Save Money & Improve Engagement by Using UGC for Social Ad Creative

User-generated content from your own customers can be a great option for social media ad creative. Learn why it works and some helpful tips on how to use UGC.

If you’re still exclusively relying on high-production-value photos, videos, and designs for your ad creative, you’re getting left behind — and wasting thousands of dollars of your advertising budget.

Why? Because there’s a new boss in town: user-generated content (UGC).

While the use of user-generated content campaigns has been on the rise for years, COVID-19 kicked it into high gear. When the pandemic locked down all in-person photo and video shoots last spring, marketers had to mine from the creative they had (a blissful but irrelevant reminder of the carefree days) or go to the source — employees, customers, and more — for fresh creative that spoke to the times.

And that trend is here to stay.

User-generated content marketing isn’t hard, and we’ve seen it work for our clients time and time again. But, if your business is struggling to adopt it into your strategy, you’re not alone.

In this blog, we’ll help you make the big switch, by explaining:

  • What user-generated content is
  • Why eCommerce brands struggle to embrace it
  • Why UGC actually works (plus some real-life eCommerce examples)
  • How to get engaging user-generated content
  • And whether it’s right for your business

What is User-Generated Content?

Before we get into the weeds, let’s get one thing straight. As the name implies, user-generated content is any content created by people other than the brand itself. This includes customers, employees, and even those who simply follow or engage with the brand or company.

There’s really no single “definition” for user-generated content. It could be something as simple as a tweet or comment on a social post, or it could be a video filmed by a customer reviewing a product or experience. Your UGC will look unique, depending on how your customers interact with your brand.

Here’s an example from our client Mountain House, who frequently uses UGC in their organic social media strategy:

Why eCommerce Brands Struggle to Embrace UGC

Despite its popularity, user-generated content campaigns can be (and often are) an initial hard sell for eCommerce businesses. There are two main reasons why:

1. Brand Image “Misalignment”

When an eCommerce client of ours balks at incorporating this type of content into their ad campaigns, it’s usually for one reason: They’re concerned about brand image.

Many business owners and marketers invest a great deal of time and money into meticulously planned, highly produced ad creative to sell the story that they want. They worry UGC ads will be seen as unrespectable or amateur.

But here’s the fact: The line between “professional” and “unprofessional” is continuously blurring (Hey, I’m writing this from my home office in my sweatpants). If you only present your brand through high-production-value content, you’re missing opportunities to show the human side of your brand and customers.

2. Unwillingness to Experiment

Other times, brand owners and marketers see using user-generated content as sacrificing quality — and, therefore, not worth the time to test when their current creative is working well.

But, for many brands, these campaigns perform just as well as high-production-value content campaigns. Often, they perform even better.

The digital space is always changing, and rigidity in your ad creative will leave you behind. There’s a reason why we’re all about testing here at Inflow: It’s the only way for your digital marketing strategy to improve.

Why It Works: The Benefits of User-Generated Content

Whether you use it in your own ad campaigns or not, user-generated content for your brand exists. It’s how your brand performs in the wild, but it doesn’t have to be an uncontrollable asset (I’ll get more into that later).

When you embrace user-generated content ads for social, you reap five important benefits.

1. It’s Authentic, Convincing Ad Creative

Customers are tired of the constant barrage of ads. They’re tired of being sold to, and they’re tired of being lied to. If your social ad creative sells a reality that doesn’t exist (for example, clothing modeled only by thin, white women who look nothing like the average American), why would your customers want to buy your product?

User-generated content, on the other hand, instantly connects a customer to your brand and product. They can see someone who looks like them, someone who shares their pain points and desires — and they’re more likely to make the final conversion.

For today’s consumers, relatability in advertising is nearly two times as important as popularity. And, while the “relatability” of social influencers can be debated all day long, they are more effective than your brand at sharing your message. Influencers earn sales, trust, and advocacy, and 63% of consumers trust influencers more than a brand.

(Note: You don’t have to shell out for an influencer partnership to take advantage of UGC. The everyday Joe or Jill is often just as effective.)

Less “Look how cool this brand is!”; more “Here’s what people like you have to say.”

2. It Fits Seamlessly Into the Browsing Experience

Consumers (especially Millennials and Generation Z) have a short attention span, and they’ve learned to tune out ads. If your social ad creative looks and feels like a professional ad, it’s likely to be overlooked.

UGC campaigns mimic the content posted by a user’s friends and family. It fits into their social browsing experience seamlessly, and that means customers are more likely to consider your ad.

3. It Proves Product Value

Customers are increasingly price-conscientious. Convincing them to buy a high-end product during a pandemic is tricky, but user-generated content can be the way to go.

