Tagged with " advertising"
Jan 30, 2012 - Business    Comments Off

StumbleUpon Advertising Review

If you don’t know what StumbleUpon is, then you’re missing out on something awesome. StumbleUpon is a website discovery engine. You tell it what you’re interests are and it shows you sites you should like. You then “stumble” through a collection of websites by clicking a “stumble” button, over and over, viewing different websites – often for hours. Add all the standard voting and sharing options you would expect and you have StumbleUpon. A social, viral, website discovery engine. Getting a website to be popular in StumbleUpon has been compared to the Digg effect. If you run websites, you absolutely want to be stumbled.

What is StumbleUpon Advertising (Paid Discovery)?

Just like getting to the top of Digg, it’s not easy to get a high volume of stumbles. If you’re launching a new website, or simply need to boost traffic to an existing website, StumbleUpon offers a creative form of advertising called Paid Discovery. Paid Discovery simply means that StumbleUpon shows “sponsored” sites in some of the stumble slots, based on user’s “interests.” StumbleUpon sets aside 5% of stumbles to use for Paid Discovery.

When you set up a Paid Discovery campaign you choose (optionally) the interests and demographics you want to target for your stumbles. As your campaign runs, StumbleUpon users will be presented with your full website as they stumble. Most users will not notice that your website is a sponsored site even though StumbleUpon does mark each paid stumble as “sponsored.” If you have a website that “people just have to see” then StumbleUpon Paid Discovery is for you. Especially if you are launching a new concept that users aren’t yet Googling for.

My Experience with StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery is a great way to try to get your website to go viral. This is the exciting part about Paid Discovery. If users, while viewing your paid stumble, “like” your site, you can earn free stumbles. If your website is popular enough you can even earn thousands of free visitors in one day. In a recent campaign Timeline Collage received 1,600+ free stumbles in a day while only paying for two hundred. Enough of the paid users “liked” Timeline Collage that we got over a thousand free views of our website. This happened twice over a 5-day test period. I have not been able to find an explanation on StumbleUpon of exactly what it takes to get free stumbles. When I contacted the Paid Discovery twitter account they replied to my query with a generic link that doesn’t go into much detail about the formula for getting free stumbles. In my experience the social interactions on StumbleUpon, in relation to your site, can result in large amounts of free stumbles when using Paid Discovery. As expected, the more viral your concept is the more likely it is to receive free traffic on StumbleUpon. Conversely, the less viral your concept the “more” you’re going to pay to get traffic from StumbleUpon.

Conclusion

There are a few options and features within Paid Discovery that I’m not covering here, such as the option to choose a “serving priority” that can affect your stumble price from $0.05 per stumble up to $0.25 per stumble. If you’re even slightly interested in Paid Discovery I suggest you sign up for an account and start a campaign to see what your options are. I expect over time StumbleUpon will be tweaking Paid Discovery to make it even more useful to those of use who are always launching websites.

Aug 16, 2011 - Business    No Comments

Niche Way To Go?

If you have an idea for an online business you often are faced with the option of designing your website for a broad market or a niche market. Do you want to sell Sporting Goods or exclusively Football Equipment? Just like in the real world, there are benefits of each option, but online has a different set of issues that will factor in your website’s success. Whether you are selling an actual product or simply building a website of information, you need to consider whether a broad market or niche market is the way to go.

In researching our competition I often find that they have decided to go for a broader market while still serving the same demographic that we do in our niche market. In most cases I find that they are less successful in marketing to a wider market than we have been marketing to a niche market. For example, Fido Finder which was built to market to “lost dog” owners has been more successful in than other “lost pet” website (and also more successful than any “lost dog” website). We get more animals registered per day than even the top “lost pet” websites. We learned early on that there is a benefit to marketing to a niche market when it comes to online marketing.

For most new websites your traffic will come in this order: online ads, word of mouth, and search engine results. Due to the Google algorithm, natural (free) Google search results will be one of the last ways that you get traffic to your new website. In the end, natural search results will be the king, but it takes time to get there, often many years. Up front you will be paying for most of your visitors and then enter a pattern of paying for something more like 15-20% of your visitors while getting the rest from word of mouth and natural search results. Your goal should be to end up with the majority of your traffic coming from word of mouth and natural search results. Niche marketing can get you there.

