I’ve known for the longest times, one of my major flaws is that I build products, but fail to put forth the effort in actually marketing them. Developing is fun. Promoting is not. It feels unnatural, opens me up for rejection, and usually costs lots of money.
Yet since I quit my job and started freelancing last month, I knew this is one of the obstacles I would have to overcome to be successful. For the last 30 days I’ve spent most of my time marketing one product I have – the premium wordpress plugin AmpedSense.
Here’s what I’ve focused on, details below:
- Paid Reviews
- Opt-in List
- Retargeting Ads
1. Search Engine Optimization
In all my experience, traffic that comes from search engines seems to be the most relevant. People are actually looking for your product, what a perfect match! This audience usually has the highest conversion rates, but that also means it’s the hardest traffic to get.
There’s 2 ways to get this traffic – through search engine optimization (‘organic’), or buy buying ads on search engines (Google Adwords). The latter is usually expensive, although I’m willing to pay for a test run. Unfortunately Google has strict policies and my site kept getting rejected (I think they just don’t like that my site is centered around one of their own products AdSense – I had followed all advice they provided me to make it more compliant, but still no approval).
That leaves me to SEO. Sadly, SEO takes time. Almost any effort you make usually takes months for you to see results. That means for this 30 day study it’s probably too early to get valid results, but here’s what I did anyway:
- Became an active member in a couple public forums. Every once in a while I’d drop a link to my site. Sometimes I’d just mention my product name without a link, as it’s a unique name and if people search for it they’ll find my site. Some of my posts got removed as spam, although I was authentically helping people out in all cases (I hate when I get scolded in a forum, makes me feel like a bad person)
- Become more active on Reddit. In addition to responding to people that needed help with AdSense or WordPress, I ended up creating my own subreddit: /r/ampedsense/ It’s pretty boring in there, as I’m not sure how to promote a subreddit, but hopefully Google will pick up on those links.
- Added my site to some software directories, such as AlternativeTo
- Created YouTube videos, as videos show up pretty high in search results sometimes. Here’s a new one I made, which mentions AmpedSense a couple times without being too forward: AdSense vs Amazon Associates – Earnings Case Study
- Focused on improving the load time of my site, as site speed plays a role in search engine rankings. Brought my average load time from 3.5s down to 2.5s.
Cost: ~5 days, free
Here’s my ranking of my targeted keywords, compared to my competitors. You can see nothing has changed. However this is expected – like I said earlier SEO takes months to have an effect.
BUT – something has changed for the better – my number of backlinks that search engines see has gone from 60 to 81 over the last 30 days, that’s an improvement!
Also, I did get 4 sales at the start of me doing this. Could it be that the forums were effective?
One of my original plans was to get affiliates who would market my plugin in exchange for commission. I had one customer reach out to me about 6 months ago asking to be an affiliate. I didn’t have a program at the time but quickly set one up. He sold about 10 copies of the plugin – awesome! Best part was his users asked almost no help from me and looked to him if they had any questions. I’m happy to give away 50% commission if I don’t have to sell it myself.
So I was hoping I could repeat this process. I tried two avenues:
- Reached out to existing customers. Of about 50, 2 of them decided they were interested in becoming affiliates. While this is awesome, I was hoping for more.
- Reached out to industry leaders to get them on board. I’ve heard that people don’t like to be pitched to immediately, so I attempted to actually form a relationship with them, in a methodical way. Seriously, I set up a spreadsheet of the top 15 influencers and slowly interacted with them over weeks – via tweets, comment posts, and emails. Eventually I pitched them the idea of my product and them becoming affiliates. No one responded. I know I only tried with 15, and if I tried 100 I’d probably get someone eventually, but I hate doing this.
Cost: ~5 days, free
The 2 customer affiliates have just signed up. One already made a pretty cool video showing people his success. It’s exciting to see other people using your product and advocating for it. Time will tell how much sales these will provide.
3. Paid Reviews
I read a great article a few weeks ago about marketing your wordpress plugin that listed many sources to have your plugin reviewed. He listed free sites, and paid reviews. I didn’t trust that the free sites were going to help at all, so I contacted a few of the sources that offered paid reviews. I figured if I spend a few hundred bucks and get just a few sales it will pay for itself plus help with SEO.
Of about 6 places I contacted only 2 were still offering the service. One of those was booked until December, but WpLift (actually was one of my top picks) was able to do one with a couple weeks.
