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Wow, December is here and we’re in the thick of our busiest (and most lucrative) time of year for advertisers. If you have campaigns that you want to run, get those up. Think of some unique angles that relate to the season and submit those ads. We want to see you kill it!

I knew that a pep talk wouldn’t be gift enough though, so consider Christmas/Festivus having come early: knowing how much you love watching heartwarming holiday flicks, I made you a video about the bulk uploader. Yes, it was super thoughtful/romantic of me.

You’re welcome. : )

For most of you, this info will be an old hat, but if you’re committing one of my DEADLY SINS (ie only testing one creative per campaign), it’s important that you watch and implement the steps. I want to see you increase your CTR to levels that would make that someone special proud. If you don’t have someone special, think of your hero. They would want you to watch and and implement the steps.

This goes to you, Carrot Top!

Let me know if you have any questions,

Cyndi

Just a heads up everyone, POF is taking our annual holiday retreat to Whistler for this weekend so Cyndi and I will have limited access to our emails and ad approval will be slow. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Ben

This should help you guys identify which markets to dig into for low CPM, low competition spots!

Here they are arranged from cheap (#1) to cheaper to cheapest (#10) :)

1. Brazil, Female

2. Mexico, Female

3. UK, Male (WHAT?!)

4. France, Female

5. New Zealand, Male

6. Ireland, Male 

7. US, Female (HUGE SHOCKER, even for me!!)

8. Spain, Male

9. Mexico, Male

10. Spain, Females

 

Alternatively, here are the expensive (1) to expensiver to expensivest (10)! 

1. UK, Female

2. Canada, Male

3. Ireland, Female

4. New Zealand, Female

5. US, Male

6. Australia, Male

7. Australia, Female

8. Canada, Female

9. Brazil, Male

10. France, Male

So these markets are probably the ones that perform the best, hence why the CPM’s are high. If I were you, I’d launch some campaigns into UK Male (I blogged about this demo being cheap and still no action!) and US Female IMMEDIATELY. 

Ben

Big thanks to the guys at StackThatMoney.com for sharing this with our readers. It’s a good one!

So, one thing that we’ve learned in all sorts of verticals, particularly dating, is that amateur photos convert better than professional or stock photography.

(Actually, that’s not always true. But sometimes it is, and when it is it tends to be very true.)

Why? Well, for most people, “professional” photography means “someone’s trying to sell me something”. And that’s not a great way to get them to, for example, sign up to a dating site.

Unfortunately, amateur photography for some demographics, particularly older guys, is hard to find. By far the easiest way to find a wide range of photography tailored to your demo is to use a stock photography site.

But stock photography sites have very few amateur-looking images, and lots of very professional, carefully-lit, bland images.

So what to do?

Well, it’s not a perfect solution, but you can use Photoshop to make your stock photos look a whole lot more like amateur, real images, and reap the rewards of higher conversion rates.

Here’s an example:

The Basic Principle

There’s no single trick to making pro photos look amateur. Instead, there are a bunch of different things you can do to “de-professionalise” your photos.

What we think of as a “professional” photo is largely a photo that doesn’t have any of the mistakes amateurs make.

In a professional photo, the subject is well-framed in the picture. It’s properly focused and not blurred. The picture is composed well and there’s nothing distracting in the background. Exposure and color levels have been properly balanced in post-production.

To make the photo look more amateur, we simply introduce one or more of these errors. We blur it a bit as if the camera wasn’t quite still when the photo was taken. We move it to an awkard “selfie” angle. And so on.

Generally, I find that applying two or three layered “amateurizing” filters is enough to make a professional photo look properly amateur. A single filter just looks like you’ve done something wrd to a stock photo, but more than one gives the proper “taken at 11pm on a lonely Saturday with a cellphone” feel.

If you’re preparing a whole bunch of photos – like a grid on a landing page, for example – it’s best to vary the filter and number of filters you’re using on each one. That stops them from looking too uniform and gives a naturalistic variation in how much care was taken on each picture.

Nine Ways To Make Pro Photos Look Amateur

The Dodgy Resize

Stretched or over-enlarged pictures are everywhere on dating sites in particular – and this is a really easy effect to copy.

