The e-Commerce PPC Text Ad Is Not Dead

death of e-commerce ppc text ads homer simpson

death of e-commerce ppc text ads homer simpson

Goodbye e-Commerce PPC Text Ads… Wait, Really?

Anyone doing e-Commerce PPC Marketing over the last couple of years has undoubtedly marveled at the change in scenery. As Google has invested more energy into Google Shopping (Base/Froogle/Product Ads/PLAs/etc), they have also handed more SERP real-estate to the PLA. In my opinion, this is a good thing since consumers would rather see an image, price, and short description than a text ad. I think this is overall a good move by Google for e-commerce PPC.

In our last PPCChat, Matt Umbro wondered aloud who would be the first to call for the death of the e-commerce text ad.

I tend to agree with Josh Devlin on this one…

Sooo… if your clients are in competition with mine, please go shut off all your e-commerce text ads and rely solely on PLAs.

If you don’t have a client in competition with mine… then I would argue that the text ad is still necessary in e-commerce for these reasons.

1 – Category Queries

If you have ever spent time mining through SQRs for an e-commerce account, you know that there are a lot of people hitting your site who don’t know what they want yet. PLAs can be good for these people, but it can also be too early in the buying process to try to hit them with one product.

When someone types in [winter boots], there are still TONS of unanswered variables here. Are they wanting kids or adult boots? Male or female boots? Galoshes, Rubbers, winter “hiking boots”, or snow boots? In some ways, geographical targeting of campaigns and other factors can help distinguish these, but there’s still a lot of unknowns for knowing which PLA to show to that individual.

This can be a great time for a well worded, interesting text ad (with Sitelinks!) pointing to a Category Landing Page. I think Zappos has the right idea here (though the text is a little… automaticish sounding πŸ™‚ ). The other two are too limited to this query in my opinion (unless their data is telling them something about the user… seeing as how one ad is targeting men and the other is targeting women… I’m not convinced that’s the case here!).

Zappos winter boots on GOogle

CAVEAT: admittedly, there are times when a single product so dominates a category that it can be more profitable to highlight that product, even on category searches. Make sure your data is really telling you this, however, and not just announcing the self-fulfilling prophecy: “this is the only product that sells in PLAs for those queries because it’s the only PLA that ever shows up for those queries.”

2 – Branded Queries

This is similar to the category query. I generally still want my PLAs to show for applicable brand queries (again, depending upon the client), but for the most part, the data I see still demonstrates a high conversion rate/low cost for branded text ads. See this example of Keen Hiking Boots (BTW, I love Sierra Trading Posts’ sitelinks in that top ad since they cover the main categories someone would be interested in).

keen hiking boots in google search

Also, you may find on branded terms that Google chooses not to show PLAs at all, so killing your text ads will kill your ads.

CAVEAT: Again, there are times when a single product so dominates a brand that it can be more profitable to highlight that product, even on brand searches. Same thing as before, make sure this is actually the case and make adjustments according to your own data here.

3 – No Keyword targeting in Google Shopping

Currently, my number 1 frustration with Google Shopping is and has been that we cannot target PLAs to individual keywords. Read more of my thoughts on this post compiled by Bryant Garvin here: PPC Predictions 2014. In the end, what this means for Google Shopping is that it is always dependent upon Google to connect the dots for that query and that product. As we all know, they do a great job with relevancy, but it’s not perfect and that lack of perfection can hurt us here.

Currently, text ads are the only way to ensure an advertiser shows results to the specific query he/she (not Google!) has identified as relevant and conversion friendly. I would love for this to be the case for Google Shopping. Perhaps, someday. Please, someday. No seriously, I’ll get on my knees and beg if that helps?

4 – Money. In Google’s Pockets.

picture of a child throwing money out the window
Last, but not least, we have what could be the most significant reason why I believe the e-commerce text ad will never die. Text ads to fill up space around PLAs means: residual income from residual clicks. Even a highly specific product specific query is going to attract some clicks on some text ads and that is money for Google.

Note, I’m not arguing here whether I think this is ultimately in Google’s long-term interest because of user relevancy, blah blah. I’m arguing, that I don’t think it will disappear any time soon because it is additional income for them.

So, For these reasons, I would suggest you invest heavily in a good Google Shopping strategy, but don’t nail the coffin shut on your text ads either. Used together, I think these are a fantastic strategy for e-retailers.

What about you? Anything you would add/subtract from this? Tweet it to me here:

EDIT 6/4/14: Matt Umbro had such a great suggestion, that I wanted to add it in: