Solo Ads: Why Many Marketers No Longer Purchase Them

Solo Ads: Scam?Over the past six months, I’ve been investing some funds into solo ads since it seems to be an extremely popular method of paid traffic and email subscribers.  Over these six months, I researched and connected with ten different solo ad vendors and placed my orders, each one tied to a different offer through my affiliate marketing efforts.

Now, my goal here is not to tell you that every solo ad vendor or opportunity is a scam.  My goal is to offer you some insight on how the process works from A to Z and what to watch out for so that you don’t end up wasting your money.

Also, I’m not going to call out any specific vendors as this isn’t necessarily a review, so if you’re looking for suggestions on who to go to for solo ads, this won’t provide much help on that front.

What is the Point of Solo Ads?

Solo Ads are literally just what they are named for.  They are designed to offer a large amount of eyes on your offer by means of email marketing with an ad either made up by you, or the vendor if they are given enough details to do the copy for you.  Now, the first thing to place on the table is that most of the vendors provided a click guarantee; in other words, since I PAID for 300 clicks, I would RECEIVE at least 300 clicks.

Solo Ads ClicksYou are essentially purchasing “clicks” from another internet marketer’s email list and in most cases, you have the option to purchase a determined number of clicks.  (For my six month push, I purchased 300 clicks per vendor to keep my comparisons easier to work with.)

Once you make the purchase and send the vendor your details, the vendor will execute either an email or online advertising campaign including your ad to either an existing set of their own subscribers, or to a pool of new leads that they compile on your behalf using your specific ad details.

There are two ways to consume the clicks you have purchased:

  1. The solo ad includes not much more other than an affiliate link to your primary offer
    This is more popular for extremely narrow sales funnels; or if you only promote one affiliate that handles the entire sales funnel for you, including the sales, delivery, and support of the purchased product.  Most new Internet Marketers would find this appealing as they may not have their own blog or email list quite ready to do any of the work and want many new eyes on the offer sooner than later.
  2. The solo ad is much more generic to a basic niche (Make Money Online)
    This tactic is much more appealing to the more intermediate IM’ers that are trying to build up a small list, or veteran IM’ers looking for new leads to add to their mailing list with little effort on their own – think of it as outsourced email list building.  This offers the new “clicks” to subscribe to YOUR mailing list so that you can not only promote your primary offer, but you can promote other offers down the line as they are now “your” subscribers.

Like the good little Internet Marketer that I am, I ran a split test where I asked that five of the vendors that I purchased from to use tactic number one, while the other five vendors I utilized tactic number two.

Setting Up the Solo Ad Campaign

Vendor Written Ad Copy

For this split, I simply sent the vendors my master affiliate link, which they would look over and write up their own lead copy to attract clicks for me.  Unfortunately, not one vendor actually sent me the copy they had written and used in the campaigns, so I have no idea what they sent to their subscribers/leads.  I didn’t specifically ask, but was hoping it wasn’t a common practice – it seems that it is, so keep this in mind.

The vendor – if set up properly – will send you a link to a page that you can view to watch stats on the ad performance and clicks generated.  Always ask for this upfront so you can have that much more information.  Better yet, set up your own campaign tracking that will track the exact same link you sent to the solo ad vendor (I’ll go over this in more detail in a bit.)

About a day after the campaign commitment, the clicks began to roll in.  Since these split tests were going directly to my affiliate link, all I could really watch for were visitor stats using my affiliate link, and actual opt-ins provided to my by my affiliate partners stat pages.  Again, I didn’t have as much control over the activity as I did using tactic #2.

It took about a week for all five vendors to complete their campaigns for me, which isn’t bad considering I was waiting on 1,500 clicks by the time it was done.  Typically, solo ad vendors will give you an additional 5%-10% free clicks on top of what you ordered, so in some campaigns I got 310 clicks, and others I got 330 clicks, give or take.

Self Written Ad Copy

For the self written solo ad copy split, it takes a little bit of creativity and borrowing from your primary offering’s main sales page, unless you’re a master copy writer yourself.  Since my primary offering included many sales pages and swipes, this was pretty easy to throw together.

Using some of this information, I created a new landing page on my blog along with an opt-in form so that my new “clicks” would opt-in to my mailing list.  Again, the goal here was to have control over what the new leads were seeing, and it offered me the ability to promote my other offers as well as they progressed through my email sequence.

