This week on The PPC Show podcast, JD is joined by Justin Brooke, Founder of AdSkills, to discuss his tactics for scaling Google Display Network campaigns that eventually got 14,000 customers.
Tune in to the podcast as we dive into:
- Justin's story of how got started out as intern running ads back in 2007
- His 5X3 method for starting out on the GDN and tactics for scaling performance
- How you can set up GDN campaigns to be as targeted as Facebook ad campaigns
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Podcast Transcript and Show Notes
Examples of Justin's 300X250 GDN ads from the episode.
AdWords Display Placements to Remove
Justin Brooke: So when you clean up the dirty traffic, you separate out your campaigns, mobile and desktop, separate them out because they're very different, and then you start adding this layered targeting. I believe you can get even more targeted than Facebook.
JD Prater: Welcome back to another episode of the PPC Show, where we interview the best and brightest in PPC advertising. I'm your host, JD Prater.
This week I'm joined by Justin Brooke, founder of AdSkills, to talk about how he got 14,000 customers using the Google Display Network. Tune in as we dive into Justin's story of how he got started out as a lowly intern running ads back in 2007, his five by three method for starting out on the GDN, and tactics for scaling performance, and then lastly how you can set up GDN campaigns to be just as targeted as Facebook.
Justin, welcome to the show, man.
Justin Brooke: Thanks for having me on.
JD Prater: Yeah, I'm pretty excited about this topic: How I got 14,000 customers from the GDN. I can already tell you everyone's ears have already perked up because it's the GDN, and no one gets 14,000 customers from the GDN.
Justin Brooke: Oh, I certainly do.
JD Prater: I like it, I like it. So before we jump into that topic man, give us a quick introduction of who Justin Brooke is, and tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Justin Brooke: Yeah, so quick version. I've been doing this about 12 years. I interned with an internet millionaire in 2007, my job was to study his giant library of courses and seminar footage and books, so I got the education of a lifetime. My job was kind of to write review articles on those things, so he could make affiliate commissions on them. In the meantime, I did get the education of a lifetime. Saw that paint traffic was something I needed, and I kind of learned that in that education. Went home, it was an unpaid internship too, so I was still broke. I took my last $60, I started a pathetic $2 a day campaign on Google Search. Actually, it was the site targeting, so it was GDN back then too, before GDN.
JD Prater: Full circle.
Justin Brooke: I forget how well GDN has treated me over my life, but man a pathetic $2 a day ad campaign doubled my money every month for 11 months, had a six figure business in ... I mean it was literally ads that took me from eating ramen noodle soups to Red Lobster, so it's just been my thing, you know. It's done well for me so I constantly study it, and that's what I do. I've had some clients have spent 10 million dollars, done really well.
JD Prater: Nice, nice. One thing that you said, that I thought was kind of interesting, was how you were an intern. Could you give us a quick little background? What made you want to become an intern doing this type of job?
Justin Brooke: I was broke. That's pretty good motivation. You know actually, it's pretty funny. So I never wanted a business, I think still to this day, I don't really want business, I just want website that pays my bills. That was what I wanted. That's what I knew what to call it. I didn't know how to call it like, I want to make money online, or anything like that. I just knew I wanted a website to pay my bills, and I'd met this guy, Russell Brunson. I'd read stuff online as you do some Google searching, and you're joining forums, and you hear about certain guys, and heard about him, saw he was offering an internship. I had previous sales experience prior to that, you know I was working in a boiler room. You know I was a dialer, I wasn't a great salesman or anything. But I used those sale skills, and I landed myself this internship, and the internship changed my life.
JD Prater: Nice, nice. That's a really cool story man.
Justin Brooke: Yeah.
JD Prater: Thanks for sharing that with us. Well, let's dive into it man. So 14,000 customers from the GDN, you gotta walk us through this process of how you got there.
Justin Brooke: I mean first, it starts, you gotta have a good offer. You can't do it without a good offer, a well tested sales funnel. I would rarely tell someone to start out with GDN, that's like the coldest traffic. But what you've got to do, what I always do, is I got a kind of method, and I call that the five by three method. It's a framework I use to start all of my campaigns, five ad groups, three ads in each.
