August 25, 2014

Webinar: Build and Strengthen Your Digital Marketing Foundation

Thursday, September 4 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT

Have you started your marketing plan for next year? 2015 is looming around the corner, and if you’re like most retailers, holiday prep is taking up all the room on your plate. You’re going to want to make some space, though, because we’re going to help kick-start your 2015 planning!

Three of ChannelAdvisor’s digital marketing experts come together next week for part one of our two-part webinar series “Getting Smart About Retail Digital Marketing.” You’ll have the opportunity to hear expert tips from a product marketing manager, search engine optimization (SEO) specialist and digital marketing services manager. Together they’ll focus on building and strengthening your digital marketing foundation — and even sneak in some holiday tips, too!

This webinar series will walk you through the entire process of developing the right marketing strategy for your brand — one that will boost the important numbers and increase your exposure across the most profitable online channels. Webinar

Don’t miss out — we hope to see you on Thursday, September 4! Once you register, no need to repeat the process for part two on September 11. Sign up now to hear our top digital marketing e-commerce gurus share:

  • Tips for optimizing your webstore for increased conversion

  • How SEO can increase your visibility

  • Best practices for building your brand and social voice

  • How to identify which advertising channels are right for your business

August 21, 2014

5 Takeaways from Insite Auckland 2014: What E-Commerce Retailers Should Know

With speakers from Google, Trade Me, eBay Commerce Network and Shopbot, last week’s Insite Auckland conference saw industry experts and leading retailers discuss emergent trends, the state of local and global e-commerce and actionable strategies for business growth.

The packed-house event gave attendees the chance to step back from a day-to-day mindset and take a holistic view of the e-commerce landscape. The environment was one of open discussion and engagement, with a wealth of ideas exchanged among the business-savvy crowd. Popular sessions included a forward-looking perspective on the evolving marketing landscape from Amanda Jordan, national sales manager, retail and government, at Google; and a deep-dive into buyer demographics from Trade Me’s head of supply, Georgina McGowan.   

Insite Auckland image - multichannel approach to your business

Didn’t make it to the event? Here are the top five takeaways you’ll want to know:

1. M-Commerce Is Growing: Reaching upwards of 60%,1 New Zealand’s smartphone penetration is one of the highest in the world. And with more than 40% of Kiwi smartphone owners having purchased a product or service via their devices,2 retailers need to develop mobile-specific strategies to ensure a consistent yet tailored brand experience across all devices. As more and more consumers reach for their smartphones, these ultimate shopping companions will increasingly affect conversion rates, both online and in-store.

2. Customise and Optimise the Search Process: Mark Brixton, APAC regional director at SLI Systems, views searchers as ‘must-win customers’. Consumers who visit your site and interact with the search box are further along the path to purchase. But you can easily lose them if you’re not optimising your search to align with the variations in visitors’ language. 

Retailers often use jargon, or associate a product with only one term, and forget the other types of search queries consumers may use. For example, a visitor searching for ‘sandals’ may type ‘flip flops’, and if your site fails to include both terms when returning relevant products, you’ve instantly lost a potential customer.
3. Data Can’t Be Overemphasised

Inbound: Don’t underestimate the value of collecting customer data, but the key is to put it to good use. Measuring on-site search patterns will not only help visitors navigate, but will also allow you to keep pace with trends and ideas for keyword bids on external search engines.

Outbound: Quality product data will be the foundation of your success. Simon Kelly, ChannelAdvisor sales executive, spoke on how mastering key metrics will ensure that you’re hitting the mark on data and enabling business growth. In short, your product data should be:

    • Readily available
    • Structured in a way that’s flexible and sustainable
    • Showcasing your product catalogue in the best possible light
    • Populated with quality information, copy and images
    • Thorough — the more accurate and complete, the better the results will be.

4. Marketplaces Are Eating the World: Marketplaces now make up a sizeable, growing share of all e-commerce transactions. Third-party marketplaces account for approximately a third of online sales in the US and UK,3 and an overwhelming 90% of e-commerce trade in China.4
New Zealand is set for a similar trajectory: Marketplaces account for three of the top ten most visited shopping websites in the country,5 with Trade Me dominating the space. If you’re selling in New Zealand, marketplaces should be part of your growth strategy, both domestically and when looking to take on cross-border trade.

