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Tag: Traffic sources

adtech New York

Although I was not sure I’ll be attending ad:tech NY 2009 until the last moment (because of various family and personal illnesses), I’m certainly glad I did. Overall, I can say it was a blast! Bigger than the last conference I attended, Affiliate Summit East (ASE), but somehow less overwhelming too – perhaps because there were more companies that really did not relate to anything I am doing.

After thinking about this for a while, I’ve decided to break my ad:tech summary into three separate posts. One describing my personal experiences, the other describing a few companies I got a chance to talk to, and the last describing the (few) sessions I attended. This is a good point to mention that unlike in ASE, this time I came as press.

udi schlessinger's press badge


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Where shall I begin? Ad:tech took place at the Javits conference center and was enormous. It took me about 15 minutes to just find where I can obtain my press badge. But it was well worth the effort, since after getting it, I saw the monstrous line for ’standard’ passes – there must have been hundreds of people waiting in line!
As you can see, it was pretty crowded

As you can see, it was pretty crowded

Since this was the first time I came as press, I was very determined to do my job properly. About 1-2 weeks before the conference started, I started getting requests from companies to interview them. Since I got so many, I tried to only pick those that are relevant to me/my background in a way. Despite this filtering I must’ve set meetings with about 15 companies.

I started walking the exhibitor booths. The first person I bumped into was Eric Schechter, Clickbooth’s Social Media Manager and a really great guy. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with Eric’s videos (here’s one for example), but he makes the most hilarious videos for Clickbooth. I politely asked him to participate in one of the videos and when he hesitated I resorted to begging. Hopefully I’ll participate in one of those – when crazy is required, I’m always the first to raise my hand ;) .

Later I bumped into my ex-boss and CEO from 7 years ago (in my previous career as a technical lead/software architect, I created/redesigned almost all of the company’s products). Since both of us changed industries during this time, we were both quite shocked to see each other. Certainly a surreal experience for me. I also bumped into a friend I haven’t seen since 1992 (another surprising incident). Considering several friends of mine attended ad:tech and I didn’t see them even once since the place was so big, I consider the former occurrences one of those weird coincidences that occasionally happen.

Although I had a press pass and was really eager to attend some of the sessions, I spent the entire first day almost exclusively running from one meeting to another. Almost surprisingly, this was actually a lot of fun! My first instinct was to ‘pat myself on the shoulder’ for setting meetings with so many companies that are truly interesting and relevant for me, but after talking to several company executives, I realize that the filtering was mutual: it seems many – if not all – contacted me because my background was relevant to them. Most were familiar with my blog and background.

I’ll describe those companies in the next post.

Although I did get to attend a few sessions, I simply didn’t have enough time to attend as many as I wanted. Fortunately the third day consisted only of sessions, and most people were gone by then (no more exhibitors).

In addition I spent a lot of time talking to the various companies – there were just so many! Interesting how my focus changed in the past few months. In ASE I was primarily interesting in finding unique affiliate offers, so had a lot of conversations with both large and small affiliate networks. But now my hands are pretty full in this respect, so this time I was more interested in finding interesting/cheap/unique traffic sources, so primarily was talking to ad networks and other companies that offer equivalent services.

During the day I met many friends I know from the NY affilate meetups, from ASE as well as some of my affiliate managers from some networks that I have not met in person until now. It was great seeing Casan Van Langen, my affiliate manager from AzoogleAds, and finally meeting Melissa Emmett, my affiliate manager from MarketLeverage.

Also great to meet friends I know, such as Dina Riccobono (from MarketLeverage), Heather Smith, Miki Rapoport (see his picture below closing a 7 figure deal – a moment I was lucky to capture in real time), Ian Fernando, Ken Chen, Steve Fulop, and many more.

Miki closing a big deal

Miki closing a big deal

I also had a fantastic meeting with Richard Young (from Arcamax publishing). Just like the last time we have met, we had an absolutely great conversation. I wouldn’t have met him if it weren’t for the yacht party in ASE!

