How to Identify the Most Profitable Google AdWords Keywords

You probably already know that identifying profitable keywords is one of the most important steps in creating a successful Google AdWords campaign. When you actually start trying to think of keywords, though, you might feel overwhelmed.

The 5 Steps to Profit with Google AdWordsYou probably already know that identifying profitable keywords is one of the most important steps in creating a successful Google AdWords campaign. When you actually start trying to think of keywords, though, you might feel overwhelmed.

For example, you might sell Android phones. How many different two- or three-word phrases can you think of to describe your phones? Should you focus on different brands, specific models, or features? Does the word “Android” need to appear in every keyword phrase?

To answer these questions about your specific product or service, you need to understand what shoppers are searching for. Here are five ways to identify the most profitable Google AdWords keywords.

1. Think Like a Buyer
Online shoppers can be loosely divided into three groups, or three separate points in the shopping cycle.

Browsers are looking for general information. They are just setting out on their buying journey, or might even be doing research for a non-purchasing reason such as a school paper. It is nearly impossible to figure out their motivations for a particular search. You can identify browsers by their very general one- or two-word searches, such as “Android phones.”

Shoppers are interested in making a purchase at some point, but not yet. They are researching different products, comparing features and prices, and reading reviews. They tend to make their searches a little more specific, such as “Samsung Galaxy phones,” often with a word such as “features” or “reviews” appended.

Buyers are ready to make an imminent purchase. They have committed to a particular product or service, but they want to get the best deal. Their searches tend to be highly specific, such as “Samsung Galaxy S6 price” or “buy Samsung Galaxy S6.” When they find the item they want at the right price, they will complete the transaction.

To give your campaign the best chance for success, it is best to focus on the buyers. They are the easiest to convert into sales, giving you the most bang for your advertising bucks.

If you are unsure exactly what keyword phrases your buyers might choose, step back and pretend you are in the market for your specific product or service. How would you find it online? What words and phrases would you use when you are ready to buy?

2. Perform Customer Surveys
One of the best ways to figure out how to reach new buyers is to talk to those who have already bought. Send out an email survey or call your most recent purchasers. Find out how those customers reached your website. Ask them to try to recall the specific keywords they used, as well as the general keywords they tend to use in similar searches. You will likely pick up a few new ideas, even if your customers do not have perfect memories of how they found you.

3. Poll Your Staff
Assuming you have a well-trained staff, your employees can be a valuable source of keyword information. They are intimately familiar with your product or service, but have the benefit of being one step removed. If the item is “your baby,” it can be tough to step outside of your own deep knowledge and view it as an outsider might. Ask your staff how they would search for the product or service in question. Family and friends can also provide suggestions, especially if they have a reasonably good understanding of what you sell.

4. Scope Out Your Competitors
Make a list of your biggest competitors and spend some time poking around their websites. Every seller has his or her own unique approach, and you might discover some phrases or expressions that you had not yet thought about. Be careful not to steal anything trademarked or copyrighted, but general ideas and search terms are fair game.

5. Use Keyword Tools
Google’s free Keyword Planner is a tremendous resource. Simply input keyword phrases that you are considering, and Google will suggest a long list of similar keyword phrases, along with their average monthly search volumes and associated AdWords costs.

To dig even deeper, why not take a look at what is working and not working for your competitors? SpyFu is a particularly useful tool that lets you view AdWords keywords, ad variations, and landing pages that a chosen competitor has used in the past. This gives you a good idea of what works and what does not, and helps you decide which keyword phrases are worth your investment.

When trying to find the most profitable AdWords keywords, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Following these five tips helps you narrow your focus and decide where to begin, and then your own testing and tracking will show you what changes you need to make.

Want more AdWords tips?  I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to get cheaper clicks and convert more clicks into leads and customers. Click here to get my Google AdWords Checklist

Google Shopping Insights: Just a Snapshot

Big data is the big business buzzword in recent years, and what firm has a bigger treasure trove of marketing data than Google? So, when Google announced on Oct. 20 the availability of its new Google Shopping Insights Beta tool, the business press was all-abuzz with eagerness to report on

Big data is the big business buzzword in recent years, and what firm has a bigger treasure trove of marketing data than Google? So, when Google announced on Oct. 20 the availability of its new Google Shopping Insights Beta tool, the business press was all-abuzz with eagerness to report on this new big data tool. Being ever the cynic, I looked for myself and considered how this might be of interest and utility to e-commerce merchants and the search marketers who work for them.

