PPC for ecommerce brands

Introduction To PPC For Ecommerce Brands

AJ Saunders profile picture

By on 01 Mar 23 | Filed: Paid Search

I'm a former ecommerce founder turned growth agency owner. When not helping our clients grow, I enjoy automating my home, dogs, and architecture.

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is a powerful, cost-effective marketing tactic many ecommerce brands use. If you haven’t tried running ads on search engines, this introduction to PPC for ecommerce is for you.


PPC takes many forms. You can run paid search ads on the search results pages. You can also display ads on websites that use a partnership network like Google AdSense or Ezoic. And there’s also retargeting, a topic we’ll cover soon.


Paid search has many benefits. It’s affordable, highly targeted, and converts well. Combining organic SEO and PPC campaigns ensures your brand is prominent at the top of the search results, creating instant brand awareness.


If you haven’t tried running PPC for your ecommerce brand or did and weren’t happy with the results, this article will outline how to get started and set your campaigns up for success.



What Is Ecommerce Pay Per Click (PPC)?

As the name suggests, Pay Per Click advertising is based on paying for an outcome. Thousands could see your ad, but you only pay for the 3 clicks it gets. The cost per click can range from cents to a couple of dollars.


It’s the opposite of advertising in a magazine or local radio, where you pay for the number of eyeballs or ears your ad reaches. The cost of these can be expensive and hard to measure.


PPC, therefore, is highly affordable and targeted. It scales well. You can ramp up your spend as your ecommerce store grows or due to the season (if you run a seasonal business), and reduce your spend when it makes sense too.



Why Should Ecommerce Brands Use PPC?

It can take time for you to build SEO visibility. Google and Bing only want to display websites they trust. So, they will obverse a site for months before showing it in the search results, let alone at the top!


You can get results from a PPC campaign in a matter of hours, including more visitors and sales. It can be the answer to posting less on social or waiting for Google to display your store at the top of the results. 


Using PPC as part of your marketing mix ensures you can effectively reach your target market without blowing your budget.



microsoft advertising platform



What Search Engines Offer Paid Advertising?

Unsurprisingly, two players dominate the paid search market. These are Google and Microsoft. There are some smaller networks, but nothing compares to these players.


The Google Advertising platform allows you to play advertising on search results, YouTube, and their partner network (including websites using the AdSense platform for display ads).


Similarly, the Microsoft Advertising platform centers around their Bing search engine and a partner network. They also supply ads to niche search engines, such as Ecosia and DuckDuckGo.


Both platforms allow you to run ads across the search results, various websites and show ads to previous visitors using what’s called, retargeting.



What KPIs Should You Use?

With the basics out of the way, let’s get stuck in and look at how to use PPC for ecommerce sales. But first, let’s discuss the top reason why brands fail to run profitable PPC campaigns.


They lack Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)!


If you don’t know what success should look like, how can you measure it?


As this is a basic introduction, I won’t bore you with an endless list of KPIs you could use. Instead, let’s talk about profit margins.


Imagine you sell model cars. You buy them for $10 and want to sell each model for $30. After deducting $10 for fixed costs (shipping, package, tax, etc.), you have $10 left. 


You could spend this $10 on paid ads to generate the sale. A better idea would be to spend $5 advertising your product and make $5 in profit.


So we have a budget of $5. We’ll call this figure our max Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). Using this amount, you might be able to drive 20 visitors at a cost per click (CPC) of $0.25.


Your KPIs could be:


Remember, KPIs are an assumption. They model what success should look like. They are the final goal and are subject to change. You might find you need to spend $7 to make a sale. So you’d need to adjust your KPIs using real-world data.


By setting and measuring KPIs, you’re ahead of 90% of the ecommerce brands you’re competing against. They’re just throwing money at the problem and hoping for the best.




google adwords interface



Getting Started With Paid Search

Google and Microsoft offer several types of ads. But we’ll focus on text adverts as they provide a good grounding of how PPC works. Once you feel comfortable, you can expand your ad types and experiment with different options.


Choose keywords

Firstly, we need a list of keywords that best describe our product. The ad platforms use these keywords to trigger when to display our ads.


