Media Buying on a $500 [Gigantic Guide]

Ello ello!

This is a guide written by forum member mattaw on another forum members blog ( Eli.

It’s a long one, so I advise you to grab a cup of tea and a bikkie, and lock your wifey/gf up in the garage for an hour.


Media buying is one of the hardest channels of marketing to get into. Usually to do media buys through large sites or networks, you have to shell out quite a bit of cash (usually the 5-10k range to get your foot in the door), but I’m going to show you how to test with a small budget (low risk) and find out what’s working for anyone that wants to get into this highly lucrative space (mo money!).

This is how I personally got started media buying. I’m going to talk about two traffic sources that are low risk and can get you in the door and profitable on media buys fast, and

The trick that most people don’t know is exchanges/resellers exist. My favourite site to start testing stuff on is I love adbuyer because it sells remnant inventory from right media network, ad networks (remnant inventory is inventory they have left over or don’t sell, so you get it at a discounted rate). Right Media is yahoo’s ad exchange platform so they have inventory from every network that uses that exchange, and allow you to target specific networks in their functions. You can do this by selecting manual targeting instead of their audience score (see image below).

What doing this allows you to do is see what networks are converting for you and which shows promise. You do this by dumping in a test to every network and seeing which ones show promise (conversions) on your limited budget. It allows you to vet out what networks have a shot of working and save a LOT of money and time testing the various networks. Also you can do this on a small starting budget of around $500

If you want to limit your risk, simply look up some of the networks on and check what’s already running on them. You will be able to see which offers/niches are working on which placements.

A big part of media buying is your creative and landing page. Obviously your landing page like any other traffic source needs to be optimized, but your creative is key.

A good creative can make or break a campaign. This is because of the bid structure of the media buy, most are run on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions), obviously if you have a banner with a high click through rate (CTR) your cost per click (CPC) will be lower. Testing what creatives give you the best CTR while keeping your CPA low is a main factor to having a successful media buy.

The way I start with making creatives is by researching ads ( on placements I want to buy. From there, I try to spot similarities. What do the most popular banners have in common? I’d also keep track of which banners have been running a long time, because why would you keep running something as a direct response marketer that wasn’t making you money. Am I right??

Using this as inspiration, I can build my own set of creatives to start testing with. I like to start broad with very different creatives to see what does best. You honestly would be surprised what far out creative ideas pull in huge CTRs and conversions. It’s about being eye grabbing but also communicating your message properly to your audience.

I like to build my creative set of about 10 or so varying banners in different ad sizes. Personally, 300250 ads have always done best for me, but the other IAB standard sizes like 160600 also do well on specific sites as they engage with visitors in different ways.

Once you’ve identified what networks you think may have promise, go contact them directly. You know their remnant inventory is ok, or at least converts for your page/offer. Most likely you won’t be profitable off the bat here (most media buying campaigns don’t make money from day 1, they need to be optimized). But it’s a good starting indicator of what will work. Example: if you test on adbuyer and see that network A is bringing you in conversions at over your CPA but no other networks are bringing in conversions, network A would be a good place to start working on optimizing and buying directly with to get profitable.

When you go direct to the network, there are a few things we need to hammer out with the network to give us the best leverage:

  • Out clause (how much time you need to give them to pause the campaign if you want to stop it) – try to get a 24 hour out clause or a 48 hour out clause at the latest
  • Frequency cap (how many times your ad will show to a user per day) – I personally like to frequency cap at 2/24 or 3/24 but you should play around with it yourself
  • Demographic targeting – If you know the demographics of your offer, the network can try to exclude irrelevant inventory (this will save you money)
  • CPA – make sure to place pixels and track a cpa, its not like ppc or social, the network needs this data to be able to help you optimize placements. Network buys are like a black box, they do most of the placement optimization (Where your site shows up) but you can always make recommendations based on referrers that you see (where the traffic comes from) in your own tracking.

Ok, onto Sitescout is a RTB (real time buying platform). What this means is they take a low margin and broker you out direct site buys from Rubicon Project. This varies from because instead of buying from a “black box” media network, you can see exactly what sites your buying on and exactly where on those sites you’re buying. It’s like doing major media buys on large sites, but without the huge insertion orders (IOs) or prepays. You can also literally get started here with just $500.

