How to Create Truly Effective eCommerce PPC Campaigns

A few months ago, I wrote about how to effectively work with a PPC long-tail when the long tail is too long. Using the cleaning services industry as an example, I showed how targeting thousands of combinations of location + keyword quickly results in some big problems:

  • Too many ad groups per campaign (maximum of 20,000 allowed by Google)
  • Too many ad messages (taking up too much time to create)
  • Too large an account (making imports, downloads, and updates very inefficient)

I then went on to suggest how taking a more structured and planned strategy can help to create a balance between adding enough value in the long-tail, and having a practical, efficient, and manageable account.


The same logic also applies to eCommerce websites. A typical eCommerce retailer might stock tens of thousands of products. Each of those products might be described in 50-100 different ways, and need 50-100 different keywords. And each product needs its own tailored, relevant, ad messages, mentioning pricing, product details, and descriptions, and taking visitors to the most relevant and helpful landing page.

It isn't long before such a PPC strategy requires over a million keywords and tens of thousands of tailored, targeted, and engaging ad messages.

You start creating the keywords, and realize that doing so manually is very time consuming. So you obtain a feed, and start working from that. Before long, you realize that each product is described in a multitude of different ways by manufacturers and retailers, and simply using the product name or product SKU as the keyword will add little value. You then make the realization that unfortunately you're left with no choice but to make manual edits and permutations to create your keywords, which starts to look very daunting considering the tens of thousands of products.

Then you think about the ad messages. Your ads should be relevant, targeted, and specific to the user's search query, perhaps also mentioning prices, product details, and descriptions where applicable. However, due to Google's ad character limits, you soon realize that even using a product feed, there is no quick and easy way of creating ad messages which are engaging, relevant, and read well. So like you keywords, you realize that your ad message creation also needs to be a largely manual process.

But there's tens of thousands of products, I hear you cry!

Pareto Principle

That's where an intelligent, logical, and strategic approach comes into play. Just because there are tens of thousands of products, does not mean that you should spend an equal amount of time and effort on each of them.

  • Log into Google Analytics, navigate to Content > Site Content > All Pages, and you will realize that some product pages are viewed more that others.
  • Then go to eCommerce > Product Performance, and you will realize that some products sell much better than others.

These insights can help you create a priority of effort. If the eCommerce retailer sells 10,000 different products, chances are that 90% of sales come from only a few hundred different products.

By focusing the majority of your time and effort on the products which are more popular or profitable, your campaigns will more closely be in line with the demands of your customers.

eCommerce PPC Tips (Before)

Here are a few practical tips to help you on your way:

  1. Look at what SKUs have the highest sales volume and profitability, then perform a VLOOKUP in Excel to match this sales data against your feed. You can then sort highest to lowest, and highlight the product SKUs which could benefit most from your time and efforts.
  2. When sales data is limited, look at the most viewed product pages on your website. In a similar way to above, perform a VLOOKUP to match these products against your feed, highlighting the products which should receive the most attention.
  3. For your more generic keywords, use product performance data in Google Analytics to help you create sitelinks. For example, if you can highlight your 4 most popular, profitable, and best reviewed men's indoor football boots, you can promote these 4 products in your sitelink ad extensions for when someone searches for a generic phrase such as 'men's indoor football boots'.

eCommerce PPC Tips (After)

Once your campaigns are up and running, here are a few practical tips for logical refinement, expansion, and optimisation:

  1. Use the 10% Clicks Rule. This highlights any ad groups which receive over 10% of all clicks and impressions, helping you quickly and efficiently identify areas which could benefit most from further keyword expansion.
  2. Use the Broad Match Generator. This technique uses broad matched keywords and a generator of new search query data, which can then be used to create new exact and phrase match keywords. It's an ongoing process of generation and expansion, which can be incredibly powerful at growing your campaigns without sacrificing relevancy.
  3. Use Theme Analysis. By extracting themes from your search query data, and comparing their relatively popularity and performance, you can see what types of keyword themes deserve the most respect, helping you prioritize and allocate your time effectively.


Most eCommerce retailed struggle to make ends meet using Google AdWords. However, this does not need to be the case. By approaching campaign creation and expansion in a logical, methodical, and intelligent way, it is possible to develop a PPC strategy which has the best chance of delivering a profitable return on investment.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy Five Frequently Asked Questions about Google's Quality Score  

About the Author: Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell is the founder of Calculate Marketing, helping businesses of all sizes improve their return on investment from PPC marketing with comprehensive long-tail keyword strategies and intelligent campaign analysis.

Calculate Marketing

Additional Posts

Online Video Marketing: Leverage Social Media to Achieve Gazelle-like Sales Growth – Part 2

TweetStats main page

Twitter Data Visualizations for Pleasure and for Profit

Google Analytics’ New Feature: Change History

Read previous post:
Online Video Marketing: Leverage Social Media to Achieve Gazelle-like Sales Growth – Part 2

You have invested in creating a marketing video to promote your company. Now what?!? In part 2 of this scintillating...Read...