That is a really good question with no definitive answer. Traffic sources have so much going for them that breaking them down to a T means getting a puzzle with a thousand pieces. Some media buyers might value one particular feature over another. Still, there are a few requirements that usually make-or-break a traffic source, and they include but are not limited to:
There are always additional requirements traffic sources need to follow through (cost, regulation, analytics, customer support, etc.), but those listed above are the foundations of any traffic source worth your time.
Going by the criteria above, it’s easy to see how big players like Google and Facebook are the first choices of so many media buyers. Take the world’s largest social network as an example. With 2.07 billion monthly active users, you can reach basically any group of people. Targeting options are based on a massive database of interest data, some of the most valuable data a marketer can wish for. On top of that, the ad platform is fairly easy to use and accessible, with tolerable levels of bot traffic (that is always going to be an issue), rounding off an immense potential for revenue.
So, what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t any, per se. The thing with Facebook, Google, and alike is the overwhelming competitive nature. The ability to get clicks constantly changes and depends on both yours and others’ CPC and CTR. That means it takes time to see some results, especially if you are in a niche market or a competitive industry, while the cost isn’t all that attractive either.
The thing with traffic sources is that the overall amount of traffic is different from platform to platform. Going neck to neck, no one can compare to Google and Facebook in terms of reach. Luckily, they don’t have to, as they can excel at different points (cost, *cough cough*) while also having decent exposure.
Since we’ve so shrewdly mentioned cost as one advantage ad networks routinely have over their more popular counterparts, we’ll show how. For starters, those on a tight budget will steer away from expensive Facebook Ads like Indiana Jones from snakes.
It boils down to a few things, mostly on how competitive the network in question is, the targeted geo, as well as the type of content submitted. All combined results in a CPC that’s usually much lower compared to big networks, where the CPC is rather expensive for both desktop and mobile inventory. The difficulty of ranking in the top spots for keywords that have at least decent (not to mention good or great) search volume is close to winning the lottery, except it costs more.
As an example of available market options, there’s SelfAdvertiser's ad network. It includes more than 20,000 direct publishers from around the world, serving up high-quality ads that reach 2 billion impressions on a daily basis. On top of numerous geographic targeting capabilities, their targeting options can be based upon intent, device, operating system and advanced keywords. Add to that a wide range of ad types that include pops, domain redirects, sponsored results on search pages, contextual ads, and more. Perhaps most importantly, SelfAdvertiser is a reliable, self-service platform that exercises much-needed flexibility in terms of budget and optimization, so users can manage campaigns the way they see fit.
That’s just one example of a service that can deliver highly qualified traffic with relevant results in the same way its big brothers do, except your wallet doesn’t take a beating.
At the end of the day, the truth is that the big players in the traffic store department get the first taste of media buyers, especially those who have limited knowledge or experience. It’s a fair cop that makes sense: you go where the money is. Beyond those sources, it’s important to remember that there’s more than Google and Facebook out there. There are more than enough options via relatively smaller, niche-oriented platforms. It’s a question of mindset more often than not. If a traffic source doesn’t seem quite conventional or isn’t in the industry’s focus, it is hardly perceived the best one in the eyes of media buyers.
That is the number one reason why traffic campaigns fall short: because the platform of choice doesn’t provide access (or enough of it), even though it’s THE platform for many. For example, LinkedIn, in particular, is great for running B2B traffic or targeting the professional market. Outside of that, there’s limited amount of what it achieves intent-wise. Choosing the best traffic sources takes time and a sizeable amount of research. There aren’t any short ways out of this, as the research part is vital on your side, both in terms of choices and knowledge (things like what platform best suits your needs to more detailed stuff like what programmatic advertising mistakes to avoid and such). This post tried to shed a light on some of the solutions that go beyond the usual norm, but the rest is up to you now. It’s not an easy choice, but at least now you have a good starting point.