SEO, Social, Banners, and PPC

In the last article I predicted more training courses to emerge about how to drive organic and social traffic to your website, and the decline of the focus on PPC. While this was partially true, banners (aka. media buy) has also been taught in different courses about traffic that came after Ryan’s anti-Google perpetual traffic course. Just to state a fact and clear my position regarding PPC, PPC still works and it will be crazy to drop it from your plans to drive traffic to your sites.

In this article I’ll explain why you need to give some of your time and/or resources to each of the above methods.

PPC is not all about Adwords, there is MSN PPC that reaches searchers on both Bing and Yahoo!. Together they account for 31% of all searches on the Internet. That’s almost one third of all the search traffic and it will be crazy to ignore it.

On both Google and MSN PPC platforms there are some rules that you need to consider in order to get your campaigns to be profitable. First it’s not a good idea to direct link on Google and MSN. With the increasing competition and the elevating bids in all niches, there is little to be made per click. The best strategy is to increase your life value of each visitor to your website, and that’s by building a relationship with them on your OWN site through your newsletter.

Direct linking still works on other PPC sources because they are still cheaper, although fraudulent clicks occur more frequently than on Adwords and Adcenter. That’s only after you spend some money to test and weed out traffic sources that don’t convert.

Media buys, or banners, are still working. As I mentioned in the past particle, the banner that looks like a banner is useless. The eyes are trained on ignoring those rectangles with graphics in them. What works now is those banners that look like pictures inserted in the text, and text-only banners. There also other banners that are graphical and interactive, like those with really funny or weird graphics (multiple ways to see the same picture). It’s also worth mentioning that banners inventory is way bigger than all PPC clicks combined.

There is also PPV (pay per view) that works in some niches when you target certain demographics, but like PPC, the competition is getting higher and it’s getting harder to make profit with direct linking. Again it’s time to build lists with PPV traffic.

The above paid sources of traffic are supposed to be the main focus of serious businesses because it’s the only way to precisely predict how much traffic you’ll get and consequently how much money you can make. This is necessary if you are running a business, not enjoying a hobby.

SEO and social traffic have their own advantage: it’s perpetual. Say you write an article or upload a video on social media now and it starts sending you traffic shortly. As long as the article is there the traffic keeps coming (theoretically). So the time or money you spend on writing articles or posting on social media is a long term investment.

This type of traffic, let’s collectively call it “non-ad” traffic, is the only traffic that works with sites that depend heavily on advertising revenue, like Adsense.

So to clear up FOMT’s position, it’s not wise to rely on only one source of traffic. Paid traffic is important so that you know what to expect and do your calculations more precisely. Organic traffic is also important as a cushion for protection from the ever changing rules of PPC sources. Also, variation of paid traffic sources protect from losing your source of income if one source disappears or changes rules. The same for organic traffic; social and SEO traffic cushion your business from falling apart when a search engine changes the algorithms or social media change their rules.

The Death of PPC?

When a giant like Google slaps those who’d been feeding it since it started making money with Adwords and Content Ads (Adsense) it means one of two things: either they are losing ground to other search engines due to the low quality of user experience with paid ads, or they’ve found a huge source of income that Adwords revenue dwarfs next to it.

I have my reasons to believe that it’s both. The millions of annual spending of individual affiliate marketers are not stable, and are declining anyway (as will be explained in a minute). Compare that with fixed advertising budgets from big brands whose advertising aims mostly at branding and not at  making direct sales.

Due to the shrinking of profit margin expected from direct sales generated through Adwords more and more affiliate marketers are dropping the ball, and others are shifting their advertising budgets to other more reliable and profitable sources. And this very same shrinking is caused by Google itself. Here is how:

To get lower cost per click with Adwords you need a higher quality score, which in turn depends on several factors including the click through rate on your ad. Recently, the average Google searcher started to pay little to no attention to the sponsored links. This only means lower click through rates and consequently higher cost per click due to the low quality score caused and given by Google!

That only means one thing; the battle for the next several months will be in the SEO zone, where every one wants to get as many organic clicks as possible because this is where the average Google users shifted their attention to.

The first half of 2010 witnessed the release of tens of high ticket, as well as low ticket, paid traffic guides and courses. The target of those courses was the ex-Google Adwords users who lost their accounts in the late 2009 slap. Makes sense?

