October 15, 2019

Search Marketing During a Retail Slump

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Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins

CEO - Shout Agency
[email protected]

The economy is tanking. Business is getting tight. More competitors are coming into the market, driving the price of keywords up and your share of market down. 

It’s not ideal, but look on the bright side.

Everyone is in the same boat.

The answer is not in trying to outsmart the competition, the fastest way to make keywords and phrases more expensive is to start overbidding on them, the opportunity is in outsmarting them.

The answer can be as simple as “search”.

A better search protocol can help ensure your marketing spend is being used in the most efficient way and drive revenue.

And, in the way of simple things, the simplest steps you can take to make your search marketing work harder in a retail slump are:

  • Sell harder in search
  • Use PPC to drive SEO
  • Re-telling is selling
  • Make more of the traffic you get

Sell harder in search

Use Google ads promotion extensions. 

Google Ads promotion extensions help you highlight a great price or a sale by showing a price tag icon beneath your ad. They have been shown to build relevency and enhance quality scores, outperform sitelinks and price extensions

Promotion extensions can run at account, campaign or ad group level and allow you to provide extra information about the promotion, like start and finish dates, minimum or maximum orders, promotional codes, that sort of thing.

It’s a simple sale extender

Google’s promotion extension allows your sale to stand out in search results pages and creates a sense of retail excitement before the reader even starts digesting the information.

Setting up 

Start by going into the ad extensions tab.

Click to open a  new promotion extension.

Select a time for the promotion.

You have a choice of when the promotion can run. There’s a selection of popular and seasonal times. You can select the particular times you want. Or leave the field marked “none” and your ad will be served throughout the year.

Select a currency

You have a choice of six currencies.

USD (United States Dollars)

AUD (Australian Dollars)

CAD (Canadian Dollars)

EUR (Euros)

GBP (British Pound)

NZD (New Zealand Dollars) 

(More currencies are expected to come online soon.)

Select a promotion type

There are four categories to choose from.

You have a choice of monetary discount ($ off), percent discount (%off), up to monetary discount (up to $ off) and up to percent discount (up to % off).

Is there a special requirement?

You have the option of providing one of two requirements for your promotion.

This could be “for orders over” or for “promotional code required”.

If all orders qualify for the promotion, leave the field as “None.”

You also have the option of telling your audience (in 20 characters or less) which products or offers are on sale.

Set your URL

Each Google Ads Promotion Extension is clickable. This allows you to send traffic to a specific product page or offer.

They don’t do everything

Google Ads Promotion Extensions is new and does come with a few “not yets”.

They’re only available in English.

They only support the six currencies listed above.

They only allow for money off or percentage off promotions – so buy on get one promos and free shipping will have to wait for a future iteration.

If you’re not in sale mode and want to increase the effectiveness of your SEO, consider the lessons you can learn from PPC. 

Use PPC to drive SEO

Time to bed down and focus on SEO 

Increased competition, especially in a retail downturn, tends to increase the Cost Per Click of your preferred words and phrases.

There are lessons to be learned from your PPC activity which can help you make your SEO efforts more effective

Copy your best PPC performer

Have a look at your best performing PPC ads, and the copy those ads use. What works for PPC often works for SEO. This often gives you some very clear direction for title tags, writing meta-descriptions and content. 

Test your theory

PPC gives you immediate feedback. Waiting for feedback on organic search and meta-descriptions can take time. By testing the keywords and phrases you think will rank well organically, using paid search you can test how well words and phrases convert, much faster, so you can tweak your strategy and go-to-market plans with greater confidence.

Twice the feedback at half the price

Run an organic and paid campaign at the same time and you have twice the data to provide the insights you need to take the next step.

Double exposure

If you want to take a photo, double exposure is bad. If you need a snapshot of your performance, double exposure works. Combine your SEO and SEM for a set period and you double your exposure to google’s bots and are more easily seen up the top of the rankings pages. 

Don’t stop at Number 1

Getting to Number 1 in the search results is a challenge. Staying there is where the real returns lie. Many marketers will tail off their PPC campaigns once they get to number 1 and rely on momentum to keep them there. Remember, on every page, the top positions are for paid ads. By making your paid and organic search campaigns work together, you’ll double your chances of being seen, and drive more traffic to your site.

Re-telling is selling.

The best way to sell something is to tell a better story. If your story is more compelling, more interesting, more relevant than your competitor’s story, people will more likely buy from you.

Telling is selling.

But telling them once is not enough.

You need to re-tell them the same story, in a way they want to be told.

Re-marketing is the sequel to your story.

If people have visited your site, chances are they liked something about your ads or your content. Just because they didn’t make a purchase when they visited the first time doesn’t mean they won’t make a purchase in the future. 

Target the people who didn’t buy

Aim your ads at the people who visited and didn’t make a purchase. There could be any number of reasons they started a cart and abandoned it. We shouldn’t just assume they decided not to buy because they didn’t like the font you used on the Pay Now button.

