Angie Pascale – The BigCommerce Blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:41:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Angie Pascale – The BigCommerce Blog 32 32 9 Tips for Optimizing Your Google Product Listing Ad Campaigns Wed, 04 May 2016 11:01:10 +0000 Google Shopping Ads, also called Product Listings Ads (PLAs), are an efficient and affordable way to drives sales for your…]]>

product listing ad tips

Google Shopping Ads, also called Product Listings Ads (PLAs), are an efficient and affordable way to drives sales for your business. PLAs help to capture customers at their moment of shopping intent due to their prominent placement on search results pages and their more visual format.

Google Shopping campaigns are often lumped in with traditional paid search campaigns, but they’re actually quite different. Yes, they’re based on a cost per click pricing model. And yes, they can be managed within the AdWords interface. But that’s really where the similarities end.

To be successful with Product Listing Ad campaigns, you need a unique strategy and specific tactics to complement the other marketing campaigns you undergo in your ecommerce platform. Before we get into some of these different approaches, let’s first learn more about PLAs.

What are PLAs?

Product listing Ads are targeted by products and product categories, not keywords. Advertisers set a bid on a product, and then Google decides which keywords are relevant. How Google decides what is relevant is based on information submitted through a data feed. This data feed includes loads of information, such as product name, category, image, pricing, color, size, availability, brand and description.

PLAs display at the top and in the upper right corner of search results. Now that Google has removed right side ads from desktop search results, PLAs are the only ads that show in this position.

Google Shopping - 2 Person Tent

Google PLAs displaying at the top of search results.

Google Shopping - Womens Bike Saddle

Google PLAs displaying in the upper right corner of search results. As of February 2016, these are the only type of ads that show in this position on desktop.

The data feed for PLA campaigns must be submitted through Google Merchant Center. After linking your Merchant Center and AdWords accounts, you can then set up campaigns and ad groups within AdWords.

Now that you understand what Product Listing Ads are, let’s talk about how to make them work for your business.

Here are nine tips for managing and optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns to improve performance.

1. Larger Feeds Get Better Exposure

The more products in your feed, the quicker Google is in picking it up and showing your products. Smaller feeds (i.e., less than 500 products) can still show in Google Shopping, but may not have the impact that a larger feed would.

If you only have a few items from your product catalog, start with a single ad group, rather than breaking out the account into multiple ad groups or product categories. This will help you determine if Google Shopping is right for you because you can better track and optimize performance through this single ad group.

2. Optimize Your Feed with Common SEO Tactics

Because you aren’t bidding on keywords for product ads, you don’t have full control of when Google will show them. You do have control, however, over the content found within your data feed. Here you can modify the product title, description and product type to include relevant terms.

Much like with SEO, the title is the most important element. In your campaigns (or using a feed manager), consider including brand name, color, size and material in the product title. Be careful not to keyword-stuff, though. Instead, make sure your title (as well as description) are clear, descriptive and useful for the customer.

Google Shopping - Feed Title Optimization

Example of a Google PLA where the product title has been optimized to contain brand, style, color, size and product details.

3. Include Negative Keywords

While you can’t select keywords that your product listing ads should show on, you can add negative keywords to indicate which they should not show on. Start by adding known irrelevant terms, then continue to review your search terms report to identify low performing terms. Negative keywords can be used at the campaign level, or added to specific ad groups.

Let’s say you sell shoes for women, but not men’s or kids shoes. You would want to add [-mens], [-male], [-kids] and [-childrens] to your negative keyword list so your product listings don’t show for queries with these terms.

An easy place to start is borrowing some of the negative match tactics used in your Adwords ads.

Add Negative Keywords - Google Shopping

Add negative keywords at the campaign level, as shown here, or the ad group level.

4. Focus on Best Selling Products

This one is somewhat of a no-brainer. You should focus efforts on your best selling products. Consult your BigCommerce analytics or Google Analytics data to see which products are selling well. Add these best sellers to a specific ad group and raise the bids to increase exposure of these popular and profitable products.

If a product isn’t performing well in Google Shopping, remove it from it’s current category and place in a new ad group with a lower bid.

Top Performing Products

Start by looking in the “Products” section of AdWords to find top or lowest performing products, which may be placed in separate ad groups for modified bids.