For an ultra-simple approach, just use the Transform tool, and stretch the image a bit either vertically or horizontally. You want to hit the sweet spot where it’s still obvious the person is attractive, but the picture looks like it’s been munged by a complete amateur.

An even more effective technique is to reduce the photo size beyond the size you need, then re-enlarge it. For example, if you’re prepping a photo for POF, reduce it in size (Image » Image Size in Photoshop) to 60 pixels high, then enlarge it back to 80 pixels. It’ll look slightly pixelated and much less professional.

Mess With Exposure

One sure mark of a cheap camera or crap photographer is if the photo is over- or underexposed: too dark or too light.

I don’t recommend underexposing your pictures, because they’ll “pop” a lot less. But overexposing them can make them pop more, while also looking less professional.

In Photoshop, go to Image » Adjustments » Exposure in the menu. Then tweak the top two sliders. I usually push “Exposure” up until the photo’s got bad glare but is still recognisable – the “using a flash indoors” look – then mess with the offset a little too. Setting the Offset up gives the slight white-out of an over-lit picture, whilst setting it dark increases contrast (good for visibility on the page) whilst also generally making it look like the photographer had No Clue what he/she was doing.

Blurry Blurry Wobbly Wobbly

When trying to fake amateurism, blur is your friend.

There are two types of blur that work well. First is the old classic, Gaussian Blur (Filter » Blur » Gaussian Blur), which just softens the image, giving a remarkably good impression of a badly-focused camera. Blurry images often have surprisingly high CTR – this one’s nearly always worth a try.

Then, for a more precise simulation of a wobbly cellphone, Motion Blur (Filter » Blur » Motion Blur) works a treat – it’s one of my go-to effects. Tweak the direction of the motion (the circle with a line through it) so that it’s either up-and-down or on a diagonal. Peoples’ hands rarely wobble in a precisely horizontal line.

Add Extraneous Detail To The Background

This is a little more hassle than just applying a filter, but it’s startlingly effective. In my experience it’s one of the few effects in this list that can sell an otherwise perfect stock photo as being amateur as hell, by itself.

Pro photographers go to great lengths for a “clean” image where the person they’re picturing is the only feature, or by far the most obvious feature, in the picture. So we reverse that by Photoshopping something into the image that any pro photographer would have Photoshopped out.

Start by looking at the background of your photo, and finding an image of something that would naturally be in the background – a lamppost, a post box, a sign, a lampshade, whatever. Ideally you’ll want it to have a clear background, but it doesn’t matter that much.

Copy-paste it into your image and Transform it (CTRL+T) until it fills a portion of the background.

Now either use the Eraser tool to erase everything but the object, or (probably better) add a Mask and paint out everything else using the Mask. Erase the bits of the object that should be covered by the person in the image too, of course.

If the background’s blurred, you should also blur the layer with your image on it a little.

You’ll end up with a great, awkward-looking picture that instantly passes muster as Not Professional.

Selfie Shot


There are a couple of giveaways for a “selfie shot” that are very easy to photoshop into a pro image.

For starters, of course, make sure the person’s arms aren’t visible!

Then, use the Transform tool to tilt the image a little in the direction of the arm that they’re supposed to be holding the camera with. Stretch the image out to fill your image frame again. This makes it look like the photograph was taken at a slight angle, as selfies almost always are.

To make it look even more realistic, use the Perspective tool (Edit » Transform » Perspective). Either use the handles at the top to tilt the image down slightly (for the above-the-head-camera look) or use the handles at the bottom to tilt it up. You don’t need to use much Perspective here: it’ll start looking very amateur quite quickly.

Fix The Clues Of A Pro

There are a couple of clues of a professional photographer that it’s worth getting rid of.

First, if the background has the circles or polygons of out-of-focus light called “Bokeh”, use the Blur or Smudge tools to get rid of them. Amateurs rarely shoot with shallow enough depth of field to show bokeh images so they’re a dead giveaway of a pro.

Secondly, if there are highlights on the side of the person’s head from “rim lighting”, it’s worth removing them, as this is a classic “studio shot” tell. It’s a bit tricky to get rid of them, but you can do it by duplicating the layer, setting it to “darken”, and then going over those areas with the Healing Brush (NOT the Spot Healing Brush) or the Clone Stamp, cloning skin or hair tone from an area without highlights.

