4 eCommerce Marketing Channels You Should Use – Part 1

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I can’t tell you how frequently I hear things like “I can’t afford pay-per-click” or “Social media doesn’t work.”  These business owners have done some light experimentation with the channel and formed an opinion that is now used as a blanket for all forms of pay-per-click or social media.  What I wanted to cover in this article is not just that each of these channels have viable marketing merit to them, but a little bit of how to make that channel work for you.

More important than the list of tips I give throughout the article is the thought process I’ll try to describe for each channel.  Marketing is not following a list of tips, it is learning a thought process that allows you to analyze and adapt.  So, without further adieu, let’s analyze and adapt!

Paid Search (PPC)

SEO or PPC?  That is the question!  Well, not really, here’s the answer for nearly every eCommerce site: a mix.  Paid search has a bidding component and a management component to it, and usually, if you sell a product and do a good job of it, you can find a good ROI somewhere in the mix.  Can you necessarily afford to hold a high average position on a really competitive keyword?  Maybe not.  But, there is often some value you can find in a good PPC campaign.  Here’s some tips to help you run a well managed account:

Exact and phrase match to start: If you’re struggling to see an ROI with an account, you should only be using exact and phrase match keywords.  This gives you significantly more control over what search queries your ads are typically showing for.  A lot of do-it-yourself paid search types are unaware of keyword match types and it has a massive effect on your ROI.  Here’s a couple examples of each match type at work:

  1. [exact match] – this keyword would only serve for the search query ‘exact match’.
  2. “phrase match” – this keyword might be triggered by a search query like ‘best phrase match’ or ‘phrase match reviews’.  The main keyword stays in tact, but additional words can be added to either side of the keyword.
  3. broad match – this keyword might be triggered for a search query like ‘broad keywords matching’ or even ‘broad keywords’.  Which search queries this ad would appear for are largely in Google’s hands.  They’ll substitute synonyms or plurals.  Mature accounts can use broad match to expand their reach to even the obscure searches online, but it does make controlling the ROI of the account much more difficult.

For more info on keyword research, here’s an article I wrote that explains the match types and other keyword factors more in depth.

Create tightly knit ad groups: Google recommends that you have about 25 to 30 keywords in an ad group.  If you’re struggling to see a return on investment or are just starting out, I recommend less.  You’ll consider 3 things when asking yourself “Should I make a new ad group?”

  1. Language – does the language of the keyword change the searcher’s intent?  If I’m looking at 2 keywords: eCommerce services and eCommerce strategy.  They sound similar, but those looking for services are looking to pay for some kind of service, while those looking for strategy may be looking for advice.  Use your ad to specifically address the language used in the search query.
  2. Value – with the example given above, if the intent of the searcher changes, its likely to effect the value.  Its easier to treat these in separate ad groups.
  3. Landing page – ads can only be served by ad group, therefore if you want to send the searchers to a new landing page, you’ll need a new ad group.

Create highly targeted ads: Now that you’ve got some tightly knit ad groups only including keywords with similar intent.  You can write a really strong ad to ensure a high click through rate.  Here’s some tips:

  1. Include the search query in the headline.  Words from the users search query are bolded and will stand out.
  2. Put punctuation at the end of description line 1.  If the ad is served as a top ad, line 1 will then appear with the title if there is punctuation.  Here’s 2 examples below.
  3. Keep the whole ad addressing the search query.
  4. The overall ad should leave the searcher feeling “this is exactly what I’m looking for.”
This ad doesn't end line 1 with punctuation, so when shown in a top position the line isn't brought in to the title.
This ad doesn’t end line 1 with punctuation, so when shown in a top position the line isn’t brought in to the title.
This ad included punctuation at the end of line 1 causing the line to be pulled into the title.  This makes an extra line of copy very visible.
This ad included punctuation at the end of line 1 causing the line to be pulled into the title. This makes an extra line of copy very visible.

Bid down – Its a common misconception that you need to be bidding what Google tells you is the average cost per click.  If you’re having trouble seeing the ROI, keep bidding down and lowering your position.  Even if you’re average position is 6, there’s still money to be made from that traffic.

Don’t forget Bing: Bing’s search advertising obviously hits a much smaller audience than Google, but because of this, they sometimes get forgotten.  I’ve often been able to drive a better ROI from Bing than Google just due to lesser competition.  Bing now has a tool to import your adwords accont.  Pretty convenient.

