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Are 125 x 125 pixel Ads Right for Your Blog?

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of October 2007 Advertising, Featured Posts 0 Comments

125-Pixel-AdsOver the past 6 to 12 months the 125 x 125 pixel advertisement has emerged onto the blogging scene as a fairly common means of advertising.

I don’t know who did it first – but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs using it. Some of the more prominent ones include TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, CopyBlogger and John Chow – but there are many hundreds others. In fact over at b5media we have them on all of our 250+ blogs.

Why 125 Pixel Ads Are Worth Considering

125 x 125 ads are an attractive option for bloggers and advertisers on numerous fronts:

  • Bloggers tend to like them because they fit well into sidebars (either in a single vertical line or side by side)
  • They give the option to sell multiple ad units in the space often reserved for one larger ad (four 125 x 125 ads fit nicely into either the position of a skyscraper or large rectangle ad). Generally selling 4 smaller smaller ads will bring in more than selling one larger one
  • Many medium to smaller level advertisers like them because they are cheaper than a larger ad and they can have their ad appear on multiple blogs for the same price as a larger one on one blog.
  • Increasingly affiliate programs are offering publishers 125 pixel ads – these can be run in unsold ad spots so that they can be monetized even when the full stock of ads are not sold.

Should you run 125 x 125 ads on your blog? Balancing the Arguement

There are some good reasons to experiment with 125 pixel ads – however it’s not all plain sailing.

There are a number of things to consider before moving to this format:

  • They work better in some industries than others – in my limited experience of selling advertising I’ve found that each industry has it’s own preference when it comes to ad unit size. I was chatting to an advertising agency last week about them buying a banner ad on one of my blogs and when I suggested 125 pixel ads there was silence on the other end of the phone. The rep had never sold a 125 pixel ad – his industry dealt almost exclusively in large banners, skyscrapers and rectangle ads. 125 pixel ads tend to be something that tech, web 2.0 type advertisers prefer – perhaps it’s expanding to other industries – but many still operate in more traditional sizes.
  • Mainstream advertisers are still catching up – similarly, I’ve found that even in the tech web 2.0 space, many larger advertisers prefer more traditional ad sizes and some are not set up to sell anything else.
  • It takes more work to sell four ads than one – While selling four smaller ads can bring in more revenue than selling one larger one – there are more costs involved in selling four – particularly when you consider your own time in making the sale and administering the ad. This is of course if you can sell any ads at all. Selling one ad and having three empty spots can be quite disheartening.

How to Use 125 pixel Ads on Your Blog

A few pieces of advice for selling 125 pixel ads:

Have some filler ads in reserve – if you set aside four ad 125 ad units in your design then be prepared to have some unsold inventory for periods of time. There are a number of options here:

  • you could run an affiliate program (if you can find one that fits with your niche)
  • you could run an AdSense ad here (they offer 125 sized ads (although a text ad might look odd next to other image based ads)
  • you could run a Chitika ad unit (again they might look odd)
  • another option is to run an internal ad (an ad that points to different parts of your blog/site)
  • you could run an ad swap here – arrange for another blogger in your niche to run their ad there in return for you running one on their blog (to swap traffic)

Prepare an ‘advertise here’ ad – another option for a filler ad is to prepare an ad that advertisers the opportunity to advertise in that position on your blog. Point this ad to an ‘Advertise page’ on your blog which has information on the benefits of advertising on your blog. It can also be worth to have another link or small ad near these ads that points to the same page for when all ads are sold out.

Look at who is advertising elsewhere in your niche – if you’re struggling to find advertisers for your blog a good idea is to keep track of who is advertising on other blogs and websites in your niche – particularly those advertising using 125 pixel ads. If they are willing to advertise on your competitors blogs then they are likely to consider yours too.

Positioning is Everything – on my old template here at ProBlogger I was forced to have my 125 pixel ads below the fold. I did this reluctantly because there was no other room for them and was keen to get them up in a more prominent position with the redesign (in fact it was one of the main reasons I did the redesign). Having them below the fold gave a poor conversion for advertisers which resulted in being able to charge less and struggling to get advertisers to renew their ads. Moving them up the page helped significantly.

Consider your Competing Ads and Affiliate Programs – one thing to carefully consider is how many other ads and affiliate programs to include on your blog. This is worth considering on three fronts:

  1. Too many ad units on your blog can be detrimental on two fronts. Firstly it can crowd out the content and disillusion regular readers while putting off new visitors to your blog. Some blogs have so many ads that their content is pushed way down the page and effectively hidden.
  2. Too many ads on a page dilutes the conversion that advertisers get. If an ad is one of four they have a much higher chance of being noticed and clicked on than if the ad is one of ten.
  3. Some blogger miss out on being able to sell ads by running affiliate programs or AdSense on their blogs. The problem with running an affiliate program on a blog is that the program you are promoting via that program might decide that they don’t need to advertise on your blog. This might be a good thing if the affiliate program pays out more than the advertising would have – but it could also be costly. Running AdSense on a blog where you’re trying to sell ads directly can also hurt you because in some cases it’ll be much cheaper for the advertiser to advertise on your blog using AdSense. Remember AdSense takes a cut of what the advertiser pays – so you could potentially be losing out quite a bit. This all needs to be monitored and you need to do some analysis of which monetization technique is best for you.

Feature Advertisers – one way to add some value to those advertising on your blog using 125 pixel ad units (or any type of advertising) is to give them a little extra attention by periodically featuring advertisers on your blog in a post. Disclose what you’re doing so that readers know that you’re highlighting paying advertisers – but do it both to give your advertisers extra value (increasing the chances of them renewing their ad next month) and as a means of attracting new advertisers.

Have Your Say on 125 Pixel Ads

What do you think about 125 pixel ads? Do you run them on your blog? Why or Why not?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I like them for the reasons you’ve stated above. I can’t use 125×125 on my blog though as my sidebar is not wide enough, but I guess I could stack them on top of each other, but it may look a bit weird. Plus I’m not sure anyone would want to advertise on my blog with 0 page rank?

    One thing I’ve seen is the favicon advertisements starting to gain in popularity. They are for the same reasons as the 125px ads. They are smaller so you can charge less, but it’s also more work a far as you having more to see. I wrote a post about it if you want to check it out.

  2. The size and format is nice on those ads, but I really wish that publishers would prohibit animated ads. They are annoying and just contribute to ad blindness.

  3. I have just switched my design over to include 125×125 ads. They seem like a viable option, not for everyone. Finding someone to advertise is difficult. In the first two weeks of putting up advertise here ads, I was able to find my first advertisers.

    Why do I run these ads? Having direct advertisers makes me want to be a better blogger by providing higher quality in my posts.

  4. Sorry, I meant to say that using a 125 ad to promote another section of your own site is a great idea and as much as I don’t want to admit it, it never crossed my mind. I think I’ll try that. :)

  5. We’re not running 125×125 ads because we actually prefer the traditional three-column layout, instead of this new two-column blog phenomena, that’s making way for the 125×125 ads.

    We decided to go with a new design of an innovative banner dimension that complements our 3 column layout, yet play a part in the whole direct ad sales trend. Our version of “half banners”. They are of 200×48 dimensions.

    We just decided on it 12 hours ago, and put up the details. so we’ll see how it goes.

  6. [email protected] I agree they lead to ad blindness but hopefully the advertisers are running some sort of A/B analytics to test the effectiveness of different types of ads.

  7. I agree with Jon about the flashing and bling-bling of the 125 ads. They can get really annoying, especially if you have 4 of them together and all four are flashing.

    I have seen a couple of sites with this, and have just ignored them. They often flash to quickly to really focus on what they are promoting.

