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Seven Tips for Successfully Managing Comparison Shopping Engines

Posted on March 15, 2011 by Chad

On the eCommerce paid marketing side, correctly running your comparison shopping engines (CSE’s) is extremely important to seeing your products make it through the shopping channels, as well as getting them in front of the eyes of the customer. While keeping up with the CSE's there are many different things I look for to make sure everything is set up and functioning the way it should. Making sure this is done will protect you from problems that can arise from incorrectly categorized products as well as help give your products the best chance they have to make the sale. Here are some general best practices I use when managing products on CSE’s.

 

  1. Check Where the Product is Assigned - With CSE's you are often forced to blend into what other merchants are doing, as well as what the site believes is the best fit for your product.  In some cases, this can turn out horribly, especially if the CSE is based on the first come first served method.  The first come first served method is used by many CSE's and is essentially when a merchant has added a product with an incorrect UPC and you come along and put up the correct product that owns the UPC, but since you were second to the incorrect data, your product may be matched up with the wrong parent product.  CSE’s don't offer much help to avoid this, so you have to make sure you stay on the ball and check that your products are correctly assigned.
  2. Populate as Many Fields as Possible on Your Feed Template - This is extremely important as it allows customers and shopping site to find and match your products correctly.  Make sure you fill it out correct and complete.  These fields could also help you with ideas on how to improve your own website if you know what attributes customers are looking for in your products.
  3. Complete All Account Information on the Provider Side. This should be a no brainer.  Even if its optional, complete as much as you can as it will help you in the future.
  4. Install User Surveys - User surveys are great in providing feedback as well as allowing you to becoming a trusted seller.  I cannot tell you how many orders I have received, only because our user rating was much higher than the lowered priced item.  Ratings build confidence in buyers, especially if your product is only a few dollars more expensive.  
  5. Ensure Accurate Categorization - Always be up to date with your categories.  Sometimes, your products performance lives and dies with how well you position them.  CSE’s love to change their categories at any time, sometimes even twice a year, so keep them up to date.
  6. Improve Product Data - Don’t get behind on improving your data for your products.  CSE user queries are dependent on this in many cases.  Your descriptions and the keywords you use in your data are what many customers will look for.  Keep this up to date!
  7. Remove Non-Performing Products - Kick them from your CSE’s!  A lot of the times, you can get a pretty good idea of product performance by looking at 60+ days worth of performance, sometimes less.  If it’s all spend and no revenue, then you can determine two things.  1) Customers like clicking on your product on a CSE and 2) They don’t like buying your product once they get to your site.  Kick the product from the CSE while you figure out why this is happening.  It’s obviously not making money for you.  

 

There you have it.  Some general steps you should think about when looking into marketing on CSE’s.  Before I let you go though, many CSE’s offer additional marketing opportunities.  Do your homework and research before entering into these.  Don’t entertain features blindly.  Sometimes, there are better and cheaper ways for additional marketing than using a providers services.  

What about you, do you have any CSE tips to add? We would love to hear about them in the comments.


 

Three Tips for Paid Marketers in 2011

Posted on January 4, 2011 by Chad

There are plenty of Top Ten Lists out there in the blogging world, so I wanted add to it; though I am going to take a different approach and only give you three!  These three general ideas should help anyone working in the online marketing world, especially paid marketing, to have a successful 2011. 

  1. Educate Yourself – This is common, but we need to be reminded every now and then to keep up with the technology out there.  There are always new ideas, keywords, and shopping engines popping up, and if you get behind, then you will be hard pressed to keep up.   The old networks are changing; Google is crazier than ever with its many new changes to its interface and Yahoo and Bing have joined forces.  Stay on top of it. Figure out the ways you can use these changes to optimize performance.  Prioritize what is working and move on from what is not.      
  2. Don't Assume – A good amount of advertisers and online users automatically assume that if something is being written all over the blogosphere than everyone is doing it.  This is absolutely not true!  Just remember, you need to make sure something has a real chance of adding value to your customers before implementing it. Try a quick test before any crazy implementation. Don’t get stuck wasting your time trying to make something work for you simply because you think it is working for everyone else.
  3. Stay on Top of Your Representatives – You can read all the literature you want.  You can test multiple variations of single product. You can even follow every successful blogger on Twitter hoping they drop a nugget of information. But let’s face it, no one can know everything there is to know about online marketing.  We all can use help with our accounts.  If the representatives you are dealing with right now are not helping your account grow, it’s time to find the representative that can.   Sometimes we are just too nice, the reps convince us that they are doing all they can…not true.  When a relationship is not beneficial, then it may be time to move on.  Request a new rep, and try to find someone that understand that both sides of the relationship need to grow, not just theirs.


