DTC 24: 📦 I Saw Mommy Googling Santa Claus
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

Welcome to the penultimate DTC Newsletter of 2020. We hope you’re making the most of your festivities in a strange new world 🥳

👋 First time here? You’re not alone. Welcome to the brands who’ve joined us in the last week: Jack Victor, Applied Botanics, Ecco, Kingdom Playroom, Duri, and more.

We know we’ve been a bit naughty this year by neglecting the Google Ads landscape. So in this edition, we’re righting our wrongs - lest the Big Guy puts us on his naughty list. 🎅🏼🚫

And, more importantly, we want to give you some Google Ads goodness to chew on over the holidays.

Usually, we think of our newsletter as valuable ‘packaged goods’ deliveries to your inbox. This week we’re thinking of them as ‘gifts’ -- And here’s what you get to unwrap:

🎁 We give a sneak peek of what it’s like inside the ‘belly of the beast’ with Pilothouse’s Google media buying team

🎁 7 examples of what NOT to do with Google Ads

🎁 Matt Halfhill shares insights he’s learned while building the Nice Kicks sneaker content empire

🎁 3 simple steps you can take today to improve your CTAs

You’ll want to stay till the end to see the 4 types of entrepreneurs Andrew Wilkinson identifies -- and which type you are. 

Ready to spend the next 15 mins cozying up to Google Ads? 

Let’s goooooo!

Going into the ‘belly of the beast’ with the Pilothouse Google media buying team

For this week’s All Killer No Filler, we’re tackling the biggest ad platform of them all - Google. 

We rounded up some of our heavy hitting Google team, Saul Garcia, Richard Clement, and Rafael Scott, are your Google guides with up to date intel to help you on this massive platform. 

🔵 Aggregate quality intent over time

With Facebook, you can scale like a rocket once you establish winning audiences and creatives. With Google Ads, it’s more like an airplane taking off. You have to be more patient with your work and expect gradual growth. 

🔴 Harness true intent with keywords

Keywords are what make Google Ads such a great advertising platform. 

Let’s consider a DTC brand that sells huge blankets -- we’ll call them ‘Huge Blankets R Us.’ The intent when someone searches for “buy extra large blanket” is so strong, it’s hard to match on any other platform. 

And when someone searches for a specific brand, “huge blankets r us,” for example, chances are that they have done their research and are well down the buying channel.

There are, however, many search terms people type in that don’t have that same intent. A search such as “do huge blankets exist” doesn’t have nearly the same intent as our earlier example which had “buy” in it. Still, the fact that someone is interested in huge blankets means that they could be at the top of the purchasing funnel. Getting them to click on your ad could lead to a sale.

The biggest mistake we see advertisers making with search terms such as these is to send them to a product page or a page that tries to sell. 

A much better option would be a page that shows them a range of huge blankets, explains how they’re made, and demonstrates the products’ value. Then offer the visitor a discount coupon that’s valid for the next seven days. This way, you’re answering the question and meeting the searcher’s intent. 

The key to maximizing your search campaigns is getting your ads in front of people at all stages of the buying funnel. This is achieved by doing lots of keyword research, examining search logs, and checking competitors - all to build up a wide range of keywords that cover all parts of the funnel. Then, make sure you have landing pages that match the intent of those search terms.

🟡 Don’t trust that Google always has your best interest at heart! 

Google is a massive platform with loads of features, and they make a lot of money on marketers’ learning curves while the latter sorts out which features work -- and which don’t. 

Don’t blindly accept all of Google Ads’ recommendations when setting up campaigns. 

For example, the recommended location setting is “Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who've shown interest in your targeted locations (recommended)”. However, if your product, service or brand is well known, it’s highly likely that the “interest’ option will lead to considerable traffic from countries that will have very low conversion intent, so best to toggle this off. 

As Saul says, “the algorithm is greedy. You’ll make money sometimes, but Google will make money every time. Through trial and error, you can train your algorithm and find little tricks to activate that algorithm to your benefit.”

🔵 Activate the algorithm with ROAS Target CPA

We’ve seen success with this strategy for whale hunting (finding the highest value customers). 

Set a high budget and high return on ad spend objective (e.g. $5000/day spend with an 800% ROAS). This directs the algorithm towards people who are more likely to buy and more likely to spend more money. Like any computer system, you’re giving a constraint and a goal - the $5k will only be spent if it’s going to provide you with the right ROAS. This is where the greedy algo works in your favor.

We’ve been activating this primarily for high cost, luxury items, and some products under the $100 mark - big risk, big payoff to the tune of 5-8x ROAS. 


🟡 Supercharge your Similar Audiences with branded keyword bidding 

Where Facebook Ads have Lookalikes, Google Ads have Similar Audiences. Just like Facebook, these algorithmically sourced audiences perform better, depending on the quality of the data used. 

Feed the machine with the best data by using branded keyword bidding.

Branded keyword are much cheaper than generalized keywords, but more importantly, they’re a useful tool as they capture intent. If someone is searching for your brand with intent to purchase, they’re pretty much your highest value audience. The same is true of the Similar Audience you create from branded keywords. 

“This is a go-to move at Pilothouse, as soon as we take over an account. It’s low hanging fruit that always improves conversion rates.“

🔴 Why pay for an ad when you have a high ranking organic listing? 

Three reasons: Real estate, real estate, real estate

An organic listing’s success relies on SEO and a perfect description, title tag, and site links - there are many opportunities for something to go wrong.  

Ads give you massive amounts of real estate that you can’t get with your organic listing with the bonus of total control. You’ll get more clicks with higher intention with an ad  - even if your brand is first in organic listings. 

🔵 How Google Ads work with Facebook 

Use Google Analytics to create traffic segments from Facebook Ads, then retarget on Google Ads and Youtube. This is the best, simplest way to have a synergistic setup between platforms.

Ultimately, there are so many touch-points when it comes to attribution - we can’t say whether one platform is doing more lifting than the other.

When it comes to Facebook and Google Ads, there can be a 20-30% overlap where both pixels take credit, but ultimately you want to create as many touch points as possible to increase the odds of a sale. 

If you want to get serious about attribution and your budget justifies it, check out Rockerbox. Tools like this can cost upwards of $10K a month but can give you an incredibly detailed view of your customer’s exact journey.

🛠  TIP: Supercharge your Facebook audiences by tying Facebook pixel to the Google click ID, so you can get intent-rich audiences in Facebook from Google 

🟡 Retargeting on Google

The key is to really segment audiences using Google Analytics and Google Ads Audiences. 


Segment by where they went on the site: Did they look at the product page? Did they get to the conversion page? Did they get to the check-out? Did they look for more than 3 minutes? Did they look at more than 3 products? 

This will inform segments that you can tailor content to, for retargeting.

🛠 TIP: Create custom intent audiences using URLs from pages you think your customers are visiting. This can produce high intent audiences with much higher conversion rates than the audiences Google provides.

🔴 Google Ads Resources

Here are the key resources and tools the Pilothouse teams swear by.

Google Skillshop 

  • All Pilothouse junior buyers have to take courses and take exams.

Google Ads Editor 

  • Google Ads Editor allows you to manage and scale easily. 
  • This is a great tool when you start managing multiple accounts and have multiple ad groups and products. 

Google Analytics 

  • The PIlothouse Google team sees a lot of clients neglecting to leverage analytics properly - don’t be that person! 


  • A keyword research tool shows competitors using the keywords as well. 


  • Uses AI learnings to manage campaigns by automatically finding losing ads and keywords that aren’t working or converting at the right rates. 

There’s no one size fits all process, and success on Google requires lots of testing. For a deep dive on Saul’s campaign structure and why he never breaks out top, middle, and bottom of funnel into different campaigns, listen to the full cast here, or watch it here. 

Next DTC+ Workshop

Hey DTC’rs!

Eric here,

Our next DTC+ Workshop is January 14-15 on Snapchat. We wrangled Van Oakes, Snap Star of the Year two years running to join Pilothouse’s Grayson Rudzki and walk through their top insights as they live build campaigns and show you exactly what works on the platform. 


How did we get the world’s top Snapchat spender to spill his beans?

Van’s a good friend of mine (and we’ve been to Vegas SEVERAL times together so I have a lot over on him).

The perception among many marketers is that Snapchat doesn’t work.

👻 It works for Van who’s crushing with his own business as well as many clients in diverse niches in the ecom game.

👻 It’s working for Grayson Rudzki and Pilothouse for lead gen, providing a sizable diversification for one of our largest clients.

There’s a reason Snapchat stock is doubling up in 2020. Advertisers have figured it out. 

The fact is, if you’re targeting anyone under 30, Snapchat can crush.

Come to our workshop Jan 14-15 and we'll show you how.

In just 2 days, learn to do what Van and Pilothouse do, and get insights you can action on right away.

Start the new year off with a new traffic source and get off the teat of FB and Google.

It’s $129 standalone, or $99/m as part of DTC+

📦 👻 Snap Up Your Spot! 📦 👻

(or an even better deal if you sign up for DTC+ Annual and use “dtcfounders” as the promo code to get 50% OFF) 

We’ll share more in the new year, but I hope to see you there!

