There’s a BIG MISTAKE that ecommerce merchants and marketers around the world are making every day.
There’s a good chance that you’ve made this mistake, too.
And in this article…
- I uncover that mistake
- Explain why it’s such a grave error
- And finally, help you understand how to solve it in a way that will bring you more total sales at your target ROAS (return on ad spend)
You’ll learn the strategies, tips, and tricks I use to increase campaign success by developing a “full-funnel dream team” that combines the perfect mix of Google shopping, search, display, and YouTube for full-funnel growth.
Then let’s get started!
A Common Marketing Mistake: “Every Campaign is an Island”
Here’s how most marketers think when they “optimize” their marketing campaigns:
Campaign A generated 97 conversions at a ROAS of $4 (that’s $4 generated for every $1 spent on marketing).
So, the person in charge increases the budget and leaves it running.
Campaign B generated 29 conversions at a ROAS of $2.
So, the person in charge pauses a few ads and keywords, decreases the budget, and leaves it running.
Campaign C generated 6 conversions at break-even (ROAS of $1).
So, the person in charge pauses the entire campaign.
Now upon reading this, you might think the person in charge is making all the right decisions.
This is a really, really common mindset among marketers today: the idea that every campaign is an island.
What do I mean by that?
Basically, I mean that many marketers make the mistake of judging all their campaigns in a vacuum by evaluating them on a single criterion (usually a combination of conversions and ROAS).
Now you may be thinking:
But those are the most important things to me! I want more sales, and I want to be sure I’m making a good profit on my ad spend!
Don’t worry. I’m right there with you.
Of course, you want more conversions at a solid ROAS. But that doesn’t mean you should judge every campaign by those two metrics alone.
If this all sounds a little confusing, let me use an analogy to explain.
Why Your Marketing is Like the 1995 Bulls
Many experts consider the ‘95 Bulls to be the best NBA team of all time.
Image source: NoCoastBias
And the heart and soul of this team, the MVP, was—of course—Michael Jordan. A big part of the reason why? He scored more points than anyone else on the team (30.4 points per game).
Compared to MJ, a player like Dennis Rodman scored very few points (5.5 per game).
Does this mean that coach Phil Jackson should have benched Dennis Rodman?
Well, if you’re judging each player based on points per game…then yes! There are six other players on the team who averaged more points per game than Rodman did.
However, anyone who knows anything about basketball can see that this would be a mistake.
Rodman didn’t score a lot of points, but he led the team in rebounds by a huge margin. Rebounds are important because they mean your team gets to keep possession of the ball (one of the factors that allowed MJ to score even more points).
Dennis Rodman was also a great defensive player, which meant that he helped shut down the other team’s best scorers so that the Bulls’ opponents scored fewer points.
Both of those qualities—being a great rebounder and defender—are hugely important. But neither of them is reflected in the metric points per game.
So, hopefully, you can see why it’s a mistake to judge every basketball player based on a single metric (points).
And that’s the same reason why it’s also a mistake to judge every marketing campaign based on a single metric (conversions).
Your Marketing Campaigns Are a Team
When you judge every campaign based solely on conversions, you’re basically trying to make every campaign a Michael Jordan.
But for the best results, you need a mixture of campaigns—you need a few Michael Jordans, a few Scottie Pippens, and yes, even a few Dennis Rodmans.
Your goal should be to create a collection of campaigns that work together to profitably feed and expand your marketing funnel.
Doing this will help you generate the best overall results (even though some of your campaigns will have fewer conversions than others).
In order to do that, you have to come around to a new way of thinking. You have to start thinking of your campaigns not as standalone islands…but as teammates.
And for the purpose of this article, the teammates on your ecommerce marketing team are:
- Google Shopping
- Google Search Network
- Google Display Network
- YouTube Ads
In the rest of this article, I’m going to walk you through seven tips that will help you take these four teammates and use them to create a set of holistic campaigns that work TOGETHER to generate more total sales.
These tips work because they help to align your campaigns with the natural process that all people go through when making a purchase. Also known as “the shopping funnel.”
