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Answers to the 9 Most Common Ecommerce Questions [Advanced PPC Edition]
Written by Rachael Law, Senior Account Analyst and Elliot Kemp, Account Manager
On the surface, running ecommerce PPC campaigns is pretty straightforward. Create campaigns, ensure conversion and revenue tracking is set up, and start optimizing. These are common questions we hear when working with advanced E-Commerce businesses.
So you’ve got a large ecommerce account, and you think it’s performing reasonably well. Great! But how do you effectively report on such a huge amount of data? How do you make sure you’re reporting on things that your boss (or client) cares about?
Find out what matters
Work with key stakeholders to determine what metrics matter the most to the business. Are we driving profit, ROAS, or CPL?
Once we know what we should be reporting on, we can set up our report accordingly. Leave out unimportant metrics that just add clutter.
Set yourself up for reporting success
When building out campaigns, having a consistent naming structure allows for much easier reporting. Once you have this set up, you can easily use filters to group data (or, if you’re using Excel, SUMIFS).
Note: we typically use underscores to separate each portion of the campaign name, which makes for easy text-to-columns (or SPLIT if you’re using Google Sheets).
In addition to campaign naming, how you set up your Shopping campaigns will play a big role in your reporting endeavours.
Slice and Dice
When building meaningful reports, aim to have your report tell a story about your data. Think about the following:
- What products or categories are performing (or underperforming). Why? Is the price point better? Is the demand higher? How about the product pages on the site?
- How do your different campaign types or targeting methods compare to one another?
- Mobile vs Desktop vs Tablet?
Remember, try to think about the “why” for every report section!
Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGS): Yes or No?
A common approach to AdWords structure is the use of SKAGs, or single keyword ad groups. This can be a successful way to approach account structure, however for large accounts, SKAGs can really bog down an account manager’s day to day operations.
While the production and set up for SKAGs can be pretty streamline with the use of excel or other management platforms, the more you create, the more you need to manage. Your ability to make swift changes is severely hindered if you have tens of thousands of ad groups.
Here’s a scenario: You have 309 campaigns in your AdWords account, with 34,000 ad groups built out into SKAGs. It comes up at a strategy meeting that your boss would like to swap out current ad copy with some new language to test. It seems like a small ask on the surface. However, now in-between all your current responsibilities, you need to develop (if we’re staying within Google’s best practices), QA, launch & monitor over 90k ads. Can your Excel handle that large of a file? How can you ensure 100% accuracy with a quick turnaround?
Anything in Moderation
We’ve found a hybrid approach using SKAGS in addition to a more common tiered structural approach to be the best in terms of ease of management and performance. This would be using SKAGs for highly-competitive terms or top-revenue driving keywords to make sure these have ideal conditions.
Should I Segment Search & Shopping Into Separate Accounts?
One question that we get from our large ecommerce clients is “should we run search and shopping separately in their own accounts? When does it make sense to do this?”
Generally, this depends on the size of your account. If you have hundreds of each campaign type, it might make sense in terms of reporting, ease of management, and budgeting to separate them. If your account is on the medium/small side and you don’t have an abundance of products, keeping them all in one account makes the most sense.
How can I avoid keyword overlap?
Working on a new account, especially one with hundreds of campaigns, can be challenging in terms of making sure everything existing is up to common practices and functioning as intended.
Aside from analyzing keyword performance, it’s important to look at how your keywords work together. Keyword overlap is all too common and making sure search queries are being correctly mapped to the most relevant ad and landing page can make a huge difference. Here is an oversimplified keyword build:
Say someone searches [blue polo shirt]. Are your current negatives equipped to map this query correctly? If not, to get there you need to think of a hierarchy. Which portion of that query is most important or relevant? Is it more important for the ad to mention color or type?
In this example, showing the type of shirt is most important in my mind so there’s two “batches” of embedded negatives we need to create. First, is to address ad group level match type segmentation to make sure a query matching an exact keyword will always go to an exact ad group.
