PPC Spotlight: Les Schwab Tires – Where’s the Beef?by Anvil on April 3, 2009Online Brand Management
Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Les Schwab Tire Centers. In my experience their service is speedy, honest and fantastically friendly. About a year ago, when I was due for four new tires I went to Les Schwab and left with very nice tires, a bill that I felt good about paying and some delicious bacon wrapped top sirloin steaks (Les Schwab runs a Free Beef with tire purchase promo annually). I am, without a doubt, a customer for life. They didn’t build 400 locations across the Western US and hit $1.48B in revenue without doing something right.
All of this is relevant to this PPC Spotlight because as a Les Schwab fan and SEM professional, I was unpleasantly surprised at what I found when I was searching for a Les Schwab location online. I didn’t see a PPC result when I searched Google for “Les Schwab Portland” so, unable to help myself, I took a closer look at their search presence in Google AdWords. What I found were critical missed opportunities and inefficiencies in their AdWords advertising. Since I am such a fan of the company and also happen to know what I’m doing when it comes to AdWords, I will lend an unsolicited hand and elaborate:
When I didn’t see an AdWords listing triggered by a search on “Les Schwab Portland”, I searched for “Portland tires” – again, nothing in PPC, though they have a decent organic rank & strong local search presence:
Searched again for “Portland tire store” – Ah ha! There they are – but at #8? Seems low given their presence in the region.
After taking an informal and highly unscientific poll, I concluded that if you ask a Portlander where they would go for their tire-related needs, the far and away #1 answer was Les Schwab. Indicative of a strong brand, right? Probably a case to leverage that brand and have a strong PPC presence? I would argue so. However it just doesn’t seem like having a strong PPC presence is a goal of Les Schwab’s campaigns, coming in toward the bottom of the paid results on many of the tests I conducted.
Now, given, I haven’t seen the guts of Les Schwab’s AdWords campaign and I can’t speak to the size of their budgets. Times are tough and if the PPC budget is low, that could be playing a role with the position. However, my expert opinion is this: There is no better time to make sure your marketing campaigns are as effective and efficient as possible as when budgets are tight. Make the most of the money you do have!
Regardless of their budget, here are 5 things that Les Schwab (and any AdWords advertiser) can do to improve effectiveness and efficiency of their AdWords campaigns.
Pay close attention to structure.
Match ad text to the searcher’s query as much as possible. I searched “Portland tire store”. AdWords bolds any ad text that matches keywords from a query. This is widely leveraged by AdWords advertisers to increase an ad’s click through rate (CTR) – as a searcher, the ad that more accurately matches my query is often more likely to get clicked. Here is Les Schwab’s ad:
None of my keywords in the headline. One keyword – “tire” – bolded in the entirety of the description text. Looking at the competition also advertising on the page, Les Schwab is at a disadvantage. Others have more accurately matched ads, or more bolded keywords. Les Schwab also fails to leverage one of their biggest assets as it pertains to my original query – their locations in Portland. How about saying something like “50 Portland Locations!”? They are missing the boat on their opportunity to relate to me and draw me in.
What this tells me is that Les Schwab’s AdWords account is poorly structured and is not as granular as it should be. If it was structured effectively and the ad text were well written, my search would very closely match the ad text that I am subsequently displayed. Build your ad groups and campaigns with tightly themed keywords and ad text that is written with those themes in mind. Clicks will follow.
Make sure your landing page relates to your ad text.
If Les Schwab’s ad does happen to catch my eye despite the lack of relative relevancy to my query, I might see the message: West [sic] Largest Tire and Wheel Sale. I might think “The Largest Tire and Wheel Sale?! Sounds AWESOME!” CLICK:
What about the Sale? Where is that messaging? For that matter, where is there ANY call-to-action messaging? Talk about an uninspiring and highly ineffective landing page. If I’m browsing tire vendors, this is where I leave the site with little to no chance of returning. Potential life-long customer lost. All of the things that should be conveyed, at minimum, directly on this landing page:
1. Relate to the original ad text messaging – what about the purported “Sale”?
2. Give me an obvious call to action – what am I supposed to do now? Schedule an appointment online? Call to speak with someone? Browse products? Tell me!
3. Tout your location. “Find a Portland (or Seattle, or Bend, or…) Location Near You!”
4. Convey the key selling points of the Les Schwab brand. Rarely is it my recommendation to use a homepage as a landing page because they’re not focused enough. However, in this case Les Schwab would be better served by using their homepage instead of the current page that is entirely without design, strategy or objective.
Don’t Hinder the Searcher.
Given, I have a keener eye than the average searcher, so this point might go unnoticed to many. However, once I hit the landing page from the Les Schwab ad, I see that I am not actually taken to www.lesschwab.com, as the ad’s Display URL would suggest, but am instead dropped on to https://lesschwab32.reachlocal.net/tires.asp.
It appears that Les Schwab is using the services of a third party to manage their PPC campaigns (I can see that this is the case by looking at the root of the landing page URL: https://lesschwab32.reachlocal.net/tires.asp). An AdWords Reseller, ReachLocal is using their hosted domain and a sub-domained mirror of LesSchwab.com in the PPC campaigns that they are managing. Minimally, this presents a usability issue because using an off-brand URL as the PPC landing page can be confusing and hinder return visits (“What was that URL again?”). At bigger issue here is the fact that an outsourced manager of Les Schwab’s PPC campaigns is doing things that seem so grossly astray from widely known best-practices. Again, I make this assessment purely by what I can see externally. Les Schwab, I hope you’re reading this and taking notes.
Test Multiple Versions of Ads & Landing Pages.
I did a number of additional searches, using multiple locations, and didn’t ever see a second version of ad text or a different landing page being used. Given the aforementioned problems with both the ad text and landing page, it is shocking that this is the ONLY ad text and landing page that the Les Schwab AdWords campaign appears to be using. A company with their breadth of services, reach, and sheer size could potentially have dozens of ad variations based on the context of each keyword and also be using multiple landing pages. Put simply, one poorly written ad and one poorly conceived landing page will not cut it.
Also, there is no excuse for typos in ad text. Instead of the awkward “West Largest Tire and Wheel Sale” using “West’s Largest Tire and Wheel Sale” would read more clearly and would even fit within the 35 character limit. Done and done.
Protect Your Brand.
I wouldn’t be writing any of this if I hadn’t conducted a branded search “Les Schwab Portland” without seeing a corresponding PPC ad. If you have a brand worth protecting, you need to be buying all of your branded terms in PPC. End of story. I don’t care if you are #1 organically for your branded terms. If you are not also at the top of PPC, you are missing the boat. Buy any and all variations of your brand terms you can think of. Check your analytics for variations and misspellings. Then check the actual search results using Google’s Ad Preview Tool to make sure you’re showing up for them consistently. If you see gaps in visibility, consider reviewing your keywords or adjusting your budgets and bids.
Les Schwab is an undeniably strong brand. They have loyal customers. But of course they also need to be concerned with constantly acquiring new customers. Les Schwab’s current presence on PPC does the company a disservice and it pains me as a marketer that the brand I know so well as a consumer is so poorly represented. PPC can be an enormous asset when done well. Done poorly, it can detract from the strongest brands. Put simply, Les Schwab needs to make some changes and make their PPC efforts an asset. Then maybe, just maybe, if they happen to read this and heed my advice, they could consider kicking down a few of those bacon wrapped top sirloins because after all of this, I’ve worked up a bit of an appetite.