How to buy traffic to promote affiliate programs

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Academia de Marketing Digital

Over the last five years I have been specializing myself in buying traffic. For those who have attended my lectures at the Afiliados Brazil events, you have probably heard about it and already know how it works, what it means and why I do it. As you probably know, Facebook’s ad platform is very demanding regarding to the types of campaigns you can create, and extremely limited for those who work in some niche markets such as health, supplements, online gaming, relationship, among others. With that in mind, the question “how to buy traffic?” quickly began to emerge in the minds of many affiliate professionals who could not find a way to survive without Facebook ads.

The harsh reality is that Facebook very easily blocks ad accounts that are promoting or trying to promote products related to various niches. The prohibited niches include, among others, anything directly or indirectly related to the following:

  • Tobacco products or its byproducts
  • Supplements that are considered dangerous
  • Weapons, ammunition or explosives
  • Adult products or services
  • Landing pages or non-functional landing pages
  • Spy cameras, mobile phone tracking systems or other surveillance equipments
  • Before-and-after weight loss images
  • Products related to weight loss, dietetic products, or other health related products
  • Short-term loans or cash advances
  • Multi-level marketing
  • Auctions with bid rate
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Money gambling
  • Lotteries
  • Online pharmacies
  • Supplements
  • Subscription services
  • Financial services
  • Student loan services

Considering that drama, many professional affiliates who work on promoting affiliate programs find it extremely difficult to work with Facebook ads as they end up losing their ad accounts very often. Many of those professionals already work with “cloakers” which are basically softwares that allow you to manipulate how ads are viewed by Facebook’s account reviewers to help them advertise their campaigns for a longer time. When using those tools, some professionals can advertise for 30 to 40 days before losing their ad account and are forced to restart the entire process. Others can do it for a little bit longer.

However, for all of them, the frustration of not being able to advertise directly on Facebook makes them feel the need to find new ways to buy traffic off Facebook. As a result, lots of interesting opportunities have emerged, and more recently, native ads platforms are beginning gain immense popularity among professional affiliates, enabling them to advertise their products more easily. However, most native ads platforms do not allow ads related to gaming or adult content, for example, so an alternative solution must be found.

How to Buy Traffic to Promote Affiliate Programs

When we talk about buying traffic outside of Facebook, we are actually talking about several ways of buying existing traffic, including Google AdWords, native ads platforms, sponsored posts, display banners, among others. In this article I will talk a little about those ways of buying traffic, and I will focus on buying direct traffic, where you buy traffic directly from publishers, control the traffic generated and the commissions coming from your strategy.

As might be expected, the purchase of direct traffic involves analysis tools, market prospecting, a good deal of luck and also capital for the initial investment. If you are planning to buy traffic out of Facebook but do not want to make any type of risky investment, this article is probably not for you. Buying traffic off Facebook is extremely demanding and also requires a good deal of luck, since you will be shooting in the dark, not knowing if that same traffic will convert to commissions in the affiliate programs you are promoting.

However, the rule for buying traffic is the same as for digital marketing: testing, testing, and testing. Without testing and realizing what works and what does not, you will never know whether it will work or not.

1. Scouting for websites and blogs

One of the first things we need to do when it comes to buying direct traffic to promote the deals we have is to start scouting websites and blogs around the internet. Scout is a term commonly used in football to name a recruiter or talent scout. “Website scouting” is a term used to define the strategy of finding very good websites or blogs, or talents for those who work with media. I do not know whether that term already existed or I invented, but that is the idea! :)

You can scout websites and blogs in several ways and using lots of applications available on the internet. The best tools available to have competitive analysis or find high-traffic, talented sites, however, are usually paid and extremely expensive tools. However, if you plan to buy traffic off Facebook and directly advertise your offers, that investment will be necessary, because when you find a good website that generates regular commissions, you will eventually generate cash flow that will be able to withstand any other expense like that.

Similar Web

Buying Traffic - Similar Web

One of the tools I use to scout websites and blogs is Similar Web. The free version of that tool allows you to get a general idea of some interesting things, but the Similar Web PRO version is the one that really makes the difference for those who work with it. It is not a cheap tool, but it allows you to find several websites and blogs where you can buy direct traffic very easily, as you may see next.