Online Advertising

Any new website has to advertise to get started, period. You’re not just going to be on the news after a week of having a website. Using Google Adwords as a model, the cost of your ads will be determined by the popularity of the keywords that you want to see your ad next to. If you decide to sell Sporting Goods you have to compete for space on Google’s search results with every other sporting goods website. Some of these websites will be willing to spend much more per click than you are willing to spend on your startup. If Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, and Academy are all bidding $0.30+ a click you’ll have to bid up there with them in order to get a decent volume of visitors from your ad. Conversely, advertising for “football equipment” produces a different subset of advertisers. East Bay, a large catalog company, is the only big company competing for that keyword. You can now bid for the number two spot without losing money on each customer acquisition. In general, niche Pay-Per-Click (PPC) keyword marketing will be cheaper than broad keyword marketing. Since online ads will be your first source of traffic it’s much cheaper to start a successful niche website versus a broad market website.

Word of Mouth

Links from Facebook and other social websites have become a top source of visitors to all of our websites over the last 2 years. Having a Facebook presence (page) definitely helps, but word of mouth via social networking is a very good source of traffic without having a popular Facebook page. Having Facebook users, bloggers, and people on Twitter talking about your website all fit under Word of Mouth as far as online goes. Having a niche website actually increases your chances that users will start talking about your website with their friends, online and offline. Although your market might be smaller, the passion of your customers is usually higher. Everyone knows that one friend they have that is in 5 football fantasy leagues, but rarely do we know that we have a friend who plays 5 different sports. People who are passionate about one specific thing tend to discuss it more often, with a higher energy, than those who have a more rounded interest. Getting links from football-related Facebook groups is much more likely than getting links for a general sporting goods website from a general sports-related Facebook group, for example. Online forums fall under this category as well. Most online forums are built for a specific niche. Becoming a well-known website within those niche forums could garner a great deal of traffic. It’s just more likely that your startup will spread like wildfire through word of mouth around these niche markets than in a broad market.

Search Results

Once your website is established there is no doubt that search engine results are the king of traffic. The most important thing you can do for your new website is focus on becoming #1 for your keyword. It’s going to take 1-3 years for most websites to even have a chance, but you should do the work to get there. It’s a lot of work to get the #1 listing but if you get it it’s worth every penny. You’ll get 2-5x the traffic from being #1 versus #5 for the same search term. This means you’ll spend less money on online advertising as you’re getting so much free traffic. A high website ranking is based on your website score. Good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will greatly increase your chances of being in the #1 spot.

In SEO you optimize your website for a specific keyword or set of keywords. When people search for XYX you want your site to show up. This means you have to have this keyword all over your website as well as have this keyword in or around all the links that link to your website. If you decide to build a Football Equipment website all the links to your website will have “football” in them, and often “equipment”, “gear”, or some other keyword accompanying “football.” This will make your website rank very well for “football equipment” if you get enough links and perform all the right on-page optimization techniques. If instead you build a Sporting Goods website and want to rank well for “football equipment”, “basketball shoes”, “baseball bats”, “soccer balls”, etc, you have a lot more work to do, and are frankly less likely to be successful at ranking for all, or any, of those keywords. A website that is strictly SEO’d for “baseball bats” will usually rank higher than the baseball bat section of your sporting goods website. In some markets it’s much more likely for a person to actually search for the niche keywords than the general category.

Online it’s much more important to have a website that can do well with SEO techniques than a website that mimics a real world store. If your website concept does not SEO well you will always be paying high dollar for advertising and have a hard time ever getting “free” visitors. The most valid site for a keyword will always show up at the top of the list. For example, although we all know Amazon is the king of online books, etc, Barnes & Noble actually shows up first in the natural search results when you search for “books” in Google. This is because all of their website content and links to their website focus around the keyword “books”. They get all that free traffic for ranking well for “books” while Amazon has to rely on other methods (word of mouth/advertising/brand recognition).