One of our clients, Vitrazza, sells high-end glass chair mats for home offices and other spaces. The price can be a hard swallow for most customers. So, we let customers like them do the convincing.

We’ve written at length about how we tested high-production-value content vs low-production-value content in Vitrazza’s ad creative. You can read more about that in our case study, but here’s the gist: Low-production-value content (including UGC) consistently won by a landslide in performance and results. 

We focused on Vitrazza’s user-generated content campaigns on video, asking consumers to review their glass chair mats from their home offices. In very little time, the campaigns generated 4.2x ROAS, outperforming the previous brand creative.

The success wasn’t really a surprise. We knew 66% of people trust consumer opinions posted online, and 69% take action from consumer opinions — the highest engagement level among consumers. 

If your product is a pricey sell, hearing that it’s worth it from other customers can make all the difference.

4. It Can Lead to Better ROI

In some cases, these campaigns just make sense from a financial standpoint. High-production photo and video shoots can cost a lot of money; UGC can cost very little or be completely free.

If you don’t have a lot of money for your marketing budget, it may be best spent incentivizing users to send in their own reviews, videos, and pictures. Many customers write reviews anyway, so you’re just taking advantage of that existing process.

Here’s an example. One of our clients sells a menagerie of paper and home goods. But, with products like $10 pens and $13 socks, their customers’ average order value is pretty low. Sinking money into professional ad shoots simply won’t provide the return on investment (ROI) they need to grow.

If your brand is in a similar situation, UGC ads for social media channels may be your smartest investment.

5. It Expands Audience Base

We’ve mentioned how customers want to see people like them in advertising creative. If you’re segmenting your audiences, you tap into user-generated content to meet that customer desire.

Our client Cardboard Cutout Standees runs almost their entire social ad campaigns with this type of content. They sell cardboard cutouts of anything you can imagine, and customers are always excited to post images of themselves with their purchases. 

The brand has a surplus of UGC to use, but to expand their audience, we design their campaigns with an eye to diversity. The more potential customers see someone like them purchasing the product, the more motivated they are to investigate a product they previously had no interest in.

By reflecting certain audience segments in our paid advertising, we’ve expanded Cardboard Cutout Standees’ audience base. We scaled the account’s growth by more than $125,000 with UGC ads alone and exceeded the ROAS goal at 3.2.

5 Tips for Success 

The barrier to user-generated content marketing is not as high as you think. It can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. When you do it right, it works.

But, how do you get started?

1. First, identify your favorite brands. (They don’t have to be in your vertical.) Think about what kind of UGC campaigns they are running. What do you like about them? What do you think your brand could do better? When we ask our clients these questions, we get a better idea of what UGC campaigns may be a safer sell — not just to customers but to brand advocates and internal stakeholders.

2. Next, give your users basic parameters. User-generated content doesn’t have to be perfect; that’s what editors are for. But, you still want to make sure the basics are there, like good natural lighting, high-quality photos, horizontal video, video length, etc. Ask your users to be clear and concise with their wording; explicit endorsement language in UGC is more persuasive and will increase purchase intent.

3. Incentivize your customers. If you’re struggling to get quality UGC, motivate your consumers with gift cards, discounts, giveaways and more. Reviews are incredibly popular, influence buying decisions, and are easy to do. You can use email marketing to follow up with purchasers in a “Thank You” email. About a week after the product is delivered, ask about their experience, encourage them to share their photos on social , and remind them to submit a review in return for a coupon code or other benefit. 

4. Use what you have. Don’t be afraid to repurpose UGC and influencer content from TikTok, Reels, Instagram, and more. If you aren’t already, encourage your customers to share their photos and their experiences on their own social media accounts. Establish a branded hashtag, and see how your consumers respond. Remember: Always give credit to the consumer whose content you use.

5. Analyze your campaign data. Profitability is a key indicator of performance. Look at ROAS and other metrics to evaluate how UGC resonates with your target audience. Adjust your ad creative based on what performs best, and brainstorm on similar approaches moving forward. Some brands do well with a majority UGC, while others do best with an even mix. You won’t know until you try.

And Things Not to Do

There’s one major rule with user-generated content ads: Don’t tell your users what to say.

Remember what we said about authenticity? Your customers will know when this type of content involves a script. Instead, trust your users to use the phrasing and pain points most applicable to your audience. Ultimately, you have the final call in whether or not to use their submission.

Should This Be Your Long-Term Strategy?

Every brand is different. We can’t tell you which ad creative will perform best for your paid social campaigns. You just have to test it.

