Coding For Online Success

My Halloween Failure


So we’re about half way through November, and I’m slightly disappointed about the initial numbers. I think we’ll finish strong at the end of the month, but the beginning, and a big part of it is the Halloween hangover syndrome. This is where buyers need to take a break after the busy Halloween push.

But what I wanted to talk about was my personal experience with Halloween marketing. I’ve been getting further and further in the PPC arena, and thought Halloween would be a fun one to do some testing. Over the last couple of months, my PPC campaigns have been showing good profits, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to spend and learn.

In September, I put together a Halloween themed web store were I was going to pull in auctions from eBay and promote various costume affiliates (ie: October 1st it went live, and immediately created Yahoo ads. Initially, we had some problems with our ads, but got them up eventually. The clicks started to rain in. One thing that immediately noticed is the percentage of clicks were about 50/50 between eBay and the other affiliates, which I thought was slightly odd, since the other affiliates were only promoted with banners on the site. I also started to notice costs going up, but if you’re in the PPC game.. you know it’s a numbers game. I was fine with this, and I wanted to see it through to understand how Halloween works.

As it got closer and closer to Halloween, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of sales. This usually says one thing to me, my ads are not targetted enough. So we started to create a couple of ad campaigns for split testing. Oddly, all the ads were pretty even in clicks, yet I was receiving very few sales. The other thought was site design. But the bottom line is that I was getting clicks, but not conversions.

In the end I returned a total of $22.14 from AdSense and CJ on the site. Peeeee-thetic! And spent a total of $202.40 in PPC ads. That in turn led to a total loss of $180.26 for the month of October for the site.

So why am I bragging about my ‘bomb’? Simple, I learned a few things, well at least I think I learned a few things.

1. Do not rely 100% on PPC on seasonal promotions. I believe that you get a lot of ‘clickers’ but not buyers. I think it’s fine to run PPC on seasonal promotions, but you should have a good base of organic searches to ease the pain.

2. I think that my banners split my clicks too much with eBay, and in the end did not convert well. In the future, I think I’ll try to integrate the costume products of BuyCostume in the store vs. a banner. I want people to click on products vs. going to a different site, and the banner promotes leaving the site. I was very surprised by this, but also thought it was interesting to see clicks going there. I think it’s a good affiliate and one to take seriously for next year.

3. Squidoo. I should have created Squidoo lenses for Halloween and cross linked back to my site. Again, this would be for getting more organic action to the site.

4. Start before October 1. What the hell was I thinking. On the other hand, I should be good to go for next year, and hopefully it will be well indexed by then. I’ll also be spending some time this year trying to optimize it further (integrate other affiliates, remove banners, add articles or descriptive content, etc).

5. This is something I knew, and didn’t get burnt on, but in case you didn’t know. Make sure you have a network of sites to ease the sting of ‘learning’. Sure I lost $180.26 on my Halloween project, but at the end of the month, I still made $300 in CJ profits. Constantly create new sites, spread to different niches, use different revenue streams for those sites. As I stated earlier, it’s a numbers game, so you’ll want to get a consistent profitable base. Then you will have opportunities to spend some money for testing. Just like the saying.. “The rich get richer, the poor get poorer”. I think if you have money, you can gamble. Gambling will help you learn and succeed by taking chances. I’m still in the poor category, but I see the light, and I’m slowly starting to understand.

Here are some CJ charts to illustrate what I’m talking about. This first chart is sales for the year. As you can see I was pretty stagnant from Oct2006 to about May2007. This is when I was building sites and testing affiliates. May2007 is when I started to dabble into PPC with MSN, YSM and AdWords. Aug2007 I started to understand profitable niches with PPC and pretty much ditched AdWords at this time, since it was just costing me money. Sep2007 was a good month where I was seeing excellent returns, and thought I’d make a push for October.

October was the highest month ever! Now, remember, I made $22 for my Halloween site, so the rest of the sales were from other sites. Also notice the second chart (showing clicks). It almost mirrored the Sales chart (specifically for October). The Halloween site had a ton of clicks, so it was not directly related to sales. Again, build your network!

Sales Chart

Click Chart

So I spent $20 on the domain, $0 on hosting and $200 on PPC for my Halloween experiment, but I got some useful data in my opinion. Next year I need to apply what I learned, and see if I can turn this around. I know people make bank with Halloween, but you have to play the game right or you get burnt.

Hope this post was beneficial for you!


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