There it is, my top three things that I will be working on and applying to my job at the start of 2011. What about you? Are there any things you will be working on to become a better marketer in 2011?

 

Google Boost: Google Places Results in Paid Search

Posted on November 24, 2010 by Chad

At this time, Google is beta testing a new feature called Google Boost. Google Boost is a disruptor for those bidding on PPC ads as it takes away one of the coveted ad positions and replaces it with a Local Ad. This feature is currently only being tested in three areas: San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. Essentially, Boost Ad’s are designed to list a sponsored “Place” Ad when a user searches for something related to them. This change is good for Google as it allows them to accept local ads from locations all around the world, in additional to the national marketers that are always bidding on these ads.

 

As Josh wrote about regarding Google's change to local results, it certainly seems like “Places” are becoming of great interest to Google. Boost’s Ads may not necessarily be an appreciated addition to some search marketers, especially if their strategy is to take over a certain Ad position, like 2 or 3, in a search result. However, for local businesses, this seems like a real plus in which they could ultimately gain great exposure for their business. If you are interested in Google Boost, you can fill out this form here to express your interest in the feature. 

What do you think? Is this a good or bad addition?

 

Yahoo Search Migrating to Bing AdCenter

Posted on September 3, 2010 by Chad

On August 31st, Yahoo announced that they are starting to transition their Yahoo Search Marketing to Microsoft AdCenter.

In the last few weeks, Yahoo began and completed transitioning all of Yahoo’s organic results to Microsoft Bing. The next step is the paid search transition. To start this process all you have to do is log into your Yahoo! Search Marketing account.  There are some very specific differences between Bing and Yahoo, so be aware that you may need to do some tinkering with your campaigns. 

Yahoo has provided a Feature Comparison Guide and Transition Checklist through the user interface to help this transition process as much as possible.  You can also find these document links in their announcement blog at “Advertisers, Begin Your Account Transitions”.

According to Yahoo’s blog, they fully expect the transition to be completed by the end of October.  The last stage of which will occur somewhere in mid-October, when Yahoo! Search ad serving moves to Microsoft AdCenter completely.  Be prepared though, there is still a slight possibility that they will defer the completed paid search transition to 2011. Either way I am excited to see what changes this new transition will bring in the future.

Yahoo and Bing

 

New Merchant Rating on Search Ads

Posted on July 7, 2010 by Chad

Google has recently started integrating merchant ratings, aggregated for Google Product Search, into your Ads if you meet a couple requirements. Those requirements include at least a 4 star rating and a minimum of 30 reviews.

Google Merchant Rating on Ad

There are certainly advantages for having this Google feature in your PPC Ads. For one, the rating builds trust with the consumer which could lead to higher CTR (Click Through Rate) percentages. This feature also allows your Ads to stand out and become more visible, even against higher ranked Adcopy, because the Ad gains an increase in size when the star rating is present. But this is relative to the rating of the other advertising being shown.  One of the great features about this is how these ads are charged to your account, merchants are only charged if “someone clicks on the headline of your ad - clicks on the review link are free.”

Currently, ads will not see this distinction on all searches. I ran several of the same searches and it looks like Google is simply A/B testing this feature at this time or it may be something they intend to only show when certain special criterion are met. Google states, “These star ratings, aggregated from review sites all around the web, allow people to find merchants that are highly recommended by online shoppers like them.”  In any case, it is a welcomed addition to those merchants that have a good Google Product Search rating.

