Online Retail SEO, PPC and PLA | eCommerce Guide to Google 2014

By Nik Rajpal
TOPICSGoogle, Paid Search, Product Ads

On Demand Webinar

In this recording, we explore how Google has turned the tables on SEO, making it (for the most part) a lose-lose situation and identify the silver lining discovered by Exclusive Concepts. At the same time, we’ll look into how Adwords has improved and has turned into a significant win-win in online retail.

Viewed by over 1,000 online retailers in 2014 alone, the feedback on this webinar has been overwhelming. It continues to help online retailers secure a much clearer sense of how to navigate the changes that Larry Page has imprinted upon Google since his return as CEO on April 4th, 2011.

We hope you enjoy the presentation – and please share this with others who would find it valuable.

Webinar Transcription

Hi folks, and welcome to the on demand version of Google Guide Version Q3/Q4 2014. This is a guide to help online retailers get the most out of Google and optimize for the second half of the year in 2014. We want to set the stage here in terms of how this did in the live presentation, we received such amazing feedback. Viewers said things like:

  • “The best hour I’ve spent in a long time.”
  • “WOW! Mind Blown!”
  • “Thanks for this great information.”
  • “Call me today — let’s rock and roll!”
  • “Fantastic! Thank You!”
  • “Really enjoyed and benefited from this session.”
  • “Excellent presentation skills and knowledge of the content.”

Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m your presenter. My name is Nik Rajpal, I’m the VP of Client Services here at Exclusive Concepts. You can reach me at and you can follow me on Twitter, that’s @nik_rajpal. I’ve been a speaker at many events, the Yahoo Summit several times, SEMPO, HostingCon, Google Webinars, Conversion Conference. I talk about many different topics that are related to online retail and online marketing: e-commerce strategy, organic search, chain search, conversion optimization and e-mail marketing. Definitely check out the webinars at We have a lot of these webinars, and you can learn so much.


Who are we? Who’s Exclusive Concepts? We’re the leader in do-it-for-yourself eCommerce marketing services. It’s very simple: read it backwards. We do marketing services for e-commerce stores. And the way that we do it, is what we call “do it for you.” We don’t want you to have to do anything. We continue to optimize our approach so that we can give you results — profitable results — in a way that doesn’t take your time away. We’ve been doing pretty well. We’ve been growing. Actually six times in a row now on Inc. 5000. We’ve been around since ‘97 and we’re based in Boston. Thanks to the continued patronage of our clients — the lifetime clients that we have, we’ve been able to grow at a very healthy rate.

Our typical client — this is not inclusive of anyone — but our typical client does earn over $1 million in annual online sales and spends over $10,000 per month in online marketing. This is just what our typical client is. You could be much larger, you could be even a little bit smaller than this and you might still be a perfect client. So, still reach out if everything else seems to be making sense.

For those of you that are watching this on demand webinar, I want you to maybe even open up an e-mail right now to asking for our ProfitFinder Analysis. You’re going to learn so much. It’s overwhelming how much you’re going to learn about PPC, SEO, Google Shopping and Larry Page. The changes that have happened at Google in this presentation — we will put all that into context for you and identify through that lens, where there are areas for profit — profit that’s just sitting there.

We would do a Panda/Penguin analysis, a content analysis, a device analysis of your profitability per device, ad copy messaging analysis — these are all proprietary technologies, my friends. There’s no other company nor technology in the world that can do what we’re going to do for you. Optimal settings: this is from a research study that we had Google do on our behalf. Behavioral trends analysis: it goes right down to real dollars and cents. A positions analysis to identify how you can calibrate your spend towards the most ideal positions. And all these calculations can be using your margins — it’s all done in real profit. There’s nothing like it. Write to and ask for your ProfitFinder Analysis. It’s your right. You should definitely do it.

The agenda for today: Larry Page Returns; Rollout of SEO Changes; Thriving in the New SEO; PPC Takes Center Stage; Surviving SERP Changes — SERP is Search Engine Ranking Page changes; Getting Your Best PLA Results — PLA is Product Listing Ads, Google Shopping; and Coordinating Remarketing. Lots of things to talk about today.

We definitely enjoy when people watch our on demand webinars. The version of this webinar that was done on demand in January has already had, I think 1,200 views on YouTube and we had 400 people sign up for it live. We definitely want people to continue to watch these. When you do watch them live, you get to be part of the Q&A session. That’s huge. Our Q&A session can go as long as an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half. They’re very vibrant conversations about how to internalize and act upon this information, so we definitely recommend that you start signing up for the live versions.

Let’s jump into the content. The catalyst for change at Google is Mr. Larry Page. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google and for 10 years, they allowed their buddy Eric Schmidt to run their company. On April 4, 2011, Larry Page returned. Now, it’s important to understand a little bit about Larry Page. Larry Page created the original algorithm. PageRank, which is the technical name behind why link-building makes you rank better for keywords, is named after him because he created it. He created most of the relevancy algorithms. When he returned after one decade, what we can see from the changes that happened after was that he was super frustrated that these innovations that made Google the best in the business had not been improved upon in 10 years, and that the loopholes that were created by not innovating his original innovations created this entire SEO industry that was taking advantage of what Larry had created. He really wanted to shake things up.

