I recently started using BuySellAds.com as a traffic source, as they have some traffic that looks to be very relevant for a project I’m working on. Like with any new traffic source or method, it’s always best to do some research to find out what’s been working for others, as well as the general consensus. With BuySellAds, I was surprised at the lack of information, especially on the advertiser side of things. Almost all of the information out there is for publishers.
What little information and case studies there are for advertisers, they seem to be almost exclusively negative. I came across articles complaining of shockingly low 0.04% CTRs, or celebrating optimizing ads up to 0.22% CTR. Needless to say this made me a bit apprehensive. At least until I started browsing the inventory and taking a look at what other advertisers are doing. I was shocked to see that most advertisers on BuySellAds are acting like it’s 1996. Giant, flashy, unfocused ads, surrounded by other, equally obnoxious ads. Based on what I felt was weak competition I decided to give it a try anyways.
Fast forward four days later: With only 3 ads that have been running long enough to have data, one is at 2.5% CTR, one is at 1.5%, and the last at 0.5%. I will try and put up a full case study later, but from initial results, I already feel confident making a few conclusions that seem to have been missed by the vast majority of advertisers on BuySellAds.
1Subtlety Wins Out Over Flashy
The first thing I notice relates to that 1996 comment I made earlier. It seems as though most advertisers on BuySellAds are treating it like they have to make their banners over the top with animation and bright colors to be in the reader’s face. It’s 2012, and users can pretty clearly tell a banner ad when they see one, especially the types of visitors on BuySellAds sites. Seems pretty obvious that these excessively bold banners aren’t working, unless all you want to do is brand, and even then, it’s kind of annoying, so probably not the best message to send.
2Don’t Put Borders Around Your Ads
This is not a hard and fast rule. On some self serve ad platforms (particularly Plentyoffish) having a border on your ad can make a huge positive difference. On the vast majority of the sites on the BuySellAds network however, adding a border to your banner is a very bad idea. Your placements are already located in the sidebars, footers and headers and marked as ads and sponsors, so why bother to point out even further that this section right here is an advertisement. I think a lot of people are adding borders out of habit. Personally, the fact that BuySellAds don’t add a border to ads by default is one of their greatest strengths as a network, because it lets you…
3Match the Colors and Styles of the Publishing Site
An extension on subtlety, matching the publisher’s site colors and general styling makes your ad looks like it belongs. Why people are placing giant bold red and orange banners on a site where the design is all done in blues and greys makes your banner stand out like a sore thumb, and usually not in a good way.
4Don’t Put Your Ad Next To Other Ads
Your ad can be the best in the world, but if it’s in an area of the page surrounded by other ads that are poorly designed, it’s going to deter visitors from ever even giving that portion of screen real estate a fair chance. It’s hard to make it look like your ad belongs, when it’s in a section of the page that clearly does not. My rule for this, has been to only buy ad inventory where there are other ads on a maximum of one side (top, right, left of bottom) of your ad. That way, any faults of others’ banners should not be able to negatively effect you. Further to this point…
5125×125 Ads are Useless
I can see why webmasters love selling 125×125 ad blocks. You can sell 4, 8 or even 16 of them in a sidebar and by pixel, it’s probably their highest ROI. For advertisers, these look like a good way to ‘test the waters’ as well, since they’re very cheap. Personally, I think anyone testing a site by buying it’s 125×125 inventory will never have a chance to see whether the site is worth it. The first problem with these ads is that almost always are contained within blocks of other ads. They’re overly graphical without enough text to really convince anyone to click. Also, it’s very rare any real webmaster would ever have a column on their site that narrow, so these ads, by default, tend to look out of place no matter what. Finally, due to their small size, these ads don’t allow me to utilize two of the most important tools I use to maximize CTR…
6You Don’t Need to Use ALL of Your Allotted Banner Space
Everyone seems to think, that if you’ve bought, say 300×250, you should fill absolutely all the space. I see people putting in 3 or 4 different selling points, several logos, various text, borders, images, just about anything they can do to fill up every available pixel. The logic behind it is simple. You paid for that space, you’d be wasting your money if you don’t use it all right? If you only have a small amount of content to put in your ad, you should be buying a smaller ad block, right? What these people fail to realize, is that empty space can be just as, if not more valuable, than actual content. This is especially true on busy, crowded pages. My best performing ad right now is a top right located 300×250. The page has quite a bit of ads scattered around, and the webmaster has jammed a lot of content into all available space himself, so what I did, was make a relatively small simple ad (my brand logo, a short sentence ad, and a small call to action button) surrounded by a good 50 pixels of empty space on each side. The result of this, is that the empty space actually draws all the users attention to my otherwise, small, subtle ad. Which they seem to be clicking on in droves, because unlike a surprising amount of advertisers, I always…
7Always Include a Call to Action
As a huge fan of heat mapping. There are several indisputable truths I have learned. ALWAYS place a call to action in ANY banner. You always need to have something that screams out CLICK ME! (not necessarily in those words). I have done heatmap testing with massive banners (600×250), and even on a banner that takes up half the page, users will always click on the little 50×25 ‘click me’ button in corner of it. If you don’t have some form of a call to action, no matter how big your ad is, and no matter how great you’ve done everything else, people won’t click on it. This can be a decent trick if you’re paying per click but only want to build a brand and keep your costs down (a nice trick for an entirely different discussion), but on any CPM platform like BuySellAds, where clicks are your goal, you need a call to action, and it should be the most prominent and attention grabbing part of your ad.
As far as my own campaigns are concerned, I’m still waiting for some more relevant data. One of my placements is already ROI positive, and a few more show promise. I have to say overall that I really like BuySellAds platform as it makes it very easy for someone who’s relatively new to media buying like myself, to learn and test in what overall is a very low cost arena. It’s a nice benefit of not having to put down the $5000+ minimum deposits of a lot of premium networks, or have to worry about getting lifetime bans and the like with Google’s Content Network.
I will try and post a full case study once I’ve let me campaigns run their full course.
Also, if anyone reading this wants to try out BuySellAds and is looking for something to promote that works with their traffic, one of my clients has a great product that has an excellent affiliate program, so send me a message through the contact form above or leave your email in the comments!