July 2010

In this month's update, I have decided to talk about website advertising for a change of pace. I have come across
many folks that enjoy Swampy Acres Farm website and have ambitions of launching their own non-commercial
"hobby" websites. Also, I have talked to many other folks with "junior-league" commercial websites who are
hoping to make some kind of profit. Almost invariably in either case, folks will eventually be concerned about
driving traffic to their sites. Obviously, what is the point of having a website if no one goes to it.. right? At any rate,
I have determined there are two main strategies you can do here. 1) Wait for search engines to find your site.
There are tons and tons of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies you can employ and we simply can't
cover them all here. 2) Advertise. With this option you need to figure out when and how. I would like to discuss
(what I consider to be) the three main advertising options that bloggers are using today (if you know of any
others, please send them over to me and I will consider evaluating them!) These three are:

1) Adgitize
2) Entrecard
3) CMF ads

Each of these services has a slightly different strategy. Adgitize works on a currency basis. You pay money into the
system to advertise and you also make money as a publish through a relatively complex algorithm of displaying
ads, advertising (yes, you get a partial "rebate" when you advertise) and clicking on ads within the network (so
you literally get paid to click ads). Entrecard is similar but works on a credit basis. Essentially, you earn credits by
clicking on ads and also get paid credits by others advertising on your widget. You can spend your credits to
advertise on others sites you can also buy credits with cash. CMF ads (like Adgitize) runs on "cash". You pay
money into the system that you can use in two run ads and buy "spikes" and likewise you earn money by selling
advertising space. You can also earn money by clicking on "spikes." So essentially, CMF can act like a "passive"
advertising system (you simply buy ads) or can kinda-sorta mimic Entrecard in that you purchase spikes and then
need to actively go around and click other spikes to earn money. Anyone… as a relatively new website owner, I
played with all these systems. During June 2010, I decided to pit them against each other to see which one was the
"best" for me.

Okay, first off a disclaimer, this is NOT a scientific test. A true analysis of this type would need a statistical
analysis plan in order to determine if the "test" is sufficiently powered to draw truthful conclusions. This takes a
real lot of time to do something like this so I didn't bother. Also, the advertising systems have key differences and
in some ways I am comparing "apples to oranges" with this analysis. So for all these reasons, this analysis is more
"anecdotal" and "suggestive" than scientifically valid. Also, my website is wholly different from yours
(undoubtedly) so I would expect your results to vary from mine in various ways. Okay, so anyway, here is how I
set up this analysis. During the month of June 2010. I did the following:

1) Purchased a full month's worth of advertising on "Adgitize"
2) Had an active Entrecard widget during this month. For 5 days (June 7th-11th inclusive) I "clicked like a
madman" and averaged about 200 "drops" (clicks on other widgets) per day on other sites within the network.
The rest of the time I did nothing (including advertising).
3) Purchased a full month's worth of advertising on CMF ads

Using Google Analytics here are my final stats for the month:
So, Adgitize seemed to be the best to in terms of overall traffic (pretty much more traffic than everything else
combined). However, we have to dig a little deeper here to understand these stats. Firstly, remember Adgitize is
incentivizing folks to click. Secondly, I didn't run any ads in Entrecard and was more or less just counting on
folks to "find me" or return my clicks. And CMF ads doesn't pay anyone to click on my ads (I did NOT
purchase any "spikes" during this period). So this number is not that important. Instead, I decided to ask the
question what kind of traffic is this? I think most folks agree that the quality of traffic can be reasonably defined
by four criteria. 1) Time on site: how long is each person spending on your site? The longer the better. 2)
Bounce rate: The percentage of people that visit only one page. The lower the better. 3) The total number of
pages visited: the higher the better. 4) The percentage of unique visitors: the more "new" people the better.

So looking at these criteria, let's compare all this and throw in Google traffic as a comparator. My logic here is
that Google is going to send the most "targeted" traffic to my site and therefore will probably be reporting the
best possible numbers in all these categories. Therefore, I think it is fair to compare everyone to Google.

Now before you make a decision, there are other factors you should consider such as cost of advertising for
each network (I didn't bother because they are pretty much comparable in my mind) size of the network, etc.
etc. This is all too much for me in my analysis, but this is definitely something you should consider. One other
factor that I would like to mention is customer service. Personally, I ranked CMF ads higher than either
Entrecard or Adgitize and let me tell you why. I have a little anecdote about each one of these guys.

Entrecard abruptly cancelled my account one day with a very terse email. Apparently you are not allowed to
have self-playing audio on your website. Anyway, I had a (literally) two second sound effect when you hit my
homepage (I know this is stupid, but I don't care… this is my website and I do what I want with it). Anyway,
they refused to budge on this or even really listen to me…. So I got around this by having the widget on
another page without the sound effect. In my opinion… crappy customer service.

Likewise with Adgitize, I got a similar "Your advertising is cancelled this month for term of service violation"
message from them. Hmmm…… my ad did not land on a page with any sound effects (I learned my lesson
from Entrecard). I queried them as to what I was violating and then I simply got an email stating my account
was re-established. When I asked them AGAIN, what I had done wrong and if I would be credited for the time
my account was suspended (as I had paid cash for these ads)…. I received no response at all. So, again in my
opinion, crappy customer service.

With CMF ads, they let me direct traffic to my homepage despite the fact I have a sound effect. They explained
that they felt this was indeed different then say… a self-playing video selling something or pop-up. To me, this
is good customer service as they responded to my queries right away and were willing to be flexible with the

Now granted, this isn't really a fair comparison, as I have only interacted with these three groups for a short
period of time… but to me I give the leg-up to CMF ads for customer service at this point… probably because
they are the "small guy" of the bunch. But that's okay. I just hope they don't go "corporate" like the other
guys and then start ignoring their customers. Time will tell.

So in summary, I think I am going to continue on with CMF ads. I am going to let my Adgitize expire and give
up on these guys eventually (I did buy a whole year) but I am going to keep my Entrecard account as it costs
nothing, and does give me a tiny bit of traffic even in passive mode. I am interested in targeted traffic in
addition to Google, so CMF ads seems to work best for me. Additionally (and curiously) it looks like CMF ads
consistently is sending MORE unique visitors to my site than Google. This could be because many of my
consistent readers refuse to bookmark my site and just Google it. Now, I really don't want to get into the
endless debates about "high and low quality traffic" there are tons of folks out there that will say more traffic is
always better etc. etc. I guess you should read all this and decide for yourself. For me, I am sticking with CMF
ads. Hope you found this helpful. I would be very interested to hear your opinion on this and your general
experiences. Thanks!

As a special bonus, I am including my findings on my review of "Spottt" link exchange. For those not familiar,
this is a free link exchange system using a 125 X 125 widget. I am not entirely sure (the website doesn't seem to
explain), but I think the way it works is you install the widget and then you get a set number of impressions on
other websites based on the number of impressions you give. You are "taxed" for this service, as the
impressions you get are less than the impressions you give. The remainder (I assume) are paid ads that fund
the system. Well, during the month of June, I gave out 2,789 impressions from two separate widgets (I think
you can have unlimited widgets) and received 2,117 impressions. Despite this, I didn't register a single visit
from anyone! I have been using this on and off for a few months with similar results. Never got a single click.
Additionally, some of the blogs/sites are questionable in content. One of the widgets that seems to show on my
site all the time included links to download "unusual" movies. Spottt does give you the ability to block certain
sites… but who has time to review all these? I think the Spottt filtering mechanism needs to be tightened more
to get rid of stinky or offensive sites. Anyway, my initial assessment of this service is… Spottt is complete
garbage. But… I will keep the widgets on for now and see if anything ever pans out. Interested to hear your
thoughts on this as well.
Interesting results here. I also want to report a couple other stats. During a five day period (June7-11) , I spent
a good deal of time (maybe an hour or more) clicking on Entrecard widgets. I was averaging around 200 clicks
a day. During this week the analytics reported a huge spike in Entrecard visits (below) as these folks were
undoubtedly returning the favor by clicking on my widget. But then if you look at a similar 5 day period of time
a few weeks later (when I had stopped clicking) Entrecard traffic dropped considerable. Now granted I was not
advertising on the network, so this needs to be taken into account. However, it is pretty clear that most folks on
Entrecard are merely visiting me because I visited them.

So how to digest all these numbers? What ad service should you use? I guess you need to ask yourself a few
questions. These questions relate to how much you want to time you want to spend each day visiting blogs,
how much total traffic you want, and how much targeted traffic you want. Here is a little chart that might help
your decision.
Web Statistics