5. Prepare for the Future of Multichannel: In her session, Google’s Amanda Jordan emphasised the dynamic nature of digital marketing and the impact of upcoming innovations on the retail industry. Wearable tech, the rise of video-based marketing and the ubiquity of showrooming are all important pieces of an ever-expanding e-commerce puzzle — one that will require retailers to adapt to the shift from standard advertising and find new ways to use social, mobile, search and remarketing.


The common thread running throughout the takeaways above? Assess your data and performance accurately and often, and then take relevant action to improve your e-commerce business. 

Wish you'd been there? Don't miss out on Insite Sydney 2014. Register here.
Blog post by Shani Flynn, APAC marketing copywriter, ChannelAdvisor

3Public reports from eBay, Amazon, Google, and ChannelAdvisor estimates based on our transactional data.

Insite Auckland 2014 logo
Download all the event presentations - including Google, Trade Me, and SLI systems - from Insite Auckland 2014

August 19, 2014

Product Listing Ads Are Seeing Stars

Reviews can have a monumental impact on a consumer’s decision-making process. When looking for a new restaurant to try, you go to Yelp. When exploring new career options, you go to Glassdoor. When in the market for a new vehicle, you check out Edmunds. When it comes to choosing what to spend a hard-earned dollar on, reviews and ratings can greatly sway consumer behavior. In initial tests, Google reports that including product ratings in Product Listing Ads (PLAs) has already helped increase click-through rates.

Would you be more likely to make a purchase after seeing a commercial, or hearing a suggestion from a friend? When it comes to trust, peer recommendations tend to trump advertisements. And now, Google has finally caught on to the review revolution by adding reviews and ratings to PLAs.

Google just recently announced the new advertising ingredient — weeks before the forecasted Shopping campaigns switchover.

Product ratings will appear in the form of stars and review counts. The five-star rating system is derived from a collection of reviews pulled from multiple sources, such as merchants, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users.

Vacuum cleaner ratings

Google claims that the little stars will help consumers find product information easier — essentially decreasing the steps in the research process — and increase quality traffic for retailers.

For now, product ratings are available only to retailers targeting the US, but Google does plan on extending this feature to other countries in the coming months. Mike Capsambelis, Google Shopping product manager, makes the following disclaimer on Google’s blog: “Product ratings are one of several extensions we may show with Product Listing Ads, so please note that just because a product has reviews does not mean that we’ll always show ratings.”

We’ll be keeping a close eye on if and how this feature progresses.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in enabling the new rating system for your PLAs, the initial step is to submit this form to Google. Google will then determine if and how it collects your product reviews and will reach out to you with details.


Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, social media & blog manager, ChannelAdvisor



In light of Google’s transition to Shopping campaigns, managing your current Product Listing Ads (PLAs) requires some adjustments. To ensure you’re optimized for profitability, download this free guide!

August 18, 2014

Week 10: Finish Your Shopping Campaigns Transition

GSC blog header

Google has announced that all retailers have until September to transition their current Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns to the recently released Shopping campaigns format. After the transition date, Google will automatically force all remaining PLA campaigns into the new format without optimization or input from the retailer. Join us here each week for our ongoing Shape Up Your Shopping Campaigns series, as we count down to September and help you prepare for the switch. Be sure to email us at with any questions you have along the way.

Now that you’ve increased your bids to the appropriate levels and your new campaigns are running smoothly, there’s just one last thing you need to do: Pause your old PLA campaigns.

Congratulations! After a long summer, you’ve crossed the finish line. While you’ll need to continue monitoring your new campaigns, especially when you add new products, take a few days off and relax, cool down and let those new Shopping campaigns work for you. You’ve earned it!

And if you’re just now joining us, you can still squeeze in most of the necessary steps before the August 31 transition deadline. But you can’t afford to wait any longer. For a quick summary of the steps you need to take, here’s a recap of what we’ve worked on this summer.

Week 1: Educate Yourself

Learn all you can about Google's Shopping campaigns with our bundle of resources below.

Check boxWatch the recorded webinar with Google that explains the transition in depth

Check box Follow up by reading the webinar recap

Check boxCheck out the first blog post in this Shopping campaigns series

Week 2: Organize Feed

The first step in preparing your existing PLAs for the makeover is to ensure that all information under your category headings is complete and accurate. Focusing on the organization of your feed will help you make the most of your new campaigns.