Great stories pre-empt the next chapter

The books you can’t put down, the TV shows you find yourself binge watching, the movies you’re glued to all have a common story-telling technique. They make you want to read the next chapter, see the next show, watch the next scene.

They do it by building interest in what happens next.

It’s the same with telling your story. Help the customer see the next step. Tease them, excite them, scare them (Fear Of Missing Out is a great motivator). Hint at what rewards (real and emotional) await them at the next stage. And let them know what steps they need to take to get there. It’s simple funnel marketing. But it needn’t stop at a sale (or an almost sale). Next steps lead to next sales.

For instance.

You’re launching a new product line – the PuppySniffer.

A dog collar with a tracking device that lets you find an untrained hound should it run away in a park.

You start with a video on YouTube.

The video talks about the collar, and also mentions that 10% of all profits go to helping find homes for runaway dogs.

Anyone who watches more than 50% of the video goes onto a remarketing list and gets served an ad. (You can A/B test these – one ad focusing more on the collar, the other ad focusing more on the charity work.) The ad takes them to your landing page.

Anyone who watches less than 50% of your video gets fed another video talking about a young girl who loses her puppy and how dad is the hero because he’s got the PuppySniffer collar.

Have a mix of ads across various channels and formats, Google Ads, RLSA, video, banners, facebook, Instagram etc.

You don’t have to convert everyone all at once.

Remarketing is a long-term game. A charming reminder every three days or so is, most often, more effective than a bombardment of ads as soon as they click on a video. Check your google analytics. Run some tests. The best timing will be in the data.

Like everything else you do, a sustainable incremental win can be much more profitable than a one-off big boost.

The more incremental boosts you can manage, as long as they’re sustainable, the more long-term viability you create.

Know your audience.

While psychographics and behavioural psychology are making big headway in terms of targeting, demographics still count. Segment your market by area, by age, by gender. It can be the simplest way to see purchase patterns and can result in more effective re-marketing efforts. (If you’re getting real traction with fathers of young children who live in the eastern suburbs, they become a re-marketing priority – regardless of psychological profiling.)

You can’t be all things to all people, everywhere.

Fine-tune your target locations. The more feedback you get in your analytics, the more you’ll see where your best customers come from. This will help you identify the sorts of other locations you can target – without having to blast everyone in the hope of hitting as buyer.

Location-based marketing and re-marketing can help you defend your prime locations – helping you be the hero in your own battle with the mega-players like amazon and eBay.

Keep it fresh.

Have a range of creative communications from pure brand and reputational ads to highly niche, product benefit ads which focus on only one aspect of your offer.

Separate your list into a series of smaller lists

Segment each list based on different customer qualities – this allows you to test creative against character types, demographics, locations etc. 

Ask customers what they think. Have customers participate in a survey (for a small reward) and make sure your site is answering their needs. If the site is hiding the information they need, remarketing to prospective customers is a handy go-around to help them know you’ve got what they might not be able to find.

Kill your cookies.

Figures show, if someone hasn’t brought from you inside 30 days, chances are they’re not going to buy from you. They’ve either brought from someone else, lost interest or life has just got too busy for them to care. Don’t throw money after them – unless you’re in a long sale cycle business like cars or home loans or big ticket industrial equipment. If you keep popping up after they’ve lost interest, you’ll just annoy them, they tell their friends and you don’t just lose an ex-customer, you lose their friends as well.

Make more of the traffic you get.

Greater Focus on CRO 

In a retail downturn, taking extra care with Conversion Rate Optimisation can help you maintain sales volume even with less traffic. 

Conversion means different things to different people.

It can mean signing up for a subscription.

It can mean turning a visitor into a lead.

It can mean turning a lead into a sale.

It can mean a visitor making a phone call.

The important thing is that you know what you mean by conversion – once you know that, you can focus on the things that will help you make more of them.

It’s not a site, it’s an engine.

Your website is a whole lot of different parts which should work together to get visitors into the site, engaged in your offer and buying what you have to sell. The design has to work with the promise, the promise has to work with the images, the images have to work with the text, the text needs to work with videos and plug-ins and shopping carts and on and on and on.

And each part should work with the next to make it as easy as possible. Conversion Rate Optimisation is simply the act of finding which combination of components in your engine work best, in what proportions, to convert as many visitors as possible.

It could be as simple as simplifying their homepage, or improving the navigation cues, or creating clear calls to action.

It might mean a long-term commitment to evolving the site and changing every element. It’s your engine. It’s powering your business. It’s your choice.

Know your audience.

It will help you, and your team, know what is needed if you can paint a picture of who your best buyer is. The more insights you get about them, the clearer that picture should become. Understand what attracts them, what annoys them, what keeps them engaged.

Use CRO tools like heat-mapping and session recordings to understand their on-site behaviour and see where they’re falling off your site.

Make it faster

Almost every site can be made more efficient – shortening the time between initial contact and sale.

There are a number of obvious places to look for efficiencies.

