Our ad (this little ) was placed in the top left corner area on October 5th. You can read the full details about this experiment and the MDH in my previous post – The Million Dollar Homepage.
I can now report back to you that the MDH experiment ad performed very badly. At this point in time the traffic from the site totals about 30-40 visits and that’s for the last four days. The case study on the MDH site reported more than 500 new visitors per day for the same period of time so you have to wonder what went wrong with our experiment.
I think I know why it didn’t perform well – the MDH is now crowded. When that case study was tested the site wasn’t nearly as crowded with ads as it was when the Entrepreneur’s Journey advertisement went up. In the period it took to raise the funds to buy the advertisement close to $100,000 in new pixel square purchases were made on MDH making the above the fold area very busy. A 100×100 advertisement just doesn’t stand out anymore. I was hoping that the small size of our ad shouldn’t have mattered too much due to the sheer amount of traffic coming through to the site. We only needed a very small sliver of it to get some reasonable results, just as the case study reported.
Perhaps I made a mistake by positioning the ad as far to the top left as I could given that area is the most crowded space. In fact it would be interesting to place another ad somewhere else on the site where the competition for eyeballs isn’t so tough and see how the results compare. But we won’t be doing that, I think it’s best to leave this experiment as it is and report that buying a 100×100 block on the MDH is now a waste of time. You might get better results from a larger square but to be honest if you have a spare $1000 in your wallet for advertising I would spend it on more targeted traffic than what the MDH would bring through for your money.
Smarter Online Marketing
On the same day that our MDH advertisement went live I published this article, PageRank Explained – Keeping SEO Simple, on Entrepreneur’s Journey. The posting of this article turned out to be a much more effective marketing tool than an advertisement on MDH and offers a great comparison study of online marketing.
During the same period that I reported above for the MDH advertisement, the PageRank Explained article brought in over 1000 new direct referrals (visitors), a handful of PageRank 7 backlinks (these are damn valuable) as well as lots of PageRank 6 and 5 backlinks and accounted for the first 1000+ unique visitors day. Previously Entrepreneur’s Journey averaged about 500 unique visitors per day and after this article there were a few days spiking over 1000 (as high as 1400 so far). Things will settle down over the next few days no doubt but clearly this result was a lot more successful than a MDH advertisement.
A Secret Formula?
Let me explain how this happens and how you can replicate it on your website or blog. There is no guarantee or secret formula for a result like this, but if a combination of variables come together the effects can be amazing as your article spreads like wildfire over the web generating lots of backlinks and traffic. I will break down the important variables for you.
First, write a good article. Okay, it’s not quite as simple as this, it’s even simpler! What I mean by this is that the basic, simple articles, with tips and advice – the practical stuff on mainstream topics – have the best chance of being picked up and circulated online. If you read over PageRank Explained you will see that it covers the basics, offers some practical advice that is simple and digestible. None of what I wrote was rocket science but it was presented in an easy to understand manner.
Get a big site to link to your article. This part is a little harder but is a key factor. I’m pretty sure I have Roger Johansson from 456 Berea Street, a fellow 9ruler, to thank for the success of my article. He made a small post about it that opened up the floodgates. He obviously has a massive audience on his site alone (his site is a PageRank 7 and has been successful online for a few years now) and his attention brought in many more links from other bloggers and helped to get the article into the Del.icio.us popular list.
The point here is that network effects are absolutely vital and one of the best ways to get a network effect happening is to have a popular site link to one of your articles. You have probably heard of Slashdot, the most popular site for news on IT related matters. The site is massive. The traffic the site gets is even massive-er. The site has so much traffic pulling power that there is a term used whenever a site receives a link from Slashdot – “You have been Slashdotted“. Darren from Problogger was recently Slashdotted for a second time, bringing in over 40,000 visitors in under 48 hours. That’s some traffic power!
So how can you benefit from network effects after writing an article that you think deserves some attention? There are no guarantees however there are things you can to do encourage network effects.
- You can be blunt about it and directly email the large sites mentioning your article and hope they will read it, find it interesting and then post about it. This is a risky practice because you don’t want to become annoying, pestering other sites about your work to the point where they ignore you. You also better be damn confident that what you have written is good because you are not going to be selling your article to a warm prospect if you are some random stranger with a blog no one knows about that just emailed out of the blue.
You need to keep it casual and in fact it’s probably better to not start off talking about your article and instead foster a long term relationship with other bloggers so when the time comes and you do write a fantastic article you only need to contact your mates for some extra exposure. Of course as with most relationships it should be give and take so be prepared to return the favour now and then as well.
- Comment and link to a lot of other bloggers. What is the golden rule to get a person’s attention? Pay some attention to them! The same rule applies online. If you comment on a lot of other blogs and websites, and when I say comment I mean intelligent, conversation participation comments (express your opinion folks, it’s not hard), not spammer “look at my website, it’s ace!” comments, then you open up the doors for other people to get to know you and your site. Write some content on your blog that mentions some of the big blogs and you may just get the attention of the author. The more bloggers that know you, that track you through RSS, the more likely you will get a link back when your brand new article goes up.
- Consistently write good original content articles. This requires a lot of work and I can vouch for it because this is what I aim to do with my blog writing. Many bloggers write news-bite sized articles, with daily updates made up of links and a little commentary. There is nothing wrong with this practice and many very successful blogs use this strategy. However if you want to encourage incoming links nothing works better then a new and original article. If you can keep writing these on a regular basis your blog will build up a great database of solid content and slowly your blog will build a loyal audience. People will know as a thought provoking author writing original ideas and interesting commentary.
As your audience expands each new article you write will be exposed to more people and this is when exponential effects can occur, and it’s a beautiful thing. For example my first significant successful article was probably Making Money From Your Website Using Advertising published in May of this year. Now back then I probably had about 50 daily readers and that article might have brought in another 25-50 over the next month as readers linked to it, forwarded it, etc., increasing my traffic. This continued happening as I wrote each new original article, however since each time my base traffic figures were increased the amount of exposure each new article brought in was greater as well, increasing proportionately to the amount of current readers I had. Just last week my current 500 or so daily readers helped to bring another 500 readers for my latest article.
This is not a science and the numbers will never be consistent but I think you can see my point. The bigger you get the better each new article will perform for you, provided you keep writing good stuff – that’s the hard part and deservedly the best writers get the most attention if they stick to it over time.
Successful Online Marketing
The clear answer to successful online marketing is that content is king. We know this. Looking at the big picture content maybe the most important ingredient but without consistency content is not a long term strategy. If you do not continue to produce fresh content then you won’t build on your efforts in the past. You must commit to building an audience using each new piece of content as a building block placed on the previous piece of content. Only by doing this as a long term strategy can you hope to build and retain an audience that will keep coming back.
Best of all this type of audience doesn’t cost anything but time and energy, which, if you are working on something you enjoy, will be a pleasurable activity that you undertake with enthusiasm. Your readers pay you with attention in exchange for entertainment. Unlike Pay-Per-Click or paid advertising, the audience doesn’t stop coming when you run out of cash for clicks.