Weighing Your Online Retailing Promo Options: eCommerce Advertising Tips

For online businesses first engaging in ecommerce advertising, the options may seem daunting. eCommerce advertising on the web implements a variety of marketing techniques including email campaigns, pay-per-click ads, affiliate programs, YouTube channels, and an established social presence. But in this space, things change constantly. So perhaps it's time to examine the most popular ecommerce advertising approaches to determine the best fit to spawn traffic to your online shopping cart.

AdCast is an example of an alternative pay per click display network that creates a new ecommerce advertising experience. These ads are powerful, yet minimally intrusive and appear either in the body of the website or in a dedicated area around the margin to decrease "banner ad blindness" in which readers routinely ignore the advertisements.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) And Pay-Per-Impression (PPI Or CPM) eCommerce Advertising

Most online merchants at least try Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which allows you to post your ad on websites or among search results. In this format, the online advertiser is only charged when a visitor clicks on their ad and is directed to their website. PPC fees vary and are largely customizable based on a company's budget. Bids are given for search terms related to the goods or services provided. Generally, the higher the bid, the higher the positioning of the advertiser's ad on the search results page. (There is an intervening variable in that the search engine generally will reward ads that result in more clicks by offsetting their bids, so it is possible for an ad with a lower bid to actually rank higher than an ad with a higher bid.).

Pay-per-impression (PPI) is sometimes referred to as cost per mille (CPM). Under this ecommerce advertising model, ads do not require visitors to click them for payment to be charged, but are still displayed. Typically companies pay per 1,000 impressions (or times the ad is viewed), thus the cost per mille (thousand) nickname. Since this type of advertising is not based on a "pay per action" model, it is often used to create awareness or build brands, or introduce a new concept. (Facebook is the current darling of this approach which is often now termed "interruptive" advertising since ads appear without a particular want, need or desire being expressed as is the case in search-based advertising. There are other forms of pay per action or pay per response advertising. One of them is pay per call, where the advertiser is only charged when a call is made. Another is of course commission based advertising where payment is rendered only if a sale is made.)

Your PPC and CPM ecommerce advertising platform options are vast. Some popular programs are:

  • Google AdSense Google AdSense allows website owners to earn revenue by displaying relevant ads on their site's custom search engine results, displaying ads aligned with advertiser's audience's interests. The program is free for companies accommodating these ads. Advertisers follow a PPC or CPM payment design. Ads can be either text (as is the case with Google Adwords in the search environment) or rich media including images, flash, video and sound.
  • Google Adwords Google AdWords ecommerce advertising PPC program allows your ads to appear on Google search result pages. You choose keywords related to your business that will trigger your ad when users enter them on Google's search engine, or one of Google's "search partners" like AOL. Your ads can integrate text, images, and video. (The ads can sport a number of add ons or "extensions" including showing photos of products directly from an online retailer's catalog including current pricing.)
  • Microsoft adCenter Microsoft Advertising connects PPC ecommerce advertising to Bing and Yahoo search engines. Microsoft claims that these search engines attract 30% of the U.S. online buying market (not just the browsers). They also offer the Microsoft Media Network which helps you build a custom advertising campaign around multiple media platforms. So these ads encompass both search results advertising like Google's Adwords, and display formats, like Google's Adsense products. Stated "networks" span the PC, mobile, gaming and digital TV realms. They include Micorsoft owned and operated properties such as MSN, Windows Live, Office Live and XBOX Live, as well as third party sites like Viacom, CNBC, Dow Jones and more.
  • Adknowledge Adknowledge claims to be "the fourth largest advertiser marketplace" which implies it's the next display network behind Google, MSN/Yahoo and maybe one like Double Click (also a Google property). It's claim is that it caters to "long tail" advertising strategies, meaning that it allows advertisers to place ads in response to more specific searches. This implies a more qualified customer. They say they employ search, mobile, specific website domains, and social networks and have over 10,000 advertisers using their network.
  • eZanga eZanga is an alternative search engine (much like internet oldie Altavista.com or newbie Blekko) and claims to reach searchers not covered by major search engines. It also says it's cost per click is lower, which is probably due to the lower competition levels. Other claimed advantages include an easier to use back end, advanced targeting features and a more open API in case you wish to integrate its controls with your own systems. It also says it offers it's own keyword suggestions tools, which might be worth opening up an account in and of itself since finding keywords on Google's keyword tool means that's the same tool your competitors are using and you'll not see any low competition high volume term potentials.
  • 7Search.com 7Search has been around a while, since 1999 and as such still has the flavor of older, simpler days. Case in point is their bid structure which still appears to be unbiased, meaning they don't leverage winners to go even higher than their bids would allow like MSN and Google. You even get to see what the past bids were for each position for a particular keyword (see their keyword suggestion tool for examples). Don't expect to go long tail on this one, however. They're search inventory is small, so that means they don't have a lot of searches for any type of longer tail keyword. Still there's no minimum bid and it seems like if you're bidding on a reasonably high volume word (which could only be a few thousand searches per month), then you'd have a good chance of high rankings and click throughs at some very low prices. Like other alternative search engines they claim better ROI, lower cost per sale, more responsive support and cheaper keywords than than either Google or Yahoo/Bing.
  • Adblade Adblade offers a unique ecommerce advertising tool called AdCast. AdCast allows you to create ads on the perimeter of a screen without overlapping a webpage's content. These ads are non-scrollable and time-controlled. They remain on the webpages similar to background wallpaper. Adblade offers these ads, among others in both PPC and CPM models.

