eCommerce 101: PPC for Beginners

eCommerce 101: PPC for Beginners

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is a very strong segment of online marketing and is used in eCommerce to drive traffic and convert visitors into customers. With that said, it is only effective when done properly with the right goals and strategy in place. The most common error I often see merchants make in PPC is disorganized, chaotic campaigns. When merchants begin to dabble in Search Marketing, business owners are typically working with a small budget, with the end goal of driving more traffic, leads and revenue to their online store. If you’re not already using PPC to your advantage it’s time for you to understand the fundamentals and how to successfully (and continuously) convert traffic into customers. There is more strategy involved in crafting ad campaigns and building out a channel on the web to meet business goals than one might think.

This post is written for beginners who want to get started with PPC. I’ll detail the basics with a few tips along the way to help you maximize your budget and the success of your campaigns.

Keyword Research

The foundation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) relies on heavily on the relevant keywords in the search queries of consumers. In eCommerce, your initial keyword research is vital to your online success. Why? Because the eCommerce environment is becoming increasingly more competitive with hundreds and thousands of sites springing up every year. Which means the competition for organic rankings has never been more tough.

What not to do:

I usually ask our clients for keywords they feel are relevant and important to their eCommerce site. Of course, the general responses I usually get look something like the following (note: these are examples, not actual responses):


  • Book
  • Glass
  • Dryers
  • UX
  • Sidewalk
  • Doorway

The point is, these singular, one-word answers are not going to get you off to a good start. Keyword research is about identifying two very important factors that relate to both you and your customers:

  1. Relevancy
  2. Intent

Keyword Relevancy

So you’re not wrong when you say the word “book” is a keyword if you are an online store that sells books. Rather, what you should string out your target search queries into more relevant keywords on your site. Let’s just say you sell used, history, non-fiction and fictional books. Your keyword list should start looking something like this:

  • History books
  • Used books
  • Fiction books
  • Non-fiction books

Now that they are stringing out into longer tail keywords, take each one and group them into an even deeper list of keywords using free tools such as the Google Keyword Planner:

History books

  • WW2 books
  • Canadian history books
  • World history books
  • History books online

Used books

  • Buy used books
  • Used book stores
  • Cheap used books
  • Used text books
  • Used books online

Fictional Books

  • Best fiction books
  • New fiction books
  • Buy fictional books

Your keyword groups with then translate into separate Adgroups that you can now focus on writing compelling Ads. Which brings me to my next tidbit on PPC for beginners.

User Intent

As your keyword list grows, you will see patterns in search queries that will identify what the user intent is. For example:

  • Buy Tom Clancy books
  • Tom Clancy book reviews

“Buy” obviously shows purchase readiness, while any query with “review” identifies a potential future customer who is looking for more information on the author and their work. Now, it’s time for you to move on to writing ad copy that will address the action the user intends to take when clicking on a search listing.

Writing Simple, but Effective Ads

First off, think of your ad as an organic search listing (one that Google or Bing would display as a top result). The kicker here, you have limited characters to really stand out. A text ad has the following limitations in the ad copy:

Text Ad Format:

Headline: 25 Characters
Description 1:
35 Characters
Description 2:
35 Characters

In comparison, an organic listing displays your Meta data, which does all the talking.

Organic Listing Format:

Page Title: 70 characters (max)
Meta Description:
160 characters (max)

Organic listings provide more information for the user, so it is important to write quality ads that answer the question for the intended searcher. Users are gravitating to search engines looking for specific information related to the keywords they put into the search bars.

In eCommerce, the overall goal for any merchant is to successfully sell products online. You may have different goals in terms of the various actions you wish your users to take on your website (for example: newsletter sign up, call in store, order online), however when getting started, here are some key tips for writing compelling adwords ads (for more information on this topic, check out this post I wrote):

1.    Targeted Keywords in your Ads

Search engines will bold keyword searches that match words represented in your ads. If your keywords and keyword phrases match the query the searcher typed in, it is likely that you’ll catch a first glance. Also recommended for beginners is using Keyword insertion in your title text. By adding a special code to your ad text that looks like this: {KeyWord:insertkeyword}, Adwords will take keywords that trigger your ad and match it to the search query the user typed in. This allows your ad to appear more relevant to the search term.