How to Align Your Campaigns to the Shopping Funnel
The shopping funnel is the process people go through when buying a product.
In a nutshell:
First, they have to become aware of the product. Then they have to evaluate the different options. And finally, they have to make a decision on what to buy.
And when we align your marketing campaigns to match that shopping funnel, it might look something like this:
Notice that all the different marketing channels and campaign types each play a role at different stages in this funnel.
(RELATED: How to Architect the Perfect Conversion Funnel for Your Business)
And broadly speaking, we can categorize this funnel into three phases:
- Top of funnel
- Middle of funnel
- Bottom of funnel
Let’s look at each:
Top of Funnel Campaigns
At the top (in red) we have top of funnel campaigns.
The goal of these campaigns is to generate awareness and get people engaged with and interested in your product or service.
Top of funnel campaigns won’t generate a ton of conversions on their own, but they’re still important because they lead to many more sales down the road. (Or down the funnel, as it were.)
Think of them like the point guard on your basketball team. The point guard’s job isn’t to score a bunch of points…but to set up the offense and pass the ball to the big scorers so they can score points.
With that in mind, your goals for top of funnel campaigns should be to:
- Grow your remarketing lists, so you’ll have a larger audience of interested prospects to remarket to later.
- Drive assisted conversions (which I’ll explain below in Tip #2).
- Increase brand campaigns by causing more people to search for your brand name.
- Achieve modest ROAS goals. So if your overall ROAS goal is $3, maybe your top of funnel campaigns only have a ROAS of $1.
Middle of Funnel Campaigns
In the center (orange and green) we have middle of funnel campaigns.
The goal of these campaigns is to catch people in the evaluation phase and get them to focus on YOUR product rather than your competitors.
Middle of funnel campaigns are generally where you’ll get the greatest number of sales. They’re the Michael Jordans of your marketing campaigns.
With all that in mind, your main goal for middle of funnel campaigns should be to:
- Generate a high volume of direct conversions. These campaigns should drive the majority of your last-click conversions.
- Achieve a good ROAS. Return here should be better than your top of funnel campaigns (though probably not as good as your bottom of funnel campaigns).
Bottom of Funnel Campaigns
At the bottom (in green and blue) we have bottom of funnel campaigns.
The goal of these campaigns is to get in front of everyone who has already decided to buy…or to get back in front of anyone who almost bought, but didn’t.
These campaigns may not generate the highest volume of conversions, but they will typically have a very good ROAS (because you’re targeting people who are very close to making a purchase).
Think of these campaigns like the center on your basketball team. If Michael Jordan shoots the ball and misses, it’s the center’s job to grab the rebound and tip it back in for an easy bucket.
The goals for your bottom of funnel campaigns should be to:
- Drive direct/last-click conversions. Remember, people at this stage of the shopping funnel are ready to buy. So these campaigns should be created with that end in mind.
- Hit aggressive ROAS goals. These campaigns should have a really good ROAS. If your top of funnel ROAS is $1, and your middle of funnel ROAS is $3, then your bottom of funnel campaigns should have a ROAS of like $7 or $8. And when you combine those all together, you should be able to hit your overall ROAS goals.
- Be highly efficient. Your conversion rate should be really high in these campaigns, allowing you to generate sales with fewer clicks and low CPCs.
Hopefully, that makes sense and you are starting to get an idea of how these three types of campaigns work together to generate more leads and sales.
Keep that in mind as you read through these seven tips to creating your full-funnel “dream team.”
And for these seven tips, I chose to focus a little more on top of funnel campaigns because that seems to be where people have the most confusion.
Let’s get to it!
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #1 (Top of Funnel): Go Beyond the Query with Audience Targeting
As you can see from this picture, the top of the funnel is the biggest part—and that’s no accident.
The top of the funnel has the most people, which is why this is where you have the biggest opportunity to reach new shoppers online.
According to research from Google, seven out of every ten shoppers are in the awareness phase—meaning that they don’t yet know exactly what they want.
7/10 is a HUGE percentage…so you can see why it’s important to get in front of these people! The potential here is massive.
