This is a PPC case in the erotic products sector: sometimes successful, sometimes very challenging. Promoting this such areas is not easy: Google blocks ads and imposes many restrictions on launched campaigns.

Google Ads


Service

Sex shop


Topics

Ukraine


Region of application

Client

We don’t mention the client company’s name for ethical and business reasons, but this case reflects the difficulty of promotion in such spheres.

In June 2023, a well-known sex shop approached Marketing Link. The previous agency had set up campaigns in Google Ads, but then the ads only worked for two months. So, we had to outperform our market colleagues.

With the previous agency, the client worked with a budget of $650, from which sales were $1150. With us, the advertising budget increased to $1250, from which we made sales of $5500.

We offered the client comprehensive marketing — SEO and PPC. However, we immediately considered that PPC promotion for the sex shop sphere would be a challenging task.

Now get ready, because in this case, we will share the intricacies of promoting a sex shop: what curiosities and difficulties we encountered.

Монтажная область 11

Goals:

✓ increase leads and profit;
✓ avoid blockages.

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Tasks:

✓ set up and optimize ads;
✓ increase traffic;

✓ make the brand more well-known.

Results

by 2.5 times


Increased the effectiveness of ad campaigns

from 176% to 442%


Increased ROAS

The process of working

A sex shop is a sphere for promotion on Google where getting your advertising account blocked is very easy. Therefore, we started launching new campaigns cautiously, focusing on optimizing those that were working.

Strategy

First and foremost, we understood that we would not launch shopping campaigns: advertising for adult products is restricted in Google Merchant Center. Therefore, we focused primarily on search.

We conducted an account audit, looked at which advertising campaigns were already working, and identified which campaigns were missing.

We chose the following promotion strategy:

  • Brand search. The client’s company is relatively new to the market, but they are working very well on their brand. Therefore, we get the most conversions at lower costs (compared to other campaigns) for brand keywords.
A case study of RRS in the field of erotic goods
  • Brand name listing campaign. We set up campaigns for priority brands such as Svakom, Satisfyer, Tenga, and Pjur. The advantage of such campaigns is that the potential buyer already knows exactly which brand or model they want: this way, they are closer in the sales funnel to making a purchase.
  • Category Search Campaign. Campaigns for vibrators, lubricants, anal stimulators, masturbators.
  • Search for competitors. There are big competitors in the market, some of whose hot traffic we have captured.

Tactic: Ad account optimization

After determining the strategy and launching campaigns, we moved to the next stage: improvement.

Negative keywords

In search terms for the erotic sphere, there will always be more “noise” than in others because searchers have room for fantasy. People searched for: “how to choose a lubricant”, “buy lubricant in a pharmacy”, “stimulator against prostatitis”, etc. We excluded such queries and conducted cross-negation, for example, in campaigns for vibrators, we added Satisfyer vibrators to the negatives because we made a separate search for all Satisfyer brand products.

Most surprising are search queries like “DIY vibrator” 😃

Google Ads for erotic products

Changing bid strategies

We explored which strategy search campaigns would work best with. Initially, we launched all campaigns with a manual bidding strategy and an average bid suggested by the keyword planner.

how to promote a sex shop on Google

However, for example, the vibrator campaign did not receive enough clicks and conversions with this strategy. Therefore, we decided to test Maximize Conversions.

Comparing the month before and after the strategy change, conversions began to appear, and the campaign’s profit increased from 0 to nearly $125.

Problems of promoting erotic products in Google and advertising

Of course, the strategy eventually exhausted itself, and we looked for other ways to improve.

Campaign restrictions

For the erotic sphere, restrictions in Google Ads are common. Our team was no exception to this fate, so these two issues most frequently disrupted our efforts.

#1: moderately limited ads

After publishing the campaigns, all ads acquired the status of “Moderately Limited”. This is due to the specificity of this sphere in contextual advertising. The ads are shown to a limited number of users: adults aged 18+ who are intentionally looking for sexually explicit content, and the laws of the individual’s location do not prohibit this.

blocking a sex shop on Google what to do

Despite such campaign status, we still received impressions and conversions.

#2 problem: disapproved ads

Next, things got really interesting—Google started disapproving ads in some campaigns, and as a result, traffic began to drop.

Reason: Violation of advertising rules related to birth control and reproductive health products.

rejected ads in Google advertising for the erotic sphere

We analyzed that the campaigns in which Google disapproved the ads were leading to the homepage of the site. These were four campaigns: brand search, competitors, general keywords like “adult store”, and display remarketing. We assumed that Google might not like the homepage, so we decided to change the landing page to the catalog page immediately.

