You may have a great product, a truly awesome site and even a fantastic brand; but without customers…you have no revenue.

It’s any retail entrepreneur’s worst nightmare to spend significant time and resources procuring stock, designing logos and building a website, only to wait days, or even weeks, for their first customer.

But many new ecommerce start-ups go through this exact scenario and have issues generating their first batch of customers quickly and efficiently.

At e.division, we believe that achieving your first five sales is a key milestone; and doing so within the space of a say, a few days, validates your product offering and value proposition.  Likewise, achieving these sales in a cost-effective manner is crucial to your bottom-line and will inform you about the commercial viability of your product mix. In this article we will explore how to do this using Google Adwords.

AdWords (Pay-Per-Click advertising or PPC) is a fantastic tool for gaining market traction quickly and effectively, and will tell you important facts about your market. Like any other customer acquisition channel, PPC will only work for you if you use it intelligently, with an eye on efficiencies and control.

So without further ado, let’s jump into 10 essential AdWords decisions you need to need to make in order to generate your first five store sales.

Decision 1: How Should I Structure My Campaigns?

The first (and probably most important) decision is how you plan to structure your Adwords campaigns. In order to better understand this, let’s look at keyword match types.

Advertisers will likely find that exact match keywords convert better than other match types, and usually at a cheaper CPA (Cost Per Acquisition). This is due to the increased relevancy between the search query, keyword, ad copy and landing page.

For example, if a user searches ‘plus size dress’, then you’d want it to trigger the keyword [plus size dress] rather than the broad keyword ‘+dress’, as that user journey may be entirely different.

Because of this, it makes sense to control the ad serving so that you know exactly which ad copy and keyword will be displayed for each and every search query. This also enables you to control the budget in relation to your most valuable keywords.

Therefore, when looking at campaign structure, it really does pay to split up keywords by match type. This means that each campaign has at least two variants, one for exact keywords and another for broad. There are several benefits to this approach including:

  • Control over ad serving, which allows you to show the most relevant ads for each search query. This will help you to boost Conversion Rate and eliminate wasted spend on under-optimized user journeys.
    • For this to work properly, you must ensure that all your exact match keywords are applied as negatives to your broad match campaign. For example, if the campaign is ‘Outerwear - Broad Match’, you’d want to apply all the keywords from the campaign ‘Outerwear - Exact Match’ as negatives.
  • Control over budget, which allows you to quickly improve Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) by applying fast budget adjustments.
    • For example, if the exact match campaign had a ROAS of 300%, versus 175% for the broad match campaign, you could simply adjust budget weighting in favour of the better performing campaign.
  • Control over AdWords campaign settings, which allows you to control the times that your exact and broad match keywords appear. As Ad Scheduling can only be applied at the campaign-level, segmenting match types by campaign will help you to maximize presence with the most profitable times of the day.
That covers match types, but what about Product categories?

Generally, we recommend splitting these out out by category, so, for example,  you’re not bidding on ‘[shoes]’ and ‘[pants]’ in the same campaign.

The same applies for brand or non-brand status (i.e. if your Company is called ‘ACME Scented Candles’, you’d want to segment your keywords so that you’re not bidding on ‘[acme scented candles]’ and ‘[scented candles]’ within the same campaign.

In fact, we even recommend splitting out keywords on any area that makes an impact on your ROAS, such as geography, product variant and language. But, if you’re a new advertiser, it’s better to keep it simple and structure your search campaigns in the following way:

  • Campaign Type (Brand or Non Brand) - Product Category - Match Type   

Decision 2: Which Network Should I Target?

Google recommends that you target both the Search Network and Display Network (GDN) within the same campaign. However we strongly disagree with this approach, as it means that you could effectively pay the same CPC (Cost per Click) for both search and display activity, despite users of both having a completely different intent.

For example, users on Google Search may actively be searching for your product, but users on the Google Display Network may not be. Therefore, does it make sense to bid the same for both? The answer is a resounding no!

With that in mind, you’ll want to ensure that each campaign is targeted either to Search or Display (not both).



