SEO · Marketing

E-commerce entrepreneurs, how are you spending your marketing budget? Building SEO? Adwords? Agents?

Pierre Thys MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School, CEO at PH Socks

March 28th, 2016

I started a socks-retailing company focused on an specific line of socks. We launched the website in November 2015. 
  • We are currently spending ~$150 on Adwords, conversion has been less than 1%, traffic to the site ranges from 20-30 unique visitors daily
  • We just hired a guy to improve our SEO over 3 months, we'll see how that goes
My question is: am I spending my budget correctly? Should we pour more money into marketing so we can gain more relevance online?

Majority of our sales are coming from Amazon, I want to improve sales through the site. 

Thank you all!

- Pierre

priyank JAIN Digital Marketing Consultant

July 11th, 2017

Hi Pierre,

I am Digital marketing consultant and I am working with too many ecommerce startups based out of India, U.K. and U.S. As per my experience you should spend your marketing budget on Facebook compare to Google because facebook have a proper data of real time audience and we can target directly. Trust me try once and then check your conversion rate and orders.

Andrew Goodman President at Page Zero Media

March 28th, 2016

From an AdWords perspective: single-line apparel companies (high quality but unknown brand) tend to fail with AdWords because there is no search user intent that syncs up well enough with the vendor's offering in question. So even if you get it perfect, it isn't likely to set the world on fire. It is an awfully tough way to bootstrap a company. That being said, if you can cherry-pick a few of the most relevant queries, using the right match types... and if you can get PLA's going for you... there might be a little ROI there (not volume though). Some of the most common mistakes in an AdWords account of this type might come down to keyword selection, match types, failure to employ negatives (keyword exclusions), and a lack of attention to attractive ad extensions such as Sitelinks, Callouts, Review Extension, and automated extensions such as Seller Ratings.  E-commerce works great for Goliath, but David may have trouble. The little guy has to nail everything just so in order to get to break-even in the PPC auction. Best of luck.

David Jaeger ✪ SEM/PPC Guru ✪ eCommerce Growth Hacker ✪ Online Business Consultant ✪ $25 Million/Yr Managed Ad Spend

March 28th, 2016

If your sales are coming through Amazon, and you've got good margins, try their text ads program. It works REALLY well.

On your website side (if Amazon is truly performing for you, chances are, your website may not ever catch up, and that's okay), try to get into Google Shopping, and many of the other shopping channels as well. They will out perform (for the most part) your text ads.
One of the challenges with Google shopping is that if your SKU isn't listed by other retailers who are in Google Shopping (e.g. if you are the manufacturer), then often times, the Google algorithm does a worse job of creating positive relevance/quality score for that product, and it will be a struggle to get alot of the big volume.
We've seen this problem happen sometimes, and you can't even solve it by raising bids.

We'd recommend getting on eBay/Rakuten/Newegg, who will push your products in shopping. Even if they don't get many sales, it could help you generate more sales in shopping, which is far more profitable than the text ads.

Also, make sure you are doing dynamic remarketing on both Google & Facebook. You can test out a criteo or Adroll, but I'd recommend going direct first, and seeing how it works for you.

At your low volume, it may be hard to see results, though.

On the conversion rate side, a 1% conversion rate sounds very low, for a low priced item. It should be closer to 2.5%, otherwise it will be hard to make the numbers work.

We'd recommend putting together a fixed date sale (e.g. twice/month offer 20% off). That can push your conversion rates up, up to 30% incremental.

I can't see your site, to see if there any issues I see.

Bottom line though, is for site sales/traffic, you'll need to look at conversion rates a bit more closely.
I'd also highly recommend you look at Gmail Sponsored Promotions (once you've got your conversion rate issues ironed out.)

Chris Lowden President at Get Up to Get Down Elite Entertainment

March 28th, 2016

$150 on Google ad words is extremely low for a national campaign. (Which I'm assuming you are doing). You can do a couple of things to rectify the situation.  One add a minimum of $1,000 or squeeze your campaign down to more of a local level.  Otherwise you could be getting burned by google themselves for a low budgetem.  Google will use a larger budget before a smaller one.    A lot more in depth than that but should give you an idea.  

