Online Marketing Lesson 36: Buying Traffic


In previous lessons, we talked about general methods and strategies you can use to generate traffic to your websites. There will be situations, however, where you won’t be able or won’t have time to apply these strategies.

For example, you might have a single-page website that sells a product (which discourages people from linking and sending traffic to it, due to its commercial nature), or you might want to perform a quick market research by getting people to answer a survey. In those situations buying traffic might be a good, if not a necessary solution. In this lesson, we’ll talk about the different ways you can use to buy traffic, and the points you need to consider while doing it.

Careful With Inefficient and Fraudulent Offers

If you search on Google for “buy traffic” or “targeted traffic” you’ll certainly find dozens of sponsored links claiming to send you a massive amount of traffic for a small amount of money. More often than not we are talking about 10,000 visitors for as low as $9.99. Are those offers too good to be true? Yes, they are.

At best we are talking about legitimate companies that sell a very inefficient service. When purchasing the “10,000 visitors” package you would probably be expecting real web surfers to visit your website, right? Well, that will not be the case. These companies usually employ traffic exchange and get-paid-to-surf schemes, so the visitors will only load your website because they must, and they will quickly move on to the next site on the list. Needless to say, such traffic is completely useless.

At worst we are talking about fraudulent companies that will take your money and won’t deliver a single click. If you decide to contact them or ask for a refund they will point you to their Terms of Service, which includes ridiculous clauses and disclaimers, exempting them from responsibility even if you can’t see the traffic they claim to have sent you.

The 4 Different Models to Buy Traffic

The section above should not discourage you. While there are fraudulent offers out there, buying traffic is a very common and secure practice on the web, and it can become a very profitable model for your online business. You just need to know where and how to do it.

There are four main models to buy traffic. They are:

1. PPC

PPC stands for pay-per-click. Under this model, you’ll pay a specific amount for each click that the ad network or publisher will send to your website. Google made this model very popular around the web with the introduction of its AdWords advertising platform. PPC is a very efficient way to buy traffic because you can target specific keywords. Managing PPC campaigns effectively is tricky, however, and that is why we have a complete training module dedicated to it.

2. CPx

The CPx is an umbrella model, under which you’ll find othes such as CPA (cost-per action), CPL (cost-per-lead) and CPS (cost-per-sale). These models are usually employed by affiliate marketing networks, where a merchant is willing to “buy traffic” by giving commissions to affiliates who can refer customers. You don’t need to sell a product to buy traffic with these models, however. You could pay a certain amount of money, say $1, every time affiliates send a new subscriber to your email newsletter, for example. We’ll talk about these models in more detail under the “Affiliate Marketing” module.

3. Display Ads

A display ad is nothing more than a graphic banner. Buying traffic through display ads is one of the oldest and most widely used models around the web. There are several places to buy display ads, and several ways to pay for them. For example, you can purchase the ads from large advertising networks and from web publishers directly. Similarly, you can pay a variable rate based on the number of impressions and you can pay a flat fee. We’ll discuss this model further in the next section.

4. PPV

PPV stands for pay-per-view. This model is also called CPV or cost-per-view. It represents the traffic that comes from contextual pop-ups, pop-unders and interstitial ads (full page adverts between the page you currently you are currently on and the one you clicked to go). Until some years ago this kind of traffic was regarded as low quality, but lately we’re seeing a positive trend around it. We’ll talk about this model further in the next section.

Buying Display Ads

Companies usually invest in display ads when they want to raise the awareness around their brands, because the banner format allows one to communicate a more elaborate message, especially when compared with the text link ads used under the PPC model.

Lately, however, display ads are also being used for raw traffic and lead generation. This trend emerged with the improvement of the ad serving technology, which is now able to serve the graphic banners contextually.

Even if your objective is to increase your sales and not necessarily to raise your brand awareness, therefore, display ads could be a good option. Below you’ll find three steps that you should take on your display ad campaigns.

Step 1. Testing on Google AdWords

Google AdWords works essentially under a PPC model, where advertisers create text link ads and pay every time a user clicks on the ads. However, it is also possible to create image ads there, and this feature is particularly useful for people who plan to invest a lot of money in display ads. Why? Because the AdWords platform will let you test your banners and landing pages quickly and cheaply.

