Starting a website used to be relatively easy. Register a domain name, get a virtual hosting account, setup a basic looking website, then choose from the literally hundreds of marketing agencies that were willing to send traffic to your site for a elatively small price. A lot has changed since 1999 on the Internet, and maybe nothing so much as the way we market our websites.
Some may be tempted to say that marketing has become easier in today's Internet. We know more about user's expectations and are able to better target our ads to users who are interested in our websites. Through programs such as Google Adsense and Yahoo's Contextual Marketing programs, we can be relatively certain that the clicks for which we pay are from people who are actually interested in our programs (of course there are issues of click fraud, but that is not the focus of this article).
But because our advertising choices have been effectively slimmed down to just a few major ad networks, finding a great deal in advertising has become much harder. Every website owner is rushing to the major ad networks which creates a scarcity of ad spots.
The result is that ad prices are being driven up - and your profits are being driven down.
After a little research, however, I learned that the small, upstart, great value advertising options had not died. It gave me hope that the good things of the early Internet could still be alive in today's webbed world.
Blogs are big. There is no doubt about it – everyone is starting a blog. My wife even started a blog last month ( http://www.thelazywife.com – please excuse the shameless promotion of her blog) with the hope of making a little side income. Blogs are relatively easy to setup and maintain, and with so many people talking about blogging successes, they have become an attractive option for those looking to bring in an additional income.
This is good for advertisers. The blogging boom has created a buyers market for advertising. Most bloggers are trying to make money from contextual advertising and are seeing some levels of success, but most would like to see more money from their blogs.
The result for the rest of us is that buying ads on blogs can bring quite a bit of traffic without having to pay a great deal of money.
If you need proof of this, just head on over to BlogAds. BlogAds is an invitation-only network of blogs offering advertising on their websites. Each site is categorized which allows advertisers to target their ads.
The best feature of BlogAds, however, is the ability to not only see the site that you will be advertising on, but also the ability to see the site itself as well as how much estimated traffic that site will receive while your ad is live.
Some of the prices are more expensive, but if you choose wisely and create a decent ad, seeing an effective clickthrough cost of $0.05 to $0.10 is attainable. For my wife's blog we purchased several ads across a handful of targeted blogs. Currently we are on pace to seeing an effective clickthrough rate of about $0.05/click. That is effective advertising.
There are other blog ad networks besides BlogAds, and many blog owners would be happy to accept an advertiser if you were to approach them. The traffic on blogs is real, and with the number and popularity of blogs, finding a good advertising deal is not too difficult.
One of the beautiful things about the late 1990's was the sheer volume of upstart ad agencies. Although none of these groups were able to generate the traffic that any of the mega agencies of today are able to generate, these upstarts usually were able to provide solid traffic for a true bargain in an attempt to woo new advertisers.
Upstart ad networks, although a lot less visible today than they once were, can be found in a multitude of ways. They usually do not have a lot of press around them, and they probably have only a few quality websites in their network, but they do exist and they can be a good advertising outlet. More and more these networks are focusing on vertical markets (such as an ad network that deals only with Internet marketing). To find a network like this, you should familiarize yourself with the major websites in your industry. Pay attention to who is serving their advertising (you can usually figure this out by viewing the source of the page) and check the rates of advertising. Most of the time you will find a major ad network behind the ad, but from time to time you can find an absolute steal.
With Google Adsense, Yahoo Marketing, and the upcoming MSN Ad Center (in Beta), it would be reasonable to assume that search engine marketing has turned into a virtual oligopoly. Thankfully, this is not the case. Not only are there new types of search engines being formed that will undoubtedly challenge search as we know it, there are traditional search networks that offer legitimate advertising options.
The ISEDN (Independent Search Engine & Directory Network) is a group of smaller search engines and directories that have banded together to offer advertisers an alternative to the more expensive search engine options.
Although the traffic of the current 165+ search engines that make up the ISEDN is not at the level of the major search networks, the group still boasts a fairly impressive search volume of over 150 million monthly searches.
Most people would avoid advertising on a small search engine like many of the ones found in the ISEDN because off the lack of search volume as well as the question of whether the vendors are offering legitimate traffic. However, as a group, the ISEDN is able to leverage their traffic, remove the incentive of offering bad traffic by offering their ads for a flat fee ($4/keyword/month – minimum 3 months), and offer an ad product that can theoretically reduce an advertiser's cost to an insignificant level. This may be one of the reasons that the network sees the majority of its advertisers renew after the first three months.
In addition to search networks like the ISEDN, alternatives to search engines are starting to gain steam. Websites such as Digg.com, Del.icio.us, and Wikipedia are changing the way we find information on the Internet. While these are not a pure replacement for search engines, they are becoming a very popular way to find new websites. Most of these new social network websites do not currently offer advertising, but these could provide a very good alternative to the major search networks in the near future.
The web has certainly changed, and maybe nothing has changed more than the way we advertise. The days are gone when establishing a successful website was an easy task.
Paid advertising can be a quick shortcut to launching your website. Many website owners avoid paid advertising because it is usually expensive, and seeing a real return on the investment can be tricky. But if you look around, be creative, and keep an open mind, there are plenty of bargain advertisements that can bring quality traffic to your website.