We filed an appeal, which Google partially approved but also partially rejected: some ads became acceptable with restrictions, while others were still disapproved.

how to set up Google ads for a sex shop marketing case study

We assumed that the issue was not with the URL of the homepage. The ads that Google seemed to have approved and removed the “disapproved ” status still ended up being disapproved over time.

For us, it was important that the ads did not have the “Birth Control” status but were only “Moderately Limited”. With such a status, they would not be rejected, traffic would flow, and we could maximize the campaigns.

So, we conducted various tests for four campaigns:

  1. For the “adult store” search campaign, we changed the link from /katalog/ to /seks-igrushki/.
  2. In the brand search, we changed the link from /katalog/ to /#test.
  3. In the search on competitors, we resubmitted the ads for moderation by changing the URL for a few minutes to /smazky-sprei-ta-kremy/ and then back to the homepage.
  4. In the display remarketing, we resubmitted an appeal for the rejection of the ads.

Of course, none of the above helped. Conclusion: if an ad acquires the “Birth Control” status even once, it can no longer be removed (except for global changes on the site). This status “sticks” to the ad, it gets rejected, and no changes help.

We conducted another fifth test: we made copies of the old ads and deleted the old ones. This is necessary so that the ads in the campaign would get new IDs, and Google would start checking them from scratch. Bingo, it worked! The ads became “clean” for Google. Now, we constantly monitor the statuses of all ads and if we find any rejected or with the “Birth Control” status.

#3 problem: ban on display campaigns 

Appeals for rejected ads in display remarketing didn’t help. We decided to try expanding the campaign and turned it into a display targeting with four directions:

  • Based on interests. We created a custom audience segment: people searching on Google for sex shop, adult store, toys 18+.
  • Based on keywords. Added the same keywords to the display keywords.
  • Based on competitors. Targeted those who visit websites similar to competitors’ sites.
  • Based on similar users. Targeted those who visit websites similar to ours.

The “Birth Control” status disappeared, the ads were not rejected, but the campaign still did not generate traffic. The reason is that displaying ads with sexual content in the display network is prohibited, so this campaign was simply turned off and we stopped trying to save it. There’s nothing to be done because those are the rules.

Vlad Taran

Expert Comment

Besides the constant restrictions and ad disapprovings in Google Ads, we also encountered the banning of some keywords. Google either did not bring traffic through them, even with sufficient frequency and high bid, or simply wrote an error when trying to add them to the advertising campaign.

We found a solution to this problem as well: instead of using the keyword directly, which could trigger Google, we used its synonym. For example, instead of “sex toys”—”adult toys”, necessarily in the phrase match type, which helped to actually appear by the needed primary search query.

Vlad Taran, marketer in marketing.link

Results

For all e-commerce clients, we primarily focus on the average ROAS across the account. Our client also operates in e-commerce, but we consider the specific features of the industry. The account is set up with only search campaigns, which are not directly aimed at sales through the shopping cart.

Some orders are placed by phone, others through the website cart. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on the Cost Per Lead (CPL) conversion price.

The average actual ROAS for the last four calendar months across the account averages around 400%: as noted, the branded campaign performs the best.

ROAS > 442%

Problems of promoting erotic products in Google and advertising
Nick Lukashuk CEO marketing.link

Expert Comment

According to Google Trends, the demand for adult products in Ukraine has increased over the past two years.

As the market grows, there are more opportunities for advertisers. Since the field is specific and niche, most sellers compete for a narrow cluster of high-frequency queries like “sex shop”, thereby overheating the cost per click and competition.

In this industry, I would recommend focusing on niches and concentrating on brands, specific manufacturers, product features (filters, categories, etc.). Pay special attention to keyword research for ads.

A big advantage of the erotic industry is the strong LTV, as the hardest part is making the customer place their first order — after that, they tend to return. On the other hand, to ensure a high LTV, you need skilled, responsive, and understanding consultants.

We managed to make advertising profitable from the first month and the first purchase with our client. However, based on our experience (over 10 projects) in this industry, on average, a customer makes 3-4 purchases a year. Thus, every customer acquisition from advertising is an investment in repeat purchases through other channels (direct, email, SMS, social media, etc.).

Even if Google Ads operates on the edge of profitability, it will still be profitable for the erotic industry, provided that loyalty retention channels are well-developed and the client has experienced consultants.

Mykola Lukashuk, CEO marketing.link

Plans

  • We aim to create a Merchant Center without linking it to the ads account and initially upload a less sensitive product category. After passing the moderation and if approved, we plan to test shopping campaigns;
  • We will scale those campaigns that deliver the best results.

Conclusions

Working with erotic topics is as delicate as the topic itself. Blocks and ban can come at any moment, and adding new ads or keywords must be done very carefully. However, this field is gaining popularity in Ukraine. This is facilitated by several factors: the audience’s awareness and the fact that sex gadgets can help relieve stress.

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