Using the display ad builder

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One reason people struggle getting any significant traffic to their content network campaigns is not having enough images.  You really need to cover every available image size option to have the maximum possible exposure for your display ads on the network.   That’s why the display ad builder is such a great tool to use.

The display ad builder has been out for a while, but the recent updates have made it work really well.  Its basically a tool for quickly creating images to use on your content network display campaigns.  You can choose their standard templates with flash animation built in, load in an image, and it spits out all the standard IAB ad sizes.   Normally, its quite a chore to make 5 different animated display ads.  If you outsource them to a designer you might pay $40 an ad, so a group of 5 sizes would cost $200.  The display ad builder tool can do this in 5 minutes for free.

You launch the tool in a campaign by selecting “new ad” then choosing “display ad builder” from the drop down.   You are then presented with all the different designs and formats.

Its then just a matter of filling in the form fields with the information you want, uploading a logo, and entering your destination URL.  The tool then re-formats each ad to fit the correct size and you get flash ads in every size.  The only catch is, sometimes you have to play around with your images or text in certain ad sizes if it doesn’t look quite right.  But overall, its a very fast process.

So if you haven’t tried image ads on the content network because you don’t have the images, check out the display ad builder.  You could be up and running in a few minutes.

Posted in Contextual, General, Google by cdfnetworks on 26|04|10
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Current state of the google content network

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One the most common questions I continue to be asked is “should I use the Google content network?”

The Google content network is still one of the most misunderstood forms of online advertising. The confusion is understandable.  At first all the experts and gurus said to “just turn it off”. It was thought that it didn’t convert for CPA offers. After a while people started realizing that it does in fact work quite well, it just requires a different skill set than normal pay per click advertising on Google.  So where does the content network stand today at the start of 2010?

The content network on Google is alive and kicking and stronger than ever.  Although things like PPV are getting a lot of press these days for cheap clicks, I still believe the content network is one of the best sources for cheap clicks.   I am talking really cheap like .01 to .02 cents a click.    Here are the some stats for a campaign we have running strictly on the content network.

For this one campaign Google delivered over 54,000 clicks for about $1,000.   That’s among the cheapest paid traffic you can to buy.   This example is obviously on the lowest end of the scale, there are other campaigns we pay up to $1.00 per click on content.  But the clicks are usually much lower than you would pay for Google PPC.

Content traffic does convert as well.   It’s just a matter of tracking everything, finding the converting sites that your ads are displayed on, and focusing your optimization on those sites.  There are no specific rules for which sites to exclude from displaying your ads.  For example, a lot of people say to exclude gmail.com, but I have seen conversions come from there.  Just like everything else, you have to test for your specific niche.

Quality score is important on the content network, although I have found not as strict as normal Google Pay Per Click.  So if you have a campaign that just won’t run on the PPC network, its possible Google will allow it for content.  As you can see by the example stats, a .09% CTR would be horrible on PPC but runs fine on content in the 3-4 ad position range.

So as 2010 starts, I’d say the content network is still an excellent source of cheaper traffic and should continue to be for the foreseeable future.   It doesn’t work for every niche and offer, but definitely should be tested to find out.

Posted in Contextual, General, Google by cdfnetworks on 13|01|10
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Google content network basic strategy

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With the social ad networks like Facebook and Myspace getting all the attention these days, its easy to forget about the #1 largest ad network: the Google content network.   With an 80% reach of all Internet users and 140 Billion page views a month, the Google Content network drives some serious traffic.   And just like social networks, you can also do specific GEO targeting and some demographic targeting.

But are the clicks still cheap?  Here is screenshot of a couple test campaigns from just last month.  These 2 campaigns received over 20,000 clicks at .02 per click!

Cheap content network clicks

The Content network can still be a goldmine of cheap traffic, if used correctly.   So what is a simple game plan to access that traffic?

Basic content network strategy.

1.  Always create separate content network and search network campaigns.

2.  Create your data gathering campaign.  This is generally a keyword targeted campaign.  Use only about 15-25  keywords per adgroup.  Duplicate keywords are fine across adgroups, this establishes a theme that Google uses to trigger your ad.  Individual keywords don’t matter, its the theme of the keywords in an adgroup that matter.  Use lots of negative keywords to hone down your themes.

3. Tracking performance and being able to interpret the data and reports is what I consider the biggest component of any campaigns success.  In order to do that you will need to set up your landing site with tracking.  Install conversion tracking on your thank you or success page.  Also install Google Analytics on every page of your destination site.  Set up Goals and Funnels in Google Analytics for each step of the landing page to conversion process.   (Those steps aren’t just for a content network campaign,  I recommend them for any landing site you are driving traffic to.)   Now you are in a position to see all the possible data from your campaign.

