WhatRunsWhere Review – Media Buying and Ad Spying

So you want to up your A game and blow up traffic till your server catches fire? That’s what media buys are for, fool!

Almost a year to this day, I sold out a little bit and wrote this WhatRunsWhere review.

If you’re not familiar with What Runs Where, it’s a service from two internet pros. One of them is shady, slightly, and the other is a goat named mattaw. Mattaw ( or Max ) has been so kind as to do a few “ask me anything” posts on Wickedfire, so if you want a primer on media buying along with some pro tips, check out Media buying Ask me anything Part 1. I enjoy Part 2 because dullspace makes an appearance.

Also Max wrote an epic guest post on BlueHatSEO called How to Start Your Own Media Buy (Linking to cached version because BlueHatSeo is down at the moment, oh noes!!)

What Runs Where Gets All Shiny and Stuff

When I wrote about What Runs Where in the past, my main complaint was the fairly confusing and slightly ugly user interface. But just in the past week or so, the entire UI has been redesigned and streamlined, so lets take a look.

The interface has been narrowed down to 3 main parts. It’s more along the lines of MixRank, which is a competing service that focuses on scraping Google Adwords data. Although it’s only Adwords data, their interface was a lot more user-friendly than What Runs WhereBUT NO MORE!

Before diving into that, one thing I’ve noticed is that What Runs Where is significantly faster than it was before. Searches only take a second or two, which is pretty surprising based on how much data they have to sift through.

Search By Advertiser

Simple enough. Enter a domain name and find out more then you ever wanted to know about an advertiser.

Warning: a search for “domain.com” and “www.domain.com” will yield different results. I’m being told this is being worked on, but if you keep getting “No Results” then this is why.

AdStrength™ – When you search by Advertiser, you can sort ads by “Most Recent” and “AdStrength” (not sure if really trademarked… or just being clever).

The formula is simple: (Times Seen x Frequency x Days Running) = AdStrength. The higher the score, the more likely it is that this is a successful ad.

Be careful of Brand advertisers though. Some companies could give a fuck about ROI, so their media teams spend the company’s money like its their job (.. it is) If you’re a performance advertiser, or affiliate marketer, you actually care about ROI. Just because an Ad Strength score is high, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a profitable ad. If it’s a brand, chances are they’re spending money to build the brand by getting the most impressions possible. For example, Google Chrome ads are everyyyywhere.

Placement Suggestions – A really neat feature when searching by advertisers. This tab will show you potential placements you can try for your campaigns. DEAR GOD, WHY IS IT SO SIMPLE?!

Search By Publisher

Let’s say you build a media plan with something like Google Adplanner. You can use the “Search By Publisher” feature to look up specific domains and see what kinds of ads are working for that Publisher. Are their more leaderboards than square? Then spend more time on leaderboard ads, lest you wonder why your 300×250 ads are getting no impressions.

On the other hand, if you’re just fishing for campaign ideas, you can look up a popular website for a demographic you’re familiar with to see what companies are advertising there. You can then find some related affiliate campaigns to promote. Better yet, you’d build up your own lead gen funnel so you can collect that juicy user data and promote several types of offers to them.

Search By Keyword

Self-explanatory when you search for Text ads. It’s gets a little trickier when searching for banner ads. Either way, you can get a little clever here and search for random stuff – “HDTV” yields results where Quibids is absolutely dominating.

Useful Ideas and Tips

Let me preface this by saying I’m not an expert media buyer by any means. I dabble, but most stuff has been in the ‘self-serve’ category, versus signing insertion orders and shit like that. They are basically the same thing apart from how the money is spent.

PPV Targets Galore – One of the best uses for What Runs Where and other ad spying tools is the ability to generate a huge list of relevant PPV targets. If you’re running some dating on PPV, you can look up a bunch a of dating advertisers, see where they’re advertising, and pop those placements into your PPV target list. Simple as that. This applies to any niche.

This is far more efficient and effective than something like Google Ad Planner (although, you can never have too many targets) because you already know that this type of offer is already working on these publishers.

We Goin’ International Baby – What Runs Where added a few more international countries to its data. International markets are far less competitive then the US and other English-speaking countries. It is what it is because 95% of marketers won’t take the time to translate ads to another language, despite how easy it is.

The obvious thing to do is find popular Advertisers or Publishers in other countries then look-up what kinds of ads are being served there. Also, you can search by Keyword with a foreign word. For example, even though France is not listed as a country in their database, you can do a keyword search for “rencontre” to bring up a ton of French dating ads.

Hybrid Ads – Some companies like AdSonar and Pulse 360 have creatives known as hybrid ads, which is a text+image combo. Sound familiar? That’s basically what many social media ads are.

You can use the hybrid ad data from What Runs Where in a number of ways (hint: Copy pasting the ads then running them on the same ad network is not one of them). Since we know image accounts for roughly 70% of the CTR, you can easily see what kinds of images are grabbing attention.

You can port these hybrid ads to other traffic sources that support hybrid ads. Facebook and Plenty of Fish come to mind. Of course, some preliminary demographic research is needed here.

You can use the similar images and copy (or be a dick and rip them 100%) to create banner ads that look just like hybrid ads. Make IAB banners that look like hybrid ads, but run them on a banner display network where hybrid ads aren’t supported.

Or you can use the hybrid copy+image to use as a base for catchy PPV landers. Just expand that bit of text and image to a ~700×500 px window and you got yourself a landing page that’s likely to work.

What’s Really Working – You hear about those $10,000+ media buy days that people brag about. Are they bullshitting you or what? For the most part, no. ( Unless you’re selling $50,000 media buy coaching, then yeah, probably bullshitting. )

If you spend enough time digging around What Runs Where, you find little golden nuggets of valuable information. “Why are these Warren Buffet ads showing up on every financial website?” “Why does Quibids have a 50,000+ Ad Strength Rank?” “I thought flogs and farticles were dead?! Why are they all over the sites like MSBNC and Fox News?”

When you start seeing patterns of certain advertisers and types of advertisements showing up on some of the biggest websites in the world, you really get an understanding of where those $50,000 Fridays come from.

Where can What Runs Where Improve?

Export Domains – Right now I don’t see any feature for exporting a CSV of domains when you’re on a “Traffic Sources” tab. Copy and pasting the list, then cleaning it up in Excel is kind of a pain compared to exporting a ready-made CSV.

AdStrength in Keyword Search – It would be nice if doing keyword searches could be sorted by AdStrength or some other factors. I’m just nitpicking here really..


Do you have $1? Then you can try What Runs Where for 7 days.

Overall, I have to say that WRW stepped its game up. The user interface is a lot better then what it was before. The searches don’t hang like they used to. This really is a tool you want to have in your arsenal if you know the value of competitive research.

As I finish writing this post, Finch beats me to the punch with his own What Runs Where re-review. No need to go there, my review is better. SUCK IT BRITAIN!