Unless you have a large marketing budget it’s going to be hard to get your broad market website to get the same amount of traffic as the #1 site for a subcategory of products you sell. For example, although my company could have created a Lost Pets website, it is more successful to develop a Lost Dogs (FidoFinder.com) and Lost Cats (TabbyTracker.com) website separately because of the factor of search engine traffic. Each website does better in registering a high volume of dogs and cats, respectively, than any other Lost Pets website does. The same goes for our website Naming Force. Although other websites offer product naming among their slew of crowdsourcing options (logo design, copywriting, website design, etc) we get more naming projects than any of our competitors do. When you search for “crowdsource naming” we come up first. Our website also appears before our competitors for other keywords such as “business names”, etc. We focus strictly on naming businesses, and Google knows that.

This is a good except from Wikipedia about niche marketing online:

“An often used technique for affiliate marketers is Internet-based niche segments of larger markets, referred to as niches, a website can be developed and promoted quickly to uniquely serve a targeted and usually loyal customer base, giving the affiliate a small but regular income stream. This technique is then repeated across several other niche websites until a desired income level is achieved. A bigger niche is harder to market to as the expense of online advertisements increases according to the popularity of the keywords used (on Adwords, for example).”

Conclusion

Online niche marketing is the fastest method of growth for a new business. Getting a business off the ground is more important than the overall potential to serve a business has. Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should market yourself as being able to. If you never make a profit it doesn’t matter how versatile your website or business was. Online, niche marketing is the way to go for rapid, affordable, marketing of a business. If you decide to expand on your initial product offering, the way Amazon has, that’s fine, but starting out by being known for selling one thing, or one group of things, is much a cheaper option and gains traction much quicker. This will increase your success rate ten-fold.

Oct 15, 2010 - Development    No Comments

Fighting Comcast Spam Filters

After reviewing the failed email queue that was 100% full of Comcast email addresses I decided it was yet again time to review the email/DNS settings to see if there was something I had missed that was preventing Comcast from allowing emails from ALL of our sites from getting through. Comcast does have a set of web pages dedicated to email errors and failed email solutions. Although I didn’t know exactly why Comcast was blocking emails, I decided to fill out the Blocked Provider Request form that allows you to submit your mail server IP address and ask for a ban to be removed. The page says that Comcast will usually respond in 30 minutes, and much to my surprised less than 30 minutes later I received an automated email saying that first of all, yes, the IP had been blocked, and that the block was now removed! The email did say that the IP had been blocked for “patterns characteristics of spam”. Hopefully the previous DNS settings that weren’t 100% up to par caused this block and it won’t return. About a week or so ago I found some DNS settings that needed to be modified based on some reports I ran on DNSStuff.com. Hopefully that will help Comcast to keep us on their white list.

Jul 21, 2010 - Business    No Comments

Elements of a Good Freemium Website

There are many different revenue models for making money through owning a website. The most popular models are a) providing a free website and monetizing the website by running ads, b) running a pay website (subscription/pay accounts) with out ads, and c) running a mostly free website with some pay options, or pay accounts with additional features. This last option is known as the “freemium” revenue model. Many of the websites that I have created use this model. Instead of discussing different ways to implement a freemium website, which can be found elsewhere, this blog post will discuss the elements of a web-based service that make it a prime candidate for the freemium revenue model.

New Type of Product

When a company creates a brand new type of product, or market, freemium can be the best way to get the product off the ground. Being able to entice users to use the product for free can jump start a new concept into being a huge hit. If you are creating a product that is hard to explain to users who have never used it before, freemium is a good revenue model to consider. Twitter.com is a good example of a product that would be a great freemium product. Although Twitter has not released upgrade accounts, for higher volume users or for advanced users, the Twitter concept was new when it was introduced and they allow users to use the service for free in order to get it off the ground. Although Twitter has focused on alternative advertising methods for its initial revenue attempts, at some point upgraded accounts are bound to come into play as a revenue stream. Dropbox.com, an online storage service, is hard for the average PC users to conceive. They have used freemium as a way to get users, mostly from current user referrals, to try their service. So when you tell your mom and dad that Dropbox is an option for backing up all those new digital camera pictures, they can try it out without having to understand the concept first. Once they have decided that they do indeed need a cloud storage service, they can upgrade their account and start backing up all of their files.

