August 25, 2010, 2:21 PM makes the most of its pay-per-click budget

The e-retailer selects only the keywords that shoppers ready to buy are likely to use.

Lead Photo LLC, which has several Google AdWords accounts and fields several hundred thousand keywords at any one time, focuses its marketing resources on “transactional” keywords, says Corey Tisdale, chief operating officer.

“There are different types of touch points for different periods in the customer life cycle,” Tisdale says. “If somebody doesn’t really know what they want yet, they’re going to be in the research phase. We really don’t have the advertising budget to focus heavily on paying for traffic at that level.”

ShoppersChoice, No. 374 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, tries to serve consumers in the research phase through natural search. “We try to do video content that we hope you will find through YouTube, or we try to write a good buying guide that we hope you will find naturally,” he says.

But PPC advertising targets consumers poised to make a purchase and keywords that indicate the customer is “in the acquisition phase of the buying cycle,” Tisdale says.

For example, a classic car collector in the research phase might search using the keyword “classic car” or “best-looking classic cars,” he says. “But if somebody searches for a ‘64.5 Black Ford Mustang,’ then it’s probably a guy looking to buy that car. We would probably bid on ‘64.5 Black Ford Mustang’ but we would not bid on ‘classic cars.’”

ShoppersChoice has seen a significant return on its AdWords investment, although it’s hard to quantify in metrics such as site visits or conversion rates because the site has grown exponentially over the past 10 years, Tisdale says. “We do in a day what we did in a year 10 years ago,” he says.

But Google AdWords gives the retailer complete control over its PPC strategy, enabling it to maximize the return on ad spending.

“You can take a word and you can test it out and you don’t have to make a month- or a year-long commitment,” he says. “You can take any word you want and test it out for one day or two days or however long your buying cycle is. If it works, keep it up, if it doesn’t work, take it down. You’re totally in charge of what you’re paying for, how much you’re paying for it and how long you’re paying for it.”

AdWords also provides tools that can help retailers get the best results for PPC campaigns, including a tool that scans a retailer’s web page for possible keywords, Tisdale says. Another tool will scan a list of keywords supplied by the retailer and come up with a list of similar keywords.

“Google Insights shows you what people are searching for, what words are getting popular, and what areas of the country people are searching for them,” he says.

ShoppersChoice also uses Google TV, which allows the company to advertise on national television stations.

The e-retailer, which began in 2000 as, now operates 29 retail sites offering products ranging from barbeque grills and outdoor furniture to home appliances and sporting goods.

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