Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ramp up your SEM efforts with "SONAR"

SEM -- the ability to leverage natural search -- is an important part of your online marketing plan.

In order to help maximize your website traffic and conversions, synchronization of your content distribution can potentially equate into an increased web presence, growth to your prospect database, and additional sales.

For instance, if you have article in your eLetter at the same time that article is published in your eLetter (and this is critical) repurpose it and distribute it via what I call, "The SONAR Content Distribution Model":

S = syndicate partners and syndication networks. For example, there are many websites that encourage article submission. There’s a financial site called or syndication networks such as They welcome editorial from third-parties. Simply search the Web for “content syndication networks” and a list comes up more potential places to distribute your content.

O = online press releases. Everyday articles from your eLetter can be repurposed to have a press release feel. The most important element is that the release must be newsworthy -- latest research data, a forecast, a product breakthrough, contrarian viewpoint – anything that would be interested to readers and media. Sample low cost or free websites include:,,, and others.

N = network communities. Social networks user generated content sites have become a great way to syndicated content, create buzz, and drive traffic to your site. Communities like: Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, LinksMarker and more allow users to upload snippets or headlines of their content.

A = article directories. Sites such as, and allow users to upload articles. If you have a daily or weekly eLetter, you can upload articles to these sites. Good for SEO (search engine optimization), viral marketing, and syndicatation opportunities.

R = relevant posts to blogs, forums, and bulletin boards. Upload an excerpt or message from an article with a link to the article. You never know who in the blogsphere is reading posts, and someone may find the article interesting and publish it in it’s entirety on their website or blog. When uploading posts to blogs and forums make sure your post is relevant and not a blatant promotion. There needs to be some value in the message. You’ll get better results if you have an active presence in the forum prior to your post, lending more credibility to your comments. This “guerilla marketing tactic” needs to be done with finesse incorporating industry best practices and good business ethics.

In my expereince, implementing this powerful, yet simple technique -- while dovetailing your other -- Inernet marketing initiatives will show increased traffic results in no time.

"SONAR" Results In Action

My synchronized technique helped increase traffic ranking and visits to a new health website by 3,160% and 81.5% respectively, in only three months.

And in four months, traffic visits increased to a popular investing website by nearly 80% as well as an increase its traffic ranking by nearly 150 percent. Plus, this traffic was monetized for an ROI of 221%.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Getting the Most Bang for your Buck

Exclusive dedicated emails and enews sponsorships are effective ways to target a message to a specific group based on demographic profiling.

However, the down side of a dedicated email blast is the high CPM rate and limited frequency (one time email blast).

I suggest a more balanced online marketing mix that leverages the broad coverage and targeted segmentation of multiple platforms and includes formats such as banner ads, text links, eNews sponsorships, and polls.

This will allow for more frequent messages to build awareness and the CPM would be more cost effective to your ROI.

Getting The Most Bang For Your Buck With Online Media Buying
Tips To Know!

Tip #1: Watch What’s Happening in the Industry
Get subscriptions to free industry trade papers, such as DM News, Response Magazine, and Target Marketing, and as many free newsletters as you’d like.

I really like because it’s a leader in online marketing. Others to consider are and (which provides some of the industry’s best practices, benchmarks, trends, and forecasts).

Tip #2: Research Which Ad Is A Higher Performer
If you’re looking at online ads, whether it’s a blog, website, or ad network, there’s many to choose from. Some popular ads include the following. For a complete list of banner ad sizes, visit :
· leader boards
· skyscrapers
· buttons
· micro banners
· large rectangles (LRECS)

However, not every banner is created equal. For instance, it has been my experience that leader boards (ads that run horizontally across the top of a Web page) or skyscrapers (ads that run vertically along the side of a Web page) get the least clicks and conversions.

I believe the best ad units and placements are typically LRECs - large rectangles, such as 300 x 250 or 250 x 250 IMUs (Internet Marketing Unit). These are generally located above the page fold and within or close to the surrounding article content. So as a reader is perusing an article, their eye can’t help but notice the ad next to it … especially if you have a strong headline or eye-catching graphic image.

An eye-tracking study by The Poynter Institute supported this observation, indicating that banner ads at the top left of the page, as well as ads close to the body of an article, received the most attention from readers.

Tip #3: Business Negotiations 101
In the process of putting together your media buy (or “insertion order” as the official agreement is referred to), you will be required to analyze many proposals from different website, blogs or ad networks.

You’ll need to ascertain if the rate you are being quoted is cost effective and comparable to industry rates.

This is where the “Media Tracking Matrix” spreadsheet comes in handy.
I recommend sorting this sheet by ad rate, lowest to highest. So you can see instantly which contenders are out of budget or not.

Keep in mind that when account executives start quoting you advertising rates, many drivers can influence that rate such as:
-Seasonality. Most Web traffic typically drops during summer months as well as major holidays. Use this knowledge to your advantage and try to get lower rates during these times. You can also pause your ad if it happens to be running during a holiday and have it turned back on after the holiday.

-Exclusivity. Find out if your ad is get 100% of the rotations or is sharing that ad space with other advertisers. For instance, one banner ad on a website may rotate and have 5 different messages each time you refresh. This is known as being “fixed ad placement” or “shared ad placement”. If you’re told you have shared placement, find out how many actual impressions YOU will receive.

-Site Targeting. Will your ad be ROS (run of site), by channel, by page? Typically, you can drill down your banner ad or advertising message down to a specific page. But the lower your drill the more you will pay for that targeting. The higher you go, the less you pay. ROS is the highest level, so it’s usually the cheapest. Next is usually ROC (run of channel), that is, running your ad within targeted sections of a site. Then there are also specific pages or demographic targeting. Your goals and budget will determine which placement is best for your needs.