4.  Run a Placement report in Adwords to show what sites on the content network are showing your ads.   Be sure to include conversions in your report data.  Then sort the report by conversions.   The results shown are the gold mine of data that you are looking for.

5. You can now use the data to create a new Placement targeted content campaigns with the URLs of the converting sites.   In those, I would continue to use keyword based adgroups as well as adding image ads.  If the image ads also convert well on those placements, you can split them off into another campaign.  These Placement campaigns should convert very well based on your previous data.

6.  You can also continue to optimize the original keyword campaign by using the site exclusion tool to block the non converting sites.  For the converting adgroups you can increase bids, and narrow your demographic targeting.  Eventually the keyword campaign should provide good results on its own, as well as  a further testbed to extract more converting URLs for the Placement campaign.

That’s just one basic strategy, there are many ways to use the content network.  But however you use it, don’t ignore this valuable traffic source!

Posted in Contextual, General, Google by cdfnetworks on 02|09|09
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Start with social networks or PPC?

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I got this email yesterday from a reader: “I tried MySpace ads without any luck so far, but I am encouraged to continue
there. Do you feel that is the best place to start out for an AM beginner
” This seems to be a common question so here is my take on where to start.

I know a lot of people who are coming up in affiliate marketing today are going the social network route. Social networks meaning mostly Facebook and Myspace. I can definitely see the appeal.  Tons of relatively cheap traffic, super easy to setup, and low learning curve.  But I would not recommend starting there.

I think paid search is still the best place to start, even for newbies. First of all paid search traffic converts better, plain and simple. By the very act of using paid search, people are already in buying mode and actively seeking your offer. They have taken the time and effort to seek out a keyword related to your niche, versus just seeing your ad passively on a website. Content advertising has its place for sure, but nothing can beat PPC search.

By starting with PPC, you are forced to learn the techniques that will make you successful in all types of advertising, including social networks. Those techniques aren’t so apparent just writing an ad and placing it on a social network. But once learned they will serve you well in all types of advertising.

So where to start specifically? I would recommend starting with Yahoo. Policies are still less strict that Adwords, competition lower, click prices are decent, and traffic is good. Then move on to MSN, Google, and social networks.

I already know some of you are thinking: “but so and so started on Facebook and is making $10k a day”. Of course there are many examples of people making thousands a day from their social campaigns alone who never used PPC. But I think if those people would have applied the same time and effort with paid search, they would be making even more now.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, Contextual, General by cdfnetworks on 20|11|08
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First impressions of the Myspace ad platform

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A friend pinged me this morning about the new Myspace ad platform beta going live. I’m not sure how long it has been around, but this was the first I had heard of it. As much as I dislike Myspace, its a new possible traffic source so I have to try it out. I headed over to check it out and uploaded a few test campaigns. It is an image ad serving system which essentially allows you to place media buys on Myspace from a self serve interface. You could do the same thing before, but this brings it to the masses and allows you to buy on a PPC basis. Since you are only running images, its a whole different ballgame than normal PPC ads and requires a whole different skillset. But if you are experienced with media buys or image advertising on the Google content network techniques, its the same thing.

First impressions:

  • It is a lot like Facebook. The age/location/demographic targeting. The manual review of ads. The bid range estimates.
  • They are pretty picky about destination URLs. They seem to have a filter in place for affiliate network jumplinks. I threw a few in to test and they don’t seem to be vaild.
  • The minimum bid price is .25? Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is what I was seeing.
  • The interface is pretty slick.
  • They actually have a contact form.
  • Approval times are slow, about 3 hours on my first test. Probably because of high demand.

So have you guys tried it out yet? What do you think?

UPDATE direct from Myspace:

“Ads are reviewed in the order in which they are received. We appreciate your patience during the review process. During the beta test of this advertising platform we will have MySpace SSAP agents approving ads Monday thru Friday, from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM (Pacific Standard/Daylight Time).”

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, Contextual, General by cdfnetworks on 23|09|08
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Facebook Ads Test Impressions

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I totally ignored Facebook ads for the longest time. I admit, I’m a bit of a PPC snob and don’t jump on new trends. First off, I don’t use Facebook. In fact the site really annoys me. From what I read, even though some people seemed to be making good money, it’s a really sketchy system as far as ads running then getting shut down for no reason. I tend to focus on more long term strategies. Also even though you can target demographically, it is still contextual advertising, which will almost always lead to lower conversions. With search, people are actively looking for your product and are in full buy mode. While with contextual ads like Facebook, they just see your ad and it may or may not appeal to them.

