Webcomic success through advertising
I see this all the time, there is some stigma or pride in the webcomic community:
“If you make great art, people will notice.”
“Draw hard for two years, then you’ll start to gain an audience.”
“Word of mouth is how comics get popular.”
Well, I disagree with all of these mentalities. You could have the best written, most beautiful comic to ever grace the pages of the interwebs – and there’s no guarantee it will get noticed. May incredible artists make fantastic artwork, then burn out when they don’t see a response. It’s not because your comic isn’t amazing, it’s because you didn’t reach people who would love to read it.
I have been a member of the Webcomic Underdogs facebook group for a while, and we tiptoe around this subject of advertising and traffic a lot. It’s like asking how much someone weighs, comic artists just don’t offer their traffic stats. So I offered mine:
Recently, my unique visitors (also called sessions) are up from 8k (15 Feb-15 March) to 17.5k (15 March-15 April). Since July 2013 I had been paying $25 a month for ads through Project Wonderful. If you know nothing else about advertising, know that PW was founded by webcomic titan Ryan North and was designed for this specific purpose. Use it. I’ll explain why.
The explanation for my big jump in readers in one month can be credited in large part to a much smaller advertising campaign, and the cumulative effect this small number of newly interested readers created. Other bonus links such as being featured on the website of Skeptic Magazine helped, contributing maybe 20 visitors per day, but not as much as I was expecting to get. The point is, word of mouth still requires a fan base to begin with. Investing in advertising is something you shouldn’t be afraid of relatively early on.
I was asked in a thread: “Is there a secret beyond paying for ads?”
The simple answer is yes, of course there is. It’s called Reddit (how it works). Don’t be intimidated by this either, if nothing else, have someone post your comic for you. But this still only gets you so far.
Project Wonderful uses a simple bid scheme based on a cost per day, and it is the most cost effective way I’ve found to advertise, hands down. The highest bidder on a specific website’s ad box is displayed. It’s that easy. How to:
Step 1) Sign up
Step 2) Create an ad in one of the sizes, I recommend a Leaderboard (728 px wide x 90 px tall) or a Skyscraper (160 x 600).
Step 3) Add funds, if you don’t have one make a Paypal account.
Step 4) Pick a site similar to yours that has PW ads the right size. Honestly, just go with a comic you read and enjoy. Click Place Bid, choose a price amount right above the listed current bid amount. Don’t worry about the cost per day, I’ll explain why later.
Step 5) Get impatient, click the increase bid option until yours is the winner (at least that’s what I always end up doing). Then experiment with where you place ads.
Let’s try to compare these apples and oranges. In my most recent and largest month of traffic, the targeted PW ads account for approximately the same total number of visitors as my Reddit views from a few #1 subreddit spots on /r/skeptic. Thanks to my tax refund, I splurged and bought $125 in advertising on PW instead of my usual $25. I chose to advertise on Questionable Content, a popular comic similar to mine. This bought me 3000 clicks before the money ran out. The cost metric that you should pay the most attention to is the cost-per-click (CPC). This is how much you spent per new reader who clicked on your advertisement and visited your website.
I also received 3000 visitors at the same time from Reddit, and to do so cost me nothing except finding a relevant subreddit, writing a catchy title hook (VERY IMPORTANT), and convincing a friend of mine to post it for me. I got the same number of visitors, for free. How did it compare?
PW uniques – 3k averaging 15-22 pages per visit. Total: 51000 hits.
Reddit uniques – 3k averaging 2 pages per visit. Total: 6000 hits.
Reddit is free, but the value of directly targeting readers who are already interested in niche webcomics is immeasurable. These webcomic fans will binge read, then tell their friends about it in their excitement through social media. Nobody is more excited than a new reader who loves your comic from first sight. I would venture to say that nearly all of my regular readers came from targeted advertising, and an insignificant number from Reddit.
TIP: If new binge readers average around 20 comics, you should have more than that online before you pay for advertising.
Paying 4 cents for each new interested reader through PW is worth it, in my opinion. That is how much this particular campaign cost me, $.04 per reader. Unique visitors is a better metric versus the typical “hits” or “pageviews” that people often use because it identifies how many people are reading, and by comparison how much each person is reading.
Excellent input from Charlie Wise, author of Groovy Kinda “I use cost per click to tell me when it’s time to move my ads. At the beginning, it may be .01-.03 per click. But as time goes on people will bookmark your site, or go to it through links or whatever. People will start to ignore the ads. This will show up in an increase in CPC. Once it gets up around .08-.10, I figure I’ve reached saturation point and move on.”
As an experiment, I have tried both Facebook advertising and Twitter campaigns as my monthly advertising allotment. For each, the effective cost per click was up around $.25 per new follower. I don’t thing FB or Twitter ads are worth anything more than an ego boost from likes and follows. I don’t recommend trying it. Comic-Rocket.com is worth a mention, but they charge based on impressions with less control over where your ads show up, which is not quite as valuable when buying advertising but provides a fair pay rate for ads on my own site based on impressions. Newer sites take a while before the PW bid rates on ads start earning income. I hope this helps!