The Delicate Art of Selling Sex Toys Online

A complete guide to reaching a target group that can be hard to reach

Andy Kinsey
Aug 13, 2019 · 13 min read
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Introduction: In 2018, I wrote an article about How to sell sex toys on social media, asking whether it even possible to do so and if so how. It turned out to be a topic many people wanted to read about, indeed its one of the most read articles both on my medium profile and on my website.

Before we go on, it should be said that it’s clear that selling anything related to the adult industry — in particular, sex toys — isn’t really that easy. At CES in 2019 and previously, the industry has been basically shunned despite some huge leaps forward in tech. The adult industry for me isn’t something to be afraid of, we’re all here because people have intercourse across the globe, so perhaps its time tech firms get over that — perhaps they just need to figure out a better way of serving ads if they are worried about the wrong people seeing them! After all, they can show sexual health-related ads — maybe they can figure this out…

I don’t think its much of a surprise people want to read about this topic. They want to know how to advertise to an audience they normally can’t get to because of social media rules or search engine advertising rules. But also I think there is a bigger question here of how you can afford to attract an audience into buying your product.

Can stifling and expensive advertising rules be overcome?

Can you sell sex toys online without breaking the bank or the rules?

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

How to Advertise Sex Toys on Social Media

Lets be clear its not just sex, porn, sex toys — its also erotica too, here’s Rachel Kramer Bussel’s experience.

The big three’s rules are here: facebook (Instagram has the same rules pretty much — it’s owned by FB), twitter and pinterest.

Facebook Adult Adverting Rules 2019
Facebook Adult Adverting Rules 2019
Facebook Adult Advertising Policy 2019

But can you advertise Sex Toys on social media?

Lioness, as we’ve reported previously, did so really well by basically posting videos to Instagram of testimonials they had been sent and reading them. There was no visual of their product and, probably most importantly, the link went to their youtube page, not their website. It’s clearly a brand awareness driven advert, but they can help an adult brand gain traction and grow sales if the next video they see entices the customer further. These ads appeared on Facebook and Instagram.

Lioness Facebook and Instagram Sex Toy Adverts
Lioness Facebook and Instagram Sex Toy Adverts
Lioness Facebook and Instagram Sex Toy Adverts

Fine from Dame says the company invests in paid Google search advertising, and she’s found a semi-successful Facebook workaround: paying to boost posts from her own entrepreneur Facebook page of news articles in which she’s appeared. They sometimes are allowed through — and she’ll see $3 in sales for every dollar she spends, she says — and sometimes are taken down. — AdAge

This tactic, in essence, is again about diverting traffic away from a direct promotion to a secondary location (PR). However, this is likely to contain some direct marketing and links to the product or website as well as some real product information.

Rodriguez’s Unbound focuses on email and driving traffic to its content marketing blog, which covers topics such as gifting sex toys in the fraught era of #MeToo. The company occasionally pays evangelists to rave about its products on Instagram, and otherwise hopes that people will follow its Instagram and Facebook brand pages, which describe the company discreetly as a “website in New York, New York. — AdAge

This tactic is basically influencer marketing on social media. However, again, rather than drive users to your website it focuses on brand awareness and discovery. It’s about ensuring people are talking about your brand and your brand is one of the first things on their mind if they want to buy something of an adult nature. Don’t forget that you can also tie this up with affiliate marketing (see below).

The reality is that social media is changing, I am seeing more adult adverts for sexual health and wellbeing than ever before — almost daily. I’m not saying the rules are about to change, but the number of times things are being flagged or removed is reducing, I believe. I do think there are some real battles ahead, but there are ways around social media advertising and promoting products.


HANG ON!

So is it all fair in love and social media advertising? Well…you let me know, have you had success advertising your products?

It seems like the goal posts are moving currently, and not all advertising is equal. This isn’t a male vs female thing (as some suggest) its simply a ‘more open world’ thing and where targetted advertising can happen it seems social media is open to this.

Can You Use PPC for Advertising Sex Toys?

What this means, in reality, is this:

examples of google ppc for sex toys

Google will run PPC only ads, not display ads or GDN ads, within permitted countries where conditions are met.

The rules. Google has often been asked to comment or clarify on this but just points to the policy. To me, there isn’t much to clarify — the rules are clear: don’t be obscene, talk about sex, masturbation, oral sex, etc — but you can talk about sex toys, lubricants, aphrodisiacs, and even sexual enhancers.

