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Great Free Media Planning Tools

Media planners have many tools at their disposal to research and select sites that will help clients reach their target audiences. Very often we’re targeting large audiences by demographic or region, and we can use standard syndicated data tools such as @Plan, comScore, or the SRDS, a provider of media rates and data, to help us identify sites that index high with our target audiences. This is fine for clients who want to reach very large groups of people such as females 18 to 24 in the northeastern United States.
But what about when you’re going after a niche audience such as users of a particular technology or collectors of classic cars? In these cases, those data sources are not as helpful because many niche sites do not show up on their radar screens. Instead, you have to start prospecting online to find sites that cater to those audiences. However, a slew of available tools and tactics can help you find and research those sites.
So here is a list of free resources that planners can use when trying to find hard-to-find sites:
Compete.com: A Web analytics tool that gathers information about consumers’ online behavior from over 2 million U.S. Internet users. Its site profile section provides site traffic history for most every site on the Internet. Register with Compete, and you can compare traffic for up to five sites at one time.
Alexa: This technology crawls publicly available sites to collect traffic rankings, snapshots of sites, and links that point to sites and related sites. Type in a Web site URL where you know your target audience resides, click on “related links,” and you will find a list of similar sites. Also, you can search for sites by country, language, or category.
Quantcast: This site uses data from audience insights to rank and sort sites. Quantcast has a free tool that allows planners to search for sites based on determined criteria, such as content category, audience demographics, geographic locations, and ad acceptance. Or just simply type in the site URL that you want to include in the media plan, and the results produce a list of sites the audience would also visit.
Google Ad Planner: With this tool, media planners can identify audiences by a series of criteria, such as demographics, geography, language, specific keywords, and category. You can even search by domain suffix, a feature that is helpful when trying to find international sites. If your client is running a display campaign through the Google Content Network, you can select to see sites that only accept advertising in the network.
Search: Natural search is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find sites. Search for Web sites using your target audience plus keywords that would identify the target audience’s interest. Sites that appear on the first or second pages of Google search engine results page are more likely to have relevant content. For more obscure target audiences, you may have to dig a little deeper for sites that may not be optimized for SEO (define). Once you find a relevant site, click on “similar” to find other relevant sites.
Online newspaper resources: Sites such as OnlineNewspapers.com and Newspapers.com are another way to find online news sites by state and country. OnlineNewspapers.com indicates the newspaper language and city, and Newspapers.com gives a brief description of the newspaper.
Open Directory Project (ODP): This is a user-generated and classified directory of sites in multiple languages. ODP uses hundreds of portals and search engines to list and categorize Web sites. Type in “owners of classic cars,” and you will find a list of sites from all over the world and description of each site that relates to classic cars.
Wikipedia: Wikipedia is a user-generated reference site with more than 75,000 active contributors who have posted information in over 260 languages. If your client is looking to advertise on online newspaper sites in Ghana, type in “Ghana newspapers,” and you will get a list of Ghana-based newspapers and links to their Wikipedia listings.
Blog search: Narrow down the blogosphere by using search tools on sites such as Technorati.com or Google Blog Search. Technorati.com was founded as a blog search engine and has since grown into a social media network. Type in your target audience in the search field, and results reveal a list of relevant blogs, a graph depicting blog post mentions by day, and videos about the target audience. Google Blog Search will also list relevant blogs, but you can also sign up for blog alerts to keep up-to-date on newly posted blog content.
As with all my columns, I am sure this is not a complete list, so if I left anything out, please let me know. Also, I must give a special thanks to Barbara for helping me to research and compile this list.

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