have you ever been in a situation or your team been in a situation where you’ve had to rewrite the titles, where the titles and the product feeds and on the websites were more or less crap and…
Kunle: And you’re like “No this is going to hinder — this is going to impact on performance really. We need rewrite every single thing here.”?
Jeff: Yeah. Actually you know that’s probably one of the biggest parts of our integration process is actually — I don’t want to say rewriting the titles completely but basically putting more information in. A lot of retailers have a lot of information about their products. They just don’t put it in the title per se and it kind of makes sense. You know if you’re selling apparel and let’s say you’re selling pants on your site, you don’t necessarily need a title on your page that has 15 different keywords in the title. You want something that’s going to be easy to read, that is concise, and shows up well on the page when the customer gets there and that might be customer friendly but it’s not what we call robot friendly. And you also want to build titles that are easily found for a robot.
And so a lot of the time what we see is when retailers are crafting titles just to appear nicely on a site, sometimes they’ll leave out things like the brand name or the product type. So if you’re selling men’s pants you might put the style of the pant. You might put that they’re boot cut jeans, but you’re not necessarily going to put that they’re men’s Levi’s boot-cut jeans and you’re not necessarily going to put that they’re denim and that they’re black. And so there’s a number of things that you might not put into the title because they seem extraneous on your website, but those are all keywords that are going to be really important when you’re submitting a feed to Google and you want a rank for those terms.
Kunle: That makes a lot of sense. Are there any character restrictions in the title in terms of for PLA adverts or could you — is it free reign to put in anything?
Jeff: You can put in anything as long as it’s not offensive. So you know use your common sense. But yeah, you can put in pretty much anything really. The only restriction that Google poises is that it has to be 150 characters or less.
Kunle: Okay. 150. Okay.
Jeff: 150, yeah. And it won’t display every character so don’t get discouraged if you write a 150 character title and it’s great and they only display the first 70. That’s more of just a restriction on the amount of space that they have, but every term that you put into the title as long as it’s within that limit will be indexed for search. So it will count towards your rankings.
Kunle: Okay. What about bidding strategies in Google Shopping? What would you recommend?
Jeff: Basically follow the data, follow your performance data. Also don’t copy bids over from your text ads campaigns. We see a lot of retailers do that and the average CPCs that you pay on Google Shopping and I guess the amount that you need to bid often times is lower than the amount you might need to bid to get a first position ranking for a text ad. So don’t feel like you have to copy your bids over completely. But follow the data and don’t get — try not to get too emotionally tied to your products. Another common mistake that we see retailers make is that you’ll have a product that you want to sell and you’ll have a product that is actually selling and sometimes those will be different products.
Just because you want a product to sell well on Google Shopping doesn’t mean that it will and that it will be profitable. So try and take the emotion out of it. If — even if a particular product is a top seller on your site it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the best product on Google Shopping because the reason it’s a top seller on your site might be that it gets a ton of visitors and even though it has a lower conversion rate it gets so many visitors because it’s such an in demand product that you get sales to it. But what that can mean on Google Shopping is that you have to spend a lot of money to get that traffic and because it’s a competitive search and so many people will be clicking on it. So don’t get too tied up in thinking that top sellers on your site are what should be top sellers on Google Shopping and don’t get emotionally tied to the products that you want to sell. Really use data specific to Google Shopping to inform your bids and don’t use anything else.
Kunle: I guess it helps in the long-tail. Are you seeing a lot of success from the long-tail in — from product this and that?
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, the long-tail searches are always going to be higher quality and what we mean by that is just that there is more descriptors in a search. So a short-tail search might be something for you know like jeans, just going back to that example, where a long-tail search might be men’s black Levi’s 501 jeans that customer knows exactly what they want. And usually it’s pretty much always in every situation, the customer that’s doing the long-tail search has more retail intent. They know exactly what they want. They’re ready to buy. All you got to do is get in front of them which is a lot easier said than done.