 

 

Google’s Downtime Costs Company Updwards of Seven Million Dollars in Revenue

Posted on July 1, 2010 by Chad

Recently, Google Adwords made an announcement, on their blog, that Adwords stopped serving Ads sometime around 1:40pm pacific time, on June 29th, 2010 and lasted for about 3 hours. Nothing has been announced as to what caused the glitch at this time. I had a few inquiries go out to some of my Google reps, but it seems even they have been kept in the dark at the moment and very few people know the full situation in detail. While not greatly affected we could certainly tell looking through our reporting that something was up with Adwords.

I did however do some quick math based upon Google's 2009 financial tables.  Last year, Google made over $22,889,000,000 in advertising revenues, which includes Google and Google's network sites. These two areas were affected by the downtime. With some math, based on 365 days, you can figure out that 3 hours of downtime would have contributed to approximately $7,838,698 plus change, in loss of revenue, and that's not even calculating this year's growth into the equation. 

Google updated their blog around 4:40pm to let us know that the situation was completely resolved and that they are working to prevent something like this from happening again.

 

Long Tail Broad Match and Negative Keyword SEM Campaign Experiment

Posted on February 4, 2010 by Chad

When I first started creating keywords for my very first campaign, there were signs everywhere on the internet that said "Don't use broad match!"  A little later I learned about negative keywords and how to use those effectively by running a Google search query report.  So it caught me by surprise when Brad Geddes, for Search Engine Land, wrote a column on promoting the idea of using broad match called Broad Match + Negative Keywords = A Profitable Long Tail.

The Case for Broad Match

Most people have discovered that broad match typically does not have a great conversion rate (many times when using broad match it’s not the point). Historically, because...well, broad match hits everything related to it. It can be a good way just to get your website noticed, create some brand recognition or turn on the traffic hose, hopefully with some good ad text to stem the tide of the more ridiculous clicks. 

Brad Geddes, unfortunately, does not go into a lot of detail about what happens to long tail keywords that are set to broad match or the precise setup of such a campaign?  I think he is being a bit "cagey" so as not to give away his “secret sauce” so to speak. This only means that we have to be smart as marketers, use common sense and pay attention to ad spend and the limitations associated with AdWords accounts.  There is certainly a difference between a long tail keyword set to broad match and a more general one to two word keyword phrases set to broad match.  Brad uses the example:

“Let’s say you sell coffee mugs and you have tens of thousands of words pertaining to coffee mugs in multiple match types. You then run a search query report (a report that allows you to see the actual search query that caused your ad to be displayed) and find that when the search query contains the word “Starbucks,” such as “Starbucks personalized picture blue coffee mug,” your conversion rate is 0%. All those clicks you are paying for are a waste of money. However, “personalized picture blue coffee mug” is already a long tail keyword, and you have thousands of these words, so how do you still use these word in phrase or broad match yet not pay for the clicks when the search query contains ‘Starbucks?’”

Clearly using this example we would make the assumption that your AdWords account has already got some form of this phrase of keywords broken up throughout the account: “blue coffee mug”, “personalized picture mug”, “picture coffee mug”, etc.  We would also make an educated assumption that if you are advertising for products in this vertical that you have similar products and would be able to convert on broad match types associated to these terms.  If not then take heed, there are AdWords users available to help.  AdWords Forum contributor Rob. W has explained broad match to other users, “You need to be careful when broad matching keywords because Google takes extreme liberties in matching that keyword.  A broad match for 'fresh flowers' may cause your ads to show for bath soap, gardening supplies, wedding showers, or cat litter.  Seriously...” So it got me thinking. What is Brad really talking about in his column?

Jog before You Run 

At first, I thought he was talking about setting long tail keywords to broad match and then producing negative keywords for phrases that don't convert.  Further on in his column he is pointing out, based on the extensive explanation of negative keywords in his column, that you set keywords to broad match but specifically create [exact] match negative keywords to counteract any of the more generic searches and higher price terms. You know what users search for because of the Search Query report.  By doing this you are still allowing for a broad selection of searches without the hassle of dealing with the creation of a whole list of long tail keywords.  The critical point is creating those negatives and keeping up with it.  Bam! Long tail keywords that you know have been searched for as long as the user doesn't use the negative keyword in the phrase.