We recommend every eCommerce brand experiment with user-generated content ads at least once (and preferably several times). Compare your UGC campaign data to the campaign data from your high-production-value content. The answer will often be obvious. If your new ads are performing well and generating a high click-through rate, it’s a good idea to keep going. Over time, this can reduce your cost-per-click.

It can also give you better opportunities to scale your work. Growing your campaigns takes a lot of creative, and churning out high-production-value content to keep up with growth quickly becomes costly. Content from your customers gives you more ad creative options to choose from and, in turn, can make your scaling efforts more cost-effective.

If you’re in a saturated vertical and struggling to compete with your competitors’ deeper pockets, user-generated content campaigns can even the playing field. You don’t have to have a large budget to play the UGC game — just creativity and a willingness to experiment.

All that said, this approach does require strategy, thought, and time. It’s not just a holdover until you can get back to pre-COVID photo and video shoots. If you’re struggling to develop that strategy, bringing on an experienced paid social strategist can help.

Kick Off Your UGC Ads Campaign Now

If you’re still relying on high-production-value photos, videos, and designs for your ad creative, you’re getting left behind — and losing out on a huge opportunity to connect with your customers. Fortunately, user-generated content is an easy and effective way to reach an audience craving relatable, authentic messaging from the brands they follow.

With such a low investment, UGC ad creative is worth the experimentation. Give it a try, and see how it performs against your current content. You may be surprised at the results you see.

Want some experienced hands to get your user-generated content campaigns off the ground? Request a free proposal from our paid social strategists anytime to see what UGC could do for your brand.

A Guide to Facebook Brand Lift Testing for eCommerce & Lead Generation

Wondering what a Facebook Brand Lift Study can do for your eCommerce campaigns? We walk you through how they work, the pros and cons, and more.

Social media has become a big player in the world of PPC advertising. However, when you’re a paid social marketer, it can be challenging to quantify your campaign results into overall business outcomes. 

Unfortunately, an impression (or even a click) is not an assurance of brand awareness. People can click ads or visit the landing page — but forget the brand after they close the window. 

So, how can you quantify the effect advertising is having on how people remember and perceive your brand? Furthermore, how can we, as paid social marketers, communicate to our clients that our ad campaigns are driving brand awareness? 

Facebook gave us an answer: the Facebook Brand Lift Study.

What is a Facebook Brand Lift Study?

Facebook Brand Lift Studies (also known as Brand Lift Tests) allow advertisers to measure brand awareness and favorability with a statistical degree of reliability. By serving up questions to a select audience, a brand lift test shows you exactly how effective your awareness campaigns have been — including whether it’s time to step up your game. 

Facebook’s tests allow paid social marketers to conduct randomized control trials (RCT) to test for incremental lift. Unlike traditional A/B tests (which allow for testing one variable against another), RCT testing allows us to deduce an actual lift in results and the effectiveness of campaigns overall.

Running a Facebook Brand Lift Study can help answer questions your eCommerce business has difficulty quantifying, from “How well does my target audience remember my brand?” to “How do people feel about my brand?” These insights are invaluable not only for paid advertising but also for your company overall. 

No more hoping and guessing — just real numbers and results. It’s a paid social advertiser’s dream (with a few caveats, but more on that later).

How to Measure Your Brand Lift on Facebook

So, how does a Facebook Brand Lift Study work?

If you want to run a brand lift test, the first thing you’ll need to do is contact your Facebook representative. While the test is free to create, there may be campaign budget requirements to get it all started.

Like with any good test methodology, a Facebook Brand Lift Study involves two groups: test and control. Your chosen audience is randomly divided into these two groups to ensure that the results of the test aren’t skewed from outside factors. Ads are delivered to the test group, and then both the test and control groups are served with a short, one-question poll. Each poll consists of a question and a selection of multiple-choice answers. 

You can choose from a variety of questions, depending on what metric you’re most interested in. A few examples:

  1. “Have you seen (your brand)’s new product line?” (Answers: Yes, No) 
  2. “Which of the following brands have you heard of?” (Answers: Competitor 1, your brand, Competitor 2, Competitor 3)
  3. “What is your opinion of (your brand)?” (Answers: “I like it”, “I neither like nor dislike it”, “I dislike it”, or “I am not familiar with this brand”)

Facebook calculates the brand lift percentage by comparing the results of the test and control groups. (You can also choose to measure conversion lift during this test if you’re already tracking conversions through your campaigns.)

Look at the difference in the percentage of people who gave the desired response in the test group and the control group, and you’ll see the direct effect of your campaign. You’ll then want to compare this brand lift to average results within your vertical or industry to ensure the most accurate comparison.

(It’s important to run this test for at least 14 days to give it a sufficient time period to gather insights. After the threshold of 100 responses has been collected, you will begin to see near real-time incrementality reporting in your Facebook Ads Manager.

