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How To Optimize Your Google AdWords Product Listing Ads

Google Product Listing Ads Product filters

The Google AdWords Product Listing Ads generally perform very well for most eCommerce retailers. You can read our guide on how to set up Product Listing Ads. Here are some extra tips to help you set up and optimize the campaign correctly.

Google Merchant Center

In your Google Merchant Center feed, you can add the following columns to help with Product Listing Ads.

adwords_grouping This field is used to group products. It can be used for Product Filters to limit your AdWords campaign to a specific group of products. This field can be useful if you want to bid differently on different subsets of products. It can only hold one value (i.e. “electronics” or “iphone”).
adwords_labels This field is very similar to adwords_grouping, but it will only only work on the CPC bidding model. It can hold multiple values, allowing a product to be tagged with multiple labels (i.e. “shoes, sneakers”).
adwords_publish This field is used to exclude select offers from Product Ads. If this field is not included or left blank, all product will be included in your product ads. If you want to exclude any items from being displayed you need to fill the column with a value of “true” or “false”.
adwords_redirect You can use this field to set the click URL of the Product Listing Ad. This comes in handy when you standard Merchant shopping feed has all the URLs tagged (i.e. ?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=CSE). By filling out this field with a plain URL with no tracking (i.e. http://www.merchant.com/product.html), your traffic/revenue will only be attributed to one source.

Google AdWords

Once you add these fields to your feed file, you can filter your campaigns by grouping and labels.
Google Product Listing Ads Product filters

You can find more info in the Google Help Center.

The Integration Of SEO & Social Media

Social Media Bandwagon

Craig Smith is the founder and CEO of Trinity Insight, a leading eCommerce consulting agency that provides multivariate testing.

Social Media Bandwagon

Social Media & SEO

Recently, major developments have taken place within search algorithms to weigh social signals as ranking factors. Social signals present additional cues which can be leveraged by search engines, and these elements have been incorporated as secondary datapoints to be utilized when engines decide which pages to rank at the top of the results.

The reason for this shift is pretty clear. Search engines have been dealing with the problem of link spam in link manipulation for years now. Outside of on-site HTML, search algorithms really do not have many other factors to weigh.

The secondary link market caused search results to rank that were less than ideal for Google. The engines know that the competitive advantage they have is primarily attributed to query relevance.

Relevance is the key to everything that happens within Google’s business. If Google doesn’t give you, as a user, a phenomenal experience by providing accurate and quality solutions to the questions you pose within the search engine, you will simply use another engine and click on their paid listings.

Because AdWords (i.e. Paid Search) makes up over 90% of Google’s revenue this is clearly something that they protect as their number one strategic initiative, keeping their listings more relevant than any other search engine on the market.

Spammers and manipulated links are the number one threat to Google’s relevancy. For so many competitive listings, there are sites that are clearly built on scraped content, that have been manufactured solely for the purpose of generating affiliate revenue, and that have achieved top search engine rankings through link manipulation techniques.

Many of these sites were eliminated from the search engine results with the panda update that took place earlier in 2011, but still, many sites that present a less than ideal user experience are frequently at the top of Google’s search engine results.

In my opinion, Google realized that they had to add additional variables to their internal ranking algorithms to ensure that relevancy not only improves, but also that the additional garbage content that exists on the web is eliminated. The social web that exists in a high percentage of overall internet traffic, provides exactly what Google needs to supplement their existing page rank algorithm.

Facebook and Twitter are the two principle components of what I am calling the social web. The social web is the interconnection between humans that serves as a filter for content.

Because humans pass content that is of value, and that also provides connections on an emotional level, or for some type of learning experience, search engines can take these user actions of sharing and incorporate these “signals” into the link driven ranking algorithms that exist today.

What Should You Do?

So what are you to do as a marketer? Well, the first plan of attack should be to isolate the influencers that exist within the social web for your marketplace. Document the publishers, the URLs, and the specific Facebook pages or groups that have high levels of interactivity, and three occasions for the search terms they were targeting.

Next it’s time to look at your content. What content do you have on your domain that is of high value? What content do you have that will help answer questions or comments within prospects’ minds in your market? Document these pieces of content as these are the two types that you will be seeding in Facebook and Twitter.

If you don’t have content that is of high value, then you need to create it. Your SEO success will not proceed without your site being a leader in targeted copy that is geared for your prospects.