The inherited state was — simply put — that an online retailer like yourself could make profit — potentially make profit from Google — in one or two ways. Either through paid ads or organic listings. When he took over, paid was unprofitable for a lot of online retailers. People didn’t trust the results, the quality of traffic was pretty bad. It was actually pretty easy to miss the ads. But the focal point of the results were the organic results. And all you had to do was exploit these loopholes that Larry Page had created 10 years ago, and very quickly you could become very profitable using blatant SEO techniques, even with very low-quality content. So what he wanted to do was make paid as big of a win-win as possible and try to make organic, at least at some level, a lose-lose.

OK, so how did these changes actually roll out? Some of these changes started actually well before Larry came back. To understand the changes, you need to first understand what an algorithm is. Right, so, an algorithm is just this basic algebraic equation. What Google is trying to do is create a score between a page and a keyword, and they define this score by seeing the relevance between the page and the keyword, the authority of the page and the brand recognition of the brand that has that page on their site, and that creates a score. So when someone types something in, a bunch of pages show up because they have different scores. The relevancy and the highest score takes the top spot. That’s very simply how it works, even the PPC side uses an algorithm called AdRank, but we’ll get to that.




You can see that these URLs have scores that are vastly different in some ways. URL No. 1 and URL No. 5 have a difference of about eight-fold. This helps you understand and envision why sometimes it’s so hard for you to take a score or a rank of No. 5 and move up to the first position. Or URL No. 3 and No. 4 that are 750 and 740, you could see how they could be pretty quickly interchangeable. Their scores are pretty much the same.

There’s one other element to how all of this works. It is that there are essentially two different indexes: there’s a primary index, which is a primary source of pages for a search, and a secondary. And here’s how it works. Imagine you had 15 results that are relevant to a search, and those pages are in the primary index. When Google is trying to retrieve results for that search, they will pull those 15 from the primary first and stack them in the first 15 positions. So the highest you can rank if you’re in the primary index is No. 1, and the lowest would be 15 in that situation. If you were in the supplementary index, for whatever reason — we’re going to explore those reasons — then the highest your page would rank for a keyword would be No. 16 in that situation, or very, very low past that. So you definitely want to be in the primary. That gives you a higher probability of being No.1.

So, one change that happened in terms of primary vs. secondary occurred in 2008.  Google started deciding that if while they were crawling the internet, they see a page with content on it, body content that they’d never seen before, they’d put it in the primary index. But if they ended up seeing the exact same content again on another page on a different site or even the same site, they’d put it in supplementary. So, this created a very quick-moving change in the SEO industry, where people were offering content for like $1 a page, or you could use spinning software that would take a paragraph and spin the content around for you and swap out some synonyms, saying “hey, it’s unique content now!” So a lot of bad content that was unique was coming into play. And, you know what, that was good enough. You could actually have your page show up in the primary index, even though it was bad content. But even until today, duplicate content on a page still will result in a very low probability of ranking No. 1 for the keywords for that page. So if your page has [duplicate] content issues, you’re basically precluded from ranking. In ’09 — oh, here’s a reminder that we will actually look at your site for duplicate content if you write to and ask for the ProfitFinder Analysis.


In ’09 Caffeine was released. Caffeine was this way for Google to spider the entire internet at a much faster speed and find tons of unique content. So businesses really started investing in unique content at this point. Again, they did not need that high-quality content, just unique. The primary index was exploding, just busting with low-quality unique content. If you remember back then, in 2009 to the beginning of 2011, you would type in a search and you would go through so many of the results. The results would just be terrible. You would have to click through five, 10 results before any one result was good enough for you to actually want to stick to, that had an experience worth engaging. But it’s still very important that Caffeine was launched, and that the duplicate content rules were created.

Carrie Grimes is probably most noted for being behind Caffeine. And Caffeine, to be explained properly or visually rather, is that the old index used to analyze and discover a huge chunk of the internet and then make it live while it was analyzing the next chunk. That’s what people referred to as Google Dance. Now, Caffeine is looking at things in real-time. And Caffeine’s still live. So, with all of this bad content, Google had to do something about it. About a month and a half before Larry Page came back, on Feb. 22, 2011, a fellow named Navneet Panda, last named spelled “panda,” released an algorithm that was meant to understand the difference between high-quality content and low-quality content. And Panda did this through working with focus groups, etc. saying “look, which pile of content is good content and which is bad content,” and then creating algorithmic markers of high-quality vs. low-quality. And, by scanning a page really quickly, if the markers of bad quality were there, then you would consider them what he would call a “red signal.” If there were markers of good quality content, they would be seen as a “green signal.” Sites with lots of green signals had a high Panda score, sites with lots of red signals have a low Panda score. Very simple.


Now, we talked about how scores are created for your ranking. Imagine that Panda is something like a score from zero to one. If your Panda score is a one, multiply that against your original ranking score. What will happen? Nothing will change. If your Panda score is a .1, multiply that against your original score — say your original score was 2,500, now it’s 250. You used to rank No. 1, now you’re ranked No. 30. So, just like that, shallow or low-quality content on your site, even on pages that are not important to you, if you’re putting them in Google’s index, you are starting to create a potential risk to a larger portion of your site’s ranking. So a page you don’t care about might affect a page you do care about. And we will check for Panda-related issues on your site if you write to and ask for the ProfitFinder Analysis. And this, by the way, is Navneet Panda. It’s the only picture I could find of him. He’s a computer software guy, machine learning and data mining.


