Using Advertising as a Revenue Stream on Your Blog

Blog Advertising
source: zoomar

Yesterday we talked about affiliate marketing as a way to earn money on your blog, and today I want to share what I know about advertising.

First, a little about my background. I majored in business administration with a minor in marketing. Then, at the height of the housing bubble, I worked as the office manager for a busy real estate team, managing their marketing as well as the details of each transaction. I went on to become a real estate agent before dropping out of the corporate world to work from home so that we could begin our family.

Currently, I blog here at Organizing Your Way (obviously…) and as part of my consulting, I serve as the Project Administrator for Deal Seeking Mom as well as the Ad Director for Simple Living Media.

Lately, a lot of people have been asking for my advice on advertising, so I wanted to share the basics of what I know here.

There are four types of advertising I want to talk about today:

1. Ad networks

Ad networks include BlogHer Publishing Network, Lifetime Moms (who I’m affiliated with), Meredith and Federated Media. When you sign on with an ad network, you typically assign your traffic to them so that they can use the statistics from all of the sites within the network to sell ads. This means that you are limited to one network, and they may place restrictions on the placement of ads, what other types of advertising and income opportunities you can pursue and so on.

Signing with an ad network usually involves a detailed legal contract. Be sure to read through it carefully and/or seek legal advice before signing it.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to spend time selling or managing ads
  • The ads typically pay more than private ad spots
  • You are affiliated with a brand and may be given other opportunities because of your affiliation

Cons:

  • You don’t have control over the ads that show
  • In most cases you have to commit to a term of at least a year
  • If the network is having trouble selling ads, you will still show “placeholder” ads in those spots but receive only minimal payment
  • You typically wait 45-60 days for payment after the end of the period

2. Private ad sales

For bloggers looking for tighter control of the ads that are shown on their blogs, private ad sales is the way to go. When you sell your ads yourself, you’re able to choose exactly which advertisers you want to endorse.

Pros:

  • You have complete control over the ads on your site, including size, placement and content
  • You can begin selling ads even if you’re unable to secure a network affiliation
  • In most cases, you collect payment upfront

Cons:

  • You’re responsible for selling and managing the ads, so there is a lot more work involved
  • Private ad sales typically pay much less than ad networks

3. Affiliate ads

We talked about affiliate marketing yesterday, and another aspect of that is using affiliate banner ads on your site. Just like when you include an affiliate link within your post, you receive a small portion of each sale or lead after someone clicks on an affiliate ad.

Pros:

  • You can begin using affiliate ads right away, rather than waiting until your site has enough traffic to sell private ads or attract the attention of ad networks
  • You’re able to handpick the ads you show from the thousands of available affiliate programs
  • When your private ad spots are not all filled, you can use affiliate ads as placeholders

Cons:

  • In most cases you only get paid per lead or sale, so these will not be huge moneymakers for a smaller blog

4. Contextual ad units

Google AdSense and Chitika offer contextual, targeted ads. AdSense ads are related to the content on each individual page, while Chitika ads are specifically targeted to users who arrive on your site via search engines with ads related to their search terms.

Pros:

  • Because these ads are targeted based on content or search terms, they often perform very well
  • This is another great option for a smaller blog who is not ready to sell private ads
  • There are dozens of different size and format ad units available so that you can try different things to figure out what works best

Cons:

  • Most of the earnings from these ad units comes from clicks rather than impressions or views
  • If not optimized carefully and used sparingly, these ad units can be a turn off for visitors

Understanding traffic and demographics

No matter which combination of advertising you pursue, make sure you understand your traffic and demographics first.

To get a picture of where your visitors come from, which parts of your blog they visit most and who they are, register your site with traffic and analytics sites such as these:

Selling private ads

You can typically start using affiliate and contextual ads after a quick sign up and approval process with those companies, but how do you begin selling private ads?

1. First, understand your traffic and demographics, as described above.

2. Next, look for companies that would be a good fit for your site. Visit other blogs in your niche and see who their advertisers are. Take note of product reviews/giveaways across other blogs. See which companies are on Twitter and Facebook. While you may have more success with companies that are already working with bloggers, don’t be afraid to approach companies that you love that aren’t yet advertising as well.

3. Set your rates and ad packages. This article from Problogger explains CPM and setting ad rates very well, so I’m not going to repeat it here. If you’re offering a sponsored post, giveaway, social media support, etc. as part of your ad package, be sure to take those into consideration when setting your rates.

A couple words of caution

I don’t think this can be stressed enough. It is very important that you don’t become preoccupied with making money at the expense of your content. It will backfire, and you will earn less in the long run. Every time. Focus on providing good content, engaging your readers and building a community first.

Secondly, I know it can be tempting to inflate your stats, make grand promises or use your skills of persuasion to convince an advertiser to buy ad space on your site. This will end up hurting your reputation and your income as well, so resist the urge. As a blogger and businesswoman, I am committed to only selling ads when I think they benefit both my readers and the advertisers, and that is a reputation I want to protect.

In fact, just this week I had a new advertiser approach me because he was not getting as much traffic as he expected from an ad. He wasn’t complaining or attacking me, just stating a fact. My immediate reaction (after my heart dropped into my stomach because who wants to hear that?!) was to look for a way to make it up to him. Whether his company ever advertises on Organizing Your Way again, he has already paid for one month of advertising, and I want to make sure that that investment is worth it for him.

I know this post has really just scraped the surface of advertising, so I will try to answer any specific questions you have in the comments!

Do you have ad spots on your blog? What is your best piece of advice for other bloggers?

Mandi Ehman at Organizing Your Way

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