Though, if this is what Brad is getting to, I am not sure what would be cheaper in terms of CPC (Cost per Click): a "constrained" broad match term or a simple long tail keyword.  It seems like broad match would potentially need a higher CPC because it is hitting so many searches and you want to be ranked high enough on those to see a high-quality CTR (Click through Rate).  Then again, you are reducing how many hits you actually make with the negatives, making the broad match term less expensive.  The benefit is not really losing out on other various searches.  As usual though, the bottom line is, does it convert?  Testing this out on your own seems to be the best way to figure this out in your respective industries. 

Without knowing exactly how broad match-long tail keywords, react in search, I can't exactly give a straight up opinion on this idea of Brads.  His method still intrigues me though and I plan on experimenting with this on a few of my better performing campaigns.

I will update you with my results in a couple weeks.

 

SingleFeed Upgrades Reporting Tools

Posted on December 3, 2009 by Chad

In early November, SingleFeed, a data feed submission and data feed management service which we use, released a new reporting interface.  It is still in beta, but has proven to be quite an upgrade from their previous system.

For those readers who don't know what SingleFeed is, they help online retailers submit, manage, and optimize product listings on top shopping sites through a single data feed. They essentially help you create just one feed that they then optimize and pass onto the comparison shopping engines. The company still seems small, but is growing rapidly. They are one of the few service providers that only charge a flat rate for their services, while others might also charge a percentage of revenue earned. The flat rate is perfect for submitting tens of thousands of products to CPA based or free shopping engines.

The new reporting interface displays more data and graphs a customizable timeline for the data you want to see. In the past, SingleFeed simply had totals and the occasional excel download. That's a little boring and not very useful in the grand scheme of things. Now marketers can see trends and make comparisons between different shopping engines or from product to product(s).  It’s incredibly more efficient and user friendly.

Here is an example of their new interface using sample data:

 

Singlefeed's new reporting, sample data


However, some of the negative points I see in using it are that reports can't be exported to excel, although we have been told that is coming. I know they are working hard on this and other features.  We’ve seen evidence of this in other areas they just recently gave us the ability to export our performance based on engine totals for selected time periods. Needless to say, I can't wait to finally download full spreadsheets of product performance data.

Another negative is the accuracy of data. I know what they have now is much better in terms of what they had before, but accuracy is still just a little off compared to other tracking tools we use, namely Google Analytics. SingleFeed is incredibly useful in keeping our products up to date. But when it comes to using it for its reporting tools, I still trust Google Analytics a little more...for now.

 

UPDATE

Since this post, SingleFeed has improved upon itself and started to develop new exporting functions.

Right now the exporting function is still in beta and is still limited to only top level data for each engine.  It’s a start and I am told that more report types are being developed in time.  Maybe, some product level and category level exportation?  We can hope!

 

SingleFeed's Export Function

 

Another little improvement is the ability to perform SKU suppression for each engine through the new reporting tool. The older method was to mark a field in the feed that told SingeFeed whether or not you wished a product to go to a specific engine.  The newer method uses the new reporting tool.  You have to first activate this function, but once done, you are able to include or not include products for certain engines within the product level report page.

 

SingleFeed Product Supression

 

I currently haven’t had to use this function as we only use SingleFeed for the free and CPA based engines. But I can see some great usability for comparison shopping engines such as Nextag or Pricegrabber, etc. If a product is eating up your budget or is simply not performing, you can easily not include that product for that engine and still keep it in others with just a few clicks. Definitely more useful than taking the back channels and altering your feed to not include the product, especially if you have a feed of thousands of products.

I have no doubt that more improvements are on the way for quarters one and two of 2010.  SingleFeed has thus far appreciated our feedback and has been quick to let us know if any improvements were made in regards to our feedback.  

It was a good experience in 2009 using SingleFeed's services.  With new improvements and as far as I have used it...an excellent response time for support issues.

As always, comments or thoughts are welcomed!

 

Merchants Prepare eBay Seller Updates Scheduled

Posted on August 5, 2009 by Chad

EBay merchants prepare! Several changes to EBay's marketplace will be going live late September and will affect sellers of varying sizes alike. These updates will be taking place during the weeks of September 22, 2009 and October 1, 2009. A full list of these changes can be found right on EBay's July 2009 update at this link: www.EBay.com/July2009Update.

