Bootstrapped/Startup Marketing Part 3

For this third part on the series I’m going to dive into what people perhaps most traditionally think of with marketing startups, online advertising. Online advertising can work, but its definitely not cheap and it does take a good about of pounding at it to know what works. I’m going to break up the three key types of advertising, based on the way I’ve utilized them and evaluated them recently.

Contextual The first is search advertising, or contextual. The biggest usage of this has of course most recently been with google AdWords. For the complete novices out there, this is where you’re ad would appear as text based on certain search keywords. You’re the one that is able to determine the keywords, though google does rank you for relevance and how much you are willing to pay respective of the other person bidding on the same keywords.

For a startup I’d very strongly discourage advertising for keywords you already appear as the first result. A part of this goes back to part one of the series, SEO doesn’t cost you anything other than time, so invest in it. If you’re already at the top of the results, why potentially pay $2 for a click, when you’re already there. With limited budget you want to be very selective about which keywords you target. In our experiences the best targetting can be with regards to your competitors or similar products. Also take advantage of google’s tools here. There are many tools within adwords that will suggest new keywords, rank your relevance, and show traffic to certain keywords.

Always remember, what you really want is conversion, so make sure that’s what you’re tracking against performance. The key to doing this is linking your Google AdWords account to your Google Analytics. Google mentions in several places you should do this, but is very light on the instructions of how. So for a really quick how to:

  • Within Google AdWords select Reporting and Tools
  • Select Google Analytics
  • You should be able to edit your Google Analytic account settings here
  • When editing you want to enable sharing your Google analytics data with other google products

Demographic In my eyes this used to be facebook advertising. With facebook you could get at more demographic information than anywhere else on the web and hypertarget your users. I must say this has expanded some, but to me only slightly with now through LinkedIn into the mix. Many people jumped on the bandwagon about facebook ads immediately after they launched. With facebook ads when advertising for the exact same thing as google your return will be lower. Yeah, your clicks are cheaper, but typically you have a higher bounce rate also. They key to demographic advertising is targeting appropriately for the medium.

We followed a rather structured process to identify what worked. If there’s enough interest in this specifically I’ll do a full follow up post later but the high level steps:

  1. Cast a broad new demographically (meaning don’t target male versus female or a specific age, target a very broad range)
  2. Narrow down on interests
  3. If you want to advertise an iphone app, narrow down on iphone or apple
  4. Tag your campaigns (your url should always be tagged for google analytics, check out their tool for this:

Once you’ve cast your initial broad net you’ll want to continue to refine and iterate to know exact cost of conversion per demographic type, but thats once you identify if there’s any value at all.

Vertical Most people term this display advertising, display is typically a banner/image ad going up on some website. I prefer viewing it as vertical, because if you target your display advertising correctly on sites you want to be on, its definitely more targetted than a standard billboard. Google does have some options for display advertising, but I’ve found their image approval process very painful.

With display or vertical advertising there’s a few key’s I’ve found valuable: 1. Image approval process matters as you dont have multiple weeks to spare 2. The ability to target/select your sites is an obvious must 3. Filtering out MFA (Made for Adsense) sites in the case you do open it up slightly by site type

On the third item theres two ways of doing this, you can manually check daily in google, and exclude sites. What you’re looking for here is sites with < 100 impressions and abnormally high click through rates. The other option for managing and tweaking these vertical campaigns is to let someone else do much of the optimization. My recent favorite for this is AdRoll. There’s definitely a slight premium over going directly to google, but they do let you easily get your campaign running and very much help optimize.