P.S. Next week we’ll announce our next two monthly workshops for Feb and Mar. Remember you get all past and current Workshops when you sign up for DTC+. 

What NOT to do with Google Ads

We asked our Google team what they thought most people were getting wrong on Google Ads… and they had some THOUGHTS! 

Take a read through so you can avoid these Google pitfalls!

🙅‍♀️ Full reliance on manual bidding or full reliance on automatic bidding

Manual bids are good to start off, but generally it’s better performing to let the AI bidding kick in when enough conversions have come through. Then use other levers to optimize your CPAs - tips and tricks. 

🙅‍♀️  Assuming there is a one-size-fits-all approach to Google Ads

We have been able to find success by using very different approaches for each account and testing what works better - Share Lawyers and Smart Campaigns, JBW - BB regular shopping success vs Smart campaign success in Elitist. GG success with Manual Bids.

🙅‍♀️  Not spending enough time on Google Landing Pages 

Make sure your landing page matches the search term that brought them there. 

Also, explain why they should do business with your company. Very few people are going to say ‘yes’ if you ask them to marry you on a first date!

🙅‍♀️ Not tapping into YouTube’s potential

Like Facebook, people spend considerable amounts of time watching videos on YouTube and the ability to retarget and reach the right audiences on this platform is considerable.

🙅‍♀️ Focusing too much on target cost per acquisition (CPA) or target return on ad spend (ROAS) for every campaign. 

This leads to campaigns that are only at the bottom of the funnel. Business growth requires top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel campaigns.

🙅‍♀️ Not setting up conversion tracking correctly 

The number of times we’ve taken over an account from another agency, only to find out they were double counting or at least inflating conversions in some way or another, is staggering. 

This severely skews the efficacy of every automated bidding strategy as Google will assume its audience is converting at a much higher rate than it actually is, and will not optimize your ads as effectively. 

🙅‍♀️  Not testing cold prospecting campaigns on the GDN

The Google Display Network is arguably one of the most difficult channels to run profitable ads to a cold audience, but with such a massive variety of ad types and bid strategies, and with ads that reach 98% of the accessible web, it’s borderline foolish not to at least test it. 

We’ve seen success using display prospecting, it can drive up to 40% of account revenue. 

Build a Sneaker Content Empire with Nice Kicks 

Our pod guest this week is Matt Halfhill, founder of Nice Kicks - one of the most popular content websites in the footwear/streetwear industry. 

💪  Self-reliance is key 

Matt spent years as a sneaker reseller, seeking out a healthy margin on platforms like eBay, but he soon realized the value is in creating your own product that you have the creative freedom to promote as you see fit. 

According to Matt’s predictions - if you rely on other people’s products, your days are numbered. Every producer is moving towards a DTC model in this time of profound change as legacy businesses across all industries adopt to the new norm. (Hello and welcome to DTC - you’re in the right place 😉).

This is why product creation is a major initiative for Nice Kicks in 2021.

Services and products are investing so heavily in content that it only makes sense that content websites are looking to create products.

⚙️ Mechanics of a content machine 

Bottom line: revenue through content isn’t as easy to come by as it used to be - unless you have a great web and social presence.

While the majority of Nice Kick’s audience is on social (hello 4.1M followers) their revenue is generated from their website through banner media, retargeting media, and affiliates. They offer traffic with high purchase intent which they then direct to products. They also communicate with their audience over social/email/ and text. 

Monetizing on social media is a tricky game as even the most viral posts seen by millions don’t easily equate to cash money directly. Yes, they get more algorithm juice and exposure but financially the compensation isn’t there. 

Matt suggests that social monetization works best through brand partnerships when the products align perfectly with your audience. When building content, keep in mind what products are in your wheelhouse and go all in on deals that fit. 

Tailoring content for your audience’s audience

While 63% of Nice Kicks following is based in the US - their number 2 market is China. This requires the Nice Kicks team to create content with awareness of the Chinese market in mind - while maintaining the American voice and position associated with the Nice Kicks brand. 

Matt’s number one content tip? You have to give people what they’re looking for.

👟 2021 Predictions

  • We’re going to see economic shake-ups resulting in people buying more for purpose and value than aesthetics and clout. Brands that deliver value and versatility are going to win.  
  • White leather and leather shoes on the up (think low top 80s style basketball shoes)
  • Look at denim to know where the fashion world is headed (apparently back to the 60’s with all the bell bottoms we’re seeing) 👖

Listen to the full pod, or watch it here for thoughts on the sneaker resale market, a sneaker aesthetic deep dive, tales from early aughts sneaker e-commerce and some intel on up and coming Nice Kicks projects. Speaking of - be sure to check out Nice Kicks’ new Small Town Sneakerhead series.

