Daniel Scocco from Daily Blog Tips has kindly agreed to help tackle some of the questions in the ProBlogger Question Box over the coming weeks. Here’s his first reply:
Dustin Brewer asks:
How do you work advertising on your site when it comes to the 125×125 banners? Do most of the advertisers just come to you and negotiate advertising or do you pro-actively go and find advertisers for the blog?
How would you recommend getting more advertising such as this, is it advisable to “look” for advertisers or will they just come with the traffic?
Direct advertising deals represent one of the most efficient ways to monetize a blog or website. They enable you to cut out the middleman, to determine your own rates, and to have more control regarding where and how the ads will be displayed.
Getting started selling your own advertising space is not an easy task though, and the question of whether one should wait for the advertisers to come or pro-actively seek them is a very common one on this subject.
The simple answer is: if your blog is relatively small or new, you will need to pro-actively seek advertisers, while if you already have a significant audience and credibility, you will find that you won’t need to spend much time seeking sponsors (i.e., they will come to you).
Dustin asked specifically about 125×125 banners, but the answer applies to virtually any banner format and direct advertising deal.
Is it always worth?
It is important to notice that until you reach a certain traffic level, though, the time spent searching for advertisers might not be worth it. For instance, if you are getting just 100 uniques per day you will need to spend a lot of time to find a sponsor willing to give your a site a try. Secondly, you will not be able to charge much, and the advertiser will probably cancel it after the first month.
Overall you might end up wasting a lot of time on the process, and the returns will be below your expectations.
Until you feel confident that you can deliver value to potential advertisers (e.g., clicks and leads) you should wait or experiment with advertising networks (e.g., Google AdSense, Chitika and so on).
What is the minimum size to start seeking direct advertisers?
There is no right number of unique visitors, page views or RSS subscribers that you need to have before you can start selling your ads directly. It obviously depends on several factors.
A blog focused on a small niche (e.g., reviews of horror movies or pet food) might be able to sell banners directly even with a relatively small audience, say 500 daily unique visitors. That is because advertisers with products or websites relevant to these small niches do not have many places to go, and they also know that the traffic that they will get from such a sharp focused blog will be very targeted.
A blog covering a broader a more popular niche (e.g., technology or productivity), on the other hand, will need to achieve a higher traffic level to be able to sell direct ads efficiently, say 2000 daily unique visitors. That is because advertisers have more choice now regarding where to place their ads, and because the traffic coming a blog that covers a broad niche has less quality.
Other factors that might influence the traffic levels that you will need to achieve before being able to successfully sell direct ads include the quality of the content, the design of the blog, the credibility of the authors and so on.
All right, I think I have enough traffic to start selling my ads, what should I do?
As mentioned before, if you are just starting out with direct ads, you will inevitable need to pro-actively seek sponsors.
Before proceeding, though, make sure that you have the requirements in place. At the very minimum you need a clean design and reserved spots for the advertisers. The first impression that they will get from your blog or website will influence heavily their decision of whether to sponsor you or not.
Secondly, you need to have some statistics at hand. The number of daily (or monthly) unique visitors and page views are the two most used metrics. Do not try to pump these numbers up, because the advertiser will be able to track how many visitors you will send his way, and if he feels that you lied to begin with it will hurt your credibility.
Got these, now what?
Once you have these requirements in place you are ready to start your search. Remember that this is a maths game: the higher the number of potential advertisers that you approach, the higher the chances of getting a deal.
By that I don’t mean that should start spamming people over email like there is no tomorrow. But expect to contact a dozen of potential advertisers (or more) before someone actually get back to you with a sign of interest.
The most important factor here is to filter down the potential advertisers that are relevant to your niche and audience. If your blog is focused on pet food, it would be very hard to convince an SEO company to advertise there, and even if you accomplished that the results would be poor. Poor for the company because it would receive small and unqualified traffic, and poor for you because you could end up annoying your readers.
Here are some places where you can go to find relevant advertisers:
1. Blogs on the same niche. Visit blogs that cover your niche and see who is sponsoring them or advertising there. These companies already have banners ready to go, and they understand the whole direct advertising process, so it should be easy to approach them.