Buying Traffic - Similar Web

At the moment I write this article my Similar Web PRO account is not active, that is, I am not paying for the tool, which is why it only shows five results per metric, as you can check below. I use that tool in cycles, which means I use it when I’m looking for new websites and blogs to buy advertising from; I gather as much information as possible and then cancel the subscription, since it is unnecessary to pay for a tool that you do not use every day.

As you can easily see, this tool allows you to export all the results in CSV or Excel formats, what is great in order to quickly gather an absurd set of information to be dealt with later one by one. Since it takes some time before we can process all the information we collect from software like that, we need to use it only about three to four times a year

In the image above, I searched for the Smashing Magazine website. I advise you to start with a website within the niche market where you want to buy advertising from. We only need one website to start with and later all the links will be made within the software as it crosses huge information and you will quickly find several other sites to analyze and to buy advertising from.

Similar Web - Audience

By scrolling through the results screen you can visualize the amount of website traffic in the last three months, the percentage of desktop and mobile traffic (this is very important!), as well as the amount of monthly traffic, the number of unique visitors, the average time spent on the website and the average rejection rate for that site.

The data is automatically collected by Similar Web through robots that visit all those sites and create average statistics of all those results. It is natural that the data has a margin of error of 15% to 20%, since the data from those websites is not taken from Google Analytics, but are estimates

Similar Web - Geographies

Next, you will find the “Top 5 Countries” where that site is generating traffic. This is especially useful because when you find a particular website or blog, you need to know specifically which countries represent the most traffic and also what are the other countries and the traffic volume they represent, so that you can plan your marketing actions for each of those countries correctly. If a site has traffic from multiple countries, you should run different campaigns for each of them.

Similar Web - Traffic sources

The traffic sources are also important for your analysis, since you will find huge sites with lots of social media traffic and/or direct traffic, while others will probably have more organic traffic. Naturally, the best sites to buy advertising from are those that have more organic or direct traffic, since sites with a lot of social media traffic may be taking advantage of clickbait to generate it; in fact, that traffic does not have the quality you are looking for.

Understanding the difference between the several types of traffic you want to buy is key to succeeding with your traffic buying strategies. Sites with high organic traffic are always a lot more interesting than any other type of traffic and you need to work accordingly

Similar Web - Referral traffic

In the following section you will find the “Top Referring Websites” menu, which are basically websites that generate the most traffic to Smashing Magazine’s blog. In that section, you will find out where your competitors are generating traffic and will create a plan to get traffic from those websites as well. In this type of strategy, what often happens is that you will find several websites that generate a lot of traffic and that will also be interesting for you to analyze. Considering the example of Smashing Magazine, I would soon find out that the website “” is also a very interesting website with a very large volume of traffic, for example.

Similar Web - Display Advertising

Further you will find information about the sources of monetization of that website, such as the advertising networks they are using to monetize the content. If we look at the results, we realize that the site is using Skimlinks, Criteo, Google ads, Adform and to monetize their content. That is particularly interesting to check if the site is using an ad network, since publishers who already monetize their content are more open to selling their traffic than publishers who have never heard of it.

Similar Web - Outbound Links

Lastly, we have an extremely interesting section about outbound links and paid outbound links. In the first section, we can visualize the websites where Smashing Magazine sends more organic traffic to, and on the right side we can check the list of websites where they send more traffic in order to monetize their contents, whether they are advertising banners, affiliate programs or other means.

Similar Web - Similar sites

One of the coolest features of Similar Web PRO is the “Competitors > Similar Sites” section. From there we can discover thousands of websites identical to other sites where we already buy advertising from, for example. That is really cool because if we buy advertising from a particular website or blog, we would like to find more sites and blogs similar to those, correct?

As I said earlier, Similar Web allows you to export all those listings in CSV or Excel formats, and you should then check each of those sites individually. Those listings include interesting websites and blogs (and other not so interesting ones), obliging you to deal with them one by one to find out which are the most interesting ones to advertise the affiliate programs that you intend to.

Similar Web - Search Competitors

Finally, the “Competitors > Search for Competitors” section is also extremely useful because it has several websites that are considered competitors of the site you are analyzing. In that section you also have the possibility to examine the organic competitors and the paid competitors. You will easily find here dozens of other interesting websites to study and include on your spreadsheet to contact later.

