Guide: How to Get Traffic to Your Online Store

Recently, I received an email from one of the merchants partnering with Hertwill, expressing their struggles with not only generating sales but also attracting traffic to their online store. Despite their background in retail and PR, this was their first venture into e-commerce. I inquired about their efforts to attract visitors—whether they were utilizing Google, TikTok, or Facebook ads, focusing on SEO and organic traffic, or engaging heavily in organic social media or collaborations with influencers. They admitted to not having pursued any of these strategies, which made the reason for their lack of traffic and sales evident. Simply putting your store out there isn’t enough; you must actively work to make customers find your store.

This guide is designed for merchants at the onset of their e-commerce journey, aiming to help them navigate the complexities of the online marketplace. It is particularly tailored for stores generating revenue between 0-10,000€ per month, though some strategies have been derived from stores earning up to 50,000€ per month. Regardless of your current stage, there’s something valuable for everyone here.

The insights in this guide are drawn from our firsthand experience with hundreds of online stores, observing what works and what doesn’t. We also run our own test store for Hertwill in the Estonian market, which specializes in shoe sales, providing us with additional lessons. Before starting Hertwill, I was the head of e-commerce for an Estonian book retailer, and digital marketing was one of my key responsibilities. Although I’m not a digital marketing guru, remember, whatever this guide suggests, it’s always best to play to your strengths – if SEO is your strong suit, focus there; if you’re a great copywriter, leverage that skill.

Running an online store can be broadly divided into five stages:

  1. Groundwork: This involves choosing a niche, selecting a platform, setting up the store, adding products, etc., leading up to the store going live.
  2. Generating Traffic: Once the store is live, the focus shifts to activities aimed at bringing people to your online store.
  3. Conversion Optimization: With visitors on your site and traffic flowing in, the central focus turns to how to convert visitors into buyers.
  4. Post-Purchase Activities: This includes order fulfillment, soliciting feedback, converting customers into repeat buyers, as well as handling returns and refunds.
  5. Scaling: After you have proven that the store functions well, can attract traffic, convert them into customers, and ensure operational efficiency, you can focus on scaling your business.

In this guide, we’re focusing on the second stage: the crucial aspect of driving traffic to your store once it’s live, looking decent, and trustworthy.

What else to keep in mind?

  • This guide doesn’t guarantee success; it’s more about suggesting “have you tried this? It might work.” You’ll need to experiment to see what works for your store.
  • The guide doesn’t cover the complex world of attribution—initially, the focus for the online store should be on generating traffic and sales, and assessing if your margins can sustain the costs, rather than pinpointing if Facebook is responsible for 20% or 30% of your sales. Additionally, if you’re facing challenges with the technical aspects of integrating Google or Facebook with your store, there are numerous guides available online. These topics will not be covered in this guide.
  • Traffic to your store doesn’t matter if the store doesn’t look appealing, sells subpar products, isn’t optimized for conversions, or if it’s attracting the wrong kind of traffic.
  • A healthy online store should bring in traffic and customers from various channels, so you’re not left vulnerable when Google or Facebook makes an unexpected change.


How to bring traffic to your online store?


Direct traffic occurs when someone opens their browser and types in your online store’s address directly. This is considered the holy grail for any online store, as it means visitors bypass search engines and other intermediaries to browse and shop directly from your site. However, achieving a significant level of direct traffic that positively impacts your store’s bottom line can take a long time and may not assist your store in the short term, so this shouldn’t be your focus in the early days of your store.


