I decided to write this for 2 reasons:

I keep getting asked who I read or followed to learn about media buying, and really, there wasn’t anyone, I simply learned by doing and watching competition. I also get a lot of inquiries to run ads for companies, but I am very selective about who I work with nowadays. So, why not offer up information for others to benefit from.
Some experts are horrible at teaching their skill set. I’ve coached and showed a handful of people and companies, and all of them have had mild to extreme success, so, I’d like to think that qualifies me as someone that can teach well.

So, if you want to learn about media buying and buying paid traffic to scale your site, product, service, or build an audience, this is for you.

Whether you have some campaigns going well and want to scale, have given paid traffic a shot only to lose a lot (or even a little bit) of money, or you haven’t thought about it, but have been interested in buying traffic, this mini guide is for you.

From experiencing having to manage ad budgets equaling $120k/day, and over 3 million visits/day, I have learned a lot of what it takes to create a successful ad campaign.

Ad buying really comes down to optimizing 4 things:

Targeting your keywords, your placements, your demographics, locations, time of day properly
Creating a good Ad/Adcopy and image, colors, size, headline and copy of your ad, and getting a good Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
Your Pre-sell orLanding Page and your interim pre-sell or landing page’s headline, copy, layout, images, and Click-Through-Rate
Your Sales/Offer/Sign up Page and the headline/tagline, copy on page, layout, images, sign up rate or checkout rate

Now, sure, there is more details to it than just those, but if you think of a high level view of what you need to know, it will help you simplify the process of making ads profitable.

Tracking and analytics: Without this, you are flying blind.

The key to running successful ads is analytics and tracking. So many people think media buying is like some game at the casino or like finding some hidden treasure and that they will just throw up the magic ad campaign and make millions. The good part is that there is no magic. The bad part is that you actually have to work at it. However, if you are methodical with your ad buys, you will find the pockets of success and hopefully scale. I will say though, that if you are not tracking and analyzing the 4 things I have mentioned above, then, you may just want to try your luck at the casino.

You want to track the whole visitor process and pathfrom beginning to end. For example:

Incoming visitor click:

What was the source or ad network that the click was from? What was the keyword, site, placement, category, or other variable that initiated the click? What was the cost of the click? What was the time of day?

Your Ad:

What was the ad text/ad copy? What are your ads’ CTR’s? Which of your ads is getting displayed most and getting the most impressions? Which of your ads is actually converting visitors to sign ups or sales the most (Note: the highest CTR ad isn’t always the highest converting ad)

Your Landing Page:

How many incoming visits came to your page? Of the number that came to your page, how many clicked through to your sales page? What headlines, layouts, buttons, and colors get the highest CTR and conversion rates

Your Sign Up/Offer/Sales page:

What is the headline or tagline on the page getting the highest conversion rate? What layout converts the best? How many people that showed up on the sign up page actually signed up or went to your checkout page? How many people left the checkout page versus how many checked out?

If you don’t tracking all of these, or at least most of the above variables and split test (test one variable or variation against the next) to find the best, then, you won’t make a good return from your ad spend or be able to scale, or even worse, you’ll never turn a profit. This is what separates big online media buyers and agencies with unexperienced and small scale buyers.

What should you sell with ads?

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on if your product will work, or how to create a good product, so as to focus on media buying, but I may touch on that subject in a different article. One good habit to develop is to look at every ad, banner, landing page, check out page that you see on Facebook, sites that you visit, your mobile apps, etc, and see what other ads, offers, and sites/ad networks that your competition or any company is running on. Get experimental and try new things after you know what you are doing from proven markets and methods.

Targeting: How to find your audience

A lot of marketers are focused on keywords on Google or interests on Facebook instead of demographics. Keywords are great for search and interests can be good, but aside from that you have to think broader. I have launched products that were new to the market so no one could be interested in or searching for them. It is smart to start targeting tight for optimization first, then, expand out. For example, a diet product will convert nearly with any targeting, but especially, women over 30. However, if I didn’t know that, I would start out by targeting health and beauty sites, or diet specific keywords. Ask yourself, Who would actually buy this product? What age and gender? What sites do they hang out on? Here are some other examples:

For a muscle builder, target sports sites, men related sites, mixed martial arts, and men’s health/fitness sites
Dating audiences would be young people on social sites, game related sites, and dating keywords
An emerging tech product would be older males, or people that like other technology products or companies

Facebook and most ad networks have some form of demographic targeting if you want to target an age and gender. If your product is a higher priced product, you can generally factor out the 21 and under crowd, and would want to focus on 35+. If it is a social network like Facebook, you can target by age, gender, homebuyer, and many other categories.

Once you have optimized the other 4 components I mentioned above and have a high CTR and high converting sales/sign up process from traffic to ad to lander to sales page, then expand your targeting from there. You can try new targeting and control the testing with a low budget. Sometimes when I’m expanding, I have gone on ad networks and targeted every placement or targeting that I could that was available, and I optimized by cutting non-performing placements, interests, keywords, and sites. Because I had knew that my sales process converted well for the most relevant targeting, it is just a matter of scaling that out. When I weeded out the bad performing variables, then I just increased the budget. I’ve also put out $30k in ad spend to test at a loss (with revenues, but a net loss) because I was confident in the conversion rates and knew that it would be worth $10k per day in profits once everything was optimized. However, starting out, dont go crazy. You want to target the most likely to convert traffic.