5. Send Your Feed to Google Every Day

Providing your product data feed to Google on a daily basis will ensure that all information is current and accurate. This can help to increase likelihood of placement, as Google favors merchants that provide consistent and clean data. It also creates a better experience for searchers, making sure that the information they see in the ad is the same information they see when they click through to your site.

Add Google Product Feed

Set up scheduled fetches so that Google automatically pulls and updates your product information throughout the day.

6. Strategically Select Your Product Images

Ensure that each product has a relevant, targeted image. Use photos that differentiate your product from others listed in Google Shopping ads, helping your ad stand out among the competition.

Google Shopping - Bikes

Notice how the highlighted ad contains background details, making it stand out among the other bike that are on a simple white background.

7. Optimize Feed for Automated Extensions

Last August, Google announced the release of automated extensions that show promotional messaging in PLAs. Automated extensions use information you submit to Merchant Center and through your data feed to show free shipping or price drops. Ensuring these messages can be found in your feed will increase likelihood of extensions being added to your ads.

It’s possible to add other types of promotional messages, such as % off or BOGO. To do this, however, you must follow some strict guidelines and request access from Google.

8. Make Yourself Eligible for Ratings & Review Count

Sometimes Google will show a star rating and review count under the product title in PLAs. These ratings can help make your ad stand out, and showcase the quality of your product. The ratings and reviews are aggregated from multiple sources, such as your site, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users.

Google Shopping - Ratings & Reviews

Example of PLAs with ratings and review count included.

For a rating to show on your ad, you must have at least three reviews on any single product, and at least 50 reviews across all products. By asking your customers to leave reviews on various sites, you can grow the overall count and make yourself eligible for this benefit. Once you’ve amassed enough reviews to be eligible, you must send a request to Google to have reviews added.

9. Make Sure to Include GTINs

Beginning on May 16, Google is requiring that all retailers provide Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN), more commonly known as UPCs in the United States, on all new in-stock products advertised through Shopping campaigns. Google states that GTINs help them determine the exact product and brand being sold, and thus increase exposure because they have more details on the product.

If you source products from local or boutique manufacturers that do not have GTINs, however, you may not be able to run Google Shopping campaigns. They’ve stated that handmade or fully custom products would not need these identifiers, but we won’t know for sure until after the new rules go into effect in mid May.

Product Listing Ads are a great complement to your existing AdWords campaigns. By following these nine tips, you can have better success at driving more customers to your site and increasing sales.

Have you seen particular success with a Product Listing Ad campaign? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Flickr, Jon Russell

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How to Reach the Right Audience with Digital Marketing Thu, 11 Feb 2016 14:21:08 +0000 You can have the most aesthetically appealing online store with easy navigation, the highest quality products backed by top-notch customer…]]>

You can have the most aesthetically appealing online store with easy navigation, the highest quality products backed by top-notch customer service and bottomless pockets when it comes to marketing budget. Yet, none of this matters if you aren’t reaching and engaging the right audience for your brand.

In order to drive the right traffic to your online store and increase sales, you first need to define what a qualified audience is for your brand. You want to determine who they are, what they value and how they use each channel at the various stages of their purchase journey, from interest and validation through to decision and advocacy.

Following are four ways you can identify and engage the right audience with digital marketing.

1. Learn What’s Important to Your Audience


As marketers and business operators, we have near limitless amounts of data at our fingertips. Google Analytics and Search Console can tell us how people find our store and what they do upon arriving. Facebook Insights and Ad Manager can tell us the age, location, relationship status, interests and behaviors of our fans and customers. Social media listening tools can tell us what customers think about our company and products, and what other topics are interesting to them.

Use these tools to unearth insights about your audience’s demographic and psychographic profiles to gain a better understanding of what is most important and interesting. There are multiple tools that easily integrate with the Bigcommerce backend that can help out in this arena. These tools use your store data as well as data from connected accounts (Facebook Power Editor, for instance) and then retarget or push ads out to pull additional clients back to your site.