Can your site’s visuals be smaller – not smaller in square centimetres, but smaller in kilobytes used.  

Can you reduce the navigation stops?

Can you make the forms simpler?

Can you ask for less information?

Can your text be shorter? Sharper? Easier to get through?

If the text needs to be long, can it be laid out so it looks more inviting?

Make it pretty

If you want to keep people engaged, make the site look attractive. Figures show they’ll stay longer, and be more likely to buy. 

Make it valuable.

If your site has something of value to a visitor – a piece of information, an evolving component which keeps them current, vouchers which give them more buying power – they’re more likely to return and more likely to promote your site to their friends. This gets you more traffic, more rewards from google, more leads and greater ROI.

Test, test and test again.

The more you test, the more information you get and the more effective you can make your site.

A/B testing is as simple as cloning a page, making a small change and seeing which page gets the most interest and converts better.

That page then becomes your base page.

You clone that page and make another small change and monitor that.

And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Videos people want to watch.

Most people are aware of the fact that videos engage and convert at higher rates than other content. Most people ignore the other part of that fact – as long as the video is seen as valuable.

The better it looks, the more valuable people will assume it to be.

Yes, you can create a video on an iPhone and put that on your site, but unless it’s wall to wall with facts and offers the visitor can’t ignore, and is engaging and fascinating, it may do your reputation more harm than good.

Shorter, well-made videos add to your reputation. 

And they’re more likely to attract shares and likes.

Make it a fast read.

People will come looking for something – either a product, a service, or information. Don’t reward their interest by boring them, or wasting their attention. Write the site to be skimmed – so visitors can easily find the piece of information they need.

By all means write as much content as you need – but chuck it down so people can take on board the gist of what you’re saying – and then dig further into your content if they see something they like.

Show them your style.

Consistency wins. The more each of your pages look like each other, the more easy it is to convert the visitor. Make the key elements look the same. If a call to action is red on one page, don’t make it green on another. People tend to laziness when looking and the easier you can make it for them to slide to the checkout, the better.

Be consistent. 

Too many options are not an option.

Don’t confuse visitors with too many options.

Take a layered approach to providing information.

Test the site with someone who doesn’t know your business.

Make the forms only as long as they absolutely need to be.

Don’t ask so many questions – every field they need to fill in is an excuse to leave your site. If you don’t really  need to know their income level, don’t ask.

This is especially true if you’re offering a mobile checkout option (and with the amount of people shopping on their mobiles, you’d be mad if you didn’t).

You need to know their email (to send them information and confirmation), their payment information, their delivery options (plus an address). 

Any other field should be approached with caution.

Make the call to action clear.

In an unfamiliar environment, like a new website they’ve never visited before, people like to know what they need to do next.

Make the next step very clear.

Go here. Subscribe now. Go shopping. 

Make the buttons stand out and don’t be shy about being helpful.

They’ve come prepared to buy. Don’t waste their time by hiding the sell button where they can’t push it.

If you’re using links, make them clear – use a different colour text, underline the words – if the link is the path to the sale, don’t hide it.

When they’re buying, don’t get in their way.

It’s amazing how many sites have mini barriers between the cart and the checkout.

The easier and faster you can get a customer from loading the cart to handing over their money, the more sales you’ll make.

Make the process as short as possible.

Ask as few questions as you can.

If you have return customers, consider ways to pre-fill forms, making the process even faster for loyal customers.

Look at your click-through rates and your exit rates. Throughout your site – but especially at checkout. 

Look for people who take too long in line.

If someone’s taking too long in the checkout, they may just be looking for help and can’t find it.

Use your analytics to set an average checkout time.

Add 10 or 20% to this time.

If anyone takes longer than that, provide a pop-up which can offer a real-time help option. This could be a live chat, a phone number or an email to a service rep. 

If you help them find what they need – or can offer a solution – you’re more likely to get the sale.

Retarget the declined.

If someone gets to your checkout and puts in their payment details and the  gets an error, they may abandon their cart.

A dynamic message at the time could prompt a different payment message.

A pop-up offer of a chat to a rep could prompt a different sale method, or a smaller sale.

A follow up email letting them know the payment has been declined, but the cart is still waiting for them, can resurrect a sale.

Call an expert.

If you need help getting your numbers going up, even if the economy isn’t, please call our search marketing company. We love retail. We love eRetail. And we’d love to hear from you. 

Book a free 45 minute consultation today.

    Book a free 45 minute consultation today.

      Shout logo in grey

      As Founder and Director of Shout Web Strategy, Michael Jenkins is at the forefront of digital marketing. Since it’s inception in 2009, Shout has built a strong reputation as one of Australia’s leading strategic SEO agencies, assisting online businesses to formulate, implement and track successful marketing strategies. Michael is a respected thought leader and digital strategist, specialising in online strategy, corporate SEO, Google retargeting, email and conversion rate optimisation, and online reputation management. Follow Michael on Google+, connect with him through LinkedIn or visit the Shout Web Strategy website.

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