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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.