I’ve managed hundreds, if not thousands of paid advertising campaigns.
While I was learning to optimize my campaigns, I noticed two groups of people…
The first group is what I call the “launch and pray” group.
They setup multiple campaigns with the hopes of finding a winner.
If something doesn’t work out almost instantly, they write it off as a loss and move on.
On the other side of the extreme, we have what I call the “snipers.”
They launch a campaign and let it run even if it’s extremely unprofitable.
Usually they “optimize” aka cutting everything not working in the campaign.
Over time, they end up losing a ton of money trying to optimize their selves out of a deep hole.
Now, there is no “best way” for everyone, but the answer that is most likely to get you results lays somewhere in-between.
Each of these strategies has their strengths, but unfortunately, most people take each to the extreme.
Launch And Pray “Optimization.”
The problem with the “launch and pray” method is you’re hoping to discover a winning campaign by throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks with no real strategy behind it.
Honestly, with this mindset you’re not even really a marketer. You’re just gambling trying to find a winner before your funds run out.
This same group of “performance marketers” usually don’t even narrow down their targeting on a campaign and just start running RON out the gate.
By using this method, you’re simply not learning anything.
You’re relying on luck to produce a winning campaign for you.
Yes, you can find a winning campaign using this method, however, because you didn’t learn anything you won’t know how to improve it.
This will result in the campaign being short lived as you’ll have no idea how to improve it.
Because you’re likely to be launching campaigns non-stop jumping from vertical to vertical, once again you’re missing out on learnings. Not only about that particular campaign but in the entire niche/vertical.
If you are always chasing the next “hot” campaign by jumping around constantly, that means you’re leaving a ton of money on the table.
Just because a campaign isn’t 100% ROI out the gate, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have potential.
The Real Problem
Most performance marketers don’t have much of a strategy when it comes to their campaigns.
Usually, they hear a particular offer is “hot” and try to launch it on whatever traffic source they currently have funds in.
Totally skipping over doing any proper marketing plan.
This lack of strategy and good planning is not how you build a sustainable campaign.
In fact, by skipping over the planning, they’re treating the campaign likes it’s a short term money grab with no longevity.
Instead, they use a collection of tricks that they believe can be used to improve their campaign.
Sniper Campaign Optimization
The majority of my most successful campaigns have been from this methodology.
The only real “con” is initially you will most likely be “losing” money as you work to get the campaign profitable.
This type of optimization isn’t for the weak-minded as regularly seeing an unsuccessful campaign will wear at your patience and motivation.
Before even launching a campaign the “sniper” does their due diligence by understanding not only their offer but the traffic source they’re running on.
They do this by the use of a marketing persona of their target audience.
Instead of running a campaign on RON, they map out several tests that they’re going to conduct with their offer.
- Unique marketing angle – the hook that will capture the visitors interest
- Landing page style
- Target market (Marketing Persona)
- Different placements to run the traffic from
The Power of Testing
One thing every performance marketer will have to get used to is A/B and multi-variant testing.
Testing is the most powerful tool in the performance marketers toolbox.
Even when a campaign is running profitably, you should always be trying to improve your campaign.
If you don’t, your competitor will and eventually take over your once profitable placements.
To do proper testing, be sure you’re tracking everything with the proper marketing analytics tools.
A/B Testing allows you to test one variant vs. another to see which performs the best.
This can be anything from a banner, offer, landing page and even different price points.
Usually, A/B testings consist of sending 50% of your visitors to variant a and sending the other 50% to variant b.
By using A/B testing, you’re able to quickly identify which of the two variants perform the best.
Since your traffic is only split 50/50, you will be able to reach statistical significants fairly quickly.
Usually, I only use A/B testing once I have a campaign that is already running profitably.
I use A/B testing to improve the campaign by always trying to beat the current winner.
Though it’s quicker to identify a winner, you have less of a chance to identify a variant that is out performing the rest of the group.
Similar to A/B testing, multi-variant testing allows you to test multiple variants at a time.
Instead of sending 50/50 to A and B, multi-variant allows you to test as many variants as you want.