First, let’s take a quick look at what the tool is and promises to do, and let’s remember that it is in beta. Google has a track record of creating new products/tools releasing them into the wild in beta format and then either enhancing them into full-fledged products with user fees attached or eliminating them with little more than a blog post death notice. So let’s tap the brakes on our excitement until we take this new tool for an extensive test drive.

What Is Google’s New Shopping Insights Tool?
According to Google, Shopping Insights will make data about shopping habits and preferences more accessible. That is to say, the tool shows what shoppers are searching for online by product, geographic area and device. The tool in its current format is limited, covering just the 5,000-plus most popular products on Google Shopping between April 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015. It is at this juncture that users are asked to make their first leap of faith – that what shoppers search online correlates directly with what they actually buy in a local store. Google cautions that while 87 percent of shopping research happens online, 92 percent of goods are still sold in retail stores. This means the tool cannot address situations where the consumer will research a product heavily and then either not buy the product based on the research, or go in another direction and conduct yet another search and more research.

Who Will Use the Tool and How?
Further, the tool uses AdWords’ compatible geographic areas so buyers of regional AdWords campaigns may find the tool helpful. By offering shopping research by device information, merchants may be able to look at whole classes of products and determine if they need to provide shoppers an enhanced mobile experience. However, for online-only merchants, the tool offers little truly useful information. For clicks-and-mortar multi-locational merchants, the tool is very thin soup. Many large retailers have invested in robust information systems to provide data so that merchandise can be moved to where it will sell rapidly. With supply chains extended to accommodate huge volumes of products produced overseas, supply chain information systems are the backbone for commerce. While reviewing the tool, I found myself wishing for many more layers of information – population overlays for geographic areas, cell carrier popularity information to judge device use and other moderating data.

For the organic search marketer, the tool may provide correctional data for regional campaigns. It is often easy to view the world through the lens of our own local experience. With the ability to see patterns and trends outside of our local sphere, we can correct our own misgivings as to popularity of products and hence validity of actually targeting our organic campaigns toward rather specific products. As marketers give this tool a spin, more insights as to its usefulness will emerge; but for now, I will be using it as yet another tool for taking interesting data snapshots.

Gearing Up for the Holidays: Make Your Email Marketing Deliver Long Tail Results

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. Planning for your email campaign should have started weeks ago. If not, this is the time to jump in and get ready. This holiday season is positioned to be extremely competitive. The election advertising bombarding people today will be replaced with promotions trying to squeeze every dollar out of a tough economy. The holiday season provides two opportunities for enterprising marketers.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. Planning for your email campaign should have started weeks ago. If not, this is the time to jump in and get ready. This holiday season is positioned to be extremely competitive. The election advertising bombarding people today will be replaced with promotions trying to squeeze every dollar out of a tough economy.

The holiday season provides two opportunities for enterprising marketers. The first, and most obvious, is the opportunity to increase sales. Bargain hunters everywhere will be snatching up the best deals across all channels. The company with the lowest prices will win their attention—and possibly their business—until a lower price appears at the next store. This opportunity works best for companies with killer price negotiators and heavy volume.

Creating and solidifying relationships between customer and company is the second opportunity. Connections can begin with deep discounts but there has to be a strategy in place to move customers from discount shoppers to loyal buyers. The process starts with understanding how people become loyal to your company. What path do they follow from first purchase to long time customers?

The answer to that question is most likely, “it depends,” because the path is dependent on the customer type and what motivated the first purchase. Discount promotions attract bargain hunters, hit and run shoppers, and active customers. Bargain hunters tend to watch for discounts before buying again while hit and run shoppers buy once and disappear. Active customers stay around during the off-sale season and build lifetime value. Only a small percentage of customers acquired during high promotion periods will become active customers without intervention.

