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Creating a Killer Post-Holiday PPC Strategy

Now that the holiday shopping season is over, here are some New Year’s pay-per-click advertising tips to help you continue the growth of your online revenue.

Review Cost-Per-Acquisition Data on a Category Level

It’s often a good practice for online retailers to organize their pay-per-click campaign structures to mimic their websites. I discussed this previously, in “Google Instant and Pay-per-click Advertising.” A structure like this enables retailers to make budgeting and overall campaign strategy decisions quickly, as long as they review, analyze, and reflect on cost-per-acquisition (CPA) and return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) metrics from time to time.

This is a good time of year to do just that, as you make important decisions that will guide the performance of your PPC campaigns in 2012.

Start by identifying:

  1. High performing product categories that should be built out and budgeted more aggressively;

  2. Poor performing product categories that should either be fixed or subjected to budget reallocation.

Consider a ‘Category-Killer’ Strategy

After identifying high and low performing product categories based on CPA and ROAS, factor in the profitability and availability of the merchandise in the best-performing categories and then consider adopting a “category-killer” strategy.

With a category-killer strategy, you commit to treating a relatively small number of product categories on your website in a special way. Not only do you increase the available budget for those categories, you thoroughly determine how users experience those categories as a whole, from start to finish.

Consider the following approach.

  1. Empathize with the shopper. Imagine the world from the perspective of the shoppers who will be buying products in the categories you will be focusing on. For example, if your focus is on snowboards, ask yourself questions like: “When does the snowboarding season start?” “Why do people snowboard?” “What do they value most in a snowboard?” “What do they value most in an online shopping experience?” “How can we stand out from our competitors?”

  2. Create a road map. Develop a road map that envisions an exceptional experience for your customers. Build a checklist that covers every aspect of the customers’ experience — from the time they first view your PPC ad to the moment their purchase arrives at their door.

  3. Test, test, test. The most effective category-killer strategy requires testing at every stage of the process, from identifying the most effective ad copy, to using conversion testing to optimize your landing pages, product pages, and checkout process.

Create a Promotional Calendar

Time is scarce. That’s why creating a promotional calendar is so important. It helps you prioritize your most important action items based on the season. Whereas many online retailers “fire” before they “aim,” the most successful online retailers will “aim” before they “fire,” which is why a promotional calendar is so important.

Another reason it is important is that it helps you synchronize the efforts of your entire team. You’ll get the best results when your PPC managers, search-engine-optimization managers, website managers, merchandising managers, and everyone else on your team is aligned towards the same goals — even if all of those job titles belong to you alone.

Retargeting Campaigns Are Important

There’s a lot online merchants can do with their retargeting campaigns, but far too often retargeting is looked upon as an afterthought.

Retargeting campaigns can address the following.

  • Re-engage abandoned shoppers. Target shoppers who abandoned their shopping carts before buying in order to capture lost sales.
  • Encourage repeat shoppers. Target shoppers who successfully completed a purchase to entice them to make another purchase as part of a customer loyalty strategy.
  • Grow PPC return on investment. Be an important part of your strategy to increase the value of every PPC click you pay for.

Start assembling your retargeting audiences and campaigns now in Google AdWords. It takes time to accrue the necessary 500 visitors per page that Google requires to participate in the retargeting program.

Re-assess Mobile

I debate mobile continually with my colleagues. Here are a few things that we usually agree on.

  • Mobile traffic is on the rise.
  • The cost per click for mobile traffic is often a lot less than non-mobile traffic.
  • Shoppers in bricks-and-mortar stores are using their mobile phones at an increasing rate to check prices and reviews.

You can experiment with mobile without committing to a big budget. Create some PPC campaigns that are dedicated exclusively to mobile, and ensure that your site renders properly on popular mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android-powered phones. You may also consider building a mobile version of your site, which is relatively inexpensive if you’re on a larger ecommerce platform.

Elevate your Email Marketing

My company manages hundreds of PPC campaigns for online retailers, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that online retailers with the best email marketing strategies and execution have a big advantage over everyone else.

The math is simple. The amount a retailer can profitably bid to acquire a click through PPC is directly related to (a) the product’s conversion rate on the website, (b) the revenue from the sale, and (c) the profitability of that revenue. By increasing the revenue derived from that sale over the long-term by using email marketing, the retailer can afford to bid more per click while maintaining equal or greater profit.

As the retailer acquires more profitable clicks, both sales and profits will grow at an increasing rate compared to other online retailers who don’t utilize a broader marketing strategy.

Don’t Wait for Spring to Clean Up Your Campaigns

Now is the time to do winter cleaning.

  • Update holiday and out-of-date copy from 2011.
  • Create new ads using lessons learned from the surge of holiday data.
  • Bring bids back down if you increased them during the holidays — because conversion rates will likely drop.

These winter cleaning tips may sound like common sense, but you would be surprised how many PPC campaigns we review daily that have outdated copy and bids that drag down campaign profitability.


Online retail sales continue to grow. That growth will presumably increase when the economy begins to rebound. However, as sales grow, so will competition. Online retail is still young, and the merchants who accelerate their sales now will become leading brands in the future.

Scott Smigler
Scott Smigler
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