The second batch of negatives will address the hierarchy mentioned so that the query is matched to the most relevant qualifier.
Add a few more qualifiers in there such as gender or size and you can see this can get complicated really quick.
How Can I Handle All of the Data From My Large Account?
Your large ecommerce account likely has a ton of data. While having a large quantity of data can be very useful in terms of learning and optimization, it can be tricky to manipulate (raise your hand if you’ve had Excel crash multiple times while trying to make a pivot table).
Luckily we can get creative in how we’re pulling and organizing our data, along with what tools we are using to analyze and manipulate it.
Try filtering your data directly in the interface for a smaller download into Excel. Common filters we end up using are Brand vs. Non Brand, a specific category or product type, campaign type, etc.
Note that this only works really well if you have a solid campaign naming convention in place.
Labels are an excellent tool to organize your data!
Note – this can be cumbersome if your campaigns (or whatever it is you are downloading) are assigned to multiple labels.
Third Party Platforms
As an agency, we’ve worked with quite a few third party reporting and optimization platforms. This is where platforms such as Acquisio, Marin, Kenshoo, etc come into play.
One benefit of using these services is the ability to link with multiple ad platforms such as Google, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Reporting abilities typically come built in, and some of the dashboards are pretty slick.
You may be reading this thinking “great! Sign me up!” but hold on to your horses. The downsides of going this route include:
Price – be prepared to fork over some cash for a subscription
Usability – speed can also be an issue here, and often we run into issues when trying to export large amounts of data
If you are getting bogged down with slow platforms or tools (lookin at you, rainbow spinny wheel when Excel is about to crash) and are comfortable with a little code, RStudio can be a great option to manipulate your data. While this isn’t a super common tool in the PPC world – it’s extremely versatile and PPC managers would be well served to use it for their larger accounts.
There are several ways to get your data into RStudio, including:
– Have it read a .csv file
– Have it read from a Google Sheet
– Pull directly from the AdWords API (note: this requires an AdWords developer token)
Once you reference the data, there are tons of opportunities to slice, dice, and analyze to your heart’s content. In addition to manipulating data quickly, there also also some advantages to pulling things into RStudio that you can’t easily do in Excel. For example, this account is mainly comprised of single keyword ad groups, and we want to easily find which ad groups contain one keyword, label them, and then compare brand vs. non brand.
A simple script groups the data in an easy-to-read table:
If you prefer visuals, R has some great options for graphing:
R also has a variety of statistical analysis tools (which can be handy for landing page or ad tests!).
I won’t go into all of the code here, but if this interests you there are tons of free resources available online.
What Matters? Visualizing the Important Stuff
Reporting is an important aspect of PPC, as it allows us to show results. That said, it’s important that we are reporting on things that are important (no one wants to spend a long time sifting through a report). Divide your reporting into the following categories:
- Results / Important KPIs – these should be metrics that directly impact the business. Think Profit or ROI here, things that the C-level executives care about.
- Account Health – these are things that reflect the health of your PPC account. Think of things like CTR, impression share, etc. A C-level executive probably doesn’t care about these, but they are important for a PPC manager to keep tabs on.
A quick note on data visualization. We encourage that you take some time to pick the best graph or visual to represent your data, and be intentional about colors / fonts / graph design. You might be reporting awesome numbers, but if you don’t display them in a compelling way, the meaning may be lost. Remember, your visuals should tell a story with your audience in mind!
Let’s say you’re trying to get more budget to allocate to underperforming campaigns (they target different geographic areas). You’re presenting to the VP of marketing.
How can I put my time where it matters most?
Time management is the most important part of any account manager’s job and these are some actions we’ve taken to try and cut down those dreaded production hours.
Production for large accounts can be tedious between weekly promotions, new product launches or ad copy testing. We’ve found success in creating base templates for recurring production work.
The example above was created for a large retailer with over 1000 campaigns in their account. When events like Black Friday came along we had this tool in our belt to easily create unique and targeted promotional ad copy for the entire account.