On the flipside, however, top of funnel campaigns can be difficult to get right for that same reason: there are SO MANY people at this stage of the game that it’s easy to start displaying your ads to the wrong people.
And that’s why it’s important to be as strict as possible with your top of funnel audience targeting, to help offset the generic nature of the keywords these people are searching for.
Here’s an example to help illustrate:
Take the keyword “leather sofa.” This is a very broad, very general keyword. When someone searches for “leather sofa,” you really have no idea what they’re looking for.
Maybe they’re a recent homebuyer looking to furnish their new house…
…or maybe they’re a kid looking for pictures of couches for a school project.
…or interior decorators looking for design ideas for a client.
…or someone looking for information on how to clean their leather couch.
…or any one of a million other people who might be searching for “leather sofa” with no intention of actually purchasing one.
The problem, if I can sort of sum this up for you, is that the query itself is very general…and as a result, we don’t have a good idea of who the person behind the search query really is.
But thankfully, there’s a solution.
And that’s what Tip #1 is all about. Tip #1 is to layer in audience targeting to get even more targeted and focused in your top of funnel campaigns.
The idea here is to combine your generic keywords with other audience targeting methods to really dial in your top of funnel marketing campaigns.
The most basic type of layering would be using demographic data. So if your product appeals to a certain age group more than others, consider showing ads only to people in that age group.
For example, if you’re bidding on the term “walking cane” you might want to show your ads only to people 55 and older.
In addition to demographics, here are three more Google audience targeting types that I recommend you try:
Here is where you can upload your email lists into AdWords.
My recommendation here is to segment your customer match lists as much as possible.
If you have a list of subscribers, a list of customers, and a list of VIP customers, then upload those lists separately.
That will give you the most control in creating new targeting options in AdWords.
RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads)
This is your list of website visitors for remarketing. I’ve found the best remarketing groups to be:
- All visitors (if you don’t have a big list or a lot of traffic)
- People who viewed a product page
- People who visited your site and watched your YouTube video
- Cart abandoners
- Customers who bought one product but not another
(RELATED: 3 Advanced AdWords Tactics That Increase ROI)
You can also target people based on their interaction with you on YouTube.
If someone watched a certain video of yours—say a product comparison video—then you can target those people specifically in AdWords.
These are great targeting options for middle and bottom of funnel campaigns.
For top of funnel campaigns, we would use these audiences to create similar audiences. Similar audiences are groups of users who behave like our remarketing lists. This is a great way to target users who look like our best customers.
So, first create your customer match audiences. Then create similar audiences for each of those customer match audiences.
Then create your RLSA audiences and create similar audiences for each of those RSLA audiences.
And finally, same thing for your YouTube list audiences.
Now, what you want to do is use those similar audiences on top of your keywords to create much more tightly targeted top of funnel campaigns. This will help you reach a wide audience of people who are legitimate potential customers of your business.
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #2 (Top of Funnel): Track Assisted Conversions for Top of Funnel Campaigns
The next major change you want to make to your top of funnel campaigns is tracking assisted conversions.
So, real quick: AdWords offers several different attribution models which affect the way conversions are reported in your account.
The vast majority of marketers, when they talk about “conversions,” are using what’s called last-click attribution.
What this means is that the last traffic source that got someone to your website before they converted gets 100% of the credit for that conversion.
For example, let’s say I visit your website five times. And on the fifth time, I make a purchase. And let’s say that I came to your site from a variety of ways:
- 1st visit: Clicked on a YouTube ad
- 2nd visit: Clicked on a Google Search ad
- 3rd visit: Clicked on a link in one of your emails
- 4th visit: Came directly to your site from a saved bookmark
- 5th visit: Clicked on one of your Google Shopping Ads
In this scenario, you can see that YouTube, Google Search ads, email marketing, and Google Shopping all played a role in converting me to a customer.
But if you were using last-click attribution, ONLY the fifth visit (Google Shopping) would get credit for the conversion.
As you might imagine, this is a problem because it doesn’t account for all the various touchpoints and sources that help lead to a sale. And it’s especially problematic for top of funnel campaigns which generally account for those first few points of contact.