It's real simple stuff to most pro-media buyers, and probably cringing right now as I say that, but to some of the beginners we teach in ad skills, it changes their life. They never had a structure. Most people treat it like a lottery. They just put 500 bucks in, and they hope more than 500 bucks comes out.
It's quite like a lottery, but with the five by three, you're able to test multiple segments of the market with multiple ads. And generally 80% of it fails, maybe 90% of it fails, but there's a little bit of it that wins, and that's where you know where to spend the money. So, I started there, you know and I got to ... So, the other thing is I, with my agency, maybe I wasn't great at sales, or what? But I knew that most people didn't want to touch Google Display Network, and I also knew that most people definitely didn't want to touch Google Display Network for people who had currently banned Google accounts. So, I was like that sounds like a good target market for me, and I just kind of learned how to get people unbanned, how to keep them from being banned, and I went after all the customers nobody wanted to touch it with a 10 foot pole.
And then I used this, the five by three method, to get people started. On the specific campaign that we're talking about, I was working with a financial newsletter company, Stansberry Research, they have just tremendous offers and copywriters, and so that goes a long way to helping, but the goal was to first clean up their Google account, and then second, get to 100 sales a day. With the five by three method, I was able to get there in under 30 days. You know, pause all the losers, and keep the winners, and redistribute the ad spend, you bump it up 50% every week, and you know you do the basics and you kind of get there. And I'm happy to walk through more of this, but I'm just trying to answer your question.
And then they come back to me after I get to a hundred sales a day, on this kind of like rinky dink, five ad group campaign. They said, "That was great. We want a thousand sales a day now."
JD Prater: Of course.
Justin Brooke: I was like, "Holy crap." Like a hundred sales a day was already like my trophy, I was like, "Greatest success of my life!" And now they want more to do a thousand sales a day, so I ... While my knees are knocking, but I'm on the phone so they can't tell, I'm like, "Yeah, absolutely. I could do that for you."
Go to my white board over the next couple days, and I come up with Operation Nowhere to Hide, which was basically just, what are all the possible targeting possibilities inside Google Display Network? Let's use them all. And created this giant like ... So the first one was five by three, five ad groups, three ads. By the time I was done, this was 16 campaigns, 80 ad groups, and 240 ads, and ... you know, we didn't start there. You know, we started with that little five by three, and we kind of grew, and we grew it, and grew it.
We, me ... you know, me and my wife, that's the we. We grew this thing into the beast, and we were spending $65,000 a day towards the end of it, and then it was political seasoned, and for whatever reason they had to stop the ads, you know because it had a politician in the ads, and ... But we had a good run, man, with 14,000 customers, and we got up to like 500 plus customers a day, and it was good. Happy to answer any questions.
JD Prater: Yeah, I got one for you. So you were talking about having like a really good offer.
Justin Brooke: Yeah.
JD Prater: Could you give us an example of what a really good offer is?
Justin Brooke: So Google Display Network can be very targeted, and I'm happy to talk about that. Maybe that's the next question?
JD Prater: Sure.
Justin Brooke: But, general speaking, Google Display Network is the cold, cold traffic of the internet, it's beta rats. And as my uncle will tell you, "Nobody clicks on beta rats." And I'm like, "You're right, 99.5% of people don't, but that .5% is enough to make billions of dollars off of." So ... yeah. What was the question again? Sorry.
JD Prater: Oh, no, you're good. About, what makes like a really good offer?
Justin Brooke: Oh, right, the good offer. The good offer, yeah. So it's really cold traffic, and you need to have an offer that has a broad appeal. What most people are doing wrong with GDN, is they're trying to use the same tactics that they would use for search ads, or maybe even Facebook ads. When most people are targeting a custom audience of their website visitors on Facebook, you know it's kind of easy to make that work. But in cold traffic, you can't really use jargon. They don't care about you, so the ads can't have a picture of you in it. And it has to really be about the problem the person has, or as these ads were, it started off with just a news topic.
