Internet Advertising 101: Effective Performance-Based Marketing

Identifying Cost Per Action (CPA) campaigns that have a reasonable likelihood of success is an art form. It takes (Internet) years of experience. But I’m a friendly guy and I’m here to help. Here’s my personal four-point vetting process. 1) Establish the consumer viability of the offer. The viability of the offer is a function of its attractiveness to the consumer and its ease of completion. First, is there a significant enough audience of potential consumers online that would respond to this offer? Last week, a potential advertiser offered me a campaign that paid per sale on the purchase of a diploma frame. I respectfully declined. The second part of consumer viability is whether the advertiser’s site or landing page is conducive to the completion of the desired task (purchase, registration, etc). Is the page overly cluttered? Does it spawn pop-ups that distract the consumer? Any of these are a hurdle to a conversion and a warning sign. 2) Identify the source of the offer. Frequently, brokered CPA deals become a twisted variation on the game of telephone we all played as kids. In one recent example, a request for 200,000 site registrations for a major media company came to us through a broker. We were told that users could be given an incentive to register and we needed to drive large volumes of registrations in a short period of time. Unfortunately, the source of the offer (that major media company) had a different view. They were “ramping down” their promotional efforts and had a strict prohibition on offering incentives for registrations. I wouldn’t want to be the publisher who generated those 200,000 registrations, waiting for the check to come from a broker who never had the authority to sign the business. 3) Ensure that fair compensation metrics exist. There is plenty of variability in how CPA deals are structured. But the bottom line is that compensation needs to reflect a fair percentage of the value of the customer, and it needs to back into fair recompense for the media used to promote the offer. Unfortunately, some folks trying to make a living in the CPA world don’t even bother to think about this. One travel company recently announced that they would pay $2.50 on the sale of an airline ticket and $1 on bookings of car rentals and hotels. Sound like a winner? 4) Research the market for competitive offers. CPA offers are most likely to succeed when they are relatively unique. If the medium is cluttered with offers from a dozen competitors, the signal-to-noise ratio is simply going to be too low. If the current offer has a clearly communicated competitive advantage over others in the space, the clutter can be overcome. Based on this four-step process, we see that a consumer-friendly CPA deal direct from the advertiser that is unique and pays fairly has a good chance of success. If any one of these winning characteristics is lacking, you’re more likely to lay a rotten egg than a golden one.

Scott Brew is president and CEO of Email him at

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