Traffic is the lifeblood of any online business, whether you are a merchant promoting your own product, or an affiliate promoting other merchants’ products. There are so many ways of generating traffic to websites, and this is such a critical step. Naturally, your sales and profits are simply a function of your traffic. The more visitors you have, the more sales you can make.
So should one explore paid traffic or go for free traffic? Both have their pros and cons. With free traffic, your costs are mainly from your time and efforts. But the results may be slower. This is typical of free traffic sources like SEO (search engine optimization) or article marketing. With paid traffic, you are paying to receive traffic. This is normally done through PPC (pay-per-click) programs offered by the major search engines, such as AdWords by Google, and Adcenter by Microsoft. Yahoo has since merged their program with Microsoft’s Adcenter. There is even Facebook’s paid advertising which works differently from the search engines.
So what basically happens when you sign up for these paid traffic programs is that you are advertising on the search engines. There are two main avenues for advertising, one on the search network and the other on the content network. The search network ads appear whenever somebody goes to Google, Yahoo, or MSN and keys in the keywords that you have selected for your ad to be triggered. So these are the ads you would sometimes see after you key in some keywords like ‘Taiwan travel tips’ or ‘spicy food recipes’, for example. Basically, you choose the keywords that you wish to advertise for and create ads that entice the visitor to click and link to your website. You are charged a cost-per-click, hence this is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. How much you pay and where your ad appears is a function of how competitive the keywords are. For example, it could be much more expensive advertising for keywords such as ‘weight loss’, since there are many advertisers and competitors, which drive up the cost-per-click.
Advertising on the content network is a little different. This is where you allow the search engines to determine what kind of content your website has contextually, and they would then display your ads on other similar websites that have agreed to display such ads. In Google, this is the AdSense program, which allows website owners to earn some money when visitors click ads on their websites. The money comes from what you as the advertiser are paying for either a cost-per-click or perhaps cost per 1000 impressions of your ad. Google earns a % and shares the rest with the AdSense publisher. Content network advertising, also known as contextual advertising is generally cheaper than search network advertising but offers less control as it’s harder to know which websites are displaying your ads. So generally your visitors would be less targeted than from the search network.
Facebook paid traffic works a little differently, as it is a social network and not a search engine. So you get to put up ads and instead of keywords, you get to select the demographics and characteristics of people whom you wish to target. For example, if advertising an online gaming product, then target all users in a country above 18 who have listed that game under their hobbies or interests. Targeting under social networks could perhaps be effective in a different way since it allows you to target your audience in this manner.
Common to all sources of paid traffic, the key to success lies in your return on investment (ROI). You have to make more profits than what you are paying for traffic. Only then is it profitable for you to sustain this business? Hence, paid traffic has this downside compared to free traffic, whereby you would need to keep close track of your advertising at all times, constantly tweaking and improving in order to increase your profits and reduce our costs.
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