MaxOnline advertising is a massive and complex industry.  The risks are high, but the payout is even higher — making the temptation of media buying hard to resist. If broken into with tact and the right strategy, companies and individuals can see huge success and profits. The beauty of online advertising is that a small company can compete with large multinational corporations on a level playing field.

My Story

I personally started buying media at the age of 16 in my parent’s basement. By the time I was 19, I had bought millions of dollars’ worth of online advertising and was running a pretty successful performance marketing company. Buying ads across different websites and platforms, I was able to help scale advertising campaigns to huge levels. I did this with a strong business plan and effective strategy. And although the industry has evolved the opportunity for success is still there today.

No doubt, the online advertising space is still evolving every day. New ad formats get introduced, new standards come out and new technology is released, making entry into the space easier than ever before. But if you don’t know where to promote your product and whom to sell it to, you can lose a lot of money really fast.

Here are the steps I’ve used to profit with online advertising.

Step 1: Decide What You Are Going to Advertise

You need to create a compelling creative (ad) as well as a sales page (landing page) to catch people’s eyes, get them to click and then ultimately convert (buy).

Step 2: Decide Where You Want to Advertise

Once you’ve got your creative, you must also figure out where to place your ad so it succeeds. Finding websites where your product or service can be matched to the correct audience and demographics is key to your campaign’s success. Obviously, an ad that promotes birth control products is probably not the best fit on a website dedicated to men’s health. Media buying is all about matching your product with the perfect audience.

Step 3: Do Your Homework

Research is a key part to the success of your advertising campaign. If you can see where others are having success and what is working for them, you can take this into account with your own advertising — and, as a result, you’ll dramatically reduce your risk and improve the effectiveness of your campaign.

We created WhatRunsWhere for this exact purpose. Using WhatRunsWhere you can see the exact places anyone across the entire web is advertising and what creative their using. This allows you to quickly spot what elements work for them and bring it back into your own campaigns.

Step 4: Pick Your Placements and Outlets

Once you’ve figured out what and where you want to advertise, it’s time to get your hands dirty.

Most online advertising inventory is represented in one of two ways. The first is a direct relationship where you contact the webmaster who owns the property and negotiate buying the inventory directly from them. The other is through an ad network or platform that aggregates many different websites into one central place and allows you to buy on all of them (for example: Google Display Network or AOL AdSonar). Reaching out to either of these two parties will get you one step closer to getting your campaign up and running.

Step 5: Test, Analyze and Tweak For Success

Once you negotiate the terms of your media buy (some media buys are negotiable, others are fixed rates). You simply submit your creative, start running ads, and start tracking! You’ll see results start to come in. And by eliminating poor performing creatives and placements (ones that don’t send you the ultimate end result you want, whether that is a click, sale or lead) you can quickly start to create a successful online media buying campaign.

Max Teitelbaum is co-founder of What Runs Where, a competitive intelligence service for online media buying. Max founded his first startup at 15 and had spent millions in online advertising before he was 20. In addition to running WRW, Max is also an active angel investor who invests in 4-6 startups per year.

[Editor’s note: What Runs Where offers more insights than any other display advertising competitive intelligence tool. We use the tool ourselves and we highly recommend it if you’re looking to scale up your traffic. Click here to try it for 7 days for only $1.]