howtopayforattentionPeople often ask me what I think about paid ads. Honestly, I hardly ever use them but I have some rules when I do:

1) It’s short term. Ex: Running a contest, the first few days of a new website launch, etc.
2) It’s never more than 10% of any budget I am working with.
3) I am testing messaging/keywords.

That doesn’t sound like never right? And since now you can pay for posts (Facebook), tweets (Twitter), pins (Pinterest), and pluses (Google+), you might wonder how and when I choose to do this.

Get a very specific audience in mind.

I know I’ve done my job well when I make a targeted ad and the audience is tiny. Here’s a Twitter ad I just took out:


There are a few reasons for this:

1) If you target your exact person, they are more likely to buy from you.
2) You aren’t paying for extra eyeballs.

I’d rather make five separate ads that specifically speak to the people getting them than one general ad that reaches 1 million people. I want people to read the ad and think ‘Hey, that’s just for me!’

Note about the audience: Picking the right social network is part of this. If you want more info, see my post on target audiences.

Try a few different kind of ads or wording.

No science experiment is a good experiment if you can’t isolate the variables.

By trying different wording (running two ads at the same time with different headlines for example), or different types of ads with the same content and measuring performance, I can do more of what works in the future and less of what doesn’t.

Different things work well for different clients I’ve found… funny how that works. I guess they are called ‘experiments’ because, even though we think we know how they’ll turn out, we do them anyway.

Don’t expect a miracle… but go into it with some expectation.

Based on a few clients who’ve had the nice Google Ads rep talk to them, they seemed to think that this one ad was going to make big things happen. All three of the ones who’ve told me “I’m just going to go ahead and set this up with Google Ads myself.” have been disappointed.

I think this disappointment is actually a combination of user error (sorry but there is a science and art to it) and part expecting too much.


Here’s an ad where all I wanted to do was test some words my client gave me (This isn’t nearly all of them but it gives you an idea.  The phrase ‘maine resorts’ which the client really wanted to advertise with was not nearly as good as ‘maine getaways’… and that ‘maine vacation’ was a bit general.

In other words, despite the fact I was paying for ads (or the client was) we weren’t expecting them to be making a ton of money. We were using them to test so that the future ads we bought would get more bang for their buck. (We did a few other rounds of tests too.) We went in with a testing objective and got results. We didn’t go in thinking “This will make $10,000” or “This will help my business” (the first idea is ridiculous and the second one is vague).

When you work with the nice ad rep, have an idea of what you want to get out of the campaign or you will be similarly dissatisfied with your ad experience.

Try to be clever…

If you are an A student in a C student world, people will notice. It’s how someone like me, who started their business out of a 200 square foot apartment, created a full time income stream for myself and a part time income stream for several of my friends. I actually tried when many were not.

This is what Gary Vaynerchuk would refer to as a ‘jab’.

Think about how many ads say ‘buy my stuff’. Then think about when you see that cool Facebook ad where you just have to click ‘like’ because it’s funny and true. I bet you don’t do it often but when you do, it’s pretty satisfying.

There is no reason your paid ad can’t be fun, interesting, informative, or all three. Do something to stand out in the paid ad world and you just might!

Paid ads for me are a tool, to improve the functioning of my online vehicle (Facebook page, website, whatever I am paying to promote). The ads are not the vehicle themselves!

Paying for attention will get you attention… but make sure it’s the kind of attention you want. Otherwise keep that money where you can see it and you’ll be a lot happier for it.