At the same level of Similar Web PRO, there is a wide set of metrics that I analyze in a particular way when I want to buy advertising on niche websites or blogs. The most important metrics you should take into account are the following:

  • Amount of traffic: I usually do not buy advertising on websites or blogs with less than 50.000 monthly visits.
  • Traffic Quality:  Sites with lots of page views per visit, average visit duration, or low bounce rate are better. If you find websites with high bounce rates and few page views, it means that traffic is passing through and you will hardly be able to get good results.
  • Traffic sources:  If your intention is to buy advertising on sites in Spain, websites with 50% of traffic coming from Mexico are not interesting to me, right? Focus on the websites where the most traffic are coming from the country of origin you need, and also study the remaining countries so you can run campaigns on all of them.
  • Traffic type: As I said before, sites with a lot of Facebook traffic, for example, can mean low-quality sites, made for clickbait. Escape from such sites or blogs and focus your attention on sites with a high volume of organic traffic.
  • Monetization: Sites that are already being monetized are more interesting, as I said earlier. You will be able to pay a higher amount than what the publisher is managing to do with Google ads or affiliate programs, and that will be an advantage to you in the negotiation.

Similar Tech

Another tool that I use a lot more than Similar Web is Similar Tech. That tool was created by the same company, but it does have some advantages over Similar Web regarding work automation and results generation, because it analyses based on other factors, as you will realize. Similar Tech is cheaper and allows you to export reports in an extremely effective and versatile way, ensuring you do not waste a lot of time working on scouting websites and blogs where to buy traffic from.

Buying Traffic - Similar Tech

When entering the Similar Tech site, you will notice that in the upper right there is a menu called “Technologies”. That menu is the start of everything, although you can use the search to look for technologies. But then you ask me: “Paulo, what is the point of searching for technologies?”. The vast majority of publishers work with advertising technologies, whether they are affiliate programs, ad networks, native ads platforms, among others. If those publishers already work with such technologies to monetize their traffic, we want to know who those people are and which sites they are monetizing with those technologies. It gives us an incredible opportunity to quickly map thousands of websites and blogs that already use technologies, for instance Zanox’s (now Awin) affiliate program to monetize their traffic.

Similar Tech - Web Technologies

Among the web technologies that Similar Tech monitors, there is a menu called “Advertising”, which includes all the major advertising web technologies. There are two technologies in particular that I follow closely: affiliate marketing and publisher ad server, which include all affiliate platforms and also all ad networks.

As I said earlier, a publisher who is selling their traffic to PopAds or AdCash is more likely to want to do business with you than a publisher who has never sold their traffic and/or never monetized their content. By clicking on the “Affiliate Marketing” menu, we can track 43 affiliate marketing web technologies. Take a look:

Buying Traffic - Affiliate Marketing

Within affiliate marketing web technologies, Similar Tech monitors 43 different technologies. But not all affiliate platforms appear here, but some of those that appear here are extremely interesting to be analyzed. Take a look at the list of all platforms that are monitored by Similar Tech:

Similar Tech - Affiliate marketing technologies

Do you recognize any name from that list? Affiliate platforms such as Rakuten, Zanox or Awin are listed. Other popular platforms in Brazil were not included, but that will not be a problem. If we click on one of those names, such as Zanox, we can have a more complete view of what Similar Tech is able to offer in terms of information and data:

Buying Traffic - Zanox

Similar Tech is monitoring 113,315 websites and blogs that are using Zanox. That is really interesting because there is a button there called “Create a report”, which allows you to easily access reports and export data through a paid account from Similar Tech. Check it out:

Similar Tech - Create report

When starting to create a report in Similar Tech, one of the cool things is that you can sort the results based on several criteria, such as include all sites that use Zanox which are in Brazil and have more than 50,000 visits per month. That type of sorting is fantastic because it avoids a lot of work in the search of sites and blogs with certain criteria, as we have seen before.

Similar Tech - Reports

When creating custom reports, Similar Tech saves all of them into your user account and keeps an organized history of all the requested reports you made over time, allowing you to download those reports in CSV or Excel formats.

Similar Tech - Full reports

Similar Tech full reports include, among other information, website domain, ranking based on Similar Web information, the number of monthly visits, the category in which that site is embedded, the number of pages crawled from that site and also the contact information of the responsible person or the contact e-mail of the website. All of that information should then be uploaded into an Excel file and organized according to your needs. Here is how we do it:

Buy traffic on websites and blogs

We basically put all of the information we collect into a single Google Drive worksheet, including the domains of the sites, the category they belong to, the number of monthly visits, and the three origin countries of that traffic for those sites. Lastly, and in the last column of our spreadsheet, we include the contact information of those sites. After that, we just need to get in touch with them one by one and close the deal to buy traffic!

