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Traffic Technique 3: Online Advertising

When bloggers think of online advertising, they usually think first of selling it, rather than buying it.

But buying ad space can be a great traffic-generation technique if you’re careful in terms of how you go about it.

There are really two types of advertising—brand advertising, and tactical or action-oriented advertising—and for traffic generation purposes, you’ll probably want to focus on the second type.

Making a traffic-focused ad campaign work depends on a few elements:

  • the audience
  • the ad space
  • the ad
  • what you do with the traffic the ad generates.

Your target audience

Last time, when we looked at content marketing, we saw how important it is to work out who you’re targeting with any traffic-generation strategy since, of course, not all traffic is the right kind of traffic.

So your first step is really to think about who you want to target with your advertising. If your answer is, “well, more of the same people who are visiting my site now,” that’s fine. If you want to target a specific sub-segment of that audience, that’s great too.

The important thing once you’ve identified those people is to work out a key need related to your topic that all of them share—and that your blog solves.

Buying ad space

Now you know who you’re targeting, you need to work out where they gather online. Broadly speaking, we can break down the options into three categories:

  • search engines
  • social media
  • informational websites.

Buying advertising space on search engines can be a great way to ensure that the people seeing your ads have expressed a need in your offer. Your ads will appear alongside search results for the keywords you target (there’s a range of other filters you can select too, like geographic targeting), so the users have already expressed an interest in the need your blog meets.

Buying ad space on social media also targets your ad to the right users—but depending on how closely you select your ad filters, this targeting can be less stringent, which means you could wind up paying for more “wastage” (the amount of ad impressions that are seen by people who aren’t in your target audience).

Also, social media advertising can automatically restrict your ad’s reach, since it only gets seen by users who are subscribed to a particular social media network. Pretty much everyone online uses search engines, but does your target audience use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter … or not?

By buying ad space on an information or entertainment website, you’ll be actively targeting the users of that site specifically. Whereas social media advertising can inadvertently restrict the reach of your message, on-site advertising lets you proactively target your ad’s reach—which is something that you can use to your advantage.

Of course, different sites sell ad space differently. On some, you can buy ad space privately, though the site owner; on others, you’ll go through a network like AdBrite, Kontera, or DoubleClick.

An example of an on-site ad is the in-page Genesis ad we run on ProBlogger. This ad targets ProBlogger users specifically in its headline.

Genesis ad on ProBlogger

So before you buy ad space, it’s important do your research: compare services and costs, and make sure your ads will be seen by as many of the right people as possible.

If you’re looking at buying ad space on an informational or entertainment site, check the rates and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak to the site’s owner (or ad sales rep)—they should be happy to talk with you.

Your ad

You’re in a good place now: you had a target audience and you’ve bought ad space. You’ll have chosen ad ad format, too: when you buy ad space, you’ll need to choose a format, and the format you choose will likely be driven by your budget. If you can’t afford to have a designer create a banner for you, for example, you might opt for text ads until you can afford design expertise.

That’s all good, but before you race off to work up a catchy copy line or cool visual effect for your ad, backtrack to the first thing we discussed in this post:

Work out a key need related to your topic that your target audience shares—and that your blog solves.

For the Genesis ad, we can define the audience as ProBlogger readers who already use WordPress, or don’t mind the idea of using WordPress.

And we can define their need as being something like this:

I need (or want) to do more with my blog.

We could say this about every person who reads this blog. It seems like a pretty general need—what does “do more” mean, exactly?—but the thing is that when you hit on a need like this, in natural language that the readers probably use themselves, you can create an ad that cuts through and really speaks to them.

You can write copy that uses words that respond to that need, like:

  • empowers
  • build incredible websites
  • takes [you] places you never thought [you] could go.

Even the headline no the ad—Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework—implies something to our loyal readers: you’re reading ProBlogger because you want to do more with your blog … like Problogger has … and here’s the secret.

To write good ad copy, you need to think about who your target audience is and what they want, understand what your blog could mean to that need, and then tell them.

This will probably be easier for you to do if you have a specific offer to give the people your ad is targeting—like a free report or ebook. You could even make an ad for an especially great blog post on your site that specifically meets a felt need of your target audience.

Also remember that ads tend to be small (much smaller than that Genesis ad, usually!), so short copy is essential. If you’re not great at writing headlines or elevator pitches yet, practice getting better at those as a starting point for creating really engaging copy lines. It’s a good way to learn to hone a message with a small number of powerful words before you start spending money on advertising.

Responding to ad traffic

Even if you’re just starting out with advertising, it’s a good idea to track the return you make on your investment in ad space—whether you’re making money off that traffic or not.

