Advertising: Investing in yourself
The goal of marketing something is either brand recognition or conversion (like selling an item). Most webcomics will fall into brand marketing. Other things that run off subscriptions or items will run off conversion marketing.
First, you have to be realistic about your budget. Marketing can be cheap (handing out pamphlets at a college) or it can get very expensive (like the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to run a U.S. presidential campaign). For most people running webcomics, budgets fall between $1 and $3,000 — pretty small.
For this example, let’s say you have a budget of $1,500 to promote a comic with 1,000 daily users
- What is your goal? This is a brand campaign, your goal is to increase the awareness of your work and get potential audience members interested in viewing your product. Which will then make it’s returns in merchandise and/or ads.
- How do I start? You need graphic ads. The current standards are leaderboard (728×90 pixels) Medium rectangle (300×250 pixels) and wide skyscraper (160×600 pixels). These are the keys to a successful campaign. This isn’t just a sales pitch — it’s brand awareness. A good ad will earn clicks — if not during the user’s first exposure, then during subsequent encounters.. If your ad is bad, people will avoid clicking it no matter how often they see it. Ads have either positive or negative feedback. They’ll only go in one direction over time — so keep track of how they’re doing. If it’s doing well, stay the course. If it’s failing, then re-evaluate your design/approach and try again. Most marketing offices spend almost as much money testing their advertising as they do on the advertising itself.
- Know your readerbase. Who reads your comic? Do you have a core subject matter (like video games or gardening)? If you have Google Analytics installed (Chapter 6), you can also use geolocation to study trends in your user base. Polling users on interests is also a good approach to identify what types of people would be interested in your work.
- Where to Market. The Internet is the largest social construct mankind has ever made. There are over 500 million Web sites in existence — with over 4 billion active users and growing. Knowing where to market is key towards building your userbase. To do this, you’re going to need to look for sites in a similar demographic rating to your userbase — as well as test educated guesses as users who aren’t in your current pool may also convert. A large amount of meta-data collection is needed and Google Analytics is a key tool in studying what works.
- What to spend. This will also vary greatly, the best ad rates on my network are $13.25 per 1,000 impressions. This is a gaming site that is highly specialized to a single product. Do you want to market your webcomic on this site? No, probably — not unless it’s about that single game the comic is based on. These rates are so high because the site is very good for conversion-based campaigns (which will shove brand marketing out of the way). If you want a good target to start with go to buysellads.com or shinyads.com. These have low minimum buys for $0.25-1.00 CPM. You can test what works before dedicating to a larger purchase. Most premium branding ads are between $1-$4 CPM. If that’s too high for your budget, you should use Google’s Doubleclick for Advertisers (advertisers.doubleclick.net). There are many things like Doubleclick, but the budgets to enter those markets are more than $10,000 per month. If both of these options are too high for your budget, I would advise Project Wonderful. As it is a non-standard ad network, it has a large amount of cheap inventory.
- How do you know if it’s working? When doing marketing, you should always have a cooldown period of one month after a heavy campaign to see what types of signs your site exhibits when its active user base increases. Depending on update frequency / user type, this varies for every site. Once you are confident you have identified the metrics needed, you can switch to a two-week cool-down period.
Even the smartest, most savvy marketing campaign comes down to the quality of the product. If that’s not satisfactory, there’s no amount of promotion in the world that will be able to generate a following for it. But down’t get disenchanted by seemingly low numbers. If a hundred-million people are driven to yout site by your marketing, keeping 3% bof them is awesome. And keeping a higher percentage of a smaller number of new readers is also great.
Marketing is an art of efficiency and execution. The more proficient you become at it, the easier other aspects of business will become.