Having a popular blog or website can be fantastic, and one of the most popular ways that many people opt to inject a bit of adrenaline into their traffic numbers is by either purchasing advertising space on other websites or ad networks, or otherwise getting either an ad or a banner published on other websites throughout the Internet.
It’s one thing to have great SEO, brilliantly written articles and wonderfully formatted content, but what good is all of that work if you aren’t putting yourself out there throughout the communities and websites within your niche? Place that banner ad or link on the bottom of your forum signature posts (if the forum owners let you), link to your site from blog comments (if the blog owners let you), and if you have the money, why not offer some website or blog within your niche a monthly payment if they publish your banner on their site?
This is probably one of the most powerful ways to build up your count of incoming one-way links. Incoming links is one factor in the Google algorithm. Google considers more incoming links as a sign that a webpage is valued by the community as a whole, so much that people are linking to you as an important resource – so your site should place highly in the search results.
Early in 2012, I wrote an article about how to properly judge your website’s true “rank” for your site as evaluated by Google. If you do invest a lot of your time with blog commenting or working hard on getting Dugg or Stumbled, then you probably already have a nice healthy collection of incoming links to your site.
In this article I’d like to cover two things – one is the importance of getting a banner or ad out there to promote your site, but more importantly a tool that you can use to better track incoming links that are actually bringing you the most traffic. This is a great way to figure out which websites offer you the best opportunity for more ads and to generate even more traffic. Just randomly getting your link on other sites may help your SEO, but getting “trackable” links gives you a much more accurate picture about where your incoming traffic is coming from.
Incoming Traffic Volume & Origination
The real goal of this article is to get you to track incoming links, but I would be failing you if I didn’t also help with one of the most effective ways to obtain incoming traffic – getting a banner or sidebar advertisement for your site posted to other websites.
Creating an ad for your site is a way to capture the interest of readers on related websites, and banner or sidebar ads really do work, otherwise advertisers wouldn’t make any money. The fact is that online content is becoming ever-more popular, and where there are eyes, there will be advertisers. And if you are seeking those eyes as a webmaster, then you need a way to advertise. Before we get to the tracking of your incoming links, it’s important to get that ad created, and then purchase some ad space on your favorite sites within your niche. I’ll show you later in this article how to track the success of those ads through properly structuring the incoming link.
Creating Your Banner Ad
To create your banners, I highly recommend Bannersketch, previously reviewed by John right here at MUO. What I like the most about Banner Sketch is that it offers you options covering all of the most popular banner sizes, so you can cover all of the bases and offer the publishers that will agree to host your ad with different header, sidebar, content and footer banner ads to choose from.
Bannersketch is completely web-based – no software to install. You just click through the tabs, as shown above, choose your text, colors and fonts, and you’ll have a nice set of advertising banners. When you’re finished, you’ll need to provide your email address so that BannerSketch can email you the image file. Next, write up a great sales pitch to potential websites within your niche, explaining why it would greatly benefit their site to display your ad to their visitors. Remember, money talks, so if you can afford it, offer a monthly payment.
Make sure to base your price offering on the traffic that the website receives. If you’re looking to advertise on a small blog, you should be paying far less than you would for space on a site that has a huge volume (if you can even advertise there). Just remember to sell yourself as a valuable resource to their readers or visitors, and you should get a few takers.
Set Up The Pretty Links WordPress Plugin
Before you actually purchase that ad space, or before you start a forum/blog commenting campaign to get your link posted to other websites, you’ll want to be sure to set up the Pretty Links WordPress plugin. Upload the Pretty Links files to the “plugins” folder in your WordPress setup, and then from within your admin panel, activate the plugin. Once you do, you’ll see the following menu enabled underneath “Settings” in the admin panel.
This menu allows you to configure how and where the incoming links are referred. This plugin actually lets you redirect groups of incoming links to a specific URL on your website – a landing page targeted specifically to those visitors – which of cours eis great if you’re selling something like an eBook on your site.
This plugin will also track and log where those links come from and the number of total and unique visitors.
Menu options for Pretty Link include:
- Add New Link – This is where you set up unique affiliate links and the target URL.
- Groups – Lets you organize sets of affiliate links (to manage campaigns for example).
- Hits – This is where you can read the link stats and reports.
- Tools – Lets you enable the Pretty Links browser bookmarklet.
- Options – This is where you can filter robots, block IP’s and many other options.
Set up your links by clicking on the “Add New Link” menu item.
The Pretty Link is your unique URL that you’ll give to the website that agreed to host your ad, or the link that you’ll paste in blog or forum comments. You don’t need any weird codes or hidden strings – the unique URL that you’ve defined here is all that’s required to make this work. Just make sure you keep each URL unique for each advertisement you sell. The target URL will have the actual tracking ID for the link. This lets you track all clickthroughs that come from specific websites.
Link options is where you can assign a group, make the link a Nofollow, and a few other options you may want. Make sure “Track this Link” is enabled. Now, whenever you want to sort through and manage your incoming advertising traffic, just go into Pretty Links settings and click on “Hits“.
When you first set up the plugin, this will obviously be blank, but the top graph will chart out total traffic from all of your unique incoming/advertising links that you set up. The lower chart will log all hits from your advertisements – you’ll see the unique IP, date/time and most importantly the “Referrer” which will provide the unique code that identifies the source website. This allows you to track total traffic from each referrer. You can download the data to CSV, so tallying up hits by referrer will be a breeze.
Again, this is an approach to set up an organized and effective way to really grow your incoming links and accurately track referral traffic. In fact, by tracking actually clickthroughs for those ads that you sold, you could potentially offer the advertisers a clickthrough volume payment rather than a fixed monthly payment – one way to base how much you spend on the actual performance of those ads.
Have you ever sold advertisements for your website or blog? How do you track incoming links? What approach did you take to log and monitor your specific referral links? Share your insight and experiences in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Blank Billboard via Shutterstock
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