Facebook Ads

  1. Utilize the Facebook Conversion API. Search for “Facebook conversion api shopify” or “facebook conversion api woocommerce” to find tutorials. The Facebook Conversion API allows advertisers to send their marketing data, such as website and app actions, directly to Facebook, improving ad targeting and potentially lowering advertising costs.
  2. Build your social media presence before running ads. Having engaging content and a solid base of followers on your Facebook page and/or Instagram account is crucial. Ads tend to be less successful for stores with only a few followers. For example, one store that partnered with Hertwill burned through a few hundred Euros on Facebook ads while having no posts besides an updated profile picture, and only 4 followers on their Facebook page and 2 on their Instagram account. If customers were to check these accounts, it probably wouldn’t appear legitimate. We recommend encouraging your family, friends, and colleagues to follow your account to reach the first few hundred followers. This involves more than just inviting them to like your page; ask them in group chats, at the office, or in a bar. Interestingly, friends and family can sometimes become your first customers. Additionally, boosting organic posts for engagement and then inviting those who engaged to follow your account can be an effective strategy. Of course, you can run ads to get followers, but my recommendation is not to opt for the cheapest followers. Instead, aim for followers who are likely to be your customers and who will find your content engaging. For instance, you might be able to get likes for 0.02€ each from Georgia, but if your store targets the German market, this approach wouldn’t make sense. Furthermore, while numerous sites offer to sell Facebook likes, I strongly recommend avoiding these options, as I don’t think that practices that fall into grey areas or unethical territory are reasonable.
  3. When starting a new campaign, choose the manual option instead of the automated option that Facebook recommends.In fact, Facebook’s own marketing advisors suggest selecting the manual option for improved outcomes.
  4. When launching a new campaign, in most cases, it’s advisable to enable Advantage Campaign Budget. This feature allows Facebook to distribute your budget across active ad sets to optimize outcomes based on your performance goals. Essentially, you won’t set separate budgets for each ad set; instead, you’ll have one overall budget for the campaign.
  5. Keep your ad account structure simple. Ideally, you should maintain only 1-2 campaigns unless you’re targeting different countries or objectives (e.g., one campaign for page likes and another for sales). It may also be beneficial to create separate campaigns for distinct demographic segments, such as one targeting women with ads like “Handmade Winter Boots for Women” and another for men, “Handmade Winter Boots for Men.”
  6. Conversion campaigns for sales with catalog ads are crucial for online stores aiming to increase sales. Setting sales as the objective and using catalog ads often yield the best results for established stores, as our experience shows that catalog ads usually outperform manually created ads. However, the text accompanying catalog ads is vitally important. Tailoring texts for different product segments, even within catalog ads, is advisable—for example, Slippers and Hiking Boots should have distinct copy. Additionally, incorporating reviews in catalog ads can also significantly enhance their effectiveness.
  7. For some new online stores, a combination of Traffic ads and Remarketing for conversions has proven more effective in the early phases. Among the hundreds of stores we collaborate with, we’ve observed that people rarely make a purchase during their first visit, especially if the store is new and relatively unknown. Therefore, remarketing is crucial. However, ensure that your remarketing group isn’t too small; seeing your ad 10 times can be excessive. Don’t hesitate to set the retargeting window to include even the last 90-120 day visitors, and don’t exclude those who have just made a purchase (they might buy again). In simple steps:
    1. Start with a Traffic campaign aimed at landing page views for your target market, but keep the target group broad, avoiding narrowing it down with excessive demographic or behavioral parameters. We often see merchants starting their first campaign with a very narrow target group from the beginning, which can negatively affect the results.
    2. Follow up with a Sales campaign targeting visitors from the last 90-120 days, using catalog ads.
  8. Lookalike audiences allow you to target a similar group of people to those who have, for example, made a purchase in your store. This is advisable when your store is more mature and experiences daily purchases. Generate a lookalike audience and launch a sales campaign to engage them. In the early days, consider creating a lookalike from your website visitors. I recently read a take from a digital marketer who argued that audience targeting, including lookalike audiences, is outdated and overly specific for 2022, suggesting a broader audience approach instead. While I agree with the broad strategy, I still believe lookalike audiences are worth testing, as we’ve seen some stores achieve great results with them. Anyways, do as follows.