One year after Larry came in — he came of April of 2011 — in April of 2012, Penguin was released. And this, the only way I can describe this, this is just pure emotion. This is Larry saying “OK guys, software team, search quality team, let’s see how good you are. For 10 years, you allowed an entire industry to create very simple tactics like putting keywords stuffed into a title and then in the body text, using backlinks — all these simple tactics to game the system, and you’re letting them rank No. 1. Now, everyone here knows what it looks like when you’re trying to optimize a page for a keyword. I want you to turn those tactics into filters, into penalties.” That’s Penguin — those easy-to-detect SEO footprints, anything that is creating hyper-relevance. If they find you doing it, and they think you’ve gone way too far, that page will no longer be helped by that over-optimization. It’ll be hurt by it.

So, keyword stuffing, navigational stuffing, backlink stuffing are all now going to be seen as a risky approach because you can be seen as hyper-relevant and you can lose your rank. Again, if you write to, part of my analysis that I will do with you — by the way, this is something that I will present to you — I will analyze your content to see whether or not you’re at risk, or maybe you’ve already been hit by Penguin.


And Penguin’s team is pretty much the main Webspam team, run by Matt Cutts. He made sure that people understand that yeah, you’re not going to be able to recognize whether or not you’re doing something that’s unfriendly to Penguin unless you have an SEO look at it. Because SEOs know what they did wrong. That’s basically what he’s saying here.

Now there were two other major changes that happened recently that people didn’t talk about enough. And for online retailers, these are big deal changes. EMD update, how many of you know about that? September 27, 2012, EMD stands for “Exact Match Domain.” It’s when the search term that was typed in matches a phrase or a word in your domain name, not your URL string, but your actual domain name. In the past, if someone typed in a keyword and that keyword was in your title, your H1, your body text and your domain name, you would get different points for having them in those places. And domain match was a huge, inflated part of the score, so maybe if a keyword typed in matched your domain, you would have rank No. 2 with 230 points.

After EMD, that part of the algorithm was basically just turned off. They said, “you know what, Wal-Mart doesn’t have the word ‘furniture’ in it, but it should show up higher. So let’s take ‘furniture’ being in a domain out of the algorithm.” And now people have to rank based on other merit. So a lot of people saw huge drops during that update and a lot of them blamed it on Panda or Penguin, not realizing what actually happened. Again, you can write to and our ProfitFinder Analysis will check to see if you were hit by the EMD update.


Hummingbird came out one year later, a year and three days later. It was referred to by Amit Singhal, who is Matt Cutts’ boss (we showed Matt Cutts earlier) as the biggest change to happen to Google in as far as he can remember. And then later he recalled that Caffeine was pretty big, probably as big as Caffeine. So what’s the difference? In the past, someone typed in “what’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5S to my home?” Well, with Larry Page gone for those 10 years, the only way that you could rank was to have relevancy on your page. So you would actually optimize your page for this phrase, and you would show up. Now that Larry Page came back and said “you know what, we’re not going to make link-building important anymore, that’s gone. Relevancy is now going to hit triggers, we need to use new technologies to define who should rank for what.” So when you type that in, now it checks the location of the searcher, finds businesses who are close to that location and checks merchants’ feeds to see whether or not you have the iPhone 5S in stock. Hummingbird is identifying what technologies it will use to help serve you a better result.

And, during this Hummingbird process, even a little bit before it, what we started realizing that impacts online retailers, is that Google started to identify very clearly that two different types of user experiences would be properly serving general online retail queries. One was an online shopping page, that means you go to the page and there’s tons of products. The other is an informational page where there’s just so much information, you can learn a lot about the topic. Those are two very helpful experiences. But a lot of online retailers have websites where they have what we call categories that point to sub-categories, and these category pages that point to sub-categories typically have no products on them and they have very little content. In the current iteration of the algorithm, Google does not understand why those pages exist in the first place. They don’t allow you to see products, they’re not that helpful informationally. They don’t see the value in them. A lot of people saw drops for their main category pages that were the most important pages for their big, general terms, because Google didn’t like the experience anymore. We’ll check to see how you’re doing against that., ask for ProfitFinder. We’re going to see if you were hit by Hummingbird.


We asked all the attendees when we did this live to tell us, “Now that you’ve learned about these different things that have come out in the past few years, what do you think actually hit you the most?” You may be surprised, but after learning what happened, only 3 percent of people said they thought it was Panda. This is real learning.

So, lots of challenges, right? How do you thrive in the new SEO? It seems like Larry Page’s goal in making this a lose-lose actually came true, but that’s not the case. See, Larry’s changes only really affected the most general queries. So we asked ourselves to internalize whether or not there was something — some opportunity, some silver lining — that could be identified and capitalized on for our clients. And this is how things started changing. We realized there are two different types of phrases: research-intent phrases, when people kind of understand what they’re looking for but not really; and purchase-intent phrases, where people are pretty much one heartbeat away from buying. Right, these are the different types of searches they would type in. The nature of these two different types of phrases were pretty opposite. Research-intent phrases: high competition, high search volume and really high policing by Google. You hear when Google says Panda just rolled out and 2 percent of search queries or phrases are affected by Panda. Really? So how should I interpret that? Does that mean that if you lined up 50 online retailers that only 2 percent of them were affected, so 1 out of 50? No. All 50 of them were affected, but only the most important, in their minds, were the largest keywords in their industry. The high competition, high search volume, research-intent phrases. In fact, most of the changes that have happened have not even affected purchase-intent phrases, where there’s low competition, low search volume. Because Google is a heuristic algorithm — they treat what they consider important search queries different from what they consider not important. And that is pretty clearly expressed right here as the difference: competition, search volume and policing.