2. AdWords advertisers. Do a quick search on Google for your related keywords, and see what sponsored links will appear. If a company is already spending money on PPC networks, they have a higher chance of being interested in direct adverting deals as well.
3. Forums and marketplaces. You can post about your available advertising space on online forums like Digital Point and marketplaces like Sitepoint. If your rates are good you might get a good response from these sources.
4. Readers of your own blog. Pay attention to who is leaving comments on your blog or sending you emails to comment on your work. Once you in while you might get a manager or executive from an online company that is relevant to your niche. Needless to say that it is much easier to sign an advertising deal with someone that already knows and respects your work.
Finally, do not forget to create an “Advertise Here” page on your site. While initially you will need to hunt down advertisers, you also want to make sure that interested people will be able to contact you easily.
Over the time your traffic will grow and you will start to get approached by potential advertisers regularly. That is when you can sit back and focus on the other sides of the business.
Good luck with your search!
Note from Darren – a couple of other links come to mind that might help:
Got a Question about Blogging that You’d like asked? Ask it here
Hi Daniel – nice, informative answers! I have also found that if you seek sponsorship for certain segments of your blog (like an interview series), as opposed to calling it advertising, you might have more luck.
Mark, that is a good strategy as well. Darren used to do that quite successfully with his group writing projects, when companies would sponsor only the specific event.
The only problem that might arise is that you would need a big audience or a big event (a contest, a birthday celebration and so on) to get interested advertisers.
I would like to add that 125x125s have become too common nowadays, and lead to adblindness. Using a new ad size might help in attracting more advertisers as the new size will prevent ad blindness.
Very informative write up, Darren. I tend to agree with Muhammad’s comment regarding 125×125 ads because they have become the industry standard for block advertisements. Most ad-savvy readers tend to gloss right over them recognizing them as ads almost immediately. Still, there is a larger segment of visitors who are not as ad-savvy and will clickthrough an appealing ad. The same argument could be made for Adsense.
I totally agree with the above presentation and shall appreciate the well crafted post.
Contacting the same people who’s adds appearing through adsence may also works.
I believe private ads create some great revenue. In some top notch blogs I read, private ads are the highest revenue generators.
But as you’ve said, the downturn of it all is it has certain requirements. This usually makes the blogger search for the ultimate middle man to handle the big guns.
But I believe, creating private ad sales is an investment of time and effort worth making. It might not be an issues for a full time blogger, but then again for a part time one, deer-hunting is not stress relief, if you know what I mean.
Then again, more than half of the blogs in the blog-o-sphere doesn’t qualify with the requirements of having private ad sales. That’s one plus point for all the affiliate networks I believe.
Great analysis and detail. Thumbs up for a brilliant post.
Wow, another set of good tips. This will certainly help me in finding a sponsor.
I’m thinking of giving some free bonuses to advertisers like a free review or something. Would this be a god idea?
I’ve had two advertisers approach me so far but after my lacklustre success with AdSense, Chikita and Amazon Affiliates I’ve been put off.
I know it’s rather subjective but at what point does advertising become worth persuing?
My concerns are page clutter, loading times and concern that advertisements or script may be unsuitable for my site and if they are operating a network I won’t have direct control over these elements.
jhay, giving out free bonuses is a good idea.
Perhaps even better would be to offer free trial periods for advertisers. If you are confident that advertising on your blog is good value for money you could let advertisers try it for 2 weeks or even 1 month for free, and let them decide after that if they want to renew or not.
Personally I haven’t given free trial periods, but several times I offered half price on the first month for reluctant advertisers. Most of them renewed it after that period.
Hi Daniel – Thanks for the great tips. I don’t have sponsors yet, but it is something I’ve been thinking about in the future so this info is useful.
I’d like to have some private advertisers in my blog too. Any one interested? ;)
Anyway Darren, I like this post. Very useful.
Great tips, the traffic really needs to be there for an advertiser to even give your site a second look. In this case it’s best to wait until your traffic is up. I’ve been selling for online publishers for a while, and I can tell you that the bigger advertisers love 728×90’s and 300×250’s (especially 300×250’s.)
More and more small ad networks are popping up that will lump your blog together with other similar blogs and sell a sponsorship across them all. An example of this can be found at blogads.com.