    1. When creating an ad set, first select “Create a Custom Audience” and choose “Website.” Next, ensure “All Website Visitors” is selected, with retention set to 60-90 days.
    2. After generating your website visitor audience, use it to create a lookalike audience by selecting “Create a Lookalike Audience.” Next, name the lookalike audience, verify the target country, choose the size of the new lookalike audience, and you’re set.
    3. Launch a sales campaign targeting the lookalike audience and assess its effectiveness.
  9. More on targeting and budgets. I can’t give a precise recommendation on how much money you should spend on Facebook ads per month, as it greatly depends on your budget and the market you’re operating in, but generally speaking, more is better 🙂 At the very least, you should have some budget to spend. Often, we see merchants rely on their intuition to set a very precise target for their ads, then start with a low budget and try to get their campaigns running, aiming directly at the most precise expected customer profile. I would recommend doing the exact opposite: keep the target group a bit broader and set the budget higher for the learning phase, then (if necessary) lower the budget later. This approach allows Facebook more freedom to learn what brings results and what doesn’t, enabling a quicker exit from the learning phase. And when you start to reduce the budget, Facebook will have a better understanding of how to achieve your objectives. But again, it all depends on your overall budget. Keep in mind that there is always a learning phase, as explained by Meta: “The learning phase is the period when the delivery system still has a lot to learn about an ad set.” In simple terms, when you launch a new campaign, it won’t achieve its maximum effect immediately, and if you shut it down after just two days, it’s hard to conclude whether it was effective or not. However, while Meta advises advertisers to see the learning phase through to completion, it’s wise to approach this suggestion with caution. Understand that an ad set failing to generate conversions or suffering from a high Cost Per Purchase isn’t guaranteed to improve performance simply by reaching Active status from Learning status.
  10. Take the results that Facebook shows you in the ad manager with a grain of salt. They are not 100% accurate, not even 90%. But in this guide, we won’t delve into the complex world of attribution. My advice would be to simply use Facebook’s own data to compare which ads, visuals, and messages perform better, while monitoring overall ad spend and incoming sales and margins at the same time. We’ve seen some set up simple Google Sheets to track their ad spend on Facebook, Google, etc., and revenue and earned margins, but even this might be overkill in the beginning. In short: don’t get too caught up in the details at the start of your e-commerce journey.
  11. Copy and Visuals – They Both Matter. The initial goal of most ads is to halt the scrolling even for just a brief moment, and you can achieve this with both visuals and copy (not with music). Here, I particularly want to stress the importance of ad texts – we’ve seen so many merchants run Facebook ads with awful texts, texts that lack meaning, or are filled with very generic messages or spelling mistakes. So, please take the time to craft great visuals and copy for your ads, but also ensure they match the products in your store and the link you are using in the ad. As you are operating a new online store and targeting a niche market (you are not competing with giants like Zalando or About), it might be more crucial to be loved by a few, so I advocate being bold and not being afraid if most don’t like your copy or it doesn’t speak to them. If you sell awesome products, your copy and visuals need to express that (but please, avoid using “awesome” too much). Be bold and somewhat crazy – try different things!
    1. Collect your ad text and visuals somewhere, at least the best-performing ones – e.g., Google Sheets. You’ll use them across different channels, and it’s nice to have one spot to copy-paste from.
    2. Browse Facebook Ad Library to get ideas and see what your competitors are doing. Focus especially on ads that have been running for a long time; there’s a good chance these are the most successful ones.
    3. Explore what top industry experts are recommending by reviewing collections of the best ads. I highly recommend Karola Karlson’s blog post, which showcases the top 200 Facebook ad examples. Karlson is the former marketing and branding manager at Bolt.
    4. Try different things – you think you know what works, but you’re probably wrong. Whenever Facebook offers to insert multiple headlines or primary texts, use that opportunity, but also be reasonable. If your budgets are low, don’t create hundreds of variations. The same goes for having too many different ad sets, not only ads and texts in the ads. Producing a large number of ads and ad sets while having limited budgets means the delivery system gains less insight into each individual ad and ad set compared to when you create a smaller number of them.