You know, it was like catering to something that was very relevant so it got a lot of clicks in the news, it had a politician in the ads. You know, like they hired a guy to be part of the campaign. And it was very broad appeal, it was part of the news, so it was very click worthy. And then it kind of went into, and because this is going on the world right now, you should be investing in gold. And went into ... I don't know if it was gold, or if it was the stock market exactly, they have two different ... yeah. Well they have multiple newsletters, but essentially that was the offer, it's a newsletter, a yearly newsletter for like 50 bucks a year, and you get monthly writings from an expert, a legit expert, on how to better invest in gold, or how to better invest in the stock market. So that's the offer, you know it's this newsletter, it's a annual newsletter .... or a monthly newsletter, with an annual price.
So that's a pretty sexy pricing strategy, it's good information, it's legit experts. They're hiring big name people on the front end of it, so that your ads are very click worthy and people want to read the sales page. It has a lot of credibility, because it's, you know the TV personality, and then a good price on a good quality product.
JD Prater: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, so I think you get some of that, so experts is definitely key. Good value exchange is also key, nice.
Justin Brooke: Right, most people would've charged monthly for a monthly newsletter. They were charging 50 bucks for the whole year.
JD Prater: Gotcha, gotcha. So they get all the money upfront?
Justin Brooke: Yes, and you know more so it's about the backend. You know, they're selling $3,000 and higher coaching programs on the backend of that newsletter. So it's like you can buy the guy's newsletter and hear from him once a month in writing, or you can get coaching from this guy, and get like really valuable stuff for $3,000. So the $50 was really just lead gen, and then the $3,000, you know I mean they upsell as well. They would like ... You know, so there's an annual price, which was like 50 or $70, and then the upsell was like 200 bucks for lifetime access, and you get these other bonuses if you're a lifetime subscriber. But really, the profit came from these big coaching packets, and so that's why they were able to afford to be able to get the customer.
JD Prater: Cool, cool. I like it, I like it. Let's follow up on that targeting question. So that's one, so how do you go about going from basically this five by three, to what did you say, like 60 campaigns or something? And the second part I want to follow up on is ad creative, and I want to dive into that as well.
Justin Brooke: Yeah.
JD Prater: But let's start with the targeting.
Justin Brooke: Okay, so before I even get into the targeting, first thing people need to know is there are a couple of settings you need to know about, it might be hard in a podcast to explain these settings 'cause you kind of have to see where to click the buttons, but there's a couple settings in your ... it's called category exclusions, and site exclusions, you need to turn off these things, like if you don't want your ads showing on error pages, and parked pages, and I want my ads showing inside videos, and inside games. You know, I just want my ads showing on normal pages that people are reading.
So that's the first thing, kind of cleanup some of the dirty traffic, and if you don't know how to do that, that's usually where I see people not liking the GDA, it is they didn't know how to turn off the mobile traffic, or the dirty traffic, and so it wasn't working for them. If you do that, it's pretty good traffic, but then there's a couple things you could do to make it really good. Like one of the things I really like to do is, you know let's say ...
Let's talk about this newsletter for example, so a stock market newsletter. So what websites would that be good to show on? Obviously Forbes.com, Wall Street Journal, probably news sites, political sites, definitely anything that's talking about stock markets. So I'm gonna put all those in my placement targeting, but I'm not just gonna target the website, that's what most people would do, is they would just target the websites. You wanna layer your targeting so that you get even more narrow.
And so I wanna target Forbes.com, but only pages about these keywords. And so with GDN, you can target by keyword as well, and can layer the placement with the keywords. So like, for example, if I'm selling a weight loss product, I can advertise on USA Today, but only on the pages of USA Today where they're talking about weight loss, or belly fat, or lose weight, you know what I mean?
JD Prater: Mm-hmm.
Justin Brooke: And so when you cleanup the dirty traffic, you separate out your campaigns, mobile and desktop, separate them out, because they're very different, and then you start adding this layered targeting. I believe you can get even more targeted than Facebook.
JD Prater: Bold statement coming from Justin there.
Justin Brooke: I mean it ... You know, if you think about it, I'm advertising a stock market newsletter. Yeah, let's say I'm advertising a stock market newsletter about tech stocks, so my ad is showing up on the Wall Street Journal, but on a certain page you're reading that happens to be all about tech stocks. That's targeted as targeted gets.
JD Prater: That's true man. I like it. So within that, I mean did you have to go out and find these placements, or were these ones that you found as you were kind of doing your optimizations?