That’s why it’s so vital to track assisted conversions.
If you look at the example up above, visits 1-4 would constitute an assisted conversion. They didn’t generate the conversion directly, but they helped lead to the ultimate conversion on the fifth visit.
Incidentally, we just did a case study for one of our clients and discovered that 71% of all conversions come after multiple visits.
Which means that if we were using last-click attribution, we would only be accounting for about 29% of all the possible conversion data—and ignoring those other sources of traffic that lead to those 71% of sales.
And that’s pretty typical. We often see a 2:1 ratio of assisted conversions to direct conversions. In other words, for every direct conversion generated by a keyword, there are two or more assisted conversions.
So, at this point, you might be wondering:
What should you actually…you know…DO with that data?
Well, obviously assisted conversions are valuable…but they’re not the same as a direct conversion and shouldn’t be treated the same. But they DO have to be considered!
So what I recommend is to consider combining assisted + direct conversions to calculate a combined ROAS.
Let’s say that you want to be at a ROAS of $4. Meaning that for every $1 you spend on ads, you want to generate $4 in revenue.
Well, maybe you have a campaign that only generates a ROAS of $2 when it comes to last-click attribution. But maybe it gets us $8 worth of assisted conversions.
So for every $1 you spend, this campaign generates $2 in direct conversions and $8 in assisted conversions. Even though the direct ROAS isn’t quite there, when you combine the assisted conversions it becomes obvious that this campaign is working.
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #3 (Top of Funnel): Shoppable TrueView: The Dynamic Duo
This tip gives you a great way to be there at the right moments when your prospects are looking to make a purchase.
I call it “Shoppable TrueView,” and it involves a combination of YouTube and Google Shopping.
Research from Google shows that one in four shoppers claim that online videos are their “go-to source” for gift ideas.
In other words: as the Internet gets more and more video-friendly, more and more people are turning to video to help make their purchasing decisions.
And that’s a big part of what makes Shoppable TrueView ads on YouTube so powerful.
Here’s an example of what this looks like:
Basically, the way it works is that you show your TrueView video ad alongside of your shopping ad.
It’s a great combination because the video does the selling, while the shopping ads beside the video gives people a few different product options to explore.
Now because this is still a top of funnel campaign, you’ll want to use a combination of keyword and audience targeting methods to get as drilled-down as possible. Here are a few targeting combinations I recommend:
- Topics and Placements: You can choose to place your ads on specific YouTube channels, or show your ads on videos related to a specific topic.
- Keywords: You can show your ads on videos that match your keywords.
- Keywords + In-Market: If any of those keywords are too broad, consider layering in In-Market Audiences on top of the keywords for a more focused audience.
One of the great things about this strategy is that with TrueView ads, you only pay when someone actually watches your ad.
So if you have a 30-second ad that gets skipped after eight seconds, you don’t pay for that. (One of the reasons I love TrueView ads on YouTube.)
Now, when you’re setting up and evaluating these campaigns, keep in mind the top of funnel campaigns goals I laid out earlier.
You may not necessarily get a ton of conversions from these campaigns.
In a case study with one of our clients, we began running these Shoppable TrueView ads. And initially, we were disappointed by the results when we looked at the number of sales generated.
But when we dug deeper, we realized that the Shoppable TrueView campaigns increased branded clicks in the client’s other campaigns by 17% in one campaign and 84% in another.
And the conversions in those campaigns increased by 40% and 46%!
To top it off, this was comparing data from January and February against data from November and December. So not only did we increase conversions by 40-46%, we did it right after the end of the holiday season (when most companies would expect to see a decrease in sales).
So, just remember the different goals of your campaigns and be sure to thoroughly evaluate the performance of your campaigns before you pause anything.
In many cases, these top of funnel campaigns don’t generate immediate conversions, but they do lead to more sales down the line.
Now we’re transitioning from top of funnel tips to middle of funnel tips…
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #4 (Middle of Funnel): Treat Mid-Funnel Campaigns Like MVPs
Once you start getting to the middle of the funnel, you’re starting to reach more people who are capable of converting really quickly.
