Search Engines

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In the world of pay-per-click advertising, a keyword can have different variations. For Google AdWords and Bing Ads, there are five variations, called “match types.” Each one has a specific use that can be leveraged by savvy PPC marketers to improve performance.

Broad Match

This is the default setting for new keywords in most platforms. As its name suggests, it also gives search engines the most latitude when matching your keyword(s) to a specific search query. Both the search query and the keyword can be multiple words. With broad match, your keyword can match a query with the words in any order. It can also match synonyms.

For example, if your keyword were “red shoes,” your ad could appear for multiple search queries, such as “buy red shoes,” “shoes that are red,” “ruby shoes,” and “ruby slippers” — ruby is a shade of red and slippers are a kind of shoe.

Broad match is sometimes too expansive, as in the example above. But it can be good, too. Google reports that as many as 20 percent of monthly searches are unique, meaning it’s the first time the searches have appeared. As an advertiser you don’t want to have to generate 20 percent more keywords each month and hope you guessed right. Broad match can help you catch those new queries. And if you’re interested in a little more control, consider the next match type: modified broad match.

Modified Broad Match

To modify your broad match keywords you simply add the “+” sign in front one or more words. So “red shoes” becomes “+red +shoes.” The benefit is that the modifier tells the search engine your ad should only be eligible if the word marked with a “+” is present.

So now our keyword “+red +shoes” would be eligible for searches like “buy red shoes” and “shoes that are red.” But it would not be eligible for searches like “ruby slippers” or “magenta shoes” or “red Nikes.”

Brad Geddes, a well-known AdWords practitioner, recently said that modified broad match was something that most PPC marketers seem to miss or not know about. But I nearly always recommend using this match type instead of broad match. The only exceptions would be where volume is the main objective. Then you would use many negative keywords, which I’ll address below.

Phrase Match

If the order of keywords in a search query is important for intent, then consider phrase match. For example, if you advertise on “California hotels,” you don’t want to show up for searches on “hotel California.” Phrase match also allows your ad to show when someone adds words before or after, like “best California hotels” or “California hotels near Disneyland.”

To use phrase match, put quotes around your keyword when uploading it into the interface. Note that while I used quotes for broad match above to ensure clarity for this article, use those in the ad interface only when you want to indicate a phrase match.

Exact Match

I’m a control freak about my keywords and campaigns. If you want to indicate to the search engine exactly which words must be present, the exact order they should be in, and that you don’t want to show if the searcher adds something before or after, then exact match is what you want. It is by far the most restrictive match type and will lead to the fewest impressions. However, since your keyword matches the search query exactly — and hopefully matches your ads and landing pages — you would expect to see better performance.

Here is what the four match types look like.

Of the four match types, "broad" is the most expansive and "exact" the least. <em>Source:</em>

In September 2014, AdWords introduced close keyword variations, which some have called “exact-ish” match. Here is the explanation from Google.

We’ll show your ads for close variations of your phrase and exact match keywords to maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches. Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stems (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents. So there’s no need to separately add close variations as keywords.

So even if you are using phrase match and exact match, Google is still taking liberty as to when it shows your ads. This brings me to our last keyword type: negative keywords.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are phrase and exact match keywords in reverse. With negative keywords, you instruct the search engines what you don’t want to show up. For example, a shoe advertiser using “red shoes” as the keyword could add a negative keyword for “ruby” or “slippers” to keep from showing on “ruby slippers.” She might also want to include “loafers,” “sandals,” “flip flops,” or any other type of shoe that doesn’t match her inventory.

Similarly, a hotel advertiser using “California hotel” as the keyword may want to include negatives like “eagles,” “lyrics,” or “song.” Negative keywords give you additional control to ensure you aren’t spending money on clicks from queries that are irrelevant.

To be sure, keyword research is critical. But making sure you use the correct match types can have as major impact, too, on your final results.

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Editor’s Note: Meet Armando Roggio at Ignite 2015, our conference on Sept. 16 and 17 in Dallas, where he’ll co-present three sessions: “How to Build an Ecommerce Brand (and Reduce Reliance on Paid Traffic),” “Content Marketing Essentials: Attracting and Engaging Shoppers, for Higher Conversions,” and “Ecommerce Opportunities for Brick-and-mortar Merchants.”

With some experience in HTML and CSS, you can learn to design your own responsive email templates in just about a weekend. With your fresh new skills, take control over how your email marketing messages look on nearly any device.

Email marketing messages should look good regardless of whether your customers read them on an MacBook Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S6. Your product recommendations and perfect, pithy copy has to read well in Gmail or Outlook.

The solution is to use an email-client-friendly responsive design. There are certainly plenty of good, responsive email templates available. You can find 28 suggestions right here onPractical Ecommerce. But at some point, you may want to do your own thing: Design a template perfect for your brand and your business.

Learn from Existing Templates

One of the best ways to learn to design responsive email templates is to analyze existing ones.

Take, for example, the Slate product announcement responsive email template from Litmus Software. If you download the template and open it in a browser on a desktop computer you might notice some placeholder text on the right-hand side of the header. It says, “A little text up top can be nice.”

Viewed on a relatively larger screen, the Slate template includes a text section in the header.

But when you view the template on a smaller mobile device, like an iPhone 6, that text is gone.

On a mobile device, the text on the right side of the header is not shown.

This sort of responsive behavior is easy in a modern web browser, but how is Litmus pulling this off in an email client? To find out, try using Google Chrome’s web developer tools. Open the Slate template in Chrome, right or alt click anywhere and select “Inspect Element.”

Chrome’s developer tools should open, taking up about half of your screen.

Chrome's developer tools can help you dissect responsive email templates.

On the developer tools portion of the screen, look for the mobile device icon near the top left.

Chrome's mobile emulation icon is in the upper left of the developer tools panel.