2.    Ask Questions

This tip can be a bit tricky depending on the action you want to take so it is very important that you ask the right questions. By asking questions, you are qualifying traffic based on answers they are looking for. An example can be a search word such as “buy guitars online” and a title “Looking for Guitars?”.

Mini tip: take a group of keywords you think may trigger an ad that requires using a question and drop them into their own Ad Group. This will allow you better control over which ads are shown when certain keywords are triggered.

3.    Include Your Offer

This may be the most important tip anyone can give when writing ad copy. I have personally seen so many ads that have no offer other than “You can find what you are looking for here!”. Offers are important. If you are looking for a way to increase your click through rates, make sure you include one in your ad copy!

4.    Ad Extensions

In my original post, my 4th tip is to “include location”. This is particularly important to businesses with physical walk-in locations. However, when discussing eCommerce, this tip opens up a few more options for on-site activity. Ad extensions are meant to beef up ad copy with more information and opportunity to improve your overall quality score. Ad extensions include site links (adding links to other pages on your site), call extensions (phone numbers) and location extensions (linked to Google Maps).

5.    Build Strong Landing Pages.

eCommerce is growing in competitiveness especially here in Canada. A store based out of Toronto that sells and ships products only in Ontario can lose business to a shop based out of Montreal that sells into Ontario and offers better shipping rates, and lower prices etc. The typical search behavior online is to explore options across the fast resources available online. Product searches are best directed to that specific product page. Once a searcher clicks through the ad, all the questions they have should be answered with product descriptions, images, reviews (if you have them), offers, product videos etc. Landing pages also have an affect on your overall quality store, so make sure your keywords match the content you have on that page.

Reporting and Review

A common misstep for beginners is turning on conversion tracking as well as linking Google Analytics accounts to Adwords and any other platforms to track campaign performance. For simplicity and beginner level instructions, I will focus on using Google Adwords and Analytics for reporting.

Google Adwords is a platform where you create and manage your PPC campaigns. Google Analytics however, is the platform you observe the interaction and gather data about your sites activity. While Google Adwords does record conversion data, cost data, click through rates etc… it is very beneficial to have the two accounts linked so that you can import PPC activity from one account to the next.

Benefits: report on sales, automatically calculate cost per conversion, margins and ROI. Dig deeper into search data and how visitors are flowing from different channels to completing conversions and checking out.

Once you have created both accounts, you can add the Google Adwords account to your Analytics account in the “Admin” Dashboard.



In Google Adwords, you will need to associate the two accounts within the “My Accounts” tab.



Linking Accounts will allow you to import data from Google Analytics into Google Adwords. Under the Tools and Analysis Tab, you will have access the your Google Analytics Dashboard.


Last but not least, once you connect the account, you will be able to import Conversion Data from Google Analytics in Adwords under “Tools and Analysis”-Conversions.

Note: In your Admin Dashboard for Google Analytics, you have to specify that your website is in fact an eCommerce website.

Ensuring that you have access to these metrics, you can then identify key areas of improvement such as what is working versus what is not. There is a good amount of content on looking deep into the data and reviewing your efforts. I give a brief overview on monthly reviews I personally do myself.


When starting out in Search Marketing, it may be difficult to drive sales to your site and see positive ROI on your marketing dollars. PPC marketing is quick and easy to set up. It can also be a very powerful marketing channel to acquire customers. Start by creating an account, and then create a PPC budget. Finally test out some campaigns around your best selling products. As you continue to grow your eCommerce business, budget allocation should be used to feed on-going campaigns that are continuously converting, and don’t forget to create campaigns for new products and special promotions!

Published by

Brendan Soucie

Brendan Soucie is the Search Marketing Manager at Demac Media. As a graduate from Fanshawe College's Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Brendan got his first taste of SEM during his final year where he built a live client Pay Per Click campaign using Google Adwords. Brendan now specializes in PPC, Retargeting, Product Listing Ads, Dynamic Product Ads and is constantly seeking new opportunities and resources within SEM.

One thought on “eCommerce 101: PPC for Beginners”

  1. Hey Brendan,

    This was a really nice primer into PPC. Your tip on going from broad – less broad – very specific when searching for keywords is excellent. Sometimes it’s hard to brainstorm keywords out of thin air, but this method really helps.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *