Friday, October 22, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Entrecard

This week, I want to talk to you about advertising opportunities through Entrecard.  Please scroll down to the bottom of this post and read the disclaimer.  When you're finished, join me back up here for the discussion.

Entrecard is a website that allows users to get free advertising.  Since I'm all about low cost and free, I signed up for this site quite a while ago.  You may have even noticed the little Entrecard widget on the side of my blog.  After seeing a widget on someone else's blog, I decided to look up the site and find out more.  In order to participate in the advertising network, you are required to install the widget on your blog.  Then Entrecard staff view your site and decide whether or not to approve you.  Non-English and sexually explicit websites are always rejected.

Once you have installed the widget and are approved, you'll notice that you have credits in your account.  These credits are like currency that you can use to buy advertising in the widgets on other people's blogs.  Use the Campaign search to find blogs that cater to readers in your target market.  For example, if you're a jewelry seller like me, you may want to advertise on women's fashion blogs.  Each blog or site has a credit price associated with it depending on a popularity calculation.  Your ad will be displayed for 24 hours at the price displayed.  You have the option of allowing people to purchase ads on your site too through your widget.  It works the same way except that instead of spending them, you receive credits which you can in turn spend on other websites - without ever opening your wallet.

If you want additional credits once you've spent them all up, you can get them.  Buying credits costs money though and you all know I'm not in favor of spending a lot of cash.  An easy way to get free credits (in addition to having other people advertise on your widget as mentioned earlier) is through dropping.  Check out other sites in the Entrecard network (there are literally 30,000+ to choose from) and "drop" your card on them by clicking the "drop" button on the widget.  You get one credit for each drop so earning credits this way can take a while.  And no you can't just drop your ad 300 times (the max allowed in one calendar day) in a row as quickly as possible or you will be penalized.  Take time to look through the website before dropping and wait a little while before you try to drop on the next site.  It makes good business sense to take your time anyway to make sure you're dropping your ad someplace it will actually have an impact.  For more information on how to drop correctly and maximize your credits, check out the FAQ.

Now, one of the things you have to consider when trying out an advertising opportunity is whether or not it is working for you.  I'm sure we can agree that an advertising opportunity is only successful if you get more publicity, clicks to your site, and (eventually) sales.  Entrecard does provide statistics for you to evaluate the success of your campaigns...but they also admit that they are unreliable.  The website makes it clear that it is possible to generate "fake" clicks, which can skew your statistics.  If someone (presumably the site owner) is clicking many times on the ad you purchased, it might make you think that ad is doing well for you (i.e. many different potential customers clicking on your ad) and cause you to continue putting your credits into that site.  Fraud is completely lame, but there's not much Entrecard is doing about it and I'm not sure they even can do anything.  The only way I can think of to combat that problem is to do your own research.  Google Analytics might be able to differentiate between the fake and legitimate visits (maybe in your bounce rate?), but I'm no expert so make sure to look into that yourself.  I also suggest considering adding a poll to your site asking people where they found your site or adding a poll to your PayPal or other ecommerce account to ask your buyers how they found your shop.  Not everyone is going to answer these polls, but at least they are less easily manipulated as most only allow one vote per IP address and no one gains anything from scamming your independent poll.  If any current Entrecard users have any other suggestions on drawing conclusive statistics, please let me know.  Otherwise, you'll just have to trust that the people you advertise with are honest.

There are other features on the site that I haven't used, such as the market or the affiliated website.  If you're interested in joining Entrecard, check out those features when you sign up.

I'll be honest, I don't spend a lot of time monitoring my Entrecard account.  I get periodic emails from them updating me on the number of credits I have.  Once I notice that I've built up a few credits from people advertising on my widget (at least 100+), I take a few minutes and go buy some ads.  It's really that simple.  I never spend any of my own cash and the time investment is minimal.  I'm sure that the more time you spend working it, the more benefit you'll get from it.  However, I don't think you have anything to lose by giving it a try even if you don't have a lot of spare time to work out the right sites for maximizing your ad credits.

Do you use Entrecard?  Be sure to reread the disclaimer below and consider writing your own post reviewing the site.  There is a "contest" I'm entering that is open to everyone who wants to weigh in on the site.  Get more information about the contest here: Free credits for all! :)

Until next time,

Disclaimer: In exchange for writing this review, I am hoping to receive $15 worth of Entrecard credits through a contest.  No, I'm not selling out.  The review does not have to be positive in order for me to receive the credits.  Here are the instructions about the contest as copied and pasted from the email I received, typos and all: "Just write a review about Entrecard on your blog. Share the pro’s and the con’s (hopefully, there will be pro’s ;) ). And in your blog, please place a link back to this contest (Here’s the URL: Tha’ts it!"  So, as you can see they are not requiring anyone to write an unfairly biased review.  My view is strictly my own.