Top 10 Lists: A Unique Approach to Problem Solving

Today I’m going to show you a new, creative way to solve your problems. I’ve been doing it recently and think it can work for you too.

In this post I’ll show you:

  1. The problem I had
  2. How I solved it with a Top 10 List
  3. How to duplicate the process to solve your problems too

And as a side note: if you’re an online marketer working with an ad network that has a reporting delay, this might help you out there as well.

Here we go.


The Problem

A few days ago I was trying to solve a problem. This problem was related to online marketing.

A traffic source I’m working with has a 4–24 hour delay in their reporting and they over-deliver traffic most of the time.

  • My tracking system says I’ve spent $1000
  • The next day the ad network says I spent $200

This means that when I run campaigns I am never sure how much I’ve spent, or which ads delivered the traffic until the next day.

It’s brutal. But it’s a top network that has served me well, so I deal with it. Most of the time I’m so profitable that I don’t even worry about the delay and I just let it roll. Most days I win.

But this week I was dealing with a new campaign that was losing money and I really didn’t want to have to wait 24 hours every time I did a test.

So I opened up Evernote and then just started writing about the problem to see if my brain could solve it. What came out of that writing session was an entry called ‘Top 10 Ways To Deal With Ad Network Reporting Delays’.

I wasn’t planning on doing a Top 10 list, it just kind of happened.

*Shout out to James Altucher who probably planted the idea seed in my mind with his recommendation to write Top 10 lists for everything.

But looking back at it now, I think it’s a great framework for solving problems and it’s something I’m going to stick with for a while.

Here’s the entry that I wrote. I started by outlining the problem and then writing out 10 possible solutions.

10 Ways to Solve The Ad Network Reporting Delay Problem

Problem: I don’t feel safe running high volume because I’m not sure how much I’m spending vs how much I’m making.

Main Issue: There is a 4–24 hour stat delay on AdNetwork spend stats. There is also a big difference between AdNetwork spend and Tracker spend numbers.

Specifically, AdNetwork charges less than Tracker registers as spent. (AdNetwork clicks are much lower than Tracker clicks) so I pause ads because they “appear” to be losing money, but they are actually making money.

I can’t raise budget or change bids during the day, because I don’t know how much has actually been spent.

  1. Don’t increase budgets or change bids at all. Set a daily budget and increase bids until traffic comes. Then don’t worry about it until the next day. IF it looks good the next day, THEN increase the budget and adjust bids if needed and repeat.
  2. Do the math on the ad placement. Divide the actual amount spent in AdNetwork by the number of actual clicks in Tracker. This will give you an idea of what your visual spend is, with the over-delivery accounted for.
  3. Pull the AdNetwork spend stats into Tracker. Use a manual or API-based process to upload actual spend into Tracker. The delay is still there but will sync the two systems for ease of use.
  4. Use another AdNetwork. If all else fails transition campaigns to a similar ad network that doesn’t have such a long stat delay.
  5. Hire a Consultant. Pay someone with a more stat-based or math-based brain to diagnose the situation. They may be able to find a solution you can’t see.
  6. Continue As-Is. Is there really a problem with the way things are now? Is the campaign profitable? If so, this may not even be a problem that needs to be solved.
  7. Start Your Own AdNetwork. What if there are 100s of people who are also frustrated by stat-delays? Is this an opportunity/angle for a new traffic source / to have zero stat delays?
  8. Ask Your Friends or Forum. I’m sure there is someone else out there that is having this same problem right now. You should ask people in a public forum, on Skype or at ASW to see how they’ve solved it.
  9. Take a Hands-Off Approach. Calculate the revenue Tracker generated, divide it by the clicks AdNetwork sent. Pick a 10–40% ROI cpc, run for a 3–10 days without changing anything. This could be blessing in disguise and free up some time.
  10. Talk To AdNetwork Rep. Call your rep, explain the problem and see if they have any ideas. There are 100s of other advertisers on the AdNetwork.. maybe one of them has already solved it.

Sidestep: this is actually a CTR problem. Because if my ad CTR is high enough my click costs will be low enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this.


As you can see the list is full of ideas big and small. My brain came up with everything from making a phone call to starting an ad network.

Then, at the very end I tried to think if there was a way to “Sidestep” the problem… some way I could get around the entire thing in one move.

And that’s when it hit me.

The problem wasn’t really the reporting delay. It was ad CTR. If my ads had higher CTR, I could lower my click costs by about 50% and be so profitable that the delay wouldn’t bother me.

  • So I made new ads.
  • My click costs dropped 50%
  • And now I don’t worry about the reporting delay.

Problem solved.


The next time you have a problem, try this.

  1. Pretend your the top expert in the world on the subject
  2. Outline the problem in detail
  3. Write out 10 Ways To Solve the problem
  4. At the end of the list come up with one move you could make that would “Sidestep” the whole thing and eliminate the problem completely

By the time you get to the end, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have the problem solved.

And you can relax.


Let me ask you something:

  • What is one big problem you’ve solved?
  • How did you come up with the solution?
  • Mottobiz

    Hey Malan, Another kickass article with actionable tips… If you don’t mind asking, what wordpress plugin do you use for A/B split test/Multi Variate testing? I am able to split test my ads on facebook but haven’t been able to find a plugin for testing landing pages. Your feedback is much appreciated!

    • Malan Darras

      I don’t use a WordPress plugin for A/B testing. I use Voluum to track and test LPs

      • Mottobiz

        Thanks Man…