Until now you’ve been relying on organic methods to grow your blog’s traffic—search engine rankings, guest posts, social media and word of mouth. But now you are thinking about stepping into the league of the the big boys (and girls) and spending some money on advertising your blog to the world.
Where do you start? Where do you find the money? How much do you spend? And where?
photo credit: x-ray delta one
In this article I am going to show you the ins and outs of advertising your blog on a budget. I am going to show you how to raise the money and then where to spend it to reap the most rewards. And trust me, if you haven’t thought about spending money to promote your blog you really should. The potential benefits are mind boggling. You might even go viral.
Why you should start spending money on blog advertising
I’m not sure how it started (it is probably Old Man Rowse’s fault) but bloggers seem to be afraid of spending money on advertising. For over a decade now there has been a real aversion to spending money and instead people focus on organic methods only.
Now don’t get me wrong, organic methods are super important. They are the backbone of your blog promotion. But adding some paid advertising is like adding adamantine to that backbone and becoming the Wolverine (non-comic readers please ignore). With just a little bit of cash you can totally change the speed at which your blog grows, the audience it reaches and the income you earn.
- You can go viral more easily
One of the major benefits to spending some money on advertising is that you can go viral so much easier. Normally you’d write some amazing content and hope it gets Tweeted by some big shot but with a little bit of money you can give it a major kick start. All the big guys do this.
- You can laser target the right people
Forget about all the tire kickers, with modern online advertising you are able to promote your blog only to the right people; people who are interested, ready to interact and possibly pay for something that you might end up selling.
- You bypass the beginner stages
We all know the beginner stages. The first few months where no one visits your blog and you have no subscribers. With a bit of advertising you can totally bypass those annoying months.
Like I said, you should never forget about the unpaid, organic ways of promoting your blog. You need to continue with them as you have always done. But why not try something new and spend a little bit of money on kick starting your blog and potentially launching it in to a whole new category of amazingness?
Proof is in the Fortune 500
If you still need proof you just need to turn your attention to the biggest companies in the world. Do you think they just rely on free methods of advertising? No. They spend millions of dollars promoting their websites, blogs, and products. Even their viral campaigns have a lot of money behind them.
“But we don’t have millions of dollars, Blog Tyrant!” I can hear you say.
Well, neither did they. Or, if they did, those millions are a proportional spending to what they earn. And that is all I am asking of you. Spend an amount of money that you can afford. But I’ll get more into that in a minute.
The strategy, advert and landing page
Please keep in mind that these topics really are limitless. If a marketing student came on here they would be able to talk for hours about these matters. My goal is not to educate you on every possibility that you could think of but rather to give you an idea of where you can start.
1. The strategy
So, to develop a strategy for your blog advertising you need to do a few things:
- Solidify your goal
What is the goal of this campaign? Are you trying to reach a certain number of subscribers, sell a certain number of books, etc. Make sure this is very clear before you start.
- Know your target market
Who are you going to pitch to and why? Is it stay at home moms who are looking to make money online? Is it 18 year-old students who spend all day on Facebook? Who is your target market?
- Research the competition
Spend some time finding out what your competitors are doing. What is working and what is failing? Where are they advertising and how are they doing it? Try to get a very detailed picture about what is going on.
- Find a point of difference
You want to find a way to stand out from the rest, something that will make people sit up and pay attention. This point of difference is very important for the viral aspect.
- Solve a problem
The best viral campaigns solve a problem. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem might seem, chances are it is being experienced by millions. If you can solve that problem in a new, clever or funny way and then kick-start it with some paid advertising you are well on your way to going viral.
The goal here is to come up with an idea about how you are going to talk to these people and get them interested in what you are doing or selling. You need to get a complete picture of the environment before you jump in.
2. The advert
Once you have developed some sort of strategy you need to take a look at the advert itself. These has several components to it and it can be in the form of an image, some text or a mixture of both.
- Use a call to action
Your advert needs to have a strong call to action. This is where you tell people what to do next. It is important because people often get confused or forgetful and without a specific command they will fizzle out. Show them what to do next.
