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.
- 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.