This icon will open an emulator, showing you how the page, or email template in this case, looks on various devices.

The emulator in Google Chrome's developer tools shows you how the template would look on various devices.

Now, right or alt click on the header and select “Inspect Element” again to help locate the header code in the developer tools. In this case, you’ll find that the text is, ultimately, inside of a td element with a class of “mobile-hide.”

Using Chrome it is possible to figure out what makes the text vanish.

If you look at the style declarations at the top of the template, you find that “mobile-hide” is in a media-query that is only active when the screen width falls below 525 pixels. Problem solved. You know how Litmus did it.

After you have spent some time dissecting a few responsive email templates, you will start to have an idea of how they work. Hopefully, you can build one or two of your own.

Learn from Real Emails

Using the same principles described above, you can also learn from the real emails that land in your inbox.

Litmus has a free tool called Scope, which is intended to make it easier to share emails. Scope includes a code inspection feature that allows you to see just how that email from Walmart, Amazon, or Netflix was developed.

Use a Framework

Responsive email frameworks help you design your mobile-and-desktop friendly emails more quickly. They offer a foundation from which you can add your own work. They are easier to use than starting completely from scratch, and, in some cases, they give you greater flexibility than using a template.

Here are few responsive email frameworks to try.

Zurb's Ink is one of several popular responsive email frameworks.

Ink. Zurb, a product design consultancy, created the Ink Responsive Email Framework. This is important because Zurb has been developing web tools since 1998 and is the company behind Foundation, one of the most advanced responsive frameworks for web development. Ink uses a 12-column grid for displays 580 pixels wide or wider. Below 580 pixels, each column becomes full width and stacks vertically.

Antwort. Released in October 2014, this framework has you build directly on one of several fluid templates. Like Ink, it works across many devices.

Cerberus was built because without a framework HTML email design can be a dog.

Cerberus. According to the project’s core author, Ted Goas, “Between desktop, mobile, and Outlook, HTML email is a three-headed dog from Hell.” Goas solution for slaying that dog is a series of email design patterns with or without media queries.

Email Framework. This generically-named solution provides code examples for developing your own templates, and handles many situations.

Follow Tutorials

There are hundreds of good tutorials for responsive or fluid email design. Consider following a few of these from start to finish. You will end up with a few more templates and you should have better understanding of why and how they are constructed.

Here are a few email design tutorials that you should try.

  • How to: Code a Responsive Email from Scratch, by Alex Ilhan. This tutorial walks you through the process of building the Crowder responsive email template. You’ll learn how Ilhan manages page flow across devices. You’ll also get an HTML email skeleton to use.
  • Creating a Simple Responsive HTML Email, by Nicole Merlin. In this 2013 tutorial, Merlin uses fluid design to manage the layout. Merlin writes the email much like you would a web page, with CSS at the top, then uses Premailer to move CSS inline.
  • Building Responsive Email Templates with Ink, by Nicholas Cerminara. If the “future-proof” framework suggestion above sounded interesting, read this tutorial on It is one of the best tutorials you’ll find.
Take an Online Class

There are many online courses devoted to responsive email design and development. Most of these will have you creating fluid and flexible emails in just a couple of hours.

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Editor’s Note: Meet Jill Kocher at Ignite 2015, our conference on Sept. 16 and 17 in Dallas, where she’ll present two sessions: “The Essential SEO Checklist for Ecommerce Companies, for 2015” and “Keyword Research for SEO Success: How Do Consumers Search for Your Brand and Products?”

Owners and managers are obsessed with rankings. They search on Google for something, they see an immediate result, and they make assumptions on their search engine optimization program’s performance.

Here’s how to dispel the myth that rankings indicate performance.

Competition: What Else Is Ranking?

Competition in search results goes far beyond your traditional organic search competitors. Yes, you want your site to outrank your competitors’ sites for the best chance to be seen, win the click, and make a sale. But many ecommerce search queries trigger elements in the search results that draw attention away from organic listings and push those results down the page.

The example below shows how a Google search result can push organic listings so far down the page that there are none near the top. The searcher would have to scroll to see the number one ranking site.

A personalized Google search result for “picture frames.”

In the example above, the combination of four paid ads, product listing ads, and the three local search results obscures Bed Bath & Beyond’s number one ranking in the search results The ads and local results in first view are visually engaging and could snag more clicks from searchers than paid ads normally would when organic ads are available.

Your C.E.O. may see some of these ads and elements in her search results, or she may not. Your ranking tool may be able to report these elements or not, as well, leaving your visibility lacking into your site’s ranking. This is one of the biggest reasons one can’t rely on rankings as a performance indicator.

Personalization: Whose Rankings?

Rankings are highly personalized, to the point that there are no unpersonalized rankings for most searchers. The rankings your C.E.O. sees on her iPhone will vary from the rankings you see on your computer, or your customer sees across the country on his tablet.

There is no longer a way to say definitively, “We rank number one in Google!”

Rankings are personalized based on a number of factors.

  • Location. The most obvious of all: Search engines determine the location of the searcher using the device’s IP address or cell signal and deliver localized search results. Locale can impact both the map-based local search results and the traditional web search results.
  • Device usage. Rankings will also vary between smartphone, tablet, and desktop devices. Mobile devices will get links into apps and sites with mobile-friendly experiences rank higher. So if your C.E.O. is searching on her iPhone, the results may look very different from your desktop results.
  • Past search behavior. When you’re logged in to your search engine’s account, your search engine has access to all of your past search behavior. This data is used to modify the search results you see. For example, if you’re logged in to Gmail on your computer, you’re logged in to your Google account and Google search.

Google searches on an Android device are also automatically personalized in this way. So when your C.E.O. searches for her name or the company’s trophy term repeatedly without clicking on your site, she’s skewing her own search results even further.