Email is an excellent tool for converting bargain hunters and hit-and-run shoppers into active customers. It is inexpensive and effective when used to strategically move people into the buying cycle. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Review newly acquired customer data from the last three to five holiday seasons to identify bargain hunters, hit-and-run shoppers, and active customers. Bargain hunters rarely buy full price items. Hit and run shoppers buy once or twice, usually within a thirty day period, and disappear. Active customers are the ones who predictably buy throughout the year.
  • Define the path from original source to last purchase. This is where you’ll start seeing some patterns. For example, hit-and-run shoppers typically originate as online shoppers that found your site using search engines or social networks. Identifying them early and adapting your strategy accordingly reduces the resources that will be invested in additional marketing unlikely to generate a return.
  • What paths do the active customers follow from first purchase to their current buying activity? How do they differ from the bargain hunters and hit and runners? Did the people who became active customers receive different marketing promotions? The answers to these questions will help design new campaigns to keep new customers coming back.
  • Create test campaigns that personalize the shopping experience. Holiday time is hectic for some, crazy for others. The easier you make it for your customers, the more likely they will return. Use transactional emails to keep people informed every step of the way. Instead of the perfunctory “your order number 123 shipped today and will arrive in 3-5 business days,” try using more friendly language. Your copywriters can make transactional emails informative, engaging, and entertaining.
  • Follow up after the sale. If the products or services aren’t used, there will never be a second order. Personalized emails that ask about the items and service are a rarity. They will stand out in a sea of incoming messages. In addition to establishing successful relationships, you’ll learn about problems that need resolution.

Forecasting a Cheery 2010 Holiday Shopping Season for Paid Search Campaigns

With the holidays fast approaching, news and economic trends relevant to this year’s holiday shopping season have been mixed, though generally favorable. A recent study by ChannelAdvisor revealed that 81 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year. The study also found that more of that shopping will be conducted online.

With the holidays fast approaching, news and economic trends relevant to this year’s holiday shopping season have been mixed, though generally favorable. A recent study by ChannelAdvisor revealed that 81 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year. The study also found that more of that shopping will be conducted online.

From a performance perspective, actively managed holiday paid search campaigns delivered impressive results during the 2009 holiday shopping season in comparison to the rest of the year. In 2010, these campaigns have already achieved strong year-to-date (YTD) growth. This strong YTD growth will likely continue into the fourth quarter, and Performics predicts this will net out to 15 percent year-over-year (YOY) growth for actively managed holiday paid search campaigns. The results could be even stronger for search advertisers who are able to make Q4 outshine the rest of the year like they did in 2009.

Either way, all signs point to growth for these campaigns, and marketers should keep the following opportunities in mind:

Continued emphasis on value. Free shipping and discounts have become standard as retailers continue to vie for cost-conscious consumers. Average order value is down 9 percent YTD according to a Performics Holiday Retail Group report, and this trend will likely continue into Q4. Providing offers on upsell or cross-sell products can help boost order totals and offset free shipping and other discounts merchants offer.

Delayed shopping as savvy consumers research and wait for late sales. The first two weeks in December 2009 saw sales increase by 27 percent compared to 2008, while Black Friday sales decreased 17 percent YOY. Sales during the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas also increased significantly in 2009. However, numbers may shift this year if consumers feel more confident with compelling sales already underway. The recently released Compete Holiday Insights survey found that 50 percent of consumers have already started holiday shopping.

Shoppers are reaching for their phones. Nearly half of adult smartphone owners younger than 25 will use their smartphones to shop this holiday season, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch. An increasing share of overall clicks are coming from mobile — 6.7 percent in September, and projected to be greater than 10 percent within 12 months.

Improved efficiency of last-minute shopping. Consumer spending and cost per clicks dropped dramatically following the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas 2009. Active paid search advertisers can do more for less after Dec. 17.

Marketers looking to capitalize on these opportunities and improve holiday performance should consider the following recommendations:

  • follow best practices to actively manage campaigns and effectively respond to market forces;
  • offer aggressive promotions early to capture shoppers;
  • actively participate in the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas;
  • embrace mobile to ensure the channel’s increasing user base can find you when searching; and
  • continue active management of paid search beyond Dec. 17 to further boost efficiency.

By following shoppers’ changing behaviors this holiday season — and planning and executing campaigns accordingly — marketers can boost their odds of a jolly holiday.

Getting the Most Out of Back-to-School Marketing

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

As summer hits its peak, shoppers begin to think about heading back to school and retailers attempt to redefine the back-to-school season. Staples recently declared that the “official” back-to-school season starts on July 14, for example.

However, this time of year is less about defining specific dates and more about redefining ways to reach the right audience at the right connection points. Earlier this month, for example, Google reported that back-to-school queries increased 15 percent compared to the same period in 2008, and that searches on back-to-school shopping usually uptick in June with search activity lasting through late September.