Conducting a proper keyword research effort, will help you understand what you need to write about. Schedule a marketing campaign and content distribution strategy that touches upon all of these categories and subcategories.

Lastly, after your content has been created, it’s time to engage. An analyst or representative of the organization will need to interact in social communities that are discussing the topical areas you are targeting within your SEO efforts.

You will want to present your content as solutions to questions within the social setting. The key is not being a salesman of any kind, but rather, a trusted individual that helps provide perspectives and insights to solving problems that users have. Don’t optimize anchor text, just present URLs as solutions to user questions.

By interacting in these discussions and communities not only will your brand receive increased exposure for prospects in your market, but Google and other search engines will see your content as a trusted resource as you are helping provide solutions to web users. This is exactly what Google wants you to do and your search engine rankings will benefit.

Best of luck within your SEO efforts!

Image Credit: Matt Hamm

Two Years Old

Tomorrow is two years since I published the first post on eCommerceCircle. A lot has changed since then… I have since dropped the pseudonym Michael J. Kaye and started using my name, Menachem Ani. During this time I stopped spelling “E-Commerce” with a dash and switched to the easier “eCommerce.”

Over the past couple of years I have added some new sections, such as:

  • eCommerce Links – a roundup of eCommerce links from some great eCommerce blogs
  • eCommerce Resources – a directory of useful eCommerce tools and services
  • Subscribe Via Email – ability to receive the latest posts via email

As always, you can view a full list of posts on eCommerceCircle on our sitemap.

eCommerceCircle would be nowhere without people reading it… So thanks to all my readers who brought this site from zero to 10,000 monthly pageviews. Hopefully that number will keep growing…

Thanks for reading and please let me know what eCommerceCircle is to you…

How eCommerce Merchants Can Increase A Customer’s Lifetime Value With AutoResponders

Jimmy Rodriguez is CTO and co-founder of 3DCart, developer of an e-commerce suite for businesses of all sizes. 3dcart just rolled out 3dcart 4.0 and with it we offered all merchants autoresponders free of charge. As an authority on e-commerce best practices, Jimmy combines more than 8 years as an e-commerce developer and web programmer with SEO, social marketing and business intelligence

Customer acquisition efforts are time-consuming. Online merchants spend hours upon hours exploring every possible channel to gain new customers – PPC, content marketing, social ads, banners, affiliate marketing etc. Acquiring new customers isn’t getting easier and as most eCommerce merchants know the process isn’t getting cheaper either.

Basic economics tells us that in order to be profitable, the amount of money spent on acquiring a customer (investment) must be less than the customer’s value (return). If I spend $100 to find a customer, the customer has to purchase $100 at my store just so I break even. The equation is simple, but some merchants feel they only are able to affect the investment as the return is in the hands of the customer. They attempt to lower their customer acquisition cost (CAC) by choosing inexpensive methods like bidding on lower value keywords that have a lower cost per click. More often than not, those methods are also less effective and result in much lower conversion rates – leaving them in the same mathematical dilemma as before.

Don’t be discouraged. CAC investments are well-worth the expense if the lifetime value of the acquired customer is raised or simply put, your return will be greater if the acquired customer purchases from your store multiple times. If I spend $100 to gain a customer and that customer purchases $50 dollars worth of merchandise (an even lower amount than the previous example) and continues to do so every 2 months, I have a 500% return on my investment! When you turn one-time customers into loyal shoppers, your advertising dollars go farther, you increase your campaign ROI and you can double your bottom line with no additional work.

How to raise the lifetime value of your online customers:

The key to offline sales remains true with online sales: following up with a client is just as important as the initial pitch. In eCommerce following-up with an existing customer, or “back-end selling” is just as important as attracting the customer in the first place. Instead of scrambling to find new customer after new customer, connect with shoppers who you already know want your merchandise & trust your brand – your existing customers.

Following up with existing customers with email marketing frees merchants from the lead generation rat race. According to research conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing was expected to generate an ROI of $42.08 for every dollar spent on it in 2010. Email marketing allows eCommerce merchants to maximize on their existing community and create a network of loyal shoppers and with auto-responders merchants can can set the efforts on auto-pilot.

What is an “auto responder?”

An autoresponder campaign is a series of messages programmed to send out automatically based on a predetermined schedule. Unlike traditional newsletters, autoresponder’s send out a finite number of emails as a part of a campaign.