In the example below, we’re testing four different variants: variant a, b, c & d each of which gets 25% of our traffic distributed evenly.
Multi-variant testing is best when you are first starting a campaign. It allows you to drastically test different marketing angle and styles.
This will allow you to identify which angle or style your audience responds to the best by comparing them all at once.
When I am first testing out a particular offer, landing page or banner I usually will use multi-variant testing.
Then once I identify a clear winner I will then revert to A/B testing to try and beat the current best performer.
Since you’re splicing up your traffic so much with multi-variant testing, it’s going to take a lot longer to get statistical significance.
Optimization Through Testing
Though there is no perfect way for you to optimize your campaign, there is one thing that does matter.
If you just launch a campaign at random with no rhyme or reason and then make changes to that same campaign a few hours later, the data you did collect is useless.
No matter how badly a test appears to be performing, if you want to have accurate data you need to allow yourself to gather enough data.
This means that when you’re preparing to test something, no matter if it’s a new banner, landing page, offer, etc, you need to setup the test and then leave it alone.
Start researching your next campaign launch and stop refreshing the stats like a maniac.
If nothing else, take a step away from the computer and don’t check your stats until the following day.
If you want to test a brand new landing page vs. your current winner, don’t change anything else in the campaign.
Be sure you’re running the same placements, with the same ad creatives.
Don’t even change your BID!
If you change any other variable in your test, you once again have screwed all of your data.
Short answer. Test one thing at a time and limit your variables as much as possible.
One variable most performance marketers don’t take into account, is the time which you perform a test.
On Monday, you launch a test at 5 pm and then on Tuesday launch a new test at 11 am, once again that data is useless.
Perhaps your campaign performs better at night, so all the data you collected that morning for your new landing page is skewed.
The Proper way to test two different banner ads.
What To Test
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people say: “I’ve tested everything and still can’t get it profitable.”
First of all bullshit. You can never test everything because there is always something to test.
The real power of performance marketing is from our ability to change almost everything in our sales funnel.
If a particular channel isn’t working out, we can just switch it up and test another.
If an individual offer doesn’t seem to be converting well enough, throw another one in the backend to see if you can beat your current EPC.
The point is, everything can be tested, and you should always be testing.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this guide, the very first thing I test is several different offers.
If your offer doesn’t convert, nothing else in your funnel matters.
In fact, a high performing offer is so important, that if you don’t have one, all of your competition is going to kick the crap out of you.
To find a high performing offer can be tricky, but it comes down to doing your research and then testing.
Ask these questions:
- What does my affiliate manager recommend?
- What offers are the majority of my competition running?
Answering those two questions will get you a leg up in finding the perfect offer for your traffic.
Once you get a couple of potential offers, test them all against each other to see which one performs the best.
If an offer has different landing pages, be sure to test these as well.
Each offer landing page will perform differently. Be sure to recognize which page best suits your angle.
This ironically is the most overlooked optimization by most marketers.
If your angle isn’t compelling enough to get your visitor to take action, then the campaign is going to fail.
Your angle is what is going to produce this desire to take action.
As long as your offer converts well, your unique angle is what’s going to generate the highest ROI gains.
Coming up with your unique hook is going to take creativity and research.
Avoid having a general angle such as “Download an app”.
If your angle is too general, no one will care about what you have to offer because your message is reaching no one.
Focus on reaching a select group of people to really get your message across.
Ask these questions:
- What is my audience’s pain points?
- What are their greatest needs?
- What do they fear the most?
Be sure to create at least three angles to test against each other.
Once you start to see one doing better than the others, start testing new angles that hit the same audience in a different way.
After figuring out your unique hook, you’ll want to create your ad creatives.
These can be anything from, banner ads, text ads or video.
It’s the very first opportunity your potential prospects have to recognize what you have to offer.
The quality of your creatives will determine how many clicks you’re able to generate from a specific source and how much you’re going to pay for those clicks.
No matter if you’re paying CPM or CPC, getting the highest CTR is important to keep click prices low.
However, don’t sacrifice quality clicks for quantity.
