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May 2016

Promoting Your Webcomic: Part 3 – Even More Ads

Posted by / in Blog / 8 comments

Alright, it’s been several months since I last wrote about promoting your webcomic with online advertising, so we’re about due for an update!  I’ve done a lot of advertising since then, tried out some new places, etc, and feel like I have some good stuff to share.  As always, I will include real analytics with real numbers, so if comparing numbers makes you sad or braggy, don’t read XD

Like last time, I’m assuming you’re familiar with using Google Analytics to track visitors to your website, and know how to set up custom trackable urls for your ad campaigns.  If you aren’t, go read my linked post, and google some tutorials on how to install and set it up on your site.  While there are various plugins to track analytics, IMO google is one of the best, and for the sake of advertising (especially with them!) you really ought to make the switch.

 

General Advertising Option Updates

  1. Comic Rocket appears to have shut down their advertising platform, so you no longer can buy from them.
  2. Hiveworks has raised their prices significantly.  It’s now a minimum $1000 buy in, at $2 per 1000 exposures.  So $1000 gets you 500K ad exposures.  Still a large market you can’t really reach otherwise (maybe if you’re better at Google Adwords than I), assuming you have the budget to pay for it, which most of you probably don’t, since you’re reading my blog and not hiring an advertising firm XD
  3. InkOUTBREAK has plans to build a more robust advertising option, but it’s on indefinite hiatus at the moment.  But I’ll talk about how well my test ads with them went, so you can keep them on your radar for the future.  It does (I believe) still have a pay-to-promote option available.
  4. Top Webcomics has raised their prices, and added a cheaper, smaller ad that runs for several days at a time.
  5. The WebComic List still sells ads and promotional spots, and still is outdated and bot-ridden.
  6. Google Adwords is always an option, but has quite a learning curve, and IMO is a bit difficult to use.
  7. Project Wonderful remains the gold standard for webcomic advertisers, despite a shrinking base of publishers with high readership.  Individual targeting and Automated Campaigns are both still good sources of readers at competitive prices.

 

InkOUTBREAK

Similar to Comic Rocket, InkOUTBREAK is a comic-reading/tracking site/app, that allows you to subscribe to updates, and read comics via their reader (embedded, giving page views and whatnot to the original publisher still).  The creator is rather busy and not actively maintaining/improving it a ton, which is why I list that its advertising backend isn’t quite ready.  They have plans of hopefully getting it fixed and ready for the future, but at the moment buying ads isn’t available.

I was, however, able to email the owner directly ([email protected]) and set up a couple of tests a few months back.  First, a free 3-4 day test he gave me as part of him trying to get it set up and ideas of costs and whatnot.

Using this little ad I made.

Using this little ad I made.

InkTest1

This test ad ran for about 48 hours, getting up to ~500K exposures.  A lot of new users, who read a LOT of pages.  Definitely grabbed my attention, and thus my hope that they eventually bring these ads back.

Separate from their plan on buying ads, you CAN still pay to promote your comic to InkOUTBREAK subscribers via their Jackpot program (unless I’m mistaken and that’s no longer functional now too, I’ll check and update).  Assuming your comic exists on their site, you’ve claimed it, and uploaded banners and whatnot, you can select it from the list, select how many impressions you want to pay for, pay via paypal, and it’ll get set.  Still needs work as an advertising backend to be more transparent (selecting banners, etc), but, I did it ($10 in), and got some nice results:

InkJackpotTest1

Even though I only paid $10 or 100K impressions, it seemed to run for a whole week, grabbing hundreds of visitors reading many pages.  AND these readers stuck around afterwards, coming back to read new updates and the like.  Assuming there was no error and I didn’t get more impressions than I was supposed to be allowed, $10 for 223 new readers is ~5 cents a new reader, so comparable to a cpc of $0.05 or better.  That’s a good deal!

Unfortunately the status of InkOUTBREAK is in a bit of limbo at the moment.  But if enough of us bother them about wanting to give them money for ads, I’m sure we could fix that ;)

 

Top Webcomics

I talked a lot about Top Webcomics in my previous ad post.  I just want to share some recent data (to show it’s still good even at higher prices and etc) and show the new “Sponsor” ad in action.  Some of these I paid for, most I earned doing some of their competitions.

First, the Square.  I did two recently, the first of February and the first of March.

TDA-gif2-300x250

Still my favorite size/spot.

TWCSquare-Feb2016

TWCSquare-Mar2016

As you can see, still lots of readers, reading lots of pages.  Less successful in March, likely because it ACTUALLY wasn’t March 1st, but actually February 29th (the first days of the month are always more lucrative, as voting gets crazy then, and the Square ad shows up on the voting pages), and also likely because having run the ad earlier that month, less people were inclined to read it again.

