Friday, August 3, 2012

Google Knows Best

Some sweat and cussing finally got Google’s Product Listing ads working after I grokked that I had to create an ad group without adding keywords or writing ads -- Google knows best, and I needn’t worry my homely little head over the details. I still don’t quite understand what triggers these ads, where they appear, or what they look like, but the campaign came roaring out of the chute with a click-through rate over 3% (six times the rate of my main AdWords campaign) on Monday. Twenty-three clicks only cost me $0.16 each and brought three sales for an astronomical 13% conversion rate (anything over 2% is pretty good). Sadly, it faded after that debut and I ended up with another lousy week. Traffic is running at 200 visitors a day, but nobody’s buying. I blame the competing demand of back-to-school shopping.

Because Product Listing ads are built from an exported file containing my whole inventory, I get (and pay for) hits from search phrases that I would never choose to buy, such as “beach towels under $5.” I had a few towels left over from my original product assortment, which I marked down to cost years ago. All of a sudden, they sold out last week. With no ad to turn off or keywords to deactivate, Product Listing continued to send me traffic for a nonexistent product. Whereas I only used to update my product feed once a month, I must now upload a new file almost daily as products sell out and reorders arrive.

I’ve been having fun (inasmuch as anything work-related is ever fun) watching the realtime reporting in Google Analytics – that’s how I figured out the “beach towels” thing. I feel like a voyeur. On average, only 2% of my visitors ever buy anything, but watching the other 98% come and go is fascinating. 

What’s weird is that virtually all of my sales come between midnight and 11 am. I have developed this superstition that if there are no sales waiting for me when I fire up my computer in the morning, I’ll go through the whole day with nothing. 


The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease: A credit card processing company pitched me an offer good enough to tempt me away from CDG Commerce. This proposal would have cut $40 per month from an expense category that’s consistently over budget. 

The pitch looked like this:

(Existing deal from CDG)

2.35% qual (debit, and qualified)
4.01% Non qual (rewards and non qualified)
$0.10 transaction
$10 maintenance fee
$0.25 capture fee
(Proposal from competitor)

1.89% Debit
1.99% Qualified
2.47% Mid Qualified
3.47% Non Qualified
$0.10 per transaction
$0 statement or monthly fees
$0.25 capture fee
Superficially, that's a clear winner. But when I started probing I found a $10 monthly gateway fee (my current gateway is free) and a $96 annual PCI compliance fee (I currently don’t pay one). Moreover, they changed the original four-tier rate offer to a slightly weaker three-tier structure (1.99, 2.35, and 3.37%) in the contract.

Because I loathe perturbing a system that’s working and because CDG has been decent enough, I asked them to make a counteroffer. They finally came back with rate reductions to 2.05 qualified and 3.15 non-qualified…and they removed the $0.25 daily batch fee. That saves me a little money without the hassle of jumping ship and ought to bring my processing costs back into line with my budget. Assuming, that is, that I can stay afloat until Christmas season begins in another month.