Tag Archives: Paid Search

A Great Article on Prepping for the Holidays from Stores Magazine

27 Jul

Christmas (Buying) in

Christmas (Buying) in

From Jul 2011 | By Fred Minnick |

Preparing for those stocking-stuffing
consumers, e-commerce retailers are making holiday planning a top priority.

Holiday sales from November to December rose 5.7 percent (to
$462 billion) last year compared with 2009 — the largest seasonal percentage
increase since 2004, according to the NRF. These figures have retailers
wondering if they can improve results even more this year.

The holiday matters
Eric Best, co-founder and CEO of online tech firm Mercent, works
year-round with retailers to prepare for the holiday season. Mercent has built a
strong track record for improving e-commerce sales and expects to deliver its
typical results this coming holiday season.

What’s typical? Using Mercent Retail solution, which optimizes
paid search campaigns to drive sales for every SKU and merchandising offer,
Gardener’s Supply, headquartered in Burlington, Vt., increased return on
advertising spending (ROAS) 500 percent. Year-over-year sales for FootSmart, an
online retailer specializing in foot and lower body healthcare products,
increased more than 400 percent, with gross profits rising substantially. REI
used Mercent’s on-demand platform to automate and optimize the company’s data
feed marketing efforts, while SitStay.com’s sales on Amazon.com increased after using Mercent.

As these and other clients look at their holiday planning,
“They are becoming more risk-tolerant as they get more comfortable with
year-over-year growth, with a trend line that is now up and to the right,” Best
says. “That is giving the retail planners some level of comfort that they’re
going to have another successful year.”

Despite a solid January, 2011 started off slow, and some
retailers are looking for holiday sales to make up for soft early quarters
impacted by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a late holiday and bad

“We actually saw a steady decline in February and March,” Best
says. “Our clients were starting to feel a little jittery by the end of the
first quarter, just based on their year-over-year sales comparables.

“Part of that March softness, it turns out, was related to a
late Easter holiday,” he says. “January, February, March was decelerating
growth. April and May have been accelerating again, getting us back in May to
effectively where we expected we would be in terms of our forecast at the
beginning of the year.”

Best says the trends point to a positive holiday forecast – and
that forecasting itself is becoming more accurate. This allows companies to have
aggressive targets in terms of their space capacity as well as their staffing
expectations in the customer call center and the warehouses.

Some Mercent clients “are actually playing around with moving
some inventory over to Amazon’s warehouses in advance of the holiday, using
Amazon’s warehouses as contingent square footage,” Best says. “This allows them
to handle the peak holiday volumes without having to necessarily make permanent
infrastructure investments in warehouse space.”

Big holiday spend & buy
One of Mercent’s clients, a Midwest-based children’s product
retailer, is using 47 percent of its total 2011 ad spend in the fourth quarter
to capture holiday shoppers.

“The holiday is definitely one of our more exciting time
periods,” says a spokeswoman for the company. “We always see the greatest growth
during this time period and we get to showcase a higher amount of SKUs to
fulfill the demand.”

Her company’s 2010 holiday assortment was conservative, she
says, but “this year we have quadrupled our holiday gear and are thrilled about
that because we usually sell out rather quickly.”

In August, this retailer will create holiday search, display
and affiliate ads to hit around October. “The reason we start earlier is due to
our large product assortment push, as well as wanting to keep the same ‘voice’
prevalent throughout all our text ads,” the spokeswoman says.

On the buying side, children’s department store CookiesKids.com is planning holiday buys earlier
than ever, says founder Al Falack. Beginning in February, he says, the company
started importing goods directly from manufacturers.

“We also plan on sending a high percentage of our toys to be
fulfilled directly by Amazon.com,” Falack says. “Our primary goal is to complete
buying by June 25th, with deliveries no later than October 15th. We think that
if we could get a head start with receiving the inventory we will have more time
to focus on aggressively marketing and selling versus chasing

Amazon.com is the company’s biggest channel for the holiday
season. Therefore, “in addition to following and keeping up with trends in terms
of popular games and toys, it’s imperative we understand the mindset of Amazon
shoppers — how they discover, evaluate and ultimately purchase products,” he
says. “This impacts the way we market, promote and sell products through this

Possible holiday trends
There’s clearly a focus on the social influence for this year’s
holiday planning, Best says, with retailers paying particular attention to
Facebook and mobile shopping trends. “There are questions and a lot of
investment occurring in mobile shopping,” he says, “which, in some ways, has
potential to impact traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers even more than the
pure-play e-commerce companies, because you can tie in-store shopping behaviors
to digital information that you can syndicate on these devices.”