At current prices (as of January 2016) of $11.65 per day for the Square ad, the cpc on TWC ads is rising.  $0.15 and $0.30 per new reader for the first and second ad, respectively.  The cpc is likely better, but it’s hard to tell how many of the returning visitors in the sessions total are people coming back after clicking the ad, or old readers clicking the ad and getting back in to the comic, etc.

Still decent, still worth it occasionally, especially if you can score some free ads as prizes in a competition of theirs.  They’ve moved voting to Facebook now, it seems, which means the competitions won’t be so riggable and vote-crazy.

Seba made us a snazzy new skyscraper gif ad, which I tested out on TWC as well (and I use on Project wonderful, predominantly).

TheDemonArchives-simplegifad

So mesmerizing…

TWCSky-Nov2016

I ran it on 4 update days in the middle of the month (divorced from start of the month voting shenanigans).  ~200 new readers over 4 times means ~50 new readers on average per ad day.  At current prices of $8.35 per day, that’s looking at $0.17 per new reader/cpc, a respectable price point.  Still a good value for your hard earned advertising dollars.

The NEWER thing that TWC has now are these mini Sponsorship ads, which I decided to try out (actually I think I won them as a prize as well).

190x174

I felt so fancy with my photoshop skills.

TWCSponsor-2015

The ad ran for a month, and accrued a lot of visitors.  As always, TWC readers read a lot when they visit.  They’re a high quality audience.  At current prices, 30 days costs $45, bringing the cost per new reader in this case to around $0.13.  So about the same cost-effectiveness, but potentially reaching more people as it is there for longer.  You’re balancing the size and visibility of your ad with time.  I recommend you try it though.  Especially if you have eye-grabbing gif skills.

Long story short, TWC is still a good place to spend your advertising dollars.

 

The WebComic List

What, this site is still around?  It used to be THE webcomic listing, with forums and everything.  But it … hasn’t aged well.  And is filled with bots and spam and etc.  Supposedly it was still a good place to advertise though, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I paid $30 for 30000 impressions (a decent price if you’re comparing cpm’s) and used the new skyscraper gif, as well as paying $15 to be “featured” for the month at the top of the page.

TWCL-2015

Eh. Not that impressed.  Not a ton of readers, not as many pages per session, a little more sporadic and random.  There are definitely readers to be accessed there, but for $45, I’m looking at over $1 per new reader.  DEFINITELY not the most cost efficient.  Between that, and the layout/spam/bots nature of the site, I don’t think I’ll be shopping there again.

Verdict: May be worth giving it a try once, but I don’t recommend it.

 

Google Adwords

Supposedly the Holy Grail of advertising, I’ve personally not enjoyed my experiences trying to use Google Adwords.  I have not found it intuitive or easy to use, it’s difficult to target it to the webcomics and whatnot you’re interested in.  So the grain of salt with which you should take my advice may be large, as I may just not have successfully figured it out.  But that’s a large strike IMO, as most of these other options are rather simple and easy to use.

Anyways, one nice thing is that Google Adwords automatically plays nicely with your google analytics, even calculating cpc and the like for you.

Adwords-General-Aug2015

So you can see right there, the cpc is NOT as good as I’ve gotten from other advertising options.  I tried to target this towards being on webcomics that have Google adspots, so the bounce rate and readership was decent.  Just the cost wasn’t.

Which, you know, makes sense.  The big reason many people STOP hosting Project Wonderful ads (more on that next) is because it isn’t as lucrative as adding Google Ads.  What do you know, big corporations are willing to spend more money to put ads online then independent comic creators are XD

Anyways, if you’ve got a good budget, patience and/or the skill to use it, Google Adwords is the logical and really ONLY next step when you’ve grown beyond the small webcomics pool, and need to advertise outside of it to grow more.  Most of us, though, are not there yet, which is why we all love and rely on:

 

Project Wonderful

Ah, good ol’ PW.  I’m so glad I found you.  And so sad that your user base continues to dwindle as creators look for more lucrative ads to host on their sites (curse you Google!).  Fortunately at the moment there are still many comics that use it, meaning you have many audiences to try pitching your comic to.

PW uses an auction system, where you bid on ad spots for a $/day.  Whenever you are winning the spot, you pay at your winning rate for however long you maintain the high bid.

You can do a lot of this manually, which I am personally rather fond of, or via an automated campaign.  I decided to run a comparison between the two for cost effectiveness, spending $50 on an automated campaign and $50 on targeted ads.

First, some targeted ads, using one of my standard favorites, as well as some that don’t always perform as well, and a new comic that may become a favorite.

