125×125 Ads: Monetize Your Blog With the Bloggers’ Ad Format

When you think of monetizing a blog, what immediately comes to mind? Google’s AdSense, right? AdSense is easy to set-up, and pretty much all legitimate sites are accepted into the program, so it’s the method most bloggers use right away. However, AdSense has it’s shortcomings, as do other monetization methods. It doesn’t work well for blogs in some niches, less and less people click them, etc. Luckily, there’s a better option.

The 125×125 ad, used by “big blogs” like ProBlogger, TechCrunch, and ReadWriteWeb, they are a great way to monetize blogs. I’ve been using them for a couple of months with great success. It’s taken me a year and a half to reach $100 in AdSense earnings; meanwhile I’ve made over $140 so far by direct-selling ads.

125x125s are, as their name suggests, square ads of one hundred twenty five pixels in both directions. They’re fairly unobtrusive, unlike monstrous leaderboard banners, and they’re less susceptible to banner blindness problems. They are the Bloggers’ Ad Format, thought-up by bloggers, and suiting their style of site well. The ads are sold directly to advertisers, cutting out the ad network middleman, and leaving you with more work on your part…but the difference in income is much greater.

Are You Ready to Sell Ads?

There is no “official” amount of traffic you should have before selling ads directly. It depends on your niche, and many other factors. You’re kind of on your own here. It all depends on

  • How big your niche is.
  • How big your site is relative to others in the same field.
  • Your traffic relative to the other sites in the niche.
  • How loyal your readers are.
  • How sticky your blog is.

You’ll have to decide on your own, I’m afraid. Try asking yourself “Would I want to advertise here?”

Preparing Your Blog For 125×125 Ads

  • Decide where to put the ads and how many to have. ProBlogger has six, arranged in two columns near the top of the sidebar. I’ve taken a different approach, putting them all in a vertical stack in my rightmost column. I charge more to have ads near the top than ones nearer the bottom. Others have placed the slots in a row between their header and the rest of the page. (Note: You may have to “make room” for the ad slots in some cases) Those who wish to sell all their ad slots at the same price may want to take a look at the Got Banners plugin for WordPress. It randomizes the banner order when the page loads, so all the advertisers have their turn near the top.
  • Decide how much to charge. It’s another of those hard “there’s no one-size-fits-all” answers. I have one tip, though. Offer a discount if they by a few months in advance. They’ll save you some trouble that way, so why not offer some incentive?
  • Make-up an ad-sized “your ad here” image and put copies in as placeholders, so prospective advertisers can see where their ad would go.
  • Create an “Advertise Here” page (Examples: Mine, ProBlogger, DailyBlogTips). Give some statistics (do NOT fudge the numbers!) your contact information, maybe a little about the site, and your rates. Place a link to the page somewhere near the ad slots, and link your placeholder ads to the page as well.
  • Put a 125×125 banner for an affiliate program or two in. You may make some money off referrals, and, at a glance, it makes it look like you’ve already sold some ads. :D
  • If you don’t have access to a PayPal account, get one. It’s pretty much the standard way to transfer money online, though Google Checkout is gaining some momentum.
  • Implement a click-tracking script. That way you can tell how many times an ad is clicked, and report it back to the advertiser at the end of their ad run. Of course I recommend my own GoCodes redirection plugin, if you’re a WordPress user.

Where do you find advertisers?

  • Other sites in your niche. They may be interested in advertising, or maybe people who advertised on their sites would be. Look through your RSS reader, and see who’s advertised on your favorite blogs. Check to see who’s linking to you, and commenting, as well.
  • Google. Consult the One Site to Find Them All™ and look for companies in your niche, or neighboring fields. While you’re doing that, keep an eye on the sponsored results to the right of the results. Maybe someone who advertised there would interested in buying an ad on your site.
  • Check some other ad networks. Who’s buying ads through them?
  • Ask around on forums. Some, like the Digital Point Forum, have places dedicated to advertising the ad space you have available.

Keep a list of prospective advertisers (and their URLs) as you look.