Amateur Images Achieved!


And that’s it! You now have the tools to make any professional image look like it was shot on a blurry, out of focus cellphone – and get the rewards that come from genuine-looking images.

If you found this post valuable, StackThatMoney.com is full of posts like this! It’s a paid forum but they’ve helped a lot of people succeed so I think it’s worth the $ as long as you’re willing to activate sponge mode and absorb as much info as possible! 1 month left in 2013 and this information is definitely a game changer!

Ben

Hello Readers!

For the longest time, the 160×600 ads have been our lowest CPM ads/worst ROI ads and I couldn’t figure out why. There’s only one 160×600 on the page and it’s featured in the user messages, which is has a ton of volume! Anyway, so I discovered that the 160×600 is placed in the MIDDLE of the message. This is problematic because if the message is too long, this pushes the 160×600’s below the fold and thus, decreases performance.

Here’s what I mean:

Long message: http://screencast.com/t/CnyhI9jDxF (ad no where to be found.. it is below the fold)
Short message: http://screencast.com/t/GBuDITBq (most of the 160×600 is above fold)

So, the fix is basically going to anchor the 160×600 in a set spot regardless of how many messages someone gets or how long those messages are. By keeping the ad above fold, you should see an increase in performance on 160×600’s across the board.

In the meantime, spend some time making 160×600’s as this should be fixed by next week. And if you get in quick, the CPM’s are SUPER low so ROI will be SUPER high :)

Ben

I did a post back that gave some insight on which ad spots have the lowest CPM’s (and hence the least competition and most opportunity) so I figure I’d do it again now to help everyone involved end the year strong. So, here we go!

UK males – all ad sizes. Surprisingly, the UK male has the lowest CPM’s on desktop traffic. 160’s are lowest, followed by 728, then 300’s.
Canadian males – 160’s are lowest followed by 728’s.
Canadian females – 728×90’s

And it looks like across the board on mobile web, 160×600 and 728×90 have the lowest CPM’s. 

** 728×90 also includes 960×110 and the small ads (since 3 small ads = 1 banner).

Hope this helps!

Ben

11/18/2013 EDIT:

2013-11-18_1255

Here’s proof ladies and gents. 2 campaigns with identical targeting/CPM.
Even though Canada has 1/2 the volume of the US, because low CPM.. you’ll get 2x as much impressions in Canada for the same CPM vs. the US.

Hello Readers,

This post is specifically speaking about the Profile Page Ads (300×250): http://blog.ads.pof.com/2013/02/07/big-news-pof-now-introduces-a-new-way-to-target-your-ads/

Results were OK to be honest with you. Affiliates felt that this feature would be unstoppable only if POF allowed you to target new users.. well NOW YOU CAN with the months since sign up targeting!

HUGE opportunity here ladies and gents! Simply advertise a #niche offer to the #niche profile so when someone views that specific #niche profile, they’re hit with the relevant offer. Classic example of Asianbeauties offer on Asian female profiles so anyone that views an Asian female profile, also sees an ad for Asianbeauties.. now with the ability to only target new signups.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! Profit awaits :)

Ben

PS. if you’re thinking about going the ethnicity route, it’s worth your time to check out this research on the effect ethnicity has on messaging rates: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/

PPS. Further evidence on interracial dating: http://www.onlinepersonalswatch.com/news/2013/11/online-daters-often-willing-to-cross-racial-lines.html

Here’s an interview I did a while back on freshsupercool.com!

The ad related content kicks in midway through Part 1. If you wanted to learn a little more about me, watch the first 5 mins :)

http://www.freshsupercool.com/ben-louie-interview-part-1/

http://www.freshsupercool.com/ben-louie-interview-part-2/

http://www.freshsupercool.com/ben-louie-interview-part-3/

http://www.freshsupercool.com/ben-louie-interview-part-4/

Apologies for the quality, the internet gods weren’t friendly to Taewoo that day LOL

Ben

Big congrats to our CEO, Markus Frind for winning the 2013 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Information Technology!

Tonight’s a big night for us! I think our chances are pretty good :) Will keep everyone up to date on the result.

For information on how POF got started, read this blog entry from Markus’s blog: How I started A Dating Empire

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ben

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