August 6, 2013, 11:25 AM

Smarter bidding boosts an e-retailer’s returns from a new Google ad format

Technology from DataPop optimizes Product Listing Ads for home décor retailer Metaverse.

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Home décor e-retailer Metaverse Corp., which operates thousands of niche e-commerce sites including FamousPaintings.com, CountryArt.com and MotivationalPosters.com, boosted its returns from Google Inc.’s Product Listing Ads from about 200% to 300%, sometimes significantly higher, CEO Tom Novellino says. Product Listing Ads, or PLAs, are an ad format the search giant introduced last summer that appear among organic listings when a consumer searches for a product; they replaced what had been free listings.  

Metaverse began advertising when Google first launched these ads last summer, but but spent little time optimizing the ads, Novellino says. Early this year, however, Metaverse realized the new ads were accounting for a growing share of its overall ad impressions on Google—up to 20% or 25% for some of its sites, he says. It was time to spend more effort on the PLAs.

“PLAs require just as much management as traditional search engine marketing—I need my keywords organized in a campaign that makes sense to Google; I need bids managed by keyword, return on investment, etc.,” Novellino says. “It’s a fair amount of work. We didn’t have tools to do that, and we’re a relatively small company.”

In June, the retailer engaged DataPop to optimize its PLA campaigns to show ads best matched to the exact search phrase a consumer is using, he says. For example, if a consumer types in “Van Gogh Starry Night,” the results will show an ad featuring that masterpiece specifically, rather than a generic ad for “art prints.”

DataPop takes in the raw data about Metaverse’s products and their availability each day and turns it into a feed optimized for Google Product Listing Ads. The vendor enhances that feed with details about products beyond what’s standard in its catalog, such as phrases that consumers might use to search for them, Novellino says. Then DataPop creates a new feed for Google with all the Metaverse data so that the search engine returns ads featuring specific products—including their full titles, descriptions, images and other relevant data—for specific searches. It also structures automatic bidding on keywords so that Metaverse spends more on ads that are working and less on those that aren’t, he says.

This method increases the return on ad spend because, while Metaverse’s products show up less often in PLAs, when its ads do appear they are very relevant to the search term and thus generate more clicks. While conversions have remained about the same, the retailer has benefitted from spending less on ads in total and paying a lower cost-per-click, Novellino says. He also expects conversions will start to lift once Metaverse begins to more frequently test its PLA campaigns.

Aiming to boost returns, each week the retailer looks for a new opportunity to improve the data used in a particular campaign, he says. For example, it designed a test to improve a campaign for top-selling artists by building new product descriptions with additional terms related to their art.

DataPop checks in with Metaverse once a week to give reports and updates on how well the campaigns are performing, Novellino says. Metaverse pays a base fee of $2,500 per month for the vendor’s services, plus about 2% to 3% of what it spends on Google Product Listing Ads, he says. DataPop says its costs vary depending on the amount of data and products that goes through its system. The company also offers an automated search marketing platform for marketers managing other types of ad campaigns besides Google PLAs.

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