GWTBW-PW GWTBW

GWTBW is a post-apocalyptic comic that only updates occasionally, but has a large reader base.  I often buy adspace there to both remind them I exist and to grab new readers.  As you can see, the cpc I get with this very targeted ad is very good, I get many readers who read many pages.  I spent $20 on them and got ~10K page views XD I continue to get new readers at a good rate, about $0.10 each.

NAV-PW NaV

Not a Villain isn’t quite as good a match with my comic, artistically or thematically, and their ad placement isn’t as good, but they’re still a decent adspot I come back to when the prices are good. A little more expensive, not as many interested people, and I often lose the spot when it goes above my budget, but a lot of readers at a decent cpc and value.  My cost per new reader is higher though, at $0.33.

DrMcN-PW DrMcN

Dr McNinja is a large, popular, and expensive comic.  I only bought non-US/Canada ads, as those others were too much for me.  But, despite the high cost per day, the large readership actually balanced out pretty well.  You can see I got a lot of clicks ($0.21 per new reader) at a good cpc, who all read a decent amount.  It’s definitely worth it to occasionally try winning some high bids.  Since you can set maximum spending, you can bid $100/day and only spend $10, having it for an hour or two, etc.  I recommend you try it at least once.

BMP-PW BMP

Black Mudpuppy is a friends comic (very good!) that I like to support, but unfortunately we don’t really share an audience.  You can see that even an an update day for it, I got very few clicks, who all read very little.  This is not surprising, given that this was not a very strategic targeting choice (remember this when we talk about automated campaigns).

6Commando-PW 6Commando

Finally, 6-Commando is a smaller post-apocalyptic/dystopian comic I recently discovered. While the audience is smaller, the price is also lower, AND we’ve similar audiences.  You’ll note of the few clicks and readers I got, they all read a LOT of my archives.  Definitely going to advertise on there again.

Now, with automated campaigns, instead of you manually trying to target by genre and etc, testing and finding the best spots, you let the computer do it for you.  You can set some parameters on how it bids and how much and whatnot, but a lot of it is mystery algorithm.  And that means that a lot of the sites it bids on won’t be good fits for you at ALL.  I think this campaign tried setting up my ad on several HUNDRED different sites.

PWCampaign2-PW PW Campaign

Huh, what do you know, despite the lack of targeting, it’s actually pretty cost effective and successful!  By the sheer nature of automatically finding cheap spots, and pulling out when the price gets too high or the effectiveness too low, the auto-campaigner does a decent job.  $0.29 per new reader isn’t bad, and there were obviously a lot who read a lot and came back.  At the tail end, you can even see where the ad ended on May 21st (0% new readers) but a fair number of sessions still, as people came back to read more.

I call that a success.  I’m going to test more automated campaigns in the future.  It’s expensive though, but you can set yours up to look for cheaper spots and not spend as much per day or overall.  I recommend you give it a try.

 

Summary

So, there are still places to buy ads.  Yes, some disappear, some become too expensive, and sometimes a comic gets rid of adspots entirely.  But there are still places you can spread the word out.  If you make some $ via hosting ads yourself, earn spots by participating in competitions, or save your pennies from Patreon, you can put some money in and get new readers.

Let me know if you have any of your own tips or tricks, or know of some other place to advertise online I didn’t mention!

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  • guitarfan29

    So to give some context, my advertising budget is likely to be in the 500-1000$ per month territory. hovering around 800-1000 on average. I suppose I can do a fair bit with that, (but I am still not baller enough to do that AND hiveworks 1000$ minimum).

    Really bummed to hear about the price increases on TWC, *gulp*. That’s a pretty steep increase (I was worried about that). That being said, the mini sponsorship ad looks like a really good value, I assume that is the 190×174 spots below the banner? Some of those spots look better than others…..how far from the top were you in that stack of gifs?

    Personally, I planned on setting a massive chunk of my budget to have stuff running on their site every single day, for months to come. So I am trying to decide what the best course of action is. It sounds like in addition to the pricey 350 square (which was where most of my $ was going to go) the sponsorship ad section is a nice, affordable set it and forget it option I could easily afford to run on a monthly repeat basis.

    As an aside, I actually reached out to the comic rocket guys on FB to see if they were still open to advertisements. It seems they were, but were non committal, essentially saying “we’re gauging demand for paid impressions alongside the free ones already in our banner exchange.”. This was around may of 2016 when I had this exchange with them. Will follow up when I get close to the time I am ready to spend.

    The WebComic List sounds like a bad deal relative to cost. Thank you for doing that. I may run a test like that myself and see what I get, maybe just the 30$ one, and save the rest for PW.

    Sounds like PW still is the best bang for the buck. One method I had considered was using the campaign mode for targeting the lower hanging fruit sites with lower costs and readership, and doing the big sites manually. Not sure if that’s truly possible on that site though, which itself has aged rather poorly too. rebidding every single day for like 100 sites seems rather impractical.

