The Great Marketing Experiment Ep 1 – PPC Adverts

This post is the start of a new and very unscientific series where I am going to try to learn as much as possible about online marketing through trial and error. Hopefully, we will all learn something from my mistakes, starting with PPC advertising.

I am setting myself a challenge. Each month:

  • I will pick one type of marketing and spend up to £500 on it to promote this blog.
  • I will then track the performance and decide which, if any, are worth tweaking and continuing with.

At the very least I should get some good blog posts out of it and learn what not to do. At the best it could have a huge impact on my blog’s traffic. This isn’t a how-to guide, as I don’t know how-to. Rather it is an experiment that I hope we can learn from while at the same time having as much fun as it is possible to have from online marketing.

For February my marketing choice was:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing

UPDATE: After what we learnt in this article we ran another experiment trying to promote our table tennis bats in Germany. The results were great.

PPC marketing includes any sort of paid for advertising where you are paying for clicks or impressions. First off, I am expecting to find that PPC is a terrible way to promote a blog. Blogs make money by having high traffic drawn in by great content.

We’d have to be getting a very cheap cost per click for it to be worth it! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a form of marketing that won’t be useful for some of my other projects.

Here is how I am splitting the budget. Hopefully, I won’t spend the full budget:

  • Facebook – £100
  • Outbrain – £100
  • Google Ads – £100
  • Reddit – £100
  • LinkedIn – £100 Way too expensive! £1.5 per click minimum! I’d need to be targeting a very valuable customer for it to be worth that.

Facebook

I have a Facebook page, but at the beginning of February after over a year of being live it only had about 100 followers. Pretty much just my friends and family. £100 should be enough to get some more followers and at least a bit of exposure for the blog.

Facebook has a few options for advertising. You can create adverts that appear in the sidebar and are obviously adverts. Or you can be a bit more subtle and pay to ‘boost’ a post you have written to get some extra exposure.

This is a bit cheeky. Facebook basically are saying that even if a lot of people are liking and interacting with your page’s posts, they won’t be shown to loads of people unless you pay Facebook.

I think of it as the opposite of YouTube. On YouTube, you get paid if your video gets a lot of views. On Facebook, you need to pay them to get a lot of views!

But it does make for a very novice-friendly way of advertising. I simply went back to some of my earlier posts and ‘boosted’ them.

I set my budget quite low and then filtered down the people I wanted them to be shown to. For instance on a post like “The Lazy Entrepreneur” I filtered so that it would only be shown to people who like ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘bootstrapping’ and a few other key terms.

facebook post boost ppc

To begin with I boosted six posts. They each ran for a few days. Here are the stats on how they did.

Total Spent: £41. Total Clicks: 131. Total page likes: 6.

The most annoying part was that the Facebook estimates were way off. For The Lazy Entrepreneur Facebook predicted that I would read 5,400- 14,000 people. Instead it only reached 1,588. Pretty disappointing all round!

For comparison with the other PPC ads, that gives me a cost per click of 31p. Or about 30p per action.

There was one bright side, something weird happened. The ads only reported 6 page likes but in the week I ran the boosts I in fact got more than 45 page likes.

facebook page likes

So where did those extra like come from? I have no idea. The jump is very obviously linked to the advertising week, but Facebook aren’t taking the credit for it. Strange.

The next image is a screenshot from Google Analytics that shows the behaviour of all the visitors who came to my page from a Facebook advert.

facebook advert response marketing

8 of the clicks went further than the first page. In other words 6.25% of Facebook visitors were drawn in enough to click onwards.

To me that sounds quite low. When looking at my organic traffic about 40% move on to another page.

After this initial £41, I decided it wasn’t worth continuing with the Facebook ads.

Google Adwords

I find Google Adwords to be pretty intimidating. They are just so complex! When you go to set up you are giving hundreds of options and optimisations.

Googling for help only makes things worse. All the guides are full of talk of keyword research, the importance of ‘long tail’ and the constant warnings on how easy it is to throw your money away. All pretty scary.

Convinced that the best way to learn was through trial and error, I dived in anyway.

I decided to run two campaigns. The first would focus on search traffic. I would specify search terms and pay Google to put me at the top of the result. You probably recognise what I am talking about:

google paid for ads

In the above picture, all of the links I have drawn round in red are paid for ads. They are bidding on the search term “make money online”.

Google ads work on an auction based system. You bid on what keywords you want to appear under. Which begs the question, how much should I bid? Not knowing any reason to do otherwise I just went for the minimum bid they allowed.

I created an advert for my post about creating a product using Alibaba and bid on a variety of keywords. From my research most people were suggesting to bid on long tail keywords because it is cheaper. So I bid on terms such as ‘work from home selling products online’. Interestingly the only one that I won any clicks on was the short word ‘Alibaba’. The only non-long-tail keyword I used.

The second type of campaign I did was a ‘Display Network’ advert. These allow you to put your adverts on any website that displays Google owned ads (for instance any blog running Google Adsense).

Instead of choosing a keyword I instead chose to limit my display to people who view a few of the blogs that I follow. My reasoning was that these people are interested in the same sorts of things as me, so might be interested in my blog.

google ads ppc custom affinity audience

The search ads didn’t work so well. I paid £22.2 for 97 clicks and didn’t max out my budget before the time limit expired. But the display ads seemed a bit more popular.

Unfortunately, I set up the google analytics and adwords integration a bit late and only caught the last 144 clicks. But on those 144 the bounce rate is very high. Only one person went past the first page! 0.7%.

