This guest post is by Matt Robison of Propdrop Web Development and Marketing.
In mid-April of 2010, I officially launched Pitbulls.org, a site for Pit Bull owners to connect with other owners and read accurate training and health information about their pets. At the same time it would help curb some of the myths out there about the breed, and promote rescue shelters in general. This was a cold launch with no prior promotion, and the blog started with only 20 articles.
By October 1st of 2010, after less than six months, the Pitbulls.org Facebook page had almost 40,000 Likes, and the site itself was ranking in the top three Google results for some of our main keywords.
I did no guest posting. I did close to zero link building. These more traditional, mainstay-type methods do work and they should always be part of your repertoire, but for this site I decided to go in a radical direction, ignoring the regular methods and seeing if it would pay off.
And it certainly paid off.
A steady stream of Facebook Likes
The initial key to everything rests in a Facebook ad that I ran sporadically from April to July. It was targeted at people in the US who had some mention of “pit bulls” in their Facebook profiles’ interest lists, and who had not already liked the page. Here is the ad:
Note that when I originally ran this ad, it had the old Facebook ad formatting, which had the image above the text instead of to the left of the text. Everything else is the same.
Three points to note about this ad, besides the targeting:
- The image used is also the main image for my Facebook page, establishing clear continuity.
- The ad asks a question, getting the user to say “yes” internally. Honestly, who would think that this dog is not cute?
- The ad contains a clear call to action: Become a Fan (when Facebook still used Fans, not Likes).
Most importantly, this ad did not link to my website. When someone clicked on this ad, it did not send them to Pitbulls.org. Rather, it sent them to the Pitbulls.org Facebook page.
Now this seems crazy. I’m paying Facebook to send traffic to Facebook. Imagine paying the girl behind the counter at your local coffee shop for a cappuccino, and instead of giving the cup to you, she drinks it herself.
But it turns out that people are much more likely to convert if the action you want them to take is within Facebook. And the action, in this case, was to Like my page.
I set the daily budget to $40.00, and sat back to see what would happen.
Here are the stats for the first day the ad ran:
The Actions column shows how many Likes I got directly from the ad: 247. But that day the site actually got 498 Likes. So friends of people who Liked our page from the ad were also Liking our page, doubling our result. This is the other reason you want your call to action to be inside Facebook: instant viral potential. And due to the high click through rate (CTR) of my ad, the cost-per-click (CPC) was very low.
The results just kept getting better and better. Here are the final lifetime stats for the ad:
Yes: 18,575 clicks. And at that time, over 28,000 Likes on the page. That is only 3.5 cents per Like. And the momentum we gathered was priceless. The site continued to gather Likes organically, and three months after I stopped running the ad, it passed the 40,000 mark.
One question you may ask: why didn’t I just up the daily budget, and get a lot of Likes in just a few days? Why just $40?
The answer is in the previous paragraph: I wanted to let the momentum play out as much as possible and in turn maximize the ROI of the ad. We received 18,575 clicks, but over 28,000 likes. There are almost 10,000 people who would never click on the ad—costing me money—but who still Liked the page.
Engaging new fans immediately
The ultimate goal of all of this is not just a Facebook Like. I wanted these people to go to my site, become engaged, and start building the community.
Most people recommend that you have a clear, customized landing area on your Facebook page with a strong call to action—especially if you’re spending money advertising it. See the ProBlogger Welcome tab on this site’s Facebook page for a good example. You will hear that it would just be a waste of money to send users straight to your wall. And generally, this is true—especially if your blog is already established.
But if you have a clear call to action on your wall, and interesting content, I find this approach works just as well, and flows more coherently into the natural way a person uses Facebook. One the same day I launched the ad, I also launched our first photo contest:
This got people visiting the site, registering for an account, and sharing their entries. The contest announcement remained on top for a couple of days, before I started posting links to other articles on the site. People continued to Like the page, and continued to visit the site. All in all, our first contest garnered 205 entrie—not bad for a first run.
Photo contests also have another added bonus: you get to post about the winner. And usually the winning picture garners even more Likes and interaction than the contest itself.
Pitbulls.org now has almost 12,000 registered users, and 10% of those have opted into our mailing list. All of this is a direct result of the initial Facebook ad campaign. Our Facebook page currently sits at over 47,000 Likes and delivers consistent referral traffic.
The site now also ranks very well for its targeted keywords, even though I have yet to do an organized link campaign. Nearly every link the site has acquired has been acquired organically. Again, this is a direct result of the Facebook campaign. Without it, Pitbulls.org would be nowhere near as popular as it is today.
A campaign like the one I have described here would be even easier today, as Facebook has just implemented full News Feed displays for content that’s Liked by a user. Back when I implemented this plan, you had to get someone to actively share or comment on a story to get it to show up in their News Feed. Now just a regular Like will do.
Facebook continues to make itself more and more useful for people who are trying to market their websites. You can ignore it only if you want to deliberately sabotage your efforts.
I would encourage you to try out a Facebook ad campaign targeted directly at your demographic. You don’t have to spend a lot. $100 should give you a pretty good idea of the potential in your niche. Just ensure that the ad has a low barrier to the call to action, and gets targeted people to say “yes” to themselves even before they click on the ad. Here are some quick examples to help get you started:
- Photography niche: use a picture of the latest, greatest camera, then begin your text with something like “Do you drool at the thought of owning this camera?”
- Food niche: Use a picture of a fantastic looking meal, then begin “Wish you could cook meals like this?” or “Does this food look tasty?”
- Political niche: Picture of Obama or George W. Bush, depending on who you want to target, then begin with “Does looking at this face make you physically ill?” Best for US audiences, of course.
Have you found Facebook to be a good source of traffic for your blog? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.
Matt Robison is a web architect and entrepreneur who offers services and blogs way too sporadically at Propdrop Web Development and Marketing. In addition to Pitbulls.org, he also owns and operates a site publishing in-depth and several other online properties.