3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoe String
(photo by riccardo)
Time is money.
Trite, but true. One of the handiest “life hacks” is to figure out how much money your time is worth (after taxes) and use that to as a basis for deciding if a time saving service is worth it’s cost (assuming you have disposable income). The classic example is to hire help for around the home or to go out for dinner. Compare the spent time doing it yourself to the money you’d spend paying someone to do it for you and find an acceptable ratio.
One of the greatest lies told in the blogosphere is “write better content to get more readers and more traffic.” Great content without promotion will always fail to reach wide audience. Some form of promotion is always necessarily, usually by getting links from a more popular site, or by having a reader base that promotes your content for you.
This is how I know that I’m not a writer: the best writing comes because you have something to say, not because you’re trying to achieve some level of popularity. I know I have thought “why write if no one is reading?” Obviously, I have some deep-seated issues involving being unpopular in elementary school and trying to find validation on the Internet instead of finding my own happiness inside me; consider this my cry for help.
(photo by peregrino)
Writing content takes time and so does marketing. I would estimate I spend more time promoting my site, networking and building relationships with other bloggers than I do writing content. My combined focusing on writing and promotion is the only reason why anyone has every read my site — not because my content attracts readers like bees to honey.
Writing and promoting leads to lost hours, but time is money. Is it possible to replace time spent on marketing with money spent on advertising?
My time is worth around $20/hour to me. Blogging is my hobby, not a money making venture. This would be purely to reduce time I already spend — not an attempt to “grow my business.” Can a small monetary investment replace my own time building links?
In an hour I can probably drive around a guaranteed minimum of 100-300 hits to a blog post by prepping it for search engines, submitting it to social networks, contacting other bloggers and plugging it in forums and blog comments.
The sums of money are small because 1) I’m not doing this as a business investment and because 2) it is harder to compare time to money with larger sums of money. I also feel that small sums are more realistic to what a blogger can afford. This is my first time trying to buy advertising so the results may be laughable — please give better advice in the comments.
Three Good Ways to Buy Blog Ads (and Two Bad Ways)
BAD: Strange Schemes – RentMyChest – $50/life
Everyone has heard of the Million Dollar Homepage due to the massive main stream media coverage it garnered. Lots (and lots) of similar ideas sprung up. Chris Pirillo came up with the oh-so-strange RentMyChest.com. Buy a linked word on his chest for $50 for life. Result: the traffic is low — less than three hits a day. Ratio has been less than 10 hits/dollar so far.
AVERAGE: Social Networks – StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign – $10/once
Any blogger who has had a post stumbled has seen the how they turn the referrer url into an ad for StumbleUpon (genius). They are the most straightforward with a direct cost per vistor of $0.05 a hit. $10 got me 200 hits, although my stats software only said 130 (my fault for having too long of a landing page). There were only three positive stumbles, which didn’t lead to any increased SU traffic once the campaign was over. Ratio is 13 hits/dollar. (It should have been 20 hits/dollar but I want to keep the metrics even with the rest.)
GOOD: Blog Advertising – Adbrite – $12/month
I chose to buy an ad on the popular blogger Violent Acres’ site because the cost was so low. I chose the “I support Violent Acres” text which made me the second most popular ad on the site with around 7-9 hits a day. When the author wrote a post directly about her advertisers that lead to an increase of around 100-180 hits for two days. Ratio was about 40 hits/dollar.
GOOD: Social Networks – StumbleUpon Sponsorship – $20/year
It is harder to measure the results of this. By becoming a sponsored StumbleUpon community member an account gets featured more often. But being a solid well-networked member of the StumbleUpon community seems to be a much bigger factor than whether or not you are a sponsor. I’ve seen StumbleUpon block users from submitting articles from certain blogs, but when contacted SU never responded.
GREAT: Group Writing Project with Prize / Contest – $15/contest
Group writing projects are a great way to get links and interactive community participation. The downside is that their success is largely a factor of how well they are promoted – Probloggers like Darren Rowse can get over 300 links in a group writing project. I got 23 links, 1000 hits and more importantly new readers because of my first contest. I consider it a resounding success. Ratio was 67 hits/dollar.
My second contest did 49 links and 1450 hits, and my third contest did 19 links and 860 hits.
Is it worth spending money to promote your blog?