And holiday planning is no longer just a
domestic proposition; even for the smaller-scale retailers, there’s planning to
capture international markets. Firms like FiftyOne, which helps domestic
retailers with offshore fulfillment, have filled smaller retailers’ desire to
meet international demand.

Best says people are focused on Europe and Australia because of the exchange rate. “Some of it is
the fact that you have cheaper, higher capacity shipping options for actually
drop-shipping product overseas,” he says. “And some of it is that there are
software tools that are available that make it easier to do current [currency]
conversion and handle international fulfillment.”

Another 2011 shift is that consumers’ capriciousness is being
indulged through private sales sites like Rue La La, Gilt, Groupon and
LivingSocial. “[These sites] have implications for the holiday,” Best says. “We
saw it last year. From October [2010] to January, we had a big U-shaped curve
where December and January represented a spike. There’s always the peak selling
days of December 12 and 13, but in the aggregate the days following Christmas
and heading into early January actually contributed more volume overall than
those peak selling days.”

Best believes this new consumer behavior is a reflection of the
Groupon and LivingSocial deals.
“Consumers are doing exactly what retailers
are training them to do, which is to either take advantage of those early
door-buster discounts or wait until December 26 to take further advantage of
discounted pricing,” he says.

For retailers that have yet to complete their holiday planning,
Best recommends locking down promotional calendars while becoming more front-
and back-loaded than in years past.

“The overall holiday sales volume is going to occur around
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and post-Christmas,” Best says. “By August, you
should have variable capacity to be more responsive to last-minute opportunities
that are presented either through your advertising programs or through your
supply chain.

“You should be thinking about what happens if sales
significantly outpace or under-pace your expectations,” he says. In other words,
“What are your contingency plans?”


Bing and Yahoo Partnership Cleared by US and EU

18 Feb

From Yahoo:
Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. have received clearance from regulators in Washington and Europe to proceed with a search partnership intended to challenge Google Inc.

The companies announced Thursday that the partnership has been approved without restrictions by the Justice Department and the European Commission. Under the 10-year agreement, Microsoft’s Bing search engine will process search requests and steer search-related ads on Yahoo. Yahoo is due to get 88 percent of the revenue generated from the ads placed alongside the search results on its sites.

The companies said they will begin implementing the deal in the coming days by shifting Yahoo’s search platforms to Microsoft. They hope to move most advertisers and publishers before the 2010 holiday season, but may wait until 2011 if necessary, and expect to complete the process by early 2012.

This deal came about after the Justice Department indicated in 2008 that it would fight Yahoo’s plan to team up with Google on search. That rejection led Yahoo to turn to Microsoft, which had once offered to buy Yahoo in its entirety.

A statement from the European Commission said the Yahoo-Microsoft partnership “would not significantly impede effective competition.”

Google Loses Market Share, Small Biz PPC Spend Up

24 Nov

According to WebVisible, the current break down of search share is:

Google: 60.4 %

Yahoo 26.2%

Bing 10.5%

Ask 2.4%

Continuing from the WebVisible report:

