Paid Marketing: Traffic When You Need It
In any holistic marketing strategy for an eCommerce brand, there should be a short term and long term traffic generation piece. Long term would be tactics like search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM). Short term would be any paid marketing tactic like paid search marketing (Google/Bing) or paid social marketing (Facebook/Instagram). By no means is that an exhaustive list, but those are the most widely used. There are also channels that can give you a short and long-term boost. For example, influencer marketing might give you an immediate jump in traffic, but their posts are also out there long term to deliver residual website visitors over time.
While there are many platforms out there to buy paid advertisements from, there are three that dominate in the performance-driven space: Google, Facebook, & Amazon. These platforms are always our starting points in an effective paid marketing strategy not just because that have the potential for tremendous visibility, but because they convert far better than other platforms. While Google, Facebook, & Amazon dominate, they are also three completely different platforms in just about every way possible.
So which do you choose?
You could be a perfect candidate for all three or just one. Amazon is simple, do you currently or do you think it makes long-term business sense to sell on Amazon? If your answer to that question is yet, running paid marketing on Amazon is a no-brainer. Of the three platforms, you are most likely to see the highest return on ad spend. Like Google, Amazon is primarily search intent driven meaning that consumers are actively seeking your product when they click on your advertisement. Even what many consider is a poor performing Amazon paid advertising account is better than a high performing Google or Facebook advertising account.
Are you selling a product or service where your primary customer is actively seeking you out? If you answered yes to this question, Google is a recommended platform for your business. There is only one area where Google falls short of those businesses, and it is cost. Over the years the price has skyrocketed on Google driving many to find our sources of customers. For example, we recently launched a client that had was paused since 2016 in the Financial Service category. The cost per click increased from $12 to more than $24 for the same keywords and exact position. Assuming you are converting at the same rate that leads now cost double. However, with that said for many advertisers Google is still hard to beat. Like Amazon, it is search intent driven. If someone is looking for red shoes, you know precisely how to get your product in front of them.
Facebook (& Instagram) is a disruptive marketing channel. What does that mean? As an advertiser, your goal is to stop someone from scrolling long enough to engage with your ad and if they are interested in your product or service, click through to your website. You must entice where on Google and Amazon the customer is searching for you. In the case of Facebook, their weakness is also their biggest strength. Facebook has been a game changer for businesses to grow by getting in front of people not looking for your product, but when they discover your product, they become interested in it. Anything from t-shirts to massages to hair loss products Facebook gives advertisers a platform to showcase their product or service to those that otherwise may not ever find out about them.
So after Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon what platforms are left?
Twitter has good targeting capabilities, inexpensive traffic, but does not convert well. It could be that many of the users are there to engage with content and not advertisements, but it also could that their algorithms are not nearly as advanced as Facebook. While Facebook has many advantages in the marketplace, their primary power from an advertiser perspective is their algorithms. They have a fantastic ability to find users that are most likely to convert on your product or service and show ads to them while ignoring those that are least likely to convert. Could Twitter produce a competing algorithm? It is likely they have tried, but they don't have nearly the user data that Facebook as to drive that algorithm. Ultimately their success is heavily dependent on improving their advertising platform, so we are likely to continue seeing improvements.
Snapchat is the new kid on the block only opening its self-serve advertising platform last year. If you know your customer is on Snapchat, then this platform might make sense. For most advertisers, it is still too new to the market. Their targeting capabilities are limited, and they don't even have a conversion pixel out of beta yet. Snapchat is losing market share to Instagram stories. They need to improve their advertising platform faster and increase revenue.
Youtube's most significant advantage in the marketplace right now is cost. With Facebook now being completely sold out on inventory and Google Search getting increasingly competitive Youtube is becoming a more viable performance advertising platform primarily because it is still inexpensive. Google has come a long way improving Youtube for the performance advertiser from YouTube shopping to in-market audiences, and the cost of advertising has indeed not increased at all in the past 2-3 years. You can still get $0.01 video views. YouTube shopping opened up the doors to eCommerce companies to use Youtube as an actual channel to drive sales and not just branding. You're going to continue seeing more performance-driven advertisers running video ads here to compete with their Google search and Facebook advertising.
For the right client, Pinterest can be a great channel to drive eCommerce sales. Often a neglected channel in the eCommerce space both for organic and paid traffic. Where the value of this platform comes in is when you have an active Pinterest account and following. The primary reason is you are promoting posts from your account whereas Facebook and Instagram, for example, you can promote a post, but you can also create an entirely separate ad. Like Instagram ideally, your post is native looking and blends in with someone's board versus completely standing out like an ad. A bonus to running Pinterest ads is that if your post is shared, you won't pay if other people share it. You can gain a lot of residual long-term value this way.
Display advertisements can be bought through a variety of platforms or if you want to have placed on a specific website you can go direct, but it will cost you. For the most part, display advertising is set aside for branding campaigns and remarketing. However, there are performance driven cases as well. Google has a new Smart Display option where if you have enough conversion data in your account you can bid on a CPA (cost per acquisition) target. These have proved to be quite effective and are worth testing. Since the release of their in-market audiences, if they fit your goal, you can run an effective performance campaign as well.
Another way to buy display ads is programmatically. In this case, you are using more detailed targeting, like behaviors, to purchase display inventory. For instance, if someone has a propensity to buy cosmetics, you can target them. Another example would be business owners with gross revenue of $1 million or more. Thousands of behavioral data points can be layered on top of your display ad buy to increase the relevancy of your advertising.
Native ads are simple; they are designed to blend into the content they are shown with and look native. Typically you will see these when reading news, blogs or any content and they will be displayed below the content with the appearance of related content that the reader might be interested in. The two primary platforms to buy these on are Outbrain and Taboola (there are others as well). These are a great placement to get a lot of cheap website traffic, but typically are difficult to convert. Where we have seen value on these channels is increasing traffic to content, like a blog.
While there are other channels, from traditional mediums like TV and billboards to the latest in technology with connected TV (we are started to test this), the channels above are the primary channels we work with on clients and typically at least two thirds of the budgets are towards Google and Facebook strictly based on traffic volume and typically deliver the highest return on ad spend.
We would love to review your current marketing strategy and assess whether your budgets are spent most effectively. Fill out the form below, and we will schedule a time to review.