This is where I REALLY can use to give me a huge competitive edge. Every site has a visitor demographic (the type of people that visit the site), by using whatrunswhere to search what other people in my niche are doing, I can view the exact placements (websites) they’re showing up on.

If they’re in the Sitescout repertoire, I could test my campaign on them as well to see if those placements would work, but more importantly, I get a idea of site demographics. Using, and I can build a pretty solid idea in my head about the demographics of any one targets website. If I notice that a lot of similar demographic websites are being targeted, that tells me something.

I can then take that information over to Sitescout and look through the various websites they offer. I can use this to match up my offers key audiences to other sites within Sitescout that have the same demographics to try to maximize my chance of finding sites that work.

Not every website on a direct buy will work, and some will burn out. The key is to find a few nice placements that make you money and milk them for all it’s worth.
Once you’ve found what’s profitable on Sitescout and you’re ready to go to the next level, you can go direct and try to place buys on these websites. This isn’t cheap and should only be done if you’re profitable already. Sitescout takes very thin margins as is, so going direct will only make you marginally more and you have to worry about rotating in multiple offers to stop creative burnout (banner blindness) with that websites audience.

Negotiating a direct buy is much like negotiating a network buy, but usually your out clause will be a bit longer and they’ll charge much higher cpms. So you need to make sure it’s worth it, don’t just go in there blind and swinging. I did this when I was starting out and lost quite a bit of money this way before I finally wised up, did what I described above and started being able to profitably media buy ever since.

Get out there and start testing. The truth is most people will read this post and do nothing. The few people that take action and actually test and play around will learn from this testing and start making money from media buys. This is great for them, because this fear of testing sets a high barrier to entry for others meaning its harder for your stuff to get ripped off by any new marketer into the space. The best thing to do is just get your feet wet and start testing

BONUS: for all of you that read this far down the post, here’s a way to test banners on a CPC instead of a CPM. Google content network. You can upload banners here but you’ll pay a premium since your single banner has to have a higher ctr than a whole block of text ads or you have to make Google’s eCPM (how much they make the site per thousand impressions) higher than they would normally get, to get shown frequently. But using their placement specific tools or keyword related sites, you can test your creatives across a large range of related websites, optimize cpms and such all on a budget.


I told you it was a long post!

Anyway if you have any questions about the post mattaw would be happy to answer. Also if you are interested in media buying make sure you register for the forum webinar on Monday.

User Comment:
I’m here and ready for anything you may want to know. Fire away!

User Comment:
so what are some optimization you can do on media buy?

I’m thinking of…

– Split testing creatives.
– Landing pages?
– Weed out non-performing websites?

User Comment:
You can optimize anything like you would in a regular buy: landing page, banner (both images and text / design), placements (websites you’re running on), type of sell you’re using per site, offer mix if you’re doing a single site buy (what % of what offers you show to what visitor)… Those were the ones that came to top of head.

User Comment:
Matt… do you see any straight sale/clickbank style fitness & weight loss stuff on whatrunswhere typically? (outside of Google)

User Comment:
We can’t reveal campaign specifics as it wouldn’t be fair to our members, but yes there are quite a few branding diet campaigns like south beach, but also a few major clickbank campaigns and straight sale offers running on the major media buy sources in the diet niche..

User Comment:
After these 2 sources, what would be your next top 3-5 sources to scale to? Have you used engagebdr?

User Comment:
I don’t 100% follow how Adbuyer & Sitescout are different to say Adblade or Pulse360. Is it that Adbuyer & Sitescout don’t have their own network of publishers they just buy remnant adspace from a bunch of other networks and put it in one place. Although I though that’s what say Adbrite do, buy at CPM & sell at CPC?

Thanks very informative

User Comment:
drhfmn: Thats the point using these two, you can find networks that have inventory that’s working/has a chance to work, and scale out to them then. These two are good starting places, but you can find similar direct buy sites from whats working on sitescout and go direct to the networks that adbuyer has remnant from to get scale.

nz_mike: They sell IAB standard media buy ads, pulse and adsonar are text/hybrid ad based. They are display/banner based display resellers.

User Comment:
This is really what i needed. Some guidance how you can test stuff out with a small budget before you go big. thanks

User Comment:
wow, Thanks Matt!

