Don’t shrug off PPC just yet – How to make PPC profitable (finally)

Don’t shrug off PPC just yet – How to make PPC profitable (finally)

Bogdan Chertes

“PPC will never work for my ecommerce business”

This was the first thing I heard in my headphone on one consultation Skype call with one ecommerce store owner. There was no ‘hello’, no ‘how are you’ — Just this objection straight away:


We didn’t use video but I pictured him sitting with his arms crossed and a grin on his face.

He had been referred by one of our web-design partners and it turned out he was almost ‘dragged into’ our Skype meeting.

He wanted to expand his ecommerce store to avoid relying on Amazon too much. Their organic traffic was declining, so they were desperate to find a new marketing channel. He tried PPC himself but wasn’t too crazy about it.

We managed to make PPC work for him (I’ll describe how below). Now PPC accounts for 50% of his sales, and the rest is mainly email marketing

Around 8 out of 10 times we somehow do manage to make PPC work…

In this article I’ll present my perspective on why ecommerce owners fail with PPC and what can be done instead.

Why ecommerce business owners get discouraged from PPC

It’s a pattern we actually see quite often – the business owner tries Adwords or FB ads (himself, with their marketing employee or some marketing agency), they’re unsuccessful or kinda-successful and then they decide that PPC is not for them and it won’t work…

Scenario #1 “I was semi-successful with PPC”

Scenario #2 “Nah, PPC is not for us” (I.E. we were unable to make PPC work for our store)

I have conversations with founders who run some campaigns themselves (or their marketing guy runs them) and they are “kinda” successful but not enough to call it a spectacular success.

My diagnosis is:

1) Ecommerce owners are afraid to scale campaigns.

The guy from the story was one of those “semi-successful” types, but he had one particular campaign that was massively successful (we’re talking 10x ROI) but – for some reason- he kept it low scale – just $400 / month.

It was an easy win for us to spot – we scaled it immediately. Then we killed the unsuccessful campaigns and added retargeting for extra profit. Those “few tweaks” made a big difference.

Maybe he was too close to see it himself or he was to invested emotionally to push more aggressively.

2) Ecommerce owners won’t dedicate enough focus and time to PPC campaigns

A pattern I see is that an ecommerce owner tries PPC himself or delegates to his marketing guy. They’re spread too thin to dedicate focus to test campaigns and they give up in the middle of the way.

The founder shouldn’t be setting and monitoring campaigns.

With all urgent tasks in the business, some things will be neglected anyway.

In my opinion the founder role is to understand the principle of how PPC works, get a pro to come up with a strategy, understand the strategy and hand it off to someone to execute.

3) Ecommerce owners don’t have enough patience and experience to dig out “golden nuggets”

With email marketing it’s easier. You can only add new subscribers to your list, you can only grow. You don’t need to constantly monitor your email list, there’s no risks involved.

However, with PPC, since you spend money each month, you need to make sure you’re profitable!

Very often the difference between successful and unsuccessful campaign lies in the details, which could easily be missed by an inexperienced person.

Also, success with PPC is based on learning, which requires dedication and consistency.

And frankly, it’s a bit of a pain in the arse for most people to follow through. It takes seven clicks in Adwords’ interface to see how many sales you’re getting in your home town. Plus pulling reports and interpreting data can be frustrating and overwhelming.

Revisiting PPC: Working with an expert

  1. There are always areas where you can improve. A person or agency whose only job is PPC will keep running tests, discover and scale successful campaigns which will make PPC more and more profitable.
  2. A PPC professional knows the tricks and avoid typical mistakes – that will move the needle and make campaigns profitable
  3. They know how to make PPC work with other marketing channels making email marketing or SEO even more profitable.
  4. PPC agencies will have highly-specialized tools and software that you may not have access to when you do PPC in-house.

Hiring an agency – How to avoid mediocre ROI

“Through the years we’ve tried PPC several times through other agencies and could never seem to make it work from an ROI perspective.”

That’s what one prospect who became our client told us.

It turned out that the process he used for hiring agencies is this:

  • He got a website designed or redesigned by an agency
  • He was offered “SEO and PPC services”
  • He went with it… and got disappointed

If the agency does web design, but also offer PPC, SEO and all other marketing services, it might not be the optimal choice for your business.

“Jack-of-all-trades, master of none” agencies

The structure of a full-service marketing agency prevents them from developing senior talent

  • PPC is not their main thing so they can’t afford really good talent
  • There’s no one with a lot of expertise that would supervise the people working on the account
  • Account manager will check from time to time but he won’t know if the PPC manager is doing his job well

I’m sure there are agencies that make it work with PPC but in general, motivation of a full-service marketing agency does not depend on the growth of your business

  • They already did a lot of work and had a tangible result (a website, an ecommerce store)
  • They do Adwords because they see it’s a service in demand and they can make more revenue from each client
  • They’re not as committed — losing PPC services is not a big deal for a jack-of-all trades agency because they can still get revenue from hosting the site or SEO

PPC-only agencies – Better structure and motivation

Your chances of succeeding in PPC are much higher with an agency that focuses solely on this marketing channel.


  • Their one and only focus is PPC – They hire experts in this particular field
  • They can afford to hire experts in different platforms (Google Adwords, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook and Instagram ads, Youtube ads)

Motivation: performance based, not project based

  • Their only job is to make your campaigns profitable — If they can’t make it work, they won’t retain you as a client and thus they won’t make any money
  • Their fees grow with the revenue of the client
  • A web design agency has something to show (project based), whereas with PPC the agency can only show results (performance based)

Take it a step further: a PPC-only niched agency

You can increase your chances of success, by choosing to work with experts who not only do PPC for a living but also know ins and outs of the ecommerce industry.

PPC differs across different industries — platforms and campaigns will look different for ecommerce and for example for B2B.

If you’re competing with other brands for ad space, it makes the most sense to go with an agency that has a proven track record in the ecommerce industry. They will also be able to give you accurate projections based on their previous success.


I hope that I managed to convince you that there is a way to make PPC work.

If you’re ready to see how my ecommerce-only PPC agency will boost your brand, book my free 30 minute consult to get your custom tailored 6 month roadmap to increased sales and profitability.