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Targeted Pay-Per-Click Advertising: How to Bring the Aisle to the Online Shopper

The beauty of shopping online is that we’re able to browse through the websites of many different merchants selling similar products, all while sitting on a couch watching the newest episode of The Bachelorette… Err I mean Mad Men.

The problem this creates is that our attention spans as shoppers continue to shrink, so our patience runs thin when we come to a site that is organized poorly or doesn’t navigate as expected.

Nobody wants to spend the same amount of time trying to find a product on your site that they would have to spend if they were walking around in a store. This is why you have to do everything you can to cut out as many extra steps as possible and create targeted search campaigns that bring the aisle to the shopper.

Product Categories: Don’t Compare Apples to Oranges

If there’s anything I learned from the years of taking “science” classes, it’s that humans, by nature, will try to categorize everything into neat little pieces of information. Believe it or not, starting a successful e-commerce business uses this same principle.

So the first step is very simple: Create PPC campaigns based on your product category keywords and drive the traffic directly to your category pages.

Essentially, what you’re doing here is showing people which aisle has exactly what they’re looking for. This saves the user time, reduces your bounce rates, and most importantly, increases your conversion rates. After all, it takes only a split second for someone to lose interest when they realize they don’t have the time to dig through your site and find what they are looking for.

site structure campaigns

Above is a great example of site structure you can build campaigns around. Each category like “Bags” can be a campaign while the subcategories like “Gear Bags” can be adgroups within the campaign. This will make it easy to identify which perform the best over time.

The other benefit of segmenting your campaigns and adgroups by product categories is that it will save you time when it comes to account optimization.

As you gain significant data within your campaigns, it will be much easier to identify which product categories are providing the best ROI. If you have a campaign for each category and adgroups for each subcategory, eventually it won’t be tough to pinpoint where you’re making great returns and where you should cut back. As you start to separate your strengths and weaknesses and optimize bids toward those better converting categories, you will see your overall cost per sale drop.

Sort Orders: Put Your Best Foot Forward

When users narrow their searches by including certain features or parameters, do your best to align your landing pages with their needs.

If Billy Gibbons is looking for some cheap sunglasses, instead of directing him to your general sunglasses page, sort the products by the lowest price and make that your landing page.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of your buyers. If you do a search for 42-inch LED TVs and you are taken to a page which is already sorted to show you the right size and type of TV you want vs. a homepage, which one do you think has the better chance of closing a sale?

pay per click categories

The category page above allows you to sort by price so you can present your most affordable products first to those who specifically searched for “cheap flashlights” instead of them seeing products out of their price range initially and bouncing off the page.

While not all sites will have the sort function, this can be an extremely powerful trick to help better convert your traffic.

Whether it’s sorting by size, color, brand, or price, any time you cut down the number of steps in the purchase cycle and provide customers with the most relevant products, it will improve the user experience and put you in a better position to increase your sales.

Specific Products: Transparency is Your Best Friend

Now let’s take it a step further and drill down to the product level. Create adgroups for specific products you know sell well and have a decent amount of search volume.

If you bid on product specific keywords and write an ad with the exact product name in the headline and include a price, send the traffic directly to the product page. Sure, the volume of clicks and impressions won’t be nearly as high as that for your general terms, but the people who do type in the specific keywords and click on your ad will be the ones who have a stronger intent to purchase.

By including a price in your ad copy, you are better qualifying the traffic and setting the right expectation. If they don’t like the price, they won’t click, which will limit your expense to those ready to buy.

how to qualify your traffic

This ad is an example of how to qualify your traffic with a price in the headline. It also includes a few specs from the product page to let the potential customer know what to expect when they click and land on this specific page.


At this point, it should be pretty obvious how important it is to have conversion friendly product category and product page designs to supplement your account structure.

Once you have all of your campaigns and adgroups segmented to match the organization on your site, you can use this to optimize your conversion rates by testing new designs for these specific pages you’re driving traffic to.

You’ve got the proper tests in place to track results, take advantage of your segmented campaigns, and analyze which design related areas have room for improvement.

Brand Campaigns: Segmentation is Key

Often, many advertisers make the mistake of mixing their brand related keywords with the more generic broad terms in their campaigns.

You know the saying: Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.