- Show social proof
Social proof is where you alleviate people’s anxiety by showing them that other people are doing this as well. No one likes to be first, make sure they know they aren’t. Amazon do this really well.
- Develop scarcity
Your product isn’t limitless. This offer isn’t going to go on forever. To encourage people to interact with your advert you need to make it seem scarce. This is extremely important for conversions because people hate to miss out on things. Here is how I use scarcity to get a huge amount of comments.
If you aren’t very good at crafting ad copy you should check out a lot of resources. If you are really crap at it you need to hire someone to do it for you. Small mistakes can mean huge losses of interest and/or money.
3. The landing page
We are not sending all this traffic to the homepage of your blog. Nope. We are sending it to a specifically designed landing page that is built perfectly to deal with these new visitors. It needs to be specific and it needs to address all of their concerns. It is here that you will do things like:
- Pitch the idea and the benefits
Tell them why they are here and what the benefits are. Now, I said benefits for a reason. We are not telling them about the features of whatever it is you are advertising. We want these people to know what will happen to their lives if they get involved. Will they make more money, sleep better at night, or progress towards enlightenment? Tell them the benefits.
- Reiterate all the advert copy
You want to reassure people that they are in the right place and reiterate what your advert promised. This is very important if you want to keep the people on the page. Make sure they know they are in the right place doing the right thing.
- Give something
Before you can get you need to give. So give them something free. It might be a video or an eBook, it doesn’t matter. The act of giving helps to establish trust, good karma and gives you an opportunity to hit them with a little bit more sales speak. Increase the pressure so to speak.
- Convert your goal (virus)
It is here that you need to convert the visitor so that they do whatever it is you want them to do. If you want them to sign up to your newsletter make sure that is strong. If you want them to just share on Twitter or Facebook then tell them and make sure they can do it easily. It is from here that you want the virus to start happening.
Where to advertise your blog
Now we need to get into some of the fun stuff. Where exactly should you advertise your blog? What works best? What is cheapest? Over the years I have tried all of these methods with varying levels of success. Hopefully I can save you all some time and money.
1. StumbleUpon Ads (Paid Discovery)
StumbleUpon Ads, which is now called Paid Discovery, is basically a platform where you pay for other Stumble users to view your page. Let me be clear from the outset, this does not work for every niche. In fact, some of the results I’ve had have been dreadful. But, if you do it right, you can get those paid viewers to give it a thumbs up and potentially send it on the hundreds of thousands of other users … for free.
How does it work?
Basically you just sign up, pay them $20 minimum and then show them which page on your site you want them to send traffic to. You can also set the demographic (age, sex, location, etc.) of the people or you can let them choose the best ones.
What works well?
The best thing to use StumbleUpon for is super cheesy link bait articles and interesting photos. Stumble is all about sharing so you have to find something that is both interesting but generic enough that everyone would want to read it. I have had health and fitness articles get
2. Facebook Ads
Years and years ago Google AdWords was the best platform. They allowed anything, you could get really cruddy landing pages approved and make lots of money really easily. Then they made things harder. Well, Facebook Ads are a bit like that old AdWords except they are now getting more strict and controlled. If you want to get in on the action with Facebook, now is the time.
How does it work?
Facebook Ads are done through your own personal page by clicking Ads in the left side bar and then following the prompts. Basically you just create a text or text and image advert and select a target group or set of keywords. You have much greater control over who you target as Facebook collects a lot of information about its users. You then choose whether you want to pay per impressions or per click (perhaps we can talk in the comments about which is best) and then they invoice you once week.
What works well?
Facebook Ads work really well for anything that targets young people. High school kids. Why? Because these guys aren’t completely blind to ads yet and they love to click on things that will help them through their high school days. I have also had success targeting women looking to save money but, for some reason, I haven’t done well with the male demographic.
Typically you want to send traffic to a well designed Facebook landing page as this allows them to like it and then send it on to their friends. Also, if you send people to an outside website you might get the warning “You are leaving Facebook” which can put people off.