But the tough part on Google Shopping is that you don’t have the ability to bid on keywords so I can’t go to Google and say “Hey, I want to show up for men’s 501 Levi’s jeans but I don’t want to show up for just jeans.” Google will determine when and where to show you. You can’t really dictate that, but you can set your bids to a point where you’ll be relevant for the more specific searches but maybe less competitive for the general ones. And usually the general ones like jeans tend to require higher bid levels and so keeping your bids low can kind of ensure that you’re only showing up for the more qualified searches as you see performance come in you can start to say “Hey this product is still doing well with the low bid level. Let me bump it up to see if I can move it up the rankings for the general searches and we’ll see if it still converts well.”
Kunle: You still get a good bang for your buck…
Kunle: By bidding low. It makes sense. It’s a no-brainer. Absolute no-brainer. Okay. Let’s talk about custom labels. You mentioned it — you mentioned them earlier on. How can they be used to effectively manage you know campaigns?
Jeff: Yeah custom labels are great and Google gives you five custom labels. My advice is always to use all of them or fill up all of them in your feed even if you’re not going to use them in your structure because you can also run reports on them even if you’re not bidding on a custom label. But the way that we typically use them is to group products by different attributes so like colour, for example. You know maybe my black shoes always sell better than my brown shoes. Well Google doesn’t let you — that’s not a default option to break out a campaign by colour, but you add a custom label and throw the colour in there all of a sudden you can do that.
Another way too is by margin or by performance. So if you have let’s say 20% of your inventory you have less than a 10% margin on, you might want to add a custom label for that so that you know that any product that falls in that group I can’t be too aggressive with my bid on because you have a really poor margin, whereas products with higher margin you can group together and get more aggressive with our bids. And I will say the one [inaudible 0:35:00] is again don’t get too emotionally tied to the products you want to sell versus the products that are selling. If a product is below your margin and its selling well or you’re making money on it then increase the bid even if it’s a low margin item. You can still capture that volume and as long as you’re making money then you’re going to be in the blacks. So don’t get too emotionally tied to the high margin skews.
Kunle: They could be lost leaders.
Jeff: They could.
Kunle: Okay. Third-party management tools, which would you recommend for AdWords?
Jeff: Yeah. There are a lot out there and you can take my opinion with a grain of salt because we built our own. But you know we — before we invested pretty heavily into building our own tool — I mean it’s a really labour intensive project so we didn’t want to do it. But there’s always a lot of tools out there that will automate bid management, that will automate structure and our results were pretty hit-or-miss. What I tend to see is that people that — people can rely too heavily on an automated tool or on any tool really to manage Google Shopping and you want to account for what can robots do versus what can robots not do.
You know once you understand your campaign and how it’s performing, a robot is great for taking over your regular bid adjustments and implementing that strategy. What it’s not going to be good at is understanding when to change that strategy or when to change your structure. And with any automated tool that you’re going to be using, and I tell our account managers this as well when they’re learning how to use our own in-house tools, is that there’s no replacement for human intelligence. So don’t think that you can set up an automated tool and it’s just going to work. You’re going to have to figure out what the right strategy is and what the right structure is and then the tool can take over what the regular day to day maintenance of that strategy.
Kunle: That makes a lot of sense. You look at the market. You look at you know what kind of demand and supply is going on in the front-end, like a competition basically and you know you use that to intuitively you know make decisions and you know form a strategy which could be applied to the tool.
Kunle: Okay. Let’s talk about mistakes. You know you’ve taken over loads of accounts. Some perhaps from retailers who thought they could do it by themselves or from agencies who really messed up their accounts. What are the biggest PLA mistakes you’ve seen in the world of PLA?
Jeff: Yeah I’d say one of the biggest mistakes is not cutting out those lost leaders that you mentioned earlier and sometimes that can be a result of retailers getting too emotionally tied to a product. Sometimes it’s just a result of neglect and we take over accounts from a lot of retailers and a lot of other agencies that sometimes those things, those individual items slip through their cracks. And it’s easy to see how your existing structure is doing and what I mean by that let’s say you have campaigns broken out on the category level. It’s easy to see how all the categories are doing are doing cause that’s how your campaigns broken out, but what’s more difficult to see is how each subset of products within that category is doing, what the individual items within that category are doing, and what the lost leaders are, and how to remove those from you know your cost centers but still keep them active on Google Shopping.