Using Your Test Results to Optimize Your Campaigns

Once you have the results from your test, use this information to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level. Use your data either as an indicator that your PPC strategy is getting the right results or, if the results aren’t what you hoped for, as a sign that it’s time to course-correct! 

Asking specific brand lift questions can help you investigate exactly which part of your campaign is failing to resonate with your audience. Then, you can test a new strategy, running your test later to see how your levels may have changed.

Here are two examples:

1. Evaluating a Product Rollout

Let’s say your company has just launched a new product line. In an effort to gain brand recognition, you launch a Facebook Reach campaign. 

Ads Manager tells you that your campaign was seen by 200,000 people. However, when your brand lift study asks your audience “Have you seen (your brand)’s new product line?”, there’s no statistically significant difference between your test and control group. 

This is a big red flag — and a sign that it could be time to change your ad creative

Your potential next steps: testing new imagery and ad copy.

2. Reevaluating Your Marketing Funnel

Your company has been running an extensive ad campaign focused on generating transactions. However, when your brand lift study asks “Will you buy from (your brand) the next time you go shopping for (your product)?”, there is no statistically significant difference between your test and control group. 

There are many potential causes to investigate here, but your first step might be to examine the marketing funnel you used for this ad campaign. People from a cold audience (those who are unfamiliar with your brand) are less likely to respond well to lower-funnel calls-to-action, like making transactions. 

Consider creating a full-funnel approach (like Inflow’s “See, Think, Do” strategy). Start with brand awareness and move down the funnel, generating engagement at every step. By the time the customer is presented with the option to buy, they are familiar with your product and more likely to convert.

Pros and Cons of Facebook Brand Lift Studies for eCommerce Sites

While helpful, Facebook Brand Lift Tests aren’t ideal for every business and campaign. Before you start running tests, consider the following pros and cons.

Pros: 

Facebook Brand Lift studies provide statistically significant information on how your paid social campaigns are impacting your business directly. Individual campaign performance is great, but these brand lift studies show how those campaigns are (or aren’t) raising your brand awareness.

You can get answers to specific, big-picture questions — “Do people recognize my brand?” — and tactical questions — “How well do my ads resonate with my customers?” In short, you can understand your digital brand equity in a much clearer and concise way.

Cons: 

There’s one clear disadvantage to running a Facebook Brand Lift Test, and it’s the reason why our strategists hesitate to implement them for our clients.

To run a clean study, all other Facebook campaigns must be turned off during the test duration.

It makes sense: Any other form of paid advertising could be shown to your control group during the test, contaminating your results. But, with Facebook’s recommendations to run the test for at least 14 days, pausing your other campaigns for that long risks a huge loss.

Turning off your current campaigns (especially those that are performing well) creates an opportunity cost, losing any sales that would have been generated during that time period. 

In addition, pausing your campaigns disrupts the Facebook algorithm. When you decide to restart your campaigns, they will reset back to “learning” phase. You likely won’t see the same performance as you did pre-pause, and it may take some time to get back to those levels.

Should You Run a Facebook Brand Lift Study?

Ultimately, you’ll need to evaluate a few things before you decide to run a Facebook Brand Lift Test:

  • Your expertise with Facebook advertising
  • Your current campaigns and their performance
  • The cost ratio of pausing campaigns for brand lift insights

If you’re new to Facebook advertising:

If you or your client are unsure about the effectiveness of Facebook advertising (either because you’ve never used it or have attempted only a few campaigns), give a Facebook Brand Lift Test a shot. It can be a great way to test the waters, and you can use your results as proof of concept to justify the monetary investment of more extensive advertising campaigns.

If you’re currently running Facebook ads, but are unsure of the value of your results:

Not sure you or your client are getting the value needed from Facebook advertising? A brand lift study could give the results you’re looking for.

Remember, the biggest downside here is that you will lose campaign data and potential revenue for the test’s duration. However, the information gained could be quite valuable for both the campaign (Are people responding to your current ad copy and creative?) and your overall marketing strategy (Is there a different marketing platform that would provide you a better return?).

If you’re a seasoned paid social veteran or Facebook guru:

Since you’ve been running campaigns for a while, you probably already know the answer here.

The results of a Facebook Brand Lift Study might not be worth the loss of the campaign data, especially if you have proper UTM tagging and properly set multiple-attribution. You’re likely better off continuing your campaigns as-is and exploring other options for analyzing your brand awareness lift.

Conclusion

We won’t deny the usefulness of Facebook Brand Lift Studies, especially for those who are new to the Facebook advertising space. Such clear evidence of brand awareness lift is difficult to come by. But the potential disadvantages of lost revenue and campaign data can be too risky for many.