    • Dang that’s a nice budget XD

      With that I’d recommend you try Hiveworks at least once, so that you can compare it to your other attempts. Hopefully you’ve got your analytics set up to track the ultimate cost per click between the different campaigns. If not, check my other blogs on that.

      TWC is still a good ad target for value, last I checked, unless the prices raised AGAIN. But yeah that sponsorship ad is quite a good deal. I don’t recall where I was in that order, but I think it mayrandomize a bit. When you buy the ad you can ask about positioning.

      I’m not convinced running the TWC square ad EVERY day would be best for cost effectiveness, unless you were cycling some different ads thru it. People get tired of looking at the same ad I’ve found, and the big voting days at the beginning of the month are best for the square regardless. The sponsorship ad is cheap enough to do by the month tho.

      Yeah your CR intel is about the same as mine. They’re mostly closing up shop because the cost of running it was more than they were making.

      PW is definitely still an option, especially if you haven’t tapped that well fully yet. I think your idea of an automated campaign is a good one, but in terms of needing to update manually daily for some of your top sites, you really can just set your bid with whatever you’re comfortable paying per day for that site, and then walk away. The price will fluctuate up and down, you may lose it for a bit, but eventually it’ll come back down into your range.

      Keep me posted how you do, and let me know if you need help setting your analytics up to figure it out.

      • guitarfan29

        The comic has been in production for awhile and will be going up later this year (we are putting up a chunky 40 page chapter, plus doing a modest buffer before going live), I have just been prepping financially and otherwise for when the time comes. We intend to advertise really aggressively for the foreseeable future.

        I would be blowing the entire monthly budget, at it’s most extreme, if I went with hiveworks. When it was 250, it was definitely feasible, I would even, maybe, have considered 500, had the impressions given remained proportional, but 1000$ is a steep climb. (I may do it with a surplus, should I ever be so blessed, but not until I have exhausted the other clearly more affordable options).

        As for TWC, how long would you run one ad before switching it to another image or gif for the same 350 ad? Would you suggest doing the square say for only the first week or two of a given month and then maybe doing the banner? (I would do the sponsership one in addition regularly regardless).

        PW will of course be a primary target for advertising. I am told it is still effective for many, and I could still probably blow all my budget every month using that service. Because I would be advertising on a lot of these sites 24/7.

        Btw, I emailed the topwebcomics guy, he told me the prices were thus:

        LEADERBOARD (728×90): $8.35 per day – average of $0.45 cpm with a direct targeting campaign

        SKYSCRAPER (160×600): $8.35 per day – average of $0.45 cpm with a direct targeting campaign

        SQUARE (300×250): $8.35 per day – average of $0.63 cpm with a direct targeting campaign

        He also said that there is discounts on pricing for longer ad campaigns, i think 5 days got a certain amount and 10 or more days got more, which would make it substantially cheaper for me. It is interesting to note his CPM data relative to yours, especially considering the square appears to be more “expensive” and yet in your tests, it ultimately had the most advantageous CPM’s due to the level of traffic/cviews/clicks.

        • Just making sure you aren’t spending any dollars until you have that first big chapter up :) You may also want to consider already having things like Patreon and TWC voting set up to hopefully capitalize on the advertising dollars.

          I certainly wouldn’t start with HW, just saying that if you feel like you’ve tapped other wells you should try it once.

          With TWC, if you are planning on having ads every day I would do a mix of switching which adspot you’re using (sky, leader, square on alternating days sort of thing) and maybe have 2 versions of each to switch between as well. Keeping it fresh will help with “adbox fatigue”, in my experience.

          Something to note with TWCs prices, they’re telling you CPM, or cost per thousand VIEWS of the ad on their site. Not my favorite measurement. It’s useful when you’re actually paying per adview, but with TWC you’re paying per day. CPC, or cost per click, is the more useful number for us, as it’s telling us how much it costs to get someone to our site. If you set up your google analytics and use a custom campaign link for your ads, you’ll be able to directly track visitors from the ad. Divide total cost by the number of new readers or something, and tada, basically CPC.

          I prefer that number, because ultimately if I spend $1000 at TWC vs PW vs HW, as long as they have comparable CPCs they’re equally viable and as good a deal as the other.

          This will be important as you buy an PW, because sometimes you have to pay more per day for a comic with higher readership, maybe spending your monthly budget in a few days. But as long as it has the same CPC, you’re not losing any money compared to having a bunch of ads on tiny comics for cheaper that lasts the whole month and brings in the same number of readers.

  • Thank you so much for putting so much effort in your Promoting Your Webcomic posts, it has been a huge help!!!