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How to Run Solo Ads - - Digital Marketing Tips

A guide to running solo ads - digital marketing tips
I have bought a lot of courses about making money on the Internet and traffic generation, but somehow none of them had any focus on Solo Ads. I have had clients ranging from startups through to multi-national corporations, much of my work relates to building websites and social media branding, and I have done a lot of work with optimization to pull in organic traffic.

From my past experience as web developer, many clients who have wanted to buy traffic were all mainly interested in using Google Adwords. One of the campaigns I was involved with had a PPC budget of $40,000 a month and we hired a specialist agency to oversee some very detailed testing and tracking, you would not believe the amount of work that went into it.

I do build and make money from my own websites as well as working with my clients to help them do the same. Part of my business strategy is to have multiple sources of income, but it also means that I am constantly able to learn and get better at what I do.

Despite all my experience and training, I was really struggling to make money with a few of my niches in competitive markets. Getting decent volumes of organic traffic was way too slow and involved more work than I had time available and frankly was even willing to put in. Other paid traffic techniques were not really working for me either.

How to Quickly Attract Unlimited Traffic Using the Power of Solo Ads

I can honestly say that starting to utilize Solo Ads has made a huge difference to me, not least in building my mailing list and the speed with which I have been able to do so. Like anything new, there is a learning curve with the process and understanding the tricks of the trade, and I hope to save you a lot of time and effort in trying to work it all out for yourself, hence this article is written to help you.
I have invested in training on this myself, and I am also fortunate in having a leading marketer as a mentor who has helped me along considerably (in fact it was he who introduced me to the idea of running Solo Ads).

All this learning is incorporated in this article. The fact that you are reading this shows that you already understand the value of investing in yourself and learning new skills and techniques. Mastering how to drive traffic to your site puts you on the fast path to achieving business success. It is fair to say that Solo Ads are a fairly well kept secret for most website owners, but they have their origins in well proven direct marketing principles and can be incredibly effective.

When I did discover Solo Ads and work out how to use them properly they rapidly became my favourite way to generate traffic quickly. I will explain why and take you a step by step through how to do this yourself. Also, I am going to show you a brokerage site you can use that takes away a lot of the hard work and risk, and to help things along I have used actual examples of what worked for me.
None of this is technically challenging, you just have to think hard about your marketing - like any form of advertising you need to understand why someone would want to buy your particular product or service and give them compelling reasons to do so.

Getting Website Traffic

If you were to survey an average group of website owners and ask them their biggest day to day challenge, most would tell you that it was getting regular good quality traffic. It takes time and effort, and often money, to build a decent website. You will have ambitions for it to do really well, the future of your business may even depend on it.

From a lot of the adverts and media messages you see for tools, designers, and developers there is a perception that if you build a really great website the visitors will come. No, they won't! At least not without you taking action to publicise your site and finding ways to attract traffic. Many website owners hope for free traffic from the search engines. The holy grail for traffic generation is to have Google sending you high volumes completely free, we would all love to have this.

Here is the problem. High volumes of traffic only tend to exist in markets with high volumes of competition, this makes it very difficult to get the page rankings you need for visitors even to find you. This is the whole subject of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which I won't go in to here - suffice to say it is tough and time-consuming, and if you are up against big players with big budgets it is a battle you are unlikely to win.

What a lot of people don't factor in is the value of their own time. Seriously, if you spend an hour or two a day writing blog posts or articles, and doing SEO related activities is that really generating 'FREE' traffic? What value do you put on an hour of your time? Of course if you build your own email list and get a reputation as being an expert in your field you will have an easier time with getting free traffic, but this takes time.

If you do have a market with high demand and very little competition, I salute you - please let me know how you found it! If however, you have written an ebook about how to teach Giraffes to swim underwater, you may not have to worry about competition but you won't be planning early retirement on the sales.

In the online marketing world, you have the option of either throwing time and effort into trying to get free traffic (with a very little guarantee of results) or you have to pay to get your visitors. There is another big downside with organic traffic from Google. You can spend months putting a lot of time and effort into getting page 1 rankings for some of your top keywords only for Google to change their algorithm, causing your site pages to lose all their traffic literally overnight. Many site owners have lost their businesses this way.

