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Excess Inventory

Create your own ad network
Buying ads can be an unavoidable part of product marketing, but now you can build your own ad network and generate free traffic instead of relying on traditional PPC.
Niche Product
Hello Bar
Biz Dev

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Every time I bought ads on Facebook or Google I thought to myself, "if I owned an ad network I could send free targeted traffic to my product." At first this was just a silly idea, but being the growth hackers that we are, we finally decided to try it. And it worked.

Step One

The first thing I need to do is explain the math behind this whole system.Traditional ad networks have publishers (i.e. blogs that publish content) and advertisers (i.e. companies that buy ads on that content). In my system I was the only advertiser since I didn't care about selling the inventory but just using the inventory myself. Therefore, we approached bloggers in the growth niche with the following proposition: If you let us install an ad bar on the top of your site that links to other sites in our network, then for every two clicks you give away to others in the network we'll send one click back to you. Give 2 clicks. Get 1 click. Simple.

Now think about what opportunity that this math opens up for us. Half of the clicks in the network are able to be directed anywhere we wish. If the arrangement was to give 1 click and get 1 click then there wouldn't be any excess inventory. However, we've created a scenario that leaves 50% of all ads going to the product of our choice, which in this case is Growth Hacker TV. Every blogger we sign up creates traffic for themselves and traffic for us. It's a win-win.

Step Two

It's important that your product fits within a certain niche, and that the bloggers you invite to your network also fit within that niche. This is the only way to ensure that the clicks throughout your network are targeted and will convert well. If someone is reading a growth related blog then a link to Growth Hacker TV will be welcomed, but this wouldn't be so if they were on a cooking blog. Choose your publishers carefully.

Step Three

We wanted to keep things as simple as possible so we just used a standard Hello Bar (https://www.hellobar.com) to handle the front-end of our ad network. We used a Hello Bar for a few reasons. The front-end code is already written. Since it is a bar at the top of the site we didn't have to design different ad unit sizes. This also allows it to be present on every page of a site no matter what the page layout is. Lastly, it grabs people's attention (especially if you put a delay on it and make it appear a few seconds after the site loads).

Step Four

Once the bloggers are signed up and the front-end is done, now you have to do the heavy lifting of creating a back-end that tracks the clicks in the network. The basic logic is that every site is either owed clicks from the network at any given point in time or they are not. Whichever blog is owed the most clicks is at the top of the queue and their link is displayed across the network until they are not owed more clicks. Our own product, Growth Hacker TV, is essentially "owed" a click every time someone else in the network is owed a click since we have half the inventory going to us.


Wait until you have a few publishers on board before you make the network live, but now have your own ad network and half of all the traffic is flowing to you. Side note: for all the haters that think growth hacking is just another word for marketing then consider the last time a marketer pulled off a strategy like this!