Basically, if you can design a page or site that promotes something that is valuable and to do with pop culture you will do well with Facebook. Remember, people are paranoid about what will show up on their wall so they won’t look at anything even slightly confrontational or iffy.
3. Google AdWords
Google AdWords is, for those who don’t know, the reverse side to Google AdSense. This is the part where you pay to appear in the paid section of Google’s search results, or on the ads that appear in people’s websites and blogs. It is the largest online advertising method and is extremely well evolved.
How does it work?
You sign up for an account, add your bank details and then develop a campaign. This means doing all the regular things like creating an advert, setting a daily budget (important), setting your keywords or target sites and your locale. Always run a cheap $5 campaign first to get the feel for it and learn some of the downfalls. There is a lot of room for error with AdWords as the speed at which you can spend money is immense.
What works well?
In my experience local stuff works really well. If you want to target downtown Melbourne in Australia you can do it. This is extremely good news for people selling things from a local shop or to specific group of people. Football shirts, for example, can be targeted by city.
Landing pages, squeeze pages, affiliate pages, etc. won’t get approved so don’t even bother. If you want to sell a product through AdWords you better make sure you have a whole site of useful information before trying to apply. The good news is that most blogs already have that.
AdWords is not great for going viral but it is very good for targeting people ready to buy. Don’t bother paying for ads on people’s websites, just go for search results. Those people are looking for solutions to their problems and have their wallets ready. If you can solve a problem quickly, Adwords will work well.
4. Private Advertising
Private advertising is where you contact other blogs or websites and pay for a spot on their site. For example, all those small square buttons on the right hand side of ProBlogger are either private ads or affiliate programs. Yaro also sells space all over his blog.
How does it work?
Sometimes these blogs will be partnered with an ad network that does all the deals and payments for them. This can get expensive. Other than that, you simply send them an email and ask for a spot. Generally these prices are fixed but you should always try to negotiate because often they are pretty keen to just fill a spot. Try coming down on the price 40% and then bargaining up if needed.
What works well?
Directly relevant is the key here. If you are running a viral campaign about becoming a millionaire then look to get ads on pages, posts and sites that are directly relevant to that. Why waste money appearing on pages about dogs if your product is about Porches? Keep your advert simple (no flashing rubbish) and to the point. Ask people a question or introduce your scarcity right away and make sure your landing page welcomes them directly from that blog.
What doesn’t work well?
Don’t ever pay for in-post links because Google will ban you as soon as they find out. Sidebar advertising is about as far as I would go in this regard.
For this section I just want to give you an article on how to haggle. It’s where its at.
Raising the money for paid advertising
photo credit: Ed Yourdon
So how do you raise the money for paid advertising? Well, it is as simple as you want to make it. And it is all about reinvestment.
Reinvesting for advertising
Remember I talk about my millionaire uncle who told me to have various projects on the go? Well he also told me to reinvest part of everything you earn. You want to set aside 5% to 20% of everything you earn to put back in the business and part of that goes on advertising.
So, if you make $100 writing a freelance post you should put aside your tax, your savings, your spending amount, and your business reinvestment amount. It takes a lot of mental toughness but you have to (just like with tax) imagine that part of that cash is not yours, it belongs to the business.
This allows you to advertise and actually grow your business further. Soon you’ll be getting more $100 jobs or more authority and as such be able to raise that fee to $200 and above. This is how advertising works. If you can go viral with clever campaigns you will find that you will be able to grow your authority, Google rankings and sales figures all at once and the momentum from that campaign can carry through for a long time.
Remember that almost everything you spend in the course of earning money is a tax deduction. Advertising is usually included in that so make sure you keep records and reciepts and talk to your accountant about it. The more money you can get off your next bill the better.
Will you spend some money?
I’d really like to know whether you are open to spending money on your blog. Have you done it before? Will you try it after reading this post? Please leave a comment and let me know, especially if you have any stories, experiences, or advice to offer. I would love to make this comment thread a resource-rich stop for anyone wanting to advertise their blog on a budget.
Lastly, if you aren’t going to ever spend money on advertising your blog, why not? I find that really interesting.