The Hidden Cost of Solo Ads

By Mark / April 22, 2013

shutterstock_15234010Solo ads seem to be the flavor of the month for list builders which is strange because 9 times out of 10 they are a bad choice when it comes to building a list.

Solo ads used to be a really good way to build a list until someone realised that you could make more money from your list if you sold solo ads … Ohh OHH  see whats happening there?

People are building lists with solo ads to sell solo ads.

Solo ad cannibalism I like to call it.  The quality of the leads you get are quickly reducing as more and more people are getting onto solo ad sellers lists. Open rates of less than 1% are common on some lists. To put that into perpective I have a 4 year old list that get a 20% open rate

The problem is not just that the quality of the leads are poor and open rates atrocious it’s that the real cost of building a list with SA’s is much higher than people think

Here is how it’s portrayed.

You spend $50 and get 100 clicks, so you immediately think ok that’s only 50c a subscriber not bad.


Of those 100 clicks you’ve paid for you might, if you are lucky, and have a great offer get 40 signups, a 40% conversion rate.

So now we are over $1 a click….it get’s worse.

Some of those signups won’t verify their email address and some will get the free report or give away and then unsubscribe.

For example last week I tested a solo ad supplier with 40 clicks for $20

For that $20 I got 49 clicks and that resulted in 21 subscribers.

Of those 21 7 didn’t verify their email address and 5 immediately unsubscribed.

In the end I got 9 subscribers the real cost is over $2 per subscriber.

That sucks.

Compare that to 4000 subscribers that I got for a few hours work or the 53 subscribers that we generated yesterday with 20 minutes work and zero cost

Which would you prefer?

The problem with solo ads is that people are building lists to sell solo ads by buying solo ads the result being a large number of people getting offers 3 or 4 times a day.

This leads to poor open rates and low quality leads.

I recently ran a small test, I joined the list of a well know solo ads seller.

What follows is not for the squeamish!

9am Joined List – Marketer 1

10.30am Received Solo ad for marketer 2 – signed up

11.10am received solo ad from marketer 2 sending me to marketer 3….. Plus links in the P.S. for marketer 4, 5 &6!! Signed up to them all

12.10 email from marketer 1 with link to Marketer 7

12.30 received email from marketer 5 with 4 links to different marketers

I could go on but in under 5 hours I was on 17 lists…..

Still think solo ads are a good idea?

Whats The Alternative Mark?

The Alternative is to be creative and build list quickly using methods that others are using.

After a bad experience with solo ads I spoke to a friend of mine and we put our heads together to see if we could build lists using different methods that were either free or very low cost (below 10 cents per subscriber)

The idea was the subscribers would be cheap top get & wouldn’t be based on solo ads or facebook..(too obvious!)

We came up with several methods. which we’ve tested, 149 signups in out first test..that works for me!

We’ve put them all together into a short report, if you want to build a list then just 1 of these methods each week with build you a big list in no time… a list leads to profit.

Check out NO BS Listbuilding

The methods we’ve covered are :

Method 1 The Shout Out

Method 2 The Triple Win 2013 Version

Method 3 Mutual Appreciation

Method 4 The Hunter

We’ve also added a bit of also secret sauce to tie it all together and make your list building really rock.

NO BS Listbuilding


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Towhid Zaman

Great post Mark. Yeah.. Its not cheap to build a list with solo ad & the quality isn’t the same like it was in past. Its still a profitable business model but you’ve to be smart & deliver value to your subscribers.

It’d be great to see what other traffic method you’ve in mind. So thumbs up for “NO BS Listbuilding”.


Enstine Muki

Never feeling encouraged to give solo ads a try. Maybe some day sooner 😉
Thanks for this eye opener
Enstine Muki recently posted..5 Deadly Reasons Why Your Google PageRank Is Not IncreasingMy Profile



I’d add another thing based on my experience with SA:
Complaints from subscribers on SA built list are much more frequent than from other lists. This can create problems with you autoresponder. Aweber et al. doesn’t like complaints because this could indicate that the list owner might be a spammer.
Max recently posted..How To Make Your Video MobileMy Profile



Great point… it’s probably why a lot of SA guys switch from aweber
Mark recently posted..Secure WordPress – 5 Security Holes You Should Fix TodayMy Profile


M. Bari

Thanks Mark for this nice post. But I have mixed experience. If we do exactly what others are doing, we’ll get the same result as others are getting. Hundreds of people buying solos and doing ad swaps and exchanging some rubbish PLR reports or sort of things every day. People joining lists are losing faith on marketers. We seem to forget, when subscribers join our lists, they’ll react the way they are treated. Rather than seeing another OTO after OTO immediately or receiving another PLR report just to show our desperate mental condition to get our investment back instantly, let’s give them some real case study. Somethings that really works. With proofs of results. It might be even a blog post. A screenshot of your facebook ad account… or our list snapshot. Even if it’s short, people love truth. They’ll start liking us. And that’s what it was all about when list building using solos and ad swaps started years back. But the problem is, we want everything quick.

We don’t want to wait to build authority position among our subscribers. We only know that we should mail and they should buy… but unfortunately that never works.

But on the other hand, the statistics you’ve shown in your post is also right. And in order to get rid of this situation we have to develop our attitude towards our subscribers and at the same time find new ways to find fresh leads in cheaper method. I know you and I’m sure the method you are talking about works perfect. I’m going to try myself.

Best of luck Mark.

-M. Bari


Chris Munch

Solo Ads work. I’m not a seller but have purchased solo ads and made a positive ROI multiple times.

The prices are set by supply and demand, and so they will price out some people who don’t have a product/funnel/marketing etc that converts.

And the things you mentioned like, people unsubscribing, using fake emails, or ignoring most emails is great, because they are trained to ignore the competition – so if you provide value and stand out you can convert them to be true fans of your brand and get long term subscribers.
Chris Munch recently posted..$50,000 in 3 months | (failure rate = 75%)My Profile



BAM mark, that’s a darn good post.

I have mixed experience with solo ads,
I had some GREAT results with solo ads.

But..I also know what you’re talking about.

I bought almost a hundred solo ads since I discovered about it, and there’s a reason I still keep doing it.

Also, when you do it for a understand that you can’t depend on the “regular” solo ad sellers.

You also need to contact vendors personally, and ask for a solo ad.

But yeah, If we’ll focus on what yer talking about,
things are getting wrose, and you can see that when 1% is a “good” open rate for some people.

How do we say that in russia?

UJAS. (means terrible)

Best of luck ma man,
Tom Yevsikov
tom recently posted..How To Make Money Without Annoying Or BORING Your Subscribers To DeathMy Profile


Mk Akan

you are right .

I just bought solo ads from list owners and saw this fist hand.

what do you think about ezines …i was planning to try buying solo ads from them.
Mk Akan recently posted..Squeeze Page Optimization-Super Simple Trick To Improve Your Squeeze Page Conversion RatesMy Profile



I think ezines should work well if you get the right ones


Ted J

If I didn’t build the list myself, I would be concerned about spam complaints. In your experience, do you see an increase in spam complaints in SA lists compared to lists you’ve built yourself?

Judging by your experience, it looks like it would take a certain offer and a certain person to make solo ads work effectively for them. You’d have to really catch their attention.
Ted J recently posted..Does Bring the Fresh Work in 2013?My Profile




You will actually be building the list yourself as it’s your landing page they’ll sign up on.. however I would recommend having a notice in each email pointing out why they are receiving the email.


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