Again, when I sent all the information over, the vendors would send me their click tracking pages in return that contained my campaign with them.  I could still see the clicks that came in, but this time, I could see the actual opt-ins to my list that were being generated.  Coupled with my own click tracking accounts, I could really keep everyone honest on these and see everything I wanted on activity.

Much like the first split, the clicks started to come in and I was receiving new subscriber notifications on my phone for the better part of a week, since all campaigns were running in parallel.  After about the same amount of time, the campaigns had ended and I was ready to roll with the results.

Crunching the Numbers

After all campaigns were completed, I had ended up paying for 3,000 clicks (1,500 for Vendor Written Solos Ads, and another 1,500 for Self Written Solo Ads) and with the average number of additional clicks, everything came out to 3,240 clicks – so 240 (8% avg additional) clicks that I received for free.

Vendor Written Ad Copy

  • 1,500 clicks purchased
  • 1,630 clicks received
  • Affiliate page opt-ins (424)
  • Opt-in %: 27%
  • New customers: 2 (signed up for info on primary offer)
  • Sales: 4 (1 customer purchased up-sells in funnel)

At first glance this doesn’t look bad at all.  Most IM’ers are extremely pleased with around 30% opt-in rates, and received two sales so this was a decent campaign.

Self Written Ad Copy

  • 1,500 clicks purchased
  • 1,610 clicks received
  • Landing page opt-ins (576)
  • Opt-in %: 36%
  • New customers: 26 (signed up for info on primary offer)
  • Sales: 5 (2 customers purchased up-sells in funnel)

This went much better; well over the standard 30% average and a handful of potential buyers on my primary offer.

It has become industry standard that solo ad vendors will graciously provide those additional clicks based on what you purchase, so we have become rather used to this benefit.  This is something I’d like you to keep in mind when we go over the pros and cons toward the conclusion of this post.

So, based on the split test, it makes sense to put in the effort to create your own sales copy first and foremost.  What was a bit disappointing between the two is that although I received slightly more clicks from the vendor written campaign, dare I say, the quality of the solo ad when looking at opt-in rates seems a bit rough.  Not that I blame the vendors, because it’s not really their job to really understand your offer.  That’s why making your own sales or solo ad copy is much more beneficial as you have those details.

Signs to Look For

After the research and experiment completed, I kept close notes on each of the experiences I had with each vendor.  Overall, the solo ads vendors delivered on their promises – again, they cannot guarantee anything other than clicks, but we’ll cover the disappointments that I have in going through this process as a business building supplement.

Quality of Clicks

Shop for Higher Tier Clicks:  Not to say that leads outside of the United States is a negative, but it’s been proven time and time again that Tier 1 (United States, Canada) clicks have higher quality than say clicks from India or Russia.  When you research the vendor you’re working with, aim for the highest quality clicks with a greater focus on Tier 1 potentials.

Snoop for Lead Sources:  Try to find out if the vendor is using an existing mailing list, or if they are using online ads to attract clicks.  If they are using an existing pool of subscribers that are already on a mailing list, chance are slim that the people that are being presented with the solo ads may have already too many similar offers, or other IM’ers promoting the same offer you have has already tapped the pool.  Go ahead and ask the vendors if they have already promoted your offer – the professional ones that care about their business and yours will tell you upfront.

To Double Opt-In or NOT to Double Opt-In:   This has become a major red flag for me personally.  There were several vendors that I had to discuss some issues with during the experiment as I noticed early on that although I was receiving a good click rate, my opt-in rates weren’t very high.  Of the six that I carried on the conversation with, they had asked if my mailing list included a double opt-in, and that this may be causing the problem.  My eyebrow definitely raised as I DO NOT endorse running a mailing list that does not perform double opt-in (confirms that you subscriber actually wanted to subscribe – see where I’m going with this?)  After I deactivated the double opt-ins, the numbers started to look *ahem* good.

Pros vs. Cons

I’m not saying that buying solo ads is a bad business move.  I’ve spoken to plenty of other marketers that are absolutely well satisfied with this strategy, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that there is room for shady business here.