    Now, if the advertisers would allow the option of turning off the animation, that would be great! I know that space is limited, but so are peoples attention spans to “flashing” ads.

  8. I really like the look of 125×125 pixel ads, but I have a hard enough time selling 468×60 banner ads and text links on my blog let alone 4 or so 125×125 pixel ads. Maybe in the future they will be added to my inventory but for now I’ll stick with what I have.

    By the way, Darren, I don’t know if you have in the past or not but I think you should write a post about how to find advertisers for your blog. I’m having a hard time finding them (mostly because my “sit and wait” strategy isn’t working out to well) I would love to send off emails to people who would be interested but I don’t know where to look.

  9. I think in most cases 125×125 is the best way to go. True, it is more work than selling one large ad, but unless you are able to attract advertisers with big budgets, you’ll probably earn more with 4 smaller ads.

    I’ve run into some of the problems Darren mentioned with AdSense and affiliate programs. Frequently, smaller advertisers will try to get me to sign up as an affiliate and promote their products.

  10. I’m running 100×100 ads on my site, because my sidebar isn’t wide enough. I haven’t had the time to fix the CSS width, but I should do that one of these days. :)

  11. Most likely yes, my advertising contains all 125×125 ads.

  12. I have 4 125 x 125 adverts on my blog, So far, they have

    – One bought for a year.
    – One given away in a compeititon for 2 months
    – One leading to my bid directory
    – One leading to an “advertise here” page.

    Interestingly, I’m in negotiations to sell one for another year. I’m thinking of increasing my adverts now from 4 to 6.

    What point do you feel it’s good to up the amount of adverts you have?

  13. Oh, and I agree to what John says. I probably get about 4 emails a week from people unable to pay up front, but want to advertise their product “at a special affiliate rate”. I always say no :)

  14. I cant use 125×125 on my blog. i have to make it wider first. right now im only using the 468×60 banners. maybe soon ill follow the trend

  15. “Jon – Art of Money

    The size and format is nice on those ads, but I really wish that publishers would prohibit animated ads. They are annoying and just contribute to ad blindness.”

    Agree, nothing is worst then an animating gif ad ;(

  16. I do use them but they’re below the fold right now pending a contest. They should get moved up and hopefully the conversion rate will increase.

  17. I’ve been thinking about popping them in my theme – but I doubt I get enough traffic (yet) to be attractive to most advertisers.

  18. Funny this was posted the same day I planed to write about the same thing. But imo I would recommend not using 125×125 ads now that most bloggers are using the same type of design, with the same sized ads, in the same spots..it’s not unique anymore everyone is doing it.

  19. I designed my site to include four 125×125 ads in a third side bar on the right. I just started my site, so I asked four of my friends businesses to give me 125×125 ads for their businesses. I am running them as free trial runs right now while I build content and traffic. After the trial run is over, some of them have said that they would be willing to pay for advertising.

    Because I am directly selling the ads, I don’t allow flash ads. They are too distracting.

    My plan is to build my traffic right now, so later I can go to advertisers and highlight the number of visitors. I don’t think advertisers want to advertise on a site with only 50 visitors a day.

    A lot of my visitors are from the same city. I plan to go to some of the boutique stores in my town and ask them to advertise.

    I agree with Michael, I would love a post on how to attract advertisers. Also, what is the ballpark range that they should be sold for?

  20. I posted the point of view of an advertiser based on my experience.

    Rhys: I have the reverse. I have people emailing asking to advertise on their blog because they saw the ad. I say to them to add their blog and get into my affiliate program instead. ;)

    Leon G: I don’t mind animated ads because they can give more information if it’s done with “text”.

  21. 125×125 px ads are perfect for blogs

  22. I’m not a fan of the animated ads either. Though I’ve seen some that are good, in general I find them too distracting and I tend to spend less time on any page that has moving parts.

