PPC advertising during these "tough times" is an interesting beast. On one hand, eCommerce store owners may be underwhelmed by their sales figures and conversion rates compared to last year. On the other, with each user searching more and broadband adoption continuing throughout the world, raw search traffic has nowhere to go but up.

More searches + Less Likely Buyers + Higher Competition = More Wasted Ad Spend. Not good. Read on to find out what you should be doing to make sure your ad spend ROI isn't headed the same way as the economy.

Organization

It can be very difficult to react to market changes without an organized PPC campaign. Each of our clients' campaigns are set up in a way that allows us to adjust and tweak at the campaign, ad group, ad, and keyword-level. The control that an organized setup grants you is invaluable, especially in the early reporting stages.

Every eCommerce store is different, so there's no right way to develop your AdWords strategy, but in general I like to break up campaigns by product and/or profit margin. This way, your cost per conversion is most meaningful. For example, looking at my Google Analytics data I can see that the average order value of a particular product group is $80, and the markup is around 100%, so a cost per conversion any higher than $40 is unacceptable. Now with that maximum acceptable cost per conversion in mind, I can tweak at each level, eliminating under performing ad groups, adjusting keywords, and changing ad copy.

Top Tactics for Tough Times

Google published a guide to AdWords just recently called Top Tactics for Tough Times (nice alliteration!). It lays out 6 points to help anyone running a PPC campaign during the economic downturn, though its not like any of the 6 points aren't applicable during times of economic prosperity. Those 6 points:

  1. Focus your ads on low prices and savings.
  2. Use value-related keywords.
  3. Make sure your ad groups are targeted and relevant.
  4. Don't waste money on irrelevant clicks.
  5. Make it easy for customers to buy.
  6. Focus your money on your high-performers.

1. Focus your ads on low prices and savings

Are you offering free shipping on all orders? That better be in your ad copy! If its not, add it and watch your CTR climb.

How about free shipping or a sale on a particular product? Set up an ad group or even a full campaign to correctly target your ad spend.

2. Use value-related keywords

I'm not sure if I like this tip actually, unless of course your products are cheaper than your competitors. Of course this all depends, but I find many campaigns are more successful when words like "cheap" and "discount" are set as negatives.

The frugal user that searches for "bargain widgets" is probably in research mode, so you may find your cost per conversion is much higher on those keywords. Your mileage my vary of course, as this is largely industry dependent.

3. Make sure your ad groups are targeted and relevant and
4. Don't waste money on irrelevant clicks

These two are really no-brainers for a successful campaign no matter the economic condition. Generate reports in AdWords and weed out negatives. Use keyword research tools like the AdWords and Wordtracker to find alternate keywords.

5. Make it easy for customers to buy

Send your most specific ad groups right to the product page! An extremely relevant landing page not only leads to a higher quality score (which leads to a lower CPC, and ultimately a lower cost per conversion), but it gives your visitor exactly what they want, exactly when they expect it.

6. Focus your money on high-performers

Keep an eye on your daily budgets. Don't let any campaigns that are performing for you come anywhere near their daily limit. If your campaign is set to deliver ads evenly throughout the day, and there's a sudden surge of traffic on a keyword, AdWords may choose to hold back your ad to save the campaign from reaching its budget too early.

Any campaigns that are on the cusp of an acceptable cost per conversion could benefit from a small drop in your maximum CPC bid, as well. There's no reason to be afraid of dropping your average ad position. Sometimes you just need to find that "sweet spot" for a campaign.

Tracking, Tracking, Tracking!

One of the greatest advantages of internet advertising over traditional methods is its track-ability. You will know exactly how far your ad spend went the day after. Sitting down once a month to discuss the success of last month's advertising performance is unacceptable. Spend the time necessary to get your campaigns performing, no matter the cost.

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