I want to clarify off the bat that I am no Advertising Guru who knows all the ins and out of online promotion via banner-exchange services. No brilliant magic answers here. I do, however, have close to 2 years of experience with Project Wonderful specifically, and this article is the summary of my adventure with their service. Take it for what it’s worth, maybe you’ll learn something from my mistakes, or maybe you even have advice to offer. I am just here to relay my experience.
If you are just starting out with your webcomic, and are looking to reel in some new eyes and start growing a readership, Project Wonderful is a great, easy way to start out. The concept is pretty simple: advertise your site on other sites that have an account with PW and/or offer a space on your own site for others to advertise. You design your own ads (at various pixel dimensions provided by Project Wonderful), upload them, and can bid on ad spaces on whichever sites you wish, for however long. A glorified banner exchange service, that allows its customers to put a price on their ad space. You can control how much money you spend, or even not have to spend a dime… if you have a great deal of patience and can wait until you earn enough from your own ad space. I have always found that I spend more than I earned by far, because I was generally adverting on websites that had a larger readership than my own. Or, because I was advertising ona TON of smaller sites with similair concepts (sci-fi, humor, pets) As they say, “you have to spend money to make money”. In the case of webcomics, it’s a much longer gap between the two… unless you’re lucky and your readership grows exceptionally fast.
There are basically two options once you have uploaded some ads for your comic and are ready to advertise. You can use their full customizable search tool (based on page views, price, location (country), category, etc) and search for ad space manually. Or, you can set up a campaign, which is like an autopilot that’s instructed to bid on space based on certain restrictions you give it. Once you set up a campaign, it’s hands-free for the most part until it’s over… so if you are looking for the least maintenance possible, this is your best bet. How you set up your campaign is up to you; you could have your comic’s ad plastered across hundreds of sites that offer affordable prices (but small readerships), or your could be aggressive about getting your ad on a select handful of sites with sizable readerships. Of course, one way may work better for you, but not for another comic.. and it also all depends on the audience of the sites on which your ad appears.You just have to tinker around, try new websites, search in different categories, and create a more compelling ad in the first place.
This is probably why manual bidding seemed to work better for me. As many options as a campaign offers, it seemed as though keeping a watchful eye on the sites I was bidding on really helped me understand WHO reads my comic, and who does not. Even though a site had a large viewership, does not mean that viewership will A: be interested in my comic specifically, or B: is the type to click ads and check out another webcomic. Sometimes 1% of a large readership who checked out my site resulted in less page views than 50% of a smaller readership (for much less money!) You will see there’s 2 different kinds of hits- ones that come and go quickly, and ones that read through your archives and maybe even become a “regular”. Project Wonderful offers a decent statistical breakdown to really get to see who goes to your site, and how they got there! I think this knowledge is important to learn, and yes, it requires time and patience to get a good idea of what your demographic is and where they, well, hang out. For instance, as much as I figured the science fiction crowd would enjoy a comic about 2 aliens, it seems my audience consists more of dog-lovers, and people who see themselves as “outside the box” of normal society… the proverbial “Weird Kids”. I got very poor results in adverting on science fiction websites, whether it be a webcomic, or otherwise. Some of the websites that got good results had NOTHING to do with any element of my comic (aliens, dogs, social commentary, humor, science fiction)… which leads me to believe that there’s an element of “click-ability” to some readerships… people who are more likely to browse new comics and click an ad. Also, the placement of your ad on the seller’s site has a lot to do with how many people see it… the higher up and the more prominent, the better.
Now, if you are selling your OWN ad space, you should take note of what it’s like from a bidder’s point of view. If you are not getting as many bids as you would like, maybe the placement of the ad on your site should be altered. Make sure you have plenty of tags/keywords so your site will be easily found when searched. Obviously, if you have a very small readership, that will directly affect how much money you earn from bidders… but if you find your niche and know how to bring in page views and unique hits… your readership will grow and so will the bids on YOUR ad space! See how that comes full circle? Isn’t that neat?
It worked for me for a while for me. If I started slumping, I would do a redesign of my ads, and try again. But I have to say lately, I have been losing faith. I have tried new sites, new designs, new campaigns, new categories, but still don’t get the page views I used to get. Admittedly, I’m at a loss as to what is next for me. I may move on to Google Adwords or other advertising services. But I will say Project Wonderful, even though it’s No So Wonderful for me after 2 years, got me a foundation of understanding for the very people who I hope to attract to Zorphbert & Fred. And that’s more key than anything else, when you’re just starting out.