It's vital that you have multiple ways of bringing visitors to your site, you can't afford to have all your eggs in one basket. Which brings us on to the subject of paid traffic. I am most definitely a fan as it allows you to bring traffic to your site very quickly. I have been fortunate to learn from a number of successful marketers, they all without exception make use of paid traffic (think about that for a moment, it is an important fact to digest if you want to be successful online).

Here is the thing, if you knew that every time you spent a dollar on traffic you would make that back plus a profit would you have any second thoughts on doing so? It's self-evident that you would buy as much traffic as you could in order to increase your profits.

I will come on to testing and prove that you can make a profit with paid traffic, but without doubt, you can grow your business and start making sales massively faster with paid traffic than you will be able to do with the many free traffic generation methods. If you can build into your marketing a mixture of free and paid traffic generation methods you will have found the best of both worlds. This will give you good growth and sustainability and help to maximise your profits.

As with free traffic you have many different ways of paying for traffic. Probably the best known is Pay Per Click (PPC), the Google Adwords system being a good example. Facebook have their own version of this and there are many others such as 7Search. However, there is quite a lot involved in setting up a successful PPC campaign and many people will find it daunting. I have an Adwords 'How To' guide I refer to that is literally hundreds of pages long, there is fair bit of learning involved.
By contrast learning how to drive traffic using Solo Ads is a lot easier, and they have other benefits that I will explain as we go along here.

My aim here is to give you a good understanding of -

  • How Solo Ads work
  • Why they could be an effective traffic generator for you
  • How and where to run your own Solo Ads
  • How to maximize their effectiveness and make you more money.

What are Solo Ads?

This is a concept that has been existing in the mail order industry for decades. If you want to send out a sales letter in the post you can go to a mailing list broker who will rent you a list of names of people who have previously bought or taken an interest in your particular industry or sector. You pay so much for each name and address and hopefully, you now have a pre-qualified list of potential buyers.

The direct response industry continues to operate this way, for the simple reason that it works! Solo Ads work on the same principle. Successful online business owners who have built large lists of buyers and subscribers can offer to send your advert via email to their lists, this is a Solo Ad. So if you want to sell an exercise plan you could, for instance, find a website owner who has a list of people who have bought other exercise plans or something directly related such as weight loss products.

This is a highly targeted advert going to individuals who are already motivated to take action, you have the opportunity to not only sell to them but also get them on your own email list. The beauty of Solo Ads compared to traditional mail order is, of course, the massively reduced costs. Mail order has significant postage and printing costs, as well as the labour costs for addressing and stuffing envelopes.

The finances alone around direct mail require precision engineering, you have to have a deep understanding of your margins and conversion rates to avoid running up large losses very quickly.
You can run a Solo Ad for as little as $10 or so, AND (read the following sentence carefully) you get a guaranteed number of visitors to your site! How good is that? With a normal advert, you might get no response at all.

I recall placing an offline advert many years ago that I was very pleased with. It was a box ad in a regional paper that I spent weeks pulling together, all linked to a self-improvement product that I thought could not fail. Total sales from the ad were a big fat zero! I even ran it again in another paper, convinced it was a one-off failure and got exactly the same result!

With a Solo Ad, you buy a certain number of clicks through to your site and the advert keeps running until you get them. All you have to do is write a short email advert (I will come on to this with an example of one of my actual successful ads) and put a landing page on your website with an offer that you direct the traffic to.

The Sales Funnel

Before you start placing Solo Ads it is important to have a clear understanding of the financial aspects. This is true for any form of paid traffic and you need to be very aware of it. If you have been involved in online marketing or any form of sales for any length of time you will be aware that it is a numbers game. Only a small percentage of the visitors to your site will purchase something, this will vary according to your market and the price of the product or service.

When running Solo Ads I have these objectives -

  • Add subscribers to my mailing list
  • Sell a small volume of a low-cost initial offer
  • Start a long-term relationship with new customers

Overall I expect the actual Ad to make a small profit or break even, but I can now make money by marketing follow up offers to my list (the saying that 'The money is in the list' is very true).