Commitment Products

Some products take a longer than average amount of time to sufficiently experience their features. If your users need to interact with your website over a period of days or weeks just to discover whether the product is worth using, then freemium is a good option for your website. This type of website differs from the type described above simply because these types of services are common and already understood by potential users. Flickr.com is a good example of this type of website. Although you can view friend’s pictures on Flickr and become attracted to it’s ease of use as an end user, you won’t really know if it’s worth paying for extended use until you try uploading and organizing your photos for yourself. Since uploading and organizing is what Flickr does best, this must be experienced to make an impact on users. It will take a notable amount of time for a user to upload photos and start organizing them before they could give a good review of the website’s services. Once a user has used the website for a significant amount of time, a percentage of them can be convinced that additional features, like more data storage, are worth paying for. Flickr is not a new concept, but it does require extended time to analyze its usefulness. Products that users will use for a significant amount of time, such as web-based email, can also be great examples of the freemium model. If a user is going to switch from one service to another they would be thrilled to be able to give it a test drive before committing to the new service. Gmail.com, or any other up-and-coming web-based email system, who has to get Yahoo Mail and Hotmail users to jump ship, is an example of a potentially great freemium concept. If you’re going to expect your users to become intimate with (used daily/weekly for years) your product, a freemium model might be the right option.

Social Networking Websites

On some websites the main commodity is the people using the service or the content that those users create on the website. It can be very complicated to start a product like this. In order to attract users these services must be mostly free in most cases. Myspace.com, Facebook.com, Match.com, and even our own FidoFinder.com are examples of websites that only become useful once many others are also using the service. As more users sign up for the service, the service is worth more to its current users. These websites work best when they are of the freemium revenue model. On Fido Finder it’s important for us to have both users who register lost dogs and user who register found dogs. Lost dog finders post for free, as do lost dog owners, but lost dog owners are presented with optional upgrades to their account. It’s these users who pay for the usage that the other users get for free. Without the 100% free listings being taken advantage of, though, the group of users who would consider an upgrade simply wouldn’t exist. This is the same for dating, or other social, websites. If your website is going to need to develop a large network of users before it becomes valuable to the users, freemium is probably the best way to go.

Mar 8, 2010 - Business    Comments Off

Facebook Ads Fail

I have been running Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft ads for years to advertise my websites. I recently decided to try creating some ads on Facebook. The ads were a complete failure, and it seems like Facebook has missed a lot of potential with its ad network. I basically ran into the issue that they simply wouldn’t allow me to advertise any of my products, even though it appears is if they will.

What Facebook Ad Campaigns CAN Do

When you create a campaign in Facebook ads you type in keywords that you want to purchase ads for, similar to other advertising networks. The difference here is that you are constrained to Facebooks list of keywords. These keywords come from user profiles, only, from what I can tell. This can be awesome for some types of advertising. For example, my profile says I play poker, and I often see poker ads. Perfect. But that’s only one small part of potential advertising. First of all, my profile is very bare, but there is much more information posted on my wall that could contain potential advertising keywords.

What Facebook Ad Campaigns CAN’T Do

Nobody is a fan of lost pets, heart attacks, car wrecks, or arthritis. But companies sell products for all of these issues. With Facebook ads pulling keyword information from profiles you can only buy keywords for “positive” events and items. In the Facebook ad console you type keywords into a text box and Facebook pops up potential keywords for you to choose. Unlike Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, you can only purchase keywords that are in their system. This means although I can purchase the keyword “lost dogs” for Fido Finder, because there is a band called “The Lost Dogs” (can’t purchase the keyword “lost cats” a tall), I cannot target people posting that they actually lost a dog. In general, it appears that if people aren’t proud of the keywords you need to buy, you won’t have any success advertising on Facebook. I was completely unable to advertise Fido Finder and Tabby Tracker. Then, because of ridiculous, over-aggressive, “gambling” rules that we run into on every ad network, I cannot advertise League Ace or Hold’Em Hand History even though neither of them allows any kind of gambling.