One fun thing about ad:tech was the Twitter board. There were a few of those, and they included tweets that mentioned the #adtechny hashtag. I think this was moderated, because I found myself talking to a guy next to it and neither of us saw our tweets on the board. Though eventually I did manage to get one in ;)

The full Twitter board

The full Twitter board

My tweeted message

My tweeted message



A major aspect of these conferences is the after hours parties. Irritatingly – but understandably – they all took place on the first day. I’ve been invited to six separate parties on Wednesday, and planned to attend three. Unfortunately, I forgot to RSVP one (Clickbooth’s). I went to Azoogleleads’ heaven and hell’s themed party which was awesome (and really embarrassed my wife when I wore the glowing red horns, unlike the standard ‘cloth’ ones, during the entire time. Hey, what’s wrong with some attention? :P ). Unfortunately I can’t provide a picture (believe me, I want to!) because the photographer seems to have omitted it from his website, and did not respond to my email…


Later I went to the VIP Mix+Mingle event (organized by, Adknowledge and GenieKnows) – which was tons of fun as well. Still need to find my picture which was taken there somehow.

I felt kind of stupid when I saw Clickbooth’s party was right across the street from the VIP Mix+Mingle event, and I couldn’t go because I didn’t RSVP… Eric later chastised me for not calling him (I didn’t have his number!).. next time.

I also had to miss the BlogUp, an event organized on the second day that aimed bloggers to meet other bloggers – since by then I started feeling unwell again. Based on what I heard, it was a big success and a lot of fun.


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Cheap Traffic sources

Originally I told this story as an amusing anecdote to friend, but last week, following a conversation, I realized this could actually be helpful to my readers.

A few months ago I was promoting a lot of auto insurance offers. Now, these usually have a good payout, but in terms of PPC are extremely competitive and consequently, very expensive. It is really hard to make a profit, but I was managing. However, I was constantly on the lookout for quality – yet cheap – traffic sources.

At the time I was just starting to explore Media Buys. I heard of an network that offers this service (hint: its name starts with “Ad..”) ;) ), however, when I actually went to register, I got confused and registered to another network that does the same thing, but isn’t nearly as good. But I didn’t know this at the time. The names were just very similar.

The site required that I give them, I think, about $25, and showed me many sites divided according to niches with traffic statistics. The idea was that you can select a site, and place a banner/ad for a specified amount of time for a price. I picked five sites, and placed an ad to my auto-insurance offer. All seemed like very appropriate sites and nothing looked out of the ordinary. I paid $1 for each, and the ad was supposed to run for a single day on every one of those sites.

The next day I got the statistics:

  1. Two of the websites didn’t send me even a single visitor. Clearly the site’s statistics were simply fraudulent (I think each claimed 7,000 unique visitors a day or something like that)
  2. Two of the websites sent me two visitors, none converted. Again, fraudulent statistics.
  3. One site sent me a pretty good number of visitors – I think around 50. Normally I’d have to pay quite a lot to get 50 clicks using PPC for Auto Insurance offers! In Google Adwords this would literally cost me hundreds of dollars! The odd thing was that none of them converted, and I was very familiar with this offer – it normally converted very, very well.

The strange thing is that that one site kept sending me traffic the next day. I didn’t pay an additional dollar, but it still sent me traffic. Awesome, I thought. Again, the numbers were not bad at all, but 0 conversions. After two days this was starting to look suspicious. I examined the IPs and they were all very different – so I didn’t think it’s the same guy clicking my ad again and again.

The next day my ad was still running. I have no idea what the guy was thinking, but I didn’t mind. Again, decent traffic, zero conversions. Ok, now I started getting really suspicious. I sent him an email requesting that the ad be redirected to one of my own sites. I assumed he’d probably cancel the ad (reminder: I paid $1 for a single day! That’s it!) but this was simply too suspicious to continue. To my surprise, he agreed. No further charges.

The next day I started getting the same traffic to my site and then I discovered what was going on. All the traffic was coming from Asia. 95% from China and some from Singapore and Vietnam. Well, that explains why I got zero conversions – the offer was for US traffic only.