Now in terms of conversion rates, the expectation that if you rank for a research-intent phrase vs. a purchase-intent phrase, what you might see in terms of conversion rates, well, if you get traffic from research-intent phrases, people are not ready to buy. They may engage with your site, but they’re not ready to buy. Purchase-intent phrases, if you show up and people click on your site, your conversion rates can be 10 times higher. Even the algorithm is quite different between research vs. purchase-intent. For research-intent phrases right now, between relevance authority and brand recognition, brand recognition is taking all the cake. For purchase-intent phrases, because there’s less competition, meaning less search results to choose from, relevancy is actually trumping. And Google also just approaches it differently. They think if someone’s typing something that’s very specific, then less general sites, less popular sites, more specific sites should be showing up, because they’re more authorities on that topic. Maybe not authorities from the perspective of back-links.

And the SERP results – Search Engine Ranking Page results — totally different for research vs. purchase. This is a research-intent phrase, look at this. There’s 1.5 results for organic, everything is left to PPC now. And if you do rank high, it’s because you have brand recognition. See, Amazon, it was able to overcome 430 million competing pages without even optimizing for the term “phone cases,” you know, “phone cases” should be put together if you’re trying to “optimize” for it. But no, brand recognition is why they’re No. 1. So if you’re not Amazon, it’s really not your playing field. Now, for purchase-intent: there’s very few PPC results. And look at this, you can beat Amazon. All you have to do is have relevance. You don’t have a lot of competition. This keyword, which is related to the research-intent phrase, has 99 percent fewer results. All they had to do was identify the keyword and optimize for it. Real simple.


So the analogy we use here, we say basically it’s like if you’re going after a research-intent phrase, you’re basically fishing at a crowded wharf, so imagine you’re fishing at a crowded wharf with no license when there are police everywhere, so the fish are being taken away by all your competition, you’re running the risk of being caught and you don’t have a license to actually fish. Versus you just get on a boat and go out to the ocean — there’s more fish, they’re ready to bite, no competition and there’s no policing, no rules, you don’t even need a license. That is the vast difference between purchase- and research-intent phrases. So the goal is to try to go after more purchase-intent, but you have to ask yourself: is it even worth it? Are there a lot of searches for purchase-intent versus those big keywords that I like to go after? Well, let’s put this into perspective. In the last 24 hours, there were 3 billion phrases typed into Google across the world, some of those phrases actually were the same phrase typed in many times. Like “Amazon” was typed in 500,000 times across the globe in the last 24 hours. But some searches are only typed in by one person in those 24 hours. No one else types it in. We asked people, “what percentage do you think that represents?” It’s actually 50 percent. One and a half billion of the searches in the past 24 hours were typed by one person once, and that’s it. Those are all the longer tail and in the online retail side, that’s the purchase-intent side. Then we said, “what about keywords that were typed in that have never been seen by Google ever before?” Six hundred million of the searches in the last 24 hours were typed in for the first time ever into Google. Now that’s all nice and well, but we’re online retailers here, we need to get money terms, because that’s where all the money is. So we did a research project to identify for the top 1,000 terms, what percentage of traffic would come from your top 1,000 terms? So some people have an SEO program that focuses on 20 keywords — we’re saying, let’s say you had a huge SEO program that focused on 1,000 keywords? What percentage of traffic would they bring in? Eleven percent. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, the vast majority of searches are going to be in the long tail, and your job is to make sure you create stability for that long tail first.

Now, we change our approach. We call it “Valuescaping,” so that we can help our clients get the most SEO value out of every single page of a site. That way, they can target not 20 keywords, but thousands upon thousands of keywords for their industry. Visually speaking, this is what it looks like. In the past we would say, “just focus on the homepage and the category page and their keywords, less keywords.” Well, those pages that were not getting love were actually creating Panda issues, we talked about that. Plus, these general terms that are targeted up here, that has the most policing by Google, so you’re actually investing in the most volatile keywords. That doesn’t sound like stability at all. By investing in the entire site, thinking about writing content the right way from top to bottom allows you to target thousands of keywords, to stabilize your Panda score, and investing keywords that are not being targeted by Google updates. Very safe play. And your goal with Valuescaping is to increase the volume and the quality of traffic for every page on your site.

Now that we’ve understood some of the changes that Google made, how do we turn that into actual next steps? Well, first we need to overcome Google’s requirements to increase traffic volume right? So, just to meet the requirements for indexation, Carrie Grimes’ team, you have to have enough unique content to be seen as primary-ready. For Panda, you have to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Again for Panda, you have to show Google that your quality of writing is above-average. And for Penguin, keep your content naturally optimized with lower optimization rates.