-Remnant Space. Check with the account executive to see if they have any remnant space (space that they’re having difficulty selling for any reason) or last minute specials. With more popular and high traffic websites, you can get some great deals on remnant space. Make sure to find out the Terms and Conditions.

-Termination Right. Make sure your insertion order has a ‘termination right’ or ‘out clause’ (typically 24 - 48 hours). This way, if you see after a week your ad isn’t performing, and you tested other ads, you can end the campaign without penalty and only pay for impressions served.

Tip #4: Due Diligence.
If you’re looking at a banner ad, find out demographic information and website analytics. If you’re considering renting an email list from a third-party, find out the size of their e-mail list, how often the list gets mailed, the average unit sale per subscriber, and whether or not there will be lift note (simply, introduction memo/implied endorsement by the publisher). These variables will help establish the value of the list.

Tip#5: Real Time Reporting
Ask your account executive if you will have access to the OAS system (online ad server) or if he/she can email you daily performance reports. You want to look at impressions served, click thru and open rates. These metrics will illustrate to you the popularity of your ad and if it’s resonating with website visitors. Are they clicking the banner but not converting at landing page? Are they visiting page, but not clicking banner? Answers to these questions will determine where you need to tweak your advertising creative.

For instance:
High clicks (banner ad), low conversions (landing page). This is typically an indicator that something on the landing page is not attractive to readers. Common reasons are offer, guarantee (return policy), price, copy (copywriting that is not compelling and draws reader in), no clear “call to action (what you exactly want reader to do next).

Low clicks (banner ad or text ad). This is typically an indicator that your front end creative is not compelling or eye-catching. You only have a few seconds to grab the readers’ attention. Great copywriting skills and/or strong graphical images are most important here.

Tip #6: Test Ad Networks
If your goal is to reach the biggest, broadest audience possible, and you want to run an ad on a few different websites … consider an ad network.

Ad networks have arrangements with a variety of popular websites. Since ad networks typically buy their ad units in bulk from the publishing sites, the networks can pass the savings down to you. Some popular ad networks include and You can find a full list at

Important Note: Make sure you get proposals from more than one network when researching your rates. Some of the lesser-known networks like are extremely competitive with their rates and can really give the big guys a run for their money.

However, ask for a list of ‘sample sites’ and find out how many total sites are in their ad network universe. You see, many ad networks may only mention their 5 top sites and they may have a universe of 25 sites or more. So the remaining 20 sites are all Tier II or Tier III sites, otherwise known as ‘Micro sites’, with no real traffic or use to you. These are basically obscure sites on the fringe of the Internet. And they’re certainly not worth more than a $1/CPM.

Depending on how many impressions you buy and if you’re buying run of site or run of channel, your average cost for an LREC can range from $2 to $9. For blog ads and blog networks, you can often find CPMs lower than $1. My preferred blog ad network is You can create your plan a la carte or buy “hives” (package of similar type blogs). Rates are affordable and you can easily upload your creative’s and change as needed.

Tip #7:
Don’t Just Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk
When buying online media, confidence is king. Armed with basic knowledge and the confidence to speak intelligently will go a long way. You will come across savvy to account executives … someone that is not likely to get the wool pulled over their eyes easily. And you need to be perceived that way. If you sound like you’re unsure of yourself or don’t know what you’re talking about, then don’t be surprised if the ad exec tries to take advantage of you and get you to pay ‘rate card’, which is their published rate.

Tip #8: Try To Get ‘Good Will’ Freebies For SEO
Whenever I do a media buy I always see if I can get a ‘courtesy’ back link from the site I’m buying from … especially if they have a ‘resource’ or ‘links’ page. It’s really no skin off their apple and it is mutually beneficial for SEO. And if the site you’re buying from has a really strong traffic rank, then it could be very advantageous for you to get this back-link. More than half the time I get it. The worst the account exec can say is no. So why not ask for it?

Tip #9: Buy More/Get More
If you happen to have a larger ad budget (more than $5K) then you have some leverage to ask for some add on’s. For instance, if you’re renting an email list of 100K names, see if the website will throw in a free banner ad or text ad for a week. Mention if it performs well, you’ll have a good reason to buy this ad unit in next media buy.

Media Cheat Sheet

When coordinating your insertion order (IO) with an online account executive, it’s important to be prepared for some of the questions you’ll be asked. Your response will determine the pricing and data being presented in your overall proposal. Typical questions you may be asked from account execs include:
-When you want to start the campaign and how long do you want it to be?
-What is the offer/goal (product sales, lead gen, other)?
-Do you have sample ad creative to send?
-What’s the budget?
-What’s your target audience (demographic, geographic, psychographic)?
-What kind of websites do you want your ad to run on (genre, category)
-What type of ad unit are you interested in (size, placement)?

The more information you can provide, the more accurate your proposal with costs will be. Other things to know that allow for leverage and leeway…

Budget. I always tell new account execs it’s a ‘test’ buy and the budget is small ($2,500 - $5,000). I tease them with an incentive, such as, “…if this buy works, I’ll roll out with bigger and more frequent buys.” And why wouldn’t I? If my ad makes money, it’s a win/win situation. This usually helps the network be more flexible with their account minimum spend.

Out clause. Many ad networks or websites won’t mention it. Be sure to insist on it. You want to be able to get out if the effort isn’t working and not pay any additional fees for doing so.
Payment terms. Most if not all websites and networks are going to try and get you to pay with a credit card up front. But I always like to ask for Net 30 days payment terms and pay after the campaign is completed.

Ad units. Let’s say you’re testing an LREC (large rectangle banner ad). And surprisingly, after 1 week, click thrus are mediocre. If you don’t have an alternate creative to run, see if the website or network can let you try the same creative, but in another ad unit, like text ad, or skyscraper.
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