Sometimes it is nice not to have to rely on Google AdSense or various CPM, CPA or CPC networks to generate revenue for your blog or website. And it is even nicer when you can supplement that income with additional revenue generated from direct buy advertisers, meaning they are advertisers that want to advertise directly on your blog without having to go through a middle man – meaning the advertiser gets more bang for their buck and you get the entire advertiser’s ad spend for your site without having to share it with a third party who takes a cut of your profits.
When you reach a certain level of traffic and repeat visitors, especially if you are well known as an authority in your space, it is often more profitable for you to solicit advertising directly, as opposed to using a third party such as AdSense or a CPM network for your advertising. What is the certain level? It will vary depending on your niche or market area, but if you are one of the top blogs or websites in that area, you can likely command the money to make it worth the effort of doing it.
Many people don’t want to deal with the added workload it takes to sell advertising directly, when they might only make an extra hundred dollars a month, but when you could be bringing in an extra ten, twenty or thirty thousand a month, usually the annoyance of the bit of extra work isn’t as much of a concern.
So now that you’ve decided to make the jump and accept direct buy advertisers, here is how you should do it to ensure that you aren’t leaving any money on the table and are making the process as user friendly for those advertisers as possible.
Make it easy
Don’t make advertisers jump through hoops to give you money. Make the process as streamlined as possible, with an “Advertise with us” page that gives potential advertisers all the information they need to place an order with an interface that enables advertisers to upload ad graphics or ad text, list their chosen URL and submit payment, including reorders. Too many sites miss out revenue because advertisers have money burning a hole in their pocket and it could take days for a response when you have asked all advertisers to email you for rates and orders. Many will simply go where they can place their ad immediately. If you don’t want to post rates and you are unable to respond in a timely manner, consider hiring someone who just does advertising related tasks, if your site’s ad revenue can sustain an employee to do this.
First and foremost, make it known that you have an “Advertise with us” page on your site. Link to it from your homepage, “About us” page and even in the footer of your site along with your regular footer links, because these are the places people will look to see if you do offer on-site advertising. Whatever you do, don’t hide it away in an obscure place, and make sure you link to it from multiple places, if you don’t decide to put it in your footer.
If you have a blog on the site, also blog about the fact you are now accepting advertisements to help jump start the ad buys. Add it to your signature on your outgoing business-related email. Do keep in mind that your AdSense Terms do not permit you to contact the advertisers you see appearing in your AdSense ad units, if you were considering just contacting those advertisers and convincing them to leave out the Google middle man.
How to charge
First, you need to decide how you want to sell your advertising. Will it be a direct buy of $X per month? Or will you charge based on a CPM model, where the advertiser is paying for impressions instead of a specific spot for a specific amount of time. If you want to do the least amount of work, you are best to chose the per month model. But if you have an ad serving system, especially one that is somewhat self-serve for the advertiser, the CPM model might be best for you. If you are still building traffic, or tend to see traffic come in peaks, it might make more sense to select the CPM model.
Package or solo deals?
Are you going to offer single spots only? Or will you do package deals that will splash a single advertiser in mutiple places for the month? This will largely depend on just how much ad space you actually have. If you have a lot of ad space available, offering packages might make more sense because then you’d have a greater likelihood of selling out your entire ad space inventory that offering them individually. But if you only have three spaces to offer each month, it would likely be better to offer them separately for more money.
What to charge
This is the part most publishers struggle with – how much to charge potential advertisers. First, you should research other similar sized sites, as well as the larger authority ones in your niche and see what their ad rates are. But don’t make the mistake of charging that amount to startâ€¦ even if you think you can command it the same kind of rate. Lowball your rates to start, so you can attract the initial group of advertisers – higher rates that don’t sell mean less money for you than selling out all your lower priced ads. Then, if you are selling monthly rate ads, bump them up as the previous months sell out.
It is definitely a case of supply and demand – if you sell out the first six months of your best positioned ad the first day, you know you can command a huge jump for people booking the seventh month and higher in that primo spot and bump the price up significantly right then. But if your footer ad languishes and only sells a day or two before the end of the month, then you might consider lowering that rate, or throwing it in as a bonus for anyone ordering multiple months at once of your larger ad packages. Don’t forget, potential advertisers get scared off by a lot of empty ad spaces and wonder why others aren’t advertising as well.