Justin Brooke: Well you start with the obvious stuff, and then you use some tools. You know, I use SEMrush, I use Adbeat. I think everybody knows about these tools, mostly. And then I use also, Google has a display planner, they have their G Word Planner, Display Media Planner, so I use that as well. You start with some of the obvious ones, and then that gives you suggestions, and you just build it out. I had five different categories, so like when I did my research, the customer we were going after was an elderly couple who's jaded on mainstream media and they're looking for information they can trust online, alternative sources that they can trust online, about stock markets.
And so I knew that they were hanging out on news sites, political sites, finance sites, prepper sites, and then also like gold investing, you know currency, gold charts type of sites, so that was like my five categories that I would target, and I'd create my ad groups around those things, and have keywords related to those topics, and have placements related to those topics, and interest related to those topics.
JD Prater: Gotcha, I gotcha. So was there anything surprising from any event that you've found within this campaign, or did it go smoothly, like you thought it was going to?
Justin Brooke: I don't think ... I'm still waiting for one my campaigns to go smoothly.
JD Prater: Right.
Justin Brooke: Been doing this 12 years, and I think I had like one home run. Surprising thing was when we split out the text ads, and the image ads. I had hired a buddy of mine, Tommy Powers, for consulting when I got ... I got stuck at like 200 sales a day, and I just was like, man, I need to have somebody else's eyeballs to look at this to tell me what I'm missing. So I paid him for a call, he looked over my campaigns, and he was like, "Dude, I usually split out my text ads my image ads."
And so when I did that, boom, overnight doubled sales for the customer, I looked a hero, and what it was is image ads will work, and text ads will work, but when you combine them, the image ads will... or the text does will cannibalize the image ads, because they can work in any size. They can switch their shape to 300 by 250, and 728 by 90, you know they're responsive. So when I split them out into their own campaigns, that doubled our sales, and that was a surprise.
JD Prater: That's a really good pro tip there, I like that one.
Justin Brooke: Good, good.
JD Prater: Well yeah, let's move on to ad creative. So anyone that's run GDN, we all know like, this is such a headache. And I just wanna know like, how do you approach the ad creative? Are you using Google's ad display builder? Do you look at html ads? Or in with like your text ads? Just kind of walk us through all of that.
Justin Brooke: Yeah, so our ads, I definitely don't hire any banner designers. I'm so sorry for any banner designers that are listening to this right now, they're all putting a hit out on me. The ads that I create are extremely simple, in fact if you look at the layout of Facebook newsfeed ads, and if you look at the layout of Google's new responsive ads, that's pretty much the exact same way that my ads would look. You know it's a ... the top half. Let's talk about a 300 by 250.
JD Prater: Okay.
Justin Brooke: You know like a thick square banner ad, the top half is an image, that image should either be the pain they're trying to run away from, or the pleasure they're trying to run to, you should test both. You never know what resonates more with audiences. Is this audience more trying to run away from pain, or are they trying to run towards pleasure? So top half image, high contrast, keep it simple, some diagonal lines, the human eye just can't ignore diagonal lines, can see perpendicular and vertical all day. So that's the top half.
Then you're gonna have like a heading, and that's gonna be blue. You know, the bottom half just basically looks like a text ad. You know, you're gonna have a blue headline, you know a dark gray description, little blue learn more button over in the right hand corner, and then usually you have to have some sort of branding on there as well, you should put that in the bottom left hand corner.
Everybody has seen these ads that I'm talking about. I know, because I've delivered billions of impressions, yeah, so I know people have seen these things. But that's basically what my ads look like, and that ad, you know that thing is a workhorse for me. I've tried other formats, and some of them have worked for me, but put a gun to my head and say, "You gotta create an ad that works." That's the format I'm going with.
JD Prater: Gotcha, cool, cool. One thing I kind of wanna go back to, so this one has been kind of sticking with me. So you are generating a hundred leads a day, and they're like, "I want a thousand." Right?
Justin Brooke: Right.
JD Prater: Why did you agree to that? Like, what was like did you think that they were ... Like, did you think that there was like 10X left within your campaign?
Justin Brooke: I was starstruck by the client, first of all.
JD Prater: Okay.
