Welcome to Growth Interviews!
Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth.
Our mission is to provide insights and ideas from world-class professionals on the topic of growth and to cut through the noise of so-called marketing tips and tricks, revealing the money-making strategies behind e-commerce.
Each episode is an intriguing challenge involving an insightful expert who reveals some of their best-kept secrets, which you can use right away to boost your business.
In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our conversation with Mark Irvine, Senior Data Scientist and Analytical Lead at Wordstream. Mark researches trends in the changing SEM market for the company’s engineering, product development, and marketing teams.
Mark is recognized as the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert by PPCHero in their 2017 Rankings, among other honors given to him by Hanapin Marketing in the previous years. Check out some of his latest blog posts, full of great insights:
During the interview, Mark Irvine shared some interesting facts with us about SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses) and how they can definitely win in the battlefield of e-commerce marketing, especially in the realm of PPC (pay-per-click).
Keep up with the ever-changing digital marketing environment
Tell us who you are and how you got into the digital world
Mark: In all honesty, I ended up in paid search entirely by accident. My first job out of school was actually in sports statistics, specifically for Hockey and Basketball. During each off-season, I had very little work and would take temporary work for a few months. In 2012, I took a temp role at a Paid Search agency. Shortly afterwards, the National Hockey League went on strike, so I stuck around. A year later, I joined WordStream and the rest is history.
What frustrates you most about the current digital landscape?
Mark: Marketers are very proud people. As the industry changes, though, our past experience becomes less a point of pride and more our largest obstacle. The industry will change and our best practices from 2015 are already outdated. We can resist automation, we can resist audience, and we can resist new networks, but we do so at real cost to our clients. Not everything will work, but we’re better if we figure out how to work with these changes than how to work against them.
In the last ten years, the marketing environment has changed significantly. Starting from the fact that being online implies more than brand awareness, costs have gradually increased, social media is a total game-changer, and putting your audience first is a must.
There are many reasons for all these changes, such as:
👉 Changing consumer tastes
👉 Countering competitive strategies
👉 Product life-cycle
👉 Outside factors, such as the government, new laws, limited natural resources and changing technologies
A piece of pay-per-click advice for small and medium-sized businesses
What are e-commerce marketers missing out about PPC ads?
Mark: Money. Shopping ads might be a hassle to set up, but once you invest the work they pay off in droves! Additionally, Shopping ads allow you to change a feed and can provide quick results on the impact of your changes. As you test out the difference in your feed, you may discover valuable insights for your SEO!
Tell us a few insights you found out by analyzing the 22k ad accounts.
Mark: Oh man, the data is always fascinating. I think the biggest thing hidden in the data is that paid search is still hard for SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses), especially if it’s not your full-time job. People always strive to create the best campaigns or accounts, but often overwork themselves early and burn out. I love a sophisticated account with hundreds of campaigns and thousands of ad groups, but all too often, people create accounts too large for them to manage on their own and they get frustrated when they can’t effectively manage it. If PPC isn’t your full-time job, you may want to consider extra help either via a tool or a consultant to keep yourself on track.
If there’s a single variable that’s indicative of a stronger account, it’s usually what percentage of that account is using audience or demographic targeting. A lot of advertisers still focus on keywords and they’re all getting the same results every year. The accounts that start using audiences are consistently the ones that are growing the fastest.
To begin with, those with simple solutions, like remarketing to past visitors, generally start with a 20-25% lift on their performance. However, when people push the envelope and think of how to reach different, specific audiences and demographics, we see them really take off. Depending on how well that audience matches their campaign goals, we often see clients double, triple, or quadruple their campaign performance.
Your three biggest ideas for e-commerce growth in 2019?
- Get your feed together. Then, keep testing changes within your feed – try new titles and new descriptions. Test your feed just like you’d test new keywords and ad copy!
- Apply audiences – remarketing, similar audiences, and demographics – to your campaigns! A loyal customer is easier to keep loyal on the SERP than a new customer.
- Try new ad formats – Shopping showcase, Smart Shopping, YouTube, Gmail, Bing. E-commerce is only going to grow more this year.
Do you think it’s a good idea for an e-commerce business to focus on Amazon, given Amazon’s focus on selling more and more Basics directly, replacing or jeopardizing the life of merchants that don’t sell their own brands?
Mark: I have a mixed opinion about Amazon. I have a lot of clients who use it to liquidate their excess inventory and it works great at doing that. I like Amazon as part of one’s advertising portfolio. However, I don’t like it when I see an e-commerce player rely on Amazon. Sales on Amazon are plenty, but margins can be tight. And like you said, Amazon can outspend any SMB (Small and Medium-sized Business) to acquire your market share. Amazon is not a neutral player in its own platform and is also not afraid to develop more basic goods to undercut your prices and put you out of the market.
At the end of the day, if you’re on Amazon, great. However, don’t put all your eggs in the same basket – you’ll still want to advertise on other networks as well.
PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns for SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses) can be defined in many ways. In a nutshell, SMB PPC is often:
👉 A simple product or service
👉 A simple account
👉 A low ad spend
Take note of the use of the words simple, local and low! Keep the campaigns simple, but efficient, because PPC management for small businesses should not be a hassle.
How to calculate your SMB PPC budget? Ask yourself these four questions:
👉 What is your monthly search volume?
👉 What is your estimated CPC (cost per click)?
👉 What is your current conversion rate?
👉 What is your average value per customer?
Seize the opportunity of amazing data analysis that solves the problem of customer retention
What’s your take on customer retention using ads?
Mark: It’s on average 10 times cheaper to keep an existing client than to acquire a new one, so it’s worth a few dollars to market to your existing clients. Particularly if they suddenly start searching for your competitors, it’s great to keep your brand at the forefront of their minds.
Beyond just retaining your customers, it’s always great to think of what other products you could potentially cross-sell to them and continue to keep them loyal while making more sales.
You have a large experience as a data scientist and you also have access to a large amount of data – what excites you the most these days?
Mark: It can almost be intimidating how much opportunity there is in the data. Google, Bing, and Facebook make so many changes and I can only look at so much at once. I’m always interested in looking at answers to challenging problems – specifically those that aren’t easily answered by looking into one account. I’m spending a lot more time looking at how a change in one network impacts others, particularly how users are spending more time on more and more networks before making a purchase!
AI and machine learning – how do you think these will impact the digital marketing landscape?
Mark: AI and ML are very exciting, but they are also very fundamentally different. It will take some time and considerable data for ML to improve, but I’m hoping that these changes free up more of our time. I’d love for us to no longer spend so much time reporting, monitoring keywords, and making bid adjustments, so that we can focus more time on strategic and creative elements of our accounts.
There is plenty of room for e-commerce growth! As a well-informed marketer, you need to make data your best friend and be in touch with everything that moves in the digital landscape.
Here are some fascinating statistics on e-commerce evolution and forecasts for the years to come.
Although it may seem hard at the beginning, SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses) get a good chance of analyzing data, finding some amazing opportunities around their customers, and benefiting from customer retention growth.
It’s all about keeping up with the news and taking advantage of things like new ad formats, different types of audience, and the way you change your feed.
How did you find this experience? Was it insightful?
Spread the knowledge! ⤵️