To say that I had been burned by internet advertising in the past would be an understatement. One of the first companies I ever owned, fresh out of college, was a dot-com. This was in 2000, probably at what most people would consider the height of the “internet bubble,” and it seemed like everyone and his brother was making a killing by throwing up their website and calling it e-something.
Well, I wanted in on the action, so with a $25,000 loan from my parents, my brother and I started an online marketplace for used arcade equipment. We used to love going to the arcade as kids, and we figured that we knew more about arcade equipment than almost anyone. Besides, we were getting the arcade units at salvage prices, refurbishing them (my brother is an electrical engineer), and selling them at a 200% mark-up. How could we lose?
Well, our first mistake was paying some outrageously expensive “design firm” $10,000 to put a site together for us. We chose this company because it came as an all-inclusive deal: they would design the site and handle the advertising. All we had to do was keep the content fresh and make sure that the arcade equipment was in working order. Oh, and keep in shape — we’d be running back and forth to the bank so much that we didn’t want to wear ourselves out!
Except that it didn’t work like that. No, this “design firm” took our $10,000 as something like a “down payment” and then expected us to pay an additional $1,000 in advertising fees. When we refused, they locked us out of our site until we made good on 3 months of back payments. The only problem was that their oh-so-sophisticated advertising scheme delivered exactly 400 users in the entire 3 months that they were running it. We figured that we’d pay per sale, and even included this in our contract with them. They agreed — each sale would be an additional $200. The arcade machines were selling for $500.
I swore two things after that: 1) I’d never again get into business on the internet, and 2) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But here I am, 8 years later and back in business with my brother on the internet. This time we’ll refurbishing old motorcycles — mostly Harley Davidsons — and we needed a place to advertise our site. We looked into more traditional advertising networks, but their rates were high and their conversion rates were abysmal. And many, like our friends from before, wanted a flat monthly fee just to “handle our business.” No thanks, I thought. I’ve been down that path, and it didn’t take me to a happy place.
Instead, I looked into newer techniques for internet advertising. The first thing I did was buy a book on SEO and make sure our site was optimized for search. This made a difference, but nothing extraordinary. Maybe an extra 300 visitors per month.
The next thing I did was sign up on Google and run some AdWords PPC campaigns. I really liked Google’s interface, but once again, the rates were (relatively) high and the conversion was low. We weren’t seeing enough return on the money we were spending for advertising. In fact, in the one month that we ran Google PPC, we spent $2,000 and sold exactly 1 more bike than the month before. And this was with 40,000 visitors coming to the site! 40,000:1 — I wouldn’t take THOSE odds to Vegas!
We tried a few other advertising platforms — facebook ads, print ads, banner ads in a rotational network on a Harley Davidson webring — but nothing really brought us much success. You see, our customers have two things in common: they want something very, very specific (a refurbished motorcycle), and they don’t generally use the internet as much as some other demographics. What blog advertising allows us to do is to target our niche very precisely without serving ads (and wasting money on!) people who have no interested in a refurbished motorcycle. It’s perfect for our business model, and we knew right off the bat that it would be the solution to our advertising problem.
Our initial cash outlay was only a few hundred dollars; we were still skeptical of internet advertising. But that few hundred dollars resulted in 3 sales — more than the Google campaign! Once we saw these results, we decided to make blog advertising the cornerstone of our advertising strategy. We’ve invested $2,500 a month in blog advertising over the last 4 months, and our sales have jumped up by a magnitude of 10.
Blog Advertising brought my company an additional $50,000 in revenue in the four months that we’ve been using it, and I couldn’t be happier.