This is exactly what you’re doing when you have an adgroup that contains product category-type keywords like “electric guitar” and other brand related keywords like “Gibson Les Paul.” Yes, you might end up converting users who type in both of these keywords; but if they were in separate campaigns, you would be able to easily distinguish which is responsible for poor vs. great performance.

The other advantage of splitting out your brand from non-brand is that you’re able to once again get very targeted in the landing pages you decide to use. If someone is searching for a specific brand, then make sure you don’t send them to a general product category page and make them dig through a larger selection that they’ve already indicated they’re not interested in.

category filtering

The category page above for backpacks has been filtered to include only a specific brand that has relatively high search volume compared to the other brands. This makes for a much better landing page than the regular backpack category page where users may take longer to find what they were looking for and possibly bounce off the page without purchasing.

Once all your campaigns are split out by brands, not only will this help you optimize the account toward those selling well, but over time, you will be able to identify which brands are not selling profitably.

If you come to a point where you notice a few brands racking up expenses without providing a return, this is a clear indicator that you may want to start cutting them from your future inventory.

You can compare different branded adgroups to see exactly how much you spent vs. how much revenue was generated. These types of valuable insights will guide you in your overall business when making decisions about where to cut or expand your product offering.

Don’t Forget about Display Ads: The Hidden Gem of Online Advertising

Once you have your search campaigns all segmented and organized, don’t forget there is a massive display network out there with users reading up on topics associated with your business.

Sure, they are in a different mindset than those actively searching on Google, but they are in research mode, so it is worth bidding for their attention.

Many times, users will read online reviews about products you may carry in order to educate themselves on exactly what they want. Why wait to catch them after they’ve taken the next step and gone on a search engine when you can be their first interaction with a store selling what they are reading about?

Think of it as the online version of magazine ads. You can take a couple of different approaches:

  1. Either start off with a more direct response strategy where you show only your ads on the most specific websites that are related directly to the products you sell.
  2. Or, go for the longer term sale and branding efforts on pages you feel are attracting your target audience and demographic.

For example, if someone is reading a blog post on how to cut costs by being more energy efficient, it would be a good idea to show them your ad if you sell low energy light bulbs or even solar panels. It might not lead to a quick sale, but at least they will have had that first interaction with your site or brand, so yours will be one of the first places they look once they actually are ready to buy.

direct response ad

Here’s an example of a direct response ad on a camera review site where users are reading in depth reviews on different brands and models.

This particular ad above is selling a brand which the site does have reviews on. This might even inspire a user who does not know where to start, find a review on the specific camera model they saw in the initial ad.

A quick and easy tip on how to implement a display campaign is to use Google’s placement tool to find a number of websites you feel are relevant enough to show your ads on.

In the true spirit of segmentation, I must remind you to never have one campaign that’s targeting both search and display. Simply copy one of your search campaigns and turn on the setting to show only throughout the display network. While you’ve got your specific websites you want to show on, let Google run the Automatic Placements based on the keywords in your campaign.

As you start to see where Google is matching you up and which of those sites actually are converting, then optimize by moving those performing well into your Managed Placements and setting a higher bid. For those racking up clicks without any conversions, add them to your list of Excluded Placements when you have enough significant data to suggest it’s not worth showing your ads there.

placement tool

The placement tool above lets you type in keywords or your website, and it will show you matching results that might be good places around the web to advertise your products.

Display Network tab

Click the image above to see a larger view. Once you’ve got enough data in your display campaigns, select a campaign and go to the Display Network tab under Placements to see all the sites your ads are showing up on. From here you can decide which locations are performing well.

The majority of ad space across the display network is taken up by banner ads, so make sure you’re not using only text ads and limiting your reach.

You can start off by designing specific banner ads that relate to your top selling product categories and direct traffic to your category pages. Then, expand to banners for other product categories. Eventually, you can afford to get broader and create a general set of banners for those reading about something related to your overall business (and not just one portion of your product offering) in order to send them to your homepage.


Whether you’re strategizing on how to create successful search or display campaigns, a general rule of thumb is to build your structure around the different products, categories, and brands so that, in the long run, you can gain actionable insights from the data.

Any time you are building campaigns that segment your paid traffic in an organized fashion, you will be not only increasing your conversion rates, but also, the data you gather will be much more clear and valuable.

You easily can identify which products are selling the best when your targeting is on point and you are showing customers exactly what they are looking for right away. The more time you save users from having to dig through your site while creating a convenient shopping experience, the greater the likelihood your clicks will turn into sales.