I have another question..

From your experience.. would you ever recommend running low paying out offers on media buy? ($1-$4)

or does it all depend on the offer? and testing?

User Comment:
I answered this already with THIS THREAD (READ IT) – It’s a whole other tutorial with live examples about buying with a lower CPA on text based media buys. For display, its the same deal, just gotta optimize fast, and inventory probably should start out cheaper, but yes it can work. And yes, as you said it depends on the offer heavily.

User Comment:
I’m inside Adbuyer, and I see that I can select sites. Pretty cool.
But, I don’t see any options for geotargeting and dayparting.

Have you done search campaigns with adbuyer before? Do they basically use Adwords/Adcenter/YSM?

User Comment:
I wouldn’t run search with adbuyer, only display. You can def geo target and daypart… its in the setup options..

User Comment:

Originally Posted by Mr Green

Also if you are interested in media buying make sure you register for the forum webinar on Monday.

Dam, just read this. Was this recorded???

edit: more info here ..…ar-This-Monday.

User Comment:
Yes it was, it will be posted soon (the audio isn’t the best, so we’re getting it transcribed too)

User Comment:
Hi, I am really sorry I missed the webinar. I signed up for and am looking at looks like it comes after this. I have a wrinkle cream (my own). I have a flog (newsite) and then I have my page with the form on it to try the wrinkle cream. Should I put the flog up or direct link to the free trial offer?
Do you know when you are going to post the webinar?
Once I find these sites would these sites be the sites to run ppv on as well?(the urls).
I am going to check out but looks like I should do adbuyer first.
Thanks and bluehateseo has been a good blog.

User Comment:
It’s already posted, its in the announcements I think. Audio is a bit spotty and there was a very short and brief transcript posted, but doesn’t nearly cover ever important point I talked about.

User Comment:
Ok I will listen to it. I already signed up for the what runs where and am looking at Do you recommend first if you have the what I am doing wrinkle cream so I have a decent idea of the demo. I just have a limited budget with all the other cost of getting things going. Thanks are you going to be doing another webinar on this anytime soon? Thanks

User Comment:
That or adbuyer depending on what type of buy (network or direct site) you want to get into..

User Comment:
MrGreen said it’s very important having hight CTR for sucesfull media buys:

"A good creative can make or break a campaign. This is because of the bid structure of the media buy, most are run on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions), obviously if you have a banner with a high click through rate (CTR) your cost per click (CPC) will be lower. Testing what creatives give you the best CTR while keeping your CPA low is a main factor to having a successful media buy."

What you guys consider is a decent CTR in media buys that I should be shooting for at least? ( I am using sitescout right now)

User Comment:
I said that, but its only partially true, a ctr is very important, but you always optimize towards a cpa, sometimes banners with a bit lower of a ctr has a higher cpa. It’s all relevant to the type of offer your running and your placement. A cheaper placement with a lower ctr can have the same avg cpc as a more expensive placement with a higher ctr… There’s no straight forward answer for that question..

User Comment:
I wouldn’t start off a buy with Adbuyer with less than $1k – $5k, unless you already got some banners with high CTR and an offer proven to convert from other sources.

User Comment:
What is the passthrough variable for capturing placements in Adbuyer? (e.g. {placement} for Adwords)

User Comment:
They have to activate it for you, they’ll say you have to be a big buyer to do this, as I said in PM, I’d push them and say you COULD become a large buyer. If they still wont let you, you can hack around it by passing a custom variable, and setting up multiple campaigns for each test network, but this is a pain and takes a lot of time, PLACE THEIR PIXEL as it will track for you as well, prosper is better for things like this cause it tracks reffering IDs. If you can’t figure out a way around this, their pixels aren’t bad and will provide useful data, but push them to activate it for you.

jinz: depends on what you’re buying… obviously if you’re buying for a $200 CPS offer, $500 is too small, but for a lot of people here and the lower cpa stuff they may try, it’s fine…

User Comment:
I am seriously disappointed with the way Adbuyer works.

I uploaded loads of creatives. Checked back the next day, only to find them missing.
Was wondering where the hell it went.

Emailed them. They said it was rejected.

I asked why. They said they don’t know because they can’t see the ad anymore, and asked me to send them the creatives again.
I asked why wasn’t I notified that the creatives were disapproved, and they told me that they don’t have automatic system in place for that. (WTF?!)