So, let’s quantify that. OK, for a product page: instead of just 50 words, try going for 100; instead of focusing on one word, diversify — three to 10 words; instead of just little to no editing or even worse, you know, spun content, do the best you can. For our clients, for Valuescaping, for every single page of content that we write, our content writers follow a 400+ page guide book called the “Associated Press Style Guide.” They write content that fits the requirement for the most aggressive standards, and Panda’s not even close to that yet, but we just say “aim for the top.” And instead of having high optimization rates, keep control of your optimization rates so that you don’t get hit by Penguin.

Now that you are in Google’s good graces, because you’re neither upsetting Carrie Grimes’ team, Panda nor Penguin, now when Google says, “welcome, we will rank you for any keyword you want — what keyword do you want?” Make sure you answer that properly. So how do you make as much money as possible now? First, you don’t want just one keyword, you want to diversify the number of keywords will rank for. You want to make sure you understand that some keywords, some topics, have major synonyms to them, and they can open up a page to so many more keywords to rank for. If you’re going to choose keywords, choose them based on your history. What keywords have driven a high value-per-visit in the past? Map your pages to those keywords and you’ll get more of those high-value visits. So for any page, that means going from one keyword to three to 10, from one central keyword to at least one to three variations of that keyword and from using public suggestion tools, like keyword suggestions through AdWords, to choosing your keywords through your own data.


There’s some other benefits to choosing your keywords first. It helps you create much more meaningful, much more unique content. So imagine you tried to rewrite content with the only muse being a manufacturer’s piece of content. This manufacturer’s content: “The Nexoteric 1000 is a sleep aid made from die-cut organic pine wood and was cooled down to 75 degrees Fahrenheit before being incubated in a furrow naturally excavated by the North American Beaver. The Nexoteric 1000 solves your sleep problems. Buy the Nexoteric 1000 today!”  First of all, way too optimized, but also, it’s just talking about how it was created. If you start with keywords that actually drove results, you may find that the highest value-per-visit keywords talk about problem recognition — someone taking cure for restlessness, when they came to the page they thought “I’m allergic to sleep aids” or it reflects unique qualities of the products: non-medical sleep aids, natural sleep aids. Or even gaps in the marketplace — maybe when people type in “Nexoteric in stock,” they bought from you because everyone else is out of stock. Or “Nexoteric ships internationally,” because none of your competitors actually do that. So you find what really sells your product vs. what your manufacturer thought would sell it. And if you start here, once again, your content will look so different from everyone else’s.

Now we’ve done tests where our clients went ahead and wrote content and we wrote content using our Valuescaping approach, and when you do it right, you get better results. Here, when we added content, the value-per-visit of each page we worked on increased by $6 per visit. Our pages are about $20/page, it takes about three visits to justify the cost. Here where we wrote content, the value-per-visit quadrupled vs. when they wrote content, it less than doubled. Here our client tried to write a lot more content in one batch of content vs. our content, and no matter what, our approach still yielded a value-per-visit that was more than double than what the client was able to write. And here’s the proof in the pudding: do write to In the ProfitFinder Analysis, I will analyze your current content approach and tell you whether or not I think you can make profit in investing in it the way we do it.

On the 20th of May this year, Panda 4.0 came out. No client of ours that does Valuescaping was affected negatively. Not a single client that did Valuescaping was affected negatively. A lot of people were affected negatively in the marketplace, by the way. Several were affected very positively, and the highest success was when we wrote a lot of product content. That’s where Panda boosted scores for our clients. But I’ve talked to a lot of people who were hit by Panda 4.0, and here’s what I saw. Sections that lack content, sections that need canonicals/redirects, they are getting hit by Panda, because they’re not taking any action on fixing the underbelly of their site. They may only focus on homepage or some top-level category pages, but 99 percent of their site is seen as very poor from Panda’s perspective. eBay was hit, there was a lot of buzz about it. It kind of seems like that was a fluke. They may have been serving a penalty the same day.

OK, so now you’ve absorbed SEO. Let’s talk about PPC. PPC is really improving in terms of its ability to deliver fantastic results. Even for Google — these are Google’s financials, this is their year-to-year growth for their ad section of their business. You can see, Eric Schmidt’s approach for a while was creating whopping growth in the ad side. But after a while, his approach plateaued. Enter: Eric Schmidt sad-face. Not a good look for Google. Eight percent growth every year is not great. Larry Page came in looking to the future, decided to help diversify what Google ads would grown on. He said, “we’ll focus on three different areas: 1. The actual interface of Google, the SERP real estate, the Search Engine Ranking Page real estate will be improved upon. No. 2: we will drive huge evolution on Google shopping, and No. 3: we’ll allow people to have more control of the experience after someone has started interacting with the site. That’s for marketing.”

So we’ll talk about each one. First: the changes to the actual experience. Now, Google was always No. 1. So why be so hard on themselves to innovate? Take Jack Welch’s advice: “You should change before you have to.” That’s what Google did. Now, that’s advice to you as well. Because Google is making these changes, you need to learn how you should be changing. So let’s answer that question. First you need to understand what usability changes look like. For Google to have improved its experience, it needed to do a few things.