Level-up your CTA game in 3 simple steps

Jake from the Pilothouse team is back with more shared learnings!

This time he’s tackling copy with this helpful infographic to up your CTA game and capture those conversions:

DTC Podcast Guest Catchup

We love to see our friends in DTC crush it. Our interview with Chris Meade from CROSSNET was one of our first and they were doing so well then.

Well done sir! 

What’s your brand going to accomplish in 2021?!

Things We Loved This Week

📈 Fastest Growing DTC: Our friends at Morning Brew gathered the top 15 fastest growing DTC brands in 2020. Check out the ad libraries of EACH of these brands: Youth to the People, Nonda, Cuup.

🎶 The Best Of Best Of’s - It’s that time of year, where the roundups, best of’s and years in review start rolling in. If you’re looking for new tunes (or want to see if your 2020 favourites made the cut) take a read at these Best Albums of 2020 lists from Vulture, Rolling Stone, and Consequence of Sound. (or if you’re into psychedelic rock and minimal house, check out Eric’s Spotify Top Songs of 2020.)

📌 Pinterest’s 2021 Predictions - You may have already picked this up from our wellness piece, but Pinterest produced a beautiful infographic “not-yet-trending” report with their predictions for 2021. It’s worth a click through as 8 out of 10 of their 2020 predictions came true! Looking for more 2021 trend reports? Take a read of Youtube’s Trend ReportDieline’s 2021 Trend Report on upcoming design trends and Klear’s State of Influencer Marketing 2021 Report

🦕 Struggling Giant: This week Coca-Cola announced massive restructuring and the unfortunate layoff of over 2000 employees. Coke is a good example of a CPG company who has so far been unable to pivot their DTC strategy well enough to compensate for their massive real world losses of restaurants, attractions, and theatres. Based on personal observations, people’s appetites for fizzy water don’t seem to be slowing down, though sugar is still enemy number one. In Coke’s decline, DTC opportunity hovers.

🥤 A Different Kind of Pop Culture - Take a read of this interesting inside baseball breakdown of the historic 1982 launch of Diet Coke (Rockettes and all).

🚨 New Feature Alert - LinkedIn has added a Products tab for Company pages to, “spotlight product endorsements and testimonials by [their] users, gather ratings and reviews from current users, and generate leads with a custom call-to-action button, such as a demo request or contact sales form.” LinkedIn also plans to launch a services marketplace in the future. 

💻 More like YOUTHTube - ( ← I know… I need help) 2020’s top-earning YouTube star was 9-year old Ryan Kaji who made $29.5 mill USD, has 41.7 million subscribers and 12.2 billion views. Billion. With a B. His channel is home to DIY science experiments, and reviews of new toys - but this bulk of his business comes from his Ryan’s World product line. Take a read through the rest of Forbes’ Highest Paid YouTube Stars of 2020. 

🪐 The Great Conjunction: Check out some of these stunning photos of the total alignment of the two biggest planets in Earth’s solar system so they appear to look like one giant star. This last happened in 1221 and won’t happen again until 2080, so make sure you get outside one of these frosty evenings and take a look. 

🚬 Smoking Design Inspo: On Twitter @vanschneider cautiously points out that cigarette packaging design was way ahead of its time: “Endless inspiration on colors, layout, composition and typography.” 

🐝 Bees a buzzing - Bloomberg has reported that dating app Bumble is seeking a February public offering and could seek a valuation of up to $8 billion. The dating app where women make the first move was founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd, a cofounder of Tinder.

🤳 Walmart x TikTok: Last week Walmart announced that it will run a first of its kind “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular” collaboration with TikTok. Ten TikTok creators are to be showcased in this variety show, wherein all displayed products are shoppable within TikTok. This event is also part of Walmart’s move to acquire a stake in TikTok, as part of the former’s broad e-commerce strategy. 

❤️ Home for the Holiday: Cheerios brought the nostalgia with a new holiday campaign reprising a famous 1999 Christmas commercial that reemerged thanks to TikTok influencer Cori Spruiell

🐦 Tweet: @Awilkinson shares his thoughts on the 4 types on entrepreneurs and dives into what makes each tick:

1. People who try, give up, and get a job

2. People who get overwhelmed or comfortable, and stop growing Scales (lifestyle)

3. People who grow steadily, year after year Chart with upwards trend (compounders)

4. People who blitzscale (venture)

Which are you and which do you want to be in 2021?

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