Today I want to share a strategy I have used to find more advertising vendors for my niche websites that has worked very well for me over the past few years.
Few weeks back I wrote about hiring a full time Virtual Assistant (VA) to outsource routine tasks of your business. One of the challenges you will be faced with a full time resource is keeping them busy.
As a Manager, you have to effectively prioritize, train, delegate, monitor and follow up on your full time resource. This is all assuming that you have enough work to begin with. But what if you don’t?
Each one of us will run out of specific tasks to delegate to a full time resource at some point. This is inevitable. One way to make use of your resource’s down time however is to outline a set of “default” tasks that can be executed in pockets of availability.
For example, when faced with down time, you can instruct your resource to work on building back links for your website or blog, or commenting on other relevant blogs and forums and leaving a back link to yours.
One such default task I have specified on one of my VA’s “to do” list is to constantly research and solicit potential vendors for more advertising on my various websites. I have provided her with a spreadsheet with all my website URLs as well as a brief synopsis of each website, accompanied by a set of 3 to 5 keywords.
It is her responsibility to learn each website and its offering, and solicit companies to get more advertising deals. This is precisely how I leverage my VA to get advertisers for my niche content websites. More on the specifics below.
The definition of an entrepreneur in its truest form is one who moves resources from one area to another to gain an advantage, or something like that.
Even if you don’t have a full time VA, you can still benefit from this strategy. You can hire one just for this cause alone. In fact, it is much more economical to do it this way because you are not obligated to pay a full time salary.
You can either pay by task or by the hour. I have realized that most “employees” have the hourly mentality. They equate each hour of their time to a certain wage and want to get paid for that time. Because of that mentality, they and the majority of this world will remain employees forever. But that’s besides the point of this article.
Consider this example. If you hire a VA for $10 an hour in wages, and your VA is able to send out 10 solicitations, you are touching base with potential targeted advertisers for $1 each. Even if they don’t bite today, they might in the future. At least you are planting seeds so they know who to come to when business calls for it.
Would you pay $1 for each potential advertiser? Who wouldn’t? 6 minutes is plenty to spend on soliciting one vendor (60 minutes or 1 hour for 10 vendors) to get more advertising down the road.
If you read my post on how much to charge for advertisements on your blog or website, you know how easy it can be to generate $10 a month or $120 a year in advertising revenue on a residual basis all from just one small ad on just one webpage on your website.
This is not one time income. I am talking about passive, residual income. The arbitrage just works out. This is a no brainer.
I will outline a consolidated version of the instructions I have provided my VA in a few simple steps:
Step 1: Identify the keyword to be targeted
In the spreadsheet discussed above, there are a set of keywords that I have provided my VA. These keywords are ones which I target on my website from a search engine optimization perspective.
The assumption is that by finding other vendors / websites who are also targeting those keywords, they are likely going to be interested in the profile of my website visitors since they are essentially looking for the same thing.
You can really specify any set of keywords you want depending on the type of advertiser you are seeking.
Step 2: Go on Google and type in the targeted keyword
Keywords must be typed in “brackets”. Skip to the third page of results (results 21 and beyond) and start gathering contact information for those websites. Work your way down the list, moving to page 4, 5 and onward.
I have learned from experience that websites that are typically ranked higher in search engine indexes (the 20 or so websites on the first 2 pages of search results) are relatively well established and are already getting a good amount of traffic and therefore need less advertisement.
Those further down the list are likely to be more interested in advertising opportunities, especially bargain deals.
Step 3: Observe the sponsored links and go after those vendors
Vendors who appear on Sponsored links should actually be contacted first. These are vendors who are already paying for advertisement so you know they are willing and able to shell the dollars. Your goal now is to lure them away from Google Adsense and bring them to you.
To get an idea for how much these guys are paying Google for advertisement, and what you can expect to make from them, read my post on how much to charge for advertisements on your website or blog.
Here is what sponsored links look like. These vendors are given preferential position on search results because they are paying for it through Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.
Step 5: Negotiate and execute the agreement.
Direct all vendors who have agreed to an advertising contract to AdBrite. AdBrite is an Ad Management system that automates the entire payment tracking, collection, renewal and ad removal process.
