Needink.com

REIMAGINING AN
ESTABLISHED PAID
SEARCH PRESENCE

Needink.com is a popular discount e-tailer of printer ink and toner, specializing in OEM-quality remanufactured cartridges for a wide variety of makes and models. Over the past two decades, the company has aimed to meet the needs of small households and Fortune 500 companies alike through an emphasis on superior customer service and aggressive pricing.

A CAREFUL BALANCING ACT

By leveraging its specialization in OEM-quality remanufactured cartridges, Needink.com has been successful in carving out a niche for itself in the heavily saturated online printer ink market. While this focus has allowed the company to keep its prices low enough to remain competitive with big-box office supply retailers, it also meant that profitability could be compromised if customer acquisition costs rose too much, leaving very little room for error.

Bidding too low on keywords for top-selling items guaranteed profitability, but at the risk of the campaign failing to generate enough traffic to meet sales targets; bidding too high guaranteed meeting sales targets at the risk of orders being unprofitable.

Though the site’s low prices allowed it to remain competitive in a crowded market, the result was a razor-thin margin of error. An effective campaign would need to carefully balance order volume against customer acquisition cost.

A COMPREHENSIVE
CAMPAIGN AUDIT

Needink.com had worked with a digital marketing agency in the past, and it didn’t end well.

The agency had used an algorithmic approach to pay-per-click campaign management, and despite promising results in the early months of the campaign, performance had suffered for several months in a row.

With customer acquisition costs exceeding average order values, the management team at Needink.com decided to take matters into their own hands, attempting to manage the campaign themselves — after all, it couldn’t get much worse.

However, the software-driven strategy implemented by their previous digital marketing agency had resulted in a bloated, disorganized campaign comprised of over 70,000 unique ads; this proved too unwieldy and overwhelming for anyone to manage, let alone a management team already occupied with overseeing day-to-day operations.

With this in mind, Needink.com partnered with Kobe Digital, and we began with a comprehensive campaign audit to identify which challenges to tackle first.

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR
BEST PRACTICES

While software-driven approaches have their merits, we believe that they’re best used as complements to — not a substitute for — a strong foundation rooted in best practices.

One of the most glaring errors identified during our audit of the Needink.com campaign was that all 70,000 of the ads directed users to the Needink.com homepage, even if the ads referenced specific printer models or were tied to product-specific keywords.

Of these 70,000 ads, our team was able to match 54,000 to specific landing pages, drastically reducing the amount of legwork required by potential customers who clicked on the ads; now, they’d be directed straight to the purchase page (whereas previously they’d have to search for their desired ink cartridge on the homepage).

Though this was a tedious and labor-intensive process, the results were nearly immediate: we observed a sharp increase in conversion rates, which decreased the average cost per order.

This also increased the quality score of the affected ads, improving their average ad position. This further served to decrease CPO.

OVERCOMING GROWING PAINS

As soon as our team saw how cumbersome and disorganized the campaigns ad groups were, we immediately realized our biggest problem would be one of inertia. That is, we knew that an organizational overhaul was in order — sometimes it’s best to just cut your losses and start over with a blank slate — but also knew that doing so would remove performance history and reset all quality scores, resulting in even higher CPOs. Given the already razor-thin margin for error, this was something that the client simply couldn’t afford.

To overcome this, we implemented a phased approach in which we first optimized the existing campaigns in line with established best practices while replacing them one by one over a period of four months. This allowed us to maintain manageable CPOs throughout the process, eventually reducing them by 37% by the end of the campaign overhaul.