Practical Ecommerce

Ten Pay-per-click Questions An Owner Should Ask

If you own or manage an ecommerce business, you may not directly execute your pay-per-click advertising campaigns yourself. Instead, you may delegate the execution of them to an employee or an outside firm. But owners and managers need to know that broad outlines and the successes and failures of their pay-per-click advertising efforts, and to help them with this I’ve assembled a list of 10 questions to ask the employee or outside firm who executes the campaign.

  1. How many keywords do we have running? If the answer is anything less than a few thousand, you’re probably not taking advantage of the longtail game of the business. While there are always exceptions, a few thousand keywords for an ecommerce store are not uncommon when you consider all kinds of product and brand variations.
  2. What are our top converting terms (by sales volume and spend)? This one is always interesting. You often find that products that may not necessarily be top sellers across the entire site pull great results for you in paid search. Depending on the answer, focus your energy around developing the winning product line.
  3. What is our return on investment, average time spent on site, average order size from paid search, cost per conversion, and lifetime value of a customer? These metrics should be delivered to you at least monthly. Your pay-per-click manager, on the other hand, should be reviewing all of these on weekly basis.
  4. What is our average click-through rate and how do we improve it? The click-through rate is on the most important metrics in the game. The higher the CTR the higher the paid search returns (again, there are always exceptions). Ask for a detailed ad creative testing plan that outlines all initiatives in queue that may increase your average CTR.
  5. Do we have coverage across the three primary search engines? There is no reason not to be running on Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Stay on top of your PPC guru to ensure coverage across all the top three. Otherwise, you’re likely to be missing out on possible cheap sales.
  6. What is our impression share? Impression share report (ideally broken down by campaign) should give you a pretty good idea of how many impressions you’re missing out on. Be sure to ask for detailed analysis from you PPC manager.
  7. What’s in the pipeline for landing page testing? This one is often a challenge for ecommerce stores but that’s never an excuse to avoid it. Consult with your PPC manager to figure out recommended components to test and the plan for executing those landing page tests.
  8. Have we tried contextual targeting campaigns? If you succeeded in paid search, discuss setting up test campaigns in either the Google content network or in lower tier contextual channels such as Vibrant. Ask your PPC manager to assemble a strategy plan for testing contextual targeting and campaign optimization plan.
  9. When do we attract more buyers versus tire kickers? This question really refers to day of week and time of day analysis. Ask your paid search consultant to analyze sales activity for a few months (ideally) and come up with recommendations on testing day of week and/or time of day scheduling.
  10. Have we set attainable monthly performance targets? Discuss performance results with your pay-per-click manager and set reasonable performance targets for a few months ahead. The idea here is to determine attainable targets, not your best-case scenario performance goals.

Greg Laptevsky

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  1. Matty_Gr August 18, 2009 Reply

    Greg, those are great thoughts. If you’re using this sort of checklist to select an agency, you also might want to consider:

    1. Some agencies ask that you pay your PPC costs direct to them. In other words, you pay a lump sum and they pay AdWords out of that lump sum, keeping the remainder as their fee.

    I would strongly suggest staying away from this sort of arrangement. Honest firms will never have a problem disclosing their fees.

    2. Some agencies set up a PPC account for you, rather than modifying the one you already have. The problem here is that if you decide to stop using their services, they turn that account off, denying you access to any of the learning that took place during the course of your contract with them.

    Reputable PPC agencies will always allow you full access to your PPC account. The work they do on your behalf will remain yours – even after your contract with them has ended.

    3. Lastly, consider the impact of paying a percentage of your PPC spend as an agency fee. Is your agency then motivated to cut your costs or increase them?

    Perhaps look for an agency that works on a flat-rate. Or negotiate a flat-rate with an agency that usually works on a percentage basis.

    Mat Greenfield
    Conversion Results

  2. Greg Percifield August 18, 2009 Reply

    Remember that even if your PPC campaign is not balancing out or providing profit, there is still value in the brand awareness that you are providing.

    People that don’t buy today, may become a valued customer in the future. Before running a PPC campaign, be sure that your website is ready to make a good impression so that you can make the most from those are only "window shopping" for the moment.