Here are a few you can try:

  • Kit: This integration works best if you already have Yotpo installed. When a customer positively reviews your item, Kit will send you a text asking if you want to turn the review into a product ad on Facebook. Social proof or user-generated content (UGC) ads have been proven to increase ad click-through by 300% and reduce both cost per click and cost per acquisition by 50%. Combine this with data regarding your target audience, and the potential returns are monumental.
  • Sokrati Shops, Facebook Dynamic Product Ads: This integration uses an algorithm to predict potential individual product conversion rate and demand from Facebook users. It then optimizes ads using product groupings, tailoring those ads to niche advertising audiences on Facebook. The goal is to increase Facebook advertising ROI for your brand –– with minimal work or upkeep on your part.
  • Sokrati Shops, Instagram Ads: This integration works similarly to the one above, using an algorithm to determine which products on your site will perform best on Instagram. It also calculates ROI for you, repositioning ads or product groupings based on click-through rate to ensure the most possible traffic is pushed back to your site from the ad.
  • Retargeting by Yahoo: Only 2% of your visitors will end up buying on their first visit to your online store. Recover the other 98% with this retargeting integration. Reach lost prospects who have left your site and recover lost sales with retargeting display ads. This integration allows you to pre-set fields so professional and dynamic product ads are automatically for your campaign, using your logo and product images and adhering to your brand aesthetic. Read more retargeting campaign tips here.

2. Speak Your Audience’s Language


You’ll never get through to Belieber tween girls if you’re using an extremely formal tone. And you’ll likely ostracize male boomer sports car fanatics with flowery prose and exclamation points. To relate to and connect with your audience, you need to speak their language. That means not only using the appropriate voice and tone, but also peppering in actual words and phrases they use.

Through an extensive ethnographic study for a woman’s apparel brand, our team learned that numerous customers used the term “darling” to describe their clothing products. We began using this term in advertising creative and social media conversations to better connect with their customers and immediately saw an increase in the campaign’s click-through rate.

You don’t need a large-scale and lengthy study like this to uncover these common phrases however. Simply using social media listening tools or manual monitoring of social media conversations can reveal your audience’s common dialect. We often use Tweetdeck and hop on the phone with customers regularly to hear them speak about their business and our product naturally –– and then incorporate that verbiage into specific campaigns.

3. Know Your Organic Keywords

Organic search is typically the largest source of traffic for any website. It’s important to understand not only what terms are bringing folks to your store, but why those terms are being used and what stage those audience members are in. Keywords typically fall into three main categories:

3 Types of Organic Keywords

  • Informational Keywords: Used to find broader topics or items. The user probably doesn’t know what they want or need just yet. They’re still researching. This is your opportunity to be helpful and/or interesting, increasing likelihood that you’ll be considered when they are ready to purchase.
  • Navigational Keywords: Used to find a specific website or product. For example, they may be searching for your brand name, or a specific product you carry. These users have likely already done their research or know exactly what they want, but may not be ready to purchase just yet. Or, they may be existing customers coming back for a repeat purchase.
  • Transactional Keywords: Used to find a product to purchase. For example, “buy bicycle tires.” The user is either ready to purchase immediately or well on their way.

By identifying relevant search terms and the user intent behind them, you can develop content to better address your audience’s need. Informational content is often found in blog posts, FAQs, learning centers or resource sections. Navigational and transactional content is found in product category pages and product pages.

You can use tools like Ahrefs or BuzzSumo to do some research on which other sites are currently occupying the leading spots on a search term. These platforms will show you number of linkbacks, publisher, date of publishing and more. Do a bit of research into what your competitors or what the most successful brands out there are doing –– and then recreate it with your own branded tone and style.

4. Stay Top of Mind with Retargeting

When customers reach your store early in their purchase journey — whether they come from an informational keyword search, guest blog post link, display ad or any other means — they’re likely not going to make a purchase that visit. That’s expected and it’s okay. You can remain in the consideration phase and bring those customers back to your store through retargeting efforts.

70 Percent More Likely To Convert with Retargeting


Numerous digital channels offer retargeting campaign options. You can use AdWords to run search retargeting, Google Display Network or a DSP, or Facebook for retargeting on desktop and mobile devices. Knowing who your audience is and what channels they use will help you decide what the best channels are for your retargeting initiatives. The list of integrations above is helpful for determining channel ROI from advertising efforts and can be a great starting point in figuring out where retargeting might most make sense for your brand.