Search on Google

When thinking about buying traffic, searching Google is also interesting to discover sites and blogs that we never imagined could exist. The fact that a website or blog is poorly positioned for a certain keyword does not mean that it cannot have a lot of traffic. You will be surprised by this.

To do that kind of work we use the Similar Web extension for Google Chrome and let Google do some research on terms and keywords related to the niche market for which we intend to buy traffic from. Do not limit yourself to search on the first page of Google results alone. Browse the following pages and you will end up finding interesting websites where to buy traffic from directly.

Buying Traffic - Google search

As you can note, on the sixth page of Google results for the search of the term “diet”, I found two sites. The first site has about 240,000 monthly visitors and the second website has 207,000 visitors per month. Is it worth deleting those sites? Of course not! That’s why it’s important for you to look at the numbers and understand that the fact that those sites are poorly positioned for that keyword, it does not mean that they are bad in terms of traffic. So I recommend that you look at multiple pages of Google results until you feel you have already found the most relevant sites to buy traffic from or start a search within Similar Web PRO, for example.

2. Negotiate with the publisher

Once we find the perfect sites to buy traffic from, it is time to negotiate the value of that traffic with the publisher. Unfortunately, there is no right formula to negotiate it, so the goal will always be to buy traffic at the cheapest possible price. The cheaper, the higher your chances of having a positive balance with your campaigns. Imagine the following formula:

1.000,000 page views / CPM (1.000 impressions) = 1.000 x 1.000 impressions
CPM value = $1.50

1.000 x $1.50 = $1.500 investment

We received in 30 days = 1,000,000 page views that generated 150,000 clicks on the ad.
Then, considering a $1,500 investment / 150,000 clicks = $0.01 cent per click.

In terms of investment, anything more expensive than $0.05 per click is expensive. Still, in some business areas, you may have to invest a higher CPM value. That strategy is for you to adapt to your market and to understand what is reasonable and what is not. At the end of the day, what matters is whether you are making money from the investment you are making, or not.

Buy traffic per CPM or fixed amount?

Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that when you perform a calculation based on the CPM value, you can use Google Analytics data from the last 30 days to measure beforehand the investment to be made. Assuming the value would be the $1,500 dollars we talked about earlier, if you offer the publisher $1,000 a month and he accepts, you just saved $500 dollars.

Many publishers prefer to work with fixed monthly amounts, for the sake of organizing their finances and knowing that they have a fixed amount of revenue that way. That can be good or bad for you. It is good because if you can trade below the default value, you save a lot of money and get traffic for a much lower value. But it can also be bad because if the publisher lowers the volume of traffic, you have to watch out and renegotiate with him.

There is no ideal strategy for buying traffic other than the one in which traffic is bought at the lowest possible price. The goal is to always buy traffic at the lowest possible price, so if you buy it by CPM or fixed amount, the amount you pay should be effectively low and compensate you.

Access to Google Analytics for the past 30 days

When you initiate a contact with a publisher, you should take a non-commercial approach. Your goal is to arouse interest in the person so that he sells that traffic to you, so anything that is too commercial will ultimately cause the publisher to flee from you.

Right after the first contact and assuming you get a response, you should ask Google Analytics for the last 30 days. You will need to see what are the actual numbers of the site, such as traffic amount, page views, average duration time, bounce rate and also origin of the traffic. That will help you shape a proposal and a price to purchase that traffic.

Always keep in mind one important thing: when you buy traffic from a site, you will usually use a 24-hour cookie so you are not constantly bothering the audience of that website with your campaign. This means that you will only show your ad once to each visitor in a 24-hour period. If on average each visitor generates three page views per visit, you should split the Google Analytics page views value by three to get the correct page views you are getting for your ad.

Partial and pre-payments

One of the things I advise you to do is negotiate with the publisher to pay in advance 50% of the amount of traffic and the remaining 50% at the end of the first month. That way it will be less risky as you will be in touch with a person you do not know and that will also help you understand the importance of looking at the numbers and metrics to see if it was a good bet or not. Also, if you only pay 50% of the amount in advance and the publisher does not honor the deal, you will not pay anything else.

3. Prepare the structure to advertise

One of the things I said at the beginning of this article is that you need to present a different campaign for each country of origin of the traffic you are buying. If you have decided to buy advertising on a website that receives traffic from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, you need to present a campaign for each of those countries. To do this, I recommend that you use a free tool called smartURL, which allows you to manage all that on autopilot.