The way that you can do that is by using those performance based you know custom labels that we discussed earlier. So if you go into your campaign and you see hey there’s 15 skews here that are spending hundreds of dollars a week for me that aren’t getting any sales. Pull those out into their own label or just break them out into their own group and lower the bids on them. It’s really easy to see that by running reports, what we call dimensions tabs reports. So if you are in your shopping campaign you go to the dimensions tab. You can run reports on item ID and identify those and that’s I’d say is one of the most common mistakes that we always see retailers or other agencies make is that they’re not pulling out those lost leaders and cutting cost on them and they’re just kind of leaving them in the existing groups.
Kunle: That’s a very, very, very good point there in terms of splitting and cutting and slicing your campaign and making it logical with the aid of custom labels as you alluded to earlier. They’re so powerful. They’re so, so powerful.
Kunle: Okay. Speaking of new features in PLA, you know you started off saying that they come in every you know — they release something new every month. What are your favourite new PLA features you know you’re seeing now and you’d recommend our listeners to actually tap into as to help their campaigns.
Jeff: Yeah if you’d ask me this question 2 weeks ago I probably would’ve had a different answer actually. But I’ll tell you my two. The way that I would have answered a couple weeks ago would be Re-marketing Less for Search Ads or RLSA for short. That’s still one of my favourites. We are putting all of our clients into that program and highly recommend that all of your listeners do that as well. It’s not a default option. You’re going to have to call up AdWords Support and ask them to enable it for you.
Jeff: But it’s a — basically it’s a re-marketing tool and so you’re also going to have to install the Google dynamic remarketing tags, so there is a little bit of upfront work to get into the program. But once you do, it allows you to increase your bids on customers that have already been to your site. So if you’re already familiar with what re-marketing is it’s basically re-marketing to your customers or increasing your bid on your re-marketing list on Google.com. So on your search ads, on your shopping ads, anything, any ad that’s going to show up on Google, it allows you to increase your bids for those customers.
Kunle: That’s pretty clever, very clever.
Jeff: It’s usually not you know a huge volume driver, but as you can imagine…
Jeff: Yeah, they’re always going to convert better. The other one which is just starting to roll out which actually isn’t available yet to everybody so you might have be a little bit patient., but Google’s going to roll out shopping ads to YouTube essentially, through their YouTube cards program.
Kunle: I heard that, yes.
Jeff: That’s a — from what we’ve seen it’s still in beta which means it’s whitelisted so you have to have a Google rep to get into it. But I would encourage all your listeners to keep an eye out for when that rolls out because that’s going to be another situation where the first people that can get into that market are going to have a little bit of a leg up on everyone else. So pay attention for when that rolls out to everybody.
Kunle: Have you tried it? Do you guys have access to it or…?
Jeff: Yeah, we do. It can be — it’s a — we’re still starting to figure it out and I think Google is still figuring it out when and where to display those ads but the conversion rates are decent and you know decent compared to Shopping so there’s still pretty good. Volume’s pretty well but it’s definitely an exciting program. I’m excited to see how it rolls out.
Kunle: So just put it into context. I’m watching. I’m a lady. I’m not a lady but just for the sake of…
Jeff: Just for the sake of argument.
Kunle: Yeah. So I’m watching a makeup video and then it would display cosmetics on the top-right or something or on the side. How would it work?
Jeff: So it’ll have basically a bar or a window of ads on the bottom of the video. I’ve actually seen in some of the examples that Google puts out. They’d be on the right. I’ve never seen those in the wild like that but I think that they can show up either on the right or on the bottom and they’ll have a number of shopping ads just show up within the videos. And so the customer if it’s a related video, let’s say you’re watching a video about how to apply makeup, you know Google might put ads for different you know makeup products within that video and you have the option to scroll through and click on a couple. And it works very similar to kind of like a re-marketing ad if you want to think of that type of display.
Kunle: Good stuff. Good stuff. Good stuff. What are your thoughts on this Google buy button? Apparently it’s going to be a mobile only and it’s only going to be on Google Shopping ads, what we have been talking about over the last 30 minutes so…
Kunle: What are your thoughts on it? Is it going to be a winner in retail?