Gaining a deep understanding of who your customers are and what motivates them will help you define a more qualified audience. Only then can you use digital channels to reach that audience, and drive higher quality traffic, improve on-site engagement and, most importantly, increase sales.

Have any questions or tips? Share them in the comments below.

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The Purchase Sieve: How Customer Behavior is Changing and What Your Business Should Do About It Fri, 22 Jan 2016 11:26:30 +0000 The concept of the purchase funnel, the theoretical movement of a consumer from initial awareness of a brand or product…]]>

The concept of the purchase funnel, the theoretical movement of a consumer from initial awareness of a brand or product through to a point of action or sale, has been around for a long time. First introduced in 1898, this linear model typically has four touch points –– awareness, interest, desire and action (AIDA) –– and has served brands and marketers well for nearly a century. However, with the growth of the internet, introduction of new digital channels and ubiquity of smart devices, this linear and truncated model is no longer applicable to today’s consumer.

AIDA Customer Journey Model

The AIDA purchase funnel model introduced by E. St. Elmo Lewis in the late 1800s.

Today, there are several more stages in any consumer’s path, and these stages can vary significantly depending on the brand, product and target audience. The path is no longer linear. Instead, consumers are jumping around from stage to stage and channel to channel. And traffic doesn’t neatly siphon into your website in a straight line. Instead, it permeates as if being put through a sieve, coming from myriad channels, at numerous points in their readiness to make a purchase.

So how can your brand account for this new purchase sieve? Use the four tips below to address today’s varying and uncertain customer journey.

1. Learn About Your Audience

Knowing who your audience is, their mindset and what they need at the various stages will help you reach and engage them at every touch point. Use analytics data and webmaster tools to understand how people find your site and what they do once there. Use social graph data and social listening tools to understand your audience’s interests, behaviors and perception of your brand and products. Use customer surveys to gather demographic and psychographic data, and ask specific questions about their needs, desires and behaviors. Talk with folks on the front lines of your business –– your sales and customer support teams –– to learn about common complaints, emotional triggers and brand perception.

Use customer surveys to gather demographic and psychographic data.
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You may find that you have several audience types and some that differ quite a bit. That’s OK. You can choose to focus on one specific audience that provides the best opportunity for return, or you can select a few audiences on which you’ll concentrate.

2. Determine Where to Reach Them and What to Say

Once you have a good understanding of who your audience is and what makes them tick, you need to identify the different channels they use at every step. From there, define the types of content needed for each channel. Finally, identify the most appropriate brand message for each audience, stage, channel and format.

It’s useful to create a framework for each audience member to better organize and plan for their journeys. Map the stages of their journey across the top of the framework. These will be specific to each unique audience persona, but you can start with the following five: interest, research, validation, decision, advocacy. Then map the following elements in the leftmost column: customer mindset, customer need, channels used, content needed and brand message. Use the following image as a guide.

Customer Journey Framework

3. Don’t Run Channels in Isolation

Customers don’t distinguish your website from your brick-and-mortar store or your mobile app from your Facebook page. They see them all as one brand environment, and so should you. Even if you have different teams managing these different channels, you need to ensure a consistent and seamless experience across all channels.

Be sure to take an integrated approach across owned, earned and paid media channels.
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Be sure to take an integrated approach across owned, earned and paid media channels, both online and off. Utilize your customer journey framework to guide this cross-channel mix, and leverage marketing automation tools to remove the guesswork.

4. Get Comfortable with Change

The digital landscape is continually evolving, causing customer behavior and expectations to change. For years it was known that people used their smartphones for research only but didn’t make purchases. However, mobile sales exceeded desktop this past Black Friday, according to IBM.

Mobile Sales Overtake Desktop

Source: IBM 2015 Black Friday Infographic

To continue reaching modern consumers and sustain business growth, you need to embrace this changing landscape. Create an environment of innovation within your business, empowering employees to test new channels and try different approaches. Fortunately, there is a wealth of data to show what’s working and what’s not almost instantaneously, allowing you to be nimble and adaptive.

As technologies have advanced, new channels have emerged and consumer behavior has changed over the last few years, the venerable purchase funnel has become more of a purchase sieve. Being open to this change, and knowing who your audience is and how you can reach, engage and retain them will help your business remain current and successful in the evolving digital landscape.

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