You also need to consider whether you will offer discounts for multiple months or multiple ad placements, something advertisers may expect when doing larger ad buys. Will you offer discounts to those who order 3 or 6 months worth of advertising at once? Or those who want to buy all your available ad spaces for a single month?
Will you offer specific IAB sizes? Will you allow alternative ad sizes? What about pop-ups, pop-unders and interstitials? Are they text only? Or will you allow video ads, flash ads and graphic ads? And if you allow video ads, for example, will advertisers pay a premium for that, or will they be paying the same price as another advertiser ordering a 250×250 ad space for a static graphic or text only advertisement? And what about those who want to “advertise” with specific keywords linked within your blog entries or articles?
Where will these ads be appearing? Above the fold? Below the fold? Right sidebar or left sidebar? Because different ad spaces are definitely more sought after and more beneficial to advertisers than others, you are best to sell specific ad block spaces rather than offer a general rotation throughout the site and then charge advertisers accordingly. You can also sell homepage ads versus internal page ads, as well as category specific advertisements, so that PPC tool advertisers could advertise on your PPC category, while web designers could advertise in your design and usability categories.
How are you linking the ads? Are you are offering a straight link without using a no-follow or sending visitors through an ad-serving hoplink? Or even better (or worse, depending on which side of the issue you are on), a text link with the advertisers chosen keywords straight linked? If so, you can charge a premium for this, but then you run the risk of running afoul with the text link and Google issue and see your outgoing link juice power completely vanish. If you want to play it â€œsafeâ€, use no follow or a hoplink, but you could seriously deplete your direct ad revenue if there is greater value in the link juice than the visitor eyeballs. So unless your site is so fantastic that people are buying the space strictly for your visitor’s eyeballs, you may need to adjust your pricing model based on exactly how your outgoing links are structured.
Right to refuse
What if an adult video site wants to advertise on your pet blog? Or a Republican candidate wants to advertise on your pro-Democrat news site? Or a company in your niche that you know is a scam or feel is unethical? It is always best to have a disclaimer that you can refuse advertising for any reason. This will save you the headache later of having a cranky potential advertiser blogging about how your site discriminates against certain groups simply because you turned down their ad money!
If you do allow advertisers to change their own advertising on-the-fly through your ad serving system, are you making sure that their non-offensive banner ad doesn’t get swapped to something to something that should only be on an adults-only site half way through? If you allow advertisers to make their own changes, never allow those changes to go live without going through some sort of approval process first. This will save you any surprises down the line, not to mention any visitor complaints because that mom surfing with her three-year-old on her lap ended up on your supposed family-friendly website and got a whole lot less family-friendly than she expected.
Can an advertiser buy a six month run and then resell five of those months to other advertisers? Or what if the advertiser wants to switch it to another of his or he sites? Or will it be a one-shot deal where it stays with the original advertiser, as a non-transferable ad buy? Defining a policy on this will help deal with problems later.
How much hand holding?
If you do not have an ad serving interface that allows advertisers to tweak their own ads as necessary, how much hand holding will you allow? What if they want to change their static image every day? Or every Monday? Or switch their ad to a completely different company altogether because they have fifteen different websites they want to feature and they want to give a couple days advertising to each site. Or change the ad because they resold their ad space they bought from you?
Ask previous advertisers to submit testimonials about how well your advertising worked for their site. If they say something glowing, add it to your â€œAdvertise with Usâ€ page. Seeing reassurance from other advertisers, especially if they’re also well known within your niche or industry, goes a long way to help gain new advertisers.
Stating your stats
Especially if you are a smaller site, people won’t want to advertise if they don’t have the reassurance that there actually are real live people are actually looking at your site. Include your stats, and anything you have to back it up, such as screenshots from Google Analytics or a link to your Alexa ranking (yes, it is very biased, but better than nothing). Some are reluctant to give up their stat information, but unless you are a Danny Sullivan of your industry, most people are going to want to know just how many page views their ads will get, especially when they are purchasing a monthly block.
Sites and blogs can definitely earn a significant amount of money by offering direct buy advertising in conjunction with other advertising options, and depending on your traffic, marketability and notariety within the industry, you could even find it ends up being more profitable than all your other advertising revenue combined. Just be sure to follow the above best practices to ensure you not only get the advertisers but also make the process as easy as possible to avoid potential headaches later.