Comparison Shopping Engines

Just like paid search, this is typically done on a cost per click basis.  Sites like Nextag, Shopping.com, or Shopzilla are prominent comparison shopping engines.  Its a good way to drive highly qualified traffic to your eCommerce site.  Here’s a couple tips to succeeding in this channel:

  1. Changing your bids won’t do much on these platforms.  You have 3 options when it comes to changing bids on these comparison shopping engines:
    1. Bid the rate card – standard visibility.
    2. Bid $0.01 – you really won’t be appearing unless they need product listings.
    3. Pause the product – if its not converting, take it out of the mix.
  2. The way to optimize these listings is through the feed you provide.  The keywords in your product title and other data you provide is what’s driving your listing.  Make sure its filled out with all recommended data fields if you want to get the most mileage out of your listing.

Google shopping, previously free, is now pay-to-play.  In addition to appearing on the Google Shopping page, these shopping ads can be configured to appear on Google searches as well.  They appear like this in search.

A search for Scuba gear triggered these shopping results on Google.
A search for Scuba gear triggered these shopping results on Google.

Unlike the other comparison shopping engines though, you can manage your Product Listing Ads with negative keywords, bid changes, and even segmenting your products.  Add the field adwords_label to your product feed and you can target specific products with an ad group.  I usually mimic my site’s category structure.  Different products have different values and should have different bids 🙂


Whew.  Ok, I’m spent, your turn.  What’s the marketing channel you struggle with the most?  Where are you seeing the best return for your money? Have questions about your own site and want me to take a look? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t have an eCommerce site?  That’s ok, what I covered here can be applied to most sites.  How do you use digital marketing to generate demand for your products or services?

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, I’ll be covering SEO and Social Media!

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Author: David Rekuc

Dave Rekuc is the Marketing Manager at Ripen eCommerce, which has provided comprehensive eCommerce solutions for clients since 2004. Working in close partnership with eCommerce businesses, Ripen’s eCommerce web development, marketing, creative and technology teams build intuitive user experiences that boost online sales.

15 thoughts on “4 eCommerce Marketing Channels You Should Use – Part 1”

  1. Hi David,

    As a beginner it was difficult to follow the post. What really interest me is just a way, a strategy, a method to learn how to do keyword research or PPC. The process begins with finding a real expert that masters keyword research or PPC and does not charge you thousands of dollars for a course. Do you know such expert?

    Next step is obviously buying a course that will teach you how to do that and finally, you apply what you learn. Until then the post is a little bit too sophisticated for me.

    There is no doubt in my mind that what you are saying is interesting and useful for advanced users. Have a wonderful day
    Silviu recently posted..Clean and Optimize Your WordPress Database with WP OptimizeMy Profile

    1. Hi Silviu,

      I understand it may be difficult as a beginner to follow along, I wrote the post with the intention of providing useful advice for those that had already tried adwords to some extent. My advice to you is to create an adwords account and start to play around in there. Its free to set up the account, you just won’t be able to run any ads without paying. This will get you more familiar with the vocabulary and structure of the account.

      If you are going to pay for a course, I’d recommend this site: http://www.marketmotive.com/ . I’ve never taken the course personally, but it comes highly recommended to me from some trusted sources.

      If you’re not looking to spend money on the course, try PPC Hero’s blog. This post covers a lot of the basics: http://www.ppchero.com/the-beginners-guide-to-setting-up-an-adwords-account/

      Thanks for reading!
      Dave Rekuc recently posted..3 ways to market with class on social platformsMy Profile

    2. Silviu,
      I appreciate where you are coming from. PPC advertising can be a very steep learning curve. Dave and I had discussed possible topics that he could author for my site. I was excited when he proposed writing about eCommerce Marketing Channels. This is where his expertise lies and I knew it would be of interest to some of my blog readers. (I try to mix up posts that target different perspectives and different levels of expertise.)

      I just replied to Diana with a rather lengthy comment about my personal experiences with PPC advertising. I was definitely a novice when I launched my first campaign. Thankfully, I had the time to invest in educating myself. (I also am fortunate to be a self-learner.)

      I wrote several PPC posts for my blog and I also authored a series of three posts for the “Business Knowledge Share – powered by American Express” LinkedIn group. My posts are geared more to someone who is new to PPC. (I can’t guarantee that the screenshots or AdWords verbiage hasn’t changed though. I haven’t updated those articles in quite a while.)