So I look at advertising on Facebook type systems as a more speculative activity to be done in your spare time. All that being said, I finally gave it a shot for the last 3 days. My initial impressions of Facebook ads:

  • The approval process is not easy to work with. I managed to get about 50% of my ads approved, which I guess is ok. But it was strange because with 2 almost identical ads, 1 would make it and 1 would be rejected.
  • The interface is terrible. No bulk upload, no CSV import, no adgroups. It’s about as basic as it gets.
  • The reporting is also really bad.
  • The bid prices seem a little steep and keep creeping up on me. I assume that if your CTR for the ad is low, they keep jacking up the bid prices. This keeps happening on many of my ads with bids in the $1 range.
  • The budget limits are ridiculously low. $200 a day?? If people want to spend money, why not let them.
  • The traffic does convert though.

So how did I do with my first few days? Here are the numbers.

Day 1: Spend $28.54 Gross $98.77 Profit = $70.23

Day 2: Spend $101.75 Gross $116.34 Profit = $14.59

I got a little overly aggressive with higher bid prices which killed the profit margin.

Day 3: Spend $109.32 Gross $213.89 Profit = $104.57

Facebook does have promise, but I would like to see their system mature some more. It’s pretty labor intensive getting ads online and then keeping them running. An upload system or API would be great, as well as a real reporting system. Until then,  I’ll throw my effort into Adcenter stuff which is really hot now.  But, I’ll definitely be back to FB as time allows.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, Contextual, General by cdfnetworks on 28|07|08
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Media buy testing and results

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I like to test every possible paid traffic source. It doesn’t matter if people say they work or not, I like to try it myself and get my own results. Like in the 13 PPC challenge, I am always testing new sources. This has led me to find some really good and cheap clicks. I have also lost a lot of money, but I think you have to commit yourself to losing money to be successful, especially in internet marketing. Even if a test is a total failure, the data and experience gained has some value.

That being said, a couple weeks ago I tested a new source for me, Casale Media. This is one of the larger media networks, that a lot of the high traffic sites are publishers on. If you aren’t familiar with media buying, it’s basically a banner campaign that you can run on a CPC basis rather than CPM (usually). Essentially its content advertising. I have had hit and miss results with buying media. This type of advertising is LOT different than PPC, but I had a rock solid converting campaign that I wanted to try pushing some serious traffic to.

Setup

There is a lot of front end setup with this type of campaign. First, you don’t just sign up self serve style like PPC. You have to contact them, get an account manager and an ad setup person. Then you have to supply them with at least 4 different sized creatives, and they prefer to have 3-4 sets of each of these. So if you aren’t good with graphics, you have the expense of having someone make 16 creatives for you. You also “negotiate” a CPC rate that you will pay with your account manager. Then before they will even start uploading your campaign you have to send in a $5,000 minimum deposit. Once they receive your $5k, it usually takes about another week to get your campaign uploaded and running. During this time you have to place pixels on your primary, and final landing pages for tracking.

Results

This test had disappointing results. As I said, the landing page/offer I sent this traffic to converted very well on PPC, but I actually had 0 conversions on Casale. Of course I expected and planned for a lower conversion rate than PPC, but it was clear this wasn’t going to work on my campaign. I only needed to let the test run a 1 day to get a statistically valid sample size. The troubling part to me was that people were abandoning the initial landing page, before even clicking through to the offer page.

This type of adverting isn’t for the faint of heart. The setup time is long, you have a lot less control than PPC (you can’t even pause or resume your campaign, your account rep has to), the deposits can be large, and the traffic can come fast and furious. I have had success and failures with media buys, so I thinks its definitely worth continued testing. Obviously, your results will vary with any network, but for this particular test it didn’t work out for me.

Posted in Contextual, General by cdfnetworks on 25|03|08
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Google trick to reveal your Adsense competitors

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This one is for all the publishers running Adsense out there. Ever wanted to know who your competitors were in your niche, and the approximate volume they are doing compared to you? Well, that info can be easily found, courtesy of Google itself using Adwords.

Here’s how to do it: (click to enlarge images)

1. Log into your Adwords account.

2. Click “New Placement Targeted Campaign”

3. Enter a bogus campaign and adgroup names (you will just be deleting this). Add the countries where you want to check your competition and where your site is targeted.

4. Enter a fake ad, and continue.

5. Here is where you want to be: “Target your Ad“. Now click the “List URLs” button, and enter your URL in the box. Click “get available placements”. In this example, the niche we would be checking out is cars and our site is cars.com.

Google will then display your competitors under “Placements” with their average daily impressions. Sweet huh?

After you are done checking out all the data don’t save any of this, or you will start a new placement targeted campaign. If you share this tip, a link back would be appreciated!

Posted in Contextual, Google by cdfnetworks on 20|11|07
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