Here’s an example of a dashboard we developed to provide a quick high-level view of KPIs of interest, and overall account health for an account that runs both search and shopping.
The section headers include: Time of Day Heatmap, top shopping queries to add in search, lowest performing shopping queries, top spend/converting products to segment and audience performance. Having a resource like this automatically updating every day can allow you to get a quick view into what matter most to your boss, without you having to dig into the interface on a daily basis.
SQRs are an integral part of our work. Keeping tabs on how all your campaigns are working together and where potential overlap, wasted spend or in-correct keyword mapping exists, plays a large role in performance. Here’s an example of an SQR tool we’ve created to provide several viewpoints that can be valuable to look at when doing a search query review, such as keyword overlap or high CPA queries.
Here’s an example of dynamic filters highlighted in yellow we use in each sheet to parse the data to look at metrics of interest.
Being able to automatically pull your data into a tool like this and have 5-6 different set ways to look into your search queries can save a lot of the tedious legwork.
How Can I Leverage Google Analytics?
Are the users that come through PPC finding what they want? The Site Search report can give you insight as to what users are searching once on your site.
What I like to do is create a flat table in a custom report, so I can view search term, the Google search query, the keyword, and the PPC campaign the user came through.
What should you do with this information? Well, if a user clicks an Ad in Campaign A, but lands on the site and searches for product B, you might need to rethink your campaign structure (maybe you’re using regular broad keywords, or need to add a few negatives).
Another neat use for this report is to get ideas for sitelinks. If you find that users are initially searching for X, but ultimately end up searching for and purchasing product Y, maybe adding product Y as a sitelink is a good test.
Of course, change that first filter parameter to contain your site’s cart URL.
Sessions with Transactions is also valuable in determining how purchasing customers are interacting with your site. Use this segment in conjunction with the Behavior Flow report.
One other segment you might want to check out is the Repeat Buyers (users who have had more than 1 transaction). What pages are they visiting? How long are they on the site? What are they purchasing?
Conversion segments are used in the Multi-Channel Funnels, and below is a screenshot of the default segments available:
If you would like a segment more tailored to your needs, feel free to create a new one. For example, you could create one segment for Mobile conversions, and one for Desktop conversions.
If you notice quite a bit of conversion volume comes through mobile traffic via email, it may be worth creating a remarketing list of email visitors, with ad copy tailored to mobile devices (i.e., “shop from your phone”).
How Can I Effectively Use Audiences?
There are lots of ways to creatively use audiences outside your typical all site visitor remarketing. Here are some audience ideas we’ve had success with in the past.
The common approach to remarketing is showing an ad of a specific product to a user who has visited that product’s page. Remarketing to people who’ve visited other areas of your site can be a good way to engage users at other stages of the funnel. Someone who is visiting a shipping & delivery page has made it to the consideration stage and it could be valuable to show these users specific content. Someone who has visited a ‘vision’ or ‘history’ page may be seeking more high-level information about the brand, where a general awareness remarketing tactic could be successful.
Cross-selling is a go-to way to increase the LTV of your customers and for brands with a loyal following, while using audiences to match or exclude certain user groups can be a great way to get in front of these users with the right message. For example, you’re a phone service provider who is looking to get current customers to add another line to their plan. You can take your list of converters and use a “target and bid” setting to only show ads to these users. To further narrow in this campaign, you can use audience exclusions for users who wouldn’t be eligible for adding a line, that are perhaps at the maximum amount of lines in their plan.
Using time-based audiences can be a great way to segment your users by engagement and then craft your message accordingly. Purchase Decisions can be made in minutes or months, depending on your product. Generally we recommend testing multiple different lengths against each other and adjusting your bids accordingly.
Outside of search, time-based audiences can be used in other interesting ways. If you’re doing brand awareness video advertising, you can choose to create audiences based on length of video watched. The idea here would be to continue showing highly engaged users different content slowly leading them down the path to purchase.
And there they are: the answers to your most-asked questions. We hope these solutions help you succeed in your ecommerce marketing, but don’t hesitate to contact us if you have more questions.