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Google PLA Ads: 6 Ways to Crush It

google-shopping-cartWe’ve been hearing that consistently since Google Shopping switched to a fully paid marketplace in October. This channel is suddenly akin to the early days of paid search where you could likely generate positive ROI just by turning it on.

Despite the good ROI seen today, as more competition flows into the channel we will certainly see CPCs rise and quality score become a stronger arbiter of positioning.

In order to compete and drive strong ROI, you will have to run your PLA campaigns much like you run your SEM campaigns today. If you take an active optimization role, there’s an opportunity to have PLAs be one of, if not the best, revenue driver site-wide.

Even though it might seem like a convenient strategy today, beware the feeds provider that tells you they are qualified to manage your PLA campaigns because they do it for Shopzilla and PriceGrabber.

The techniques below are most familiar to expert SEM practitioners and can drive significant improvement over baseline PLA performance.

Isolating Top SKUs

Most retailers have a core set of products that represent a significant percentage of their revenue, and help the brand stand out from the competition.

On their website, on their shelves, and in their advertising and promotions, these products are handled separately due to their importance to the business. This should be no different in PLAs and these products should have their own bid strategies, keyword targets, and promotional text so that profitability on these SKUs is maximized.

This is simple to execute on within the AdWords interface, just create Product Targets for each individual SKU that you’d like to merchandise separately from the others. Once you have that Product Target created, you can bid that product on its own as well as create negatives to ensure that it doesn’t get clicks on irrelevant queries.

Semantic Organization of Products

For a retailer with thousands or tens of thousands of products, it would be challenging to manage each of these SKUs individually, especially since many of them would not get enough volume to make an accurate bid.

However, the relationships between the products in a portfolio are incredibly important, in that they will behave similarly in a dynamic marketplace. Some examples of this would be products of the same brand, of the same attribute value (the color blue), or the same margin profile. Grouping these products together into product targets makes a lot of sense and allows for more effective control over the performance of the entire portfolio.

One example of this would be to group your products by category and brand. We know that JBrand Jeans and Levi’s Jean Shorts have wildly different price points, customers, and margin contributions. They should live in their own groups, not under the broad heading of Denim.

Aligning Your Feed Content to User Intent

PLA is a paid search channel and not a CSE (comparison shopping engine) channel. Products are displayed based on keyword level intent signals, however most retailers’ product feeds are designed for online/offline merchandising techniques, which don’t take searcher behavior into account. The content of those feeds are consistently misaligned with how users search for products on Google and therefore a lot of potential volume is left on the table.

There are ways to gently manipulate your product feed such that information light merchandising titles like Canon EOS Rebel T4i 18MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-135mm EF-S Lens – Black can be converted to Canon EOS Rebel 18MP SLR. This much better reflects how someone might search for this product on Google.

Negative Management

One truth in the paid search world, and similarly in PLA, is that the more control marketers have over the traffic they receive from AdWords, the better they will ultimately perform.

Google makes money through creating liquid marketplaces for each search, and they seek ways to intelligently increase coverage for their advertiser network. Many times this works to the advertiser’s benefit but often it does not, making it critical to include negatives in PLA at the product target level in order to ensure relevant traffic and to not compromise ROI.

If you have a Product Target for Red Sneakers, it would make sense to have negatives for the other primary colors as well as the other types of shoes that you are merchandising through your other product targets.

Image & Title Testing

Google doesn’t support ad testing for PLAs, but that doesn’t mean that marketers shouldn’t explore ad testing in order to drive performance. The most visible areas to test ads in PLA would be the product title and the product image.

There are a number of different ways to do this through testing different strategies either week over week for the same traffic, or at the same time for similar traffic.

For example, if you have two different styles of images on your site, one with the clothing on a model and one with it off the model, you could test all your products one week with the model shot and then rotate to the non-model shot for the next week. You should get a good sense of how clickable the different images are in Google’s marketplace from this test.

Keep Tabs on Your Margins and Competition

Much like in SEM, you don’t want to spend your precious ad dollars trying to compete for placement when you’re margin constrained or not price competitive. There are a lot of intelligent tools in the marketplace today that can help you understand your pricing relative to the competition.

If you aren’t competitive, it doesn’t make sense to bid high for position against a certain product or product type. On the flip side, if you are the price/volume leader on a specific product, you should bid very aggressively and continue to establish your leadership position.

Summary

As this channel continues to grow, it will become increasingly important to actively optimize your PLA campaigns. Once your PLAs are live in AdWords, you should start adopting these techniques to continue to stay ahead of the competition.

