Life After PPC: Is Media Buying The Way?

I’m sitting here at the moment, scratching my balls, and staring at six or seven open windows. MSN Adcenter, Google Adwords, Yahoo Marketing Solutions…Christ, I’ve even bothered to bust out a dusty Ask PPC dashboard.

I see zero columns galore. You could say my PPC accounts are flatlining. Today’s spend: $0.00.

Truth be told, I’ve been sick of PPC for a while now. I know there are guys out there milking the cow dry on a wave of PPC profit. Even with the latest clampdowns, affiliate bans and account suspensions – marketers are still finding ways to bend the rules and get PPC campaigns profitable. I’m not suggesting every affiliate is a rule breaking fiend, because that’s one of the biggest myths going. Half of the fucking Internet is on a commission these days.

I’ve been working on a few business strategies that stray away from buying by the click. I’ve experienced a lot of success with PPC, but I get the sense that the walls are caving in. It’s getting harder and harder to game the system. Now you might not like it, but a lot of the time that’s what being successful with PPC is about. It has to be when the competition is getting so fierce so fast.

Anyway, I’ve been running my own media buys for a while now. Recently, they’ve become my primary source of income. I’ve gotta admit, for a guy who came in to affiliate marketing with no traditional marketing background, it’s been a baptism of fire.

PPC is two skills combined. The ability to brainstorm 1000 terms in Notepad, and the ability to see which ones are putting you out of pocket.

If you can do that, you can make money. It’s pretty simple in theory.

The second you venture in to media buys, you’re faced with two problems.

1. What sort of demographic is my offer targeted to?
2. How can I reach that demographic without wasting money on a thousand others?

The clickthrough rate, for example. If you’re a PPC guy, it probably means something to you. A quality score here, some extra volume there.

If your clickthrough rate bombs on Adwords, what do you do? You rewrite text and resubmit. Ultimately you don’t pay, because it’s PPC.

The majority of media buys can be broken down in to either CPM or tenancy based agreements.

CPM, if you don’t already know, is Cost Per Mille. That sounds a bit confusing, but it actually means cost per thousand impressions.

To put things in perspective, I got in touch with Ciao the shopping comparison channel and asked them for a CPM quote for 300×250 ads. They got back to me with £15.

£15 CPM?

1000 impressions for £15.

Marketing Sherpa states an industry average clickthrough rate for the 300×250 ad at 0.37 percent.

After a little notepad action, you can work out that an industry average CTR is going to get you a monumental 3 clicks for that £15 spend.

If I were to go with Ciao and throw up an average banner, I’d be paying the equivalent of £5 CPC. That’s probably about $7.50 to you Americans. You’ve gotta have a pretty smashmouth landing page to catch even a whiff of a profit on those numbers.

Needless to say, I do not recommend Ciao for CPM based advertising.

And here lies the problem with any media buy. You’re out on your own with a pencil and some gut instinct for company.

Not only do you need to hunt down the best advertising deals, reaching the right demographics, but you need to overhaul your creatives accordingly. A landing page optimized for Adwords and almost guilty at the fact that it’s slinging a rebill? Get the fuck out.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I waved goodbye to Adwords. No more distracting SEO efforts. No more pinning my hopes on a contextual link that some intern isn’t supposed to find, but my target audience is.

If you’re going to move in to media buys, make this your first objective. That list of precautionary measures you took to avoid the Google slap? Time to hit the rewind button and scrap every last one of them. You’re not trying to quietly divert unsuspecting Google searchers to an affiliate offer. You’re not trying to offer “valuable content” that doesn’t act solely as a bridge page. You’re trying to sell something, right? A bridge page is what you NEED.

With these impression-based purchases, you’re advertising to a majority of people who don’t give a shit what your offer might do for them. They haven’t searched anything. They haven’t asked for a review or a scam warning of XXX product. So on that rare occasion where you capture the attention of a would-be customer, you’ve gotta have the landing page that gets the job done. None of this Adwords affiliate shame bullshit. Throw your offer in their faces because you’re gonna need to if you plan on making money with CPM.

I spoke to a guy last week who had snapped up banner space for a dieting offer across a massive network. A huge network. He was paying a super high CPM, with no cap, and had managed to blow around £8,000 over the course of a month. His return on that investment? Something like £3,000.

He got me to take a look at one of his many landing page variations and it immediately struck me that he was driving traffic to a site that looked more Wikipedia than Amazon. People are supposed to be buying shit through you? Well, give them something to buy.

When you’re targeting demographics, you have to get to the point and sell what you’re gonna sell. You can’t roll out an Adwords friendly wiki of drivel and hope that some chance-clicker is going to find your affiliate link.

It’s worth getting in to media buys if only to complete a full circle of online marketing. PPC platforms are great for affiliates. They’re self-serve and you can flick the switch on a campaign before you cream a few thousand dollars in to the abyss.

Media buys just ain’t so simple. That’s why it’s so rare that I talk to somebody doing them who’s having success. It’s probably also why the biggest earners I know live by them.

You’ve got to completely change your mindset before you go to market. A campaign has to be rolled out at it’s optimum. If your creative sucks hard, you’ll pay for it before you have chance to correct it. CPM is a bitch for slow starters. Get a designer and have him put together some visually appealing graphics that are gonna catch eyes.

Many affiliate marketers roll out half baked PPC campaigns and only get them profitable after a few weeks of scrapping aside the dead weight. If you want to get good at media buying, you can forget that approach to business.

Do you think a bigtime advertiser throws a commercial on television without researching the target market? Without split testing it’s own sample audience? Without physically doing everything in its power to get that ad ready to have maximum impact from the get go?

You have to wipe the slate clean and do your research. Start thinking demographics. How can you appeal to them? How can you capture their attention?

And that’s what I’m talking about when I mention a full circle in online marketing. Many of us delve in to PPC and start thinking of the costs of a click and a conversion rate as if there’s nothing else attached to making money online.

Media buying requires that same knowledge, but also the ability to match demographics to invisible variables. It’s almost like, you know, real marketing.

So I guess this is an insanely long outburst about nothing in particular. I will actually post some media buying tips in the week. It’s not actually as emotionally crippling as I’ve made it out to be. I think.

About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


Leave a comment
  • This was a really nice read. I actually got quoted $34 CPM on a buy about a month ago. I can’t imagine any way to get something like that profitable, I guess they are more targeted to “brand advertisers”.

  • Such high CPM’s exist but most of the time they are very negotiable – I think you must negotiate on every CPM quote.

    Another interesting fact is that many of the companies that sell adspace, especially if they do it for their own sites and not as a 3rd party agency, really dont know much about profitability of their campaigns. Their brand advertisers have trouble calculating it and after all, why should they care? (they should of course)

    I sold adspace like this for the past 6 years and we never meassured conversion rates for advertisers during that time…

    Finch, have you had some successes with your media buys lately?

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