Elizabeth Marsten // Aug 20 2012
Rick is the CEO and Co-Founder of CPC Strategy, a comparison shopping engine management company started in 2007. They take client feeds across multiple platforms (Amazon, Nextag, PriceGrabber, etc;) and optimize them for ROI through strategy, attention to detail and expertise in CSEs (comparison shopping engines.)
Rick was kind enough to let me ask a LOT of questions that required anywhere from a sentence to a small novella to answer. I’ve tried to capture that interview here for all those paid search marketers out there who are either about to get themselves dropped into the middle of a PLA world and for those that might know some already but could really use some direction on how to get to PLAs perform. And probably most importantly, what you’re going to need to know to make that happen.
(Now this isn’t word for word. Otherwise we’d be here all day. It was an hour long interview, there are a couple of answers I put in verbatim because they were THAT important.)
Tweaking product titles, descriptions, adding keywords- it doesn’t always have benefits. The feed needs to match the product pages. So- don’t go adding a bunch of general terms to specific products. This used to work decently on those free engines, like Google Shopping, but now you are paying for the traffic, so make it relevant! Volume doesn’t equal ROI.
All these different CSEs have different category structures. You can’t treat them all exactly the same. Categorize it smart, pay attention.
For example, a profit margin of X or a price of X. (Sound familiar? Like keyword list management, perhaps?) For the long term trends of month over month, they looks at category level bidding as well as brand and sub-categories, placing them in different “price buckets” to get a bigger picture look.
Another takeaway: Use average order value to determine which products long term- on whether or not you can scale out that traffic at a profitable rate or whether or not you should take away a product from the feed.
Note: there is such a thing as a “runaway product.” Products that are really popular, show a lot, fast and start showing up for general searches, generating lots of un-fun unqualified traffic.
Just like a rogue keyword.
Takeaway: append URLs at the product level. Amazon, NexTag, whatever so that the analytics system of your choice picks up activity on a per product basis.
The trick is figuring out the proper strategy for each client. For example, segmenting by highest margin, best sellers, average order value.
“You have to control the feed. That’s the hard part. So that’s where AdWords agencies are kind of getting screwed to a certain extent. If you don’t control the feed it’s going to really limit your ability to manage the campaign. And so you can still use the brand and product type columns but if you control the feed you can you can use that AdWords labels to segment however you want. And so if you’re already managing their AdWords then you know about a lot of ways that you could segment the feed, if you’re managing their SEO you know a lot about ways that you could segment the feed. And to not have control over the feed, from an agency perspective it creates a lot of challenges.”
Follow up question: So for the product type category- what do you do with that?
A: Don’t duplicate Google’s category, mimic it. Get close to Google’s taxonomy suggestions, it’s OK to get a bit closer to your own internal site categories/sub categories than theirs.
Another follow up question: So why that column even exist? In my experience, clients are befuddled by it and often mix them up as to which is which and rarely understand that one is dictated by Google through their taxonomy and one is not, it just has to follow the > carrot > structure.
Speculation Answer: Other CSEs don’t require that. Perhaps originally Google wanted to have as much information from the site as possible. (We agreed that this could/should be retired in the future, in order to avoid duplication and “lower barriers to entry” from a technical standpoint.)
This is why AdWords labels is so important to segment traffic. The product type and brand attributes don’t give you enough flexibility for bids and it isn’t beneficial to do that. You don’t need a ton of ad groups within a PLA campaign if you’re using that label.
“One thing that I will say that’s really important that I don’t think most people realize right now is that the default bids at the ad group level will not override the higher bid on all products.”
For example you have a .50max CPC on all products and you have ad groups for brands and those brands have .20CPC and .30CPC. Google is going to default to the 0.50CPC for all products.
You want to start with a low bid on all products and up the bids through auto targets. It’s not intuitive.
For major hypothetical example: Google says “we’re not going to show any PLAs for a retailer with a data feed quality score below 75.” And your retailer has a 72. Which would mean then they are not eligible for PLAs as the quality of the feeds isn’t high enough to show to their users independent of bids.
So supposedly, the higher they are rating your feed, the lower you have to bid to compete for that real estate. (Sound familiar, anyone?)
There’s a feed rating (data quality score), the advertiser level rating and the bid and all three are playing a role. The data quality score takes into account your product pages as well. Google is matching up the content from your feed to your product pages and assigning it some sort of score with a goal of showing the most relevant advertisers for user experience.
And no, you can’t see what that score is.
Google just started publicly saying that your data feed quality can have an impact on your relevancy. Don’t be surprised if long term there was some sort of metric that was released either in AdWords or Merchant Center that shows you what your data quality score is. Right now it’s just something they use internally and is not public. (We have seen where our clients have improved the amount of content on their landing pages and replicated those improvements in their data feed and their traffic did go up.)
We are not an AdWords agency, but this is going to become a bigger branch of AdWords revenue and in some cases we’re working closely with agencies and managing PLAs for clients that already have a PPC vendor. We’re in a good position to manage PLAs for clients but the PPC vendor knows way more about how to manage AdWords campaigns.
We take the feed from the clients (mostly via automated FTP) once every 24hours. Most of clients are changing their pricing and inventory every day, clients that do monthly changes- we don’t need a new feed every day. However, we do still submit every day for that “freshness factor” that CSEs take into account, you really should submit your feed everyday even if you’re not making changing it. We also use the CSEs tracking pixels in conjunction with GA for Shopzilla, Nextag, Shopping.com and PriceGrabber to track ROI.
Assuming that the traffic quality is different- one is someone that is searching on Google and one is someone who deliberately went to Google Shopping, looked at different retailers, compared prices, read reviews and then clicked through- the quality of the traffic is going to be different. As an advertiser, I don’t want my one bid to determine where I show up on both of those pages. I want to have the option of bidding separately.
(Sound familiar? Search vs. Search Partners vs. Display?)
Want more? Your head spinning a little? No problem. Stay on top and get in charge of your Google Shopping with some killer FREE resources:
CPC Strategy’s FREE ebook: Google Shopping Guide 2.0: Bidding, Advanced Segment Tracking and CPA Campaigns
CPC Strategy also hosted a free webinar with Jon Venverloh, Google Shopping’s Senior Product Manager on August 9th. Check out the audio recording.
Portent’s blog: What a Paid Search Marketer Needs to Know About Google Shopping
Elizabeth supervises the overall search division at Portent, which includes PPC, SEO and Social Media. Check out her modest brag link bundle if you really want to know more: http://bitly.com/bundles/ebkendo/5 She has also written ebooks, is a regular on the Portent blog and speaks on PPC across the USA at various conferences. Read More