If nothing else, track the return you get on your investment not just in terms of clickthroughs to your site, but in terms of responses to the offer you’ve included in your ad (e.g. downloads, signups, etc.). This will let you improve your ad content—headline, copy, images—over time to get better and better response rates.

Even if you’re not getting a direct return on the investment (for example, selling a product) it’s still worth tracking the return you make for your effort.

If you’re using an ad network of any sort, it will provide you with reports on how your ads are performing—impressions, clicks, and so on. Depending on how you’ve set things up, you may need to combine this data with tracking information from the landing page on your own site to get the full picture of the return you’re making on your investment, and find points upon which you can improve.

The bottom line

The best way to get a feel for online advertising, and what it can do for your traffic levels, is to give it a try. If you can, try a mix of at least search an on-site advertising through an ad network; if you want to go further, give private (or negotiated, non-network) advertising and social advertising a shot. In all cases, test and track your results so that you can improve your ad’s impact over time.

Later today, that’s exactly what we’ll be looking at, in a post that compares search and social advertising, and breaks down the numbers to help you choose which one’s right for you. But for now, let’s here about your adventures in advertising for traffic generation. Share your tips and advice with us in the comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. Samuel says:

    Advertising can be a a big help for your site in getting new visitors and subscribers.

    Your article, Darren, simplifies and explains exactly how to look at it and how to examine it.

    You have to be careful on how you go about this, and have predefined knowledge on how to analyze an ad’s conversion.

  2. KJ Timothy says:

    When you mentioned “ad network” it reminded me of Adzly. I’m not sure about how many people realize that it exists, but if you’re familiar with it what are our thoughts on it. It’s almost like Google Adsense, only with a viral aspect to it. I like it a lot mainly because its targeted advertisng and you gain residual advertising from it.

    Its tough to imagine Genesis being able to make a WP blog even MORE powerful. Its my first time hearing about it so I will give it a thorough examination. BTW, I haven’t yet jumped into search advertising. Has your experiences been good with it?

  3. Graham Lutz says:

    I feel like an audience built organically will beat bought traffic any day. Maybe not for revenue generation in the short term, but I’d much rather have a community of people who seek out my expertise than to pay for them to come to me.

  4. How do you effectively research your audience so that you can give them the content they desire. I should ask how do you track and analyze these results so you can optimize your content strategy?

  5. There are a lot of ways to earn income online and advertising is surely one of them. You can try everything that’s stated here provided that you have the budget. Just give it a try. You won’t know the success you might be in if you don’t try, right?

  6. Stanley Rao says:

    Advertising is a great form of customers for their sites. but again you should know who your market audience are

  7. Ayaz says:

    Hi Darren,

    Advertising plays a big role in getting and attracting new traffic to the website but the ad should be matched to what’s your website or your product is all about. You have mentioned those crucial things in really simple way. Thanks for sharing great information. :-)

  8. You got a good point there. Instead of putting ads on hope to get money, invest in other people’s ads and earn sales. i.e. if I do have a product or service for sale, I would but currently, I won’t just yet. But thanks for the share though.

  9. BRENT COLVON says:

    I have not tried the target advertising yet. I do believe it is a good idea because you are targeting the people who are interested in your product. I would have to do more research on how much it would cost to run this type of ad before I explore this avenue.

  10. Brian Yang says:

    I have not yet tried the world of social advertising – the buying of ads on social networks. Search engine advertising has been my field of choice. But I guess I can do both.

    I’d be happy to see your comparison between the two. So I can get some insights on what to do.

  11. ya that’s is realty Advertising very important every business and also blogging thanks sharing for about this topic :)

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    Jessica was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukimia (ALL). she has began receiving chemotherapy, which appears to be reducing a large tumor in her left lung, and the doctors are optimistic about her future. But she has a long way to go. shes only Four year old

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  13. Advertising a blog is different from advertising a business. With a business, you are looking to drive conversions – either immediately, or by growing your lead pipeline. In case of the latter, there is usually a clearly defined funnel involved (e.g., a white paper that opts you into an autoresponder series).

    In contrast, when advertising a blog, you are looking to drive ad revenue through increase readership. This means it is not enough for people to simply visit your site; some percentage of them must stay around and become regular readers. Otherwise, you are paying for one-off visits that lead nowhere and have no long-term value.

    An effective blog advertising campaign would grow the blog’s returning visitor figure (assuming the content is there, of course). In theory, this would make it possible to “kick start” a new blog as long as the content is good and as long as you throw enough money at it. In practice, has anyone ever heard of this happening?