The expanse in the back-to-school shopping season can be attributed in part to the 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers planning to spread out their purchases in order to distribute the cost over a longer period of time, according to a survey by PriceGrabber.

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

In “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),” a recent report from ROI Research, sponsored by my firm, Performics, when asked which types of content respondents would be interested in receiving from companies on social networks, 49 percent said they look for printable coupons on Facebook while 50 percent of those on Twitter seek notification of sales or special deals.

With these findings in mind, marketers should consider using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote special offers on back-to-school items to drive people in-store. Mobile marketing is another effective channel for back-to-school offers. It provides marketers with a more direct way to ensure purchase consideration through the use of text alerts or mobile coupons, in addition to complementary efforts in search and social marketing.

Performics helps clients prepare their back-to-school multichannel marketing efforts on a variety of levels. We recently teamed with one leading technology company to roll out its back-to-school marketing campaigns in early June, using some innovative tactics to capture audiences. For the first time, we implemented vanity display URLs and Google sitelinks in search campaigns to draw shoppers to the client’s back-to-school offerings. Our team also built a list of seasonal keywords around coupons, deals and discounts, supplemented by heavy social marketing campaigns promoting back-to-school products.

Another client, a popular apparel retailer, launched its back-to-school promotions in early July in anticipation of sales increases peaking at the end of this month. It offered shoppers the chance to receive a free smartphone if they purchased online or tried on featured clothes in-store. Advertising online via Facebook campaigns and paid search during back-to-school season, the retailer is coordinating on- and offline efforts by also offering free shipping and 30 percent off on back-to-school items.

Overall, marketers that successfully integrate multichannel efforts stand the best chance of getting the most bang out of their back-to-school buck. Marketers should look to engage back-to-school shoppers through various touchpoints throughout the season, not just at the end of August. Most importantly, manage expectations accordingly and measure marketing efforts often to reap the most reward.

Determining how shoppers respond to back-to-school campaigns and following trends throughout the season can also help brands set successful strategies for the upcoming winter holiday season. — Special thanks to contributing authors Andrea Vannucci and Maren Wesley.

Getting the Most Out of “Back-to-School” Marketing

As summer hits its peak, shoppers have begun to think about heading back to school and retailers are attempting to redefine the back-to-school season.

As summer hits its peak, shoppers have begun to think about heading back to school and retailers are attempting to redefine the back-to-school season. For example, Staples recently declared that the “official” back-to-school season starts on July 14. However, this time of year is less about defining specific dates and more about redefining ways to reach the right audience at the right connection points.

Earlier this month, Google reported that “back-to-school” queries increased 15 percent compared to the same period in 2008, and that searches on back-to-school shopping usually uptick in June with search activity lasting through late September. The expanse of the back-to-school shopping season can be attributed in part to the 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers planning to spread out their purchases in order to distribute the cost over a longer period of time, according to a survey by PriceGrabber.com.

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize on this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

In “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),” a recent report from ROI Research, sponsored by Performics (my firm), when asked which types of content they’d be interested in receiving from companies on social networks, 49 percent of respondents said they look for printable coupons on Facebook while 50 percent of those on Twitter seek notification of sales or special deals. With these findings in mind, marketers should consider using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote special offers on back-to-school items to drive people to their stores.

Mobile marketing is another effective channel for back-to-school offers. It provides a more direct way to ensure purchase consideration through the use of text alerts or mobile coupons, in addition to complementary efforts in search and social marketing.

Performics helps clients prepare their back-to-school multichannel marketing efforts on a variety of levels. We recently teamed with one leading technology company to roll out its back-to-school marketing in early June, and turned to some innovative tactics to capture audiences. For the first time, we implemented vanity display URLs and Google sitelinks in search campaigns to draw shoppers to its back-to-school offerings. Our team also built a list of seasonal keywords around coupons, deals and discounts, supplemented by heavy social marketing campaigns promoting back-to-school products.

Another client, a popular apparel retailer, launched its back-to-school promotions in early July in anticipation of sales peaking at the end of this month. The retailer’s promotion offers the chance to receive a free smartphone when you purchase online or try on featured clothes in-store. Advertising online through Facebook campaigns and paid search during back-to-school season, the retailer is coordinating on- and offline efforts by also offering free shipping and 30 percent off back-to-school items.