“Small Businesses Increase Spend by 91 Percent Generally, small businesses are buying more keywords and dramatically increasing their paid search budgets when compared to last year, according to WebVisible. First off, the average small business purchased 55 keyword phrases in Q3, which is up 30 percent from Q3 2008’s median number of 43. That statistic represents the high-water mark for the four quarters that WebVisible has been tracking small businesses keyword buys. Meanwhile, businesses dedicated an average of $1,658 to search ads, 91 percent more than Q3 2008. And business-to-consumer professional services appear to be the busiest in terms of collecting local sales leads via SEM. Attorneys and dentists made up the top two advertiser categories, with 7.7 percent and 5 percent of total small advertisers, respectively. Each of the two categories invested far more than average, spending $2,560 and $2,005 respectively in Q3. Air conditioning services and physicians/surgeons were the only other categories that accounted for more than 2 percent of search advertisers. Overall, the research suggests that the small business search advertisers are a varied bunch. The top 20 categories accounted for only 36 percent of total dollars spent. Thirty-two percent of search clicks resulted in a “lead conversion,” meaning the viewer either clicked through to a landing page on the advertiser’s Web site, printed a landing page, watched a video, printed out directions, entered an e-mail address, inquired via e-mail, or completed an online form. Clicks to the Web site were far and away the biggest lead conversion type, coming in almost twice as high as the next three categories: printed landing pages, submitted e-mail inquiries, and printed driving directions. For small businesses utilizing a call tracking number, 4.5 percent of the clicks resulted in a call, a 3.6 percent lift from 2008. No material differences occurred among advertisers in terms of CTR or proportion of lead conversions. However, WebVisible said that cost-per-clicks and keyword counts tended to increase with rising spend levels.”


Quite a shift!  From a merchant’s perpsective this is a double edged sword. When Google had 75-80% of the marketshare, an arguement could be made to neglect MSN and Yahoo and focus on having the best possible Google ppc campaign. Now that is no longer true. That may put a lot of strain on merchant’s paid search team to manage additional campaigns.

But, with the growing market share of Bing and to a lesser extent Yahoo, merchants who can act quickly and more nimbly then larger orginizations may be able to take advantage and grab a disproportionate share of these other engines at reduced costs.

Court Rules Competitor Must Use ‘negative keywords’

30 Apr

 Orion Bancorp of Florida recently won a  court case  in which it received a competitor’s domain (not new) but also that if its competitor, Orion Residential Finance, ever engages in paid search advertising, it must include  negative keyword-Orion in all campaigns (very new).

This might be the first court case that mandated negative keyword parameters in a ruling. It looks like deep pocket, litigious companies now have an additional weapon with which to bludgeon its competition.

From Ars technica:

” Orion Bancorp took its rival to court, arguing that the name was confusingly similar to its own. Orion Residential Finance apparently sent a lawyer to court but never filed a response of its own, and the judge eventually issued a default judgment against it. The judgment contained the usual prohibitions on using the name “Orion” in signs, promotional materials, and slogans, but it also included domain names and online advertising.

The judge prevented Orion Residential from “purchasing or using any form of advertising including keywords or ‘adwords’ in internet advertising containing any mark incorporating Plaintiff’s Mark, or any confusingly similar mark, and shall, when purchasing internet advertising using keywords, adwords or the like, require the activation of the term ‘ORION’ as negative keywords or negative adwords in any internet advertising purchased or used.”

The “negative keyword” ruling means that Orion Residential advertising would be explicitly prevented from showing up after searches for the term “Orion,” but could appear for any other keyword searches.

 The decision was handed down at the end of last month but recently noted by technology lawyer Thomas O’Toole. O’Toole points out that the judge’s decision goes far beyond what a company would be able to get simply by pursuing a domain name dispute and sees it as a “good example of the sweeping relief possible when the defendant defaults in an online trademark infringement case.”

Law professor Eric Goldman expects to see more such requests in these kinds of cases, saying, “I think it’s a logical addition to any injunctive relief request in a trademark infringement case.”

Companies, judges, and regulators alike have grown increasingly aware of the power of online advertising and the ways that it works, and in large portions of the world, this means that people have become increasingly aware of Google. (In this case, the judge repeatedly refers to “adwords,” for instance.) But as online advertising increases in importance, Google’s ad practices—such as allowing companies to take out keyword ads on competitors’ names—have come under scrutiny.

Australian regulators expressed discomfort with the practice last year and accused Google of “misleading and deceptive conduct” in the way it sold and displayed its ads. Just this month, a US appeals court considered the case of Rescuecom, a company that also sued Google over its keyword searches. And last year, the Utah legislature passed legislation prohibiting search engines from serving ads linked to trademarked search terms to Utah residents. The legislation provoked so much controversy that last month the Utah legislature reversed course and repealed the most controversial portions of the law.