Approaching Prospective Advertisers

Once you have a list of people to contact, outline what you want to say to them. Include details such as your pricing, your statistics, and plenty of information about your blog. Next, email them one at a time. Send them a professional email. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown formal letter, but don’t put in any LOLs or anything else that could be considered unprofessional. Some tips:

  • Mention why you’re contacting them. Do you like their site? Do you think it would be of value to your readers? Where did you find them? If you just send them a boilerplate message, you may not have the best results.
  • Offer them a deal. Give them a free trial run of their ad, and tell them how many clicks it got.
  • Keep notes of who you’ve contacted, so you don’t accidentally send more than one message. You don’t want to come off as a spammer, do you?

Keeping Track of Things

  • Create a spreadsheet to log who has advertised on your blog. Add columns for the date the ad went online, the date it should be taken down, how much was paid, and anything else you may need to know in the future. I even have fields for the advertisers’ email and URL.
  • Use calendar software (I use Google Calendar) to help keep-up with ad expiration dates. Set email alerts for the days that ads need to be taken off, so you can remove the ad and send an email thanking the advertiser, and asking if they want to renew their ad.

Further Reading

  • http://www.onyx-design.net/weblog2/ Fabian

    Very nice article! I’m thinking of setting up advertising for my blog too. I already was thinking about this kind of ads instead of AdSense.. I mean, this will get you certain profits, and Adsense just depends on how much people click it. And I almost never click on Adsense ads myself. Thanks for the links to the plugins!

  • http://www.2milliondollarbills.com garry

    I’m now getting to the stage where I’m looking into the various options out there for monetizing my blog. The 125×125 ad is definitely something, which I feel, offers good potential, and is fairly straightforward to implement.  Thanks for giving me the spark to look into this option.

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @Fabian I don’t really click on AdSense ads much either. For awhile now it’s mainly been people who don’t spend a whole lot of time online. And the numbers of clickers are shrinking as time goes by.

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  • http://www.webmasters-forum.org Raman

    i’ve started selling adspaces on my 4 blogs from last month,I tried contacting advertisers through email,but of no use……..then i posted the listing at sitepoint.com,though it charges $10 for lisitng your adspaces,but it’s worth it,,,,I made $200 for this month…..

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @Raman I’ve sold most of my ads via email so far. There’s a very low sale-to-email ratio, sadly. I probably send 10-15 emails for every ad I sell. Half of the ones I send never get replies, and the a few get a polite “no thanks” (I wish people would do that instead of just ignoring…), and I get an occasional sale. Lucky I only have to go through it all a couple times a month.

    I had considered advertising my ad space on SitePoint, but hesitated at handing over $10 when I hadn’t sold anything yet. Now, I may consider it sometime in the future, but I’m sticking with email for the time being.

    I know someone who may find this suggestion useful though. Thanks for sharing your success story.

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  • http://traffic2mypage.com Traffic2mypage.com

    thanks for your posti really need to monetize my blog as it is my source of income at the moment and i am going to take your advice

  • http://www.satus.cn muhibbuddin

    THanks for inspiring me to put 125 ads on my blog. got to go :)

  • http://www.diligentdesign.net/2008/07/28/click-comment-ii-7-day-challenge/ Corey Freeman

    Very hlepful! I’ve recently been attempting to monetize my blog with these types of ads and this information is just what I was looking for! Thank you!

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  • http://www.millionvisitblog.com Andy

    This is a really great post – I've been thinking about doing this for a while – so we'll see what happens!!

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  • http://www.findblogideas.com keith

    Great post, I just reworked my whole blog to incorporate these ads and took off my adsense to give my site a little more credibility for advertisers, I’ve still got a lot of work to do but I feel more confident with this than Adsense.

    • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

      Good luck with the banner sales. I still haven’t quite convinced myself to drop AdSense entirely, since it does bring in some good money, but I’ve set it up so it will only show up on posts older than 15 days. :)

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  • Lohrasb

    Hi, your step-by-step guide has everything, except the actual code!
    Now that we’ve cut the middleman, how;s the site supposed to detect the clicks and charge the advertisers, and then transfer the credit to a bank account?