  • Social behavior. Google has full access to social behavior on Google+ and Twitter. Social content from friends and brands you’re connected with could be displayed in your search results, but not displayed in other searchers’ results.
  • Demographics. Search engines algorithmically place each searcher into demographic categories based on their behavior, to deliver more targeted ads. Until they learn otherwise from a profile you create, search engines may presume you’re an 18 to 22 year-old male, as they did with me thanks to my obsession with technology.

For fun, see who Google thinks you are in the Google Ads Settings. Search engines use this demographic data, and related data they glean from other sources, to personalize results as well.

These are just a few of the ways that search results are personalized. The combination of these and other factors can result in some interesting differences in rankings.

Most ranking-reporting tools will run return data that is unpersonalized. But how close to reality is that data if all of your customers are seeing personalized search results? Perhaps your ranking tool reports a result of number one for your most valuable keyword.

But Sally in Detroit, with her bulging wallet and a penchant for buying home decor online, sees your site ranked in the third position — if she sees your ranking at all. Is she going to buy from you or the site that really ranks number one on her screen?

If a ranking report can’t connect to what really matters to your business — revenue — then it can’t be relied on as a key performance indicator.

Representation: Which Keywords?

Tracking rankings typically means choosing a set of keywords and phrases that you’d like to rank for, and plotting your site’s performance in ranking for them. The words and phrases you choose can dramatically skew the appearance of performance.

It’s easy to choose keywords and phrases that you’re already ranking for, that include your brand, or that have low demand and competition. Doing so would make it appear, perhaps incorrectly, that SEO performance is stellar. Companies that work with search marketing agencies should be alert for this tactic.

It’s easy to choose keywords and phrases that you’re already ranking for, that include your brand, or that have low demand and competition.

Individual pages can rank for thousands of keyword phrases, most with very little demand. This is the long tail of search — the concept that the many phrases that represent 1, 2, 10, or 50 searches per month all add up to drive more traffic than the trophy keywords that you would track in your ranking report.

Tracking the trophy terms alone leaves you blind to the performance of the long tail, which drives perhaps the majority of your site’s organic search performance. Since a ranking report doesn’t represent the breadth of your site’s performance, it shouldn’t be considered an indicator of SEO success.

Temporality: When Did It Rank?

Rankings can change at any moment. Your C.E.O. may search for her pet phrase and become incensed that it doesn’t rank number one anymore, but it may rank number one again the next time she searches for it.

For SEO professionals reporting program performance, rankings are similarly tricky because the problem is multiplied across hundreds of keywords in multiple search engines on multiple devices. A ranking report is a snapshot in time. Its relation to the real state of your site’s and your competitors’ rankings is transitory.

While I agree that rankings are a necessary metric in managing SEO performance, they shouldn’t be considered key indicators. If you’re obsessed with rankings, hopefully this article will help.

In addition, each of my recent articles listed below will give you more insight into choosing key performance indicators for SEO, and using metrics like rankings to support program growth.

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Editor’s Note: Meet Jill Kocher at Ignite 2015, our conference on Sept. 16 and 17 in Dallas, where she’ll present two sessions: “The Essential SEO Checklist for Ecommerce Companies, for 2015” and “Keyword Research for SEO Success: How Do Consumers Search for Your Brand and Products?”

Metadata is simply data about data. Data sounds like an insufferably dry topic; but it’s critical that ecommerce marketers understand the metadata that drives search engine optimization. Without metadata, we weaken our ability to drive consumers from search engines to our ecommerce sites to purchase products.

Nearly all metadata is invisible to your visitors and customers. It lives and works behind the scenes in the HTML of your web pages. The metadata we use most for SEO speaks to search engines directly from each page crawled, to communicate important information or request a specific action from the search engine.

Metadata is a series of micro-communications between your site and search engines, and the closest answer to the oft-asked question: “Can we just call Google and tell them what we want?”

The image below shows a bit of the metadata from“Panda 4.2 Complicates SEO for Ecommerce Sites,” my last article.  You can see the code or “source” of any page showing in your browser in the “View Source” option in your browser’s menu.

Example metadata from a recent Practical Ecommerce article.

This article will outline at a high level the types of metadata most commonly used in SEO, and elaborate on more in-depth sources of information for each. It’s not an exhaustive list — please include the metadata you think are missing in the comments.

Pay careful attention to the language used below. Meta tags are metadata, but not all metadata are meta tags. Some elements commonly called “tags” are actually properly referred to as “attributes of a tag.” Sounds like picky semantics, I know. But when you’re speaking with developers who do know the difference between data, tags, and attributes, using the wrong words can result in miscommunication and incorrect implementation.

Meta Tags for SEO

The most obvious metadata for SEO are meta tags, so we’ll start there. The meta tag takes the form of:

<meta name=”description” content=” This what a meta tag with a name attribute of description looks like.” />

Each of the tags below follows this format with the beginning tag of “meta,” and the following “name” attributes. Don’t worry too much about memorizing the each format of the tag — your content management system does the heavy lifting for you. When you type a meta description into your CMS, it automatically generates the meta tag in the correct format.

  • Description. Sometimes used by search engines as the descriptive black text in the search result listing, meta descriptions can help increase customer click through in search results but will not impact rankings. The description attribute for the meta tag describes the page content in a summary that needs to be at least 11 words but no longer than 150 characters.

Description content fewer than 11 words won’t be displayed; and content past 150 characters may not be displayed because it’s close to the search engines’ truncation length. Don’t bother placing the first 150 characters from the copy on the page into your meta description — just leave it blank if you have to. Google will ignore such descriptions and determine the most relevant content to display as the summary text in its search results from among the content on the page.