Autoresponders make email marketing as easy as “set and forget.” Think of autoresponders as your personal email secretary. While you focus on growing business (and filling all of your new orders), your autorespond secretary is busy emailing personalized messages to customers, increasing conversions, and gaining loyal shoppers.

Setting up a successful Autoresponder Campaign:

Post-Sale Welcome Autoresponders

When a customer completes their first purchase from your site, welcome the user by expressing appreciation for their business and introducing your company with a sentence or two.

A post-sale message should focus on building trust and establishing a relationship, rather than trying to upsell. When wording your message, be personal & authentic and avoid cliches. Friendly ‘welcome’ messages excite customers & encourage return visits!

Post-Sale Follow-up Autoresponders

A typical autoresponder follow-up campaign sends a customer 2-4 emails over a period of 2-4 weeks post-purchase, but frequency varies depending on your audience’s profile.

Consider offering “welcome back” return discount or suggest products based on the customer’s past orders. The more personal & incentivized the message, the higher the conversion rate!

Activity-based Autoresponders

Set up multiple autoresponder campaigns for specific customer activities. For example, you can create separate message campaigns based on:

  • The type of customers : wholesalers versus retailers
  • Customers who purchase more than the average order amount. (Say Thank you!)
  • Customers who purchased a specific product from your store to offer add-ons, up-sells and new models.

Activity-based autoresponders allow eCommerce merchants to create highly targeted messaging. The more specialized the message is to the user, the more effective the email.

Read more about autoresponders on 3dcart’s blog.

Image Credit: larskflem

7 Free Advertising Channels For eCommerce Retailers

How do you get more traffic to your eCommerce store? Advertising can be costly… Here is a list of 7 free comparison shopping engines which you should utilize to get free traffic to your store.

#1 – Google Shopping

Google Shopping is the king of free comparison shopping engines. It sends the most traffic out of all the CSEs listed in the post. You will need to create and account and submit a feed using the Google Merchant Center.

#2 – Bing Shopping

Bing Shopping is the Bing alternative to Google Shopping. Although they have less market-share, free is free. You’ll want to get set up here as well. NOTE: Bing has placed a temporary hold on new merchant signups, keep your eye on this page for updates. When they do allow new merchant signups, use this guide to setup an account within adCenter.

#3 – TheFind

TheFind.com has been growing quite a lot over the past year. Their model allows you to list your product for free. If you add their UpFront badge to your site, you will get better placement. Sign up at TheFind.com Merchant Center.

#4 – Oodle

Oodle is not really a comparison shopping engine, it is more of a classified listing site. However, they allow you to upload your product catalog via FTP with a datafeed, so you may as well submit your products here.

#5 – SortPrice

SortPrice has a different model from all other comparison shopping engines. They charge a flat fee for every merchant and you get whatever clicks you get. In addition to this, they offer to list a percentage of your products for free. More info is here.

#6 – ShopMania

ShopMania offers a free account with the option to upgrade to their premium packages. The free plan can only be used if you install their “We’re listed on ShopMania” site seal. Sign up and get more info here. ShopMania also offers a free Facebook Store for merchants listed on their program.

#7 – GoShopping

GoShopping.com is similar to ShopMania, they offer to list your products for free if you install their badge on your site. You can sign up here.

How To Add The Google Plus One Button For Magento [+1]

Introduction: What is the Google +1 Button?

Until someone creates a Magento extension for the Google +1 button, like there is for the Facebook Like button, here is a quick and easy way to add it to your Magento store in two steps:

Step #1

Add the JavaScript code to your Magento config: System –> Configuration –> Design –> HTML Head –> Miscellaneous Scripts.

<script src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Step #2

Place this tag in your template phtml files where you want the +1 button to render (example location: /app/design/frontend/XXXXXX/XXXXXX/template/page/html/header.phtml)

<g:plusone></g:plusone>

Please Note: Google has several styles of this button, you can select the proper code when you get the code here.

Today’s eCommerce Links

A Guide To Selecting Shopping Cart Software For Your eCommerce Store

This post has been submitted by PixelCrayons. PixelCrayons is a creative web design and development agency that specializes in providing custom web design and development, PSD to HTML, Content Management System and ecommerce solutions.

An e-commerce solution has become the utmost requirement of every business website. It is rather indispensable. Without a good e-commerce shopping cart, an e-commerce website is incomplete and can’t expect good returns in terms of traffic, sales, ranking and ROI. There is plethora of e-commerce solutions available in the market. However, selecting the right e-commerce shopping cart software can be a daunting task. Planning for a shopping cart is very important. This is because e-commerce significantly affects your website’s layout and available features. Therefore, it is important to have an e-commerce shopping cart that not only offers the required features but also meets other important criteria. Here is a complete guide to selecting the right shopping cart for your e-commerce store.