Overall, marketers that successfully integrate multichannel efforts stand the best chance of getting the most bang for their back-to-school buck. Marketers should look to engage with back-to-school shoppers throughout the season, not just at the end of August, and through various touchpoints. Most importantly, manage expectations accordingly and measure marketing efforts often to reap the most reward.

Determining how shoppers respond to back-to-school campaigns and following trends throughout the season can also help brands set successful strategies for the upcoming winter holiday season.

Special thanks to contributing authors Andrea Vannucci and Maren Wesley.

Abandonment Issues

Throughout my 10-plus years covering online marketing and commerce, one nagging issue that’s remained top-of-mind for all in the space has been shopping cart abandonment and how to stop it from happening.

In fact, a survey released by PayPal on June 23 showed that 45 percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts multiple times in the three weeks prior to the survey, which was conducted May 12 to May 15 by comScore. It polled 553 active shoppers who recently had abandoned shopping carts.

Throughout my 10-plus years covering online marketing and commerce, one nagging issue that’s remained top-of-mind for all in the space has been shopping cart abandonment and how to stop it from happening.

In fact, a survey released by PayPal on June 23 showed that 45 percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts multiple times in the three weeks prior to the survey, which was conducted May 12 to May 15 by comScore. It polled 553 active shoppers who recently had abandoned shopping carts.

Another finding: The average value of goods in abandoned shopping carts in the U.S. is $109.

High shipping costs, security concerns and lack of convenience were cited as the main reasons survey respondents abandoned their carts.

Although high shipping costs was cited as the No. 1 reason for cart abandonment, 40 percent of respondents said if they’d known shipping costs up front they might have completed their purchases.

Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents abandoned their carts because they wanted to comparison shop. Another 36 percent didn’t have enough money after shipping and handling charges were added to totals. Twenty-seven percent of respondents who abandoned their carts did so to search for coupons, although a third of those shoppers later returned to the same site to buy. An additional 20 percent purchased the items at brick-and-mortar stores or competitors’ Web sites.

Other reasons shoppers abandon their carts include the following:

  • 26 percent wanted to shop offline;
  • 24 percent couldn’t find preferred pay options;
  • 23 percent said the item was unavailable at checkout;
  • 22 percent couldn’t find customer support; and
  • 21 percent were concerned about the security of credit card data.

While this information may not solve your abandoned shopping cart problems, maybe it will give you some ideas as to how to improve them. If you make customer service easy to find on your site, for example, your abandonment rates may go down.

This is an excellent topic for an open dialogue. Have any of you seen improved shopping cart abandonment rates based on a strategy or technique you’ve implemented? If so, let us know by leaving a comment here. We’d love to hear from you!

Retailers Hope Free Shipping Day Improves Sales

Although the holiday shopping season may be shaping up to be a little better than expected for e-tailers, many are participating in the inaugural Free Shipping Day, taking place today.
On Free Shipping Day, participating merchants are offering free shipping to online shoppers with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
The day, which will become an annual event a la Cyber Monday, is yet another last-ditch effort to pull more sales from what could be a make-or-break time for many.

Although the holiday shopping season may be shaping up to be a little better than expected for e-tailers, many are participating in the inaugural Free Shipping Day, taking place today.
On Free Shipping Day, participating merchants are offering free shipping to online shoppers with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
The day, which will become an annual event a la Cyber Monday, is yet another last-ditch effort to pull more sales from what could be a make-or-break time for many.
E-tailers have embraced the idea, which was hatched by Luke Knowles, co-founder of FreeShipping.org, an online destination for consumers hoping to find e-tailers that offer free shipping deals. Participating merchants this year include: Amazon.com, Bloomingdale’s, Brookstone, Circuit City, Coldwater Creek, Crate & Barrel, Endless.com, Nordstrom, Sur La Table, Target and Zappos. There is no cost for retailers or shoppers to participate.
The organizers hope Free Shipping Day will join the ranks of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as known parts of American shopping culture. Knowles is banking on Americans’ affliction with procrastination to fuel the day into becoming a popular annual event. What’s more, his stats show that online shipping slows considerably after Dec. 12.
As for next year’s Free Shipping Day, Knowles will consult with participating e-tailers to figure out the latest day possible during the holiday season they can guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve. That day will be determined next month and likely fall between Dec. 17 and 19.