  • Keywords. Meta keywords ceased to impact rankings in 2009. Bing may still use them, but only as a spam signal. In other words, too many irrelevant keywords in this attribute may actually harm rankings in Bing. Do not use the keyword attribute unless your internal site search engine requires it.
  • Robots. Part of the exclusion protocol, the meta robots attribute tells search engines whether to index or pass link authority through the links on a page. The four attributes are “index,” “noindex,” “follow,” “nofollow.’ Keep in mind that search engines by default index content and follow links. So it’s pointless to use the attribute combination of “index, follow.” These attributes are commonly used at the template level, since you may want to exclude all pages using a certain template from being indexed.

Remember, though, that accidental use of the noindex tag can result in drastic decreases in SEO performance. The robots attribute can also request that search engines not pull descriptions for pages from Yahoo directory (noydir) and the now-defunct open directory project (noodp). This is useful when the descriptions for your site that are found in those directories are outdated and not editable.

Title Tags for SEO

Title tags are still the single most important piece of metadata on the page. Their format is simple, and as with meta tags, your CMS will generate the tag for you from the title or headline you enter. Here’s what a title tag looks like:

<title>SEO: For Conversions, Every Page Is a Landing Page | Practical Ecommerce<title>

The best title tags begin with the most relevant keywords, product name, or article name, and end with the name of the site as shown above. Stay within 60 to 65 characters and keep the most unique, relevant, and valuable keywords toward the beginning of the title for maximum SEO benefit. An entire SEO article could be written about title tags, but these are the very basic guidelines.

Image Tags and Alt Attributes

Image tags are primarily used to identify the URLs for the images to be shown on the page. For SEO, the alternative attribute is used to apply some textual context to an otherwise unreadable element for impaired customers and search engines. Other attributes can specify the height and width of the image. Here’s what an image tag looks like:

<img src=”” alt=”Practical Ecommerce” />

The alternative attribute is the most important image attribute for SEO, though its relative importance to other SEO factors is very small. Intended to serve accessibility needs for customers with vision or mobility disabilities, alternative attributes provide a short textual description of the image referred to in the same tag. They also serve as small keyword relevance signals for SEO, most importantly in image search.

Alt attributes should only be placed on product images, images that contain important words, navigational elements that contain words, and conversion buttons that contain words. Ideally, all textual content would be rendered on the page as plain text rather than locked into an image file, thus rendering alt attributes unnecessary for all images except product images.

All decoration elements should contain blank alt attributes within the image tag because they add no value to customers with disabilities, and no real SEO value. I’ve addressed alt attributes here previously, at “6 SEO Myths about Alt Tags.”

To understand the difficulties in navigating a site with too many alt attributes or redundant alt attributes, use the Fangs add-on for the Firefox browser. Fangs prints out the text that a screen reader would read to a vision-impaired customer. If you can’t stand to read through that page, imagine what a visitor feels having to listen to it.

There are many other forms of metadata relevant to SEO, but these are the most commonly used tags and attributes. Other metadata communicates the language and country at which the content is targeted, canonicalization to prevent duplicate content, pagination to assist indexation in deep sites, data to identify product attributes like price for rich snippets, and data used in social sharing.

I will address these and other metadata in upcoming articles.

See the second installment of Jill Kocher’s series on metadata, at “SEO: Using Metadata to Drive Traffic.”

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It is a headache tracking PayPal transactions in Google Analytics. There are currently no options for placing Google Analytics tracking code on PayPal’s pages. This makes the measurement of conversions and acquisition sources in Google Analytics challenging when customers pay with PayPal.

Difficulties with Measuring PayPal

Typically, PayPal transactions are only measured in Google Analytics when customers complete purchases through PayPal and then return to the order confirmation page on a website. In this scenario, ecommerce tracking is triggered, sending sales information to Google Analytics in about 90 percent of the time, in my experience.

The problem of lost customer information tracking in Google Analytics occurs when customers close the PayPal page after completing the payment.

Merchants are more likely to overestimate conversions when measured before sending users to PayPal, as some shoppers will abandon the PayPal page before finalizing. Conversely, if customers are tracked returning to the order information page, the total number of PayPal conversions that Google Analytics reports will likely be underestimated, as certain customers will not return to that page.

How to Connect PayPal with Google Analytics

The first way to track PayPal conversions in Google Analytics is to redirect users who have made a purchase via PayPal to the merchant’s order confirmation page. Here are the implementation steps:

  1. Log into your PayPal account;
  2. Click on the “Profile” link located under the “My Account” tab;
  3. Click on “Website Payment Preferences” found in the right-hand column under “My Selling Tools”;
  4. Set “Auto Return” to ON and enter the URL of your ecommerce thank-you page;
  5. Add “?utm_nooverride=1” to the end of your URL. This ensures that transactions (i.e., conversions) are credited to the original traffic source rather than to PayPal.PayPal Auto Return for website payments.

If you are set up in Universal Analytics, there is no need to add “?utm_nooverride=1.” Instead, just add to your “Referral Exclusion List” within the Admin section located under “Property” and “Tracking Info.”

At this point, if you only want to track the conversions using goals, you can set up a new goal for the thank-you page within Google Analytics. If, however, you also want to get Google Analytics ecommerce tracking up and running, you will need to get a little more technical and implement the following steps.

  1. Enable Payment Data Transfer (PDT) in your PayPal account. This allows you to transfer payment details (the item purchased, the transaction amount, geographical location of the buyer) to your website domain. Once you turn on “Payment Data Transfer” it will be applied to all Auto Return payments unless otherwise specified within the button or link for that website payment.
  1. Create your “Buy Now” buttons (or modify your existing buttons) and include specific PayPal variables in Buy Now buttons on your product pages.

Leave the return URL blank if you are creating new Buy Now buttons. If you already have buttons on your site, you will need to look for the following code snippet.

Look for this code snippet.

Then, add the following code before the element (with the correct thank-you page URL).

Add this code before the element.

