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What Does it Cost To Advertise Your Product/Site?

When you are looking for ways to increase exposure to your site or apps you have a plethora of options of holes that you can pour money in to. I found that milage varies enormously.

Google AdWords wanted me to have another look at their offering and gave me a credit for 100 Euros to spend on their ad network. At the same time I put exactly the same banner ad on 3 sites that I found when browsing the BuySellAds list of publishers. Also I’ve had several customers for putting ads on the Cocoanetics site, one app, and three ads for two components.

Let’s have a look at the numbers to see if we cannot figure out some feel for the varying effectiveness.

BSA Banner

This was the banner that I used, it was created by a designer friend of mine. He’s available for affordable contract work, to get in contact with him, just e-mail me.

Let’s start with the biggest player …

AdWords: Just Words

First of all it took several days for anything to happen even though I correctly set up the ad campaign on the AdWords website. I had green lights all around, but still the ads would not show. It was only when I opened a ticket with Google that suddenly they started to appear. I got an annoying request to fill out a service evaluation survey before and after the response.

This is actually the second campaign that disappointed my on Adwords. The first one was for an app that I collaborated on with Andreas Heck. Both campaigns were using a big leaderboard ad banner.

App Campaign: 895175 impressions … 609 clicks (CTR 0.07%) … €732.85 = CPC €1.20, CPM €1.22

Site Campaign: 82803 impressions … 163 clicks (CTR 0.20%) … €99.00 = CPC €1.64, CPM €0.84

Did this additional traffic gain us anything?

Well, the app did still run at a loss and I cannot really say that I see any impact on my site traffic. So it’s all been just a very big waste of money. Google has the advantage of having the biggest market share in advertising networks on the internet. But I’m coming to the conclusion that their hyped content targeting algorithms are not what they are cracked up to be. Any non-automatic method of placement gets better click through rates than what Google achieves.

Maybe the story will be different if you have thousands of Euros to sink into AdWords, or even better tens of thousands of Euros. Because below that you will not get any benefit except the expense.

BuySellAds: Brain Required

I recently switched to BuySellAds.com for managing the ads on my site, as Google AdSense (the counterpart to AdWords) did not make me more than a few dollars per month. BSA is specifically catering to small and medium sized independent site owners. Medium traffic sites can get their rates switched to CPM. Small traffic sites like mine are in the default mode of a set price. You can still affect the CPC by allowing several banners in the same placement, for example if you have two banner sold for a spot then each will get half of the impressions.

I put the same banner on three positions BSA is managing, here are the numbers so far:

Ray Wenderlich iOS Tutorials (CPM): 11563 impressions … 113 clicks (CTR 0.64%) … $14.45 = CPC $0.13, CPM $1.25

CutViews – Apple News ($10 per 30 days): 11082 impressions … 11 clicks (CTR 0.10%) … $3.00 = CPC $0.27, CPM $0.27

iPhone 4 Simulator ($10 per 30 days): 6013 impressions … 17 clicks (CTR 0.28%) … $3.00 = CPC $0.17, CPM $0.50

The daily amounts are prorated for 9 days out of 30. I spent $75 on Ray’s site for a percentage of his impressions, which are listed as 285000 per month as of now. What also strikes me is that I received like 10 times as many click-throughs on Ray’s site than from CutViews. I can only assume that this is because of the different interests of visitors. Somebody interested in Apple News might not be an iOS developer, but people visiting Ray’s site almost definitely are, or might be contemplating a career change.

If these additional visitors will actually increase overall traffic at my site remains to be seen. But at least I did not need to spend the amounts of money that Google got from me to find out. I used only funds that I previously made by SELLING ads and tweets via BuySellAds. So my actual cost was zero, but I still might be reaping a long term benefit.

The Verdict

Being able to browse and specifically select a site where the audience fits your own agenda has proven to be a major advantage of BuySellAds over Google AdWords. It does not pay however to just select any cheap site there. You definitely have to focus your efforts, otherwise you get clicks that are cheap, but you also don’t get very many of these.