If you are considering creating a shopping cart on your own, then mind it, it is very complicated, time consuming and a lengthy task. Also, it requires proper knowledge of various technologies. There are a number of viable shopping carts available commercially. Thus buying would be much better than spending both your time and resources on creating one on your own. The commercially available shopping carts range from free to price ones.

An important point to consider before buying a shopping cart is- do you want to integrate with an existing website or start from scratch. There are some shopping carts that are simple and handle only the check out process. Such shopping carts require you to simply add snippets of code to your existing pages. Thus this type of shopping cart is best for those who are looking for an e-commerce solution for their existing website. But if you are starting from the scratch, you may want to have a more complex and customized system. Shopping carts that can create your product pages are extremely useful when changing product information, adding new products or deleting products.

Next point to consider is- what all features do you need in a shopping cart? Just like every business operates differently, their requirements also vary. Every online store is unique. It has to be. Visitors prefer user friendly and attractive online stores. Although, depending on your business, you many need a shopping cart with only basic functions or you may need all the attention grabbing features of a big e-commerce website. This depends entirely on you to determine the type of features you want in your online store. This will help you utilize both time and resources. It is better to decide before hand than to repent later. It can be really frustrating to be half-way done integrating a cart into your website only to find that it does not support a necessary feature.

Some of the essential features an e-commerce store should have are

  • It should support dynamic product/page creation.
  • Ensure that it is database-driven
  • It should provide options like user registration, coupon codes, product reviews, product options etc.
  • It should provide affiliate tracking and inventory tracking
  • It should have shipping integration
  • It should be template driven
  • It should have features like order management/editing and product categories and sub categories.
  • It should support multiple currencies and multiple payment processors

The technical aspects also require some consideration. There are many shopping carts that require you to host the site on their servers. Hence, if you already have a website, it would not be a viable option for you especially if you have paid for a year of hosting in advance. Before installing the shopping cart, ensure that it is compatible with your hosting. An alternative is to get hosting that is compatible with your shopping cart. An ASP/MS SQL shopping cart will not work on a Linux web server (and vice versa). Make sure your web server meets all the listed requirements before purchasing the software. Ask the host service if they can install the missing components for you.

Price is also an important factor. The prices of shopping carts range from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is important to make sure that the solution you choose meets all your needs. However, refrain from going overboard. You may end up spending a hefty amount on a solution that you may not need so much. At the same time, do not go for the free solutions either. This is because most free of cost shopping carts are developed by programmers on part time basis and some of them are not updated for months or even years. If you plan to go with the free shopping cart, make sure that there is adequate support from either the developers or other users online. Also ensure that bugs or security issues are addressed immediately.

Scalability counts a lot. When one starts with an online store, one has plans to make it big and turn the store into an internationally recognized store. For this, it is mandatory that the shopping cart is scalable and can handle a large number of orders and visitors simultaneously. Also make sure that it has all the features you will need, or that you can upgrade to a more advanced version if needed.

Also look out for the technical support available. You will need assistance for either setting up or installing, configuring or maybe customizing the cart to fit your website. If an error appears, it also needs to be debugged. Therefore, ensure that there is quick support because a small delay can lead to a significant number of lost sales (and revenues).

From the above mentioned points, it is clear that it requires a lot of factors to be considered while looking for a shopping cart for your e-commerce site. It is important to analyze the requirements and then proceed with the process of searching for a shopping cart. Keeping the above mentioned points in mind will help you to select the right shopping cart for you website.

Image Credit: The Rocketeer

Google AdWords Will No Longer Display Google Checkout Logos

Google AdWords/Google Checkout Badge


Google has recently decided that displaying the Google Checkout logos by all merchant who accept the payment method makes the SERPs look cluttered. Google will stop displaying the Checkout logo as of tomorrow, June 2. Below is an email we received from Google:

Hello,

Please be aware that beginning on June 2, 2011, the Google Checkout badge will no longer appear on your ads on Google search results.

We’re making this change to improve the user experience on Google search results pages.

For more information, please visit https://checkout.google.com/support/sell/bin/answer.py?answer=1323905

Sincerely,

The Google Checkout Team