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Getting the word out about an online business is easier said than done. (By a lot.) So naturally, this is a topic that’s talked about all the time.

What really works when I need to get people on my site?

The experts say setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter profile is a good place to start (my experience leads me to agree), but what about buying ads? Taking out an ad in a print publication hardly seems ideal for an online business, but what about snatching up virtual– clickable– real estate on a popular blog’s sidebar?

Unfortunately, the expert jury’s split on this one. I’ve heard a few successful people say it drives their entire business, and I’ve heard others say they advise against it because it’s way less effective than other avenues.

As you might expect from me, I wasn’t satisfied by this inconsistent expert advice. So I reached out to other online business owners in order to gather a larger variety of experience.

The general consensus was that advertising on blogs can work swimmingly, but it requires some trial and error. Beyond that, here are a few more specific things I learned!

1. buy ads where your competitors are not

“We scout blogs in our industry to see which ones are a good fit with our product line. We also try to find blogs which have larger readerships, high unique monthly visitors and are ranked well within the search engines.

Chances are if a competitor is also purchasing banner advertising, sponsored posts or sidebar links the trickle down effect occurs where we will not get as many visitors to our site as we would if we were an exclusive advertiser for our niche on that blog. We also take into account the price of advertising – do the numbers correlate to the visitors the site has? Is it an active blog? Do the readers engage with the posters?

Of course the bigger industry blogs who have readerships in the multi-millions per month may seem like a good investment, it most likely sends very few hits our way because there are just so many other sites also advertising on their venue. We’ve found that niche sites such as www.offbeatbride.com send us more dedicated clients than some of the bigger sites we have advertising on. My recommendation is to find sites which fit well within your niche market and work exclusively with them.”

– Erica Tevis
www.littlethingsfavors.com

2. Look for blogs that offer that extra little “push”

“We are a small business so advertising on smaller blogs that charge $10-$50/month is a good option to test. I find that the ad alone doesn’t do much…

However, many blogs offer an ad coupled with a sponsor intro post. So they introduce us, maybe pick a few of their favorite items and do a coupon. These posts drive some traffic to us and we are continuing to do it.”

– Ash
www.outfitadditions.com

3. try using services like Blogads to make targeting easier

“We advertise our Seeds of the Month Club specifically on blogs that meet our demographic, which in our case are predominantly female above the age of 35 (as well as some other criteria). We use a service called BlogAds, to place our advertising through which [helps us find blogs that] target our ads to our specific audience.

Currently we are only spending about $50 per week, trying different variations of our ads and always trying new blogs as not all are getting great returns, while some are.”

– Michael C. Podlesny
www.averagepersongardening.com

4. give information that entices

“…ads with pricing and free delivery obtained highest results.”

– Sabina Dungarwalla
www.winegifts4u.co.uk

5. ads distributed through an affiliate program rock

In case you’re unfamiliar with what an affiliate program is, here’s the rundown.

Running one of your own usually requires some special software. How it works is your affiliates (people who’ve filled out your application and been approved by you) receive a special link to your website. They post that link on their own website or blog, likely in the form of a banner ad in their sidebar. Then when someone clicks through it and makes a purchase on your site, your software recognizes the special link the customer was referred by and pays a cut of the sale (a % of your choosing) to the affiliate responsible.

We have an affiliate [program] and the voucher code sites bring in many orders (probably 1/8)…”

– Sabina Dungarwalla
www.winegifts4u.co.uk

“We’ve done a lot with advertising – we’ve tried Adwords, Social Networks (such as Facebook & Twitter), sponsored blogs, featured profiles, sidebar links, banner advertisements, affiliate marketing, and now we are currently testing re-branding by advertising to customers who have left our site without making a purchase. So far, the best return has been with our affiliate marketing…”

– Erica Tevis
www.littlethingsfavors.com

That concludes my favorite tips. Thanks again to my lovely contributors who so generously shared their experiences!

I hope you’ve been able to take away something helpful. And as always, if you’ve got a tip of your own to share, I would love to see it in the comments.

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