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How to Make the Switch Between Monetizing with Ad Network to Selling Ads Directly on Your Blog

Over on Reddit today someone asked for some advice on switching from monetizing a blog using just ad networks (like AdSense) to selling advertising directly to advertisers. I found myself writing a rather long response and thought it might also be of some use to readers here.

Here’s the question:

I was reading a post about blogging and money and was wondering when in a bloggers career do the emails start coming in where companies are trying to advertise on your website? I am curious because when first starting out you don’t have a lot of traffic so no proof of presence so companies don’t really care to be shown for long periods of time on those blogs. So people get adsense or amazon ads up. Then at a certain point there are a ton of people coming in and people now want to throw ads up. This is a great point to just take down the automatic ads and go with the ad management setup.

When did you realize your traffic was high enough to switch over?

And my response (which wasn’t really written as a blog post – so I hope it is helpful):

This is a question I hear fairly regularly and I wish there was a magical number that applied for all blogs. The reality is that I’ve seen bloggers sell ads directly to advertisers before they launched and to bloggers who couldn’t sell ads directly, even with tens of thousands of visitors a day.

As with most things in blogging – there is no formula.

My own experience is that I have monetized my blogs in a variety of ways from day #1 and  that as my blogs grow this has not changed. What has changed is the type of monetization.

As your traffic and brand develops, new opportunities will open up for different types of monetization.

So for me, in the early days, I started with AdSense and a little affiliate marketing (Amazon’s program). This generated a few cents a day – but they were a few cents more than I had when I started! More importantly, I learned a lot about ad placement and design, and what type of ads worked best on my sites.

As my traffic grew, I began to realize that I might one day be able to sell ads directly to advertisers. However, these advertisers didn’t magically appear. I had to go and chase them.

While I had an ‘advertise with us’ page on the site, the only ads I was able to sell were small ads with small advertisers. I had a camera review blog and my first advertisers were small local camera stores who paid $20-$30 for a month of advertising (discounted for 12 months). It wasn’t much – but it was $20-$30 a month more than I had… and again I learned a lot from selling those ads!

As traffic and brand grows, you can command more for ads but you shouldn’t just rely upon advertisers coming to you.

Ask yourself a few questions to identify potential advertisers:

  • What is my readers intent? Why are they coming to my blog? If you can nail what this is you might just find an advertiser who matches that intent. For my camera review blog, I realized my readers were researching before they purchased a camera, so pitching to camera stores was a smart move.
  • Who are my readers? What are their demographics? Knowing who is reading your blog is golden information when finding advertisers. Surveys and polls of your readership can help work this out. Once you know that, ask ‘who is trying to reach this type of person?’
  • Who is actively advertising on my niche? Look on other blogs/sites/forums to see who is advertising. Look to see what advertisers ads are appearing on your site through the Ad Networks you use. Look to see who is advertising on Google when you type in key words related to your niche. These advertisers are in the market for readers in your niche and should be places you go to pitch your site as a place to buy ads.

As you approach advertisers you’ll see that they want certain information that you can begin to pull together into a media kit.

Information about your readers is important to include (readership numbers, demographics, reader intent etc) as well as the opportunities and costs associated with advertising.

Include what type of ads you can run (ad size and placement).

Also think about how you can offer bundles of ads. For example, you might offer ads in your newsletter, on social media or to do a giveaway to your readers. These extras could be offered either as incentives to advertisers (buy some ads and we’ll throw in XXXX) or you could use them as up-sells.

In time, you’ll see what kind of information that advertisers want. Smaller advertisers often won’t need as much but as you approach bigger advertisers (usually you need to do this through their agencies) they’ll ask for more and more information and make more demands in terms of paperwork and your pitch.

Even when your site is big, you’ll still find that you need to pitch TO advertisers more often than not. Some will come knocking but I find that these are more likely to be PR people wanting you to write about their products for little or no money or in return for product (it’s hard to live off free products).