Step-by-Step Guide to Qualifying Your Backlink Sources

Links guide

We all know that all backlinks are not created equal when it comes to their relative SEO value.  But given the sheer number of linking opportunities that are available, how can you even begin to determine whether or not a potential backlink is worth the effort or not?

If you’re new to the process of qualifying potential backlink sources, take a look at the following seven questions that you’ll want to as before pursuing a link building opportunity.  By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll ensure that your efforts aren’t wasted on backlinks that offer no value to your website’s performance.  You’ll become a link building champion in no time!

Step #1 – Does the link come from a reputable website?

The first – and absolutely m

ost important – element to take into consideration when evaluating a potential link source website is its reputation.  As you might expect, there’s a big difference in Google’s eyes between securing a backlink from a no-name offshore website that was created entirely for SEO purposes and a backlink from one of the top-rated blogs in your industry!

All of the following factors contribute to whether or not your backlink source is considered reputable or not:

  • PageRankAs a general rule, sites with a high PageRank tend to be more reputable than those with low scores, though you’ll want to be sure to check both the home page PR and the PageRank of the specific page where your link will be located.
  • MozRankSimilarly, the MozRank score (a proprietary formula developed by SEOMoz) attempts to measure the relative authority of a website according to its link popularity.  The score is given on a scale of 1-10 and can be viewed using the free MozRank toolbar.
  • Domain AuthorityAlso developed by SEOMoz, “Domain Authority” is a more complex measurement that takes into account over 150 signals based on Google’s search algorithms and SEOMoz-specific calculations.  This factor alone can give you a good idea as to whether or not your potential link source is considered to be a reputable website.
  • Site DesignMany times, you can gauge a sites reputation by simply looking at the caliber of its design.  If it’s clear that the webmaster has invested in an aesthetically-pleasing, professional design, the odds are good that he’s equally as committed to running a great site.
  • Website TrafficRelative traffic volume can also give you an indication as to whether you’re looking at a reputable site or not.  Generally, disreputable sites don’t maintain steady streams of traffic – giving you the data needed to steer clear of bad link sources.

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of “gut instinct” to be utilized here.  As an example, you may find a website that’s young, but highly-regarded and growing.  Though this type of site wouldn’t pass all of the qualifications listed above, it could still be a good opportunity that’ll provide co

ntinuing value in the future.

Step #2 – Does the link come from a website in a related niche?

Once you’ve determined that a potential link sources passes the reputation check, your next move should be to weed out possible backlinks that will come from sites in a related niche, as links from relevant sites tend to carry more weight in the Google algorithms.

Your chosen linking opportunities don’t need to be perfectly matched – for example, you don’t need to obtain links to your dog training tips website solely from other dog training tips websites.  However, keeping things within your general industry (linking from a pet supplies website, rather than a tech blog in this case), will help you to get more value out of the links you’re able to create.

Step #3 – How many other links are found on the page?

Next, take your list of link

source finalists and determine how many other links will be on the page where your own backlink will reside.  In general, fewer is better – though the key here is to avoid sites that are obviously farming for links.

If your link will be the only one on the page, that’s great!  And if you’ll be one of many that’s listed in a well-organized resource list that makes sense within the context of the website, that’s okay too.  However, if the page where your link will live looks like a spam collection of randomly-assorted backlinks with jacked up SEO anchor texts, keep looking for better backlink building opportunities.

Step #4 – Where on the site will your link be located?

In addition, while you’re evaluating the number of links on your potential backlink source page, take note of where your link will be located on the page.

If your link will be contained within the editorial body content of the page, move on to the next step.  But if your link will appear as a “site wide” link (meaning that it will appear in an area like the footer or sidebar that will be visible from every page on the site), move on – as Google has been cracking down on these types of links.

Step #5 – Is the link do-follow or no-follow?

Finally, if a potential link source has passed through all of the different qualification steps described above, the final question to ask yourself is whether or not the link will be appended with a “no-follow” tag that will prevent it from passing PageRank to your site.

Depending on where you build your links, this tag may be added to your link automatically, as in the case of outbound links that are built on popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  In other cases, webmasters will add these tags manually in order to prevent their own link juice from leaking away from their pages.

As a general rule, a do

-follow link is better than a no-follow link, as the former passes on search value, while the later does not.  Keep in mind, though, that link equity isn’t the only reason to build links.

