Sitescout is a Demand Side Platform (DSP) offering self-serve real-time bidding (RTB) that allows site targeting as well as other geo and demographic targeting options. Sitescout requires a modest opening deposit (currently $500), offers great support and flexible terms. Compare that to a competing ad serving platform like Zedo who is going too be too expensive for those starting out (they require an upfront commitment of around $20K, and their support is not known for being that good). AppNEXUS is a similar competitor, offering its own DSP with RTB on its platform.
Sitescout as a DSP (Buying Traffic)
Although the minimum to get started with Sitescout is $500, it will require some testing capital to see what works as it can be a tough traffic source to figure out. Start off targeting a website with low CPM and high traffic, and try to hang out there, as well as use demographic intelligence tools like Quantcast / Google Ad Planner / SimilarWeb to try and uncover products to promote to that audience. For instance, select an ad block targeting that site and cater your product to their audience by checking out what advertisers are already promoting there. Sitescout has lots of demographic targeting tools available to you, which you’ll pay a slight bump up in your CPM to use:
Low CPM sites can be hard to find (floor prices are set by publishers and are typically between $0.05 and $0.40 CPM, but the more bidders there are for a site’s traffic, those floor prices won’t be available.) You can also use ad intelligence tools like mixrank / whatrunswhere/ adbeat to see what ads the competitors are displaying. And although this post mostly focuses on “web only” targeting, mobile is obviously all the rage now with advertisers and Sitescout has you covered for targeting options:
Sitescout as an Ad Server
Sitescout is not just an RTB platform on which to buy advertising as the company also offers its own Sitescout AdServer product.
Sitescout makes it very easy to optimize your ads especially with their multiple text ad units that can be run within a single ad container (you can have 3 sets of picture and/or text ads within a single container, somewhat similar to AdBlade and Pulse360 with their multi-pane ads). This makes it easy to optimize your ads for eCPA/eCPM as well as split testing your campaigns.
Site scout might not be the best solution if you want to serve off of it doing direct media buys. Sitescout is not an approved IAB compliant ad server so you will not be able to bill off of Sitescout’s numbers unless you have a good relationship with a publisher. Both Zedo and Adshuffle are more likely to be familiar to larger publishers but that could be changing. Mojo Mediaplex and Google’s Doubleclick are two other alternative ad serving platforms which, while expensive, have good penetration and familiarity among publishers. It’s perfectly fine to use the Sitescout AdServer to do media buys, just be aware that you probably won’t be able to bill off of their numbers. Combining that with the DSP self-serve side of Sitescout’s platform then gives you access to AdMeld, Pubmatic and the Rubicon Project traffic exchanges among others.
Some useful Sitescout tutorials are included in their Vimeo channel like this one:
Their start page is also helpful: http://www.sitescout.com/support/basics/.
The default frequency cap of 3/12 (3 impressions every 12 hours) should be fine to start testing .. you can try 3/24 for high traffic sites and no frequency cap for low traffic sites. You can bid low but monitor how many of the units in the ad block that you’re the high bidder for.
If you’re running an affiliate offer then pull all the creatives (ad banners) from your affiliate dashboard for the offer. You’ll want to create multiple variations around the 3 common sizes: 300×250, 160×600 and 728×90. Set a modest testing budget for that campaign ($10/$50/$100 a day) and let it run for a day. Delete any banners that get a low CTR – the industry standard CTR is about 0.1-0.3%, so while shooting for something above a .1% CTR cut any ads that don’t get at least a .07% CTR after a couple thousand impressions.
Track your hourly banner stats, focusing on click through rates as well as conversions. Daypart to show your ad when for the hours when your CTR and/or conversions are at their highest. Sitescout has a built in pixel tracker: just place your pixel on your success page and then input that URL into SiteScout to track.
Big budgets can try the Run-of-Network (RON) strategy of bidding on traffic across a large swath of Sitescout sites, but be ready to blacklist poor performing sites while you build your whitelist of good sites. This will give you lots of data to optimize your campaign but you really need to stay on top of your blacklist.
For re-targeting you can use Sitescout but Adroll will let you retarget Facebook and gets you into the Google Display Network.
Block low performing geographical regions. If you’re focusing on Tier 1 locations (US,UK,CA,AUS), then go deeper and start targeting / blocking states / cities / counties / provinces.
Even if you’re an affiliate for an offer, put your landing page between the visitor and the final offer. This will allow you to track engagement on your landing page including how many visitors are clicking on your landing page’s offer button as well as your overall conversion rate (CVR). You want to track which Sitescout site placements are giving you good clicks (visitors engaging with your landing page) and of course cutting the placements that visit your page almost as if they are robots (consider yourself warned). Google Content Experiments as well as Visual Website Optimizer are usefull tools for split testing landing pages.
Quickly eliminate those domains and placements where your CTR / conversions are either low or nil. If you know that the value of your customer for a conversion is $X, then spend up to four times that amount trying to create a conversion before giving up on a certain marketing angle and/or Sitescout target.
And never put your ads on sites that are filled with banner ads – your message will be quickly buried among the clutter. This is more of a problem with sites in the BuySellAds ad network but you’ll occasionally come across them on Sitescout as well.