  1. Modify your “thank-you” page to retrieve the PayPal data that will be transferred using either the POST of GET methods. You will need the Google Analytics ecommerce tracking code to grab the correct values and place them in the code snippetautomatically. You will then be able to get total price, tax, shipping, transaction id, item name, quantity, and other variables.Example of Google Analytics ecommerce tracking code.
Measuring PayPal Transactions with PayPal’s Instant Payment Notification

The second way of measuring PayPal transactions is using the PayPal’s Instant Payment Notification (IPN), which automatically sends you each transaction’s details.

The process is a complicated in that it requires passing transaction details to Google Analytics, which you can do with the Measurement Protocol. Using the IPN service and the Measurement Protocol, we can measure transactions made via PayPal in Google Analytics.

Configuring Zapier for PayPal Tracking

One of the services for connecting PayPal with Google Analytics is Zapier. It helps accept IPN details for each transaction and then submits them to Google Analytics.

Let’s walk through the process of creating a “Zap” that will send each transaction’s data to Google Analytics. First, create a testing property to ensure it works correctly. You should also use PayPal’s sandbox to test transactions.

  1. Create a new Zap. A Zap is a specific link between two services that Zapier connects. Begin by creating a new Zap for PayPal.

When a customer makes a purchase, Zap sends this data to the webhook. In the drop-down menu under PayPal, select “successful sale” (trigger). You will also need to select “Custom Request” (action) for the webhook (located under “Show all actions”).

Use Zapier to connect PayPal with Google Analytics.

  1. Add the webhook to your PayPal account. Zapier will provide a URL that accepts details about transactions coming from PayPal’s IPN. You can add it to your PayPal account to send all transactions to Zapier or just add it to a particular “buy now” button that you created.

Here is what saving a URL in PayPal’s settings looks like.

Saving a URL using Zapier.

First, copy the URL shown on the screen into your clipboard. Then, navigate to your PayPal IPN Settings. The easiest way to get there is by clicking on the PayPal IPN settings link inside Zapier and opening it in a new tab or window.

PayPal IPN Settings link inside Zapier.

After logging into PayPal, click the “Choose IPN Settings” button and then paste the URL you copied earlier. Enable notifications and then click “Save.”

Paste the Zapier URL into PayPal and enable notifications.

Your settings should now look like this, with your URL instead of the one shown in the screenshot.

PayPal Notification URL.

To add the IPN URL to a “buy now” button, use the JavaScript button and then click “Customize” to add the “data-callback” element, as follows.

<script async="async" src=""
data-name="My product"

  1. Add a custom filter in Zapier. Custom filters are ideal for ensuring Zaps trigger only on specific items. You’ll need to add a custom filter in Zapier to ensure that there’s a value set for PayPal’s custom value before sending data to Google Analytics.Add a customer filter in Zapier.
  1. Construct the Google Analytics hit. The second part of the integration process involved data transfer from Zapier to Google Analytics using the Measurement Protocol. We first need to create a data hit, which will be sent to Google Analytics through the Measurement Protocol. Change the Google Analytics property ID (UA-123456-1) to your actual property ID number (where the data hit is sent).
  1. Enable Enhanced Ecommerce in Google Analytics. You need to enable “Enhanced Ecommerce” in your Google Analytics account. Go to the “Admin” section and click on “Ecommerce Settings” in the view settings.
  1. Check and modify your code. With the latest version of the Google Analytics Tracking Code installed, include the following code snippet to all the pages with PayPal “buy” buttons.

<script type="text/javascript">
function _uGC(l,n,s) {
if (!l || l=="" || !n || n=="" || !s || s=="") return "-";
var i,i2,i3,c="-";
if (i > -1) {
i2=l.indexOf(s,i); if (i2 < 0) { i2=l.length; }
return c;
var uaGaCkVal= _uGC(document.cookie, '_ga=', ';');
var uaGaCkValArray= uaGaCkVal.split('.');
var uaUIDVal="";
var gacid="";
if(uaGaCkValArray.length==4) {
uaUIDVal=uaGaCkValArray[2] + "." + uaGaCkValArray[3];
gacid='=' + uaUIDVal.replace(/%2F/g,"-");
else {
var myNewValue = gacid;

This code above — which comes from — takes details from the Google Analytics cookie on a user’s browser and passes it on to the PayPal button.

  1. Modify buy-now buttons. You will need to modify the PayPal “buy-now” buttons to include the custom data input. Also, add IPN details to the button code, as follows.

<script async="async" src=""
data-name="My product"

Change the URL for “data-callback” above to the URL provided in Zapier. Finally, when the code is added to your live site remember to remove data-env=”sandbox” from the code snippet above.

  1. Test and save. Complete a PayPal transaction to test your Zap. Your customer campaign tags should display in Google Analytics if the test works correctly.
Configuring Zapier for PayPal Tracking Using Google Tag Manager

Tracking PayPal through Google Tag Manager follows a similar structure as described above. Note that the tag type in the HTML container must be Universal Analytics.

The tag type in the HTML container must be Universal Analytics.

Include the following code snippet in the HTML container.

<script type="text/javascript">
function _uGC(l,n,s) {
if (!l || l=="" || !n || n=="" || !s || s=="") return "-";
var i,i2,i3,c="-";
if (i > -1) {
i2=l.indexOf(s,i); if (i2 < 0) { i2=l.length; }
return c;
var uaGaCkVal= _uGC(document.cookie, '_ga=', ';');
var uaGaCkValArray= uaGaCkVal.split('.');
var uaUIDVal="";
var gacid="";
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Tracking True Referrals with PayPal

Whenever a customer leaves your website to make a payment via a third-party payment gateway and later returns to your site from the gateway, Google Analytics will often attribute sales to the payment gateway instead of to the original traffic source. This is common in PayPal’s case. You can often find appearing as a top referrer in Google Analytics’ Referral report: appearing as a top referrer in Google Analytics’ Referral report.