    5. Dynamic Creative is great for testing multiple creatives at the same time. Some have run a dynamic creative campaign to see what works best and then taken the best-performing creatives to a so-called “winner ad”. Some pros recommend using dynamic creative so you test one variable (target audience, videos, images, headlines, ad copies) in each ad set, but it might be overkill in the early phase.
    6. Use AI tools like ChatGPT or DallE for help, but please, please, please don’t use just generic AI content. I will throw up if I see one more time an ad text (or headline on a website) that starts with “Elevate your style..”.
    7. User-generated content and reviews rule. According to a Stackla report, user-generated content is 8.7 times more impactful than influencer content. And user-generated reviews, photos, videos, blog posts, comments, shares, and likes are seen as three times more authentic than brand-created content. It’s more convincing if your customers say how good your products are instead of you telling them. If you already have user-generated content and have approval, use it everywhere. If you don’t and are just starting your online business, follow up on every order and ask the customer if they are happy with it. If you get positive feedback, ask if you can use it. If the feedback is not favorable, at least you learned something. In the early days of our shoe store, Saapavabrik, we wrote to every customer asking if they were satisfied and, in case they were, asked if we could use their comment in the store, ads, and social media. Some of this feedback we’ve used as content for more than 2 years, and it still works. There are many solutions that enable automating the post-purchase experience, including asking for reviews, but asking them with a regular person-to-person email works better.
    8. If you have a great review, try it as text in an ad, but you can also try placing it on a background and using it as a visual and accompanying it with a text that says something like “What our customers say about us”. We saw one store make a successful carousel ad where there were 10 positive reviews in a row – showing what clients say about them. The most successful ads we’ve seen often include customer reviews.
    9. If you sell products provided by Hertwill, you also have access to reviews from real customers for some products, which you can use until you have your own reviews. You’ll find the reviews in the product pages when you check out products on our catalog.
    10. Questions often work – e.g., if you sell boots manufactured in Europe, try copy that says “Would you prefer boots that are manufactured here locally by local craftsmen or overseas? We prefer local, and hence all our boots are made here in Europe”.
    11. Highlight obvious values or even those required by law (e.g., guarantees, returns, etc.) – many users don’t know this, and it could be the necessary last nudge to convince them to make a purchase.
    12. Carousel ads format works great, although a bit time-consuming to create. For example, we recently created a carousel ad for our own Saapavabrik shoe store that showcases the top 10 shoes we sell, and the primary text accompanying the ad says “Here are our top 10 bestsellers”. Carousel ads might also be a good way to showcase different categories or brands you offer.
    13. If you are new in the market with your store, you can also try using ad copy that says something along the lines that your store is now open or better “store x is now in Sweden (or whatever your target country is). Even when your store isn’t anywhere else, it makes your store look like a bigger player than it really is.
    14. If you are offering some brands that are already a bit known in the market you are targeting, promote these brands in ads, as they are familiar to people and they apply some familiarity also then to your store.
    15. If you sell European brands that Hertwill offers, please use the strengths and unique values that these brands have, don’t advertise them just as regular products. If they are made in Europe, tell that in your ads. If they have won some awards, mention that. If they are unknown brands themselves but have collaborated with bigger brands or influencers, use that. Remember, you are not selling only a product, but a story.
    16. Rhymes work – it sounds silly, but if you come up with a good rhyme, try it; they stand out in the feed. Richard Shotton talks about the power of rhymes in marketing in his book “The Illusion of Choice,” and one example he brings is a slogan from the beginning of the 20th century in the US during the influenza pandemic which is still remembered: “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases.”
    17. Offers and discounts also work on Facebook ads. Although we are not big fans of discounts and are not doing any in our test store, Saapavabrik, they often work. You can also try remarketing for visitors or people who have added items to the shopping cart that the code “XXXX” will give X% discount or free shipping.
