My STORY & One Epic FAIL

So many times I’m asked of how I ended up founding True Online Presence.  Like any origin story it is a bit personal and there are things to be learned. Let me first say before I start the story that I would not change anything because as with everything in our past it is part of what makes us who we are today for which I am extremely grateful.

Okay, Now Story Time ….

For over 10 years (between 2003 – 2013), I had previously worked for an online ecommerce company, What She Buys, as the Director of Web & Marketing in San Gabriel, California.  In this position, I oversaw all online marketing as well as the daily website operations.

A rewarding experience, during my tenure, the company grew from a little under 1 million dollars in revenue to just over 9 million dollars in revenue.  The majority of the sales were attributed to the use of Google AdWords; although Amazon Seller Central was also added in late 2011.  As often happens, our advertising budget grew along with our sales going from around $100K per year to around $1M per year. 

A healthy growth, facilitated by the proper use of advanced techniques in Google, Yahoo (later Bing) and Amazon.  I’m proud to say that our accounts always showed profitable numbers for ROI, ROAS as well as other key performance indicators.

Also, through this time, I was on the front line gaining first-hand experience as the profitability of industry channels shift from first Google and Yahoo Search to then Google Shopping and Yahoo/Bing Shopping as well as the rise of Amazon Sponsored Ads.

In 2013, the company sold to investors that were currently running a pair of smaller ecommerce websites on the East Coast.  Shortly thereafter they made the decision to use their own marketing team and I was out the door.

Sad, right?  Well, not so much.   Have you ever gotten to the point where you feel like you have gotten into the same old routine and just really need a kick in the pants in order to change your direction?

Well, this is what has happened to me.  During the last 4 years since founding True Online Presence I have been able to help dozens of ecommerce and Professional Services through private client relationships grow their AdWords and Amazon sales while keeping profitable levels.Make Each Click Count - T.O.P. Guide To Success Using Google AdWords

In addition, I have been able to help many more companies through my book Make Each Click Count – T.O.P. Guide To Success Using Google AdWords, which was released in 2015.

Then, The Epic FAIL

So what happened to What She Buys you might ask?  Well, as the title might to suggest, it was one epic FAIL. 

The investors, which seemed like smart guys, in fact one even was a former publisher for a well-known ecommerce magazine . However, despite being ‘seemingly smart guys’  they quickly took a multi-million dollar profitable company for which they had paid millions of dollars to acquire and directed it into chaos. 

Today, they have bare minimal inventory (because they can’t pay their vendors); they have been evicted from the San Gabriel 15,000 foot warehouse (for lack of paying rent) and they have defaulted on many of their debts and are currently wrapped up in legal proceedings heading for bankruptcy.  As you can imagine, I have been following their story somewhat closely, after all after 10 years, the company was like one of my children.

So what happened?  How can two seemingly savvy ecommerce professionals have such issues and lose millions of dollars, their credit standings and their good names so quickly after purchasing a successful ecommerce company.  Even more importantly, what can we learn from these mistakes?

Well, I only worked with them for a few months after their purchase.  Did I mention they were my first client, hiring me back as a freelance consultant just a few weeks after we parted ways as an employer/employee?

Here are the mistakes, I know they made and what you need to make sure you avoid.

Mistake #1 – Not Knowing Your Advertising Channel

The majority of the sales were being driven by Google.  However, they didn’t have a full grasp of the Google platform or what it takes to be successful advertising with Google.  Google can be complicated, especially if you have not worked extensively within the interface or if you have not worked in Google recently. 

Google makes changes that can affect performance quickly (for instance, last month’s change to how Google handles advertiser’s daily budgets – read more about that here BLOG – Who Benefits From Google’s Recent Change To AdWords Budgets?). 

If you do not know your advertising channel and are trying to manage it yourself or maybe even worse you go and hire the cheapest Search Engine Marketing firm you can find, you are likely to turn profitable campaigns into non-profitable campaigns, sometimes as quickly as overnight!

Mistake #2 – Not Knowing Your Numbers

There are a number of key performance indicators that every advertiser using Google or any other marketing channel should know.  These KPI’s include your ROAS, ROI, CPA, CPC, CTR etc.  These key attributes are available for free by using Google Analytics; however, you need to know how to setup the Analytics code on your website and you need to know how to make sense of these numbers.

Do you know what these acronyms above stand for?  Hopefully you do.  If not, you should work on finding out what they are and why they are essential or at least work with a company who can explain what they mean, where to find them and why they are the lifeblood of you online advertising. 

Mistake #3 – Not Knowing What Your Team Members Know

So if you are a one-man shop, this doesn’t come into play, but even if you are a one-man shop hopefully you nailed #1 and #2.  Also, hopefully you have enough time to dedicate to properly managing your accounts?

If you are using someone else to run your advertising internally or outsourcing, does the person or company responsible for running your marketing really know what they are doing?

Unfortunately, one of the issues with hiring a large SEM company to manage your paid advertising is that they often use junior marketers many times just out of college with minimal experience, training them as they go.  When they get experience they then leave, taking a job in-house for a larger company or just changing careers.  Like I said it is a vicious cycle.

One of the issues with using internal personnel is that many times they do not have enough time to properly focus on the marketing.  Especially true for small to mid-size businesses such as What She Buys where employees often ‘wear many different hats’.

Also, an often seen trap especially if you have an in-house team, is do they know what they are doing?  Where we they trained? Are they spending enough time on the account optimizing?  Could it be done better?

As a rule of thumb, you should have your AdWords audited periodically at least every 18 months.

So the takeaways from my story – There are mistakes that can be easily made by even ‘savvy’ online marketers, but the good news is there is a good chance your competitors may be making them.  There is plenty of room to profit in ecommerce using online advertising and there is no reason to think that this opportunity will not continue to grow.

So what you need to ask the mirror is ‘am I putting myself in the best position to make sure I am as profitable as possible’?

If the answer is no, take a look at my special offer below or read some of my more detailed blog posts and discover how I can help you get to where you want to be with your online advertising.

Happy Marketing!

Andy Splichal


For blog readers only, I’m currently offering a copy of my book, Make Each Click Count – T.O.P. Guide To Success Using Google Marketing for just $5 with free shipping.  In addition, for a limited time, I am including a complimentary marketing strategy session ($149 value), where I will join you on a screen share/phone call reviewing your AdWords account and answering any questions that you may have on how to make your Google Campaigns more profitable.



Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist  with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.  Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.