In our experience, brand lift tests are just one way to capture and analyze performance data. Depending on your situation, there can be less disruptive methods to gain performance insights, such as:

  • Proper UTM tagging: UTM tags will allow you to see Facebook campaign data and compare it across platforms and sites in Google Analytics. 
  • “Social proof”: Monitor the engagement (likes, shares, comments) on your ads. If people are engaging with your ads, it’s an indication that your audience and creative is properly aligned.
  • CPM and CTR: A low CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) and a high CTR (click-through rate) are both good indicators of ad copy and creative that is engaging to your chosen audience.

If you’re unsure of whether Facebook Brand Lift Studies are right for your campaigns, or you want to improve your paid social campaigns in other ways, our strategists are always happy to chat. Contact our team anytime to request a free, customized proposal for your paid social needs.

Google Ads (AdWords) for eCommerce: 15 Strategies to Try

Discover our favorite strategies for improving AdWords (Google Ads) eCommerce performance covering Google Shopping Ads and more. Find out the exact strategy used to maximize ROAS for our clients.

Note: This post was updated in January 2021.

In the wild world of eCommerce paid advertising, knowing exactly which strategies to throw at the Google machine can be a hit-and-miss operation. Fortunately, we’ve done all the hard work for you — and we’re ready to share some tips that will help.

In this piece, we’ll take a systematic look at how our paid strategists optimize Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) eCommerce campaigns to find the best-performing strategies. We’ll present a total of 15 different strategies that apply for Google Shopping ads and Smart Shopping Campaigns, Dynamic Remarketing, Search Ads, In-Market Audiences and, finally, Dynamic Search Ads.

For each Google Ad type, we’ll cover:

  • The core strategies we use to get the best return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Use-case scenarios where we’ve seen good results from implementing these strategies
  • Some of the newest features and product offerings — and how to make the most of them

To help you find the eCommerce Google Ads strategy that’s right for you, we’ve split this guide up into three parts:

  1. Google Shopping vs. Google Search: We’ll review the different platforms and why you might use each one.
  2. Google Shopping ads: We’ll walk you through seven different strategies that bring the best ROAS for eCommerce companies. We’ll explain how to build out and optimize your shopping ads from scratch.
  3. Google Search ads: We’ll give you eight of our favorite internal strategies for maximizing ROAS from search ads and tell you whether you need to run search ads in tandem with Shopping ads.

Who We Are: At Inflow, we work with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase traffic, conversions, and sales. You can talk to one of our Google Ads specialists to see how we can help you increase ROAS. Get started now.

What’s the Best Google Ads Platform for my eCommerce Business?

Before we get into the details of our Google Ads eCommerce strategies, it’s important to have a bit of background info on the Google Ads ecosystem. There are two main platforms within which you can advertise your products: Google Search and Google Shopping.

For some context, here’s a visual comparison of their placement in search engine results (SERPs):

Google Search

Google Search ads is perhaps the most well-known of the Ads products due to its longevity. It was Google’s flagship ad platform (previously known as Adwords), displaying text ads when a searcher uses keywords specified by the advertiser.

Google Search is different from Google Shopping because of the way the platform operates. Search gives you more control over the keywords you wish your products to be seen for. Google Search ads also allow more copy, including a description to grab the searcher’s interest — but, unlike Shopping ads, Search ads are text only.

Google Shopping

Google Shopping ads (also known as Google Product Listing Ads, or PLAs) are probably the best fit if you’re a B2C selling products online. All you need to participate here is a product feed, Google Merchant Center, and an eCommerce website.

As you can see, Google Shopping ads show up at the very top of search results. You can’t beat that kind of visibility.

While Google Search uses keywords to serve your ads to searchers, Google Shopping is a bit more complicated. Whether or not your product appears is based upon your Product Feed. This is all the necessary information relating to your product: brands, quantities, sizes, colors, and so on. You need to carefully optimize your Google Shopping data feed to target the right searches.

All this data renders a shopping-product ad within the Google SERPs, including relevant pricing and review information.

Our Suggestion: Use Both in Your eCommerce Ads Strategy

If you’re a big online retailer, you’ll probably be investing most of your paid ad spend on a mixture of Google Shopping ads and Google Search ads. Participating in both platforms often leads to enhanced product visibility across the buyer’s entire journey, from research to purchase.

Consider how your customer’s research and purchase journey spans across multiple devices and is made up of many micro-moments, long before they seriously think about buying. If you’re only running search ads to cover branded queries, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to optimize your strategy.