Check box Re-evaluate your segmentation to take advantage of the better granularity

Check box Set up granular bidding to make sure your feed isn’t missing important attributes

Check boxCreate custom labels in your feed if the standard attributes aren’t sufficient

Week 3: Develop Campaign Structure

A healthy foundation is key for future success. Fill in any missing information and set the stage for upcoming successful campaigns.

Check box Organize your campaign based on how your customers search for your products online

Check boxPrioritize products within your existing PLA campaigns

Check boxBuild your basic campaign structure in a spreadsheet pivot table to experiment with the order of granular layers

Week 4: Build Campaigns with the Product Group Generator

Now that you’re organized and have mapped out your structure, build your campaigns with the ChannelAdvisor Product Group Generator — which, in an internal test, structured a campaign 37 times faster than building it manually.

Check box Set up your new campaign in AdWords, choosing “Shopping campaigns” as the campaign type

Check boxUse the Product Group Template to assign a global order to your segment levels

Check box Use the Product Group Template to choose appropriate attributes

Check boxAssign a default bid

Check boxRepeat steps of assigning attributes and bid levels until you reach the level of detail you want

Week 5 & 6: Begin Testing

To know what’s working and what’s not, compare the performance of your old campaigns to your new Shopping campaigns. Carving out time to test is vital for your campaigns’ long-term health.

Check box Select three to five ad groups from your new Shopping campaign, preferably ones that performed well under the previous structure

Check boxKeep old ad groups and campaigns live, as they serve as a metric benchmark

Check boxPause all newly created Shopping campaigns except for the ad groups you selected for testing

Check box Keep the cost per click (CPC) of those chosen campaigns the same as your old PLA groups

Check box Pay attention to conversion rate as well as to new queries that may be hindering it

Check box Let the test campaigns run for 10 to 14 days to gather enough data

Week 7: Report Findings, Set Expectations

After a couple of weeks of testing, you should be equipped with information about the health of your Shopping campaigns. Consider using some of Google’s new benchmarking tools to better understand what your metrics mean.

Check boxImpression Share: Lets you see the percentage of impressions you received out of the total impressions you’re eligible to receive

Check boxBenchmark Max Cost Per Click (CPC): Provides insight into how much other advertisers are bidding on products similar to those in your product group

Check boxBenchmark Click-Through Rate (CTR): Lets you compare your CTR to the rates of your competitors with similar products

Check boxBid Simulator: Estimates what the results could have been over the previous seven days at different bid levels

Week 8: Compare Old and New Campaigns

It’s finally time to unpause the remaining groups in your new campaign.

Check boxAdjust your new daily budgets to approximately 25% of the values of the former campaign

Check boxKeep the campaigns running side by side for about 7 to 14 days

Check boxMake sure your daily budgets account for both campaign types during this period

Check boxIf you have multiple Shopping campaigns running, consider using the Campaign Prioritization feature

Week 9: Optimize and Adjust Your Budget

It’s now time to make any necessary adjustments — and apply the same steps you took during your first test period.  

Check boxPay attention to the product groups that contain high-margin products or products that performed particularly well in prior campaigns

Check boxUse the competitive benchmark tools as a general guide for product groups that need extra attention

Check boxLook for performance patterns that are similar to those you experienced in your test groups

Check boxRearrange or add levels to your product groups if your bid modifications prove to be unsuccessful.

Week 10

Once you’re content with the performance of your new product groups, you can begin the ultimate transition:

Check boxIncrease the daily budget of your new campaign and decrease the budget of your former campaign

Check boxYou’re now ready to pause the former PLA campaign!

Check boxContinue to monitor the performance of your campaigns, especially when you add new products

Check boxTake a few days off. You’ve earned it!


If you have any more questions, run into bumps in the road or want to tell us how awesome your freshly polished campaigns are performing, shoot us an email at

August 14, 2014

Coming Soon: Changes to Device Targeting for Bing Ads

In mid-September 2014, Bing Ads will introduce global changes to the way advertisers manage device targeting. Bing is making these updates to better align with campaign management in Google AdWords. If you’re currently running advertising campaigns on both Google and Bing, this change should create a consistent and familiar experience for you.

What’s changing?

Bing Ads will be merging all tablet traffic into desktop/laptop, creating a single targeting selection for desktop/laptop and tablet. You’ll still be able to control how much emphasis you place on tablet traffic with a bid modifier, ranging from -20% to +300%. You won’t, however, be able to solely target tablet or tablet OS traffic, or completely remove tablet traffic from your campaigns.

