I know sometime last year I wrote a post about how I was starting to get more into media buys but then never really gave much of an update on the process. I get quite a few people asking me about media buys, and most think that it is a VERY complex process.
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not!
Keep in mind, there are different types of media buys. Many different types. I am going to go over the process of doing a small to medium scale media buy for someone who is looking at easing their way into this stuff.
The first step to everything is picking out or knowing the product you are going to promote. I generally take a product that I have already tested on one or more traffic sources that has proven that it converts above average. You can do a media buy on a completely untested offer, I just prefer to do it on something that has already proven itself to me.
Next, you need to get SOME sort of a way to track this stuff. There is some really expensive software on the market that can do this for you, and depending on the size of the media buy and where you are doing it, these products are sometimes required. For almost all smaller or medium sized buys, you can use your own software though. The software I use the majority of the time is called OpenX. This is an open source ad server software that you can download and have setup on your server in a matter of minutes. This software will also do EVERYTHING you need at this point. Might as well keep your investment cost down until you KNOW this is something you want to continue doing…hey why risk more than you have to?
After you get your ad server software situation settled, the next part is doing some research. You can dig into this as deep or shallow as you want. Basically ALL you are doing, is going around finding the best targeted sites for you to get a banner on. The easiest way to do this is to go around to different sites like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Quantcast, Alexa, etc. and find out the sites in your market bringing in the most traffic. Keep in mind you don’t have to advertise on just SITES in your market, but try to find sites with the RIGHT DEMOGRAPHICS in your market. Make sense? Essentially, you are just finding where people populate that would be interested in what you are advertising. It’s THAT easy.
The next step is to take that list of sites you compiled that you would like to advertise on. Go around to each one of these sites and look for a link at the bottom of the page that says something like “Advertise”, “Advertise with us”, or something similar. The link isn’t always going to be at the bottom of the page but many times is…just look around the site and you should find something relating to buying ad space.
During your process of finding sites to advertise on, you may occasionally find sites that do not have an “Advertise with us” type link. What I do with these is just email the webmaster (do a whois on the domain if there is no contact section) and ask them if they have any sort of an advertising program setup. If they don’t it’s often as easy as offering them $50 bucks for a permanent ad spot. It’s not as often I run into a small site I am interested in advertising on, but it certainly does happen. When it does happen though, you will generally come out with a pretty good deal on your hands.
After you find WHO you need to contact and HOW…next comes actually contacting them.
This is oftentimes where people start making mistakes. When you contact these companies to do a media buy, they almost always will try to rip you off. KEEP THIS IN MIND! You do not need to give them any more information than you feel necessary. I get many sites and people trying to find out so much more than they need to know, just so they can overcharge me. One really common question that comes to my mind is when you are instantly asked what your budget is. They are generally only asking you this so they know the maximum they can charge you. I’m not going to go very deep into the different ways they may try to overcharge you, just be aware of it and do your due diligence.
The initial contact you make with the company should consist of you simply telling them you are interested in purchasing ad space from their site or network of sites, and that you are wanting to get a price quote. They will reply back with a quote on what sort of traffic and advertisements you can buy from them. Here is where you NEED to learn to negotiate. After getting back the quotes they give me, I will basically give them the impression that I know exactly what I am doing and am not a “newbie” at this stuff. I make it very clear to them I want to do a small buy to test out the quality of their traffic, and that if the test buy goes good, that I will be spending money out my ears with them. This seems to usually give them an incentive to treat you much more fair since almost anyone who has a brain on their shoulders is in it for the long term cash flow. Not only do I make sure to do this stuff, but I then go back to them with their quoted numbers HIGHLY reduced. I’m talking I will tell them that I can give them a 30-50% less CPM than they were asking for. You will also run into things like people really trying to push you to do newsletter ads and other similar things. I ALWAYS deny these proposals and tell them maybe in the future I will test it but for now I want to test ONLY the specific ad spot I inquired about.
Once your done with the negotiation and have brought your prices down as low as possible, than its as simple as setting up the campaign in OpenX and starting the testing game. I will generally start off with anywhere from 3-10 different banners running. I monitor the ctr and conversion rates from within openx and constantly optimize until I feel I have hit a plateau.
A couple last things to add: You are going to want to request a 24 or 48 hour out clause. This way if the traffic IS shitty and you paid a couple thousand bucks down (or more) you can feel safe if the traffic is junk, that you will be able to stop things within 24 or 48 hours and get your money back. Something else you will want to do is make sure to specify the exact country or countries you want to be advertising on. You will also want to make sure to set a frequency cap of something like 24 hours on your traffic. This means if you have a visitor who comes to the site 15 times a day, instead of your banner being shown to the same customer 15 times, it will only be shown once per 24 hours.
That should cover everything you need to know to get out there and start doing some media buys! This is one of the easiest ways to buy traffic and for me its one of the more fun ways since you don’t rely on Google or anywhere else’s algorithms and power to display your ads.
Speaking of google, something else you may want to do is purchase traffic from Google’s content network, monitor where and what sites your conversions are coming from, than cut out the middle man (Google) and go directly to the site owners and cut your deals with them…at a highly discounted rate of course! I can speak from experience that this is WAY to easy to do and can drastically cut your costs while increasing volume.
Feel free to comment with any additional information or tips you may have when it comes to media buys.