Advertising Online – On the Cheap

If you are like most websites, you need traffic to your site in order to generate sales and make money.

And you often are tasked with generating incredible amounts of traffic on an insanely small micro-budget.

In this walkthrough, I will show some ways to advertise online, cheaply.

There are literally thousands of platforms, channels, and tools designed to take money from your wallet and bring traffic to your website.

Here are a few of my favorite that I’ve used successfully over the last few years.

Firstly, it should be noted that SEO is still a huge primary driver of “free traffic” to many, many, many websites.

While ranking inside Google is continuing to be a more complex and time-tested battle, you should look at my “What’s After Google” post to get an idea about some other organic strategies.

Main Caveat: it will definitely take quite a bit of hard work, time, and (honestly, money) to get a website to start ranking inside Google.

Retargeting – Pretty Cheap

Retargeting has been around for quite some time, but it still continues to yield great results.

Think about it this way: If your website converts at 1%, that leaves 99% of visitors to your website as abandoners!

By using some on-site tools like exit intent, you can try to recover a bit of that traffic, but ultimately there is ample opportunity to leverage this traffic and advertise to them cheaply.

Retargeting in a nutshell will place a cookie on a visitors device. When they leave your website, your retargeting campaigns will target users with that specific cookie and show the abandoned visitor an ad for your website.

This happens everywhere – you know they are the creepy ads that seem to “follow you.”

There are two major platforms that I love.

Google Display Network (GDN)- Part of the Adwords toolset, Google retargeting stands out to me for the one simple fact that you can bid on a CPC basis versus CPM. CPC means you pay Google per click on your advertisement, whereas almost every other vendor charges you on a Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM).

(For the novice online marketer, Google Display Network can be a bit difficult to navigate, that’s why I recommend checking out Google’s official guide to creating a display campaign.)

When configured properly, you can get traffic to your website for about a penny or two per click. Also, within GDN, with the proper settings you can actually bid for a particular device – if your mobile website is awesome and converts, bid for a higher percentage of that traffic to realize even more lower cost opportunities.

AdRoll – is the second most popular retargeting platform behind GDN. AdRoll has a great easy to use interface, and ties directly in with Facebook’s Audience Retargeting Network.  

Let me repeat that. AdRoll ties in directly with Facebook’s Audience Retargeting network.

This means that very quickly a website can retarget to customers not just when  browsing the web, but the customer will actually be targeted when they are on social media! I was recently looking at cars at Carmax, and sure enough look what followed me the next day:

Retargeting on Facebook

Pretty impressive right?

Similar to most retargeting platforms, AdRoll does charge on a CPM basis only, due to the way RTB works on the internet. (That’s a very advanced topic which we will dive into later.). Depending on the category of your business, CPM’s can get a bit high, but you can set a daily maximum budget on each campaign.

Content Networks – Super Cheap(ish)

A new trend that has taken off in literally the last year or two is the spawn of “content networks.” These highly coveted, ‘click-bait’ type stories are shown on relatively high value publishers. FoxNews was one of the first major players to use this:

advertising online cheaply through Outbrain

Here’s the thing.

These companies charge on a CPC basis, and because publishers have mostly free-reign, the articles can be ridiculous, low value, and come across as tacky or cheap.

For some industries or websites, especially those in the B2C or traffic generation segment (think BuzzFeed copy-cats), these platforms can be very cost advantageous.

Outbrain allows you to set your own bid and get things started on your own. Another popular network, Taboola, requires a high minimum commitment ($5k), but does provide a dedicated account manager.

But, often you can achieve low CPCs in teh range of 1-2 cents, which for cold traffic might be all you can afford. If your website relies on broad and generic eye-balls, these networks could be an interesting experiment for you. Just try to remember the stigma and type of content you will need to create in order to generate any sort of buzz.

Facebook & Twitter – Kind of Cheap

A trend for networks or websites with lots of users is to slice, dice, and dive into the demographics of each customer and let businesses or websites laser target them with relevant advertising.

Facebook is the king of social media advertising, with a well polished feature set and reporting built in.

Facebook allows you to advertise your page (waste of money), or send traffic to your website (not a waste of money).

Using Facebook’s advertising platform, you can select to bid on a CPC basis, CPM, or a few other variations. While not as advanced as Google’s targeting options, it works.

Here’s the scenario: You are a Car Wash located in Austin, TX. You want more customers.

With Facebook’s precise targeting you can select people within 10 miles of your facility, who like cars, and perhaps have a higher propensity to buy goods online. Simply put – stick an advertisement in front of them with a coupon and watch your sales soar.

See the potential for this?

Twitter’s network and popularity is declining, but this provides ample opportunities for a savvy business owner to get in front of a highly active and time-sensitive base, quickly.

As a paying advertiser on Twitter you can target hash tags, topics, and engage directly with customers.

Though this platform is a bit harder to really use successfully, if your main metrics are engagement or brand awareness (versus sending people to your website), Twitter could be a good platform to use.

Their CPC’s are stagnating right now but as usage declines I predict they will decline allowing publishers the ability to make this work.

Keep in mind Twitter’s platform is still a bit in its infancy, so there are definitely growing pains.

Wrap Up

Hopefully these ideas will get your mind spinning with ways to generate relevant traffic and give you the confidence to advertise online.

Retargeting requires a bit of a ramp up, and unless your site is already popular it will take some time to see ROI from it.

Social networks are still in their infancy, but with the awesome targeting capabilities businesses of all types are seeing success.

Also, as discussed, don’t be afraid to try new technology or networks like content marketing.

Essentially, do what works for your business. And if you need help figuring that out, you should talk to Zach.