What about targeting smartphones?

During the first half of 2015, Bing Ads will eliminate explicit smartphone device targeting and allow you to control your campaigns’ mobile traffic with bid modifiers, ranging from -100% to +300%. If you choose not to incorporate smartphones into your targeting, you can simply adjust the bid modifier to -100% and target only tablet and desktop/laptop.  

What do you need to do?

Bing Ads will automatically merge tablet traffic with desktop/laptop traffic in September. Depending on your current campaign settings and personal preferences, your next steps will vary.

  • If you’re currently targeting desktops/laptops only and aren’t concerned about the additional tablet traffic, no action is needed.

  • If you’re currently targeting desktops/laptops only and are concerned about reaching additional tablet users, you should review your campaign and adjust the new bid modifiers where necessary.

  • If you’re currently targeting desktops/laptops and mobile devices, you’ll be able to adjust the new bid modifier for tablet between -20% and +300%. If your current modifier is less than -20%, it will be migrated to the maximum -20% with the merger.  

  • If you’re currently targeting tablet users only, your targeting settings will change to include desktop/laptop traffic.

  • If you’re targeting smartphones only, no action will be necessary. Your new bid modifiers will be available during the first half of 2015.  

If you have any questions or want to learn more about how ChannelAdvisor can help you generate more sales through paid search, please email us at

August 12, 2014

Is Encryption the new SEO Kryptonite?

Ever wonder what the “s” stood for in “https”? Secure. The complete acronym actually reads: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Google announced last Wednesday that it will be using its search algorithm ranking order to reward websites that are encrypted. Google would like web developers to adopt more secure technology in an effort to protect users’ data from hackers.

Why Now?

In the wake of the Snowden/National Security Agency (NSA) chronicles, and the ensuing discovery of the lack of online protection for emails, Google has stepped up its security efforts. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Kevin Mahaffey, CTO and co-founder of mobile-security company Lookout Inc., explained the importance of encryption by asking, “If you were sending a letter with your credit-card information and Social Security number, would you send it in a secure envelope or a clear envelope?” By encrypting your website, you are putting a barrier between web users and hackers.

Now What?

The recent change has left some SEO-conscious online retailers asking, “Can Google index and rank pages behind the secure socket layer (SSL)?” Many SEO specialists and developers can remember when Google’s Quality Guideline recommended that non-transactional pages be kept in front of the SSL because Google had difficulty rendering and indexing information behind the SSL.

Let’s put this myth to rest. Google indexes pages behind the SSL. Take a look at the example below — site:


Next Steps for Retailers:

  • Buy a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate from your existing web hosting company for about $100. Conduct a 90-day marketing experiment to confirm that installing a SSL has truly improved your search reach and visibility.

A SSL certificate verifies the identiy of your business and allows a web server to establish a secure encryption with a visitor's web browser. Small e-commerce retailers can consider a more affordable option called a "shared certificate". Using a shared certificate is acceptable or satisfying the AdWords SSL policy requirements.

  • Install the SSL certificate on your web server. The installation method will vary depending on your web server. Take time to get a developer to help you configure it properly, especially if you use a Google Search Appliance or serve Google Display Ads.

  • Identify the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) on your website that you want to secure with SSL. Remember that AdWords policy states you must use a secure connection on pages that collect or transmit certain personal and financial information, like personal login passwords.

  • Configure Make sure to change relative and non-secure links to “https:” Google will have more information in the coming weeks on how to handle relative links. Set up server redirects to automatically route people who try to access secure pages with the http:// protocol. Remember pages such as your login page.

  • Test, test, test to verify that your pages are secure. If your website is already serving on HTTPS, you can test its security level and configuration with the Qualys Lab tool.           

The most common error is having "mixed content" on an https: page. That means one or more elements (usually images, flash files or CSS files) are being loaded on an https: page using a non-secure http:// URL.            

To avoid errors, search for “http://”. Replace any instances you find with “https://”. FTP the changes to your web server and try testing again.

Visit this support page from Google for more information on implementing a SSL with an Adwords Account.

Bottom Line

Google currently uses over 200 signals that determine search rankings, but having a secure website may soon be a signal that affects your overall reach and visibility.

Who truly benefits? As an e-commerce retailer you may experience a small increase from the new algorithm change. As more and more site owners begin adding the SSL the benefit of this ranking signal will become diluted.