You want to be sure that your ad creatives properly prep your visitors for your unique hook.
Some things to think about:
- What is the visitor doing before they see my ad? (Watching a video, reading, playing a game)
- What kind of mindset are they in?
- What would make them drop what they’re doing and look at your ad?
The whole goal of your ad creative is to capture the attention of the visitor and get them interested in what you have to offer.
If they show that initial interest, you then have to seal the deal by the use of your landing page.
Landing Page Style
Much like the angle you decide to run, the type of landing page style you choose is a huge factor.
There are several different styles and variations within each style.
However, there are usually 3-4 that most performance marketers focus on.
Click Through Landing Page
It’s entire purpose is to provide just enough details about the offer and to generate enough interest in the offer to click through.
The real goal is to make sure you’re familiar with the offer by providing a quick list of benefits and a compelling call to action.
Lead Capture Pages
This is the most overlooked page type in performance marketing.
Collecting any data about your prospects before sending them off to your core offer is a win-win.
You’re able to build an asset (database) of information while still having the ability to send them off to whatever you’re offering.
These types of pages are also called squeeze pages, as the visitor only has two choices.
- Fill in their information
Long Form Sales Letter
I’m sure we’ve all seen them, a landing page that takes 20 mins to scroll down to the bottom.
Filled with tons of information and usually telling a story about someone’s life that used their product.
Even if you are ready to buy, there is no CTA in sight, so you just keep scrolling and reading.
These pages have been around for as long as I can remember; that’s because they work.
Now there are a few variants on this type of landing page such as using a sales video as opposed to to text.
But they all have the same goal, hit as many pain points as possible, then show them how your offer can better their life.
By the time they finally see that buy button they jump at the opportunity.
Sideways Sales Letter
Similar to a long form sales letter, a term originally coined by Jeff Walker.
The sideways sales letter is a longer term strategy that allows you to lead nurture your prospects into a sale.
This type of page is perfect for higher ticket items as it allows you to build rapport with your prospects allowing them to trust you before making a large purchase.
Just take note that even though your LTV(Life time value) of your visitors is going to go up, the time it takes to see those returns will also increase.
More Aggressive Options
A very popular landing page style is Nutra. It looks just like a real blog.
The reason it’s called a flog is… you guessed it, it’s a fake blog.
All the content on the landing page appears and reads just like a blog post, but it’s a mixture of a long form sales letters by masking its appearance of a blog.
The visitor thinks they’re reading someone’s personal thoughts on a certain subject, but before they know it,they’re ready to buy whatever product that post is talking about.
Good thing for them, there is a link to that same product everywhere on the page!
Much like the flog, the farticle is a fake article.
It has the appearance of a local news site reporting on a story.
The farticle borrows the sense of authority people have with a local news station.
Usually a “special report” on how a certain miracle pill is saving all of mankind.
Too bad a certain group of people claim the pill is too strong and want it off the market!
Your audience better act fast before it’s too late!
Pro Tip: No matter which landing page style you choose to split test, always try to “borrow” authority from either the users device OS, placement, or anything else they’re familiar with.
Depending on your offer, angle and landing page style, the placement that you run on is critical.
Placement is where your ad is placed on a digital property such as a website or app.
If your ad is showing up on a site where the audience has no interest in your offering, the campaign will fail.
Keep in mind it’s possible that a particular ad creative, angle or landing page style may do extremely well on a specific site or app.
Be sure to do your research ahead of time to identify where your audience spends their time.
Cut out any placements that don’t interest your target demographic.
One of the best ways to optimize a campaign that may only work with certain criteria is:
If your offer only works in a certain country, on a particular ISP then it’s best to launch a campaign only targeting those options.
Be sure to review any previous data you may have on the offer and start any new campaign targeting the highest possible ROI options.
Depending on which traffic source you’re running traffic from, your different targeting options will vary.
A lot of marketers overlook the power of bid adjustment.
Simply changing your bids can take a losing campaign and turn it into a profit monster.
You must understand that like everything else bid adjustments must be split tested, if possible.