Back to our basketball analogy: middle of funnel campaigns are your MVPs. Your Michael Jordans. The guys who score all the points.
In marketing terms, they should lead to quite a few direct conversions. As a result, you want to hold these campaigns to a higher standard.
So, if your top of funnel campaigns have a ROAS of $1, your mid-funnel campaigns should have a ROAS of $3 or $4.
When creating your middle of funnel campaigns, make sure to test variations of “best” searches (best iPhone case, best pillow, best sunglasses, etc.).
These searches have been growing in recent years and can lead to a lot of good leads and new business.
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #5 (Middle of Funnel): Treat Every Product Differently: SKU-Level Bidding and Reporting
Another thing you’ll want to do for mid-funnel campaigns is to break out your campaigns by SKU.
Treat every product on an individual basis and NEVER lump all your products into one campaign.
Because every product is different.
Some may convert like gangbusters right out of the gate. Others will need lots of tweaking and testing. Some may convert best using text ads, while others require video ads to really convey the product benefits.
Some products may have more of a “tripwire”-type effect, helping to lead people to other purchases.
It’s impossible to say just how they will be different. But if there’s one thing I can say for sure, it’s that you will get the best results by breaking out every product individually to allow for SKU-level bidding, optimization, and especially reporting.
It’s essential to know which products are your winners and your losers, where you should push the budget, where you can trim the budget, and so on.
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #6 (Bottom of Funnel): Mastering the Long Tail
Finally, we’ve made it to the bottom of your funnel!
At this point, we’re talking about targeting people who have reached the “Decision” phase of the shopping cycle. People at this stage are very close to making a purchase.
Recall from Tip #1 that top of funnel campaigns require the strictest audience targeting because in those campaigns the keywords in our campaigns are not very specific. They’re broad and general, like “leather sofa.”
Well, at this point in the funnel that’s no longer the case. Audience targeting here becomes much less important—and may not even be necessary—because the keywords are already highly targeted.
The keywords that make up your bottom of funnel campaigns will be along the lines of…
- Brand + Model Number
- Brand + Manufacturer Part Number
- Brand + Model Name
- Queries of 3+ Words
As you can see, anyone who searches for a phrase like “samsung tv UN55MU8500” already has a good idea of what they want. As a result, they’re probably just about ready to buy.
When creating these bottom of funnel campaigns, I like to create separate Google Shopping Campaigns because you can typically get those long-tail keywords for really low bids (and you don’t want to overpay for them).
This is one reason why we can be super-efficient at the bottom of the funnel. These should be the highest-ROAS campaigns in your account.
Maximize Ecommerce Growth Tip #7 (Bottom of Funnel): Remarketing and Shoppable TrueView
I already talked about Shoppable TrueView back in Tip #3.
But it’s such an effective strategy that I want to come back to it again.
The first time we talked about Shoppable TrueView, we were targeting top of funnel shoppers using a combination of topics, placements, keywords, and so on.
But you should also be using Shoppable TrueView ads to remarket to people who visited your website.
As a reminder, here are a few of the remarketing lists you should be testing:
- All visitors (if you don’t have a big list or a lot of traffic)
- People who viewed a product page
- People who visited your site and watched your YouTube video
- Cart abandoners
- Customers who bought one product but not another
Trust me, this strategy flat-out WORKS. Highly recommended for everyone, especially if your product is well-suited for video.
Create Your Marketing Dream Team!
I started this article by pointing out a super-common mistake that many, many marketers are making—which is the belief that “every campaign is an island” and can be evaluated in a vacuum.
Hopefully, you’re starting to see why this isn’t the case and why a healthy marketing account actually uses many different campaigns—with many different goals—to drive new leads and sales.
Each campaign is actually a teammate, just one player on your marketing dream team. And each of those campaigns should have its own set of goals that are appropriate to that campaign’s role in your overall marketing strategy.
If you start to shift your thinking in this direction and then implement some of the seven specific tips I shared, your volume of conversions will increase as you start to bring more and more people through your funnel and into your business as brand-new customers.