You’ve implemented website best practices, and created a social media and content schedule to increase long-term engagement. Now it’s time to spend money to make money: using an ad network to get ‘em in.

We are going to look at how to best rate an ad network and make the most out of your campaigns. While website design/SEO, social media and content are long-term plays, advertising provides immediate traffic.

We want to cover display networks that broker traffic between publishers and advertisers. In this case, you’ll be operating as the latter. They are difficult to vet because there are many and they vary in their offers. Let’s dig in.

An ad network is an ad network is an ad network…

and an apple is an apple is an apple…they all have a similar shape and nutrition profile. But did you know there are 7,500 varieties of apples? The same goes for ad networks; each has its own size and color.

You probably have a favorite apple or two based on your preference. Choosing an ad network will be a little more complicated. You need to rate them according to the 3Ts: traffic, targeting and tracking.

Traffic: not all is created equal

At the end of the day, it’s all about traffic and publishers are the ones providing it. You “buy” traffic by paying for space on the publisher’s property, i.e. website/app. Your network needs to provide premium publishers and monitor for fraud.

Otherwise, you could waste money and worse, risk brand image. To the former, there are publishers who will sell space but not display the ads that purchase it on their site through various schemes.

Not even Google and Facebook can claim that their traffic is 100% clean. Nonetheless, the network you choose should proactively combat fraud, like Adcash…apologies for the plug but this is one area we excel in.

Targeting: your traffic is only as good as your targeting

You want access to a large pool of premium traffic but you also have a specific demographic in mind. If you aren’t provided the proper targeting options then your budget efficiency will suffer and margins will tighten.

For every cent you spend on advertising, you subtract one from every sale you make; you have to make it count. Basic targeting features include geo, language, device, browser and IP. These are a good place to start but you need more.

Your ad network should provide category and interest targeting at the very least.

Category targeting allows you to limit the sites that your ads to only those of a specific theme. The strength of this targeting is also its drawback: it targets the site. Your users visit multiple sites with multiple categories/themes.

A way to improve category targeting? The buyer personas you created in part 3. Ask yourself, “What site categories are my buyer personas likely visiting?” Create a target diagram with your answers.

Your bullseye will be the category most closely related to your product/service. The next ring will be the second closest, so on so forth. You should have three to four rings beyond your bullseye…test, track and adjust.

Interest targeting presents an easier way to reach your audience because it will track them according to their interests, regardless of the site they visit. As with category targeting, you’ll want to create a diagram to determine corollary interests.

Tracking: Track or throw your money into the wind

Most ad platforms provide what can be described as mandatory conversion tracking. It provides accountability and proof that you are getting the impressions you paid for. But it should also provide informative tracking.

There are 3rd-party platforms that provide both forms of tracking and integration isn’t too complicated. Regardless of your level of expertise, all integration costs one thing: time, which we want to save.

Why informative tracking? This type of tracking allows you to track what google would call micro conversions. These are events that lead up to your ultimate, revenue-producing conversion; your macro conversion.

By tracking the events that lead to conversion, you can identify where your audience is reaching a bottleneck within the buyer’s journey. For instance, you can track those who’ve provided their email address, filled out the shipping form, etc.

Make the most of your ad network budget

You’ve found your network: you need to make the most of the traffic your ads produce. Most of your visitors will leave empty-handed regardless of the channel you use. Don’t worry, you can improve the odds.

According to a small study conducted by Fairfax Media, your ads should possess 4 characteristics to be memorable:

  • Contrasting colors/brand colors
  • Simple, concise messaging
  • Clear, uncluttered design
  • Prominent brand logos/symbols

Control for exposure through frequency capping. If a user has seen your ad three times and hasn’t engaged with it, they likely never will. Continuing to advertise to them reduces budget efficiency and courts ill will.

For those who do engage with your ad, they should be taken to a landing page. If you don’t create a landing page, your conversions will reflect it. It’s simple, users demonstrate intent when they click your ad.

Sending them to a homepage is either lazy or greedy. You told me to come into your store to buy a Coke and then send me to your cooler to find it among all the other sodas. Instead, send me to where it is clearly displayed.

Consider including a small discount in return for email addresses. By acquiring email addresses, you create the opportunity to recapture some of your spend down the road through remarketing efforts.

Your ad network homework and what’s up next

You’ve done it, you’ve made it to the end of section 1 of the Ecommerce 101 series, get ‘em in. Hopefully, you’ve completed the homework and are consistently applying the principles we’ve covered in all four parts.
The pace will increase as we cover what to do when you get ‘em in, converting ‘em. As always, there is homework involved. It’s now time to expand your scope and look at alternative ad networks.

Naturally, I’m partial to Adcash and believe that it is the best ad network to partner with. Registration is free and starting budgets are low: here’s a pretty balanced review of where we get it right and less than right.

But I want you to make an informed decision, so evaluate a few according to the 3Ts. Also, if you haven’t created a campaign thus far DO IT. You don’t have to run it now, just create it. And we’re on to section 2, convert ‘em. See ya soon.


With such a large network, there are bound to be a few great insights out there. Don’t keep them a secret! Add to the discussion and comment below!

Kyle Buzzell

Kyle Buzzell

Content Manager

Psychology, sales and now marketing…Kyle uses his background and love of writing to create informative, engaging content for Adcash.

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