Recently, I was doing some outreach for a client when one of the sites that I had contacted called me. A call means one thing – they want to sell me advertising; I usually avoid these calls, but this was a site that I was really keen to have my client featured on.

After letting going through, purpose, demographics, social media followers and newsletter circulation, we got down to price. I won’t mention figures, but I was astonished at the sum they were asking for in exchange for a profile on their site.

It’s a relevant site with great metrics and perfect audience, a link placed on this site would have had a positive impact on the organic campaign; but would they see a ROI? I can’t provide a definitive answer, but I can offer some guidance about how to make an educated guess.

Paid advertising comes with huge numbers when it comes to visitors, followers and circulation; but a lot of it isn’t going to mean anything. The questions are the ones you should be asking to determine if the advertising is going to provide you with a return.

How many returning visitors do you get?

Returning visitors are valuable, they are more likely to make a purchase. They are the ones that are hungry for the offering, the cause or in this case – the web content, meaning you are being exposed to them over and over.

If the site that is wanting to feature your paid advertisement has a high number of returning visitors, this is a good sign. They trust and engage with the content on the site and come back for more. If the returning visitor number is low – this speaks a lot for the quality of the content on the site.

For some more in-depth knowledge and to put the numbers into perspective – ask for the percentage of both new and returning visitors to the site, the returning visitor volume should sit at a minimum of 20%.

What is the bounce rate?

If the visitors are not interested in the content on the page – they leave, simple.

Once you know how many people visit the site, you can find out how many are leaving – a high bounce rate means that people aren’t quite finding what they are looking for. The traffic simply isn’t interacting with the page, and there is a high probability that your brand won’t be seen.

FYI – a bounce rate should be lower than 50%. Again, to delve deeper, you can ask what the ‘exit pages’ are – the pages that people are last on before they leave the site. There are 2 opposing opinions when it comes to exit pages;

1) You don’t want to emulate the content that are on these pages
2) These pages are providing people with the info they need, meaning they don’t need to look any further

It may be worth negotiating some testing to see how the pages perform once you are placed on them.

Bounce rate can also depend on page load speed. There are a number of tools you can use to test the load speed of a web page such as Quick Sprout tool, Pingdom or GTMetrix.

Where is the referral traffic coming from?

Search engines, affiliate sites, social media, newsletter, competitor sites – where are the users coming from?

Organic traffic is considered the highest quality traffic, but other traffic sources can give you an indication of how the site is engaging with its audience. For instance, high volume of referral from social media is a positive sign, it demonstrates that people are sharing and talking about the site. But social traffic shouldn’t be relied upon – what’s the strategy if it drops?

It also gives you an idea of other sites and platforms that your audience are using and looking at, maybe you should extend your presence to these sites too?

What is your email open rate?

The site in question told me that their email circulation was 10,000 targeted users, and if my client wanted to be included in this newsletter, it would be an extra £100 – per newsletter.

I asked them what their open rate was – 12%, only 1200 were opening it. I found that in that sector the average open rate was 22% - they weren’t even hitting their average but charge £100?

You could delve further and enquire how they test their titles or times of day the newsletter is sent to ensure that maximum research is going into the strategy – how are they going to make that £100 work for you?

What it your email click through rate?

Click through rate is a sign that the content within the email is appealing to the audience and they want to learn more – hence clicking on the link with the body of the email.  

Research the average click through rate within your sector and use that as a benchmark; if the number is lower than this, you know that the newsletter probably won’t have much of an impact on your campaign and can decide against or use it as leverage when it comes to the fee.

What is your social media engagement?

Social media followings will be one of the top figures that you are fed in the initial sales spiel.

But are they real followers or are they Twitter bots? If the referral traffic from social media is impressive, this will speak for itself.

Take the time to explore the sites social media channels and take a look for yourself; how many likes are they getting and is their interaction mutual? You can take a look at the individual profiles of their followers and see if these people also fit within the demographics of your target audience – This is very important!

The chances are, the advertising spend is going to be a significant chunk or your marketing budget – it’s worth taking the time to research all avenues where the placement could fail you before making the regular commitment of 6-12 months.

If all of the answers to these questions are giving you the green light, I’d say go for it – these paid placements of course, can be a worthwhile investment. It’s now up to you to produce a high quality presence on the site in order to capture the attention of the traffic, and make the page that you appear on a hotspot.


By Amy Bull, content marketing executive at Datify


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