We’d recommend that retailers manage their expectations and proceed with caution. When was the last time Google announced it would give an organic ranking boost for adopting a particular type of site structure? Google has created thousands of videos and posts about quality guidelines that improve visibility, but has never said outright that it will “reward” you for a specific practice, which makes this first-time recommendation conspicuous.


Blog post by Tansy Obryant, ChannelAdvisor SEO strategist

August 11, 2014

Week 9: Optimize and Adjust Your Budget

GSC blog header

Google has announced that all retailers have until September to transition their current Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns to the recently released Shopping campaigns format. After the transition date, Google will automatically force all remaining PLA campaigns into the new format without optimization or input from the retailer. Join us here each week for our ongoing Shape Up Your Shopping Campaigns series, as we count down to September and help you prepare for the switch. Be sure to email us at with any questions you have along the way.

The finish line is now in sight. Both your old and new campaigns should be live and generating valuable performance data for you to compare. It’s now time to make any necessary adjustments — and apply the same steps you took during your first test period.  

  • Pay special attention to the product groups that contain high-margin products or products that performed particularly well in prior campaigns.  

  • Use the competitive benchmark tools as a general guide for product groups that need extra attention.

  • Look for performance patterns that are similar to those you experienced in your test groups. In these situations, try applying the same bidding tactics you used to improve performance.

  • Consider rearranging or adding levels to your product groups if your bid modifications prove to be unsuccessful.

Once you’re content with the performance of your new product groups, you can begin the ultimate transition by increasing the daily budget of your new campaign and decreasing the budget of your former campaign.

Now, there’s only one thing left to do….

In next week’s blog, we’ll cover this last step, as well as provide a recap of the entire process you should have just completed. Until then, we’ve decided to answer some Shopping campaigns questions we’ve received in the past few weeks.

Q: What steps should I take to optimize the titles in my feed?

First, review your search query data to understand what words customers are using to find your products. Use this data to optimize the first 20 to 25 characters of your product titles — this will make them more relevant. You should begin to see more words bolded in search results, which will help your ad stand out from less relevant products.

Don’t forget about the rest of the title, though. While the front of the product title should include relevant, high-volume terms, the back end should include size, color, material or other important descriptive terms. This will help reinforce the relevance of that product for specific queries.

Q: I have products with multiple images. How do I know which image will perform best?

Test. Test. Test. Rotating images is a great way to find out which one yields the best click-through rate.

Q: What are some additional uses for priority settings?

Consider using priority settings to manage newer styles versus older styles, since you may have better margins on a newer style of the same product. If each product falls under the same product group, you can create a campaign at a higher priority setting and use inventory filters to select only the products you’d like to bid differently.

Q: How should I be optimizing my Shopping campaigns for mobile?

As you’re probably well aware, more and more customers are turning to their phones and tablets when shopping. But the types of products that people buy on their phones can vary drastically from the products they buy on their desktops.

The first step you need to take is to review your site metrics to better understand your customers’ mobile behavior. After you have a better idea of which products perform well (and poorly) on each device, use mobile bid modifiers to bid more or less competitively for product searches made on mobile devices.

Keep track of your progress with our Shape Up Your Shopping Campaigns Roadmap.

And as always, if you have additonal questions, feel free to email us at


August 07, 2014

Who Said Digital Marketing Was Simple?

Digital marketing. What does that even mean these days? In this fast-paced e-commerce world we live in, the definition of “digital marketing” has grown quite hefty, and there’s no sign of it slimming down anytime soon.

As the clock ticks, more channels and even more verticals are thrown into the digital advertising tornado. As a marketer, it can be overwhelming. As a retailer — well, hats off to you if your feet are on still on the ground. Most retailers understand the importance of multichannel e-commerce. The real challenge lies in how to allocate advertising budgets to the various and diverse channels.

From the channel buffet, you’ve got paid search, display, comparison shopping, social and mobile. Then you’ve got to determine where to advertise — Google, Bing, Yahoo, Pinterest, Shopzilla, Criteo? Next, pick an ad format. Will it be text, product listings, banner, video, or remarketing? Oh, and don’t forget the keywords for each ad, as well as the amount you’re going to bid for each keyword! And that’s just the beginning. You have to continuously measure, analyze and adjust your ads and bids to weed out what’s working and what isn’t. Overwhelmed yet?

