It’s hard to argue the massive potential Google offers e-commerce businesses. There are 72,803 Google searches per second and counting. And though the last five years has seen significant algorithmic and search layout changes, since 2014, on average, 50.1% of all website traffic still comes from organic search.
Ranking well (in top positions) in the search engines can take time, however, and is often the result of a consistent, focused strategy that includes several onsite and offsite tactics. Therefore, incorporating some shorter-term tactics to your traffic strategy can help you move the needle faster.
Short-term results can help you validate and test new products, raise brand awareness and rapidly drive targeted traffic to your e-commerce website. Furthermore, it’s important to diversify your traffic sources to stay competitive and remain afloat should one channel fail.
Here’s some complementary channels to support your SEO efforts so you can yield some consistent, targeted traffic to your e-commerce business.
If you want to compete with large brands and show up in Google’s search results for your target keywords, Google Ads has become an almost unavoidable investment.
Years ago, organic results graced the very top of Google’s pages. But, Google has since pushed organic results down to the bottom of the fold (and sometimes below it) and put its ads in their place. And since about 50% of Internet users can no longer tell the difference between Google Ads and organic search results, it’s now necessary to invest in Google Ads if you want to rank in the coveted “above the fold” spots.
Google Ads Costs
Investing money into Google ads can also be problematic for e-commerce marketers as Google Ad prices (cost per click or CPC) continues to rise.
However, research has shown that in 2017 and 2018 there were wide fluctuations in CPC for Google search ads. While CPC has risen more than 200% from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018, prices dropped more than 200% in 2018. So while a five-to-seven year analysis may show Google Ads prices increasing, CPC fluctuates month to month and year to year (up or down) depending on the market.
Even with long-term rising costs though, Google Ads is still a powerful media play for e-commerce stores. While SEO is a long-term play, Google Ads allows you to “cheat” the organic rankings and get on key search engine pages quickly. It also doesn’t hurt that e-commerce retailers enjoy the highest click-through rates of 5.23% for Google search PPC ads, the highest of all industries.
Your CPC is also directly tied to your target keyword, market competition and quality score, of which you have control over. With a few tweaks, you can raise your quality score and lower your CPC.
Qualified Traffic and Remarketing
The traffic Google Ads brings is also qualified, which means it will be targeted to your visitors’ interests. By bidding on targeted, specific keywords, you can create ads that direct consumers to a relevant landing page. This will enable you to continue the conversation, user search query to landing page, increasing the chance of a conversion.
Did your visitor visit a product page and abandon your store? With Google Ads, remarket to those people and get your products in front of them again, serving them ads based on their unique interests and behaviours. Remarketing is a powerful strategy because it markets to potential customers who are already aware of your brand.
Formerly Product Listing Ads (PLA), Google Shopping ads have been around since 2010 and though they are newer to the Google Ad stack, they have picked up speed rather quickly. They have even overtaken Google text ads in retail search ad spend at 76.4% in the US and 82% in the UK. Google Shopping ads also attract 85.3% and 87.9% of paid search clicks in the US and UK respectively.
Similar to Google text ads in search, Google Shopping ads are powerful because they match user intent with search results. This increases conversions because users are shown ads based on products they are already interested in buying. This removes some of the consumer’s shopping journey friction and gives users a chance to literally “shop” for their desired products directly from Google search results and click to buy without much effort.
Preferable to Google Text Ads in Search
Data also suggests that for e-commerce businesses, Google Shopping ads may be superior to Google text ads.
Google Shopping ads enable you to showcase (and sell) your products directly in Google’s search results. The ads include product images, descriptions, prices and reviews in a carousel format. This is superior to Google text ads in that searchers can envision what your product looks like, which can attract more clicks than simple text.
In addition, your product ads can appear more than one time for each user query, giving you more opportunity to attract customers. Your ads can also appear in the image search results.
Google also continues to improve the look of its shopping ads and experiments with new layouts. In 2013, product ads sat below text ads, until 2015, when they were relocated to the top of the search engine page. In 2016, Google removed text ads from the side rail, making the Google Shopping product ads more prominent. Current searches reveal product categories, which now sit atop the product images (where appropriate), giving users the opportunity to search by price or product attribute. Google also pulls special offers from your feed (free shipping) and showcases them within the ad block.
Facebook and Instagram Ads
As of the last quarter of 2018, Facebook has 2.32 billion users, making it a viable channel for e-commerce businesses trying to get more brand and product exposure.
Though Facebook ad revenue sits second to Google, the social platform is still widely popular among marketers with an ROI averaging 152%.
Instagram advertising, though it is newer than Facebook and has fewer users (1 billion as of June 2018), is slowly becoming a preference (above Facebook) among marketers. Instagram users are more engaged than Facebook users, resulting in rapid growth for advertisers.
Costs and Targeting
On the whole, marketers also like Facebook and Instagram ads because they cost less than Google search ads. The average CPC for Google Ads (search) and Facebook is $2.69 and $1.72 respectively.
Besides the low cost of entry to run Facebook ads, you can get more granular with your ad targeting (target consumer interests and behaviours) and even cast a wider net to reach more people by targeting “lookalike” audiences.
Though Facebook/Instagram advertising can yield high returns, the success of your ads will depend less on stats and more on your targeting and ad creative. If your audience isn’t responding to your ads, your CPC will be high (and your ROI low) regardless of the platform you are using.
Differences with Google Ads (social vs. search)
One other thing to note is that in contrast with Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram users are not using the social platforms to shop, so your ads will be more intrusive to them. Users visit Google to search with a specific intent to find the answer to their query, hopefully with an intent to buy. Facebook and Instagram users visit the platform to connect and share. Anything that interrupts that can be construed as a distraction.
For this reason, focus your social ad campaigns first on brand awareness and lead generation (if applicable) instead of quick sales, as your audience will likely not be as far along in the buying cycle as they would be searching in Google. Once you gain some website visitors, focus your ad campaigns on retargeting your visitors based on their past behaviours (visited your product page, abandoned the cart, etc.) to get them back to your store to finish their purchase.
Amazon ads have only been around since 2012, but they have quickly become a formidable advertising channel for e-commerce businesses. Though Amazon ad revenue pales in comparison to Facebook and Google, it still snagged 4.1% of total US digital ad spending in 2018. In 2020, it is predicted that Amazon ads will garner 7.0% of the same, stealing some of Google and Facebook’s spoils. And as of Q3 2108, Amazon showed a 123% increase in ad sales, hitting $2.5 billion for the quarter with 29% year on year revenue growth.
Is Amazon a good channel for e-commerce businesses? For one, they are the largest e-retailer in the US. In a recent study, 71% of participants who advertise on Amazon spend up to a quarter of their digital ad budget on the platform. Furthermore, 80% of participants plan on increasing Amazon advertising budgets in 2019 with nearly a quarter of them increasing their budgets by 50% or more.
High Purchase Intent
One of the biggest benefits to Amazon ads is the goal of users navigating the website. Users searching Amazon are there to buy so purchase intent is high. By targeting users in buying mode, they are much more apt to convert. In fact, the average conversion rate for advertisers on Amazon is 9.78%. Typical e-commerce conversion rates are 1.33% on average.
Similar to Google Ads, Amazon also offers a Display Ad network (Amazon DSP) that allows you to show your ads on Amazon’s owned online properties.
So, what channels are you using and are you seeing success from multiple channels?