It is good tips for me..
Maybe my manga blog can get private advertiser but before that I must get 500** visitor first..
Ain’t easy but it will happened
Thank you for those forum sites! I have been looking for two days already. Thank you for all the tips!
I have a page on my GiftBasketBusiness.com site that targets wholesalers wishing to advertising to my retail audience, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results and revenue.
I plan to go one step further (or is it farther?) and send postcards (yes, direct mail works, too) to prospects who haven’t yet visited my site and blog.
If you don’t offer ads, you may miss out on a great revenue stream.
Some good tips Daniel.
For finding Adword Advertiers, you can use the AdSense Sandbox – type the keyword, choose a geographic location and it shows the relevant advertisers from Google.
@Damien, if you just blog for hobby you don’t necessarily need to put ads there.
That being said it is perfectly possible to make some money out of it without cluttering your design.
You could select a specific location of your blog (e.g., sidebar, header, footer) to put the ads, and as long as they are not too big, too flashy or blended with the content, your readers should not get annoyed.
My advice is to start small, experiment with different ad networks and ad formats, and refine the strategy based on what works best for your specific case.
@Amit, that is a nice tool, I was not aware of it.
excellent tips, I can’t wait until I get enough traffic to attract some real ads instead of what I’m using now.
Finding service providers that will pay you directly typically involves a first tier relationship. In any business, those who are part of your Sphere of Influence (i.e., people who already trust you and become part of your marketing plan) are the best place to start.
Ad networks involve high volume, high turnover, and small revenues which require driving massive amounts of traffic to your site in order to make a decent profit.
Direct advertising on your site can be secured through those primary trust relationships you have with your immediate sphere. Coming up with creative ways to offer marketing opportunities will set you apart from the competition.
I believe the first step to take in developing a valuable marketing plan for selling advertisements on your site without the help of an ad network is to focus your website on a particular market and even a niche within your market. The exclusivity of information will become more valuable to those who choose to write an advertising contract with you.
As long as you bring value to the advertiser, you will be able to trade that value for real dollars. Building the relationships is the first step. Figuring out the technical details is last on my list. And of course, providing valuable reports to your advertisers will help maintain those contracts and show them that the relationship is worth the money they pay.
How do we choose a reasonable CPA?
Chris, finding the right amount to charge is another big question.
As a rule of thumb I use a $1 CPM for 125×125 ads above the fold. So if you get 100,000 monthly impressions you could be charging $100 monthly for the 125×125 buttons.
If you move the ads below the fold reduce the CPM, if you use bigger units like 300×250 increase it, and so on.
Also, start low to get some advertisers in, and increase gradually as you get more stable sponsors.
This is a little off-topic, in that I’m going to speculate about the future.
Now, I could be wrong, but I think the potential for advertising on blog type sites has nowhere near been realised. I was chatting with someone I know who works for a major multinational, and this person told me that the majority of adspend went on TV ads. Why? Surprisingly the ‘strategic’ reason given was ‘because that’s what our competitors do’.
Again, I may be wrong, but I wonder whether the really big advertisers have considered the reach that blogs have in comparison with TV. Then there is the opportunity for some serious ‘channel marketing’ – highly effective targeting.
Yet more speculation, but I think that ‘blog ad’ agencies, and there are some now, will search for a particular group of blogs and asked them to provide ad space, and this ad space will be filled with big name ads, and the income, while not comparable with the huge sums spent on TV commercials, will be substantial.
Pure speculation, I know, but I would not be too surprised if TV starts losing out to the web in a big way over the next few years. And, good quality well trafficked blogs will start to do very well indeed.
Time will tell.
What do you others here think?
I have to agree with Alex – once companies realise they can make their ad dollars go so much further by spreading it out over many websites I think there will be a surge in popularity. Blogs are well positioned to take a good chunk of this due to their nature and ability to attract good quality targeted traffic.
Interesting to hear that I’m not alone on this, Tom.
As you say, blogs that work on their positioning will start to do very well.
I also envisage that in the not too distant future, an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions in the blogosphere will take place as enterprising types realise that they can capture not one, but several channels, and the resulting ad spend.