The sweet spot seems to be around a $1.25 CPM, while trying to get the highest CTR that you possibly can by designing your ad to speak to the interests of the audience of the site you put the ad on. Ray’s iOS game tutorial site is definitely in the same niche as my business, and so a CTR of more than half a percent is apparently the highest I was able to achieve with all the best ingredients.

At the same time this once again proves that banner ads for apps generally fail to connect with the majority of people. Ads for apps don’t work. At least not if you hope to increase your sales dramatically. This is just not within reach for us people with limited budgets.

Having said that, I see that the advertisers on my site are getting even greater value than I was able to achieve myself via the methods described above.

The Today Todo task management app by Spielhaus is seeing a CTR of 0.99% on the frontpage. SixStorage a cloud-sync component is getting 0.98%. Superpin tried two places. On all the articles they got 0.69% CTR, but this was too little for them, so they cancelled it and the spot will fall to the next one purchasing it. On the parts store pages they are getting 1.45% CTR which is amazing by any standard.

Then there’s another option you have with BuySellAds that does not exist on Google: Sponsored Tweets. For a mere $15 per tweet you get your message quickly in front of 2600 people. Typical click-throughs for any of my tweets are between 100 and 200. A couple of people have previously tested this mechanism and found to be getting about the same amount of traffic as my regular tweets. That’s a cost per click of less than $0.15, well below what any ad banner could give you.


I encourage you to be picky about the sites that you advertise on with BSA and forget about Google, they want your money, but they cannot give you the value that you are looking for. If you have some money to spend on ads then find websites on BSA that match your product. The big sites are well funded already, rather give your money to the smaller independent ones, which might be run as a hobby and are looking for just enough ad income to pay for the costs of the site.

And think carefully if it wouldn’t make more sense of sponsoring a couple of tweets to stir up some immediate response to – say – the launch of your app. All ad options on Cocoanetics.com are listed here.




Categories: Advertising


  1. Thanks for posting your results. I’m about to start running some ads so it’s timely.

    Did you try any text ads on Google? More opportunity to do A/B testing with messages to try and improve CTR. Can’t assume your banner ad was resonating with everyone.

    I plan on trying text ads first. I briefly tried the Google Content Network – or whatever they’re calling it now – and hand picking sites (my app is very niche) but cpc was getting too expensive.

    Wll be taking a look at BSA too.

  2. You sound like somebody in need of making his own experiences.

    Personally I cannot remember the last time I clicked on a Google text ad, but if a banner is interesting I might click it. Text ads work even less than banners IMHO.

    But you apparently have to learn yourself. But please do share if you find out something that I haven’t.

  3. Great post, Oliver.

    In my opinion, advertising, just like development, is a whole new field that needs to be mastered before it brings results. Achieving high CTR’s and low bid prices on AdWords and other advertising networks requires experience and persistance. While I prefer text ads usually, banners can do a good job to, and it is advisable to turn to professional banner designers who know the art of banner marketing in order to get good results (it’s cheaper than you think these days thanks to sites like oDesk & freelancer.com).

    I find that researching the right target audience, and applying all sorts of marketing techniques can skyrocket performance, especially when using landing pages & social media to support the campaign.

    So the bottom line is, don’t give up to quickly, you just need to find the right angles to make it work. When it does – i.e. you are able to achieve positive ROI on your campaign – don’t forget the huge advantage: it’s very scalable. If you spend $100, and make $150, you can theoretically spend $10,000 and make $15,000.

    P.S. a small correction, AdWords does let you place ads on specific sites with similar agenda, and actually has a much bigger variety than BSA. Use the Placement option when starting a content network campaign.

  4. From years of experience, I’ve learned that it’s a popular, but big mistake to take one’s own humble opinion and assume most people are the same.

    Text ads are known to work much better than banners, especially on search marketing. CTR’s are higher (sometimes X1000% higher) and conversion rates are typically higher.

    I personally never clicked a Facebook ad, but thousands of people click on my ads every day 🙂


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