I’m still divided on it. The results aren’t going to be any better than what you can build naturally through promotion, but it can be a good way to give support to other bloggers/sites you enjoy. Contests seem to be a great way to engage your readers and help build a community around your blog — but there isn’t any time savings compared to how you would normally promote a post. Running a contest is worth it for building up your community but it isn’t a short-cut (and too much self-promotion can drive away readers). Spending the same time and energy on something else other than a contest would likely get similar results.
(photo by greefus)
Ways to Advertise Your Blog (That I Didn’t Try)
More info on SEOMoz: ” I think that this is a ton of bull. I think that you can blow a load of dough and a lot of time chasing these links – which are mostly going to be low quality – and bring you very little real traffic.”
Blog Advertising – Text Link Ads
The ads are served as part of the web content so they pass ad-blocking software and are counted by search engines. It’s like buying your way on to the blogroll. Text Link Ads would charge $69 to $83 per month for a single link on my blog — so it’s out of my “on a shoestring” price range. One thing I’ve noticed from being on many blog rolls is that they don’t usually lead to many hits. More info at SEOMoz.
Blog Advertising – Direct
Some blog owners who sell ads will allow you to negotiate direct prices. This is a better deal for both parties because there is no middle man. DailyBlogTips writes about direct sale from the seller’s point of view.
Blog Advertising – Networks
“Most blog networks allow users to purchase credits with money, and the price is really convenient. You should be able receive hundreds of visitors or to get thousands of banner impressions for less than 10 dollars. Some blog networks that sell credits include Blog Explosion, Blog Soldiers and Blog Advance.” More info at DailyBlogTips.
Blog Advertising – Sponsored Reviews
PayPerPost, ReviewMe and SponsoredReviews all let you find bloggers who are will to write about your site if you give them some cash. It could be a good way to target blogs that have the same niche, although there is no guarantee they’ll have anything nice to say about you. Blogging Tips talks about his experience buying reviews. Buying paid reviews can be a great way to promote a contest.
RSS Advertising – FeedBurner
FeedBurner has been selling ads in RSS feeds for a while, and that’s only going to increase now that they’ve been bought by Google. You are targeting people who read blogs and people who subscribe to RSS feeds. They have detailed demographics on the audiences. aVC talks about buying Feedburner ads, and how each subscriber makes him around $0.60/month on the ads he sells through FeedBurner.
Search Engines – Google AdWords
” Adwords is probably the most efficient method to generated raw traffic for your website. In order to get started you should create an account, add lots (by lots I mean hundreds if not thousands) of keywords that are related your site and set the maximum Pay-per-Click rate at $0.01. After that raise the rate by $0.01 every week or so until you start getting the desired amount of daily clicks.” More info at DailyBlogTips. You can also directly target a specific site using Google AdWords.
Social Networks – YouTube
This is like direct blog advertising, but instead you contact the creators of popular videos on YouTube and ask them to embed a watermark with your blog url for a small price. WebLogHits talks about their experience.
Social Networks – Facebook
Social Networks – Digg and User/Submitter
There are several underground sites that will “vote” for your site on social link sharing networks. This can lead to you getting banned from those networks, and isn’t like to be worth it in the long term. Digg seems to bring less hits and less links then it ever did before.
(photo by thoth92)
7 Tips for Buying Advertising for Your Blog
- Buy ads from sites that would have a similar audience who would also appreciate your content.
- Deep Link
- Instead of linking to the front page of your blog, link to a particular page that gives the reader value. Try to convert them into a regular reader.
- Other Blogs
- By buying ads on other blogs not only do you support other bloggers but you are targeting an audience that already reads blogs.
- Choose Sites that Directly Mention Their Sponsors
- A link in the sidebar only gets a fraction of the hits compared to a blog that directly thanks the people who have sponsored them.
- Mention the Site You Are Advertising On
- Ads that mention the site they are advertising on cut through the blinders people have when reading websites.
- Avoid Pyramid Schemes and Pay Directories
- They don’t work. When was the last time you clicked on a link on a million dollar homepage or on from a blog directory?
- If the ad would be blocked by ad blocking software then you might think twice about using it if you have an audience that uses ad-blocking software.
This was written as part of Daily Blog Tips “Project 3” contest. Vote for it by linking to this article from your blog!