Jeff: I think so for a couple reasons. One, you know Google has taken these steps. They kind of deny it but they take these steps every quarter it seems like to get a little bit closer to having their own market place that might end up competing with Amazon. And this seems to solidify that a little bit more, but one of the biggest challenges with mobile is ease of checkout. And you know like we touched earlier one of the reasons why mobile conversion rates are usually always going to be poorer than desktop conversion rates is just that it’s harder to check out. It’s harder to input your credit card number and do all that and that’s part of the reason why apps like the Amazon app or the eBay and PayPal app are so popular is that you don’t have to do any of that.
You can just one click checkout on Amazon. I do it all the time and all of a sudden you know that’s it. You just hit the button and it’s bought. You don’t have to enter anything and so that’s — this Google buy button is Google’s kind of answer to that problem. And they’re starting to court you know it seems like apparel retailers that — like Macy’s that have pulled off of Amazon in the past and so you know they’re — I think they’re trying to make a push to make that process easier but also make it easier for retailers that don’t already have a feature like that to through another market place like Amazon but…
Kunle: Do you think it’s going to impact on the market share of eBay and Amazon?
Jeff: Potentially. I mean it — I think it depends on how they roll it out and also you know with PayPal separating itself from eBay, there is potential for Google to you know start up a relationship there. And you know I think the more that Google pushes toward this market place, the more that they’ll potentially be able to compete with other market places. But the one advantage that Amazon is always going to have is that they’re willing to take a loss when investing in logistics which is not something most companies are willing to do. And so and it’s going to be very difficult and I think we’re seeing this for Google for Walmart as they enter this space. I think it’s going to be very difficult for them to replicate that two day free shipping guarantee you across the country. It is such logistical nightmare and cost strain. So you know I think it will impact the demand a bit maybe for some of the Amazon products. But like I said Google’s initial retailers that they’re courting are actually for retailers that aren’t on Amazon and so there actually isn’t initially going to be a whole lot of competition there with their market. And so…
Kunle: I am still scratching my head as to how Google is going to communicate things like shipping, you know customer service, that wholesale thing it’s really smooth system from a mobile standpoint to make a transaction, but I don’t really see that after sale support you know in that system.
Jeff: Yeah that’s why they’re going to have to be really, really selective. And also you know they have rolled out this program and it’s been out for a year or two the Google trusted store program. Allows them to — I don’t want to say guarantee but it gives them insight into which retailers are you know fulfilling their orders on time and things like that. And so I could very easily see them early on only allowing Google trusted stores to use it because they don’t want to put themselves in a position where they say an order is going to be delivered in 2 days and 80% of the time it is and 20 % of the time it isn’t. That’s a bad look for Google and so…
Jeff: I think they’re going to limit it to just the retailers that they trust and that are in that trusted stores program.
Kunle: As you alluded to every quarter you know they’ve sort of rolled out features that seem to have brought them closer and closer to this market place set-up they’re about to get into. It’s lovely. Good stuff. Good stuff.
Kunle: I’m going to take us back a little bit. I forgot to ask one question in PLA which has got to do with the importance of images of like photographs and how important are they and have you sort of — has as a client has every come back — has a client come to you with a — new client comes to you with their product feed and you’re like we have to change his photographs? What kind of photographs actually work on Google for paid PLA ads?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. The higher res, the better and you know when it comes to Google’s background there is — or the background of the images, there’s a lot of retailers that would try and put you know borders around the images to make them standout or try and get watermarks in there. And they might you know slide under Google’s radar and it’s a popular thing to test. I actually haven’t really seen that lead to any incremental boosts or any statistically significant change in performance and so I would say that you know trying to mess with Google’s guidelines around images probably isn’t worth it considering it’ll get your account suspended eventually.
But yeah, the higher res the better and you always want to have an image that’s big enough to where you can zoom in. Google probably isn’t going to give you that functionality. They usually don’t but we started to see more and more categories where they’re focusing on bigger images. They’re focusing on higher quality images and those requirements increase pretty much every single year. And so meeting the bare minimum for your image requirements this year in terms of size and clarity, then you’re probably going to be below their requirements in six months. And so the higher res images that you can get now the better and those will be useful for you across channels on Google, on Amazon, pretty much anywhere.
Kunle: Thank you for mentioning that.