Blogger Vladik Rikhter recently outlined how he gained a bunch of Dropbox referrals by using Google AdWords, since paying for the ads cost a lot less than an upgrade. Many Lifehacker readers have already done the same, but some of you told us you didn't want to spend any money at all. Well, here's how to get an additional 8GB for free, using AdWords credits and smart keywords.
Each time you convince someone to sign up for Dropbox using your account as a referral, you're rewarded with additional storage space. If you use AdWords, Google's advertising service, you can get the word out to a lot more people about to people who will click and sign up for Dropbox using your referral link. Buying advertising through AdWords costs money, but a number of you mentioned on our original post that you can get your ads for free by using AdWords credits, or vouchers that Google issues to new users or web site owners, while you rake in the referrals.
How Much Space You're Eligible For
The fastest way to see how much space you can get through referrals is to log in to your Dropbox account, click "Account", and then click the "Referral Status" tab. At the bottom of the page, you'll see how much space you're eligible to get through referrals only, and how much of it you've already obtained. If you're still not sure, here's the breakdown:
- Basic accounts (Free users) can earn 8GB of space through referrals, for a total 10GB maxed out. Each referral earns you 250MB of additional space.
- Pro accounts of all storage tiers can earn a total of 16GB of space through referrals, and earn 500MB per referral. Their accounts max out at their paid storage limit plus the 16GB referral bonus.
- Students just have to provide a .edu email address and their referral bonuses get boosted to 500MB each, and their referral cap is bumped up to 16GB, even if they have a free account.
If you have access to a .edu or .edu.au email address, submit it to Dropbox before you get started — each referral will bring you twice as much space, and if you're a free user, you'll be able to score twice as much total space through referrals than you would otherwise.
How to Get $US75 in AdWords Credits
- Click this link to request a $US75 AdWords credit.
- Fill out the form with your name, email address, and web address. Use any web address you may have, even if it's a personal landing page at About.me or Flavors.me.
When I signed up for an AdWords credit, I had one in my inbox in about an hour, but your mileage may vary.
Some domain registrars and web hosting companies like GoDaddy and Dreamhost often offer $US100 AdWords credits to their customers. If you run out of credits or want more to play with, call your hosting company's customer service line to see if they can issue you an AdWords credit. Either way you go about it, once you have a credit code in your inbox, you're ready to roll.
Sign In and Build Your Ads
Now we're going to put those AdWords credits to good use with your Dropbox referral link and some well-crafted ads.
- Sign in to Google AdWords, and select Billing Preferences (under the Billing tab.)
- Walk through the setup process and provide your location, address, and your credit card number (don't worry, you won't be charged.)
- After your billing preferences are set up, you'll be returned to the Billing Summary page. Click "More Actions" to see the option to apply a promotional code to your account.
- Paste in the promotional code Google (or your web host) sent you.
Now your AdWords credit is applied, and you're ready to start building ads.
- Click "Campaigns," and select "New Campaign."
- Give the campaign a name. "Dropbox" will do.
- Specify your locations and languages. When I created my ads, I went with "All Countries and Territories," and selected "English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish" as my languages.
- Under Networks and Devices, leave "All available sites" and "All available devices" selected.
- Under Bidding and Budget, set a budget for yourself of $US20/day. This will keep your ad costs from running out of control.
- Leave all of the remaining fields blank or set to their defaults, and click "Save and Continue."
Now it's time to specify the text you want in your ads. Go back to your Dropbox account and copy your referral URL. Match the text to Vladik's post or my ads (shown here,) and paste your Dropbox referral link in the "Destination URL" field.
Next, specify your keywords. I found that "dropbox, storage, free online storage, online backup free, online backup, online backup data, and dropbox space" worked well for me.
A few commenters mentioned that Google shut down their account when they tried to do this. The only reason we could find for that is they may have tried to run too many ads (two or three is enough) or they tried to run ads with words in all caps or other attention-getting, spam-like terms and case in them. Be subtle with your ads and you won't run foul of the AdWords terxms-of-service.
Since Vladik's post, there are a lot more people out there doing this than there were when he did it. That's where the CPC (Cost-Per-Click) comes in. A higher CPC gives Google a bigger incentive to show your ad over someone else's. Vladik suggests setting the CPC low, around $US0.05, so each click doesn't cost him much money. That'll work, but a I recommend setting the CPC to auto, so your ads are more competitive. My CPC was automatically set to $US0.94, and I added a number of additional keywords to give my ads a chance to stand out from the crowd. Not all of them performed well, but the variety definitely helped.
I ran three ads, and started with a handful of keywords. After the first day, Google suggested several additional keywords for my ads that would help get my ads noticed, and I accepted them all and added them to my list. Once your ads are built, set them to running and walk away.
Sit Back and Wait
When I ran my ads, it took the better part of a weekend (three days) to max out my referral bonuses. The ads came to a total of just over $US60. That's less than I would have had to pay to upgrade my Basic account, but it's not exactly cheap. Luckily, I had $US100 in AdWords credits to cover the expense.
I saw my first referrals start to roll in after a couple of minutes, but they seemed to come in groups: several would land at once, and then it would be quiet for several hours, and then more would roll in. When Vladik made his original post, almost no one was doing this, so he maxed out his referral bonuses inside of a day. It took me about three days to get 8GB worth of free space at 250MB per referral. Even though some of the heat is off now, it may still take you a few days to get where you want to be. That's OK though: you've budgeted $US20/day for ads, and you should have a $US75 AdWords credit ($100 if you're lucky or you had one lying around before we started,) and that should be enough to get you through. If you're worried it isn't, go back and set your CPC lower so each click won't cost you so much money. Keep an eye on how much you spend. If you use up your credit, Google will start billing your credit card immediately.
You can always log in to AdWords and track how well your ads are performing there, but make sure to also log in to your Dropbox account and check the Referral Status tab to see how many people are joining, how many of them have completed the process by installing Dropbox, and how far you have left to go to your referral cap. Don't go tweaking the ads — they'll work, you just have to give them time. Be patient, you'll get there.
Remember to Turn The Ads Off
When you do hit the referral cap, make sure to log in to your AdWords account and pause all of your ads as soon as possible. Don't leave them running: you're just costing yourself money, even if you're using an AdWords credit, and you're not getting a bonus from them. Don't delete them: once they're paused you won't be charged anymore. Pausing them means you'll be able to put them back into service later if you upgrade from a Basic account to a Pro account and want to use this trick again later, or if you get your hands on a .edu address and qualify for additional referral bonuses. Plus, if you have AdWords credits left over, you can save them for later.
We know several of you have tried this already with great results. How long did it take you to max out your referral bonuses? How many ads did you run? Share your tips in the comments below.