Essential Questions for Online Advertisers

This week I received an email from an online marketer who was eager to make her online business profitable. So she took a leap of faith and spent $1500 on advertising. Not only was it more than she could afford, she was stumped when she received zero dollars in sales. Net loss: $1500.

When she told me her heartbreaking tale all I could say was that I’d wished she’d written to me before she laid out that much money! You see, the reason her campaign failed is so simple I’m amazed that thousands of marketers do the same every month.

Before I go further, I’d like you to read her letter…

The Great Ad Scam

"Jim,
I have a Website that converts about one in every 200 visitors into a sale. While I’m working to improve that conversion ratio, I am also buying advertising to get new customers. I recently bought one of those "guaranteed traffic" deals. For $1500 they promised me 100,000 visitors. It sounded like a sure thing. But get this — of the 15,000 visitors they’ve sent so far, not ONE single sale has been generated. Jim, could they be faking this traffic somehow? It’s hard to believe they are sending real people to my site! Do you have any idea what could be happening here?

Signed, Frustrated Marketer (name withheld)"

My reply…

"Dear Frustrated Marketer,

I can tell you exactly what is happening. And it is happening to a lot of other unsuspecting marketers these days.

You bought "trick clicks". Sure, there are real people going to your site. But not on purpose. The visitors that are being sent to your site are arriving there by accident. That’s right, they are literally being "tricked" into visiting your site.

There are lots of strategies being used to generate trick clicks these days. One example is a simple "exit popup" or "exit popunder". This trick spawns a new browser window with an advertiser’s site when a surfer exits a somewhat related site. And what do folks do when the new site pops up? They get aggravated and close the second window before the new site even has a chance to fully load.

Sure, you’re getting a guaranteed number of visitors to your site, but you may as well be flushing your ad dollars right down the toilet! Go ahead, open the lid, pour in your monthly ad budget and flush it. You’ll get just as many sales (zero) but you won’t have to worry about why! ;-)

OK, that may be a bit extreme, but I want to make a point…

Marketing dollars must be spent wisely. If you are not the type to flush cash, and I don’t know many people who are, you need to do what I do when buying advertising… Ask a few simple questions before laying out the cash…"

Essential Web Advertising Questions

Here are the three questions every marketer needs to ask before buying any advertising…

Question #1: Where will my visitors come from and exactly how do they arrive at my site?

What you’re looking for here is an answer that includes a visitor action. Something proactive. And something targeted. When potential advertisers for my newsletter ask that question of me, I answer quite simply…

"People read my newsletter for help with promotion of their small business online, and they click the URLs that interest them. When they click the URL in your ad they go directly to your site."

Any email newsletter publisher would answer similarly. And the answer fits the requirements. The visitor takes action when reading something targeted. That’s exactly why I’ve had such great results when I’ve bought email newsletter sponsorships to promote my own products and services.

But when you ask question #1 of most advertising sites, you’ll either get no reply at all, or an answer that should send you running. Such as…

"We deliver clicks to your site through our network of member sites."

That’s too vague! Another answer I received recently…

"We utilize a variety of proprietary traffic generation strategies."

In other words, ‘"I can’t tell you or you wouldn’t waste your money with us!"

Just remember: you want visitors to find you when they’re actively looking for a particular product or service, not visitors who are forced to your site — a practice which some ad networks brag about.

Question #2: How many visitors can I expect to receive?

Well, if you’re buying a guaranteed number of visitors, you’ll know that answer. But you’ll more than likely find that buying a guaranteed number visitors is not the best way to advertise online.

So you’ll use other advertising resources. And most of them come with some doubt as to the results they will yield.

But you should always ask what you can expect. When you have an idea of the anticipated number of visitors, you will be able to figure out whether the ad might be profitable.

Here’s a good example…

Let’s say you buy advertising in a targeted email newsletter, or network of newsletters. Look at the total subscriber count. When your ad runs, you can expect between 1/2 percent and 1 percent of the total subscriber base to click your ad and visit your site.

Example: my newsletter goes to about 100,000 subscribers. Each top sponsorship ad yields somewhere between 500-1000 visitors. This tends to hold true in most email newsletters with a decent readership. Even when I buy advertising across a network of hundreds of ezines with millions of subscribers, I usually receive a 0.5% clickthrough rate. And those visitors result in serious profits because they are targeted and they visit my site by their own free will.

When you try any online advertising strategy, the company offering the advertising space should be able to share expected results with you before you spend your money. When in doubt, ask for past advertiser testimonials so you can contact them and get the inside scoop.

Question #3: Can you offer me a discount as a first time advertiser?

I’ve found that more than 50% of the time, asking that simple question will get you a lower rate. Yet hardly anyone ever asks.

Don’t consider yourself a cheapskate if you ask. Just think of how much more traffic you can buy with all the money you’ll save. Always ask for a discount rate and you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll get it!

The Bottom Line on Ad Success

In closing, if you plan to be successful online, you need to advertise. But you need to go a step beyond that: you need to spend your ad money wisely!

Do yourself a favor. Save the three questions above and ask them the next time, and every time you consider spending money on advertising.

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