Google Guide v Q3 2014 - SERP 2

Google Guide v Q3 2014 - SERPs

First of all, there’s a lot of elements on a page. To improve usability and improve conversion rates, what you do is you first make sure there’s a lot of separation elements. That’s the first thing you do, even if you’re improving your website. Then you choose what do I want people to see first, second and third? And you create prominence for those elements through size, font, background color or image. It’s really that simple. And when you compare June 2010 search results vs. June 2014 search results, you can see all this in action. Let’s look at 2010 first. Search results start with organic and the name portion is all organic. There’s only two ads, there’s a distracting cluster, even with some images and icons on the left side. Now the main image that you see — PLA ads using images in the most prominent place and with one of the most effective prominence tactics, to drive more eyes to the ads. The top text result is now an ad not an organic result. There’s no distracting left column anymore and there are a lot of extensions to help people stand up. Why? Because there’s 15 results, not two. Huge changes.


For you to thrive with these changes, you have to change as well. So success today means being the best you can at PLA, utilizing ad extensions to stand out, stand out through ad copy and aiming for the top spot. And these three are actually very, very closely related. Let’s start with the last part. Why do we aim for the top spot? Well, we analyzed 70 non-client accounts vs. over 200 of our client accounts and we measured the profitability of each position. And for non-clients, position 1 was the only profitable position. That means every dollar you spend outside of profit 1, if you’re not one of our clients, is likely losing you money. We have bent this science quite a bit, and now our clients make about double the profit per dollar spent at position 1. We’ve also made 2 break even and position 3 as profitable for our clients.

But how do you get that and why do you care? First, why do you care? The result is immediately below the search box. It has the highest click-through rate because of its high prominence. It also has what we call “top spot prerogative.” See that indent with two rows of links? Double the real estate vs. any other result. Plus, people just trust that Google is going to serve the most accurate results. So, the highest density of ready-to-buy individuals will click into the first result, as long as the selection is good and the value props are good, they’ll buy it. They won’t need to search around more because they’re ready to buy.

So how do you take that top spot? Well, it’s your bid multiplied by something called quality score and that creates your ad rank. And, just like we were talking about SEO, you know have a score and it’s sorted by score, same thing here. You have the highest ad rank and you take the highest spot. Now, quality score seems like it’s something important, right? Like, maybe if you have a low bid but a high quality score you can have a higher ad rank? That’s exactly what it means. Through the right management, you can have lower bids and take higher positions. Quality score is created through expected click-through rates, landing page experience, ad relevance and ad formats. Your expected click-through rate is based on the user’s data. We’re going to talk later about RLSA, or remarketing lists for search ads, that is when you use a remarketing list, that means people who have been to your site before, to re-target to them in search results. Well if you do that, then Google says, “OK — here are a few results. One of them is an RLSA campaign, meaning that there is data that this person has been to this site before.” The expected click-through rate would be very high for that experience, so the quality score will be much higher for that. So using RLSA to increase your quality score is very effective.

If you have an ad that has a lot of clicks and it has history, your expected click-through rate could be gauged off that. That’s one reason why businesses shouldn’t have too many ads. I just analyzed a website where they had about 2,500 products and 900,000 ads. It was absolutely ridiculous. None of them have enough history to increase a quality score.

Landing page experience: if you do SEO, you do better in PPC. Relevant and original content, easy to navigate and don’t lie. If your ad copy mentions the keyword that is typed in, that’s going to help. If you use extensions like call extensions and site link extensions then you’ll definitely get a boost. And this guy right here explains, if you go to Google+ Your Business on YouTube, you can watch his video on how this works. He showed an example where the quality and the formatting, formats being site links and call extensions, were so impactful that even a low bid was able to take the top spot. Now I will analyze all the aspects that feed into this quality score for you on the ProfitFinder Analysis. It sounds like we’re going to do a lot for you and we are. If you write to us and you ask us for this — we don’t charge for these — you are going to be blown away.

Google Shopping: I will note here, for Google Shopping, our clients, we did that study of 200 of our clients vs. 70 accounts managed by competitors — in that study it showed that our clients make 23 times more profit in Google Shopping than when managed by competitors. Something to think about.

Why does Google care about Google Shopping? Well, for one thing, they’re having a lot of difficulty making the changes of habits towards mobile work for Google ads. But there’s something magic about Google Shopping. What is that? Well, the touch screen element of the mobile device allows you to scroll up and down and left and right very easily, much more conducive to left and right vs. a PC. It’s allowed them to do innovations like the Carousel. People love to use the Carousel. And by investing in a PLA for mobile, people are actually seeing stronger results. So Google wants to do the best they can. They have other reasons, like you know, Amazon, but in October of 2013, they released new shopping campaigns, and we pretty much switched every single one of our clients to these new shopping campaigns right away. Results were phenomenal. It’s so worth doing it, and by the end of August, everyone had to do this anyways.

You can create campaigns using drilldowns, real simple now. You can set bids at the lowest product group level. I will explore that a little bit. You can get performance and data by the segments of the products or even IDs, you can expand your columns and add tons of extra data. Unbelievable. You can see how your performance is comparing against competitors in the same space or in the same segment. You can even see how your bids can change your impression.

