A few months ago I decided to include some banner ads on my primary blog. It was a difficult decision because I preferred to keep the blog ad-free, but the income from the ads allows me to devote a bit more time to blogging. Through this experience I’ve learned a lot about selling ad space, although I’m sure some bloggers with more experience selling ads have a different perspective. In the few months that I’ve had ads on the blog I have been able to fill all six spots pretty easily. Here is a look at what I have learned, I hope it can help you.
No Third Parties
First, I should say that I have no experience using third party services that help you sell your ad space and take a cut of the money. I have stayed away from them because I don’t think they’re necessary. I’m open to your opinions on the matter, but personally I plan to always sell the ad space myself and keep all of the money (well, all the money that the tax man doesn’t take). Third party services can save you a bit of time, but in some of my other points I’ll give you some advice for saving time in other ways.
Set Up an Advertising Page
It’s a good idea to have a page dedicated to providing information to potential advertisers. You can see an example by looking at InspiritLive. Provide as many details as you feel comfortable providing and give potential advertisers a way to contact you. A detailed page will save you a lot of time responding to email inquiries.
Have an Email Template
One thing that I have quickly learned is that many people will email you asking for details even though your page is right there. Some people visit the page and some don’t. Almost every day I get emails from people who are asking me about the details of advertising, and most of their questions can easily be answered on the advertising page. I’ve basically created a brief template that encourages them to visit the advertising page and I provide a few additional details such as the recent traffic totals. Most of the inquiries I get are from people who are looking for something for free and not really interested in paying for an ad spot. In this case, I hate to waste a lot of time with emails, but I also don’t want to blow people off or make a false assumption. With the template I can save time and still give them the info that they want.
Have a Targeted Audience
One of the main reasons that I’ve been able to sell ad space pretty easily is because potential advertisers know who they are reaching when they pay for an ad on my blog. All advertisers are concerned about getting their promotional material in front of the right people, so a highly targeted audience is extremely attractive to them.
Encourage the Purchase of More than One Month at a Time
About half of my advertisers have purchased one month at a time and the other half have purchased anywhere from 2 to 6 months. This saves time for me and it means that I won’t have to worry about selling the space for a few months. As traffic has increased to my blog I have also raised the prices for ads, so I was initially hesitant to sell future ad space at the current price. I eventually decided that if they are willing to pay up front, I’ll gladly sell at the current price, and I haven’t regretted it at all. I would encourage you to do the same, but that’s a personal decision.
Some bloggers offer a discount for purchases of longer terms, and this can be very effective. I choose not to do this because I feel that if my prices are increasing they are essentially getting a discount by locking in for a longer term, as compared to buying each month individually.
Actively Pursue Advertisers
Although I have sold all of my ad spots, they haven’t all come to me. I have sent out a few emails to those who I thought may be interested and this has been surprisingly effective. I like to visit other blogs and websites that target a similar audience as mine, and I click-through on the ads. Then I’ll find a contact form or an email address and send a brief email with the details of my traffic and the prices that I’m offering. I’ve been surprised at how well this works. About 1/3 to 1/2 of my advertisers have come this way, and I’ve sent about 2 emails to get 1 advertiser on average.
Keep Your Prices Competitive
I think one of the reasons that I’ve been able to fill all of my spots each month is that I’m not asking an outrageous price. Of course, the price depends on the specifics of your blog and of the offer. If your prices are higher than the competition you’ll have to spend more time finding advertisers. Personally, I’d rather make a few less dollars from each advertiser and spend less time on it. Good prices also encourage advertisers to lock in for several months at a time.
If you’re running out of time to find your last few advertisers, why not offer a slightly lower price? I haven’t had to do this yet, but I was one day away from doing so. I’d rather make sure each spot was filled even if it means giving a cheaper price. I’ve had poor results with banner ads for affiliate programs, so they’re not a good replacement option for me.
Ask Your Current Advertisers for a Renewal
If your advertisers are not contacting you to purchase another month, don’t assume that means that they aren’t interested. Try to get in the habit of thanking your advertisers and asking them if they would like to continue. If they’ve seen good results, most likely they will.
Keep Track of Contact Info for All Advertisers and Potential Advertisers
I have a folder in my email with inquiries from potential advertisers that didn’t pan out. Next time I need to fill a space I have a list of warm leads waiting for me. These people have already shown an interest, they just haven’t taken that final step. Also, keep track of the email address of your current and past advertisers. Those who have advertised in the past may be interested in doing so again in the future. Every now and then you can send them an email to see if they have any interest in starting up again. I’m planning on eventually starting another blog on a similar topic, and when I do I’ll already have a list of potential advertisers to contact.
Don’t Hold Spots
You’ll quickly see that some people will ask you to hold a spot for them or tell you that they are going to send payment in a few days. I politely remind these people that I can’t hold a spot and I’ll gladly give it to them if a space is still available when they send payment, but if someone else pays first they will get the spot. There have already been a few situations where I could have missed out on selling a spot because of this reason. For me it is a first come pay, first served approach.
Have a Good System for Tracking Payment
I quickly learned that with 6 advertisers each month it can be a lot to keep track of. I set up an Excel sheet with a different tab for each month. When someone sends payment I go into the sheet and enter them into how ever many months they paid for, plus I record the date of payment and the contact information. Additionally, I like to keep the receipts of payment from PayPal. Now I can look at a tab for a month or two down the road and see how many spots I will need to fill.
Keep it Relevant to Readers
If the ads on your blog can provide some type of value to your readers they can actually be a positive. On the other hand, if the ads are for products or services that are of no interest to your readers they will be an annoyance. Keep it relevant and it will be better for you, your readers, and the advertisers.