Dropbox offers 2GB of online storage completely free. The free plans have a referral limit of 8GB resulting in a maximum of 10GB of free storage plus 250MB if you complete the getting started steps. If you convert to a paid plan (starting at $9.99 a month) then the amount of extra space you can get from referrals doubles to 16GB. In addition, instead of receiving 250MB per referred user, you gain 512MB. The increased bonus is retroactive so your bonus space will double once you make the switch.
Recently, Dropbox started giving double referral space to students as well! You can claim your double space here: https://www.dropbox.com/edu. You’ll need a .edu email address to take advantage of the double referral bonus for students. Since these two bonus are compounding, you’re awarded with a whopping 1GB of extra space per user you refer, up to a total of 32 extra GB.
So, to maximize your extra storage, you’ll need a paid plan and a .edu email address. If you can’t afford to switch to a paid plan, you can still use the .edu email address to reach 16GB of extra storage, giving you 18GB of storage for free.
Now, the hard part becomes actually getting 32 people to sign up with your referral code. You can only refer new people and you can’t use the same computer your account is on (so you can’t refer yourself over and over to cheat the system). You could try telling your friends and family, posting your referral link to Facebook and Twitter. But what if they all already have, or have no use for Dropbox?
I know what you’re thinking, and it’s probably something like “Hey, you said this would cost next to nothing, I’m not paying for advertisements!”. But if you continue on, there are actually ways to get $100 in free advertising revenue from Google or a partner. So, without further ado… I created an advertisement using Google Adwords using the keyword “Dropbox”. I had a bunch of other keywords as well such as SugarSync and box.net (two competing services), cloud storage, online backup, and other terms that could be used to describe Dropbox. However, I noticed that those keywords were not performing as well as I had expected, so I removed them. After all, your best bet is to capture people who know they’re going to sign up for Dropbox, and intercept them with your referral link. This results in a high conversion rate since you aren’t trying to get them to sign up for anything they weren’t planning on.
As far as the advertisement goes, it’s entirely up to you what you want to put for the title/description. You could use a graphical advertisement if you wanted to, or just a text-based ad like I did. There’s just one important thing to note, and that’s your Budget. Make sure you set this to something you’re able to pay. For example, I set it to $100 so I could eat up my Google AdWords credit in 1 day and be done with it. It’s extremely important you realize that if your credit expires, you will be charged for advertising fees if you leave your ad running. With that being said, just make sure you Pause or Delete your campaign when you’re finished. For good measure, in addition to pausing my campaign I went ahead and set the budget to $0.01/day. This was more of a paranoid thing than anything, since the pausing of the campaign took effect immediately.
In addition to setting a budget, you may want to consider which devices your ads appears on. I removed mobile devices since the chances of someone signing up for Dropbox from a mobile phone are quite slim considering you need to install the desktop application to really get started. This ensures you wont waste any money showing ads to people who more than likely won’t get you the referral credit you want.
Finally, if you want to change the Networks your ads appear on, you may do so as well. I choose to only display the ad on Google searches since the chances of getting someone to sign up for Dropbox is higher if they are explicitly searching for Dropbox than if they read an article or saw a video that triggered the advertisement.
Getting it all for free
So now, the part that ties it all together. Chances are you don’t want to pay $100 for some easy referrals you may or may not even need. However, fear not because there are many ways you can receive up to $100 in free advertising credit. For example, Hostgator will give you $100 in Google AdWords credit when you sign up f or any one of their shared hosting packages. Many other hosting companies offer the same or similar amounts of AdWords credit. However, if you’re not willing to sign up for a service you don’t need, you can always try creating an AdWords account and letting it sit dormant for a week. Not too long after I created my AdWords account I got an automated email from Google offering me $100 credit to start using AdWords. Users beware, this is the included fine print in the email.
One promotional credit per customer. Promotional credit valid only for new Google AdWords customers with self-managed signup accounts. Advertisers will be charged for advertising that exceeds the promotional credit. Advertisers can suspend their ads at any time if they do not wish to receive additional charges beyond the free credit amount. Offer subject to ad approval, valid registration and acceptance of the Google AdWords Program standard terms and conditions. The promotional credit is non-transferable and may not be sold or bartered. Offer may be revoked at any time for any reason by Google Inc. Advertisers with self-managed signup accounts are subject to a $5 (CAD$10) activation fee. Advertisers who choose prepay billing are subject to a $10 (CAD$20) minimum prepayment fee before their account is activated. Any such prepay amount will be credited to Advertiser’s account once account is activated. Offer valid only for sign ups through the URL provided for the promotion by customers with billing address in the US or Canada. Offer void where prohibited by law. Coupon offer expires in 30 days!
Basically it’s just a fair warning that if you go over your free credit, you are responsible for any additional charges. As long as you don’t forget your ad is running and you don’t set your budget too high, you’ll be fine. When I signed up, my $100 Google AdWords Gift Card was actually counted as $105 and the $5 non-refundable signup fee was deducted from my balance, leaving me with the $100 to use as I please.
The most satisfying thing about this whole process was getting to see Dropbox alert me from the system tray that my quota had been increased. Knowing you’re getting up to 32GB of extra space, for free, with very little effort on your part.
In the end, I went $1.69 over my credit, my ad got 135 clicks and 24 people signed up for Dropbox. Of those 24 people, 4 have yet to download and install Dropbox and 1 was ineligible due to trying to sign up with an email address that was already registered with Dropbox. Those may or may not be the best results, but I put next to zero effort into the advertisement and the plethora of settings Google gives you to customize how, when, where, and for how much you pay in order for your ad to appear. Using the default settings resulted in an average cost per click of $0.75 but you could have just as easily set a CPC maximum of $0.25 and potentially have received 3 times more referrals than I did. However, if you have a low CPC bid then your advertisement may not appear on top, or in a prime location. If you’re patient and you can wait and let your referrals trickle in than that would be the way to go. However, due to my impatience and just wanting to get it over with, I let Google handle my CPC bids which resulted in a higher cost ad, but a much faster turnaround.