Of all the changes, two are of great interest to me, the new way in which eBay is deciding to look at detailed seller ratings (DSRs) and the new eBay Top-rated seller status.


DSR Focus Adjustment

EBay has announced that their research shows the buyer experience is more accurately portrayed through lower seller ratings. They have also decided that volume isn’t what sets apart the good sellers from the bad sellers, it’s the consumer experience (that’s a pat on the shoulder for the little guy/gal aka small retailers). This statement simply means that EBay has changed the focus on how ratings are measured within their marketplace.  Merchants will need to be under a certain threshold to be eligible for benefits, such as Top-rated seller status or monthly discounts. Metaphorically speaking EBay has put out a wanted poster for the head of all sellers that don't improve on their reviews that come back with ones and twos. Here is a link to how the DSRs will be calculated based on how many transactions you have in a certain period vs. the amount of bad reviews.

Example Calculations of Low DSRs

eBay example DSR calculation

 

eBay example2 DSR calculation

New Method to Obtain Top-rated Seller Status

How does the new look into calculating DSR's effect the Top-rated seller status?  Well, this means the status is no longer simply obtained by having a large amount of inventory and selling a bunch of stuff.  It’s based upon competition in category or vertical and the merchant’s ability to provide a quality consumer experience. The buyer experience is directly correlated to the DSR calculations. So larger merchants with high sales volume and robust product offerings will find it more difficult to manage the consumer experience at a more detailed level than the smaller merchants.  This levels the playing field for merchants looking to grow through eBay and obtain a PowerSeller Status, smaller merchants will be able to compete on experience rather than size.  Larger merchants will have to adapt to these changes much like they have had to do over the past two years as eBay have made multiple adjustments in their marketplace transformation.

In Summation, merchants need to start matching their focus with EBay's or they may see sales drop if they keep their current sales strategy past September. Get to Work!

 

Yahoo Ad Crawler Stresses Servers for Quality Score

Posted on July 9, 2009 by Chad

Recently, our web server was brought down because it was hit a great deal from Yahoo's Ad crawler all at once.  It seems that the crawler hit close to 200 landing pages, simultaneously, several hundred times, in response to a very large upload of new keywords and ad groups to our Yahoo SEM account.  For obvious reasons, the crawler was hitting the landing pages to acquire data about the keyword landing pages and to assign a quality score for those keywords.  What’s unclear is why the heck the crawler hit us all once!?  

I have never seen this happen with Google and I have done far larger uploads with Google AdWords than what was done in this particular instance with Yahoo.  Yahoo's crawler seemed to be acting strange so I sent in a support ticket about this issue.  The response I got back was that the Ad crawler was working as normal and that we should limit how much we should upload at a time.  When questioning Yahoo support as to what would be a recommended or a suggested number of keywords to upload? Yahoo replied "there is not an estimate that we can safely suggest, as it largely depends on each servers bandwidth and capacity" Really...thanks for your help.

Well first let’s look at what I have learned so far?  Not to upload thousands of keywords at one time with Yahoo. Yahoo's Ad crawler will take down our websites.  When the crawler does take down our website or websites Yahoo is of little or no help in troubleshooting the problem. One more thing that I was able to discover, with Yahoo's assistance (kudos to them), was how to block the crawler from hitting our website.  This is definitely a solution but definitely not a recommended one.  I am positive that my quality scores for my keywords would be fairly high. I would like the minimum bids for those keywords to reflect that by having a low minimum bid.  So blocking the crawler keeps my web server up, but will impact "Yahoo's ability to evaluate the relevance of your landing pages to your keywords and ads," this was taken straight out of yahoo's help page.

I am not really fond of taking the crawler out of the issue. Yahoo's crawler may have its problems, but it does seem to act faster in determining a decent quality score for the keywords.  From my experience, Google's quality score is based by an overtime matrix.  Yahoo seems to take it a step further and tries to get an immediate deserving quality score by using their crawler.  

For now I have to find the balance between optimizing the number of keywords uploaded to Yahoo search marketing and keeping our server from being owned by the crawler.  There are pros to having an instant quality score but the consistency seen in Google’s method is also commendable, if only these two companies were working together…