Once you have your AdWords account ready to go you’ll need to create a campaign containing 10 to 20 ad groups. Each ad group should target 10 keywords at maximum (preferably keywords around a single theme). For example, you could have a campaign where you’ll promote your weight-loss ebook. The ad groups and respective targeted keywords would then be:

Ad group 1: Weight-loss
Targeted keywords: weight-loss, weight loss, losing weight, lose weight, weight-loss tips, weight-loss help, weight-loss advice

Ad group 2: How to
Targeted keywords: how to lose weight, how to weight-loss, how to lose weight fast, how to lose belly, how to slim down

Ad group 3: Fitness
Targeted keywords: fitness, how to get fit, weight-loss fitness, fit and lean, fitness tips

Ad group 4: Abs
Targeted keywords: abs, how to get abs, how to get a six pack, how to get abs fast, slim abs, toned abs

Ad group 5: Diet
Targeted keywords: diet, diets, diet to lose weight, weight-loss diet, super diets, dieting, diet tips, free diets

After that, you’ll start adding the banners. Image ads on AdWords have 8 different formats, but 2 of them are not very popular (the 250×250 and the 200×200), so you’ll want to add 6 different banner sizes. They are:

  • The 728×90 leaderboard
  • The 160×600 wide skyscraper
  • The 120×600 skyscraper
  • The 468×60 banner
  • The 336×280 large rectangle
  • The 300×250 rectangle

Now you’ll want to split test between two banners for each size available, so each ad group will have a total of 12 banners running. Make sure to use very different banners, as this will improve the results of your tests. You can repeat the split test as many times as you want, always trying to beat the top performing banners.

If you have time available you can test the landing page simultaneously. For example, in the first week you send all the traffic from the banners to landing page A. Then in the second week you start sending the traffic to landing page B, and then you compare the results to see which one performed best.

All these tests will allow you to understand what banners and landing pages convert best, and what keywords are triggering the best results. Afterward, you can move to steps two and three below (although you can leave the AdWords campaigns live if they are producing a positive ROI).

Step 2. Direct Buys

Once you know what banners and landing pages are performing best you can experiment with direct buys. This means you’ll find the websites that are relevant to your product/service, and negotiate directly with the site owner about the banners.

The advantage of this method is that it can yield a high ROI because many site owners will sell their advertising inventory for less than what it is worth. The disadvantage is that it takes time to find the right websites and manage the deals, but over time you can make it work effectively.

First of all, you’ll want to create a list of all the blogs/websites that are relevant to your product/service. You can do that by searching Google, or by using ad networks like and Aim to get at least 20 websites on your list.

After that you’ll need to contact each site owner, stating that you want to purchase banner ads on their sites. Ask what kind of traffic the site gets, and how much would the banner cost. Not everyone will answer, but some will. Then you’ll just need to pick the best deals and test them out.

If you want to play it safe you can ask for a one-week trial period for 1/4 of the monthly fee. If that works out you can then proceed to purchase the whole month.

Step 3. Advertising Networks

Advertising networks represent a path to big returns. Most of the serious networks require big upfront payments (e.g., $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 or more), however, so you should consider working with them only after you have successfully tested several consecutive months with your product/service, landing pages and banners.

In other words, you should be pretty confident regarding how each type of traffic will convert, and what the conversion rate will be. If you have that working with an advertising network could be a good option because it will allow you to reach a much wider audience.

Buying PPV Traffic

As we mentioned before, PPV stands for pay-per-view. This model is also known as CPV or cost-per-view. It basically allows you to buy what are called “interruption ads.” These range from pop-ups and pop-unders to interstitial ads. Until some years ago these kinds of ads had a bad reputation, exactly because they “interrupted” the user experience on websites.

Recently, however, the ad networks working with this model have improved the way their ads are served. Examples are networks using special toolbars that users can download for free, in exchange for seeing ads once in a while. The result of these innovations was an improvement in the quality of PPV traffic.

Does this model work for all purposes? No. It tends to convert poorly with direct product and service offers (i.e., if you are trying to sell something). If you just want the user to take an action that won’t cost him money (e.g., signing up for an email newsletter), however, the traffic can work well. In fact, PPV is quite suitable for list building and CPA affiliate offers that only require the user to submit his email or complete a survey.

Losing Some Money is Inevitable

One thing you should always keep in mind when buying traffic is that losing money is inevitable. Whether we are talking about PPC, display ads or PPV traffic, you’ll necessarily lose some money on your first campaigns while you test what works and what doesn’t. It is only after that, when you have a better idea of what model, banners, and landing pages perform best, that you’ll start making profits.

If you are buying display ads directly, for example, you’ll certainly pick websites that will send you much less traffic than you expected. Perhaps this will happen even in the majority of cases. But sooner or later you’ll come across websites that deliver a lot of traffic for the price they ask. After that it will just be a matter of eliminating the websites performing poorly and focusing on the ones delivering results.

Action Points

  1. Evaluate whether or not buying traffic would be a good option for your online business model. Usually, this is the case if you sell something or if you have a very specific goal in mind (e.g., building an email list fast to launch a project).
  2. If you decide to buy traffic, experiment with at least a couple of different models to see which one performs better for your needs.
  3. Remember to test extensively, and don’ worry about losing some money while doing it. Once you lock in the right combination of traffic sources, banners and landing page the money will start coming.

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