Most retailers don’t have the time, resources or industry knowledge to even be a contestant in this digital advertising arena. But if done correctly, digital marketing yields high value. It can funnel traffic to your website, build brand awareness, generate sales, drive local store visits and much more.

Each business differs — different industry, different product selection, different goals. If you’re serious about ramping up your digital ad efforts (and you should be), it’s worth looking into an e-commerce platform like ChannelAdvisor to help you find the perfect advertising recipe. First things first, though — educate. Spend some time getting to know your new friend, Digital Marketing. This eBook, Channel Mix: Finding the Perfect Blend of Advertising Strategies, will help make the introduction. To discover the right combination to sell more products and get the most out of your ad budget, you need to be aware of how each channel operates and the advertising options you have for each.

The key to a establishing a solid digital marketing infrastructure is experimenting, making informed decisions and setting goals. In this eBook, we walk you through five critical stages for launching a substantial digital marketing strategy.


Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, social media & blog manager, ChannelAdvisor




Don’t shoot in the dark when it comes to digital marketing. Download our FREE eBook Channel Mix: Finding the Perfect Blend of Advertising Strategies for guidance.

August 04, 2014

Week 8: Compare Old and New Campaigns

Shape up your shopping campaigns

Google has announced that all retailers have until the end of August to transition their current Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns to the recently released Shopping campaigns format. After the transition date, Google will automatically force all remaining PLA campaigns into the new format without optimization or input from the retailer. Join us here each week for our ongoing Shape Up Your Shopping Campaigns series, as we count down to August and help you prepare for the switch. Be sure to email us at with any questions you have along the way.

Time to Unpause and Reflect

Can you feel that? It’s confidence. It’s you knowing how to identify and fix some of the most common issues retailers see with Shopping campaigns. You’re now ready to apply what you’ve learned to the rest of your campaign.

It’s finally time to unpause the remaining groups in your new campaign. The first step you should take is to adjust your new daily budgets to approximately 25% of the values of the former campaign. Both campaigns are now live and generating valuable metrics. You should keep the campaigns running side by side for about 7 to 14 days, or until you feel you have enough new data to compare against your old PLA campaign. It’s also important to make sure your daily budgets account for both campaign types during this period.

If you're not content to just sit back and observe campaigns, the good news is that there's always more tweaking that can be done.

Using Campaign Prioritization   

While you were creating your product groups, you probably found instances where it made sense to create separate campaigns for products that fall into multiple categories like seasonality, best sellers, or special sales. If that’s the case, you could have products that are serving ads across more than one campaign. In other words, you could have multiple bid values assigned to a single product.  

Google’s new Campaign Prioritization tool lets you control the campaign these products will be served from, regardless of the bid amounts you had assigned. Google priority levels include “Low,” “Medium” and “High,” with all new campaigns defaulting to the “Low” setting. A product included in a campaign set to “High” is guaranteed to serve from that campaign, versus one assigned a “Medium” or “Low” setting.

For instance, if you have a product group for “Anniversary Sale,” it might contain a product found in another campaign. You can adjust the campaign setting of the “Anniversary Sale” product group to “High” so that the product will enter the auction at the bid level assigned for “Anniversary Sale.”

Looking Ahead

Check back next week, when we’ll walk you through the final steps of the process before you pause your old PLA campaigns. We’ll also answer some of the questions we’ve received along the way. Until then, keep track of your progress with our Shape Up Your Shopping Campaigns Roadmap.

And as always, if you have questions, feel free to email us at and we’ll do our best to incorporate the answers in future blog posts.



And as always, if you have questions, feel free to email us at and we’ll do our best to incorporate the answers in future blog posts.

July 31, 2014

SEO and Paid Search: A Parable of Two Retailers

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be a confusing topic, even for experienced marketers. For one thing, the rules are always changing. Search engines frequently update the algorithms used to determine webpage rankings. What’s more, managing both your paid and organic search strategies can be a balancing act, leaving many retailers wondering whether they have their priorities — and their budgets — straight.

To help break things down, let’s look at two completely opposite (and two completely made-up) examples.

Sally’s Sports and Oliver’s Office Outlet are both new companies with monthly digital marketing budgets of $10,000. Sally’s Sports decides to invest this entire sum in organic search (SEO), while Oliver’s Office Outlet decides to devote the same amount to paid search (in this case, Google AdWords). Neither retailer had previously spent any budget on their chosen strategy.