NOTE - If you want to send your visitor on to a Sales Page, you can deliver the free offer via an attachment or as a link in your Thank You email following their subscription. This is the sales funnel and you should have additional, and generally higher price offers that you can sell following your initial offer.

As an example let's assume the following -

  1. Your initial offer is an ebook you sell for $17
  2. You spend $40 buying 100 visitors to your offer
  3. 30 visitors provide their email address and get added to your list
  4. You get a 3% conversion into buyers, this earns you $51

So in this example, you made $11 in profit. This might not look very exciting but you also added 30 new subscribers to your mailing list. You can now make additional offers to your list with follow up emails, this will cost you nothing. A higher priced follow up offer can make you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars very easily.

You only have the one product or service? No problem. Just sign up as an affiliate for other associated products and services already on the market and sell those. You won't make as much as an affiliate as you would with your own product but it is all profit, and you can always add in your own stuff later.

Generally, you will make a lot more money with follow up offers than you do with your initial offering. In any business most of the marketing costs go into acquiring a new customer, the real money is made in selling more to those same customers.

Finding The Right List

Now we get to the interesting part, the actual process of placing a Solo Ad. You are going to be asking another marketer to run your advert in an email to their list. I am going to be taking you through the nuts and bolts of a platform called Udimi that makes finding a list and doing all of this very easy for you, but it is important that you understand the basic principles of how this all hangs together.

The first thing you need to do is find an email list that is already highly targeted to your offer. If you sell Judo instruction videos you don't want to send an offer to a general Martial Arts list that contains mainly Karate enthusiasts.

Having found a potential list you now need to get some very specific information about the list. Information such as:

  1. How recently was the list built?
  2. Does the list contain buyers as well as subscribers
  3. How often are new buyers added and when did they last buy?
  4. How much did the buyers spend?
  5. What is the geographic composition of the list?
  6. How often does the owner send offers to the list?

The aim of all these questions is to make your offer as targeted as possible, you want a list that is regularly updated (i.e. has many additional subscribers every day) and is used to receiving offers but is not bombarded.

If the list is full of people who signed up for free or who only bought very cheap offers, they may well be very hard to sell to if you are hoping to sell a product for $497. You don't want to be advertising to a list of people who only respond to free offers, ensuring there are people who have been actual buyers will greatly increase your chances of making sales. Also if the list is full of buyers in Europe and you want to sell in North America, you don't want to find this out after your Solo Ad!
Pre-qualify the list, it could be the difference to you making or losing money.

The whole power of this is that it is in your hands to make your Ad as targeted as possible. You are able put your offer in front of a specific crowd of people you already know have previously bought related products or services. Like all forms of marketing, you need to do some testing here. I buy a small number of clicks to a list to see what type of response I get and check where subscribers are actually located.

Always start small and build up gradually. If you find a really responsive and appropriate list that is making you money you can, of course, scale up, just don't take unnecessary risks with your initial Solo Ads.

There is another very good reason why you might want to stick to buying relatively small numbers of clicks. If you buy 50 or 100 clicks you often find you actually get at least 10% more than you pay for, i.e another 5 or 10 clicks. Buy 1000 clicks and you probably only still get 5 or 10 more. So buying 10 tranches of 100 might well get you 1100 clicks rather than one tranche of 1010.

The Udimi platform I am going to be showing you solves the problem of where to find lists, but you do not have to limit yourself to this. You could approach other list owners in your sector and see if they would be willing to advertise to their list. If you sell dog training and they sell dog products it could be a good fit for both of you, they get something else they can offer out of the deal. When your list is big enough you can pay nothing but just swap clicks to each other's lists.

Also, you can look at Internet Marketing forums (find them by doing a Google search on "Internet Marketing" forum), and look for recommendations.

On Facebook, I know of at least one group that exists purely for the purpose of giving reviews on Solo Ad sellers, so if you hunt around you will find other sources.