The best way to track original referrals while using offsite, third-party payment gateways — when customers must leave your website to complete the transaction — is not to use offsite gateways.

If you use direct payment gateways, your customers can complete transactions without leaving your website. As mentioned earlier, PayPal is quite easy to set up and convenient for the receipt of funds, so you might not want to avoid its use.

You have a few options in that case.

First, you can add PayPal to the referral exclusion list, but it won’t help you track the original referrer. The other point worth noting is that referral exclusion does not work retroactively.

Add PayPal to the referral exclusion list.

Second, you can add event-tracking code to the PayPal “Buy Now” button. PayPal provides you with a button code snippet that you can edit and embed on your website.

PayPal event tracking code.

Whenever the PayPal button is clicked, the event code records the action and sends the click data to Google Analytics.

You should be able to use your event tracking report to determine the original traffic source by applying “Source/Medium” as a secondary dimension:

Use event tracking report to determine the original traffic source.

You will at least see where these PayPal transactions have come from regardless of whether a user completed the purchase after clicking the PayPal button.

Putting It All Together

Once you put everything together, you should start to see PayPal transaction data in your Google Analytics’ sales report.

PayPal transaction data in GA sales report.

The custom code that was added to pages uses the Client ID (CID) value from your Google Analytics cookie and sends it to PayPal. The CID is retrieved from Zapier and sent along with transaction data to Google Analytics.

This ensures that Google Analytics has a full view of the entire transaction, as if it had occurred on your website without the person ever leaving.

Zapier is the easiest way to connect PayPal with Google Analytics, so as not to lose information about transactions and to estimate the number of conversions and revenue gained from those transactions.

It’s easy for new Amazon sellers to get caught up in the excitement of 240 million shoppers. But, while Amazon recruits more than 100,000 new sellers each year to the marketplace, many will leave the site within six months, often for avoidable reasons.

In this article, I’ll review seven common blunders made by new sellers on Amazon’s marketplace.

1. Forgetting to Collect Sales Taxes

Regardless of whether you collect state and local tax on your sales at Amazon, you still incur the tax liability. For a small fee, Amazon offers the service of collecting state tax on your orders. I’ve seen large established sellers not collect state taxes, only to learn from their accountants that they have a large unfunded liability they must pay out of their own pocket.

This is unnecessary and can eat away at your margins, especially if you have tax nexus in a populous state where many orders originate or in which many orders are shipped.

I’ve seen large established sellers not collect state taxes, only to learn from their accountants that they have a large unfunded liability they must pay out of their own pocket.

When you sign up for your Amazon account, fill out “Tax Settings” in Seller Central immediately before you make any sales. That way, you can focus on more productive parts of your business without any year-end tax surprises. And remember, you are responsible for remitting your sales tax payments, not Amazon.

2. Entering Incorrect Prices and Inventory Quantities

When you create a listing on Amazon, the pricing and inventory quantities are live nearly immediately. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t provide a “sandbox” to practice your product listing skills. If you have no inventory, indicate zero inventory; if you have inventory, don’t overstate your quantity.

Far too many new sellers are surprised to find out how quickly inventory can sell on Amazon, and when you oversell, that can start a painful chain effect that often leads to account suspension — quickly.

And don’t play with low pricing if you don’t mean to offer products at those low prices. I’ve seen many sellers lose thousands of dollars when they accidentally apply a low price — like $0.01 or $1.00 — on a new listing. Thanks to deal sites and Internet-fast word of mouth, a deal like that can often get sold out overnight when the seller isn’t paying attention, resulting in a significant loss.

On every new listing, make sure you apply a true price and inventory level so you don’t get burned.

3. Items Do Not Match Product Listings

As new Amazon sellers match their offers to existing product listings, not all of those sellers pay attention to whether the match is perfect — it’s “almost” the same color, or “almost” the same style. On Amazon, “almost” is never good enough.

You are responsible for ensuring that your listing is exactly what you are selling. If a customer buys an item, only to find it doesn’t match the product listing, the customer is likely to complain, and you can get suspended for not properly matching your catalog to the right products.

Unless an item matches perfectly, don’t link your products to existing listings. And even if an item matches an existing UPC or part number, you still have to confirm that the original listing doesn’t contain bad data.

4. Slow Response On Customer Inquiries

Every Amazon seller has 24 hours to respond to each customer inquiry it receives, no matter the time of day, day of the week, or whether a particular day is a holiday. When you take more than 24 hours to answer, you can get dinged by Amazon; too many dings will result in your account getting suspended.

Fortunately, there are external software providers — ReplyManager is a good one — that offer reply assistance for staffing gaps. But it’s up to you to figure out how to staff for rapid customer response.

ReplyManager can respond to queries, if needed.

5. Failure to Gather Customer Feedback

Amazon’s seller policing department, Seller Performance and Product Quality, checks that every seller has customer feedback for each sale on Amazon. Typically, customer feedback is tracked not just for quality (e.g., 5 out of 5 stars), but also quantity (typically 2-5 percent of all sales should get feedback).

Even large, established sellers are expected to continue getting feedback from customers. While you develop your own system for requesting feedback, there are several cost-effective providers to help automate this process. These include Feedback Genius, Feedback Five, and BQool.

In fact, new sellers should sign up with one of these providers so they don’t have to worry about gathering feedback quantity. And don’t forget to monitor the quality of the feedback; consider changes to your business if your receive too much negative feedback.

Feedback Genius, Feedback Five, and BQool automate the process of soliciting feedback from customers.

6. Fulfillment Errors

If you’re new to fulfilling Amazon orders, it’s easy to make a mistake — such as you’re late shipping an order, or you don’t provide shipping tracking information to Amazon, or you cancel the order due to unavailable inventory.