If judges show a willingness to shut down this sort of keyword advertising in particular situations, we might see legal action in this area shift towards cases between the parties involved in disputes, rather than attempts to force change upon Google. Search Engine Watch calls the judge’s decision in the Orion case a “dangerous precedent,” but it could prove a popular one for companies that want to play hardball with rivals. “

Takeaways from Catalyst Conference: by Citi Group

7 Apr

Last week was our annual conference at Pinehurst, NC.  If you are a golfer, you know all about Pinehurst and its infamous turtleback greens…well I didn’t play #2 this year, but I did play the newly renovated #1 and maybe the best course, #4. Just don’t ask me how I shot (the answer is often and poorly).

A number of industry analysts attended (as always) so I thought I would share their takeaways about the state of E-Comm in general:

 Another well attended ChannelAdvisor conference – Trends remain surprisingly positive – Last week we attended the ChannelAdvisor (CA) Catalyst Conference 2008 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Per the company, attendance was up over 50% to roughly 500 people, with participation from companies like Amazon, eBay, Google, Overstock, Facebook, Buy.com and many large, medium and small retailer clients.

  • Takeaway #1: ChannelAdvisor clients not yet seeing macro-economic slowdown — Biggest surprise to us was the general consensus among the retailers we spoke with that they were not seeing much impact from macro-economic headwinds (…yet?). Consumer spending remains strong in many categories and sellers were confident that their multi-channel strategies can continue to fuel growth.
  • Takeaway #2: eBay appeared confident that changes are working despite vocal seller pushback — eBay is determined to make the changes necessary to reaccelerate Core Marketplaces. Representatives from the company sounded resolved on eBay’s commitment to improving buyer experience and seller transparency. Per the company, the desired impact from fee changes, “best match”, and detailed seller ratings (DSRs) appears to be working.
  • Takeaway #3: Amazon strengthening its 3rd party offering — Upbeat presentation by AMZN focused on 3rd party seller opportunities was well received. AMZN provided an overview and demonstrations of the company’s services, highlighting how the program is 1) driving increased selection, 2) improving customer experience, 3) increasing traffic and 4) lower prices.
  • Takeaway #4: Strength of Google position continues to widen lead over competition — While we didn’t hear anything incrementally new from the Google presentation, consensus among sellers we spoke with who had added search marketing was very positive on both traffic and ROI trends.
  • Bottom Line – Conference was incrementally more positive on eCommerce/Search trends than expected.
  • Link to our full note:  https://www.citigroupgeo.com/pdf/SNA17593.pdf

Yahoo Opens Up Search To Third Parties

26 Feb

From Ars Technica:

 As Yahoo tries to stave off a determined Microsoft takeover, the company has announced one of its most interesting new search innovations in recent memory. By opening up a new search platform for third parties to build upon, Yahoo search results will soon offer a lot more relevant information in the form of images, restaurant reviews, and virtually anything else developers can dream up.

Announced on the official Yahoo Search Blog, the company’s new open search platform will allow third parties to build browser plug-ins that can augment Yahoo search results and insert additional relevant data. As you can see in the example Yahoo provided, crowd-sourcing local review site Yelp has added a restaurant rating, contact information, and links for reviews and photos to a Yahoo search for “Higuma Japanese Rastaurant.”

Mozilla PPC Campaign Results

27 Dec

From Freakonomics:

One of the ways Mozilla acquires new customers is through pay-per-click ads on search engines. The question Mozilla had is the following: if someone types “firefox” into a search engine, usually the first result they will see is the Mozilla site, so does it really do Mozilla any good to pay search engines to do featured links? Do ads actually generate more traffic, or do they just shift customers around — e.g., instead of getting the customers free, Mozilla ends up paying the search engine because of the pay-per-click ads? Without performing an experiment of some kind, this is a hard question to answer.

So over a two-week period, Mozilla experimented with turning their pay-per-click ads on and off more or less at random.

Looking at the data one way, it appears that two-thirds of the customers who normally come to Mozilla through pay-per-click ads would get there anyway. On the other hand, the absolute number of downloads was substantially higher when the paid ads were running. This suggests either that (1) their treatment and control periods were different for an unknown reason; or (2) that the pay-per-click ads lead people to download more often through other channels.

mozilla ppc 2Mozilla PPC



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