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by Mike Essex on 20th March 2013
One of the biggest paid search developments in the last week has been eBay announcing that paid search adverts “don’t work”. Now, of course we’ve seen thousands of businesses who say that they do work, which made me wonder if perhaps the problem is the way that eBay approached using paid search, which is why I decided to put together a video that explains some of the ways that eBay could use paid search better, but also to use eBay as a jumping off point to explain how paid search can help any business in three core areas. Those areas are: sales, brand, and acquisition. Those areas affect any business out there.
So, although I’m going to look at eBay, even if you don’t work for them, you should find this video helpful. Now, eBay’s paid search advertising has been mocked quite a few times prior to this study. That’s generally because they use a process called dynamic keyword insertion, where they look at what the searcher has put into Google and then they wrap their advert around that. So, if typed in “dirty nappies,” it would say “buy dirty nappies on eBay”, which is awful and not what they want at all. There’s hundreds more examples out there.
So I think what eBay need to do first is to scale down their campaign to not focus so much on, “Okay, we’ve got to bid on everything, and we’ve got to be seen everywhere.” And focus more on the aspects of, “Okay, let’s build a campaign carefully and slowly.” It might be ten times smaller, a hundred times smaller than what they’ve got, but it will work a lot stronger.
Also, the thing you’ve got to factor in is if eBay are bidding on really small cost items and it’s costing them 20p or 30p a click and they’re only making a few pennies on the sale, then it’s completely pointless to be there.
So I think actually they need to focus on the high value items, first of all, because eBay makes around 10% of the final sale value of every product, but also because when you list a product on eBay the more expensive it costs, the higher the listing fee. So even if the item doesn’t sell, they’re going to make more money regardless. So they want to ensure that those high value items sell so they get the money. That would be the first thing to do, is to go through all of their product categories and to see what the most expensive items were and build adverts around those rather than bidding on everything.
Then they should bid on the categories themselves. So, if they want to build adverts that allow them to look at many different types of products, if they do want to have this kind of catch-all approach, then they’re far better off looking at the categories of products they sell and creating adverts around those. For example, it’d be better for them to make a category on buying antiques than making adverts on a specific vase that’s an antique. That’s a lot quicker and easier to manage.
Then they should look at past results. I mean, eBay’s probably been doing paid search for about ten years or so. They must have a ridiculous amount of data on what gets clicks and more importantly what converts. If they’ve got conversion tracking in place, and I’d be very disappointed if they don’t, then they’ll be able to see which of the past types of products get clicked on and which ones convert. Those are the ones that they should build adverts around.
Obviously, they should also look at how much is costing them a click and how much they’re making per sale and look at the items that generate the best response and just scrap the rest for now. If they can prove that these work, then they can build the campaign out again. But their current approach of kind of being everywhere and saying, “Oh it doesn’t work,” is a little bit short-sighted if I’m being honest. It doesn’t really work, any advertiser could do that, just bid on thousands of keywords and go, “Nope, doesn’t work for us. We’re moving on. Let’s invest in SEO,” which is cool, but paid search has to be done properly to see if it works.
That’s where negative keywords come into it. So the dirty nappies scenario that we talked about, bid on the keyword “dirty” as a negative so adverts can never show for that. I mean there is no chance anyone’s going to want to buy a product that’s dirty on eBay unless they’ve got some weird fetish. It’s probably not what eBay would want to be associated with. So that would be one.
The word “free” would be another one because eBay sells things. They’re not free. There’s probably thousands and thousands more, and because eBay’s got all that previous data as well, they can look back on the search terms that they actually appeared for. So, regardless of what they bidded on, they can see what they actually showed for and then they can go through that list and say, “Well, actually we don’t want to appear for all of these.” Then add those as negatives so they never appear again. So all of those approaches will help eBay get more sales.
They’ll help you get more sales as well if you implement them on your brand. The other thing that they said was that it didn’t really work for their brand. So that’s the scenario, in their case, was that they were bidding on their brand name, eBay, and they had the top place organic listing anyway. So they looked at it in terms of, “Well, we’ve already got the top organic listing. We don’t need to pay for this one.” In some cases that’s true. EBay does have a trademark, so if anybody bidded on their brand, they could get them taken off pretty quickly. So, in some cases, people say “bid on your brand to stop other people bidding on you”, but in eBay’s case that was never really a threat anyway.
