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I think a lot of the smaller sites, e.g. the language sites, writing, personal finance, music, motor maintenance and repair, would be hugely popular sites if they were better known, but frankly I just found this whole network two months ago and it's been around for a decently long time. It was pure chance that I stumbled across it at all.

Why doesn't Stack Exchange do some serious advertising? Commercials, billboards? Targeted web advertising through Google? Or does it already, and I'm just blind?

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Do you have adblock installed? Or can you see the woman wearing the hoodie on the sidebar? –  random May 3 '12 at 21:48
@random I think this is talking about external advertising. –  Matthew Read May 3 '12 at 21:52
Do you remember what brought you first here? –  random May 3 '12 at 21:55
I'm a beginner programmer. Google turned it up. But Google doesn't very easily turn up the other sites, because at present they're not nearly as large as SO is. –  Aerovistae May 3 '12 at 21:59
Just in passing, while many of the sister sites are "graduated," many others are still in public beta. My sense is that graduate sites do have extensive outreach programs, but it also seems to me that these are generally organized to a large degree by the communities themselves. At any rate, I might suggest bringing some of this discussion back to the meta sites of whichever SEs you find most interesting and worthy of wider notice (several of the ones you listed are, I believe, still in beta and could probably use your help in getting the message out: personal finance, maintenance, etc.) –  Joseph Weissman May 4 '12 at 1:50
Sometimes you can't find it until you need it. The woman in the hoodie is about another site @mat –  random May 4 '12 at 4:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

We've done some experiments with ad buys, but in general the numbers just don't add up.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations:

100k ad impressions => 100 clicks => 1 question => 0.01 active users

Now, if we could somehow target only those types of users that are likely to participate in a Stack Exchange site it gets a lot more feasible. But the most likely users to participate in a Stack Exchange site are...users who already participate in a Stack Exchange site. Hence, we run a lot of house ads in the network.

Obviously these numbers are completely made up, and it's possible that with the right community and ad targeting it could work, but in general we've found that ad buys don't even make a blip. It's much better to simply focus on making great content and letting people flow in organically from Google. After all, the best ad is the one where we just answered your question.

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@Aerovistae, just FYI in case you don't recognize the name, David Fullerton is Stack Exchange's VP of Engineering. In other words, you got your wish about an SE rep descending from the heavens. –  Pops May 4 '12 at 21:45
@PopularDemand "Wish Granter" and "Heavenly Visitor" were two alternate titles I considered before settling on "VP of Engineering" –  David Fullerton May 4 '12 at 21:47
When you tire of SE and strike out on your own to start a cult, you'll be glad you saved those titles up. –  Pops May 4 '12 at 21:48
You could also scout decent and niche subreddits which are a good fit for the smaller sites and do targeted ads. For example, I find r/gardening to be quite a decent community with lots of expert users and ads there would not be a bad idea. I've tried sharing links a few times, but since they don't have high turnover, even one link every 2-3 days or a week turns out to be too much and seems like spam. It would be nice if the community team/CHAOS reached out to sites with available options (i.e., what are you willing to spend on). On that note, I'm glad Laura brought up sharing on Pintrest. –  Lorem Ipsum May 4 '12 at 22:22
Ever thought about making an "ads.stackoverflow.com" site? Could be used for testing reception to new ads, markets, techniques, etc. –  Lizz Nov 6 '12 at 9:03

Advertising etc starts once the site is out of beta. Not billboards, but in other ways.

(A whole bunch of the advertising is community-organised, though)

Some stuff happens regardless of beta-status

  • Enthusiastic users like me can't keep their mouth shut and tell relevant friends about it and bug them till they join ;-)
  • Internally, the sites(rather, questions on the sites are advertised in the sidebar.
  • Also, the multicollider advertises hot questions.

That being said, I think it is up to SE (a commercial company, remember) to advertise.

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Yes, I'm kind of hoping an SE rep will descend from the heavens to see this question. Up the question and maybe they will. –  Aerovistae May 4 '12 at 5:13
@Aerovistae: This being MSO, the SE reps are actually actively gophering around here. So they don't need to "descend from the heavens" ;-) Then again, not all meta posts get SE attention, many posts that need SE attention are missed :/. –  Manishearth May 4 '12 at 5:18
@Manishearth I can assure you that there are many SE employees monitoring MSO posts. Do you have examples of posts that "need SE attention" but are "missed"? Just because not every MSO post has a comment/answer from an employee doesn't mean it isn't read and considered. –  Laura May 4 '12 at 20:54
@Laura Oh I know that, just thought it was rude to say "silently ignored" . –  Manishearth May 5 '12 at 0:33

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