Structuring a Solo Ad

These are the component parts of your Solo Ad -

  1. The email advert
  2. The Landing page on your site (also known as the Squeeze page)
  3. The Sales Page for your product or service
  4. A follow-up sequence of emails to visitors who subscribed or bought

I will explain each of these steps in detail.

At step 2 visitors either join your list and become subscribers, or they leave the page and head off elsewhere. Subscribers go on to step 3 to see your offer. This is a really important point to grasp, whether they buy or not you now have another subscriber who you can follow up with using email.
Even if you just break even with initial sales from your Solo Ad (or even make a small loss) you have subscribers who you can now build a relationship with, and when you get them into your sales funnel this is when the big money can come along.

Let's start by looking at the structure and content of your email advert.

This is the email that the owner will send out to their list. It needs to be concise and focused. It will contain a link to your Landing page, so bear in mind that you are effectively sending them on to another advert. The email is the place just to grab their attention or curiosity enough to click on the link.

The list owner is, of course, going to want to review your email before he sends it out so it could get rejected as not deemed appropriate for the list. The owner may also make changes to your Ad such as putting their name at the end rather than yours, or in extreme cases writing their own Ad.

You have to remember that whilst trying to make money the owner also will usually want to try and guard their reputation with their list. So it is down to you to decide if you want to run your Ad with any amendments they request. When placing a Solo Ad (often referred to as a 'Swipe'), bear in mind that you are buying a certain number of clicks through to your Landing page. So even if your Ad is not fantastic you will still get the traffic, you need to focus on then converting those visitors into subscribers and buyers.

A really good tip here is to pre-qualify potential subscribers at this point. By which I mean actively discourage the 'Tyre Kickers' and other individuals who would be inappropriate for your list. How do you do this, you may ask? In the advert be specific about who your offer is for (or alternatively who it is not for).

You want the people clicking through to be as targeted as possible for your offer, you are paying for each click through so you don't want visitors being directed to your Landing page who are not likely to buy. As an example, if you sell dog training don't write an Ad that appeals to dog owners generally, you should make it clear that your offering is about training.

Your email Ad should lead into your Landing page which in turn leads into your Sales page. Keep them all to a tight theme, don't meander between different products or you will confuse people and lose them at some point in the process.

Example Solo Ad

Let me show an actual Ad I ran recently. When I last ran it this Ad achieved nearly 50% opt-ins on the Landing page that the traffic clicked through to. To make the point that different lists you advertise through will perform differently, the previous time I ran exactly the same Ad with another seller I got just over 30% opt-ins. Test, test, and test some more!
Example of solo ads

Apologies for stating the obvious but don't forget to add the link to your Landing page in your Ad, and then check that it works! A previous version of this Ad that I tested was identical but without the third paragraph where I actively discourage inappropriate visitors. That previous version achieved a best opt-in rate of about 25%, so that paragraph insertion had the desired effect.

Example Landing Page

This style of a landing page is commonly known as a Squeeze page or Lead Capture page. Having now brought the visitors to your website you, of course, want them to take some action. The tried and proven way of doing this is to send them to a squeeze page with the intention of capturing their email address.

As a side note, some Solo Ad sellers will only let you make a free offer as they don't want their list to get jaded. Your squeeze page may make a free offer or lead on to a low-cost initial offer. In the example squeeze page I am about to show you I offered a free report as an extra incentive to join my list and then sent them on to a sales page for a low-cost offer.
Example of squeeze page for solo ads

This also meant I did not have to worry about finding a Solo Ad seller who would not allow paid offers.

This is the page that my Solo Ad sent visitors to.

As with the Ad I have tested a number of variations of this page, this is the one that has so far worked the best.

With copywriting it is important to use a mix of compelling sales points with powerful psychological triggers. Many people who create a squeeze page miss either one or both of those elements. These psychological triggers include the following, try to get one or more into your copy -

  • Reciprocity. This is particularly powerful and often undervalued, a favour given demands a favour in return. Just think about it and how it applies to the rest of your life.
  • Fear of loss. For some reason, people are more motivated to prevent loss than to make a gain.
  • Scarcity. The fear of missing out. You will have seen this many times in the form of 'Only 10 remaining', 'One time not to be repeated offer', etc.
  • Social proof. People follow the crowd and also like evidence. Testimonials, or '10,000 copies already sold', 'Our most popular program, etc.
  • Similarity. People do business with people they like or who are like them. 'Dear fellow gardener', 'Like you I had trouble for years with back problems', etc.
  • Contrast. Show what good value you offer by comparing your product to others. 'Half the price of xxx' or 'Proven to work twice as quickly as', 'Lasts twice as long as xxx' etc.

