Project (Sorta) Wonderful

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.


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  1. I too found PW to be great at first, but now, it is basically taking up real estate. I tried the campaigns, the manual bids, etc., but also found my expenditures far exceeding the revenue generated. All of this with very little effect on my readership rising as it seemed even with diligent research you are fighting for real estate on other popular sites with little or no click-thru. I will keep them on, but like Google Ads (who are a whole other can of worms with their rules and such) they are just an ugly eyesore on my ugly site…lol.

  2. I liked Project Wonderful back when it started when it was very straight forward but ever since the location bid stuff came in my interest in using their service dropped significantly. I find myself using some of the prime ad space that was formally PW ads now devoted to my own stuff (books, t-shirts, etc)

    But then again web based advertising is kind of a hit or miss thanks to adblock so that money can go towards other things. Like sandwiches.

  3. Hi Dawn,

    I am in marketing and a data geek, and I can tell you that you’re on the right track.

    What you want to do is use Google Analytics. It’s free, and you can really dig down into getting some demographics for your readers once you know how, including segmenting the regulars from the occasionals.

    As to ads… things are changing. I don’t think it’s what you’re doing but what is going on in marketing in general. Can’t say too much more without 1. knowing a lot more detail about what you’re doing 2. analytics 3. turning a comment into a massive report.

    But if you do consider Adwords, paired up with Google Analytics they can really give some insight.

  4. I haven’t used PW for advertising yet. I have a couple boxes set up on my own site but I haven’t gotten out there to use others’ boxes. The bidding system is fairly intimidating and seems remarkably time-consuming. Plus, I am just not a very good advertiser.

    A very good friend of mine has been helping me a lot with publicity lately and I showed her this article. Once I’m back from my between-stories break, she plans to really get me going with PW and we both found this article very helpful. It’s good to see what has and hasn’t worked for people in the past.

    I get the impression, then, that PW has a lot of diminishing returns once you reach a certain level of readership. Probably great for a small comic like mine. About how big would you say you were when you started noticing a decline?

    • Heya Micah! I use PW once or twice a year on 1977. I have anywhere from 2000 to 4000 visitors on update days and what works for me is to target my PW ads to similar webcomics to 1977 the Comic. I have placed ads on “Menage a 3” or “Girls With Slingshots” both of which have an audience and content in a similar vein to my comic. I got a ton of readers from those dedicated ads. Recently, I did a blast campaign where I had it run from 6am to Midnight for 5 days in a row essentially on ANY site under webcomics and humor. I got a really good return out of that too.

      You have to experiment and spend a few dollars. Those two campaigns I mentioned above were one year apart and I spent $200 on each one. But I got new, steady readers out of it. So it’s all part of the “spend money to make money” concept. BTW, my PW ad income pays for my hosting and then some easily, but 1977 has been up for nearly three years now, so that helps as well.

    • Thanks for your comment Micah! When I first started on PW is DID bring in a bunch of page views and uniques. Actually, I am running a poll on my site now, and the majority of reader found me through an ad! That says something, right there. It’s not until the last year or so I noticed the decline.

      I wouldn’t say I’m so popular now that I have surpassed PW’s services. When I started I had maybe half the readership I have now. I am wondering if what James Zintel said above is correct tho.. are ad blockers and the evolution of online business slowly killing advertising? Why the drop off? I guess that’s my main dilemma; is it MY fault for not advertising properly, or is the business itself to blame?

      Thanks for sharing the article!

  5. When it comes to using PW, I am a notorious cheapskate. I shudder at the thought of paying for ads that are more than a certain amount simply because I want to increase my PW revenue – not decrease it. For example, I would have a very hard time spending $200 on PW ads like Byron did – even though I know it helped him quite a bit to get to where he is now. I’m way too cheap for that. πŸ™‚

    The thing about PW is this though: I always see a very big increase in stat numbers when I bid on ads as opposed to when I don’t.

    And to help me combat this bit of insecurity, I have started to use what I call “small budget penny campaigns”. Basically, the concept was relayed to me from another independent creator who found success using the following PW tips and tricks:

    It’s a video using a slightly older version of PW but it’s not hard trying to figure out the differences between the old PW layout and the new one.

    You also don’t have to stick to the 1 – 2 cent budget as is described in the video. Occasionally, using the same techniques, I will do searches for ads in the .05 – 1.00 range for more “expensive” campaigns.