So, those are innovations that Google has been investing in, but they also invested in usability changes that made sure that they were as slick and useful as Amazon. And I’m finding these days that when I use Amazon, I think I’m going to get a lot of results and I don’t. I type in something very specific for my kitchen, I expect Amazon to have something fitting but I don’t find it. I go to Google shopping and I find 200. So Google Shopping is really being used by a lot of people. Now with short lists, with faster ways to look through their products and 360-degree views, it’s actually potentially a better experience.

The basics of Google Shopping: most of you know this. Your eCommerce platform has a full experience but is trying to reflect your products in a different way than your feed. A feed is representing all your products just in rows as an .xml doc. It’s a way to convey all the information per product to shopping engines. That feed needs to be connected to Merchant Center, and as long as it’s fitting all the guidelines, you’re going to be good to go. And now in AdWords, you can use that setup to start marketing some of those products.

Our philosophy is actually pretty simple. We separate the entire product line you have into sensible segments and treat each segment as if it was going to be a break-even segment. And over time, the data starts showing us that actually some of these segments are actually very cost efficient, and some of them are just not. And you can see that in the metrics. Value-per-click being $5 vs. $0.20, pretty big disparity. So one of the things you would do at this point is bid at proportion to the expected value-per-click, maybe at a five-to-one ratio for that really cost-efficient side. Maybe even the break-even side, but when you have low-cost efficiency, create a huge gap, maybe 20-to-one. But it should also influence how you spend your time. That’s where we make the most impact. Where you have more cost efficiency, we do more granularization, breaking things out more and we work with your feed optimizer to get more aggressive with the optimization of your feed for particular keywords. Where you’re breaking even still, we use bid optimization and negative filtering to try to stimulate results and we waste very little time on the low-cost efficiency side. Not what you would pay for.

If you write to, we need to look into your approach. How far are you from our approach that is yielding 23 times better results? We’ll tell you.


Now segmenting — we’ve talked a lot about segmenting — can be done pretty easily. There’s some stuff that’s already in the feed: Google product category, product type, size, color, but you can also augment your feed so that there’s more information. Your margin tier: 0 to 20 percent, 20 to 40 percent; what top sellers would stop; what season is the product mapped to; is it on-sale now?; what materials, patterns, etc. You can actually optimize that data as well in the feed. If you want to have a product show up for a particular keyword, you can put in the ID, the title, the description. Make sure your product categories are at least three products deep. You can even put a product type that’s mapped to the keyword, but make sure with your patterns and materials you’re using recognizable patterns and materials. Don’t try to be unique. Also: try to be unique in the description. Just like SEO, if it’s more unique, you’ll rank better.

Now the reason we say patterns and materials should be recognizable is because these fit the filters. Filters are how people trim down the list to get to what they actually want to see. Every category has potentially different filters, so study your filters and then map your feed so that it’s optimized for those features.

Now once you’ve done all this, what you want to do is try to create “super campaigns,” for PLA. What’s a super campaign? It’s a campaign whose infrastructure allows you to make sensible, profit-oriented decisions and take actions on them. So how do you get that? Well, if you break out your products by the information that’s in Google shopping right now in the feed, you would see a breakdown something like this: this is a website that sells men’s and women’s shirts and pants, has some best-sellers, some not, some low margins, some higher margins. So, a super campaign would be small enough that all the products are similar but large enough that they represent a good percentage of your products. So one super campaign might just be men’s shirts. Now as you break that out using other data, the bottom part of this lineage becomes your product groups, and that’s where you set your bids. There, there, there and there. And in AdWords, this is how it would look — you’ve excluded everything in men’s but shirts, and you’ve excluded everything else in products other than men’s. And then you set your bids at the bottom.


Now, the reason we do it this way is, first of all, it allows for that three-tier philosophy where we treat everything like break-even and over time we can invest in more of the high-efficiency vs. not high efficiency. You can bid according to profitability, especially if you have margin data. You can track performance to a particular segment, you can even break out a segment to track performance to the ID, just one product. You can add sensible negative keywords: this is men’s shirts, right? Well, what if you don’t sell men’s cowboy shirts? Put that as a negative. That makes sense. If there’s a sub-group, like here — normal, low margin, not a best-seller — maybe you want to exclude that entire sub-group. It doesn’t seem to be worth spending on. Or, we can open it up and just find which IDs in there are really not worth it and exclude them. You can create better ads, you can create ads for PLA, that’s your promo text. And here, because it makes sense the way we’ve clumped things together, we can say 20 percent off all men’s shirts. Easy promo text. If your men’s shirts do better in some metros vs. others or some languages vs. others, you can actually optimize just for this group. Or if there are certain day or hour shopping habits that are more optimal to target just for your products, you can do that, too because now you’ve separated things out with this. If you write to and you’re asking for the ProfitFinder Analysis, I will help analyze whether or not you’re on the right path for this.


Now the last major change that Larry Page focused on was expansion of remarketing. Remarketing is interesting because Google really invested in how they can take the existing strengths of AdWords and Google Analytics and build upon them. You create audiences that are based on different habits that people had, so maybe you’ll say people who have visited the men’s shirts category or any product in there, added to cart but did not buy. That’s pretty specific. Or you could just say “all visitors.” Those are two different mobiles of specificity. And using those mobiles, people will get put into the different lists when they’re coming to the site and a cookie will be dropped on their site so that now you know that they’re in there and you can re-target them. You can extend membership durations to over 500 days.