  23. In my days as a biz dev selling ad spaces, I noticed that most advertisers pre-dominantly wanted to use the large 728×90 leaderboard that we offered.. compared to the powerbuttons…

    there main reason for this was we ourselves promoted the mroe expensive leaderboard in place of the powerbutton which was always a second cousin, a bait of discounted banner ads in the name of these 125x buttons…

    but that was a large-premium website.. with blogs there are primarily two constraints.. one that of space and second that of traffic volumes (in general).. a blog is small in terms of both these factors.. also, to give advertisers a better run for their money and to increase revenue, bloggers have had to look at more than text links which doesnt attract much eyeballs..the answer to this was banner ads.. and the constraint of space was effectively utilised through these powerbuttons compared to a large 250 rect or leaderboards or impact banners…

    I didn’t know this was a new trend.. though many bloogers used to do this before as well…

  24. I have six 125×125 on my blogs. They fit with my blog side bar.
    I like it. I have many blogs place their ads like that.

  25. Great article! Very similar to my last week’s series: How to Sell Ads on Your Blog Despite Its Size

  26. yes is true now more than ever 125×125 ads are getting into many blogs, but I have prefered 160×100 on my blog.

  27. I like this one:

    another option is to run an internal ad (an ad that points to different parts of your blog/site)

  28. We just started our blog, so we are not currently running any ads until we get our traffic up. However, once we do start advertising, we most likely will go with the 125×125 route.

    Interesting comments here about the flashing ads. Now that we think about it, we don’t really like them either. However, they seem to be very popular with advertisers. We guess you can state on your advertising page that you just don’t accept flashing ads, and see how it goes.

    Thanks for another great post, Darren!

  29. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of image ads, more often than not I feel that they tend to be too obtrusive at times and tend to draw the eye away from the content.

  30. Ads? What are ads? I installed AdBlock Plus for Firefox and barely know what an ad looks like anymore.

  31. I like the 125x125px size ads but I would like to find out how do you price such an ad? Is there a formula to determine ad costs based on size? Based on your traffic?

    If an advertiser wants the “flashy” ads do you comply or is your content more important to you?

    Help! Brain overload!

  32. I, like Max Powers above, would be interested in hearing specifics about sales and pricing.

  33. good tips problogger…i think i might switch my ads to that size as well keep up the good work!!!

  34. I also agree, would love info on pricing.

    Post idea, darren? *hint hint*

  35. This is an amazing post Darren. Keep them coming.

  36. some very good tips there mate :D

    Looking at using some of these for something I have cooking at the moment.

  37. Jon – yes animation is something that I grapple with. At this point i allow it in order to secure advertisers – but it’s with reluctance that I do so and I hope to move away from it (or at least to limit it).

    Michael – I’ve written on how to find advertises for a blog here and here too – enjoy

    Amanda – price is always hard and it’s something you’ll need to test with potential advertisers. Of course it depends upon the topic, your traffic and the length of the campaign – is that vague enough for you? I’ve seen them selling for anything from $50 a month to several thousand a month.

  38. With screen sizes and resolutions increasing all the time, I don’t see this 125×125 resurgence gaining much ground over the next few years. These are “ancient” sizes in terms of mainstream banner ads.

    Even with your layout, Darren, I’m sure you could swap those125x125 bathroom tiles for big rotating 300×300’s and charge accordingly so your revenue is the same.

    Maybe you’re worried that one-time visitors won’t see every ad – put a “More ProBlogger Sponsors” link below the square to a page listing all your sponsors. One-time visitors only have time to look at so much anyway, so distracting them with 6 tiles isn’t likely to increase their attention. But those who are really interested in your sponsors will click to see more.

