I recently had an interesting conversation with the manager of an ad network’s media buyer section. They revealed an interesting insider tip that I thought was worth sharing: most self-serve pay-per-click (PPC) networks are remnant inventory networks, from LinkedIn to Google Adwords to Facebook Ads, etc.
What does that mean?
Remnant inventory is spare inventory, spare ad slots that are unfilled. If you look at any of the major ad networks, there are generally two options available, a self-serve PPC solution and a really expensive media buy solution. The self-serve is touted as best for small businesses, and the media buy is for the big wallet crowd.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the media buy crowd that can pony up for a seat at the big table gets preferential ad slot times and placements. If you buy into these media solution packages, the starting price of admission is anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 per month, and you get the best seats in the house for your ads.
The people who can’t pony up for a seat at the big table can buy into seats at the little table, where we can pay per click in a self-serve environment. The catch is this: we get whatever’s left over after the big players have expended their budgets. If you’re competing for a highly-valued audience or for highly-valued keywords and you’re in the PPC self-serve market, you’re getting silently squeezed out. Your ad for “best Christmas toys” or “best B2B service” will never be seen at prime time; chances are it’ll show at the Sunday at 3 AM slot.
The advice the manager gave? PPC self-serve works best in the first quarter of the year. Each quarter after that gets progressively more difficult as companies, eager to meet their marketing and sales targets, pour more and more money into the advertising networks. By the time the holidays roll around in the fourth quarter, there’s almost no remnant inventory left because big companies are desperate to hit their targets and are buying everything in sight. What little inventory might be possible is nearly worthless, barely converting.
So what do you do if you don’t have 100 Benjamins to lay down on the table every month? Look for advertising solutions that are much more finely targeted and less competed-for. I will guarantee you that if you have a product or service that has any level of mainstream appeal at all, there is a discussion forum, mailing list, podcast, or other network that has a small section of your buyers and is eager for any advertising dollars at all. Take a few hours to Google for them, find them, silently lurk and see if it’s a good fit for your audience, and then make your bid. You’ll exhaust that smaller audience quickly, but you’ll spend a lot less than you will anywhere on the big networks.
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