Having said that – this depends a little on your niche and traffic. If you’re writing about something very specialized and in demand, advertisers are going to be more keen and will seek you out, even if your traffic is small.

Lastly – I’ve done many direct ad deals over the years but even though they are regular I still run some ad network ads on my blogs to fill the gaps.

I’ve also found that as your traffic, brand and reader engagement grows there are other ways to monetize by developing your own products (eBooks, courses or even physical products) as well as doing some affiliate marketing. But that’s probably another story :-)

Hope something in that helps!

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. Thanks Darren. Currently my blog is in it’s infancy, but even so, I appreciate you taking the time out to address what seems to be fundamental issues related to business development and sales. Regarding advertisers and going out and getting them – good to remember that we as well as readers and subcribers and those who purchase our books, seminars, webinars, etc, advertisers are also *paying customers*.

  2. Thanks Darren,
    Seems this post was publish specially for me, I’ve applied for google adsense waiting for approval and will soon move into direct ads, a little question though, where exactly to I find these advertisers to pitch them. It might be something simple but I might be dumb enough not to know about it.

  3. Amazing article …. i have got a lot of information from this article and thanks for the post….
    I learnt too much from this single post and able to earn higher then before

  4. Great post Darren! You are absolutely on the money. With one of my blogs, it seems that I receive so many emails from small advertisers who only want to pitch their products. It makes perfect sense to understand who your reader is. This information is vital is all forms of marketing (i.e., social media) and even your blog post writing. Thanks for a great post!

  5. I was doing well with Adsense and was getting about 1000 visitors per day to my main niche website. I was just thinking of changing to a better monetization model when my site got hit by a Google change. I am stuck with Adsense now because my traffic is that low the hosting costs are barely covered. Luckily I’m getting started again in a different area of the internet and hopefully will have better success away from Google.

  6. Thanks for great advice! I do sell a little bit direct, but still I am at the stage when working with companies like Blogads is better for me as they have client base. In addition I use OIO publisher plugin so that if advertiser is willing to pay straight to me he can have nice stats for pageviews and clicks.

  7. Thank you for this post. I think I am a little way off those types of numbers (I still get excited with a day over $1.00 on Adsense! Still, great advice that I will likely be coming back to hopefully sooner rather than later!

  8. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for the article as it comes in handy when it is time for us to steich gear. By the way, I understand that in the market there are a number of service providers that allow us (bloggers) to self-create the ads space for sale and billing process etc… Do you recommend such services? If yes, any recommended networks?


  9. I like your point Darren about starting to advertise from day one and learning as you go. To me everything is a learning process and a way to get better. I also like using the adsense to find what are the advertisers that are actually paying money and going after them. Some money is better than no money so why not be happy, learn and keep improving. Every site is different little but targeted traffic could equal big $$$$.

  10. Interest article. What kind of information do advertisers generally ask for? Like traffic? Keywords?

  11. nice article Darren,

    selling ads directly is always good because there is no mediator in between you and advertiser and you get 100% profits.

  12. In my case, I never switched. What I earn from displaying ads and earning through blogging stays the same. As for me, These two monetizes my blog and I treat them as co equal, not one is much important than the other. So, it never came to my mind to do away with adsense and keep the blogging aspect and vice versa. I tend to keep them the way I started my blogging career.

  13. Well stated advice. This is refreshing though. Thanks Darren, this must be a great tips for those who are still new to this world of online business. You are giving me a complete kit with the above article. Keep sharing for more.

  14. Hi Darren,
    Thanks for your valuable information. I am new for Advertising and i am working in a private company in promotion department. This post really helped me a lot to know about selling advertising directly to advertisers.Nice sharing. And please help me, I need some best ad networks list.

  15. Don’t think on making money, but focusing on blogging first, smart blogging is the best way to increase our revenue. no specific tips, its depend on how you do it.

