Travis Zigler of Profitable Pineapple Ads Explains the 80/20 Rule for PPC

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For this episode of Expert Connect, I spoke with Travis Zigler, CEO of Profitable Pineapple Ads, about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising approaches and strategies. This episode was recorded at Prosper Show 2022 in Las Vegas. Watch or read our conversation below.

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Jason Chan: I’ve been following you for the past probably two years. Ever since Covid-19, there’s a lot of online summits out there. And you’ve just been speaking about a lot of PPC advertising. I love geeking about that. So for those who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about you, and how you got started on Amazon.

Travis Zigler: Brief background—I’m Dr. Travis Zigler. I’m actually an eye doctor by trade. Graduated optometry school in 2010, practiced for a little while. Did the entrepreneur thing. Didn’t like working for somebody else, so I actually stopped practicing for my uncle. We quit our jobs, we moved across the country to South Carolina from Ohio.

And then we started two practices. When you start a practice, it’s a lot slower than when you work for an established practice. So I was seeing one patient an hour instead of six. That led to boredom, which entrepreneurs—idle hands, we don’t like idle hands. So then I started an online company called Eye Love with my wife, and we took Amazing Selling Machine, which is a course that teaches you how to sell on Amazon. We started out as a sunglass company, and then shifted to a dry eye company.

JC: While working at your practice.

TZ: Yep. So in the mornings, two hours, we’d work on the company, we’d go see patients for about eight hours, come back home, two more hours, we’d work on the business online. And that ended up scaling a lot faster than our practices were. Our practices were growing. They were doing great, but we ended up selling those, going full time at Eye Love in 2018, and it’s been great ever since. And then in 2021, we actually exited Eye Love, and we’re going to be on it until next year, and then we might even be on it until 2026 still.

JC: Have you launched any other new brands or products since then?

TZ: Just the agency.

JC: Let’s dig into a little bit about PPC. I love PPC. How would you launch a product now? It’s probably different nowadays compared to when you first launched. You manage multiple clients, right? How do you launch them now with PPC?

TZ: So the number-one thing you can do to launch a product with Amazon PPC actually has nothing to do with Amazon PPC, and it’s all about building an audience. You have to build an audience of raving fans of people that have a problem that your product solves, which means don’t launch the plastic widgets from China anymore. Find a person that you really want to serve, and serve them, and you don’t have to worry about all the hacks of PPC.

Now with that being said, Amazon PPC, we focus on the 80/20. There’s 20% of search terms and keywords that are going to produce 80% of your results. Really finding those search terms and keywords, and then honing down on them and then doubling down on them. That’s the biggest thing we do in the agency. When we take over an account, we actually just clean up their PPC. It’s the number-one thing we do, because they’re going after a thousand keywords in a campaign or they’re going after just too many keywords.

I just did an audit of an account and they’re like, “Yeah, our PPC is doing great, we’re spending $17,000, making $40,000.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.” High-end product, okay ACOS [advertising cost of sales] for what their margins are, and I know their margins. And I did an audit of it, and $1,000 of that spend is producing $40,000. $16,000 of it, producing nothing.

JC: And probably all branded, right?

TZ: All branded. All the non-branded terms just didn’t convert, and it’s because it’s a $300 product. It’s a high-end product, but their agency was telling them that “We’re doing a great job. We’re hitting your ACOS targets.” But they’re wasting a ton of spend. We see that all the time, not quite that extreme, but we see that all the time with wasted ad spend, and just people going after too many keywords. So what we really do is focus on the 80/20. And then when it comes to launching, it’s just finding the search terms that people aren’t going after and really focusing on those, versus the big search terms that everybody’s going after.

JC: What else do you audit on, at a high level?

TZ: Mostly just search-term report. When we’re taking on a new client, we can get a lot of data from the search-term report. And just looking at the sales that come from three or more orders, from one to three orders, and then from, of course, zero orders. That’s how we really break down our auditing process. Then we’ll jump into their account after that, after the initial phone call, and just kind of go through things.

JC: What do you do in terms of on- and off-Amazon advertising? Do you do any Google advertising?

TZ: We do a lot.

JC: You are using the brand attribution tags and everything?

TZ: Yep.

JC: What’s your methodology in doing that? Do you use the same campaign structures, same keywords you’re trying to rank for?

TZ: Yeah, so we do both. There is a place for using the same search terms and keywords that you use on Amazon, off Amazon, but those are usually very product based. Amazon is a search query, and people are going there to buy. They’re not going there to browse. People are going to Google to browse, maybe buy, but they’re in a different state of mind. So when you’re on Google bidding, you should focus on the problem—going back to audience-building—that your product solves.

One of the ways that we built not only the agency, but also my brand Eye Love, was that we took the problem that our product solves. We’d build a small little blog post about it, and we drive traffic around the problem, not around the product. Then that served as a warm-up page, and you’re pre-selling them. Then we use an attribution link. Back when we started this 2017, it was an Amazon Associates link. But now you can do attribution links with—

JC: Can you do both? I don’t think you can do both now, right?

TZ: I don’t think you need to do both, because you get 10% for the attribution. I think there is a way to combine them, but I wouldn’t try it. So we’re driving Google Ads traffic to a post about the problem the product solves, and then over to Amazon. We’ve been coming out with one article every single week for four years now, going on five years. Unfortunately our parent company shut it down, but that’s neither here nor there. But that’s the strategy we use for both the agency, to build leads, because we’re getting them on our blog. We get a pixel, we get an email address—because we have an opt-in form—and then we can remarket to them.

Then we shoot them over to Amazon to buy. The reason we don’t keep them on our Shopify store—Shopify stores convert at 1-3%. Amazon converts—one of our products converts at 50%. So it’s a no-brainer. We’re just trying to get the sale. We’ve already got the pixel, we’ve already got the email address, we’ve already got everything else.

So we do a lot with Google Ads. I think we were spending close to $50,000 a quarter on Google Ads, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is when you’re just doing it to the blog. And then a little bit of Facebook ads. Facebook ads is even harder than Google because Google, they’re actually searching for something. Facebook, you’re trying to interrupt. So conversion rate is going to be lower, but we still use it for retargeting. They’re on this blog post, let’s get them over to this blog post. So again, another warm-up page. And then we also use Google and Facebook to go direct as well, for like product-based keywords. Makes sense?

“Amazon is a search query, and people are going there to buy. They’re not going there to browse. People are going to Google to browse, maybe buy, but they’re in a different state of mind. So when you’re on Google bidding, you should focus on the problem—going back to audience-building—that your product solves.”

—Travis Zigler, Profitable Pineapple Ads
JC: Yeah, it makes sense to me. I totally get it. I’m in there, digging around, every single day. Should we talk about campaign structures just a little bit? I see accounts every day where it’s very disorganized, and naming conventions are very different. The way they structure campaigns and move, graduate, negate, optimize. What’s your process like as a seller? And as an agency?

TZ: I’m obsessed with single-keyword ad campaigns. I do it in Google, I do it in Amazon. I love it because it just gives you—when you’re at the macro level, at the campaign level—all the data that you need, almost. Not all of it, of course. Single-keyword ad campaigns—for those that are like, “Well, what’s that mean?”—it means one keyword per campaign, not per ad group, well it is per ad group too, but one keyword in a campaign and that’s it. One match type.

JC: Do you start like that from the beginning?

TZ: Very beginning. We’ll use an auto campaign. And the research that we got from the keywords, the initial keyword research, to then harvest keywords out of that. We don’t go back and negate. Some people say yes, some people say no. I think it takes time to do that—of course it takes time to do it—but it takes too much time for the return that you’re getting. And when you negate it from the original campaign, it may be bidding differently than it is on the new campaign. So if you negate it on like let’s say, the auto campaign, your discovery campaign, then you may not have as much market share, because it may be going after a $1 bid, whereas in your exact-match campaign, maybe going after a $5 bid. And so I’m a big fan of single-keyword ad campaigns.

JC: And you don’t negate.

TZ: Never negate.

JC: Do you lower your bid on the other campaigns?

TZ: No, we just let it go. Yeah, we just let it go. And that’s both in the agency and in our own brand.

JC: As an agency, I’m sure you have developed many processes. What’s your best practices in terms of what a new agency should to do?

TZ: So 80/20. It all goes back to 80/20. Clean up your campaigns. Really focus on the keywords and search terms that are working, and when you do that, you can scale. So again, going back to when we onboard somebody new, they have 30 SKUs [stock keeping units] and out of 30 SKUs, I guarantee six of them are making all the sales. 80/20 rule—20% of your products are producing 80% of your revenue, 20% of your search terms are producing 80% of your revenue. What we do is, we tell them that “We’re just going to focus on these six products. I know you have 30. But we’re going to focus on these six. We’re going to put all the budget behind this. And what that’s going to do is produce enough profit for you, that we can consider branching off into the other products.”

And—very against it. Everybody’s always against it. But when they see the results, it’s a no-brainer for them. And then they see that they have more profit on their hands, and then they see that they can come out with more products, they have more cash flow, they can advertise more. So it’s just kind of a snowball that occurs when you focus on 80/20.

And this doesn’t just apply to PPC and your products. This applies to your life. There are 20% of the activities that you’re doing for your business that produce 80% of your results. You can even 80/20 the 80/20 and go down all the way to 1% of your activity is producing 64% of your results. And that’s the same thing with products. It’s the same thing with revenue. So you really just need to focus, and when you focus, that’s when you can really take off your business, your life, your agency, whatever it is, it will take off if you just focus on that.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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