The other aspect is that paid search adverts you can have site extensions. So, what eBay could do is they could use it to collect email details of people when they view their adverts. Normally they can have sitemap links to help people get to the right categories. They can do extra things with their adverts that they couldn’t simply do with organic search, and that’s probably something that they should be looking at.
They should use it for brand protection. There are over five million results for “eBay scam,” and there are other terms they need to think about, like eBay counterfeit, eBay fakes, all big issues that affect eBay right now that they could bid on with paid search to promote a specific page that addresses that issue. So anything that people are searching for that makes eBay look bad, they should be bidding on those terms to make sure they’ve got a page there guaranteed and it answers user questions to ensure that they do get the sale later down the line.
We’ve got remarketing. So, if someone comes onto the site and adds a product to their basket and then doesn’t complete the purchase, eBay could use remarketing as many other brands do, like Amazon and John Lewis, to ensure that people do complete the purchase. The best thing about remarketing is that you don’t pay until somebody clicks, and if somebody clicks on an image of what their shopping basket was like, they’re very likely to complete the sale. It’s a win-win scenario to do that. Also, people are seeing their brand constantly around the web as well, which helps remind them that eBay is a good destination.
The other thing to think about is that eBay’s brand image has changed over the last few years. EBay used to be a place to go and get used items at really cheap prices, but they’ve tried to position that away from the used market to also selling new products and having trusted companies who sell products on there. Problem is their paid search adverts never seem to catch up with this change, and we’re still going down the route of “you can buy guitars and this and this from us”, rather than looking at positioning eBay’s brand image, which is integral to customers’ understanding that they can buy new items from Amazon, but that they can also buy them from eBay, which is what eBay ultimately want to happen. No amount of bidding on the word “guitar” will help show that, if people already believe that eBay sells used items only.
So that will help reshape their brand, but we can also look at that as helping acquisition as well and helping them get new customers into the business. Part of what eBay also said with paid search was that people already go to eBay.co.uk and do a search, and therefore they don’t need paid adverts. But there’s all these customers out there who still see eBay as a used supplier of old goods, and they need to educate those customers that people can use eBay to buy new goods now.
So the first thing I would do is create landing pages not devoted to a specific product types, like guitars, but actually devoted to getting people to sign up for eBay. Now you might think eBay’s huge and everybody’s already signed up for it, but they’re not. Also, this new positioning as a new item supplier can tie into that as well. That’s what their landing page should promote all the benefits of eBay, the new and used goods, and make it really simple for people to sign up and get their details.
You also have email sign up, which I talked about under brand. So, whenever people search for eBay in the search results, you can have a tiny little box that lets people sign up.
Now, eBay have daily deals on their homepage, so they should combine that and create an email newsletter with daily deals and say, “Sign up to get our daily deals.” Therefore, they’ve created a mechanism where they can contact people every day, or maybe every week if they prefer, and remind them of the types of products eBay sells and the value proposition of their brand as it stands today.
They’ll only be able to do that by using paid search, and you can’t tell me that is not a very effective use of paid search. What I believe would work fantastically for eBay is to just get these email addresses as easily as they can. Also, if it’s an existing customer, they’re obviously not signed up to this daily email, but this method allows you to sign them up for it because they’ve opted in to get daily deals and allows you to turn a customer, that legally you can’t email every day because they never signed up for it when they joined eBay, into somebody that you can now have regular conversations with. It’s great for new customers and old.
Last of all, they should try bidding on general terms, so move away from product specific terms and try words like “auction,” which fits in with their old value proposition and “online store,” which fits in with their new value proposition, and they can cover the market. Essentially, anything that Amazon is bidding on that reflects them as a business, as a brand, as an online store, is where eBay should be looking to move [towards].
So we’ve covered quite a lot of things here, but I consider these three approaches to be fantastic for eBay, fantastic for any business. If anyone tries all of these strategies and still says that pay-per-click doesn’t work for them, then I would be very surprised, and they probably have a product that is hard to sell anyway.
So please leave a comment below if you’ve used any of these tactics or if you can think of anything else that eBay should use, and visit Koozai.com for more information on what we do or any of the social profiles at the end of this video. Thanks for watching.