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:
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