If you choose a PPC ecommerce advertising plan, carefully evaluate your program to maximize its success. Learn about the nuances of several different plans and then track several small-scale advertising campaigns to determine what will work best for your company. Test your landing pages and follow up with customers you've gained through PPC. Use analytics software to measure revenue related to specific keywords, average time visitors spend on your site, and click trails related to your keywords. Regularly assess your campaign and make necessary adjustments. What worked for you at start-up may not generate adequate revenue in five years.

eCommerce Advertising on Facebook Vs. Paid Search Engine Ads

eCommerce businesses also have the option of advertising on social media sites, like Facebook. Facebook allows you to create both PPC and CPM ads that target individuals based on data they have provided about themselves. With Facebook ads, there is less guesswork involved. Search engines group ads with keyword searches connected to businesses, assuming information about an individual's interests based on the search terms they use. Facebook users' interests are explicitly stated, creating a more targeting advertising environment. The social interface also makes the ads more personal. When Facebook users notice their friends like an ad, they are enticed to click on it themselves.

However, paid search ads have sophisticated capabilities to pair traffic with relevant ads. These matches occur when people are more likely to be in the buying mood, whereas Facebook ads may seem a little more intrusive since they most often appear in the midst of social engagement. Paid search ads also have clearer analytics programs, making it easier to calculate your returns. Recently, the Financial Times reported that Facebook was investigating another ecommerce advertising option: mobile ads.

Mobile ads require unique considerations to meet the short attention spans of users, but with 50% of Facebook access occurring through mobile devices, the social media site has decided it is an option worth pursuing. Some industry observers feel that Facebook is less of a threat to Google on mobile, but it will continue to become a competitive player. In 2011, Google claimed 40.8% of online ad revenues, while Facebook had only 6.45. Yahoo snuck in between with 11%. Facebook reports that they have reached 425 million mobile users, a tempting pool for any ecommerce business. The company recently agreed to get consumers' approval before changing how it shares data. With the mobile media boom of recent years, businesses should explore this ecommerce advertising option.


YouTube is the second-largest search engine (owned by the first-largest­: Google). It would be a mistake to ignore this site in your ecommerce advertising plan. There are three different ways businesses can advertise on YouTube:

  • Branded Video Channel With your own branded video channel, you can post content that engages consumers and directs traffic to your website. You have the option of posting your own ads, stories, video blogs, or any content related to your business. But you can also feature video from other channels that may receive more traffic. This way you don't have to contract professional videographers on a regular basis. Branded videos are available at both the free and premium levels.
  • YouTube Promoted Videos These videos can be played through branded video channels, making it YouTube's version of PPC Google AdWords. These ads sit in the right-hand column alongside relevant videos that appear after YouTube search results. Just like paid search ads, you choose relevant keywords and can set your daily budget. You can also track your ad's performance with YouTube Insight, a free analytics program.
  • YouTube InVideo Ads In this ecommerce advertising venue, advertisers choose specific videos in which their ads will appear. The ads (containing both text and/or images) cover the video at the bottom frame or may emerge as a banner on the side. You can be charged by the PPC or CPM method.

Not only are the different ecommerce advertising domains abundant, but so are the options within these programs. The variables necessitate consistent documentation and evaluation. While it's important to research your competition, what works best for them might not work for you. Ultracart's advertising source tracking feature helps you organize your ad outlets and determine which are most beneficial to your business. Stay committed and active in your advertising campaign and enlist the help of others to help analyze your data.