Say, for example, that you were able to score a backlink from Google’s main blog – a site that formats all of its outbound links as being no-follow.  While you might not get any link value out of the deal, you’d probably still get plenty of referral traffic from click-throughs back to your site (which might be even more valuable to your website’s bottom line than the equity of a single link would be).

In addition, it’s known that Google takes the number of no-follow links pointed back to your site into consideration in its ranking algorithms – even if these links don’t pass on any PageRank – likely because a backlink profile consisting entirely of do-follow links would look

highly unnatural in the eyes of the search engines.

So here, again, it’s a judgment call as to whether you should go after a link that will be appended with a no-follow tag.  If it’s going to be a hassle to get a no-follow link on an unknown site with small traffic potential, the backlink probably isn’t worth your time.  On the other hand, if you have the opportunity to secure a no-follow link from a well-known site in your industry, go for it, as the traffic potential will li

kely overcome any lost PageRank value.

Though this entire process may seem lengthy, you’ll get the hang of qualifying link sources quickly with practice.  Add this step-by-step procedure to your own SEO efforts, and you should see a corresponding improvement in your site’s natural search performance as the result of a happier, healthier collection of well-qualified inbound backlinks.

Partners Are Pillars Of The Brand

The last year witnessed major changes in digital and imaging companies. We can note the rising importance of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and networking. 2012 also saw increased awareness about the environmental impact of printing and a preference for low power consumption and bio-degradable material.

Global trends

Worldwide trends can be summarized as the 3Cs: controlled printing, confidentiality and color. Because of the economic slowdown, companies are driven to reduce the cost of printing and revamp their printing architectures. The proliferation of multiple devices, connectivity, mobility, color and the print-anywhere concept will continue to drive newer ways of printing. More electronic communication and the increasing trend toward controlled printing will drive new application and service domains. Digitization has increased accessibility, saved storage space, and enabled increased data preservation. Digitization solutions will range from digital microfilming to document and printing solutions.

Company Snapshot

Printing trends can be summarized as 3Cs: controlled printing, confidentiality and color
A paperless office, streamlined workflow optimization of storage, readiness and accuracy of data, security and digital color printing are trends driving managed document services
The trend of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and inkjet printers will open the doors to a new range of innovative software applications
Managed print services will become a crucial tool for large organizations to enable cost-efficient business continuity

In 2013, inkjet printers will be in great demand both at the B2B and consumer level. After adverse trends in the last few years, customers are realizing the cost-effectiveness and software opportunities inkjet printers offer. Innovative inkjet printers are already fast becoming household lifestyle products.
Due to demand by enterprises for energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and optimization, managed document services (MDS) will be another important trend in 2013. MDS will provide end-to-end services to achieve your goals for continuous business process improvements.

In addition, managed printing services (MPS) have a very bright future. MPS enables users to print anywhere and anytime, and reduces IT support costs by 20-30 percent.
Challenges for CIOs

With constrained budgets, CIOs are facing questions such as how they can reduce printing and imaging costs. There are also issues surrounding the awareness about MDS and the need for office automation solutions. The first thing on a CIO’s mind is paper management to go green. Along with a paperless office and streamlined workflow optimization of storage, the readiness and accuracy of data, and security and digital color printing, are the latest trends in MDS.

2013 will be a year of challenges and opportunities for digital and imaging companies. The rising trends of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and inkjet printers will open the doors to new and innovative software applications
On the other hand, office automation catapulted corporate environments into a different realm altogether. In this rapidly changing business world, the strength of an organization’s communication procedures is one of the most crucial factors for its success.

As India gets more globalized, it becomes imperative for organizations to adopt new technologies in order to streamline their business processes and become more efficient. One of the biggest challenges faced by digital and imaging companies is the rupee depreciation which has increased the cost of imports and has, in turn, impacted the customer’s bottomline. Other major challenges include the continuous escalation of cost structures and expansion of service reach to more tier-2 and -3 cities.

Pillars of success

Channel partners are the pillars of brand success in India. It is essential to understand their requirements in order to have a strong and beneficial relationship. Devising clear channel-friendly strategies will help partners to increase their revenue and profits. However, not all trends are applicable in the context of local market needs. It is therefore very important to develop local strategies after extensive market research.
2013 will be a year of challenges and opportunities for digital and imaging companies. The rising consumer trends of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and inkjet printers will open the doors to a whole new range of innovative software applications. Meanwhile, MPS will become a crucial tool for every large organization to enable cost-efficient and effective business continuity.

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