Also, make sure that you have a compelling call to action. Take your visitor by the hand and tell them exactly what to do, just make sure you use language that suggests they are about to get something of value not have to buy something.

Words such as "Get Instant Access" or "Download Now" are very different to "Give Your Email Address". Psychologically we are giving in the former but taking in the latter. Another factor you need to consider and test is having got a visitor to give you their email address, are you going to set up your auto-responder for single or double opt-in?

If you are not familiar with auto-responders these are handled by email management software that captures the email address, send automated follow-up emails, and send the visitor to your Sales page or Thank You page.

I use a service with Aweber.com who is a market leader that I highly recommend. When you get a subscriber good practice says that you send an email back to them asking them to confirm that they wish to continue. It is very likely that you have been a recipient of these yourself.

This stops fake email addresses being used and also stops people from using somebody else's actual email address. However, there is a downside in that confirmation emails often do not get opened. If you have your service set to double opt-in, even though your visitor has provided their email address they do not become part of your list until they click the link in your confirmation email.

Your auto-responder service will show you who clicked but did not confirm, so it is something else you are able to track and test. So generally a double opt-in will produce a lower percentage of subscriptions from your Landing page. You need to decide how you personally want to handle this.

Placing Your Solo Ad

As mentioned earlier I am going to show you step by step on how to place your Solo Ad using Udimi.com. This a fairly new platform that offers a lot of advantages if you are new to Solo Ads. Not least of which is that you can find a lot of sellers all in the one place.

Udimi is basically a brokerage that matches up buyers and sellers and, importantly, controls the payments. It has some really nice features such as the Stats pages which show you each of your clicks and the exact location they came from.

Udimi also provides Escrow Payment Protection. Any money you pay for a Solo Ad is not sent to the Seller until all the clicks you bought have been delivered, this prevents you from being cheated or in any way defrauded. This is very important when you are just starting out and learning the ropes, you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are safe.

All Udimi users also benefit automatically from an arbitration and dispute resolution. All of this protection, of course, will deter unscrupulous sellers from registering on the platform in the first place, they will not last very long. So you have the comfort of knowing that not only are your interests being looked after but that unethical seller simply won't be able to survive on this platform.
If you cut your teeth and gain your confidence using Udimi it will then be a lot easier for you to find sellers and run your Ads elsewhere.

Getting Started With Udimi

Unsurprisingly when you go Udimi.com the first thing you need to do is to open an account.
Of course, you should spend a little time finding your way around the site and going through the menu options, there are a lot of features to get familiar with. Before you place your first Ad you are going to have placed some money in your account. The platform works with USD and the minimum amount you can top your account up with is $50.

In the Internet Marketing niche which I have been using for my examples here, I typically pay somewhere between $0.30 and $0.45 per click. Click costs vary quite broadly across the platform as a whole.

Udimi refers to your actual Ads throughout as Swipes. You can set up as many of these as you like and then when you buy a Solo Ad from a seller you just select which one to use. When you sign in to Udimi this is the first page you are presented with. The next step is to click on the My Settings option in the left-hand menu.

On the top menu click on My List and select the niche you want to advertise in. To set up your first Ad click the My Swipes menu option, this page will show you a list of any Ads you have set up previously. You will now see a blue button titled 'New Swipe' on the top right of the screen.  As you can see it is a very simple screen that you just enter your proposed email title and content into.

Now when placing a Solo Ad any 'Swipes' that you have created will be presented to you to choose from. Note that you cannot place an Ad until you have at least one Swipe already set up. On the very top menu, you will see the options 'Find Solos' and 'Solo Deals'. The 'Find Solos' option will show you a standard listing of sellers, and 'Solo Deals' as the name implies gives you a list of sellers who are pushing Solo deals at that time.