Before implementing our strategies below, confirm that your reporting tool (typically Google Analytics) is ready to go. We find it helpful to review at least six months — 12 months is even better — of historical data before optimizing an existing campaign. After all, if we can’t measure performance to a good degree of certainty, we can’t measure the growth we’re about to deliver. (Then we can’t create case studies like this one.)

7 Ways to Optimize Your Google Shopping Ads for eCommerce

Here at Inflow, we’ve helped hundreds of online retailers from all kinds of industries maximize their ROAS with a few proven strategies. Of course, every client and business is different, but if you’re looking for the best way to set up eCommerce Google Shopping campaigns, start with these tips:

1. Bid More Aggressively on Specific Search Phrases

We use a three-tiered campaign structure to focus spend on the search phrases that drive the most sales — something which isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s no point wasting time and money on non-performers, which is why getting specific is our first suggestion for any eCommerce Shopping ads strategy.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Review your historic search data volume to find the search terms that drive your revenue.

First, you need to find the search query themes that generate the most transactions for your company. The goal here is to create two groups: one with the high-converting search terms, and another with the low- to medium-converting search terms.

The best-performing group will likely contain several branded terms, with specific model names, SKU codes, part numbers, and other searches that show a high purchase intent.

Step 2: Set up three shopping campaigns — Tiers 1, 2, and 3 — with required priority levels.

Create three campaigns with a shared budget, and assign each with a different priority level. (Remember that in this context, priority setting doesn’t reflect the group’s priority; it’s just the order in which Google will cycle through the campaigns).

  • Tier 1 will have the highest campaign priority setting, which indicates to Google that search queries should start here. This tier, like all the others, contains every product available on the site but with many negative search phrases applied (we’ll talk about that next).
  • In Tier 2, we’ll adjust the priority setting to medium. This is where the average- to medium-performing search terms will live.
  • In Tier 3, we’ll adjust the priority setting to “low.” This is where the best-converting search terms will exist.
There are 3 tiers: tier one (high priority, low bid), tier 2 (medium priority, medium bid), and tier 3 (low priority, high bid).

Step 3: Build and apply the negative keyword lists.

In Tier 1, we’ll apply negative keywords based on the search queries we want to be active in Tiers 2 and 3. Adding these negative keywords prevents them from landing in Tier 1 and pushes them to the next tier in the funnel — Tier 2.

In Tier 2, we again add negative keywords but this time only the best-performing search terms.

In Tier 3, we don’t need any negative keywords applied, because any of those lower-value search phrases should have been filtered out already from Tiers 1 or 2. This was the ultimate goal — to be able to exclude those lesser-converting searches and to bid more aggressively on all searches making it to Tier 3.

(Note: We’ve seen some agencies get a little zealous with the amount of tiers they create, and it becomes very difficult to maintain. The smallest change in any campaign can completely wreck the entire system. For that reason, we typically keep our clients to a three-tier setup).

2. Identify Your Store’s Best Sellers and Prioritize Your Budget Accordingly

One of the easiest ways to grow your ROAS is to identify historic best sellers — then bid higher on those. You can combine this strategy with the tiered approach outlined above, where you bid your best sellers up on the product or group level.

Take a look at your historic data (if it’s available) and identify your business’s top selling products. You can also use Google Analytics to find best sellers and eCommerce conversion rates, plus any relevant ROAS/ROI metrics.

3. Regularly Audit and Optimize Your Google Product Feed for Better Overall Performance

If you take away just one thing from this piece, it should be this: Your Google Product data feed is essential for succeeding with Google Shopping ads. It’s a vital cog in the Shopping ads algorithm, so it deserves a lot of attention.

In short, you need to ensure your feed contains all the required product information. If not, you risk:

  • not showing up when people are searching for your products
  • and being charged a higher CPC to show your ads.

It’s also vital to keep product titles relevant without keyword-stuffing. This not only helps to enhance visibility for those high-intent searches, but it also helps to boost click-through rate (CTR).

Auditing a Google Shopping data feed is one of the first things we do when working with a client. Check out this piece on how to optimize your Google Product data feed, where we explain exactly why and how you should optimize your feed and how to set up and execute your campaigns.

Be sure to keep your product title names relevant without keyword-stuffing.

It’s also vital to keep product titles relevant without keyword-stuffing. This not only helps to enhance visibility for those high intent searches, but it also helps to boost CTR from the ads.

4. Optimize Your Strategy for Mobile

Our own research has confirmed that mobile shoppers behave differently than desktop shoppers. No surprises there. The actual queries that convert on mobile aren’t necessarily the same ones people use from desktop.

