Question:  We are web-based. How do I choose good websites on which to focus our advertising dollars?

From Leah of www.DiaperCakewalk.com 

Shara’s reply: When I first began my book business I went looking around for web sites to advertise on. I knew very little about advertising back then (2007). I basically focused on cost. I didn’t have a lot of money and I looked around for web sites that didn’t charge hundreds of dollars a month to place a simple ad/link.

I ended up spending $400+ to advertise on a site called MommyPerks.com. I later became co-owner and then full owner but that’s another story. 

Back to my point: I got very little traffic from the site back then! It had just started up in 2005 and the traffic was slim at best. Over the months and years I watched as more mom sites and mom blogs entered the scene and more niche markets popped up Online. I listened to my own friends, colleagues and clients grumble about what didn’t work, the money they wasted and more. I learned from the feedback in order to make Mommy Perks an affordable location for business owners to promote – with funds they could stand to lose. 

That said, here are a few tips I myself would follow if buying ad space for my book business now!

Niche sites

Focus on buying ads on sites and blogs that actually relate to what you do/sell. Sometimes buying ads on “parent” sites is too broad. The more you can narrow things down the better. For instance, if you sell gardening tools, you might do okay promoting to parents but you’d do even better promoting to gardeners. So look around for sites that focus their content on gardening tips, ideas and resources. The site visitors will be more likely to purchase what you are selling. 

Cost

Cost always matters when our budgets are tight. The problem comes when small business owners want advertising for very little from sites that offer a lot. How can that work? Many times, it cannot. Here’s why: If I sell ads for $5 each I’m not earning enough to feed my children or pay my own bills. Yet the advertiser wants me to bring lots of visits and sales. This is hardly fair, right? I have to focus on building up my site and blog in order to have great traffic and seo so that my advertisers get clicks and hopefully sales! That takes time and money. Once I’ve built up then, I have every right to charge more. That is what the advertiser is paying for, after-all. So keep in mind that while you do want to spend your money wisely, expecting a site to deliver high results will cost you more. Fair is fair. 

Google Ads

Do your research and number crunching before buying Google Ads. One of my clients recently did the number crunching and realized… this is not for them. You see, they sell memberships on their site for $20 each. With Google Ads, they’d be spending about $60 per new client that they snag. That certainly doesn’t balance out, does it? Now, if you sell something for $300 and each new client would cost you $60, it may be worth it.

Plan ahead

Many small business owners plan out their advertising dollars at the start of the year. They take the extra funds that came from holiday sales and use that to buy ads for the following 12 months. This is a wise move, I think. Most small businesses gain additional income during the holiday months so using some of that to continue with their advertising is smart. Do some research and ask around. What sites do other small businesses advertise on? Who gives the most bang for your buck? What site owners go the extra mile by tweeting and facebooking their clients? Many sites do not welcome their advertisers on facebook or twitter but many do. Find out who goes that extra step for their clients.

Create effective ad images 

I recently ran a giveaway for one client and I invited a few pals to enter. Two of them wrote back, “Oh, I don’t have toddler aged kids!” Well, this client had long been using babies and toddlers on their ad graphics. Even though they sell for kids up to the age of 18! Many potential buyers didn’t bother to click over because the images implied that all products were for small children only. Be sure to create and label your ad images for the most accurate and targeted results. 

Long term ads

It can take a while for site visitors to register your ad in their mind. They might see your ad 10 times before actually clicking over or acting upon it. It’s often-times better to buy long term ads rather than short term (one month, etc). I used to sell ads in our PERKS Directory for 3, 6 and 12 months. I now sell the spots for one year only and that’s that. It’s better for the client to have a long term placement so I don’t bother with other options now. This is less likely to be an issue for high traffic sites like CNN.com, of course. If you are on CNN.com for one month you’ll get lots of clicks. Yes, indeed. For smaller sites and blogs, however, don’t expect fast results or over-the-moon traffic stats.

Busy beaver blogs

Do you ever visit sites and blogs that are crammed full of ads? I can’t stand them, myself. I shut out every single ad and don’t pay attention to any of them. If you are like me, you’ll want to find sites that tastefully sell ads so that the clients can actually be seen among the content. I would be far more likely to buy ads on a site or blog that doesn’t crowd, cram and stuff the ads into every nook and cranny. 

Think outside the Internet

Your local school may sell ad space in the yearbook or school newsletter. Look into these options, as well. They are usually very affordable and you’ll be promoting to locals – who hopefully embrace the “buy local” slogan! As a local business owner you may gain new business from other parents in your area, even though you sell Online. It can’t hurt to try. 

Shara Lawrence-Weiss has a background in education, early childhood, special needs, freelance and marketing. She owns various websites including: Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Pine Media (co owner). Shara is an active member of her town charity group and a Library Board Member. Learn more about her at Mommy Perks.