Google Analytics and similar stats programs will start to provide performance data which may well become the basis for ad placement negotiations. And clicks, although important, may diminish in value as the game becomes keeping brands ‘top of mind’ as the marketing speak goes.
Impressions may well become king.
OK, I shall put my crystal ball away for the moment!
For direct ads (and for wordpress users) there is an excellent plugin that facilitates direct ad selling auto-magically.
OIO Publisher is the name of the WP plugin, there is a one time $37 fee for the PRO version, but Simon Emery (creator)
recently created a FREE version as well.
I recently wrote about it on my blog:
Great tips there Daniel :)
I think it would be a right decision not to try to sell off the 125×125 blocks until your blog gets well established..
I myself would love it when advertisers come and ask me for that space :D
Thanks Darren, i don’t think my blog is quite big enough, nor does it have the amounts of traffic you mentioned to be looking for advertisers, but when it does become of size, this is a post ill be referring back too. (saved to delicious).
Been wondering for some time regarding this subject. Although I’m not currently interested in putting ads, it might come handy in future. Thanks..
Very nice blog. Exactly what I was interested in reading about, though I would have liked to see some more stats.
Guess I shouldn’t be bothered looking for one then (still on 100-150 visitors a day on a tech blog)
Thanks very much for answering this question. Whilst I’m not yet quite generating the traffic to start actively looking for advertisers, this gives me some concrete ideas and figures to work with.
Interesting stuff, particularly about the critical mass that’s required before seeking out specific advertisers.
I truly belive to search the potential advertiser from Google Adwords. The cost of advertise on my niche blog – Part Time Job is relatively small and very niche.
Thanks for such good points.
How do you determine what your ads are worth?
Great post Danny. Selling direct advertisement is truly the most efficient and money-wise satisfying way of monetization, but it’s at the same time very difficult. It’s important to be able to “sell” your blog whenever your negotiating, other wise you won’t be successful.
Thanks for this interessant article.
In France, earn money with his blog is a crime :)
As a newbie to bloging what would you reccomend as a jump off number to get started solicting private advertisers,
Can you reccomend a good start up book or program for the tech challeged but not to dumb blogger : )
I’ve found a tact that works pretty well is to offer value-added services and exposure for advertisers (and typically the best way to get them is through direct contact and referrals)…for example, we offer ads on one of our sites called Dulles South Online (http://www.dullessouthonline.com) – and the advertiser also gets placement or text links across our other related sites and blogs, gets free SEO optimization of the ad, and a few nuggets of backlink placements around areas we feel will help. So he gets an ad PLUS a bit of SEO/SEM.
I would love to go out there and get direct advertisers but for now I need to get more visitors, I average about 250 uniques a day and that just isn’t enough for my niche. I hope I can reach 2,000 uniques fairly soon because blogging is what I love and doing well at it would be kinda nice.
Thanks for your advice. I’ve recently started selling 125x125s on my blog, and your guide really helped me find advertisers. I spent a few days contacting sites that advertised on other blogs, and lo and behold, I’ve already sold most of my ad inventory. Not bad. I may drop AdSense in a few months, after I hit the $100 payout (I’m 4/5 of the way there).
Excellent article. I think that just as long as you have the traffic and show that you are taking direct advertisements, then the rest will follow.
It’s all about content and traffic!
Very nice article, indeed, with thoughtful tips. Content is King, that’s for sure. And with content, traffic that is needed to monetize, will come.
Super late response (I’m doing an experiment on my blog, so I’m obligated to comment) but this is a really helpful and insightful post. I refer some people to it on forums and in some comments, honestly. I think it’s important to really step up and take some initiative with your blog, because it’s kind of like a business. Statistically, somebody has to say “yes, I’ll advertise on your site!”
I do not have access to banner ads, so I offer to place URL links all over my blog and websites. I think that is also very lucrative, but I am beginning to think that I am the only one who thinks that. My offer is to place links on the description boxes for my videos on YouTube, Metacafe, MySpace, and Dailymotion. All that I charge for that is $20 a month. Could you please help me market URL links.
Great tips. Unfortunately, my traffic isn’t sufficient for hunting direct advertisers :D