How to Skyrocket Ecommerce Sales with AdWords: an Interview with Andy Black

Andy Black started his PPC career by helping an electrician get more work through his website. He became so passionate and skilled in Google AdWords that he was hired as team leader by a top PPC company. Together with other 35 AdWords specialists, he managed €120.000/day PPC campaigns and help his company acquire 15k new leads per day. He now owns and runs his own AdWords practice.

Rodolfo Melogli: Andy, why is Google AdWords a cost-effective website traffic generation method, especially for ecommerce websites?

Andy Black: Search Engine Marketing is all about being found by the people already looking for you – at the time they are looking for you. If you were to advertise your products in a newspaper, then you might spark some interest in a reader, but then might not be a convenient time for them to learn more.

If someone is searching on Google for more information about the product, or to buy the product, then that is the perfect time to get them to your website. They have set aside the time to do that search, and you can help them through the stages of the buying cycle from gathering information to buying.

Like any form of advertising, you have to manage and optimise your campaigns to ensure that they run profitably. If you know your average Customer LifeTime Value and your conversion rate of visitor to buyer, then you can calculate your ROI.

If you are paying too much for the visitors, then you are losing money. If your revenue is higher than your costs, then you are making money. The beauty of AdWords is that you can very easily determine your conversion rates and cost-per-sale, for each product, for different days of the week, and even down to the time of the day. You can then adjust how much you pay per sale to meet your targets. Most other forms of advertising don’t provide as much detail to allow you to optimise.

Sales Conversion Rate

Rodolfo Melogli: Exactly, the main benefit of Google AdWords is that you advertise to an audience that is already looking for your product. So, what’s the average sales conversion rate for a professionally managed AdWords campaign?

Andy Black: That depends too much on other factors. Are you sending information seekers or buyers to the landing page? How desperate are the buyers for your product? What is your offer and how does it compare to your competitors’? Have you created a sense of urgency or scarcity in the mind of the visitor?

Rodolfo Melogli: Got it! Basically, if you drive only “buy me now” traffic to the website, your sales conversion is going to be huge. What is the #1 AdWords mistake online business owners do?

DIY Mistakes

Andy Black: The number one AdWords mistake is to not fully understand the power of AdWords and demand fulfilment, and therefore not to try it, or to not use it properly if they do try it.

If there are people already actively trying to buy your products, then they are the easiest people to sell to. If you are not there on Google picking this low hanging fruit, then your competitors are.

Businesses spend a lot of time and effort at demand generation, be it sparking interest in people while they are doing something else entirely, or educating information seekers. It’s not smart to create buyers and not be there on Google when they want to make the purchase. The number one AdWords mistake is to create the demand that your competitors fulfil.

Rodolfo Melogli: How important is market research before setting up a campaign?

Andy Black: It’s reasonably important, but only to get a feel for the lay of the land. It will often take me less than an hour of research before I start loading up a new campaign. The research is typically to find out the main product to focus on, what the likely search terms people use when they are interested in buying that product, and analysing competitors ads and landing pages for those search terms.

Why AdWords

Rodolfo Melogli: What’s the biggest reason business owners should use Google AdWords?

Andy Black: You might think that the biggest reason business owners should use Google AdWords is that it allows them to buy visitors to their website who are interested in buying their products, at the time they are interested. You’re in business to do the following:

  1. Find out what your market actually wants
  2. Find out how to sell it to them
  3. Find out if you can make a profit doing it
  4. Fail fast, or scale up

The biggest benefit of AdWords is that it is the purest form of traffic. There is an intent behind every search, and each search term typically indicates people with the same intent – be it information gathering or buying.

The search terms people use tells you what they are actually looking for, rather than what you hope they are looking for. Are you selling red shoes when everyone is looking for blue shoes this season?

Your ads can help you determine how to sell your product to the people looking for them. You can “split-test” different variations of your ad and determine which feature or benefit of the product, or which of your offers, is the most appealing. The ads with the highest click-through-rate are the most popular. You can apply your learnings to the page that visitors land on when they click the ad.

You can then “split-test” different variations of your landing page. Does the picture of the product on the landing page help to convert better than a picture of the product in use?

Rodolfo Melogli: And what’s the main advantage of using a professional vs DIY?

Andy Black: Getting profitable earlier.  There’s a steep learning curve if you want to try and learn to create AdWords campaigns yourself.  And whilst there are many resources out there to help you learn for free, they aren’t often tailored to your situation.  The only real way to learn is to dip your hand into your pocket and buy traffic.  Doing that on a daily basis will bring everything into sharp focus.  A professional will get your campaigns built quicker, and make them profitable quicker too, or fail fast so that you can divert resources elsewhere.

Rodolfo Melogli: What’s the worst consequence of not using a professional?

Andy Black: Wasted time. You might spend months trying to do something, that someone else can do in a few days for you.  What if you could get a 10% increase in sales within a few days, but you didn’t do this for a year? What is the opportunity cost to you and your business of not having those additional sales for all those months?


Rodolfo Melogli: How helpful is remarketing for eCommerce websites?

Andy Black: I am still sceptical of remarketing in general.

If you are selling something valuable that is hardly ever searched for, then it might make sense to keep chasing people who have visited your website. For businesses that get a decent amount of traffic but not the conversions that they want, I would recommend investing more of the advertising costs into increasing the conversion rates. If they visited and didn’t buy the first time, then how is bringing them back to your site a few more times going to help?

Make sure you have fixed all the leaks in your funnel before you try and spend more money on getting people back into the funnel.

Rodolfo Melogli: How quickly can you drive relevant traffic to a website?

Andy Black: An ad will typically be live 10 minutes after it has been created. It will then eligible to be displayed the next time someone searches for a search term that matches what you are bidding on. However, if no-one is searching for what you are bidding, then you’re still not going to get any traffic.


Rodolfo Melogli: What do you think about SEO, and how does that compare to PPC advertising in terms of costs, time frame and results?

Andy BlackSEO is the other side of the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) coin to paid search. You are also appearing in front of people who are looking for your product, at the time they are looking. Except you don’t pay for the click.

But this doesn’t mean the clicks are free. You have had to create relevant content to rank for that search term, and this has likely cost you in both time and money.
Moreover, you don’t know what search terms to rank for, because you don’t actually know what people are searching for. You might get some keyword report showing estimates search volumes for various search terms, but these are estimates, and you don’t know what your cost-per-click would be either.

I would rather run an comprehensive AdWords campaign that is live 10 minutes after it has been uploaded. Then analyse the data to find out what people are searching for. Increase bids until you get traffic and find out what your cost-per-click, conversion rate, and cost-per-conversion are. Split-test ad copy and landing pages to improve performance. Keep bidding more every time you increase conversion rates. Until you own position one. Now you are getting good volumes, and you also have fine tuned your online sales funnel. You can now look to getting more traffic via SEO, by reinvesting the profits back into content creation. You will also know how much a particular listing would be worth to you, because you know how many clicks and sales it can bring in per month. And you know how much you are paying to get the equivalent traffic from pay-per-click.

Rodolfo Melogli: Finally, Andy, what is the top PPC tip you can give to ecommerce website owners?

Andy Black: Get started.  Quickly determine a very important search term for your business, bid on it in exact match, and send traffic to the most appropriate page on your site.  Set a low daily budget of, say, €10, and let it run for a few days.  Your risk is minimised, and you have left the launch pad.  Now that you are spending money (or getting no clicks!), this moves from a theoretical exercise to one where you want to recoup your investment in time and money.

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