  6. Can you guys who have used PW give a better insight on how it works? If I see a banner that links to them and it says “your ad could be here for $5.41” or whatever, I get that $5.41 is what the winning bid would be for that slot at the moment the ad is up, but assuming no one else bids and you pay your $5.41 and win the slot, what exactly does that buy? A banner ad for what? An hour, a day/week, or just till someone outbids you which means that your banner could be up for 4 minutes? Also, I know they charge for the time the ad is up, not the number of clicks it gets, but do you pat the same on a site that gets 20K uniques as you do on a site that gets 20? Or is it safe to assume the more traffic the site gets the more you pay for the ad to begin with?

    Also how does PW revenue break down? If you put a slot on your site and let PW ads populate there, what kind of revenue do you see from it? 50% of the winning bid, 20/80%? What’s the breakdown? I read the spiel on their site but it didn’t seem to cover that stuff, unless I was reading the Cliff Notes version or something. If they have a more detailed FAQ can someone point me to it instead of trying to address all my questions?

    • Question #1: It’s the amount, if your banner would show up for a full 24 hours. But then, if your banner shows up for only, let’s say 75 minutes, you get charged for that only

      Not the best to answer #2 tho

      But very good looking comic you have there Dave!!!

      • Ok so the rate is per day, meaning it’s a daily charge? If you win a bid for a $5 banner and it runs for 2 weeks, you’re looking at $90? That’s good to know. It wasn’t really clear on their site.

        • It’s a bit more complex than that. If you bid for $5. it doesn’t mean the bid will always be at $5. Basically, let’s say you bid for a maximum of $5and another person Bid for a maximum of $2. then your bid will be $2.01 (depending on the incrementing of the owner of the site) until someone tries to bid higher than $2.01. Later, if someone bid for a maximum of $3, then, since you bid $5, your amount will increase to $3.01. It’s like a silent auction system.

          But your $90 calculation would be the very maximum you would be paying.

  7. Kind of a stupid question.
    Can we have multiple ad systems (PW and Google Analytics, for example) on the same site/page?

    • Absolutely, you can both systems on one website. I’d recommend it to see which one works better or your comic. For me, PW works better. The ads from PW are more in line with a webcomic overall, and I get paid quicker. Google has some rule (it has been a while and this may have changed) that you have to accumulate $50 in revenue to get paid and at the rate they were paying me, it would have been a long time coming to that amount. With PW, you can withdraw once you have $10 in the account. I also seemed to earn more money overall with PW. It pays my hosting easily now. But 1977 has been around nearly three years and has a bit of demand. It was not that way in the beginning where I earned 5 cents a day.

      Also, there is never a stupid question. It is a stupid person who does not ask questions. Never hesitate to ask, man. That’s what this is for. If you need specific help, post a comment and we’ll try our best to lend a hand.

  8. Well I’ve fired up a PW account and published my first ad and I’m still a little confused. I won the bid for the slot and my ad went up, then an hour later I got outbid by someone who bid 2x as much as me. Fair enough. Except then another hour goes by and I’m the winning bid again? So… someone came through and bid $20 for the slot for an hour. At 10pm on a Sunday? I’m confused by that. Maybe someone was testing out PW or something?

    • That occurs all the time.
      It can be explained by someone running a campaign for a day, using a specific amount of money. Once the campaign reaches the total expense set in the campaign, the ads would be removed automatically and then, the next winning bid will reappear

      • Ah, ok, that makes sense I guess. I won’t strain myself with trying to figure out the exact sequence of events that lead to the progression of banners that appeared.

    • Also, 10pm for you is the middle of the day for someone else. This is the world wide web… Which it is a good idea to look at your stats and see when the PW ads referrals are coming in. If you have peaks in odd hours, it’ll be the overseas crowd. My UK readers prompted me to update the comic at 12:01 am which is 8:00am for them. Just in time for morning tea…

      I’ve seen my ads pop up and down on sites often. It will drive you crazy watching them hour by hour. PW takes a lot of patience and perseverance. Mostly perseverance.

      • I was gonna say the same thing about 10pm being prime time elsewhere, thanks Byron ;0)

        Watching your ads like a hawk on each site will drive you crazy. You have to step back and see how they do over a week’s time, then dissect each day and see YOUR prime times, and what ads (sizes/designs) work best. Then, implement next week.

        It’s a trial-and-error type deal. And a lot of the results (like what ads get clicked, or what sites are best to advertise on) will surprise the heck out of you.

  9. Just checking out Project Wonderful here. Now, some shameless self promotion LOL: I myself have an adzone at Galactic 123 (anime videogame) that gets around 2K displays a day. People can bid for it if they want:

    • it’s a trial and error type thing. You may have to spend a ton of time tinkering to find the ideal sites to advertise. And it may not be your initial guess either. Example: I do an all-ages sci-fi humor comic, but my ads didn’t do that great on sci-fi sites. Turned out they did better on furry/cute/athro sites. Took some time playing around with PW to discover that.

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