Example of Bing Sex Toy advert

Bing is a little more interesting in its rules. First you have to be registered as mentioned above. Secondly, they have caveats on their categorisations. So for example on sex toys — if you are into your bondage, then you probably won’t find it advertised on Bing as “Advertisers may not advertise violent activity, brutality, and torture related content.” and they cite “ Looking to inflict pain? Huge inventory. Free shipping on the latest toys.” as an ad that would be disallowed.

The rules. Bing has a ton of rules and they are pretty much all about the form of your website and it’s content. I highly suggest reading through the rules in detail and ensuring you always meet them. I’ve heard stories of once banned always banned.

LELO Website

Driving Sex Toy Sales With Affiliate Marketing

There are a ton of sex toy and adult industry stores offering schemes, one such large brand is LELO.

LELO offers their affiliate scheme via RAKUTEN, there are others who offer their scheme by AWIN, and of course many who offer it via their own platform.

Offering a small % per sale can mean a huge reward for adult companies looking for huge sales each month. The more a blogger or influencer makes the more they are likely to invest in promoting your products or company. They obviously have to follow the same rules as your company on social media but they can post a review or a video talking about your product and promote that. They can do all kinds of creative things, outside the box, and they’ll be making money alongside you.

Think of them as your brand ambassadors to work with.


Buying Online Media for Sex Toys

But there are a few things to consider before we dive into this a little more.

  • Who is your audience? Give some real consideration to this before you even look to buy online media space. What is the demographic you want to reach? Where are they located (country/countries/cities etc)? How wealthy are they? Do they look at the web at certain times of day?
  • Is your current website traffic converting? If it’s not, I promise you spending money on online media to send traffic is money down the pan. If you want to spend on brand awareness great but no amount of that will increase your conversion rate.

With that said, let’s take a look at ad networks vs direct to source.

Ad Networks

Think of an Ad Network as your planner, buyer, and optimiser. The key thing to remember is that they’re only as good as the brief you give them and the communications you have with them throughout your campaign. If your marketing manager doesn’t communicate well with them, your campaign may start well but never be optimised. It could dwindle to nothing and ultimately, whilst your spending remains, your goals don’t get achieved.

Ad Networks are great but they are only as good as the people behind the campaign, both you and them.

Some of the key adult niche related networks are ExoClick, TrafficJunky and Traffic Factory. There is nothing to stop you using multiple Ad Networks, and I’d heavily advise you to look beyond these three.

Direct to source

These tend to be a much more cost-effective way of brand building and sometimes gaining traffic as website owners are often willing to strike better deals for space than Ad Networks. Also, you may be able to strike a deal for an ad takeover, or something unique such as your ad in an email which may not be possible via the ad network.

DTS does have it’s drawbacks. In the time it can take you to set up a handful DTS campaigns, you can have many websites live via an Ad Network — this said, Ad Networks are more expensive by their nature due to this.

Photo by Tobias Dziuba from Pexels

Other Ways to Market Sex Toys Online

Get some PR

Write lots of great content

Update your social media with news

Give advance warning of offers

Have a specialist microsite

Use Amazon


Optimise Your Website

Whether your adult product is for “extreme restraints”, a “rampant rabbit”, “love egg” or some other sex toy, these optimisation ideas can help you to improve your conversion rates.

Use the right keywords

Vibrator vs Dildo (Red) in Google Search — What do People Search for? — Google Trends

Keywords in the right places

Implement structured data

Got a real location? Implement this stuff

Update your meta tags

Ensure you are tracking/using analytics


Conclusion

There are plenty of ways advertising could be easier, but I don’t think that has or will stop the industry from growing. Indeed the ‘sex toy industry’ in 2016 was globally believed to be worth $15Bn (Forbes) and its only growing.

We live in a world where sex is a taboo subject, despite the fact that sex is part of daily life and how we came to be. The question for social media has to be when will the rules change and what will they change to? Will they follow search engines rules, will they be more restrictive, or will they stay the same?

I can perhaps see time restrictions in place across adverts (following watershed hours), I can certainly see platforms having more qualifications for age limits (no longer a tick box exercise but real age verification requirements) and without which you can't access certain things including this kind of ad and perhaps betting ads too, and I can also see within PPC ads the visual ads opening up, but to a restrictive set of websites initially. Things will change but it will take time, maybe years.

Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

Andy Kinsey

Written by

SEO Consultant, From that there Manchester, UK. Also social & political voice. Views are my own… https://seoandy.com - www.smithfieldagency.com

Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

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