Vendors that find my websites on their own are often directed to an “Advertise” section on my website where they can interact directly with the AdBrite platform. This eliminates the need for me or a VA to intervene and thus automating the entire process. My VA helps me solicit those that don’t know about my websites’ existence (new meat).
I highly recommend implementing AdBrite, especially as you get into more advertising deals. It doesn’t cost anything to implement, and you pay a small fee on payments processed on the back-end. I love their technology and what they have been able to do for me over the years.
Consider this. Even you if you receive no advertising interest from vendors initially, remember that your VA has reached out to them to introduce who you are and what you can do for them. When they are ready to advertise, they will come running back to you.
Spreading this awareness is just like planting seeds. Once the seeds have been planted, the plant can grow at any time. You never know when the vendor comes back to you for their advertisement needs. This works for you long after your VA has already done their job and moved on with their life. Like I said, this strategy is a no brainer.
Step 6: Rinse and repeat
Here is a sample ad solicitation email. My VA maintains a copy of this. All she has to do is plug in the name of the contact person and revise some minor details.
“Hello (INSERT CONTACT HERE OR LEAVE IT TO HELLO)
I found your website while searching for the keyword(s) (INSERT KEYWORD(S) HERE).
I am the author of (INSERT WEBSITE/BLOG NAME HERE – MAKE IT A HYPERLINK TO THE HOMEPAGE) and would like to extend an offer to you to advertise on my website / blog.
(INSERT SITE/BLOG NAME) is currently visited by (INSERT #) unique visitors daily from the following continents: (INSERT CONTINENTS FROM YOUR ANALYTICS SOFTWARE).
The website experiences (INSERT #) page views per month and is currently ranked (INPUT ALEXA SCORE) of all websites online.
By advertising on my website / blog, you will instantly get exposure to (INSERT # ANNUAL VISITORS) new eyes each year. I would be glad to discuss your goals in depth and discuss ways that I can help you meet your business objectives.
I am currently offering an early bird discount and I hope you will take advantage of it.
(INSERT NAME OF WEBSITE OR BLOG AUTHOR – since many of my niche sites contain various pen names)
(INSERT WEBSITE URL)”
When entering the subject of the email, instruct your VA to enter the following: “RE: (INSERT KEYWORD)”. So if the keyword under research is “Iron Golf Clubs”, the subject of the email would be: RE: Iron Golf Clubs.
As you can imagine, the process is relatively easy and streamlined, and one that doesn’t take long at all to execute (6 minutes per vendor remember?). As basic as the email above is, it receives a lot of attention and response. You can tweak it anyway you want to fit your industry’s norms.
This strategy is just one example of how I reinvest my online earnings back into my business rather than cashing out. Why would I cash out and pay an effective tax rate near 50% when I can spend all 100% of it on growing my business?
Investing in my business today will pay off in multiples down the road. At the same time, I will benefit from tax savings in the short term and maximize the chances of a higher payout in earnings on the back-end.
One day, some day, when you decide to pull the plug on spending on your business, the residual income from more advertising deals would hopefully have grown exponentially. Remember, the money you invest today in business related expenses also becomes extra profit later when you stop spending.
Are you advertising on your website? How are you finding, negotiating and booking ads? What do you think of the method above to get more advertising? Are there any other tips you can add from your experience?
Read my thoughts on how to determine pricing as you get into more advertising deals.
The world is different today. It is faster, busier and it is more demanding. As competing priorities increase, having a reliable Virtual Assistant (VA) by your side helps tremendously.
For me, my VA has been God-sent. I am sure many can say the same for theirs. VAs do not cost nearly as much as full time executive assistants, or secretaries that you have to provide an office for.
VAs work remotely, and likely on multiple clients at a time, making their rates very attractive for a successful career individual. Think about it for a second. If you are making $90,000 a year with 3 weeks of vacation, your hourly wage is approximately $46 per hour. You can get a decent VA for $10 an hour.
This arrangement can be more lucrative if you have a side business and are making some money from it. Think about your VA expense as business related expenditure. Chances are you are already thin spread for time, and you can use your VA for both personal and business related tasks.