I paid $350 to have them create an unbiased review + include it in their weekly newsletter. Here’s the article they came up with:
I was super happy with their review, plus it was the featured article on their front page for a few days. How cool is this?
Cost: ~2 days, $350
Take a look at the traffic over the last 30 days. The start of the spike is the day the WpLift review went live. Pretty stoked!
But did this equate to any sales? It’s hard to tell exactly (my conversion tracking doesn’t look like it’s working properly). However around that time period I got 3 sales, totaling about $225.
It doesn’t take a math whiz to compute that spending $350 to earn $225 is not good.
I’m hoping that in the long run this will provide continued referrals, as well as an SEO boost.
4. Opt-in List
Did you know that once a visitor leaves your site, they’re usually gone – forever? Very rarely are they going to remember you and come back. That’s why it’s important I capture them somehow. One way to do that is with an email list.
A while ago I had created a 5-day email course teaching people some of the lessons I’ve learned in optimizing my AdSense revenue on my own sites. It has useful info as well as mentioning the advantages of using AmpedSense. I ran the numbers the other day and realized that there was about a 15% conversion rate of anyone that joined the list to becoming a buyer. I needed to make sure more people got on this list!
Before I just had a little link on the site, but knowing I was expecting traffic from WpLift, I made sure to make it more prominent. Through the SumoMe plugin, I was able to add a bar across the top of the site, as well as an opt-in box that would appear after people scrolled down halfway down any page on the site:
Cost: ~2 days, $0
There was a definite increase in signups once I added these elements to my site. And looking at the stats, it appears both are being used. I hate to clutter the site and annoy people, but it’s more important for me to capture them.
Over the last 30 days I was able to capture an additional 25 people into this list, while normally I would have received only a couple. Looks like 3 of those new signups went on to purchase, proving again that this is a valuable tool to use.
5. Retargeting Ads
Following in the same spirit of retaining your visitors, another way to capture them is through ad retargeting. Basically instead of putting out ads that everyone sees, you only advertise to those that have already been on your site before. Ever looked at a product on Amazon and then seen an ad for that product on another website later? That’s retargetting.
I read a great walkthrough about setting up retarting using Facebook’s custom audiences feature. I created a couple ads, placed my pixel, and let the marketing do it’s work.
What’s great about this is I’ve ran previous ads on Facebook and it’s easy to hit your budget spend every day. Yet with remarketing only to your custom audience, you’ll be spending less since less people are seeing your ad.
Here’s a shot of one of the ads I used:
Cost: ~2 days, $53.45
According to Facebook’s stats I got 37 clicks to the website and 3 email signups. Bad part about this tracking is since I don’t get sales very often it makes it hard to optimize a campaign based on sales. I have no idea if any of my recent sales came from Facebook. But I can tell you that since I started this I have not seen an increase in sales.
So it’s been about 30 days since I started marketing hard, and let’s let the total numbers tell us how we did.
Total Spend: $403.45
Total Earned: $552.00
Well crap that’s no good. A month of work and only $150? I made about $150 in months that I wasn’t working hard to market this. At least I didn’t lose money, but I definitely lost my time.
SEO and Affiliate approaches could still pay off – it’s early. But the paid review and remarketing ads are not looking good.
I’m turning off my remarketing campaign right now, and am probably going to pass on that other paid review I have scheduled for next month.
What have I learned? That it’s both hard and expensive to market your product. But I already knew that. Perhaps I did learn that these methods did not work for me (yet). They may work for you and your product. And they may still be working for me in the long run, but as of now it’s hard to see a case for me continuing these approaches.
I also learned I need to do better at my conversion tracking. I set up goals in Google Analytics, but since my payment happens off site, I have no idea where the sales are coming from since all referrals that triggered a goal just show from my payment processor. Not sure how to fix this…anyone?
It’s obvious I need to try something else. One of my last resorts has always been to make a free version of the plugin. By doing so I should be able to capture much more potential customers – plus I’ll be able to be added to the WordPress.org plugin directory (they don’t allow paid plugins). This is a gamble though, as if I get lots of users but then can’t convert them to upgrading to the full product (or signing up for a recurring plan), then I’ll just have tons of support requests and no increase in revenue.
As much as I didn’t want to do that, I have to try it. Unless anyone out there has any other suggestions???
Seriously. Leave me some comments with what I should be doing instead to promote AmpedSense. There are no bad ideas, as I’ve already tried the bad ones 😉
Thanks for following along, I appreciate you!