Within the Search option, you can also target the Google Search Network only (i.e. Google.com) or the Google Search Network and Search Partners.

Search Partners are Google partner sites; although Google is pretty vague in outlining who these partners are. The main benefit of including partners is extended reach. However, because you have no visibility into which partner sites your ads appear on and no way of excluding poor-performing sites, we recommend that you initially exclude the ‘Search Partners’ options altogether and go with the Google Search Network only.


Decision 3: Should I Choose Manual or Automatic Bidding?

Google’s automatic bidding algorithm has come a long way in the last few years, but still lags behind enterprise-level bidding software from companies like DoubleClick and Marin.

With that being the case, and given that new advertisers will likely be starting with little or no account history, manual bidding is your best option. With manual bidding, you can keep your bids in line with profitability across each product line.

When bidding manually, keep in mind the anticipated Conversion Rate for each product. For example, let’s assume that you’re a retailer of women’s lingerie, and that your ‘Plus Size’ range has an average margin of 50%, and an anticipated Conversion Rate of 3%.

If the average retail price is $100, then you’d look to have a Max Bid of $1.50 – any more than this and you’d be compromising profitability if the Conversion Rate was to dip below 3%.

Decision 4: When Will My Ads Run?

For Advertisers with efficiency in mind, showing ads at the right time is the key to gaining initial traction within AdWords.

Retailers waste millions of dollars each year serving ads during periods where Conversion Rate drops off, yet bids are not set in line with this.

Generally speaking, the hours of between 12am and 6am and 11pm and 12am are considered to be ‘conversion black holes’ and have a sharp decline in conversion behaviour. During specific days there may also be a decline (i.e. weekends, or a specific weekday) depending on your industry and audience.

For example, B2B retailers may find that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are ‘hot’ days for Conversion Rate, and as the week draws to a close, there is a slowing down of orders. You will want to ensure that your bid scheduling adjustments are in line with the Conversion Rate, and more importantly, ROAS.

Don’t be too restrictive with this, but do make sure that your initial bid scheduling is set up for maximum visibility during peak times and less activity during non-peak hours.


Decision 5: How Much Should I Bid On Mobile?

As with bid scheduling, your device-specific bid adjustments can make or break your overall profitability with AdWords.

If your site is fully responsive, with a checkout process that encourages mobile commerce, then you won’t need to make many initial changes to your device bidding setup.

However, if you foresee potential bottlenecks in your user journey, such as non-mobile-friendly landing pages, then you must consider reducing bids across mobile. In non-mobile-friendly cases, we generally recommend a -40% bid adjustment, but make sure to review this regularly across your campaigns.

Decision 6: How Many Ads per Ad Group?

Within AdWords, your Clickthrough Rate (CTR) is a key metric, especially within your top Ad Groups. You need to be constantly testing ad copy variants against each other in order to improve your CTR over time.

The general consensus is that up to 5 ads in Ad Group is optimal; however we find that more than 3 ads may actually be counter-productive, as it limits the amount of impressions that your best-performing copy will serve for. We recommend between 2 and 3 variants per Ad Group.

When you begin to see CTR fluctuations across ads, don’t be afraid to pause and replace the worst performers – just be sure that you’ve given your ads at a fair shot to demonstrate their value. Anything with less than 1000 impressions won’t give you a conclusive idea of performance, so it’s often best to wait until you meet this threshold before making optimization decisions.

Decision 7: What Should My Budget Be?

As mentioned earlier, making broad-based optimizations (such as adjusting campaign budgets) are amongst the simplest, yet most powerful levers you can pull in order to improve performance.

Therefore, it makes sense to have campaign budgets aligned with the average profitability across each category (assuming that campaigns are segmented by product category).

For example, let’s say that you’re the owner of ‘Mike’s California Sunglasses’. You can see that your ‘Aviator’ range ROAS is 500% versus 300% for your ‘Wayfarer’ range.

Assuming that you can improve impression share through additional budget, then you’d look to push your budget in favor of the better-performing category.

Decision 8: Which Ad Extensions Should I Use?