Now as it became obvious that Google is losing the PPC battle due to the natural development of user behavior (which is pretty predictable and I don’t know how in the world a giant like Google, with 50+ PhDs and a huge army of grad students, is not prepared for it) I expect tens of SEO courses and services, both in the high and low ticket zones, to dominate the marketing arena at least until the end of 2010.

The question is: Since PPC traffic is declining and SEO is unreliable (changes with Google’s moody algorithms), what is the reliable alternative?

PPV (pay per view traffic generated by adware) is also declining, not only in available inventory, but also in quality and profitability. So, this is not the answer.

Face Book PPC was really hot early this year, but not anymore. The attention is shifting back away from that ad zone and the competition is eating the profits of average affiliate marketers. They still can make it do better at Face Book by changing the ads display positions so that the user doesn’t get trained on ignoring a certain area on the screen.

Twitter doesn’t have an advertising platform yet. I have no idea when it will come to live, but unless they act now they’re missing a huge opportunity to fill a black-whole-sized gap in the advertising space.

Good ol’ banners died for a while, but advertising agencies figure out a way to partially revive it. The regular user is used to two kinds of banners more than the others: the 468×60 (like the on at the top right hand corner of this website) and the vertical 120×600 and 160×600.

On the other hand, squares 250×250 and rectangles 300×250 are more perceived as a picture than as adverts, especially when they are embedded within the text. This kind of banners still gets some attention and I expect it to keep getting that much attention as long as people are interested in pictures that could save them the time to read the whole thing.

Finally, my view of the way to revive PPC advertising again is only by embedding sponsored ads within the organic search results, or changing the search results page layout so that the ads are not shown where they are used to be ignored. This could give PPC another push for a while, maybe to the end of 2010 if implemented immediately.

Yahoo! Kills Yahoo! Publisher Network

One of the highest quality and at the same time the cheapest of paid traffic that I’ve ever had in my whole online marketing career was from Yahoo! content network. If you are not familiar with it, it is Yahoo!’s version of Google’s Adsense program. It was only open for US residents, that’s way it wasn’t as popular as Adsense.

On an unexpected move from Yahoo! they announced discontinuing their publisher program by April 30th, and is advising their current clients to replace their ads with Chitika.

Yahoo! recommending Chitika is really a surprise, considering the partnership Yahoo! has with MSN, which also has a similar program. Besides, many people have been complaining about what basically can be due to the bad management of Chitika that made it look like a scam when it started back in 2005.

Chitika is a monetizing option for webmasters who have sites about products reviews, but only if they can not monetize their website traffic with affiliate links. I myslef would never publish a third party advertising on a website where I review products because it makes more sense and more money to monetize such reviews with affiliate links.

Anyway, Yahoo! is killing it’s publisher network that has been, and still is, a beta version. What concerns us now is the alternative for this wonderful traffic source and a monetization method for webmasters who can’t have a Google Adsense.

Try MIVA’s targeted, cost effective Pay-Per-Click advertising solutions. it is one of the best alternatives for advertisers in some niches. It also offers a pay-per-call, which is the perfect solution for call centers and MLMers who are still doing it on a one-on-one basis (which is good for their credibility and conversion compared to totally automated sytems).

For publishers from the US (and the UK) it is one of the best alternatives to Yahoo! Publishers Network because it is not only good for product review sites (like Chitika), but also in a variety of niches and site types.

Adbrite: Ok, I used this one in the past as an advertiser and wasn’t quite happy with my results. I eventually figured out a way to make it work for me, but that was after I found my way through Yahoo! content network which was superior to it and I didn’t have to use it anymore.

As an advertiser, you can pick which site to show your ads, which is a feature I’ve only found on Google’s network. This is by the way the only way to make your PPC ads on Adbrite profitable (by avoiding huge volume sites like ebay and dictionary like sites).

As a publisher, I must say it’s a really good alternative. It actually has some superiority to other similar publisher programs. For example, you can stay in control of what is published on your website. You can approve or disapprove ads based on any chriteria you want. For example you can disapprove low revenue ads, inappropriate ads, competitive ads … etc.

What I don’t recommend is Bidvertiser. The company has a black history for both advertisers and publishers. As advertisers if you are not tracking your ads (which is a killing mistake) you will be charged for clicks that never happened. And as a publisher most probably you’ll never get paid. I know it happened with me (as an advertiser and as a publisher) and it happened with hundreds of other publishers who might be really generating fraud clicks, but from my experience it doesn’t matter with Bidvertiser. And you don’t get any answers to your questions from any one over there in Tel Aviv. For me, Bidvertiser is a SCAM, so stay away from it.