Justin Brooke: Wiggled my way in, they don't really hire many outside people. I mean this is a nine figure company, and they usually do everything in-house. They have their own media buyers. Wiggled my way in, because nobody wanted to touch the Google Display account, because they kind of had been slapped before, years ago. Nobody wanted to touch GDN, as you have said yourself. And so I was like, "I will." And they didn't think I would get anything. They were like, "If you can get a hundred sales a day, you know great." And so I did. But they were like, "Can you do more? A lot more?" And I said, "Yes." I didn't know if I could. One thing I knew, I knew that what got me there, to a hundred sales a day, was not gonna get me to where I needed to go. I needed a whole new system. You know? And so five by three just wasn't gonna cut it. That's great for getting started, but then you're gonna need some real horsepower.
And I was being paid percentage of spend, so a thousand sales was 10X of what I was earning right then, so heck yeah, I was onboard, I was gonna do it and die trying.
JD Prater: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, I was just like, it's one of those things. Like I think about even like in my own life, you know working at an agency or something, or even if my boss like came in right now, was like, "JD, we need a 10X, you know sales." I'd be like, "What?. Uh, no." So yeah, anyway. Yeah, thanks for that kind of like recap there.
So, just so for everyone that's listening, I'm gonna throw in some screenshots of what Justin is talking about with some of these placement categories. I can go into AdWords, I can get us some of those screenshots, and we can make sure that to kind of throw those in within the show notes there so you guys can kind of see what he is talking about. But-
Justin Brooke: And if you email me, I'll send you a couple of my ads when you [crosstalk 00:24:14]
JD Prater: Oh, nice. Let's do that, and we'll go ahead and throw that in as well, so that way you guys can see what he's talking about with those 300 by 250 ad, when he's talking, you know, top third, middle third, that kind of stuff. So-
Justin Brooke: And speaking of the 300 by 250, I always start there, 'cause that, of everything that I've run, you know it's the one that consistently brings in the most conversion. So I start there and get my messaging to work, if that works, then I rollout to all the other sizes.
JD Prater: Interesting. So you only start with that one, and then if it's ... you've got your message. So you ... Okay, hold on. Let's back it up. You start there, you find out what messaging is work, and then you roll it out to other image sizes. Do you then rollout text ads, or do you start with text ads as well?
Justin Brooke: I have started with text ads, I used to recommend people just start with text ads. I don't anymore, because it hasn't been as reliable as telling people to start with 300 by 250, and text ads. That's what I think people should do, because you know it's all about when you spend that first, usually it's 500 bucks, or 1,000 bucks, or 5,000, depends on how big the guy's pockets are, but when you spend an initial spend, you need to have as many things being tested as possible.
You want some text ads, you want some image ads, you want five different ad groups, you want three different versions of the image ads. You know, test as much as you can, because 90% of it's gonna fail, and you're looking for that 10% that's gonna win. So make sure that first spend is really worth it, and then the next spend will be ... you know, that's the goal.
JD Prater: Is that how you kind of like frame your ad spend as well, when you're kind of like testing out some stuff, you're like, "Hey, guess what? This is my initial spend, I'm gonna test a bunch of things, figure out what's working, so that way we can then ramp up spend afterwards." Is that how you kind of pitch it?
Justin Brooke: Yeah, I normally would, whatever they wanted to spend ... I don't have an agency anymore, so I'm not for hire. I have courses, I teach this stuff to people, and try to raise the next crew of agency guys. But what I used to tell my clients is, "Okay, if you wanna start out with $10,000 a month, we're gonna break that up into 20% chunks, that way you never blow the whole budget".
There's so many people I've heard, that they hire a guy, he spends all the money, and is like, "Hey, sorry it didn't work, your money's gone." I never want to create that situation for my customer, so I would break it into 20% chunks, and we would start with 20%, and if the first 20% didn't get anything at all, like there was no ad that showed signs as a winner? I would tell the client, "Well we can stop here, that way there's not a whole lot of loss."
But usually if you test enough stuff in that first 20% spend, you can come up with a couple of winners, and then we would spend the next 20% on the winners, to kind of verify our test, make sure it wasn't a fluke. And then from there we start adding all the other 20% as we start seeing the numbers are working well until we've spent all of it.