Smart URL - Web Links

When creating a new smartURL, you must fill in the “Default URL” field with the link that is displayed to all people who are not defined in the geolocation. It means that if you have defined which campaigns to show to those who are accessing the site from Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, all other people with different traffic sources will see the campaign that you put in the “Default URL” field.

Right below you can define which URL address is going to be displayed in each of the countries. Basically, you are creating a shortened link from your campaigns, with automated redirection by IP address. Depending on the country the person is accessing, smartURL will automatically redirect him to the respective campaign link. Simple and effective!

Smart URL - Mobile Links

Another cool thing about smartURL is that it also allows you to redirect traffic based on the device. The links we were seeing above were for desktop and mobile access, but if you want to present different campaigns to those who access via smartphone, you can. SmartURL allows you to set different links through the user’s access device, including iPhone, Android, iPad, Windows Phone, etc. You can show, for example, a different mobile campaign for each of those devices.

At the end, you can still name your smartURL so that it is easier to track your links and campaigns. In the box where I put “link-name”, it could be written “campaignA” or “campaignB”, so you can keep tighter control over your traffic purchase.

Buying Traffic - Click trough rate

SmartURL also displays statistics on the number of clicks you are getting on your link, the countries and devices from which those clicks are coming, so you can control where traffic is coming from and what you need to do to adapt your buying traffic strategy to generate more sales with affiliate programs.

4. Advertising formats

Most of the time, when we are talking about buying traffic, we are talking about very intrusive advertising formats. The purpose of buying traffic is precisely to generate conversions regardless of the rest. Advertising formats such as Interstitials, Pop-Ups, Pop-Unders, among others, are usually used to buy traffic, for the simple reason that they convert more than the so-called traditional formats.

Pop-under Interstitial Slide-In

Each of those formats has different behaviors and different conversions. You will need to study each of them and measure the results to understand which formats work best or worst for you. Pop-Under is a format that opens the advertising behind the window where the user is, Tab-Under is a format that opens a new tab with the advertising, Interstitial is basically an iframe that opens a site over the website where the user is, etc.

Each format is a format to be studied. You will also need to find the right tools or plugins to do that. We have developed our own ads platform in order to get this done, and we will be making it available soon. You can try to code your own ad platform or wait for ours and save lots of money :)

For WordPress there are some plugins that do similar things, although none are exactly the same or have the same type of behavior as you would expect. So ideally you should have to make modifications to those plugins to get the expected results or desired conversions.

5. Measure results

In digital marketing, one of the most important things is to measure results. If you do not measure your results, you will know absolutely nothing about your actions and of course will not be able to improve your results. Whether through your Google Analytics, affiliate programs you are promoting or any other means of measurement, you need to have a clear and accurate notion of what is happening with your traffic purchase.

Buying bulk traffic

If you control the product being advertised, you can easily look at the metrics of your Google Analytics to realize what is happening and whether the purchase of traffic is actually working well. However, if you do not control the product or are simply promoting affiliate programs, it is important that you look at the statistics on the side of the affiliate platform to see if that traffic is generating commissions or not.

Buy traffic from Ad Networks

If you do not want to work this hard to simply buy traffic, another possibility you have is to buy that traffic from an ad network. Ad networks basically do all the work I have explained step by step before throughout this article and resell that traffic to advertisers for a slightly higher price. Basically, they serve as intermediaries in the purchase of traffic, offering a scalable platform and a very large portfolio of options so you do not have to burn the neurons doing that work all by yourself.

The big disadvantage of ad networks is that you will be buying more expensive traffic than if you were doing it yourself. However, it is much easier to get started. There are those who prefer to manually do the whole process and control each of the publishers, and there are those who prefer to simply get on an ad network, put the money and run the campaigns immediately. The choice is yours, of course.

There are hundreds of advertising networks where you can advertise your campaigns, some of which will have a lot of traffic in Brazil, and others less. You will have to check each one of them and individually test the results that each of them provides, according to your goals as an affiliate. Here is a list of ad networks where you can buy traffic targeted to your campaigns from:

There are many other advertising networks, but those are the most popular on the market and where you will get better results with your campaigns. Test each individually and keep track of your results. This will help you in compare the performance of each of them and which one to choose to advertise your affiliate campaigns.

Good businesses!

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