Are advertorials effective?

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I am looking for effective Internet marketing strategies that deliver a really high return on investment, and am leaning towards publishing some advertorials.

Before I do, I would like to know if advertorials are a good strategy for marketing a business products and services online?

If paid content in the form of articles are a good way to generate new leads and Web traffic, explain why. Are there any disadvantages to using paid content?

What type of costs are we looking at? How do we work out whether or not the endeavor paid for itself or lost money?

Paid content & advertorials are excellent marketing strategies

Advertorials are among the most effective of all Internet marketing and online advertising strategies for three reasons:

  1. they can leverage the SEO and authority of the blog or website they are published on (to climb page rankings and leapfrog competitors better than they would on your own site)
  2. they can engage with the target audience better than ads (because there is more content real estate to get ideas across)
  3. they can drive organic search traffic for years to come (because they are indexed by Google, unlike PPC ads)

However, in order for them to be really effective as a long term tool for driving valuable Web traffic, they must be:

  1. focused
  2. well written
  3. SEO'd
  4. published on a quality blog or website

There is no point paying to post duplicate content, or put up a spammy sales pitch that no-one wants to read anyway. In fact, if your content seems remotely like self-promotion it's likely that readers will simply move on. You have to offer something genuinely useful or engaging.

How to get the highest profits

Make an advertorial interesting and engaging, and select the right blog or website (with the right target market for your products/services), and you have a winning formula.

Here's the optimal way to generate profits:

  1. Research the target audience
  2. Identify blogs and websites that can reach that audience
  3. Create (or hire a pro to do it for you) high quality content focused on that audience
  4. Publish original and engaging content to the target blogs and websites

A lot goes into researching and shaping the perfect advertorial that generates plenty of clicks or conversions (without being spammy), and gets high page rankings at the same time.

It's worth paying for the right person to create ideal content for your business!

What Google says about paid content

There are a few important considerations when it comes to using advertorials. Google states that publishing paid content that passes page rank, and is not disclosed as paid content is against their guidelines.

You can watch Matt Cutts (Google's former head of Webspam) talk about it here:

But so long as you add rel="nofollow" to any backlinks present in the article, and clearly disclose that it is paid, there is absolutely no problem.

In fact, you can see an example of how paid content is posted to SME Pals at the paid press release, entitled How to increase online sales with Volusion eCommerce software and Amazon.

This press release (note the non-intrusive, but clearly visible disclosure at the bottom of the page) content now dominates valuable search terms in Google - precisely because it is relevant, and leverages SME Pals' authority.

How to calculate ROI from paid content

Calculating the ROI (Return On Investment) for paid content in absolute terms is quite difficult. Mainly because the article itself will continue to generate leads and conversions for months, if not years - assuming it gets decent page rankings.

The best way to decide on whether or not an advertorial will be profitable is to ask yourself "how much is capturing first page rankings for a bunch of target SEO keywords worth to my business?"

If you know a bit about your niche industry and keyword research, it is not too hard to estimate how much potential traffic can be generated.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO, but provided you choose high quality blogs and sites, and opt for high quality content, there is no reason why your content won't succeed in driving click-thrus.

With an idea of how much Web traffic a good article can produce, combined with your known conversion rates, you can estimate a return over say 6 months to a year.

Subtract this total from the total cost of publishing the advertorial and you get the answer.