      Stay tuned. Next week, in part 2 of this 2-part series, Dave addresses SEO and social media as marketing channels.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Are You Using Google AdWords for Pay Per Click Advertising?My Profile

  2. great post, Cherryl! I never got the hang of Google ads and for that reason, never even tried to learn and manage it for clients… soon i will need to learn it though for the needs of a new venture of mine. And i wanted to ask you about the quality score? i have heard you can basically lower your own costs a LOT by bumping up your quality score with Google Adwords and i would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    thanks for great post, tweeted it, too 😉
    Diana recently posted..3 Pros of Larger Images on Facebook Links Share Posts and AdsMy Profile

    1. Hi Diana, thanks for reading. A good quality score winds up being a byproduct of the tips listed above. Quality score basically says “this ad provides a good search experience” which is what the tips in the article focus on doing.

      Creating tightly knit ad groups (with mostly exact match terms) will be a huge help in maintaining a high quality score. Combine that with some well written ads and you’re golden.

      Don’t forget to enable conversion tracking! Measuring & optimizing is the name of the game.
      Dave Rekuc recently posted..3 ways to market with class on social platformsMy Profile

    2. Diana,
      Thanks for asking the question about quality score. PPC can be very cost effective but the learning curve can be steep. I used PPC quite a bit on a previous venture (that my husband and I launched). We did not have the budget to hire a professional like Dave. Instead, I invested in a couple of very intense books and I spent some significant time on Google AdWords help.

      Having heard many horror stories about people wasting a lot of money (quickly), I was very cautious with my budget. I tracked everything and measured what did and did not work for us. Things like negative keywords were very helpful in eliminating waste.

      I also learned that bidding on keywords that indicated buyer intent (as opposed to people in “research” mode) was critical to us. I spent money that I shouldn’t have driving traffic to my site where the person was looking to be educated. They never converted and went to a competitor for a cheaper solution. Lesson learned! After I started bidding on the keywords (that only people who had already been educated were aware of), we started seeing a good ROI on our ads.

      I wrote several posts on PPC. They’re not as in-depth as Dave’s article(s). They’re geared to people who want to learn some of the basics.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..4 Tips to Creating Successful Google AdWord Pay Per Click PPC AdsMy Profile

  3. Sherryl- Several years ago I hired a firm that was traded on the New York Stock Exchange to do SEO on my site. They were very heavily into using Google’s paid per click. I did this for several years to the tune of $145,000.00 a year. I decided to look at the ROI and it wasn’t happening. There are many flaws with pay per click.

    1. Your competitor will go and check out your site and pricing.
    2. Someone lands on your site and then checks out other sites and comes back another day, and yes another click.
    3. Suppliers would go to my site to see if their products were up.
    4. You have people who nothing better to do than click through your site.
    5. Many people will not click on your site because they know they are sponsored.

    My suggestion as I have been on the internet since the early 90’s is to work on good content, meta descriptions and titles and get your site ranked in an organic search.
    Arleen recently posted..How To Successfully Market A CauseMy Profile

    1. Arleen, one of the big problems with the firm you described is that ROI was an afterthought. All the optimization tips I listed are a moot point if you’re not seeing the ROI.

      Click fraud can happen in PPC. Google does have algorithms to protect against rampant click fraud. And, as long as you’re measuring and optimizing, there’s usually value to be found in PPC. I have PPC accounts running that generate millions in revenue annually for clients, there is plenty of return to be seen in PPC if done correctly.

      You mentioned SEO, which is in part 2 of the article. Good content, titles & descriptions are indeed key to succeed there.
      Dave Rekuc recently posted..3 ways to market with class on social platformsMy Profile

      1. Dave-Many of the keywords for Promotional Products were at $8.00 and up if you wanted to appear on the first page of a search. Many companies use the tool in Google that if someone’s bid is higher than yours, they are notified to increase the dollar amount. It is a game I am not willing to play. I am sure that Google’s ROI is greater than anyone’s

        If you are clever you can get around the PPC click fraud.
        Arleen recently posted..How To Successfully Market A CauseMy Profile

  4. Thanks for this very thorough explanation of PPC and comparison shopping engines. You didn’t mention geographic search where there can be an excellent ROI. A friend is married to an attorney in Chicago with a niche practice. He pays very little for PPC but he’s always at the top of the list of paid ads in Chicago and gets a lot of business that way. So you don’t necessarily need to be selling a product for PPC advertising.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted..“I Put My Head Down and Charge” — Muriel (Mickey) SiebertMy Profile

    1. Hi Jeannette,
      Thanks for the reminder about running ads that target specific geographic areas and for sharing your friend’s experience. Pay-per-click advertising can definitely be used by people in a service business.

      In addition to having your ad only appear to certain people, another great way to keep costs down is by using negative keywords. For example, a roofer who only targets residential customers would want to include the word “commercial” as a negative keyword. PPC advertising can be very cost effective.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..4 Tips to Creating Successful Google AdWord Pay Per Click PPC AdsMy Profile

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