Ricky Singh, MBA Growth Hacking Expert

January 27th, 2017

Hi. I have worked with a lot of eCommerce startups in helping them with their marketing. Based on my experience, the best approach is to start building out your mailing list. You can do this by running Facebook ads to a landing page and getting signups or running a social media contest. You should then set up an auto responder series in Mailchimp or any email marketing platform that you use to work your prospect into buying from your website. You should also set up retargeting ads using AdRoll or a custom audience pixel in Facebook to show display ads to your existing web traffic to drive them back to your website for a purchase.

John Griffin Co-Founder at Spiral Scout, Founder at Cutcaster, Co-Founder at Instigate Labs (Maker of Moment)

March 28th, 2016

You should pour more money intro tracking to make sure that your ad and marketing spend are earning you long term, valuable customers. Very basically, you need to figure out if the long term value of a client is more than what you are spending to acquire that one customer. If it costs you 10 to get a customer and that customer will pay 20 on your site then that could be a good trade for you. You need to know how to track and report these so you can figure out your numbers and know if you can scale your marketing efforts. 

Alper Cakir

March 28th, 2016

Hi Pierre, it depends heavily on the product but seems like you have a low conversion rate. This may be due to various things such as your content/messaging and/or technical (such as the speed the page loads) . Nevertheless until you fix UX issues, and make it  clearer, faster, more usable I would not suggest putting marketing dollars into it.

Here is a case study for a project we recently wrapped up. We were able to increase  the monthly revenue by 265% after UX and UI optimizations.

I also suggest looking more into Inbound marketing (content marketing), it's a longer path but when done correctly it provides greater value. e.g. We have organically grown Xtensio (our startup toolbox)  to 30K users with no ad dollars spent.

And finally it's hard to evaluate your spending efficiency without the customer's LTV (life time value).

Best wishes

Jubilant James CEO

September 12th, 2017

Get a social media strategist to help you build online presence while you still get a techy guy to set the SEO right.

Bruno Leveque PrestaShop Inc. CEO & Co-founder

March 28th, 2016

Hi Pierre,

Congrats on your online store, it looks great ;-)

You should try additional channels such as:

- Bing Ads
- Facebook Ads
- Amazon Marketplace
- eBay
- Retargeting (Criteo & others)
- Other shopping guides and marketplaces (check out
- etc.

Instead of pouring too much at once, you could give a try to each of these channels (for instance $500 per channel for 7 days) and compare which ones convert best.


Jerry Kavesh CEO 3P Marketplace Solutions

March 28th, 2016

Pierre - 

1) Since Amazon is generating the majority of your sales and having a small budget, I'd consider redirecting a portion (at least 1/3) of your ad budget to Amazon and running tests vs your AdWords campaign.  You can run both an automated campaign on Amazon where the Amazon system generates your keywords and a manual campaign where you augment the Amazon keywords. As you develop history, add negative keywords to the automated campaign to eliminate keywords which are generating a low or zero ROI. 

If you find your Amazon campaign provides a larger ROI, then redirect more of your budget to Amazon.  

It is true you'll pay Amazon a commission on the sale but the extra volume and inventory turn should more than offset the commission paid. 

2) Amazon TOC does not allow you to "market" to the Amazon consumer. However, presuming the consumer likes your socks, you can use of some basic marketing tactics to lead the consumer back to your website.  

The simplest is to make sure your customer service phone number and website URL is pre-printed on all your product packaging (internal & external), on your packing slip and on your shipping label as this does not violate the Amazon TOC since these are pre-printed and are part of your SOP to all consumers regardless of channel. 

3) A final comment regarding social media.  Start a blog and become the "sock guru".  This will help drive your SEO.  Also post your blog on Facebook so you can engage the people who have liked you.  Just posting sale or product  information on Facebook typically does not work.  Don't spend any energy on Twitter. Instead add Pinterest but realize the Pinterest demographic is skewed heavily female so you'll need a different marketing strategy such as helping the women who use Pinterest "dress" up their guy as well as themselves.

Good luck!