  39. I think something we bloggers forget very often while arriving at a price is the value that an advertiser derives from your ad. Just like content is about the readers, advertising is not about you your advertisers.. The price you quote can do with some help in terms of research of what kind of products or services are your advertisers intending, what’s the value of those services, how many leads would they require to break even, does your ctr’s match up to these leads… seems complex, but when broken down into single steps you can arrive at a good approximation… and then add a bit as your brand value.
    the best thing about this is that, you can make a strong pitch (if you have a good traffic base) using this to your advertisers justifying your price..
    of course intution and the price fellow bloggers in your niche quote can work too..

  40. I’m so glad someone finally decided to write an article about this subject, thank you.

  41. 125X125 ads are another invention of ads which takes less space but it’s not currently on the top spots of popularity. 125X125 ads normally fits in menu navigation bar of a website. I believe giving width of 125 will have nice meny navigation bar with all the contents in the middle. I do like 125X125 they are square block and it does have nieche placement which webmaster enjoy it.

  42. Yes I agree with the comments on the animation and yes I will have to read more on Darren’s blog about getting advertisers and pricing.

  43. I will be adding 125×125 ad panels into my inventory next month after my current Pink for October campaign ends. I am currently finding for advertisers and if they are willing to give my blog a try, I will offer them discounts and even free trials.

    For me, seeding the ad space with affiliate banners and independent advertisers rather than referral buttons like from Text-Link-Ads is much more better to show the uniqueness.

  44. I guess my earlier comment stopped at spam filter. Anyway, I tried to play with these 125×125 ad blocks and based on my experiements, you can’t use them well, if Google AdSense is your only advertising channel, because they keep on putting their name into each individual block.
    So I think that having more than one 125×125 ad block in a page, more or less requires that you get your ads directly from your advertiser.

  45. I have been running my ads space now, since i have dropped most of my contextual ads leaving just one adsense below my comments. and now i concenrate on direct advertisers..

  46. Gee, thankx Darren for doing all the research and making the jobs easier for us.

    Three cheers for Darren.

  47. I think the size of the ad is not really important, the most important thing is if you want to make money from your site or just you want to keep your site clean.

    I used to keep my site ad-free, but now, since I want to make some money from my site, I don’t care the size of the site, but have to make sure the content and value of the site.

    someone may not agree with me, but as matter as the fact, sometimes the blog just a tool for the owner to make money, that’s why, there’s lot of instruction or guide like how to make money online.

    Hence, just tear off the mask, and then try all your best to earn the money.

  48. What an interesting dilemma. While I can understand that having ads above the fold will help boost CTR and exposure for your advertisers, I can only imagine that this would correspondingly affect the user experience in a negative way. Have you noticed any trends where readership declined when moving your ads from below the fold to above the fold? I would think that placing ads below the fold – specifically towards the end of your article – would be the best middle-ground solution when considering both advertisers and users. By having ads towards the top, you are detracting user attention away from your page too early on, although I do notice that you have the ads show up in a new window. But still, wouldn’t you want users to read you content first (after all that is the most important) and then allow the user to choose whether they want to click on an advertisement? I guess this is a difficult problem to address since you need to find a solution that works well for you, the users and the advertisers, but I just thought I’d mention this.

  49. This is a great read. Currently I’m four 125×125 button advertisements on my own blog. Thanks for writing this.

  50. Kudos to the reasons given to deal with 125×125 ad units. This is a rational and Informative post for those who need to get their 125x125s going. For now the 125s seem to be the trend. But I foresee sometime in the future, almost every blog will have them plastered on the top right corner of their pages. That’s when we get tired of looking at them and start to think of something different to be unique. Will it come sooner or later?

    Even now a blog like John Chow’s is so plastered with favicons and 125s at the top it’s starting to look cluttered and unsightly even though when people first saw his blog redesign, they all went oohs and aahs.

    If we look carefully at most blogs going in this direction, would it be right to speculate that blogs no longer look like blogs – more like the traditional websites filled with banner ads. Remember we used to be told by some gurus to be mindful of banner blindness? But who cares, put the banners on and let advertising dollar roll in! Leading bloggers have made this move as “politically correct” and the floodgate is now open.

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