I haven’t factored in the tax component, but if you think about it, all expenses aside from your pre tax medical and dental are likely post tax (meaning after you pay taxes on your income). Just like most expenses, you are spending money on a VA to get something back, which can be more time with your family, freedom, flexibility and peace of mind.
There are “life outsourcing: gurus out there who go overboard with what they recommend you make your VA do. My philosophy is fairly simple. Make your VA do tasks that would take you much longer to explain or do yourself, and those that fit within your comfort level.
Comfort level is important because while having your VA shop for the best deals on airfares, hotels and restaurants that meet your specifications, you will have to hand over your credit card information for the booking or reservation. Similarly, there are many tasks, routine or otherwise, that require disclosure of more personal information than you may be comfortable with. Decide prudently.
As far as time investment is concerned, there are tasks you do, then there are tasks best left for a VA. Think about the time it will take you to explain the task to the VA and the time it will take you to do it yourself. I don’t need to go any further do I?
The exception is if you want to train your VA for the future and you know there will be several other situations where you will need similar tasks done. If so, the time investment is worth it, but give some consideration to the fact that your VA may not work for you in the future, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
I like using VAs for routine reservations (hotels, cars, airfare, restaurants), setting up meetings and appointments, routine bookkeeping, reconciling various accounts and other repetitive tasks.
Before attempting to outsource work to a VA, I highly recommend you evaluate the tasks very carefully and eliminate as much fat in the process as you can to streamline it. Expecting your VA to effectively and efficiently complete processes that are flawed to begin with can lead to disaster. Always eliminate to simplify before you delegate.
Another piece of advice is to get in the habit of writing “one and done” emails, something Tim Ferris talks about repeatedly in his best-selling book The Four Hour Workweek. This basically means writing emails that reduce, or completely eliminate the need for back and forth correspondence by making the email specific, providing all relevant exceptions and options as part of an if/then scenario.
The idea is to send the email once, and let the recipient figure out all else and get back to you with only the final deliverable, not a response back to you original email asking for further clarification.
This is a good practice to perfect and implement even if you don’t plan on hiring a VA. There are far too many benefits and efficiencies to be gained by practicing sound, clear and specific communication, even as an employee in the office.
With countless options today, selecting a VA can be a challenge. I can certainly appreciate that challenge. If you are willing to find a suitable VA yourself, try websites like odesk and craigslist to hire a VA.
Odesk is definitely the preferred site when hiring a VA given the quality of VAs found through it. Test out the candidates based on command of English, competence and diligence. You can usually screen out most unqualified applicants in their first correspondence to you.
Always ask to speak to the VA over Skype (free for all so there should be no excuses) even if you are not going to do it. This gives you the opportunity to measure command of English, and weed out those that don’t meet your criteria by preventing them from applying for the position. I like to do this because most applications, resumes and sample materials are pre fabricated. You want to measure your VAs capabilities in a real time environment.
Always get referrals or clients to speak to who can vouch for the VA’s diligence, work quality and experience. There is no better testimony than first-hand experience. If you think you’ve found a gem, you might want to train and develop them so they can hopefully someday become an extension of you. That said, always keep attrition in mind. There is nothing permanent in life except change.
Finally, there are full-fledge VA firms if you are concerned about continuity. VA firms are staffed with many VAs. You get an account manager dedicated to you who is your single point of contact. Your tasks are then farmed out within the firm to those qualified to handle them. There is a slight premium for these services, but these firms ensure that there will always be someone qualified who can help with your specific needs.
I have never tried VA firms, but have heard some very good things about them. Let someone else worry about finding and training someone to do the work for you, rather than you looking for a new VA each time the old one leaves. I am looking into a few firms myself, will try them out and report back here with my feedback.
So if you are struggling to create that ideal balance in life, consider hiring a VA and test out the experience for a few months. You can always stop and resume your “normal” routine. Something tells me though that once you go “virtual”, you will never go “normal”.
Readers: What are your thoughts on hiring a VA? Do you currently have one? How is it going for you?
Here is another compelling case of hiring a VA for your business.