The Volume/Traction Problem

Since I do run Tagomatic, a website for music, movies, books and website “reviews”, I did decide to run some “positive” ads on Facebook for people who are into “rock, rap, country, etc.” I also ran Naming Force ads for people who are “Starting a Business”. What I saw for these two campaigns was a quick run of a few thousand impressions in the first 2 days, that resulted in 4-5 clicks, and then no more impressions for the following weeks. No notice from Facebook about any issues. No information when I sign into the console. No suggestion on how to continue my campaigns. Nothing. Both campaigns just stopped getting impressions. Now, I’m smart enough to know that increasing my keyword bid would probably result in continued impressions. But IMO the system fails yet again in not allowing me to advertise my products for $0.20 a click, even if I get a low CTR, the way other ad networks would allow me to do. I don’t think the industry really knows what kind of ads people will click on Facebook, and the Facebook system doesn’t allow this information to develop. With me only getting a few thousand impressions I don’t even have the chance to tweak my ad text or campaign settings. How is anyone supposed to get off the ground with this system?

So for all 6 websites I currently have running I was not able to create a single successful campaign on Facebook for any of them. That’s just a FAIL.

Jan 12, 2010 - Misc    Comments Off

Webby Awards Judge

I’ve been chosen to be a Webby Awards judge this year. The Webby’s are the Oscars of the Internet. In 2007 Fido Finder was nominated for an award in the Best Web Services category of the Webby Awards, and because of this selection I was chosen to participate in this year’s voting. It was an honor to be nominated in 2007 and it’s an honor to be a judge and help to award top websites with a Webby. I won’t reveal what categories I will be judging but I will be participating in judging in 9 categories. Good luck to all those competing this year for a Webby Award.

Nov 21, 2009 - Business    Comments Off

Thinking Outside of the Box

Lemons to lemonade, or whatever you want to call it, you have to think creatively to win in business. I recently had an “aha” that maybe will spark something for yourself.

After releasing my iPhone app I started to receive a few random empty emails a week generated by the “Report a Problem/Suggest a Feature” button within the app. People are evidently tapping this button, then instead of tapping “Cancel” on the email they are tapping “Send.” So I get an email with nothing but “Sent from my iPhone.” At first this was simply annoying. Then today I realized that my customers were unknowingly giving me an open method of contact with them, something you don’t normally have with an iPhone app (you get very little data from Apple on who is downloading your app).  Now I’m not going to spam people or do anything to cause an uproar…but I sure am replying to every single blank email and reminder these customers to rate/review the app in iTunes. Truthfully, I don’t know how much having a 5-start rating and 50 good reviews affects download numbers or people’s perception of your app, but since I’m not really (directly) selling anything else this was the best use of the inadvertent emails I could come up with.

Oct 28, 2009 - Business    Comments Off

Google Ad Manager

ad_manager_logo

I just got some of my websites set up in Google Ad Manager and it’s pretty cool what you can do. Previously I had all of my ad networks running directly on the websites, simple cut and paste of the network’s code. If the ad block was Google AdSense, I had the ability to load alternate ads if Google couldn’t find ads for the keywords on the page. This increased the number of ads being run, but I didn’t have a lot of options for really maximizing my ad revenue. For example, one of the networks, Advertising.com (owned by AOL), only pays for impressions / clicks from U.S. visitors. Without subscribing to an IP geolocation database, which I’ve found to not be accurate – at least at the city level, I didn’t have a way (or reason) to limit ads to displaying to U.S. visitors only. So although I was registered with ad networks that allow me to monetize non-U.S. traffic (CPX Interactive), if my ad block is for a U.S.-only ad network I was showing ads to thousands of people a day who I cannot make money off of. With Google Ad Manager I have the ability to set certain ads, which can be ad network JavaScript code, to only show for certain geo-targeting settings, and when these values are not met other ads can show in the same ad slot. And in a reverse scenario of what I described earlier, if the goe-targeting settings (for example) restrict an ad network’s ad from showing for a user you can allow AdSense to show ads in its place.

The main purpose of Ad Manager is to allow you to accept direct ads from advertisers and run them on your websites, among your ad network ads. This too is a feature I want to take advantage of, but even without utilizing this (yet), using Ad Manager for managing your ad networks is a pretty awesome if you want to maximize your ad revenue.