It’s amazing how quickly trouble will find you if you don’t get your order fulfillment under control from the start.

Every new seller should make sure the first 10 orders are perfectly fulfilled – shipped on time, and tracking information entered into Amazon. If you are unsure about fulfillment, seriously consider moving all of your inventory to Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon program, so your orders get sent out on time, with proper tracking information, and to ensure inventory is always in stock.

7. Competing against Amazon

If your products compete directly with Amazon Retail, don’t expect to get many sales, or many sales at profitable levels. Amazon Retail controls its ability to win the competitive sale at even unprofitable levels.

Before you buy a single unit of inventory, check whether Amazon Retail sells the items today. Free tools like or can determine if Amazon Retail has recently offered the product, but may be currently out of stock.

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Mobile adoption may be driving a surge in Twitter use, according to a major research firm.

A report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project released May 31, 2012 said, “Twitter usage is highly correlated with the use of mobile technologies, especially smartphones.”

This finding and other data related to how or why users tweet may indicate that Twitter could be an even more important channel for marketers in the mobile era.

Twitter’s Mobile Difference

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has been tracking Twitter use since November 2010 and has included a set of Twitter-specific questions on four surveys since then. When data from these surveys is compared, the microblogging platform’s mobile difference begins to become visible.

In November 2010, Pew found that some 8 percent of online adults used Twitter and that some 2 percent used Twitter daily. By May 2011, 13 percent online adults were using Twitter, but only 4 percent were using the service on a typical day.

In August 2011, 12 percent of online adults used Twitter, and 5 percent tweeted or read tweets on a typical day. In Pew’s most recent survey, which was conducted in February 2012, 15 percent of online adults used Twitter and a full 8 percent accessed the service on a typical day.

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Pew has tracked Twitter usage over time.

Pew has tracked Twitter usage over time.

The Pew data shows that while overall Twitter usage had not grown remarkably from May 2011 to February 2012 — 13 percent of online adults compared to 15 percent — the percentage of Internet users that interact with Twitter on a typical day had doubled, indicating a significant increase in engagement, if not in adoption.

This increase in engagement, according to Pew, is likely because of mobile phones. Pew noted that both the largest growth in Twitter usage and the greatest growth in smartphone ownership came from the 18-to-24-year-old demographic.

“As with general Twitter usage, smartphone owners are much more likely than average to use Twitter on their phones (overall 16 percent of smartphone owners use Twitter on their phones and 10 percent do so on a typical day),” the Pew report’s authors wrote.

One in five adult Internet users aged 18-to-24 interacted with Twitter on a typical day. About 11 percent of the most Twitter-using demographic, those aged 25-to-34, used the platform daily.

What Twitter Is Used For

Twitter users follow celebrities, brands, and even news.

An August 2011 report from Lab24, a technology-consulting firm, found that some 15 percent of Twitter users joined the service to follow a specific celebrity or commercial brand. What’s more, that survey found that about 90 percent of Twitter users followed at least one commercial brand, with 31 percent of Twitter users following one-to-five brands and 20 percent following six-to-ten brands.

Perhaps 90 percent of Twitter users follow a commercial brand.

Perhaps 90 percent of Twitter users follow a commercial brand.

The fact that so many Twitter users follow brands may represent an opportunity for marketers. The same Lab24 survey found that 66 percent of those Twitter users that follow commercial brands do so to get discounts. Another 48 percent follow brands to enter and participate in contests.

When considered with the Pew data about Twitter user engagement and mobility, there may be an argument that Twitter could be a good channel for engaging mobile users with either flash sales or with contests.

Separately, it is also interesting that Twitter may be contributing to how users get news.

As a specific example, Twitter users tended to publish earlier and, perhaps, more accurate reports about the Arab Spring than did established media sites and publishers. A University of Chicago study looked at just how important Twitter, and mobile phones, became during the uprisings.

“One of the most remarkable things that happened, the [University of Chicago] group writes, during the initial stages of the Egyptian protests was how so many of those that lived in or around the places where the protests were taking place wound up relying on Twitter as their primary news source,” reported a summary of the University of Chicago report. “This came about as a result of authorities shutting down the Internet and maintaining a stranglehold on traditional news sources such as radio and television. Because mobile communications are so much more distributed, it was virtually impossible for Mubarak’s supporters to tear down the infrastructure in time to save the beleaguered leader. Thus, cell phones became the means by which news of events was carried, mainly by sending texts via Twitter because of the feature that allowed others to subscribe. When it became clear that someone was an actual eyewitness to events, they quickly amassed thousands of followers who then relied on that person to offer first-hand reports of what was going on. Then because there were numerous amateur reporters describing what was going on, there became an air of transparency or lack of bias because those reporters knew others were reporting on the same events, and if their story varied, they’d lose credibility and thus subscribers. Another impact was on other people in faraway places in the country who also came to rely on Twitter feeds as their main news resource.”

Similarly, Twitter has famously released news related to sports or celebrities before reports appeared in mainstream media. A sad example of Twitter’s reporting prowess may be the untimely death of singer Whitney Houston, which was accurately reported on Twitter 27 minutes before the Associated Press broke the news, according to Mashable.

Overall, Twitter and other social media sites may account for about 9 percent of news consumption, according to a separate Pew study from 2011.

This too may be useful for marketers who could employ the service not just to engage potential customers, but also to monitor trends.

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As Google rolls more features and functions into Google+, marketing on the new and fast growing social media network is increasingly important.

Last week, Google announced the launch of Google+ Local, which provides users with recommendations and information about local businesses including restaurants and retailers. The service looks like a combination of Google Places and Yelp! and seems like it could potentially create new marketing opportunities for businesses.

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Google+ Local is the most recent update to the search company’s growing social network.

Google+ Local is the most recent update to the search company’s growing social network.