PROS OF PURCHASING SOLO ADS

  • Grow a new or struggling email list
  • Employ the assistance of “experts”
  • Generate traffic to affiliate links

CONS OF PURCHASING SOLO ADS

  • You WILL lose money upfront
  • No guarantees other than on clicks
  • Minimal benefit of quality control
  • Too general of a niche
  • Bloated list(s) with dead emails
  • Click bots (not a real email address/person)

Rich’s Recommendations

One of the downfalls that I mentioned earlier in the article, was that unless you have your own tracking capabilities, you can only rely on what the vendor is sending you as far as their stats page goes.  If you’re anything like me, you really want to know, not hope, that you’re getting what you pay for.  It’s fine to just send the vendors an affiliate link, or a link to your opt-in/landing page, but by doing this, you have given all of your control to the vendor.  IF, there is anything sketchy going on, you have no way to prove it.

  • TRACK YOUR OWN LINKS AND CLICKS:  One of the key tools that I use each day is a link and sales funnel tracking solution called, ClickMagick that gives me FULL control over my links and give me all the stats I need to feel confident in my campaigns and funnels.  In many cases, this is the same software that the vendor use to publish your campaign stats page, but if I create a tracking link specifically for each campaign that I send to each vendor, this is where I can get my warm and fuzzy that things are on the up and up.
  • ASK FOR EXPLICIT GUARANTEES ON CLICKS:  Your vendor CANNOT guarantee opt-ins, or sales whatsoever, but they should be able to guarantee that you will get at least the number of clicks that you paid for to your solo ad.  This is also something you can track with ClickMagick so you have your own stats to compare with the vendor.
  • ASK FOR ADDITIONAL GRATUITOUS CLICKS FOR YOUR BUNDLE:  Don’t be afraid to ask for the additional clicks from your vendor.  Based on your purchase, look for 6% – 8% additional clicks on top of your purchased campaign.
  • DISCOURAGE DEACTIVATION OF THE DOUBLE OPT-IN:  When you set up your list to not force a double opt-in, you will run into a double-edged sword here.  Some solo ads already include an opt-in that will essentially forward to your landing page and to a potential customer that just opted in to the first landing page is asked to opt-in on the very next page, it can invite some frustration for the individual.  Personally, I don’t care in that, I ONLY want people on my list that are willing to do what it takes to get to my information because that shows that they are serious, and that it is a real person.  After the experiment was completed, I waited about four months and then did some list pruning.  OVER HALF OF THE OPT-INS that I had gathered from my solo ads purchases NEVER opened up any emails from me.  What does this mean?  Dead email addresses, or bots that “opted-in” but wouldn’t have been confirmed if I left my double opt-in enabled.  WASTED MONEY.

Conclusion

Solo ads may work wonders for some; but in my experience, it sometimes only feeds the IM ego to have a higher number of subscribers than a higher quality of subscribers.  Sure, it’s nice to have a mailing list with over 10,000 subs, but if only 3% of them are actually looking at or opening your emails…what’s the point?

Solo ads are all over the place now, which means there are a lot of real potential customers out there simply being bounced from one list to the next, and they are saturated with offers from other IM’ers.  So, it’s not necessarily a good idea to plan out your next step by purchasing solo ads and thinking that your solo ad will be the shining beacon that all will see and flock toward.

Solo ads can bring in sales – as you can see, during my own efforts I was able to pull in nine sales for my upfront offers, and a couple of up-sells.  This means that although yes, you can indeed make sales, you have to subtract those from what you’ve paid upfront for the solo ads to begin with.  I.e.: you made a $300 commission from a solo ad click package of 600 clicks, costing you $800.  Nice job on the commission, but…you still lost $500 after the campaign.  Yikes.

Internet Marketing GamblingSolo ads is akin to online gambling… not every click will offer that one ultra-motivated buyer that is willing to buy everything you just offered.  You may fond one or two that will be more than happy to take your free gift, or maybe purchase that initial upfront offer for $27, but unless you truly make a massive profit, be prepared to walk away with nothing and like it.

Well, that’s in on solo ads from me.  I hope this gives you some insight and food for thought if you’re considering purchasing solo ads in the near future.  I’m not telling you to shy away from them at all, but just do your research and make sure you are getting the best value for your buck.

What Say You?

Do you have a story or insight on purchasing solo ads that you can share?  Maybe you are a solo ads vendor and can offer up some of your own tips and suggestions!  Let me hear ya in the comments below.