February 10, 2011
Case Study

Outsourced PPC Campaigns Lead to 400% Increase in Conversion

SUMMARY: The challenge -- an online retailer has limited staff, limited budget and literally thousands of products to promote through PPC ad campaigns. Doing it in-house won't produce the desired results, and scalability is a serious issue.

Find out how one e-commerce retailer solved this problem using crowdsourced, pre-vetted SEM experts to create PPC ad copy and to keep track of individual campaigns for optimization purposes.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Put yourself in these search marketing shoes. You are an online consumer retailer using PPC exclusively for your advertising, and running these ad campaigns in-house utilizing your very limited staff. And -- oh yeah -- your website offers literally thousands of different products.

Looking at this scenario, the end result is fairly easy to predict -- time constraints mean keywords and ad copy grow stale, and there is no way to scale these efforts up to really drive sales and maximize the return on ad buys.

Omar Sayyed, President and COO, Ties.com, found himself in that exact situation last year. He knew his PPC campaigns were underperforming, and that it was going to be impossible for someone at Ties.com to both create the ads and put the time into the process in order to optimize the ad campaigns.

He said, "Number one, I wanted to have better returns on our PPC campaigns, and number two, what I really wanted was scalability."

The solution was to outsource the PPC campaigns to a group of pre-vetted search engine marketing (SEM) "optimizers" who allowed Sayyed to leverage their expertise while maintaining control over the advertising budget, and offering the opportunity to rapidly increase the size of the PPC efforts if needed.

Sayyed admitted that at first he wasn't a fan of crowdsourcing his PPC campaigns, but that this effort has been so successful he reorganized his Marketing department around his outsourced PPC optimizers.


Step #1. Solve the scalability issue

Sayyed took stock of the in-house PPC efforts and saw multiple problem areas:
o Return on the PPC investment was not what he was looking for
o Limited staff meant ad copy and keywords were both growing stale
o Limited cash flow meant every advertising dollar needed to be well-spent
o Not only was copy and keywords an issue, there was no staff to track individual ad campaigns to ensure performance was optimized
o With more than 5,000 products to promote, scalability of the PPC campaigns was an issue at Ties.com

Sayyed knew that the company's customer could search for their products in practically an "infinite number of ways," and constantly working with different keyword combinations and fresh ad copy would make the PPC effort more successful. And that it was important to maximize the advertising budget.

He stated, "Not only am I looking for returns, but I am looking for stellar returns."

He realized the in-house solution wasn't working because it offered no scalability and that it was going to be impossible to develop enough campaigns in-house to the meet the company's advertising needs. Initially he wasn't looking to crowdsource his PPC ad campaign, but Sayyed did go in search of a solution in order to:
o Change tactics and externalize the PPC ad process.
o Get the return on investment he was looking for.

Step #2. Crowdsource the ad campaign

The solution Sayyed found was a company that offered crowdsourced and pre-vetted search engine marketing experts referred to as "optimizers." The set-up was attractive to Sayyed because he was able to try out the service with a small initial budget and no contract. Essentially, he set his budget for the PPC ad campaign and the optimizers worked within the set budget to execute the campaign.

The first step in this process involved a teleconference with Sayyed, a representative from the outsourcing company, an optimizer hired by the company, and one of the outsourcing company's engineers. Sayyed had questions for the firm, such as: "Do you have experience working with smaller companies that demand high levels of return working in the e-commerce space and have this particular price point?"

He said the outsourcing company was not only very upfront about their successes, but also about areas where they hadn't been quite as successful, and they answered his specific questions about the process to his satisfaction.

The next step was for Sayyed to provide answers to a checklist:
o What content do you want in your campaigns?
o What are your best sellers?
o What would you like to optimize the most?
o Where is your competition?

With this information in hand, ten optimizers began working on Ties.com's PPC ad campaigns. Each optimizer submitted versions of ad copy along with their:
o Interpretation of certain product categories
o Interpretation of particular neckties
o Approach to Ties.com's advertising effort.
- Real-time process

The actual process of optimizers' ads going live took place within the outsourcing company's Web back end:
o Optimizers create ad copy
o This copy gets approved at outsourcing company level
o Within hours of these two events Sayyed gets an email to approve, or disapprove the ads, providing feedback in the event an ad is disapproved
o After Sayyed approves the ad copy, the process goes back to the outsourcing company for one final approval to ensure the ad is properly formatted and ready to go live into Google or Bing

Sayyed said the entire process takes a couple of hours, so it's essentially done in real-time, to the best of the ability of the outsourcing company.

After the initial ten optimizers were working on Ties.com PPC ads, the number of optimizers grew to 25, although Sayyed said the number of optimizers has now been scaled back somewhat.

Step #3. Refine the process

Although the crowdsourced optimizers solved the scalability issues, Sayyed realized the return on PPC ad campaign investment wasn't as effective as he wanted. The solution was to have weekly meetings with his campaign manager and to find ways to expand the program through developing campaigns that went more deeply into Ties.com product and checkout pages. The initial efforts were more focused on top-level categories.

One aspect of the entire system that Sayyed found helpful was the ability to directly contact his optimizers. Other outsourced options he considered didn't allow for this personal interaction and required all communication to happen within the outsourcing company's system. Between regularly meeting with the campaign manager, and close contact with optimizers, Sayyed was able to improve the return on ad buy investment.

The entire process also allowed for informal testing that pitted different optimizers against each other, and even allowed for optimizers to create multiple versions of PPC ads for individual campaigns to track and see which ad copy produced the best results.

The entire crowdsourced PPC ad effort is constantly going through refinement, but Sayyed said, "It's all crowdsourced at this point. We have had phenomenal success with this effort and, frankly, I have restructured my Marketing department [around this advertising model]."

His two goals were to improve returns on PPC campaigns and to have the ability to scale those campaigns up as much as needed to maximize those returns. Both goals were met, and crowdsourced PPC ads are now an integral part of Ties.com's marketing plans.

o On a regular basis, Ties.com is running around 100 PPC ads that are deep linked to product landing pages, with eight to nine percent of those campaigns paused at any given time
o Clickthrough rates increased from 1.1% before using the crowdsourced ad copy to an average of 2.7%
o The highest performing campaign is achieving 17.6% clickthrough
o The cost-per-acquisition has gone down by 71%
o Conversion volume from search has increased by 400%
o Ties.com's average Google PPC ad positioning is two or three
o 60% of the company's bids are through Google and the remaining 40% are through Bing
o The highest performing keyword garnered 115,000 impressions over a three-month period

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Ties.com
1. Conversion rates
2. Ad #1
3. Ad #2



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