Increasing the sheer size of your ad is one way to increase your overall CTR. Ad Extensions are a key part of this, and have multiple benefits including:
  • Communicating your brand's unique selling propositions (USPs)
  • Promoting your key deep-linked pages
  • Demonstrating social proof and trustworthiness through reviews
For those new to AdWords, Sitelinks and Callout extensions are a must across each and every campaign. Sitelinks are like ads in their own right and can help to dramatically improve your CTR, bringing down your Cost per Click (CPC) in the medium-term as a result.

A good rule of thumb here is to create sitelinks for relevant deep-linked pages in relation to the search query. So, if the user searches for ‘men’s ski jackets’ you could create Ad Group-level sitelinks to show different Men’s Ski Jacket brands. The idea is to continually be moving the prospective customer further down the conversion funnel, and this starts even before the user visits your landing page.

Similar to Sitelinks, Callout extensions are non-clickable text snippets which can be utilized to communicate your key brand USPs, such as free shipping, product range and returns policy.

The best practice here is to think carefully about how your brand is positioned against the competitors in your industry and the specific attributes you could leverage in relation to these.

For example, if your main competitor offers free shipping over $50, you could use this feature to communicate your free shipping over $40 policy, or even your hassle-free returns process.            

Decision 9: Which Negative Keywords Should I Use?

Negative keywords are an important part of any successful AdWords campaign,

Before you spend even a dime on Google or Bing, you should have compiled a long list of negative keywords which demonstrate the kind of search queries you don’t want to appear for.

Let’s assume that you’re the Marketing Manager of a luxury multi-brand women’s footwear retailer. You have an idea of your positioning (i.e. upmarket) and the specific brands that you stock. So it makes no sense to appear for the following search queries:

  • ‘[cheap ladies boots]’
  • ‘[mens shoes]’
  • ‘[jimmy choo ladies high heels’ (if you don’t sell Jimmy Choo!)
A lot of new advertisers get too caught up thinking about which keywords to bid on initially, and not nearly enough time on which searches they don’t want to appear for. Don’t be one of them! Remember, understanding your market positioning is the key to efficient AdWords management. 

Decision 10: Which Keywords Should I Bid On?

Now that we have negatives out of the way, let’s look at the other side of the coin.

A common mistake amongst retailers (new and experienced alike) is to bid too broadly, especially when they move into a new market space or product category.

If we’re trying to obtain our first 5 customers with only $100 AdWords spend, then efficiency and laser-targeting are essential. Therefore, look to formulate your initial campaign structures around long-tail exact match traffic.

Appearing in the top three listings for ‘thicker generic’ search queries like [sunglasses] is one way to blow your small budget, fast. Instead, focus on those three to five stem search queries which encompass:

  • The brand’s you sell: [mens ray ban sunglasses].
  • The product categories you compete in [kids aviator sunglasses].
  • The specific styles you offer: [ray ban 3025 aviator sunglasses].
  • Your brand positioning: [eco-friendly aviator sunglasses].
  • The sizes you stock: [ray ban aviator oversized sunglasses].
  • The context of the purchase: [ray ban aviator sunglasses black friday].
  • The location of your business: [ray ban aviator sunglasses canada].
As a rule of thumb, you would look to achieve a roughly 80/20 split in terms of exact match versus broad match traffic, and of course look to bid lower across non-exact match types.

Yes, this will result in less traffic overall, but the objective here isn’t to drive traffic to the website, it’s to drive quality traffic that is likely to convert. By all means, include short-tail keywords in your account, but manage these extremely closely and never bid aggressively without some form of data to justify this first.

So there you have it! Hopefully you have learned a bit more about the exciting and profitable world of of Google Adwords. By following this guide you’ll be in a position to gain some serious market traction through your Paid Search activity.

Have questions or feedback for our team? Send them in the comments below?

About the author

Harpal is a Co-Founder of e-Division.co.uk a thought-provoking provider of content and consultancy services which helps online retailers to drive customer acquisition across PPC channels, encompassing Paid Social, Paid Search, and Google Shopping.