  16. Great post/response! I have help off on any kind of advertising. My numbers are still under 2000 so I’, still waiting. When I do ad ads to my site, I’d like to have ads that specifically relate to my niche and/or ads for companies and products that I would fully support.

  17. One of my blogs belong to the category of “bloggers who couldn’t sell ads directly, even with tens of thousands of visitors a day.”

    I have a blog about motorcycles with majority Indian traffic and I haven’t been able to sell direct ads to any companies. I guess this is a factor to be considered during topic selection!

  18. Nice post Mr.Rowse . I have been asking the same question lately and i guess this post answers.

  19. A really nice post you got here Darren. I’m sure, a number of bloggers are thinking the same way… “how can I make more money from my blog site now that I have more visitors?” There’s always a conflict that goes to a blogger’s mind. Should I accept paid ads to earn more money? Should I only accept ads for my affiliate sites? And so on…But really, it all boils down to how the blogger will handle monetizing through an ad network or selling ads their site. Your steps are clear and very easy to understand and follow. The thing is, having more visitors shouldn’t be the only reason why a blogger should think about selling ads; the niche and type of visitors have a lot to do with the decision as well. I hope other bloggers can learn about this too.

  20. Hi Darren, thank you for the information. What about Commission Junction? I tried monetizing with them about half a year ago, but most of the companies that accepted my offer were obscure and entirely unknown to me – except for web-hosting companies, all of which accepted me as an affiliate immediately. I am still trying to make my first commission, but haven’t managed that yet despite having about 100 visitors per day. Am I just being so incredibly unlucky/incompetent, or does CJ belong to another realm? Cheers.

  21. I discovered directly selling ads was a better tactic by chance. I was using Adsense on a website when I decided to try direct advertising sales. I contacted a fairly popular ad network and asked if they wanted to purchase advertising (of course I did my sales pitch and all that good stuff). They ended up buying quite a few ads that day. It was neat because, it took me a year to earn $70 from Google Adsense but it only took me 2 hours to earn $90 from one client who I sold ads to!

  22. I have always wondered about this! Thank you Darren for this insightful and detailed post. My new niche blog has only just begun, but it is nice to have some foundation of knowledge for when it hopefully takes off. Excellent post.

  23. Hey Darren,
    In relation to the question from Reddit – I have been blogging for 6 months. There have been four advertisers contact me.

    #1 – Travel Company
    #2 – iPhone App
    #3 – Bangkok Escort Agency
    #4 – International Calling Card Company…

    You really have no idea who is going to contact you when you start blogging! I know people who make good coin selling advertising and links on their sites but they have PR3+ and most advertisers in the travel niche at least want that..

    I have experimented with Adsense on niche site projects but found Amazon more effective. Maybe my Adsense sites sucked.. Who knows.. It’s all a game. Trial and error until you find what works..

  24. Looks like I’m gonna be a serial reader of your blog Darren. Your posts are just exactly the ones I need – how to monetize my website, when to use adsense and when to directly contact advertisers.

    At my website’s current state, it seems I may have to work on getting more traffic before actually approaching advertisers.

    I would love to hear more about how you pitched your site when you started out.

  25. It was a nice read. Totally agree with your context here , looking for positive sides , like 20-30 $ though small, but 20-30$ more than before and understanding the type and need of your readers make your blog grow into a online community. Your article will make newbies more patient and hence more successful.

    Cheers !

  26. Thank you soo much Darren for this amazing article!
    I started Direct Advertisment last week, but I need some tips as I am a newbie. If you help me finding answers of below question that means lot for me!
    How do I monitize these direct ads?
    How do I find good client for Direct Advertisement on my site?


  27. Hello, I have a question, do you think it is ever too early to sell your own ad or product. I have started my blog (http://elancefreelancing.blogspot.com/) newly and I really want to sell personal coaching for starting freelancer, but I really don’t know where to start, and how to create my own product.

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