A lower bid may decrease your cost, but your ad may be showing an impression number five rather than one.
Or even worse, you may only be showing up on lower quality placements.
I go into detail on bidding strategy on my real-time bidding post.
Not So Obvious Optimizations
Still breaking even after testing non-stop?
Don’t give up just yet!
Be sure that your landing page is as quick as possible.
Usually, people will give up just after 4 seconds.
Ideally, you want your landing page to load with under a second.
Checkout Landing Page Checklist to learn more about how to speed up your site.
If you’re running traffic to a European campaign and your server is in the US you’re always going to have ping.
Try to get your server as close as possible to your target audience to reduce latency as much as possible.
Are you getting a lot of traffic that doesn’t convert on your offer?
Perhaps you’re running a campaign in the Netherlands, but you have a ton of Belgium traffic.
Redirect all the Belgium traffic to an offer that accepts the traffic.
Running a good amount of volume to your offer? Ask your affiliate manager for a pay-bump.
For whatever reason they won’t give you a pay bump, shop your offer around to other networks.
If you have an enormous budget, you can also go directly to the advertiser to see if you can get a better payout.
Usually, you can get a 10-20% payout bump as the affiliate manager doesn’t want to lose your volume.
*Don’t go asking for a pay bump if you’re only doing a handful of leads a day
The power of code is amazing.
If you want to go aggressive with your optimization efforts, check out my post on landing page code.
This part is extremely important, so I’m going to tell you once again –
Test only one variable at a time.
Making multiple changes to a campaign all at once ruins all of your data.
An example of how not to test two different banner ads.
Over time as you get better at understanding your data, you can start to test more variables at once.
But, just know the more variables you’re testing, the longer it will take to get statical significants.
More words of wisdom
Don’t kill your campaigns.
If you find a particular KPI (Key Performance Indicator) doing well, it’s natural to want to cut everything and just run what’s profitable.
Making optimizations to a campaign while it’s running seems good in theory.
However, chances are your changes will also improve your campaigns eCPM making you lose traffic.
Completely changing your position on the ad server can result in showing up on different placements, etc.
What’s the bottom line?
If you find a particular KPI that is doing well for you, clone the campaign and make your targeting changes.
This will allow you to see if making the modification actually will improve your campaign or not.
If it is successful, then you can pause your original campaign.
However, if it fails, at least you’re still collecting data from the original.
Reverse Engineering the Competition
If for whatever reason you’ve tested everything you can think of and still aren’t finding success, it’s time to go back to the competition and see what recent changes they’ve made.
Go to the current placements you’re running on and find someone running a similar offer.
Take notes on:
- Marketing angle
- Landing page style
- Offers running
Try to identify which position they are in on the ad server.
Did they show up as the first impression or did you have to refresh the page a few times before seeing their ad?
The more data you can collect about your competitor, the better.
If they’ve been running an individual landing page for a few weeks, go ahead and try one that is very similar.
The closer your landing page is to theirs, the better, as this will give you a baseline of what they are currently converting at.
Once you have this data, you can then aim to beat it by making changes throughout your funnel.
Identify Your Campaign
After you have successfully ran traffic to a campaign, it’s important to determine if the campaign has potential.
If you’ve been running your campaign for a week and still have zero conversions, it’s time to identify the problem.
A campaign that gives you zero feedback is hard to analyze.
But, here are some questions you can ask:
- Are you confident the offer you’re running performs well on other channels?
- How are visitors responding to your landing page?
- Are they clicking through and seeing the offer or are they leaving right away?
- Does your ad creative match up with the landing page you are running?
- Be sure that your marketing messaging is the same all the way through the “front end” part of you funnel.
- Were there any technical problems that may have caused conversions to not properly track?
- Offer may have been down
- Server problems may have resulted in slow loading times
Be sure to go through every step of your campaign to try and recognize what the problem is.
After reviewing everything about your campaign and there is no clear answer, it may be best to write the campaign off as a failure and move on if the offer simply won’t convert.
If you’re an affiliate marketer, you are limited on what you can optimize at the offer level.