But many eCommerce businesses don’t have a specific approach when it comes to mobile users, aside from reducing mobile bids — which can be a wasteful approach.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Segment mobile customers

We start by determining the historic mobile-only ROAS. We repeat our search query analysis tiers to segment mobile customers. If we find a gap, we set up our own tiers with the appropriate negative keywords for mobile users. In the end, we may have six tiers set up for a client: three for desktop and three for mobile.

This is much more successful than simply adjusting bids on mobile or desktop. It’s a more holistic and strategic approach to optimizing for the customer’s device at that moment — and for the entirety of the customer’s journey.

5. Discover Seasonal Opportunities and Bid Aggressively

If your business operates in a very seasonal industry, it’s crucial to keep time of year in mind and bid on products/product groups within the tiered structure accordingly.

For example, you should bid higher on flip flops in the summer and snow boots in the winter — but keep your tiers the same, no matter the season. By bidding higher on the best-converting products in summer, you can maximize ROAS during these peak months when there’s a bigger search demand.

Take one of our wholesale retailers as an example. They operate in the back-to-school vertical, so understandably they get peak traffic ahead of the new school year. We ensure we’re visible during periods of high-search activity, whilst ensuring budget for the year isn’t exhausted.

We’ve seen this work across a range of seasonal verticals, and it isn’t something that we’ve noticed many other agencies or in-house teams doing.

Note: You’ll need to fully understand the three-tiered approach before diving into this strategy or the mobile-specific one. The inventory will need to be the same across tiers; otherwise you may experience leakage!

Our team of strategists are happy to help you set up your tiers for maximum efficiency. Just request a proposal anytime.

6. Let Google Optimize (With Supervision!)

Smart Shopping Campaigns utilize a mix of your product feed and Google’s machine learning to take care of campaigns on your behalf.

We like to bundle any products into a Smart Shopping campaign when they don’t necessarily belong to another tier. These are the smaller products, maybe those lower-priced accessories, which can be left for Google to deal with. Google will then optimize for best fit based on transaction history — but it doesn’t always mean the search engine will do the best job.

If there isn’t much transaction data for Google to use, things can quickly go awry. An example: After a few mobile transactions went through for our client, Google went very aggressive on mobile — and caused ROAS to plummet. In this case, it would’ve been best to wait until there was more significant transaction data available before leaving it up to automation.

7. Using Dynamic Retargeting

If you want to craft the best Google Shopping ads strategy for eCommerce, don’t slack on retargeting.

As annoying as some people might find them, retargeting ads do convert — and extremely well. Over time, they’ve been shown to have a great ROI, so they work well to supplement your search marketing strategy.

The dynamic retargeting feature from Google Shopping enables you to automatically show ads to people who came to your site without completing a purchase. It makes use of your product feed to determine which products to display and can intelligently group these together based on what’s likely to convert best.

Using dynamic remarketing is a fairly straightforward strategy to skyrocket eCommerce performance — it’s a must for any online retailer.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Setup dynamic retargeting ads to close the deal
An example of a dynamic retargeting ad

8 Ways to Optimize Your Google Search Ads for eCommerce

Remember: Running Google Search ads in tandem with Shopping Ads is a good strategy to cover all your bases. Start with these tips when setting up your Google Search ads (Adwords) for eCommerce success.

1. Structure Your Google Ads Account for More Granular Control

Starting from scratch? The best way to set up eCommerce Shopping ads (Adwords) campaigns is mimicking your own navigation menu.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Structure your Google ads account in a similar way to how they setup their own website navigation.

If you have a top-level page that contains a category of products (shoes) and then sub-categories that contain brands (Adidas, Nike), then it probably makes sense to have a shoe category and individual brand-specific ad groups within your Google Ads account. This method will save you time and will make budget control easy, too.

With this approach, you can also get as granular as you like when it comes to ad group and keyword grouping. It will also help when other people on your team need to manage the account, as well as keep things clean for the reporting team.

2. Deep Link to Best-Sellers Within Text Ads

Within your store’s categories, there will often be a handful of outstanding, top-selling products. So, instead of directing customers to an individual category page, direct to the best-selling product page instead. That’s usually where they end up anyway.

You could easily set up a few text ads which deep link to a handful of your top-selling products. Then, simply monitor which ads bring in the most conversions. You can run A/B tests on this in the background and keep a close eye on the products that really push the needle on your ROI.
This makes the path to purchase cleaner for the customer and helps to improve your Google Quality Score, too.

In this instance, the keyword/search intent, ad text, and landing page experience is all well-aligned and optimized. In the cases where there is no clear best-seller, it would make sense to direct the customer to the most relevant category page instead. This approach is often used when bidding on less specific, short-tail keywords.