Ad and Ad copy: How to turn impressions into clicks and conversions

Speaking broadly, and keeping it simple, there are 4 kinds of ads:

text ads
image ads
text and image ads
animation/video ads

Here is my process for how I like to test ads. I generally like to start with just 3 ads, otherwise it can take a while to get enough data on each ad. I use 2 fairly similar ads (similar images and ad copy) and then, 1 that is more experimental. I’ll typically have the first 2 ads be similar to what is in the marketplace (after researching the competition and ads in sideline product markets), and the 3rd ad is my attempt to beat it and create a better performing ad. If it is a text ad, I slightly modify the 2nd ad from the 1st, and the 3rd ad is a much different variation. If it is a banner, regardless of the size, I will do the same with the ad copy as a text ad, but with a banner ad, I will make the images similar in the 1st banner to the 2nd banner, then, the 3rd banner will be completely different. I will do some video ads for agencies, but generally, have not done many video ads because of variable like load times, device type, and so forth.” You need minimum of 100 clicks for most ads to get data to see if they work, so, that is why I start with just 3.

Split Test Your Ads Constantly

You always want to be split testing your ads for a better CTR combined with conversion rate. I say that because I have had very high CTR ads, that don’t always convert as well as an ad with a lower CTR. You want a CTR high to make the ad network happy and hopefully get a cheaper cost per click. Also, if you are buying on a CPM buy, every impression and click on your ad counts. You are paying whether people click or not on CPM buys, so, you want a high CTR. Once you notice trends in what kind of ad copy works and what kinds of images get clicked the most, use those as ideas for testing new ads. If you try running 3 ads like I do, then, take the top two ads and start changing the headlines/taglines, and test a slightly similar image. Always try to beat your winning ads with even better ads. You will find that a good ad typically works well regardless of what ad networks you run it on. Remember, you are looking for the ad with a high CTR combined with a high conversion rate. You also want to keep ads fresh, especially, on a network like Facebook or people will stop clicking them.

Your pre-sell or landing page: Prep the visitor to buy or sign up

I always get asked this question, When do I need a pre-sell and when do I send visitors directly do the product or sales page?

Generally, a pre-sell only helps your conversions, but it can be worth it to test both.

Here is how I like to envision the sales or sign up process. The more that the visitor has to do to convert, the more actions that the visitor has to take in the sales or sign up process, then, the more you will have to sell them on it.

Sales and free trials are generally better with a pre-sell, but it is worth testing both
Long form lead sign ups, such as an edu/scholarship lead, mortgage or finance lead, anything with more than 5 fields is worth trying a pre-sell page
Short from lead sign ups with 1-3 fields may not need a pre-sell

I know that I’m repeating myself here, but remember CTR combined with conversion

You want to optimize variables on your pre-sell page to get a high CTR to the product/sales/sign up page, and a high conversion rate from pre-sell page. The most important variables are:

A compelling headline and sub-headline that relates to your ad and flows well to your sales page
The colors on your pre-sell page (I changed a background color once and it literally increased sign ups by 30%)
Your images on the page, which you can split test to find the best ones
How many links to your sales/product/sign up page are important because the more links to click through to the sales page the better
The body copy on page is also important and should be tested for CTR combined with conversion

Here is an example. Once, I had 2 pre-sells running and one had a 22% CTR, and the other had a 15% CTR, but the page with the 15% CTR converted 300% better. You don’t always know why, but I had guessed that perhaps the 15% CTR page looked a bit more credible. The numbers speak to what works the best though.

The Important Action Is Above The Fold

If you do not know what above the fold means, it is what the visitor sees on a page without having to scroll down at all. The majority of users never scroll down at all. It is important to have the compelling headlines, images, videos, and so forth above the fold. Sometimes you can put links or call to action buttons at the bottom of the page to make readers see more of the copy, but in my experience, that is not what usually works best. People may be in a rush, be distracted, and may not read everything on your page, so, don’t make it more work for them.

Your Sales Or Product Or Sign Up Page: It all comes down to this

This is what matters, getting actual sales or sign ups. Here are the key variables in optimizing conversions.

Split test different variations of your sales and checkout page, such as:

Different Headlines
Different buttons, such as Buy Here or Sign Up Here or Yes, I want ___, and make sure to test the colors as well.
Images, copy, and videos (having a video seems to help out in my experience, especially, for desktop traffic)
Checkout steps are important because sometimes a page where you just enter basic information, and then get to the checkout page can be better than having a huge one page order form. I know of some products that even have 3 steps in the checkout process with different fields of the form broken into 3 pages
Always be selling during the product and checkout process. Do not use a boring standard shopping cart checkout page. Have a page with sales copy and keep selling the visitor during checkout

There is a lot more components to creating a high converting offer, but this guide is more focused on media buying and paid ads, so, let’s move on.

In General, Test Everything

Marketing is like a science. It is an imprecise science. You are making a hypothesis about what may work, you test it out, and make a conclusion that it either works bad, works good enough (to turn a profit), or works great (to turn a good profit). Laws of marketing are not like laws of gravity. What generally happens is not always what actually happens.

Heatmaps and Clickmaps, User recordings

Heat maps and click maps can be useful. You may find that visitors are giving attention or clicks to something on the page that you don’t want them to, or maybe they breeze over something that you thought was important. If you are starting out, you may hold off on spending too much time or money using these. Once you are spending a lot is when they matter.

My Tracking/Analytics Software Favorites

Split testing: visualwebsiteoptimizer.com or optimizely.com
User interaction/Heatmaps/Screen Recordings: clicktale.com
Ad network, adcopy, and other variable tracking: I have a custom coded system I use, but Google Analytics is sufficient for these needs

Whatever you use, remember that any analytics is better than none.

Other Quick Tips

It is important to learn about marketing, and be to be disciplined. Study copywriting from guys like Gary Halbert, John Carlton, Gary Bencivenga. Study one of my mentors, Jay Abraham, and learn about strategic marketing. Read Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. Remember, marketing is a science, not a casino game. If you understand how marketing works, you can apply it to offline mediums as well.

Make sure to leave any input or questions you have in the comments.