I experimented with paid advertising last year by trying out automated and manual bidding on Project Wonderful. I took detailed notes on the different methods I tried, which I've summarized here in a post that should be useful if you're unfamiliar with how to use Project Wonderful effectively.
|Half Banner (234x60)||193||$5.26||$0.027|
Leaderboard ads are the most effective because their horizontal shape allows creators to easily fit them directly above or below the comic page, maximizing their visibility. Half banners and skyscrapers are similarly convenient, increasing the likelihood that they'll catch readers' attention at the top of the screen. Button ads, while tiny, often come in groups of four or more, making it relatively easy to place inexpensive bids on high-traffic sites. Rectangle and square ads should be avoided, as their blockiness makes it difficult for creators to place them in visible areas, and squares in particular are generally way overpriced compared to the half banner ads, which are only a little smaller. There's also an option to use Banner ads (468x60), which are basically miniature Leaderboard ads, but I tried them later on and found that the Leaderboard ads got better results.
Canadian ad space is often surprisingly underpriced, offering a decent amount of page views while sometimes costing less than 1/10th of what the United States ad space costs. If you can get lucky and grab a high-traffic Canadian ad for a few pennies, you'll get a ton of value out of your bid. U.S. ads are still a good deal, though, since they get way more traffic than the other regions. You have to be cautious when bidding on U.S. ads, though, as while it's fun to quickly get a lot of clicks, it's also an easy way to blow through your budget faster than you expected. Elsewhere and European ads are similar to the Canadian ones and can sometimes have awesome deals, but in my experience they're less consistent than the Canadian ads, and you may end up wasting money on duds that only yield one or two clicks.
It seems that most people who read webcomics do so during downtime at school or work, so it makes sense that weekday ads would have the most value. Fridays and Saturdays are a waste of money, as readers are apparently too distracted by other things going on to care much about webcomics then. Sundays are surprisingly effective, though, and don't fit into this weekday-weekend dynamic for some reason. So, in order to get the most value for your money, it'd be smart to set your ads to run from Sunday through Thursday.
Here are more tips for how you can get the most out of your Project Wonderful experience.
Learn your demographics. A significant amount of this blog's traffic comes from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, which suggests that bidding on European ad space is likely to attract readers that stick around after clicking on the ad. While I generally got a better cost-per-click ratio out of Canadian ads, those clicks don't seem to be turning into regular readers, which ultimately makes them less valuable. Google Analytics is one example of a tracking program you can use to get this kind of information just by adding a block of code to your site.
Blacklist bad sites. While analyzing some of my automated bids, I noticed that several high-traffic sites had an awful cost-per-click ratio of $0.35 or worse. I visited these sites, and I saw that in each case, the ad was located at the bottom of the site, way below where the comic page is. All Project Wonderful tracks is how many times a site's loaded in someone's browser, so it's possible for an ad to have a lot of page views even though nobody's actually viewing the ad. Fortunately, there's a "blacklist" option that lets you avoid bidding on certain sites, so if you're using automated bids, make sure to "blacklist" sites that have lousy ad placement.
Search by tags. When looking for ads to bid on, the "Site Description" menu has a field titled "Include tags:" that helps you narrow down your search. You'll get better results if you bid on webcomics that have a similar genre or style as you own, as readers who like the other webcomics are more likely to become a fan of yours as well. For example, if you make a dramatic fantasy webcomic, you can select "Comics: Webcomics" and search for "drama fantasy" and get a list of dramatic webcomics, fantasy webcomics, and webcomics that are both. If you aren't sure what tags to search for, there's a "tag cloud" link that shows a list of the most common tags.
Be patient. It's enjoyable to outbid someone and get a message informing you that you're the high bidder, but you may end up overpaying for an ad by doing so. Placing low bids and being patient will most likely get you more clicks in the long run than getting into a bidding war over premium ad space. There's no set time limit on bids, so as long as an ad doesn't have a minimum bid amount, you can place a permanent bid of as low as $0.01 and then wait for the price to eventually drop. Prices tend to fluctuate heavily, so an ad that's expensive today might be dirt-cheap next week. Also, ads that are $0.10 or cheaper generally have better value and are less risky since they have $0.01 bid increments rather than the $0.10 increments of the more expensive ads.
Stick with your best sites. I found that certain sites gave me good results every time I bid on them, and I was able to get better cost-per-click ratios by focusing more of my budget on these sites. Maybe other people happened to overlook these sites, or it's possible that they've experienced a sudden increase in traffic, or they could just have really ideal ad placement, but whatever the reason is, try to find your best sites as quickly as possible and stick with them. If one region works well, then you can try bidding on another region, and if the site has an another ad that's a different size, then bid on that ad as well. Focusing on several sites in this manner is a better strategy than spreading your budget out over a bunch of different sites and hoping that some of them end up being worthwhile.
Project Wonderful is a much more efficient way to promote your webcomic than its free alternatives, and while it can get expensive if you plan on bidding for space on the most popular webcomics, it only costs $5.00 to get started, and you can make your money last a while if you're careful with it.