Is this how most networks are? Or is it just me that’s too used with Adword’s system and interface?

User Comment:
No, most networks you work with a rep, and run smoothly, thats super weird… did I send you their co founders email, if not, PM me…

User Comment:
So, you’re saying that a rep should personally be notifying me if my creatives were rejected?
Or do you get automatic notifications from their system?

Do your creatives get deleted if they’re rejected?

Are the creatives and landers approved by Adbuyer themselves or RMX/Doubleclick?

User Comment:
Not sure on the notification, I believe that the approval is done by the doubleclick partners, but I could be wrong there…

User Comment:
Hey Matt. Can we see the Landing Pages used by the affiliates with WhatRunsWhere?

User Comment:
Hey Matt,

Any complete Adbuyer tutorial, as I have an acc. with Adbuyer, and so far I have the impression that they don’t want to display my creatives on profitable listings, they said that they have to gather data to see whats profitable, I know that it is BS, cz they have been running thousands of campaigns and thus have already huge data.

I frankly spoke to them telling them to display my creatives where conversion is, as they know "which works and where", and that I was in CONVERSION mode mind not in "testing the water" mode mind, and if I see significant and permanent results, I am ready to put money on the table?

They gave me some recommendations to implement, I did so, and checked my stats but it is flat like a pancake !!
I really have the impression that I go around in circles !!!

Any clue to reverse the mainstream?


User Comment:
I responded to this via the PM you sent me, feel free to post the answer here as I can’t seem to find sent messages….

User Comment:
I’m interested in this as well!

User Comment:
Concerning the pixel, how to place it if your are not the offer owner as it required to be placed on the "thank you" page?
Moreover offer owner is usually reluctant to put anything on his thankyou page!!

How to encrypt Adbuyer pixel so that the offer owner does not see origin of the traffic?"

Every offer allows you to place pixels, simply ask your AM to place it for you, or the direct advertiser, it just tracks conversions, it doesn’t modify anything.

You can use a pixel holder, but honestly, I wouldn’t worry about that, media buys are harder to "steal" especially network buys.


User Comment:
adbuyer works…..the pixel is a pain cuz its java…..but with cpvlab 2.13 it should be fine now… it can fire java pixels….

User Comment:

Originally Posted by mattaw

I responded to this via the PM you sent me, feel free to post the answer here as I can’t seem to find sent messages….

Here it is:

"Media buying has risk, your campaign has to gather data, they can’t just slap it onto whats doing well for others, those are THEIR placements they’ve spent and optimized on to, plus if they could just give out profitable placements, why would they give you them, there are tons of people that have lots of money that can spend if they just handed out stuff that would make you money.

If you look at everything I’ve written about adbuyer it’s to be used to identify converting main networks then move onto them.

Do the basics, split test creatives, lps, freq capping make sure your pixel is placed, it’s really up to you at this point.

Max "

User Comment:
Hi mr green, thanks for the excellent post…the question is not that most people do not do anything after reading your post… but there are so much of hurdles… could you please advise if there are anyone in this forum has done any case study/follow along as per your instructions? many thanks

User Comment:
Great thread! Can’t believe I just read this now.

User Comment:
great guide man thanks

User Comment:
Sitescout and adbuyer actually are DSP, not RTB.

It’s a good option to start a single website buy on sitescout

User Comment:

Originally Posted by hippoking

Sitescout and adbuyer actually are DSP, not RTB.

It’s a good option to start a single website buy on sitescout

UM, you do know that a DSP is a demand side platform, while an RTB is a real time bidding platform…

DSP = RTB in most cases….

User Comment:
Do you guys know about ad network like AdBuyer that has Yahoo’s Right Media in it >?

User Comment:
Hey guys! a bit late but I found this post very interesting.

I am buying french traffic for my own offers and so far I have been struggling with RTB.

I have bought in Appnexus and now I am using First-Impression. So far the quality of the traffic has been low and the conversion almost inexistent.

Does anybody know a good source for french traffic? Maybe another company doing RTB but with better access in France.


User Comment:
Mobile or desktop traffic?

User Comment:
very kool guide..thanks

The Article Published IN 06-09-2011 10:06 PM

Share To More ()