The thing is I really couldn’t guess this is what I’d get from the site – it looked perfectly American to me. And nowhere did the network or the site imply it may be a target for Asian visitors mainly (it just wasn’t mentioned anywhere, and I, naively, didn’t suspect anything – I still believed I’m using a good network at the time).

At this point I thought: well, the traffic is coming from whatever reason, I don’t mind. Maybe they’ll buy something? Maybe they’ll see something they like in the ads? Who cares, free traffic.

And the traffic kept coming… there were zero conversions but I definitely got some ad revenue which immediately made up for the $1 original cost.

This lasted for about 1-2 weeks until one day, some visitor went and clicked on all the ads on my site. 19. I heard Google likes banning AdSense accounts for exactly this type of suspicious activity, so decided not to risk it. I went to their site, there was an option “report suspicious activity”, I sent: “I don’t know who, someone clicked on all my ads, this is not me, feel free to take the income back, I don’t want it, kind, benevolent, great Google!” (well, I didn’t phrase it exactly like that, but that was the general spirit of my letter).

I got no response from Google – which is typical, maybe 10% of the emails I sent them got a response, and even those were usually automated, and neither was my account banned, so I figured – good, end of story.

However, I noticed something peculiar – that my ad revenue from all my sites significantly dropped. It was then I discovered what ’smart pricing’ means. It means that for 1 to 4 weeks, your entire AdSense account (and you are not allowed to have more than one) will get about a tenth of its revenue because Google suspects your traffic sources. Highly unfair – why should it affect my other sites!?

This was starting to become a problem. I didn’t want to just ask the person to remove the ad (free traffic, still), so I sent him an email asking him to redirect the traffic to another one of my sites (my book site), one which doesn’t have any ads. I figured, at least there the visitors can’t do any damage. If they buy something, great, if they don’t – I don’t mind. Clearly this traffic is not stopping any time soon.

This continued for a few more weeks (again, I remind you: I paid $1 for all this!). And then during a lunch with a friend he gave me an idea I can’t say is anything less than genius. “Why don’t you join a Chinese affiliate network?”. What a smart idea. Absolutely brilliant!

I started looking for some, and indeed found a couple. Several were all in Chinese, so I just couldn’t join them (even though I did guess what the various boxes represent), but one was not. So I joined (they were a bit baffled and interviewed me why I would want to do so). After being accepted, I applied to everything which I saw. Of course, half rejected me (why would a jewelry advertiser want to advertise on a book site?) but a surprising number approved me.

I started putting a few banners in Chinese in one page in my site, which must’ve looked pretty odd to my usual visitors, but noticed that the visitors almost never visit that page. The problem was that I didn’t want to overdo it because really it was making my site look odd. It’s a niche site, so I knew people would still visit it because of the content, but I didn’t to go to far… even with a just few banners my site was looking too weird for my taste.

So then I thought of a really good idea. I put all these banners on one page and made it hidden, so you could only access it using a direct link. Then I sent yet another email to the site owner and asked him to direct his traffic to that specific page. Perfect, no? Best of both worlds: it doesn’t affect my site, and I get good traffic to the one specific page.

After two days the traffic stopped. I think the person realized what I was doing and decided he’s not going to give me free traffic anymore. I must’ve received about 2 months of traffic for that $1 I paid. I decided I’m not renewing this ad anymore (he’ll probably charge me daily now). And that’s where things are left. Still have a hidden page filled with banners in Chinese.

I think this is an amusing story. First, because why would I get so much traffic for so little? Second, because clearly the traffic was not what I thought it would be. Later the auto insurance offer was canceled because someone was sending it “problematic traffic”, I quickly contacted my affiliate manager and inquired – this wasn’t me, my traffic was a drop in the bucket of the traffic they got, and I only sent it for 3 days. However, just the thought that I could have endangered my relationship with that network unwittingly wasn’t something I found pleasant.

Let this be a lesson to you all ;) Since then I’ve learned much on gauging the quality of traffic and am significantly more careful. But just thinking about this makes me laugh about this weird scenario and how naive I was back then with regards to Media Buys.

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