Well, that is rubbish. Hmm, maybe those fellow blog readers aren’t quite as similar to me as I expected! Either that or Google Adwords didn’t work as I expected.

google analytics ads

Either way it looks like I just threw away £115.86. Ok goodbye Google ads. You are still just as intimidating as ever.

Outbrain

Outbrain is a tool that I hadn’t heard of before. It brands itself as the #1 audience acquisition tool. It is aimed at bloggers and smaller news sites as a way of promoting their content. It is a less aggressive (more deceptive?) form of advertising than regular adverts.

Bigger news sites show the Outbrain adverts as ‘extra reading’ or ‘promoted stories’. I’m sure you know which posts I mean:

telegraph outbrain promoted stories

Outbrain is a lot simpler than Google Ads. You simply select your content and then chose a bid.

I signed up and decided to try and promote my two most popular blog posts. The one about matched betting and the outsourced table tennis brand.

outbrain ppc setup

The matched betting article wasn’t allowed. Apparently they don’t allow gambling related content.

I set it off with a recommended PPC bid of 25p and a max spend of £25 a day. But after the fist day, it was clear that the bid was too high. I was going through the £25 in just a few hours.

I slowly lowered the bid until I wasn’t quite hitting the daily target. Eventually, I ended at a comfortable 8p a click threshold.

outbrain pay per click results

outbrain advert

That is a lot cheaper than either Facebook or Google ads.

Let’s see how it converted in terms of behaviour.

outbrain pay per click bounce

17 of 537 clicks went on to another page. I’m starting to get the impression that I better get used to high bounce rates! That’s a follow through of only about 3% of visitors.

Reddit

Reddit is a popular, bulletin board website. It holds a special place in my heart as it was the site that sent our YouTube video viral. 50,000 views from Reddit eventually led to over 2.5 million people having watched me prancing around playing table tennis.

Reddit also has a PPC advertising mechanism. The only slight difference is that it’s not actually PPC. Rather you pay per 1,000 views of your advert (known as CPM), not by how many click through. This is a subtle but very important difference.

When you are paying per click, you only want people to click through if they are the sort of visitors you want. Therefore, you want to make your link text as descriptive as possible. Click-bait is a bad idea!

But when you are paying for people just to see your ad you want the opposite. You want as many clicks as possible to reduce the eventual cost per click.

I don’t really like click bait titles and I don’t think redditers like them either. So I went for a descriptive but still intriguing link title.

The next step was to start a campaign. The minimum bid per 1,000 views is $0.2. So having learnt my lesson from Outbrain I went for that rather than their recommended.

You get to choose whether to assign your adverts by interest or to specific subreddit. I launched a few different campaigns. One was targeted at the front page and blew through the budget. The others were targeted at much smaller, but more relevant subreddits. They didn’t get through their budget, but did get a very good CPC.

Here is my ad and here are the results.

reddit advertising cheap

In the end, it cost me on average 5c a click (about 3p). That’s less than half the cost of the next the cheapest, Outbrain.

Let’s see how the redditers are behaving:

reddit pay per click behaviour bounce rate

45 out of 645 clicked through to another page. That a conversion of 7%. The best so far! My love for Reddit is just growing.

Conclusion

Actual amount spent:

  • Facebook – £41
  • Outbrain – £100
  • Google Ads – £115.86
  • Reddit – £35
  • Total: £291.86

Despite my caveat at the beginning, I’ve decided that I actually quite like PPC advertising. It is cheaper than I expected and, with the exception of Google Adwords, it is also fairly simple.

Of the PPC platforms I tried Reddit easily came out the winner on every metric. But now that I know that, is 3p a visitor worth it? Well, if I just looked at the numbers the answer sounds like a yes.

Over the past four months, I have earnt about 2.8p per view. But that is any view on any post and most of my blog posts don’t have any way for me to make money from them. If I focused on Reddit advertising for the few posts I have that actually make money, that sounds like it could be worthwhile.

Even better I could create a post that was designed specifically for Reddit. A PPC advert with a click bait title linked to a high-quality article optimised designed to make as much money as possible. I don’t think I will do that, but it’s definitely an idea I’m going to put some more thought into.

What about if I instead promote one of the items I sell?

Our best-selling products are table tennis bats. In particular our brand, the Palio x ETT range. We are doing very well in English speaking countries, but really want to increase our sales in Germany.

We sell the bats on German Amazon but are struggling to get momentum and work our way up the best-seller charts. With Amazon going up the best-seller chart equals more organic sales. I expect it will be worth breaking even or even taking a small loss to get some extra reviews and sales and build momentum.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to spend some time and money running Outbrain and Reddit to promote this review post – Der beste Tischtennisschläger für Anfänger.

I’ll keep you informed about how we get on!

Have you ever managed to get PPC to work for you? Are there any glaring mistakes I’ve made? Please leave a comment with your tips and experiences. Also be sure to check back later or sign up to my email list to hear about the next month of the challenge.

UPDATE: The German experiment is in and the results are great!

 

 

  • Half-Day Henry

    Great article, and timely for me as I’m at early stage of considering options in this area.

    Good luck with it and I’ll be keeping up to date with your progress.

  • Luqmaan Rawat

    I am a PPC campaign manager. Every marketing channel has its strengths and weaknesses. Also every marketing channel does not work for all products and services. The PPC expert knows how to maximise the potential of a clients budget by selecting the correct channels while also implementing ads effectively.

    I must say my favourite channel is AdWords. But I agree for a blog it is not a good idea. Would work well for the table tennis products though.

    If you need help give a shout