JD Prater: Nice, nice. Well man, those are some really good tips. Let's go ahead and transition to some rapid fire round here. So I'm gonna ask you a couple questions here, and you've got around like 60 seconds to answer 'em. Are you ready to go?
Justin Brooke: Yes.
JD Prater: All right. The first one I always love to start off with is, where do you turn to kind of keep up with the industry? You know, like the PPC world's always changing, do you have any favorite blogs, podcasts, people, newsletters, whatever it is man, like where do you go to keep up?
Justin Brooke: I like your blog actually, quite a bit, especially your library page, I'm always sharing that with our team. I'm like, "I want ours to look like this." I really do like what you guys have done with that. I also like PPC Hero, I like Unbalanced for the Landing Page Tips. I really like ... Man, I'm drawing a blank as to all of them right now, but I do have a list of seven places that I really like to follow, but those are the ones that scream out at me. You guys, PPC Hero, Unbalanced ... I can't think of 'em, I'm drawing a blank.
JD Prater: No worries. You got us in there, so I'll make sure to give you you're $5 later. All right. All right, let's move onto question number two. So what's something that you believe is true about paid traffic, that others find crazy?
Justin Brooke: That, paid traffic and content marketing, are gonna be the same thing soon. It's all gonna merge.
JD Prater: Interesting. Do you wanna dive into that a little bit more? I know you've got ... you've still got 60 seconds.
Justin Brooke: I've been saying it since 2012, and there's more and more evidence of it. We have whole networks dedicated to content distribution now. It's what happened to TV, and other mediums, it's gonna happen to the internet.
JD Prater: Nice, I look that one too.
Justin Brooke: How we'll be able to find your content, you'll pay for it.
JD Prater: Gotcha, gotcha. Cool, I like that one. I like it. All right man, so you've been doing this for 12 years, right?
Justin Brooke: Mm-hmm.
JD Prater: So what's something that you know now, that you wish you would've known 12 years ago?
Justin Brooke: That 90% of it's gonna fail. Yeah, it's test more. In the beginning I treated like a lottery. For a long time I watched my campaigns like hourly, I would sit there refreshing. Now, I start a campaign, I don't come back for a couple days. You gotta let the data build up, it takes time. There's algorithms involved now, just be patient, know that a lot of it's gonna fail. Test a lot, you'll get there.
JD Prater: Good advice, I like that one. And then I'll kind of wrap-up on this note. So I always like to ask all of our guests on the podcast, and so let's just say you can't do digital advertising tomorrow. Something happens, right? It just goes away. What's like a fallback job? What's something that you would want to take-up?
Justin Brooke: I'd probably be a writer. I really like writing.
JD Prater: Yeah, I like that. Before we started recording this, Justin told me, "He wrote 6,000 words this morning."
Justin Brooke: Yeah, yeah. From 4:30 AM to 10:30 AM.
JD Prater: That's crazy. So for all of us out there that have ever written a blog, and we've struggled for a thousand words in like week, this guy wrote 6,000 words, so in-
Justin Brooke: It's more 1,000. So, I had it outlined. So it ...
JD Prater: But still man, that's crazy.
Justin Brooke: It was.
JD Prater: So I definitely salute you on your pursuit to writing some more, so good stuff there. Well, it's probably a good place to kind of wrap-up, Justin, thanks for coming on the show. Where can people follow-up with you online?
Justin Brooke: Yeah, so they can go to AdSkills.com and see what we're about, what our business is about. That we're really passionate about training the next crop of media buyers, and connecting them with good businesses. We even have like a free media buyer matchmaking that we do for our customers to make sure they're getting good clients. Also, we're pretty strong on YouTube, we've got some really good content on YouTube. So if you search AdSkills on YouTube, you'll see some of our past webinars and stuff.
JD Prater: Perfect. All right, so we'll definitely make sure to include some of those links in the show notes for you guys out there.
Justin Brooke: Thanks.
JD Prater: Yeah. Justin, such a pleasure man. Thanks for coming on and sharing some of your pro tips there on the GDN, it was really, really great to kind of hear some of the different, like granular tips, so I definitely appreciate it.
Justin Brooke: Cool, no problem man.