Check the List Niche field carefully and make sure you have selected the correct one for your offering. Now you can scroll the list of sellers and click on each one to find out more about them.
Clicking on a particular seller shows you when they next have availability to run a Solo and will then take you on to details about them and their list.

These are the selection criteria that I use when finding a seller-

  • Read the reviews given by buyers and look for consistent good feedback
  • Check the top tier percentage in Countries (if you click on this you will get a global map covering their list), I look for at least 70% as I don't want opt-ins from subscribers that are less appropriate for my offering
  • List size of at least 10,000 and also I like to see commentary that they are getting a good volume of additional subscribers each day
  • I want to see that they have buyers on their list, I want subscribers who are proven to spend money in my niche already.

If the detail page for the seller is not specific enough to answer the questions I outlined earlier you can send them a message and get these questions answered before you commit yourself. It is always nice to find sellers who state that they over-deliver (i.e they will give you more clicks than you actually purchase), a few do state this in their profiles.

All you have to do when you have found the seller you want to use is to click on the buy button. You will be taken to a screen displaying calendar dates and availability, select the date you want and you will be taken to the screen where you can buy your Ad.

The Ad will be pre-populated with the Swipe you already set up. Just be careful with the number of clicks you select, you get options depending on the minimum and maximum that particular seller accepts. When you have chosen this the price of your Ad will be confirmed.

When testing a new Ad or seller I only generally buy 50 clicks, but you will find that some sellers have a minimum that is higher than this. All you have to do now is wait for confirmation from the seller. If they don't like your Ad then can refuse to run it. I have not had any refusals but am very careful not to make any false promises or put anything contentious in my Ads.

If you Ad is accepted you now get to look forward to monitoring opt-ins and any sales the day the Solo Ad runs.

Follow Up To Your Solo Ad

After your Solo has run you will be asked to give feedback about the seller, they, in turn, will give feedback about you as the buyer. It is generally something short like "Good solo, nice over-delivery". If for any reason you are unhappy with the seller I recommend that you take it up with them directly or contact Udimi before you think about making critical comments.

Generally, I have had all my clicks delivered in the space of about 24 hours. The seller is given a maximum time limit to deliver. Things can go wrong for technical reasons if you don't get all your clicks in this time contact the seller to find out what is happening, although I would hope a good seller would contact you!

You can track the progress of your Ad on Udimi in the My Solos area, and you can see how many clicks you actually received. On the My Solos page, all of your Solo Ads can be seen. By clicking on Statistics for a Solo you can see exactly where in the world each of your clicks came from. With any form of paid traffic, it is critical to track results. You now know how many clicks you got. How many of them subscribed to your list? How many went on to buy something?

By analysing your numbers you will know how much on average it costs you to add a subscriber to your list. When you have made some sales of your initial and follow up offers you will also start to understand whether your Solo Ad campaign is profitable. If you are making a profit you can scale up, buy larger volumes of clicks, and make even more profit. Just don't forget to test individual lists carefully with small volumes first, you can get radically different results from different lists.

If you are new to marketing on the Internet make sure you focus on the fact that when you have added people to your mailing list with your Solo Ad the key now is to keep in touch with them.
Whether or not you made a profit with the Ad itself make sure that you have an auto-responder sequence in place to deliver follow-up emails which reiterate your original offer or sell them bigger and better things.

Don't get in the mindset of feeling pushy. You have product(s) or service(s) that solves people's problems, so you need to tell them about it and they need to get familiar with your name and the quality that you offer.

My auto-responder sequences typically follow up daily with new subscribers for at least 10 days and I then keep in regular contact.

In conclusion, don't forget to test the whole sequence end to end ensure your links all work, there is nothing much more annoying than running paid advertising that you later figure out sent visitors to the wrong place!

I hope you have found this useful. I have tried to avoid using too much jargon but inevitably I have had to reference some technical terms – it is the nature of the beast we have been dealing with here.
If you have enjoyed and benefited from these tips any kind of Testimonial or Endorsement would be very welcome! You can do this or give comments below.

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