Start with the product title and think of a few variations. For example, your product could be a brown leather dog ornament. So you’d want that phrase in your keyword list, along with leather dog ornament, faux leather dog, leather dog, standing leather dog ornament, Leather dog doorstop, etc. 


You might want to look through any suggestions the ads platform makes and add them to your list. But don’t go crazy and target every word or phrase they suggest or you can think of!


Create an Ad

This is where the fun begins! It might take you a few rewrites to find the perfect copy. That’s fine and good use of your time.


Microsoft and Google have different ad copy requirements. And there’s a real art to writing them. You might have the perfect title and copy for Google, only to realize it’s too long for Microsoft. So you’ll quickly get better at writing!


Google requirements (as listed in their help section)


Microsoft requirements (as listed in their help section)


For our leather dog ornament, we could write something like:


Title: Faux Leather Dog Ornament

Ad text: Exciting faux leather dog ornament. Ideal gift for him. Free 2-day shipping.


That would be perfect for Microsoft ads. For Google, we could use:


Title: Faux Leather Dog Ornament

Ad text 1: Exciting faux leather dog ornament that’s the perfect companion in the living room. 

Ad text 2: Ideal gift for any dog lovers, including him and the kids! Free 2-day shipping within USA.


Set bids

As you’re bidding on keywords, you need to set what you’re prepared to pay for your ad to be displayed. Depending on your business, you could be happy to pay $0.50 per click, or a click might cost $50.


Both advertising platforms display an idea of a keyword’s cost per click (CPC). It’s worth setting your bid to the average of your keyword list. Running PPC campaigns involves doing some maths!


Over time, you’ll get a clearer idea of what a good CPC amount is, allowing you to adjust your campaign. Refining your targeting, CPC, and copy might take you a few months. That’s normal.


You should keep making small adjustments and measuring the results. Don’t set it up and leave it!


Get clicks

If you’re targeting the right keywords and have compelling copy, you’ll start getting people clicking on your ads. That’s great. You’ll need to monitor the number of clicks you need to sell an item.


For some products, it will take a few ad clicks for you to make a sale. Other items will need 100 or more ad clicks. So don’t lose heart if a product doesn’t automatically sell.


Use the data you gather each week to make your campaigns even better.



At some point, you’ll need to pay Google or Microsoft. Both allow you to use a credit card and pay at the end of the month. If you haven’t started advertising, you should be able to get free credit. So don’t spend money until you’ve spent theirs!



PPC isn’t a set once and leave. You need to be constantly tweaking and refining your copy, keywords, and targeting. You’ll need to make time weekly to adjust your performance.



successful ecommerce PPC



Ensuring You Run Successful Ecommerce PPC Campaigns

Here are a few tips to ensure your ecommerce PPC campaigns are successful and drives new sales.


Targeting the right keyword

As you’re just starting, only target long-tail keywords (mens blue Nike shoes vs Nike shoes). Otherwise, your waste your budget on clicks that don’t convert.


By using a highly targeted approach, you can gather data on what works and doesn’t. Feel free to experiment with 10% of your budget but be sensible with the 90%.


Building great product pages

If you want visitors to convert, you need to write compelling copy. Take your time when crafting product copy and category descriptions to ensure they connect with your ideal customer.


Creating the best shopping experience

Make the buying experience simple and seamless. If possible, use a single-page checkout. Avoid using one that requires the user to enter loads of details over several screens.


Stop running ads for out-of-stock products to save your budget. If possible, use a back-in-stock notification system that allows people to enter an email address and get an email when the item returns to stock.


A final tip is to ask your customers for feedback and use it to improve the experience. Really listen to the people who pay your wages, they have the answers!



Using PPC for ecommerce brands to drive more sales

To recap, when using PPC for ecommerce, start small and scale from there. $100 is plenty. Both Google and Microsoft often run promotions offering free ad credit. So start there and make your mistakes with their money!


Pick one platform (either Google or Microsoft) and try running one or two ads with a small keyword group. Don’t try to be overly clever with your ad copy. You’ll find the character limit frustrating. But it’s a great way to refine your copywriting skills.


When you’re ready, work with an ecommerce PPC agency, as they can turbocharge your performance. However, nothing beats understanding the basics of how to use PPC for ecommerce yourself.

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