Google had previously integrated its profiles with Google+, included Google+ content in search results — more on this below — and more closely aligned Google+ with the popular Gmail service.

Google+ Matters

Earlier this year Google+ reached 100 million users, including about 44 million in the U.S. It had taken the new social media network seven months to reach the milestone. By comparison, Facebook took four and a half years to reach 100 million; Twitter took five years and two months to reach 100 million; and LinkedIn took eight years and ten months to acquire 100 million users.

Beyond user count, Google+ content, as mentioned above, is included in Google’s search results. So having good Google+ presence may improve how a business performs in organic search results.

Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger, wrote that “building an audience on Google+ may be the smartest thing you can do as a content marketer when it comes to improved search rankings. You still need to understand the language of your audience and reflect it back in your content, but Google will now have direct indications that you’re putting out quality stuff.”

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Google integrates Google+ content into search results pages.

Google integrates Google+ content into search results pages.

Search results expert Danny Sullivan described the integration of Google+ results, even private ones, into Google search results, as the “most radical transformation ever.”

Whether or not Google+ integration in search results is truly radical, it should be considered.

Google+ Marketing Ideas

Google+ offers a few opportunities for marketers.

Just like on Facebook or Twitter, marketers can easily publish content, offer discounts, or otherwise encourage links on Google+. There are no character limits, and integrating video, particularly video hosted on YouTube is seamless.

For example, clothing retailer H&M — one of the most popular brands on Google+ — recently published a 31-photo Autumn and Winter “lookbook,” featuring some of the company’s forthcoming products.

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H&M's Google+ page can be a good example for marketers.

H&M’s Google+ page can be a good example for marketers.

Similarly, the Amazon Google+ page, which has nearly 300,000 users following it, frequently offers discounts or specials.

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Amazon is actively publishing content, including offering discounts for interaction, on its Google+ page.

Amazon is actively publishing content, including offering discounts for interaction, on its Google+ page.

Google+ also offers “Hangouts,” which are similar to hosting an online meeting. Businesses could use Hangouts to introduce new products, put a very human and responsive face on customer service, or get immediate feedback from customers.

As a third marketing idea, Google+ is very friendly to photography, making it easy to upload images and display those images. Retailers, as an example, can post new products image or even insider photography.

Google+ Concerns

I have a couple of Google+ marketing concerns. For example, some studies indicate that Google+ users only spend about three minutes a day using the service, which is very low in the context of social media engagement.

A second concern is that Google+ does not allow posts from third-party tools. This means that there is presently no way to automate posts. Perhaps, this is intentional since some have argued that automated social media posts broadcast to every possible channel are simply a new form a spam.

Summing Up

Google+ is growing both in terms of features and users. Marketers interested in engaging customers where they are might be wise to use Google’s social network.

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Facebook just launched a new advertising format called Promoted Posts, which allows Page administrators to turn any Timeline post into an ad that appears at the top of Fans’ news feeds. Promoted Posts increase the chance that more Fans will see it, and that more of their friends will too.

For example, if an ecommerce merchant wants inform Facebook fans about a special offer or new product, a Promoted Post would be one way to guarantee the message reaches a wider audience than a normal Timeline post.

Options include the ability to target posts based on location or language, and page administrators can track how many people see the post. Any post less than three days old, regardless of type — i.e., status update, photo, video or question — can be promoted using this new feature. Promoted Posts are marked as “Sponsored” in news feeds. Facebook requires that Pages have a minimum of 400 Likes before Promoted Posts can be used.

To give Promoted Posts a try, here is a step-by-step guide.

New Posts

Go to the sharing tool on your Facebook page to create a post and enter post details.

Go to the Facebook Page sharing tool and create a post.

Go to the Facebook Page sharing tool and create a post.

Click the “Public” button to choose targeting options based on location or language.

Use the Public button to select targeting options.

Use the Public button to select targeting options.

Click on the Promote drop-down button and set your desired budget, then click “Save.” (Note: The amount chosen applies to the lifetime of the ad and is not a daily budget.)

Click the Promote button to select set the budget.

Click the Promote button to select set the budget.

Existing Posts
  1. Go to any post you’ve created in the past three days on your Page timeline.
Posts less than 3 days old can be promoted.

Posts less than 3 days old can be promoted.

  1. Click the “Public” button to choose targeting options.
  2. Click the Promote button, which is located just below where people can add comments.
  3. From the drop-down, set your budget based on how many people you want to reach, then click “Save.”

For ecommerce merchants, the kinds of posts to be promoted could include the following.

  • Posts about special offers, product discounts or Facebook Offers, which I’ve addressed here previously coupons.
  • Posts about new products.
  • Posts about company news and events.

Facebook’s help files include a set of best practices for the types of posts that should be promoted.

There are several advantages to using this new advertising model over traditional Facebook ads.

  • Ads appearing news feeds are more likely to be seen than traditional Facebook ad units, which reside in the right-hand sidebar.
  • They have a more “organic” feel than do Facebook ads. As such, Promoted Posts are better suited to the Facebook environment.
  • Promoted Posts focus on brand participation and interaction, and less on advertising.
  • Promoted Posts rely on content produced in Facebook Pages, which means such pages play an even more central role.
Final Thoughts

I have two concerns when it comes to using Promoted Posts. The first is cost. Promoted Posts start at $5.00 each and could be much higher, depending on the number of Fans and estimated amount of reach. Second, for users who are Fans of several pages, there is a possibility their news feeds could become clogged with Promoted Posts.

Despite those concerns, Promoted Posts could provide a more viable advertising option to merchants than traditional Facebook ads. It is certainly worth experimenting. Visit the help center to obtain more assistance on using Facebook Promoted Posts.




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Email marketing is one of the most powerful, sales-driving tools available to ecommerce companies, reaching consumers directly on their mobile smartphones, tablets, laptops, and...