So what type of advertising should you do to generate a stampede of traffic to your site? The trick is knowing which strategies to invest in. I've tried a lot of different forms of advertising over the years, and the four listed below are the ones I've found to be the most profitable by far. Take a look at what I call the top four "smart advertising" techniques:
1. Get your site listed on the major pay-per-click search engines. Without a doubt, pay-per-click (PPC) search engines are still the best value for your advertising dollar. If you want to get listed on a PPC search engine, bid on keywords that relate to the content of your site. If you're the highest bidder on a given keyword, your site will be the first listing that appears at the top of the "results" page when someone performs a search for that keyword.
And getting listed on a PPC search engine is the easiest way to get listed at the top of the major search engines fast. Plus, when you're in the top three listings on Overture (the industry leader in PPC search), your site will be featured as a "sponsored listing" on highly trafficked sites such as Yahoo!, Altavista, CNN.com, InfoSpace and MSN.com.
If you monitor the click-through and sales conversion rates of the keywords you're bidding on, there's no way you can lose money. Just be sure to keep your bids lower than your visitor worth, and you'll be set.
To explore PPC search engine strategies in more detail, check out the following PPC search engines:
2. Place text ads in popular e-zines and online trade journals. E-zines are popping up everywhere on the internet these days, all catering to very different niche markets. And just like offline magazines, a lot of them need to sell advertising in order to stay profitable.
By placing an ad in these publications, you can increase your site's exposure and piggyback on the e-zine's reputation, encouraging readers to click on the ad and check out your site. But first, you'll have to do some research to discover which e-zines and online trade journals are popular with your niche market.
Try to place your ads in well-trafficked e-zines with content that's directly relevant to your target audience. For example, if you sell bulk, recycled stationery, advertise in an e-zine geared to office workers--not in one that's meant for rock climbers.
The cost of running an e-zine ad can vary anywhere from $20 to $100 per ad, depending on the e-zine and the type of ads they publish. It's generally safe to assume that more popular e-zines charge more for their ads. To learn more about which e-zines are going to be the best places for you to advertise, here are a couple sites to check out:
3. Get your site listed on paid inclusion directories and portals. A great way to get your site seen by a lot of different people--and boost your ranking with the free search engines--is to buy a listing on paid directories or portal sites.
A directory is an indexed listing of sites that's managed by human editors (as opposed to the free search engines, which are entirely run by computers). Some directories are free, while others charge anywhere from $10 to $100 for a listing. Do some research to discover which directories are popular with your niche market before deciding where you want your site to be listed.
Portals are "megasites" that provide a wide range of resources, information and services to their visitors. Yahoo! started off as a directory but has grown to become a popular portal site that offers search capability, news, entertainment and other features in addition to its indexed listings.
Yahoo! gets a lot of traffic, but it can also be very expensive--it costs $299 to get your site fast-tracked and reviewed for inclusion by Yahoo!'s human editors, and even then your site isn't guaranteed to be included.
If you want to get a good listing on the Yahoo! directory, you should probably focus your advertising efforts on Overture, Yahoo!'s pay-per-click search engine, which can get you listed on Yahoo! for just pennies a click.
4. Post a banner, classified or pop-up ad on industry "hot sites." Whenever you come across sites that are popular with your niche market, do whatever you can to get your site listed on them. If they sell classified ads on their site, buy one. You can even submit your ad to classified ad websites and databases automatically using software like Power Submitter. You can also pay these industry hot sites to place a banner ad or pop-up on their site.
Although banner ads have declined somewhat in popularity, that's mostly due to people using them poorly in the past. Skyscrapers--vertical ads placed at the edge of a web page--and discreet banners that look like they're part of a web page can still be very effective.
Pop-ups have gotten a poor reputation, but again, that's due to people using them in intrusive or offensive ways, such as pop-up "loops" that take over your computer. We've found that a tasteful pop-up presenting people with a valuable offer, such as a free subscription to a newsletter or a coupon, can still generate a high click-through rate--especially when it's placed on a page with relevant content.
Unfortunately for advertisers, pop-up blockers are becoming more common, and that can be a problem. But there are new technologies available that allow you to create ads that look like pop-ups, even though they're actually built into the HTML coding of the web page itself.
When you're exploring your advertising options, you may be tempted by short-cut strategies offered by companies that are often more interested in your money than in helping you get the word out about your site. These sites typically offer so-called "targeted traffic" or "targeted e-mail lists" for sale, and will try to convince you they're offering you quality traffic. More often than not however, they can provide only general traffic--people who have no particular interest in your product or service.
The best way to discover which paid advertising techniques work best for your company is to test, test and test again. There's going to be some trial and error involved, and you may lose a little money on the "errors," but once you discover the techniques that lure scores of visitors to your site, you'll find that all your testing was worth it.
As we always say, test small so that you can fail small. Then, once you've determined which advertising brings you the best return on your investment, roll out your campaign in full--and succeed big!
Corey Rudl is the founder and president of the Internet Marketing Center. He's also the author of the bestselling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet.
Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center is the author of the best-selling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. An internationally sought-after Internet business consultant and speaker, Corey focuses his energy on the research and development of practical, cost-effective Internet marketing strategies and software for the small and homebased business owner.