How I'm using Etsy promoted listings + ads in my shop


In the last couple years, Etsy has added an advertising component to their platform, allowing shop owners to purchase paid advertising space to show up higher on search results pages. They’re called promoted listings or sometimes, Etsy ads. This can be a controversial topic sometimes – do they work or are they a waste of money?

When I first started out selling printable planners, I gave Etsy promoted listings a try for about a week, and I barely broke even - meh. Then, in December 2016, I decided to dip my toes in again. Etsy had recently redone their promoted listing section allowing for a lot more customization + tracking, so you can really know how your ads are doing, what’s working, and what’s not working. I decided it might be time to test the waters again, so I challenged myself to a month of ads with weekly changes to see how different settings performed for my shop.

I called it my Etsy Ads Challenge, and I sent out my findings each week to my email list. And what was the profit after that experiment? A whopping $5.36! BUT, I learned a ton during that month, figured out what factors to… what’s the word… factor into my ad choices, and some other tips + tricks along the way. Since then (8 months later), I’ve continued to play around with Etsy ads in my shop, and I’m pretty happy with a system I’ve landed on to keep their performance in tip top shape. Here’s an overview of how they’ve been performing:

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As you can see, that only averages out to about $54 per month in profit, but I’ve obviously got a few months of not-so-great results, and after some tweaks, the sales picked up. Nearly half of that profit was in the last two months, so I’m hoping I’m on to something 😉 And over 172,000 new impressions (people seeing my product in a search results page) and over 3,000 new clicks into my shop is definitely something I’m thankful for. I feel like I have a better handle on my ads now, and plan to continue chugging along with them throughout the rest of the year.

In this post, you’ll get an overview of some of my findings with ads, but a full break down of my 4-week ads challenge + continually updated advice on using Etsy ads is included in my online course, Etsy on Autopilot.

3 variables to test with your Etsy promoted listings

After all this experimenting and testing and sometimes throwing spaghetti at the wall, I’ve figured out that this whole ads things depends on a few different variables – three to be exact...

1. Promoted Products — which products you’re turning on ads for
2. Bids — the amount you’re willing to pay for a click (can be automated or custom)
3. Daily Budget — maximum amount to spend per day on your ad clicks

The point of breaking it down into these three variables is this — only experiment with ONE at a time. If you’re playing with automated bids vs. custom bids, make sure you keep the other two variables the same the whole time so you know for sure that the changing bid types are what are effecting your results. It’s not bulletproof (during my 4-week experiment, the holidays messed with my outcomes for sure!), but it definitely makes your results more accurate.

One more factor to consider is time. For my 4-week challenge, I only gave myself one week between changing my settings, and I’d honestly recommend testing settings for longer to be sure they’re given enough time to “stick”. I’d suggest 2 weeks of testing per change you make. So with 3 factors to test, you could be testing ads for a couple months. That sounds like a lot, but if it gives you a definitive answer as to whether ads would work for you or not, I’d say that’s worth it. I just talked with a friend the other day who uses ads year-round, and she makes back 4x what she spends in a year – that could be game-changing for your shop, right?!

What’s my current strategy after 9 months of experimenting?

Push all of your ad budget towards your top 1-3 best selling products.

The months where my profit margin was the highest were the months where I had ads running only to 1 or 2 products – my two top grossing products, the Online Business Planning Kit and the Wedding Planning Kit. Months were I added in other products to the mix ended up bringing all my numbers down, and the ads just didn’t perform as well.

In the last 8 months, I’ve had 60 sales that were made directly from ads. Of those 60, 28 clicked in on my Online Business Planning Kit ad, and 26 clicked in on my Wedding Planning Kit. So do some quick math, and you’ll see that only 6 of those sales were from any other kit besides those top two. That’s 90% of my ad revenue coming from these two kits! So you better believe I’m keep ads turned on for those at all times :)

This even works great with a small budget – I continually keep mine hovering around $3 per day; pretty small compared to the maximum $10 per day. Even during weeks when I bumped it up to $5 per day, it didn’t make much difference in sales.

What am I still experimenting with now?

One thing I’m still playing around with is seasonal products, and turning on ads for those products in the weeks leading up to their typical high sales season. For example, my classroom + teacher kits usually sell the most during the summer. So I started pushing ads to those products in June, but they actually fell flat, and I only got 2 sales from those promoted listings. I was a little bummed, but it’s keeping me on my toes for the next seasonal product I’m excited to experiment with – my holiday kits. I plan to turn on ads for these in late October, gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’ll complete a full year of trying out Etsy promoted listings, so maybe I’ll be due for a full recap!

If you’ve never played around with ads on Etsy, I definitely recommend you test the waters with their new system, it could end up being really beneficial to know whether or not this Etsy marketing strategy will work for your shop. Ads on Etsy will perform differently for different industries, so there’s no way to know for sure if they’ll work for you without testing them out. So why not, right?! Go for it.

Your turn

How are you using promoted listings + ads in your Etsy shop? Any interesting experimentation going on + specific strategies you found that work for your shop?

Wanna learn how to sell digital downloads on Etsy?

Beginners guide to selling digital products on Etsy as passive income – Etsy on Autopilot Ebook by Paper + Oats

My quick-start guide, Etsy on Autopilot, is your beginner’s step-by-step plan to turning your passion and skill set into a profitable, automated online shop, harnessing the existing audience on Etsy. Whether you’re new to Etsy or new to digital products, Etsy on Autopilot gives you the tools, resources, and know-how to confidently create + sell a digital product that your audience can’t help but love and buy – on a platform they already trust.

If you're curious about selling digital products on Etsy, this PDF guide is your ticket to getting there. It’s normally $79, but I’d love to send you all of Lesson 1 for FREE (12 pages), is that cool? It gives you good an introduction to selling digital products in general (including a list of 50 digital product ideas!), as well as an introduction and tour of the Etsy platform.

Lesson 1 is one me, friend, just drop in your email below and I’ll send it to you!


Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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