Though these examples are simplistic — most companies are savvy enough to invest in more than one digital marketing channel — we hope to illustrate the benefits and differences of each strategy and how far your investment will take you.

Retailer 1: Sally’s Sports tackles SEO

SEO1Sally’s Sports allocates all of their $10,000 marketing budget to SEO. They want to optimize their web properties while they’re still new, rather than retroactively update them down the road.

Getting Started: Sally’s Sports creates tags for their webpages and builds out their link strategy. Their in-house team starts a sports-focused blog to build visibility and keywords. Through this optimization work, Sally’s Sports attracts around 5,000 low-impression keywords to their site. They experience a small (1.5 to 1) ROI in the first three months. Altogether, their initial SEO efforts take almost 30 hours a week — which means they spend less time on other marketing priorities.

The Midpoint: By the end of the second quarter, the company’s SEO efforts begin to bear fruit, and they spend only ten hours a week on SEO. With their optimization strategy in place, their keywords grow to 30,000, which leads to increased traffic and conversions on their website. So far, their SEO has generated $40,000 in profits. Given this success, Sally’s Sports decides to reduce SEO spending to $2,000 per month.

One Year Later: Sally’s Sports is pleased with their SEO progress. They notice, though, that their website’s organic listing is always pushed below the top two paid search ads, especially on mobile devices. On the other hand, by refining their tags and website architecture, their product pages now include all the data they’d need for listing on Amazon.

Just when Sally’s Sports thinks their strategy is moving along fairly well, they wake up to find that Google has updated the Panda search algorithm. Their organic traffic fluctuates downward, and their keyword dominance shifts. Sally’s Sports regrets cutting their spend — SEO just seemed less expensive when visibility and reach were growing.

Retailer 2: Oliver’s Office Outlet sticks to paid search

SEO2Oliver’s Office Outlet decides to invest their $10,000 digital marketing budget in paid search, or pay-per-click (PPC) ads. Because they need to repay their startup costs soon, they’re looking for a channel that will generate profits quickly. Though they considered SEO, they don’t want to wait three to six months for an SEO investment to pay off. 

Getting Started: Oliver’s Office Outlet buys 500 keywords using Google AdWords and bids on several variations of high-impression keywords. They immediately see ROI of 2 to 1.They’re pleasantly surprised that they’re spending only ten hours a week managing their campaigns. Even better, they see campaign profitability of $10,000 within the first three months. They decide to invest 25% of that back into their AdWords campaigns. As a result, they now have 750 keywords and $12,500 in spend that generates $12,500 in profit.

The Midpoint: By the end of the second quarter, Oliver’s Office Outlet is spending more and more time on paid search, especially as they add more keywords. They check their campaigns at least once a day — to adjust bids, search for keywords and monitor competitors. With so much energy spent on paid search, there’s less time for other business priorities.

One Year Later: Every time Oliver’s Office Outlet thinks they’re getting ahead, their cost per click (CPC) increases. Their paid search strategies are becoming more complex and harder to manage. New competitors show up every day, and the company’s not sure their paid search efforts are differentiating them from their competitors. They could hire a new employee to help out, but that would double their AdWords reinvestment cost. They feel like they’re borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today.

The moral of the story

Sally and Oliver happen to meet at the 2014 School Supply Summit, where they discover they both sell the same line of ultralight, waterproof (and all-around amazing) backpacks. One thing leads to another and they start discussing their digital marketing strategies. Each retailer begins to understand the merits of the other retailer’s preferred channel. Sally thinks paid search could buffer her company from changes in search engine algorithms. Oliver realizes that an SEO strategy could reduce the time and money his company spends on paid search.

It was the beginning of a beautiful business relationship.

Takeaways: What you need to know

Though these examples aren’t exactly realistic, they highlight a few basic best practices for balancing your paid search and SEO:

  • Save for a rainy day. Leave some extra slack in your SEO budget for algorithm changes, which could dramatically alter your strategy.

  • Look up, look ahead. Recognize when the demands of managing your PPC campaigns are encroaching on your ability to make other business choices. A warning sign is being so focused on your campaigns that you can’t look beyond the next 30 days.

  • Diversify. Both SEO and PPC have their benefits, but focusing too much on one without the other can lead you to overlook other key components of your business. Think of SEO and PPC as two foundational pillars of a larger digital marketing strategy.


Blog post by Tansy Obryant, ChannelAdvisor SEO strategist.


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