    18. Video still rules – if you have the skill, try to create some videos. Or even if you don’t have the skill, still, take some time and go play around with some video creation tool (Facebook has an internal simple video creation tool you can try, although the results might be sketchy). Sometimes, even just moving text on a picture can be enough and draws people’s attention while scrolling. Or what we have seen some do, is just generate a short clip where just products run in sequence, e.g., they take 511 boots and just make a short clip where all the colors of the model run past in sequence.
      • We’ve seen that work is a video where someone unpacks an order or does a very short review of the product.
      • If you have a friend, better an influencer, offer them a free product in exchange for a video. Again, if you have a great video, you might be able to use it for a very long time and across different channels, not only Facebook.
    19. To our surprise, we have seen more success when ad visuals present products, not models with products. It isn’t always so, and the data here might change, but something to keep in mind.
    20. If you are no designer (as I am), I’ve found Canva to be the easiest way to make some slight changes or create some simple visuals (e.g., add some value proposition on a regular product picture like “Made in Europe”). They also have simple and quick tutorials.
    21. If you sell products provided by Hertwill, we will also share some marketing photos and videos done by professionals, which you can use for ads, social media, and your website.
    22. If you create an ad, Facebook automatically turns on some enhancements like music, text overlays, etc. Be careful with them – the results might sometimes not be what you want, as they might test some things that you would never like for your brand to test. But again, it might be reasonable to turn them on initially for some ads and see if they deliver better results.
    23. If you find something that works, don’t be afraid to run some of the same ads (visuals and copy) for years. Once you find messages that work better, use them so much and for so long that you get sick of them. And then use them even more. When you’re sick of these messages, the first real customers will start to understand; some will even begin to remember. For instance, if the distinguishing value proposition is “All our bags are handmade in Europe,” it should be present in every ad, post, newsletter, and transactional email, even if it is a side note. Of course, this should also be reflected in the online store where you start taking customers from the ads. We have an investor-backed growth-hacker mentor who starts every other LinkedIn post with, “I’ve scaled my own startup to €13M in 2 years”. It’s nauseating, but the message sticks, as you can see me mentioning here. Once you find effective text or visual content, you can coast on it for a long time. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t update visuals and copy regularly.
    24. Also, keep in mind where you are taking visitors with your ads. In some cases, it might make sense to take them to a category page or a specific product page instead of the homepage.
    25. Here are some unique examples of ad copies used by stores partnering with Hertwill:
      • “Bags that last a lifetime (literally).”
      • “Boots that work great on Tinder.”
      • “People like you are wearing boots like this.”
      • “The ABCs of wearing boots: Don’t forget to leave your boots in the car ☝”
      • “Damn it, you probably don’t like these boots.”
      • “In the picture: Karl Robert Saaremäe, a pink couch, and TOKU slippers. The slippers are available in our online store, but unfortunately, Karl Robert and the pink couch are not.”
      • “We don’t know anyone who knows anyone who doesn’t like these earrings.”
      • “These boots are trusted by NATO armies, so they probably work for you too.”
      • “May the boots be with you.”
      • “What I see is nothing but the outer shell. The most important is the invisible…” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry probably never imagined, while writing “The Little Prince,” that this thought would one day be used to describe Aipi boots. But we find it fitting because, although the boots in the picture may look like any other boots, they are entirely handcrafted from start to finish by local bootmakers. The soles of the boots are triple-stitched, and the upper part is made of strong natural leather.”
      • “Keep your friends close, but your boots closer.”
      • “These boots are probably not for you.”
      • “Fact: The world would be a better place if more men and women wore pink boots 🩷
      • “Nothing says “winter is here” more than looking out the window into the room and seeing slippers falling from the ceiling.”


Google Ads



One last thing, this guide is not intended to promise guaranteed results from the strategies discussed; it is designed to offer ideas to try, based on our real-life experiences and those of our partner online stores. Ultimately, you must discover what works best for your business. Hope this guide helps you on the road on building a successful online business. And hopefully you choose Hertwill as your partner on this road.



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