About Kissmetrics

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About the Author: Chris Darabi is a Senior SEM Analyst for National Positions, which is an Internet marketing and PPC Company based in Los Angeles, CA. National Positions works with hundreds of businesses and has been named to Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing, privately help companies from 2009-2012. Chris specializes in PPC, display advertising, remarketing, web analytics, and shopping engines.

  1. Matthew Ozolins Jul 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Do you actually have any metrics to show us that display ads are “The Hidden Gem of Online Advertising.” I have heard mixed reports in the last 6 months about the effectiveness of display. You guys are talking about aiming for direct response with display ads, yet the last metric I saw was saying that I am more likely to enlist as a US Navy Seal than click on a banner ad.

  2. What kind of report could possibly prove anything is a hidden gem? How would you even define a hidden gem in this case? I think what he meant was not a lot of advertisers have been taking advantage of all the targeting methods available with display ads. I’ve seen it work for plenty of businesses so I would suggest testing it out for yourself to see how successful it can be first, rather than taking anyones word on the likelihood of getting banner clicks.

  3. Matthew, I would also encourage you to try display campaigns on your own and see what you learn. Naturally they have much lower click through rates than search, that’s just a reality due to differences in a users intent and mindset on a site vs. a search engine. However, if you’re targeting the right areas you can convert them just as well. Additionally, one user can easily rack up 10+ impressions while clicking through the different pages of a site which might serve the same ad multiple times so naturally the number of unique impressions and low CTR can be inflated by this.

    I’m not saying display works for every business but there have been a lot of new targeting methods that came out in recent months like Similar Audiences, Topics, Interests, Dynamic Remarketing and more which can help you zoom into your target market so it’s always worth testing.

    We’re co-hosting a webinar with Google on display advertising strategies which will provide plenty of statistics showing the growth in effectiveness for display if you’re interested.

  4. Richard Thomas Jul 16, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    great post – you didn’t mention google merchant (shopping) – is its now a paid listing site it would be interesting to read your POV on its merits within the adwords environment

    • Lots of ground to cover when talking about Google Shopping and PLA campaigns, definitely a topic worth another post. However, I’ll leave you with this quick tip. Add a field to your product feed called “adwords_labels” and insert your product categories. Then when you create the PLA campaign, use all your product categories as adgroup names and set the target as the adwords labels. This will let you bid differently on product categories based on their performance. You could also insert manufacturer as the adwords labels if you’d rather have them segmented by brand.

  5. Very detailed post with a lot of value, I’m still not bought on PPC though. I prefer organic methods.

  6. Well you have better description for PPC. but I want more clearance about pick a correct keyword…also Does AdWords suitable for non brand company too?
    please reply

    • When it comes to keyword selection, I use Google’s keyword tool and start off with the keywords which have higher search volume. Then I take those terms and try to identify the longer-tail versions of those keywords which show a higher level of intent to purchase. Generally, the longer-tail keywords show a user is more informed on what exactly they’re looking for and are further down the sale cycle. This makes them more likely to complete a transaction. For example, if someone’s searching for “air jordan shoes” vs. someone searching “2009 black and red air jordan shoes” the latter would be the more cost effective to target (cheaper CPC) and an easier sale (more likely to convert).

  7. LOVE the Billy Gibbons searching for cheap sunglasses reference….

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  9. Great Post! PPC advertising has become very popular these days. With more and more people getting familiar with internet, PPC advertising is used by many advertiser.

  10. with the keywords which have higher search volume. Then I take those terms and try to identify the longer-tail versions of those keywords which show a higher level of intent to purchase. Generally, the longer-tail keywords show a user is more informed on what exactly they’re looking for and are further down the sale cycle. This makes them more likely to complete a transaction. For example, if someone’s searching for “air jordan shoes” vs. someone searching “2009 black and red air jordan shoes” the latter would be the more cost effective to target (cheaper CPC) and an easier sale (more likely

  11. George, thanks for sharing. We look forward to hearing more from you :)

  12. Thank you for sharing the useful information about pay per click advertising.It’s really nice to post.

  13. Hi there,

    I’m looking to do a PPC campaign for my first affiliate product, and your post is really useful. But something that concerns me is what permission do we have for using brand names/company names in the keywords or ad copy?

    I’ve been flagged by Google Adwords for using Amazon before in the ad copy so I wonder how you work around that?



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