3. Have an Industry-Specific (But Agile!) Approach and Test Everything

The strategy we use for running Google Search Ads ultimately depends on the industry our client operates in, and, of course, the eCommerce platform they use. It’s important to have an agile approach when it comes to eCommerce marketing; things change quickly and the search landscape is constantly evolving. You need to always be open to new opportunities and test everything!

We like to use Google Experiments within Google Ads to test how variations of campaign set-ups perform versus our original campaign, helping to shape our ongoing strategies.

4. Don’t Neglect Google Ad Extensions, Especially Price Extensions

Ensure that every possible extension has been built out when a campaign goes live. Setting up all eligible extensions will give you a better Quality Score on your account and enhances your chances of taking up more valuable real estate within the SERPs.

The obvious choice when it comes to eCommerce clients has to be the Price Extension. This highlights the product price within the text ad when someone’s shopping for your product.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Be sure to utilize the 'price' extension because it adds more value to your site.

Your account should have the following extensions active and optimized:

  • Callout extensions
  • Structured Snippets
  • Promotion Snippets (essential for Black Friday and other sales)
  • Sitelink Extensions

5. Bid on Product SKUs, Part Numbers, and Model Numbers

When running search ads, you’ll want to bid heavily on product SKU and other identifier codes, model numbers, replacement part keywords, and so on. While these might not have a huge search volume when compared to some other non-brand search queries, they’re going to have a super high conversion rate.

Someone entering a search query for “washing machine” or even “best washing machine” is probably going to be fairly high in the purchase process. They’re probably still shopping around and trying to come to a decision about the particular model they want.

But what about someone searching for a specific washing machine model, like “Samsung WW70K5413UX”? You should be throwing your money at Google for that search query.

We often scrape our clients’ product feeds to get a list of these numbers or SKUs before using Dynamic Insertion within the headline of the text ad and the display URL. We also use keyword-level final URLs to send the user to the exact product they are searching for.

6. Continue Scheduled Maintenance and Optimization

Let’s say your ROAS is ticking over nicely at 300% each month. While that’s great, it’s not to say it’s bringing in the most possible revenue.

You shouldn’t neglect campaigns even when they’re performing well (that 300% could all be based on a few branded search terms and nothing else that’s going to drive your sales).
Ongoing scheduled maintenance and optimization ensures your search strategy doesn’t get left to stagnate.

From regularly reviewing the “Search Insights” report and checking in on the “Search Impression Share,” to verifying that rogue searches aren’t eating up your budget, there’s always plenty to do.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Regularly review your reports for accurate information on how your ads are running.

Remember tips #4 and #5: Mobile search behavior is different than desktop search, and seasonality is an important factor to consider, too. Check on an ongoing basis how those two variants might affect your search campaigns — especially if you’ve got an old account that has gone a bit stale.

7. Take Advantage of In-Market Audiences

In-market audiences can be used within your Google Search campaigns to ensure your ads are being seen by a wider audience than normal with a different matching criteria applied.

Let’s consider an online retailer of car wheels and accessories. If somebody searches for a product that is similar to one that the car retailer sells, Google will place them in a particular audience group.

Be sure to target a specific audience with your ads.

As an advertiser, you can then choose to target that particular audience group with your own search ads.

It sometimes makes sense to adjust bids according to your audiences, upping them when they match a particular, high-intent group. It can also give you flexibility when it comes to your keyword strategy; you don’t need to be quite as granular, because you know this person is (in theory) already interested in what you’re selling.

8. Don’t Forget about Dynamic Search Ads

The last Google Ads eCommerce tip we’ll share is using Dynamic Search Ads. This is Google’s offering for those who have a massive inventory of products to sell — but no time to list individual ads for each product.

If you enable Dynamic Search Ads, Google’s ad crawler will scan your entire website and create ads automatically based upon what it finds. That might be a bit too much control for some, but for others, it can be a real time-saver.

We love to use this as a keyword research tool — letting Google find queries that we may have missed or not deemed valuable when setting up our campaign. Although this is getting tougher now that Google continues to decrease the visibility into search terms, it can still be a valuable tool. Note: If you do make use of a Dynamic Search campaign, add your normal search keywords as negatives to ensure there’s no overlap.

Ultimately, Dynamic Ads can be a good low-budget and minimal fuss campaign set to run in the background with low ongoing maintenance required.

Set Up Your Google Ads eCommerce Strategy Today

You’ll want to play around and test these strategies before you jump right in and make any drastic, lasting changes. Try a few at a time, and let us know how they work out for your eCommerce business.

If you’d rather have a strategist implement them for you, we’re always willing to help. Request a free proposal from our team now to see what results we can bring for your traffic, conversions, and sales.