You do however have the freedom to split test several different offers to find the best performer.
No matter if you’re an affiliate or someone who is marketing a product, it’s always a good idea to split test at the offer level.
If you’re launching a brand new campaign that is geared towards generating dentist leads, test several different dentist lead gen offers.
Not only that, but test the same offer on multiple different networks.
This will give you a good indicator of what offer is performing the best and give you a solid foundation to grow your campaign.
This also allows you to have a “backup” offer in case the best performer goes down for any reason.
The next type of campaign that you will come across more often than not is a campaign that is close to breaking even.
Usually, this campaign will range in the -60% to -5% range.
Most performance marketers will pause a campaign that is in this range after a week or so of running.
Depending on how you would react to a campaign like this, will differentiate those of you that are going to have massive success in performance marketing and those that are going to fail entirely.
These types of campaigns are by far the most common, and though they lose money upfront, they do have potential.
Just remember that you’re not losing money, you are buying data. This data will allow you to make the decisions necessary to make your campaign profitable.
Usually to get these campaigns profitable, all it takes is to start sending more of your traffic to the best performing offer or angle.
The final type of campaign is what I like to call jackpot.
Though honestly I’ve only had a hand full of these campaigns, they do happen.
These campaigns come out the gate super strong within the 50%+ ROI range.
When this happens, you’ll want to allocate as many funds as you can to this campaign and scale it as quickly as possible.
Be sure to verify the campaign with your affiliate manager and ask if you’re able to scale it.
Sometimes an offer can fire conversions when they shouldn’t or other technical problems.
Just know that depending on the reason the campaign is doing so well, it may be short lived.
This can include:
- The advertiser is taking “terms” off their page.
- Brand new advertiser that doesn’t know their metrics and is losing a ton of money on the backend.
- Technical problem with the offer throwing false positives.
If you find yourself with a “Jackpot” campaign, don’t think life just got easier and you can retire on a beach.
These campaigns almost always die quickly.
So just be prepared to lose everything overnight at any moment.
Make Money From Your Data For Life
It’s amazing to me how many marketers don’t efficiently use the data they’re paying for.
The more data you have about your campaign, the higher chance you’ll find a winner!
No matter if your campaign was a success or failure, you always need to be taking notes of what happened with your campaign.
You can either put these notes on your computer, like Evernote or even just Notes if you’re using a Mac.
Personally, I use a small journal to write down any notes about my campaign.
Ironically, I put my most important thoughts on paper rather than on the computer.
It’s easier for me to remember where they are instead of losing everything in some random folder.
A journal can by bought from Amazon for like $10, or just go down to Walmart and get yourself a spiral binder.
When I launch a campaign, I will write in my journal which landing pages & offers are going live.
Then, if possible, I try to write down the exact time the campaign goes live.
As the campaign is running I’ll write a few quick notes on a weekly basis:
- Which angle performed the best
- Average CTR
- EPC of each
- Top lander style
- Colors that performed the best
- Average CTR
- EPC of each
- Total spend per week
- Total revenue per week
- High performing banner CTR
- Lowest performing banner CTR
Making a good habit of writing down all of your campaign stats will allow you to get familiar with how different changes you’ve made to the campaign affect everything.
Be sure to write down any ideas you have along the way and timestamp every change you make to a campaign.
Sure a lot of this can be found in your tracking tools, but having everything in an easy to review journal is extremely helpful.
Plus, if you review data after some time you may not be able to remember what it is you’ve tested.
Having it all in a notebook allows you to read exactly what you thought when you did each change.
Most performance marketers struggle with what to optimize and when to optimize it.
Now, once again there is no “set” way to optimize a campaign.
Once you get familiar with optimizing a campaign, you can start to adjust your technique and strategy.
Just don’t let your emotions get in the way of collecting data and using logic to improve your campaigns.
For many of you, your lack of patience and constant micro adjusting is your largest enemy.
Data tells a story, and if you collect enough of it, the story will always end in profits.
Have any questions?
Leave them in the comments below. I’m always trying to improve my posts!