But not all audiences are worth the same. That generic “all” visitors vs. “added to cart,” the expected value of getting the person back in is actually pretty different. With a general visitor back to your site, the value-per-click may be $1, but that person who added to cart that’s one heartbeat away from buying, maybe that’s $5 expected value-per-click. So you would actually spend more trying to get that person back, maybe even using multiple clicks. That’s one of the least appreciated aspects of remarketing, and people should be studying that, especially in the online retail world. I will actually analyze your settings for you and your audiences if you write to and ask for your ProfitFinder Analysis.

Now if you have your audiences setup, there are three different types of remarketing that are meaningful for online retailers. One: someone comes to your site and they fit the parameters of one audience, and because of that, you decide to start showing ads to that person on Google’s display network. So, is part of the display network. They come to your site, get put into an audience, go to and boom — they see an ad for your site with a 5 percent off discount coupon. That’s kind of compelling if they remember your website. And don’t forget that they’re checking the weather. You’re asking them to change everything they’re doing to now go back to your site, remember what they were interested in and try to get them re-engaged. So, not only do you have lower clicks, because it’s not as interesting, but your conversion rate is not as high because you’re asking people to start from scratch. But, if you setup audiences properly, like if you set up dynamic remarketing properly, then if someone’s looking at a product on your site, through the data that’s in your merchant center, Google can actually show that product — that thing that they were actually interested in so much that they added it to their cart, but didn’t buy. Now that brings people back to being — like we said before — one heartbeat away from finishing their purchase. So dynamic remarketing can be incredibly effective to get higher conversion rates and because they’re reaching that product, maybe they didn’t remember you brand, they’re actually more inclined to click through. Super targeted.

But there’s another part of remarketing that people don’t utilize enough. It’s called RLSA. Remarketing lists for search ads. So we already looked at remarketing lists, those are those audiences, but this is to use those lists to target people in search ads. So someone types in something into Google — it’s a keyword that you have an RLSA campaign for — they’ve been to your site before. Now you want to target them once again, to try and get that second click back to your site. You may even want to target bigger keywords now, because you know that person is so targeted. Well, because they’ve been to your site before, the quality score’s higher, so you can actually target a bigger keyword with a lower bid. You can get creative with your ad copy. Say, “Hey, remember us? We still have your products saved in your cart. Finish your purchase now and get 5 percent off.” You can even focus more on audience quality. You might go after the most generic keywords in your space for those people, metadata-to-cart, because they have the highest expected value per visit.

Now, to put all this together, we introduced a philosophy for online retail that we call “Triangular Remarketing.” When a person finishes a sale, you use branded remarketing because that branded remarketing, just those image ads above your site, they’ll build more loyalty. They might spread more word of mouth, maybe even inspire a VP purchase. Because this person has already trusted your brand, they know your brand better than people who have not bought. But until a person finishes his sale, use dynamic remarketing. Keep them focused on that product that interested them, then when they finish the sale, go back to branded remarketing. And the entire time, use RLSA to bring down your costs and target people in their search ads. Now, if you write to, I’m going to analyze this as well for you.

I want to mention that just like you’re watching this on demand video right now for all of Google, PPC Power Moves is an incredible on demand webinar to watch. Go to and you’ll find this on demand webinar. It shows our approach that has led to our clients making 14 times more profit than online retailers managed by competitors. It all comes down to a concept we call the Flex Approach, we’ll explain that in its entirety. The Flex Approach is building then trimming, then building, then trimming. It’ll all make sense once you start watching. Highly recommended. It is one of the main reasons why people have switched management to Exclusive Concepts, just watching this presentation.

I also recommend watching “X Factor.” There’s too few online retailers that really understand what they’re doing to stand out amongst their competition. And here’s something interesting: when we did this presentation, we first clarified what an X Factor is — that thing that people optimize their business around to stand out — and after we explained it, we said “How many of the people watching this webinar are clear on what yours is?” Sixteen percent said “yes, very clear.” Forty-five minutes later, after explaining this entire workshop, we went the full workshop, that’s what you’ll get when you watch this, 49 percent of people then said “yes, very clear.” Can you imagine the power of that? That in 45 minutes time from now, you may have a better sense of how your business is going to survive for the next 20 years. Highly recommend you watch that right now.

But, first, write to, ask for your ProfitFinder Analysis. Remember, I’m going to study Panda and Penguin; your content — the quality of it, the duplication of it; how are you doing against Google’s needs for SEO? I’m going to see what devices are most profitable for you for PPC; I’m going to do a proprietary analysis of what keywords in your ad copy message are stimulating high or low performance for your ads. I’m going to see whether or not your settings are calibrated towards what Google considers the best settings you can have for online retail. And I’m going to see whether or not your behavioral trends are going in the right direction. I’m going to see what positions you’re investing in right now and which positions are making you the most money. And every calculation’s going to be done using real profit numbers. I expect you to write to us. I can’t wait to meet you.

If you’re on the live version, this is where we would start the live Q&A. I hope you enjoyed this. I hope you were able to internalize some deep concepts here. I am willing and very excited about answering any questions you may have. and you can follow me, again, at @nik_rajpal on Twitter. Hope you enjoyed that. Thank you, folks.

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