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  1. #1
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    Beware: PPC surges = Out of stock items
    I'm running some PPC campaigns (as an affiliate) to promote products for several merchants, with nice ROI. However, every year at about this time, I notice the same problem: suddenly I see a huge increase in CTR and clicks for specific products, but no increase in sales. Each time, it's the same reason: the product is "out of stock" at most online merchants, including the one I'm promoting, and so folks who want it are searching more widely to try to find it -- increasing my PPC traffic and costs, but not sales since my merchant doesn't have the product.

    I first experienced this with calendars -- most calendar publishers have a fixed press run for each calendar, and if the demand exceeds expectations, they don't reprint them (certainly, if the stock runs out in December, it's too late, but there have been calendars that fell out of stock in September). Last year, my first "out-of-stock-spike" was for "George W. Bush" calendars (the dignified 'presidential' version, not the mocking ones); my daily paid-search clicks for related terms doubled and then tripled even as sales dropped. This year, it was the "Meerkats" calendar that popped up on my 'radar' first.

    Last year, I made an effort to find alternate affiliate-merchant sources for the "missing" calendars, without success; this year, I haven't even tried.

    Some merchants will email me with a list of products that have "fallen out of stock" so I can stop promoting them with PPC -- but usually I have to request the list and wait for a response.

    My response is to keep a close eye on all "traffic spikes," since they represent an "out-of-stock" issue about a third of the time.

    Of course, nearly all merchants do offer "similar products" which might be of interest to folks who are looking for an out-of-stock item, but generally the conversion rate is so much lower that I don't want to pay a PPC premium for those searches.

  2. #2
    Plain Ol' Affiliate Rainmaker's Avatar
    Join Date
    September 22nd, 2006
    KPOU (NY)
    Sage advice from Mark!

    Last night I was (semi)franticly searching for a cache of Fisher Price Kid Tough Cameras so I could score one for my daughter for xmas. It's her biggest wish to get a camera "like her big bro has". After hitting my favorite stores and seeing them sold out everywhere, I went to the search engines to try to uncover one somewhere (please!).

    I figured that it was a sure thing to go via PPC since I know clicks for that kind of thing can't be cheap this time of the year. I must have clicked on at least 3 or 4 PPCs in my quest only to find "sold out" during the check out. I couldn't believe how many affiliates where loosing $$ on this. And being such a popular product, I'll bet it's spiking pretty high.

    Ya know, now that I think of it, this happened about a week ago too, as I went searching for a sold out Hallmark ornament. Though, I believe I probably was making a more general "hallmark ornaments" search, I know I went through at least 8-12 PPCs before I found a merchant with some still in stock.

    So heed Mark's advice!! Check yer stats today.

  3. #3
    Internet Cowboy
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    That is a great post Mark. I too run a fair amount of PPC at the item level and see this every year for several Holiday seasons. It's impossible for me to monitor all items, but I monitor items in the top ten in sales and make a point to look for fast downward spikes in conversion and ROI.

  4. #4
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    Mansfield, TX
    With some products that I promote via PPC, I have scripts I wrote that check to see if the product has gone out of stock and removes it from AdWords using their API. I had been running Adwords campaigns for a couple years before I finally built the script. When it first ran, it deleted 10% of my keywords. I was wasting 10% of my PPC budget on discontinued products.

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