Duncan Riley> In the age of Google Adsense, running your own advertising on a blog can be a minefield for the new blogger or experienced blogger alike. A variety of interesting terms are often used and knowing what to charge is can also be difficult, but the rewards can make the effort worthwhile, and whilst you might not end up a multi-millionaire (or home owner like Darren Rowse) a little bit of knowledge can go along way to providing extra revenue and even a better experience for your readers.
I’ve worked in marketing related fields and have studied marketing at a high level, and yet I’m convinced that some people in marketing actually make words up. The first thing to recognise with ad speak that if you don’t understand what somebody is saying then you are not alone. Cultural and geographic differences will also mean that terms and phrases change from one person to the next. As long as you know some of the basics you can usually get by. The important ones to know are CPM, which literally is costs per thousand impressions and CTR, click-through ratio or click-through rate. You also need to get a basic grasp of the different ways of tracking traffic. Unique viewers for example never equals page views, and hits are different again. Some counters refer to hits when they are actually counting unique viewers, when hits are different again. Your best bet is to use a server-side traffic service like AWStats or Webalizer, and most hosts will provide one of the two for you, and use the stats off this. I’ve found that where the terminology barrier gets in the way a screen shot from a proper stats package does the trick. Most advertisers will be looking at your page views when considering your worth, so make sure you get the right figure, and always be honest and don’t inflate your worth. Not only is there ways of checking is some cases, it can also give you a bad name in the industry.
Impressions vs Time
Most advertising agencies and larger companies prefer to buy advertising by the number of impressions (literally the amount of time the ad appears on your site), however in blog advertising there is a growing trend towards time based advertising. Selling advertising by impression often involves issues such as geographic placement (ie who gets to see what in the world, US firms have a particular preference for this) scripting issue in terms of how you count the impressions, and other considerations such as whether an impression is counted on a per page view or per user basis. If you’re really confident and know your stuff there is a lot of money to be made in this sort of advertising and potentially the rewards are often greater: I’ve heard for example of people making $15-20 USD CPM for ad inventory for sites with particular targets and CTR history. For the rest of us however, time based is a whole lot easier and provides better opportunities for both bloggers and advertisers alike. Its easy because you simply sell your advertising space in period of time, for example 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months etc.., and the theory can be easily applied to all sorts of advertising sizes, shapes and formats. Advertisers often like the format as well because it gives them time to see how your advertising works with their product, and also often provides some great bargains.
The best thing of all about DIY Blog advertising is that it allows you to provide a variety of formats and options that may better suite your blog whilst also providing greater opportunities for advertisers. As you can see from the main page of the Blog Herald I offer a variety of shapes, sizes and formats. The basic combinations are text, graphics, or a combination of the two. Text links are the least profitable but also attract companies that may be looking for an ad placement for the purposes of search engine placement. A mixture of the two (like BlogAds) caters well to smaller companies or those looking at advertising on multiple blogs. Banner advertisements, like the one for eNewsBlog currently at the top of the Blog Herald allow particular placement for companies looking at targeting viewers on a particular topic, and are usually the most profitable.
Setting a charge for your advertising is often the hardest part of the process. Everone thinks their blogs is worth millions, and I can tell you that some try to charge that way. There is, however I fine line between charging a premium amount and an amount that it too low.
Last year I was approached by an advertiser who wanted to sponsor the Blog Herald and wanted a whole lot of advertising in return. Massive banners 728×90 banners, exclusive run of site the whole thing. I put forward an offer and I was basically laughed at it. The response was that they could get $1 CPM elsewhere for a similar deal and why would should they pay more here, this despite them being the ones approaching me. Suffice to say it was an interesting lesson, both in that advertising wasn’t worth as much as I’d expected (particularly when you’re talking exclusive rights) and that advertisers can be fickle. At the same time though I didn’t, and still don’t think the equivalent of $1 CPM for the whole of the site is good business. It is, however a reasonable guide for banner ads and the like. So if your doing 100,000 page views per month you’d be looking at around $100 for your banner. If you’re less well known it would be a little less, and if your well known and can provide good CTR charge more. In terms of smaller advertisements, browse the advertising available at BlogAds to get a feel for what other people are charging. Also look at how many advertisements the sites have, which is provided on the same list. Some bloggers charge an absurd amount of money for their advertising on BlogAds and don’t get a lot of advertising as a result. For the record I charge the grand sum of $10 per week for advertising here through BlogAds based on around 10-15,000 impressions a week from BlogAds. I’m not sure how BlogAds counts the impressions (ie could just be unique viewers?) because the total is always different from all the other stats available (including Adsense). Why so low? well for a couple of reasons, firstly I’d rather have advertising coming in, even if small, as opposed to long spells with little at all. The monthly charge ($35) is a little below the $1 CPM mark as recorded by BlogAds. Personally whilst my CTR is reasonable on BlogAds I don’t see them as always having as greater value in terms of advertising as some other methods, so I keep the price a little lower. Attracting new advertisers also helps build new relationships, and longer term advertising partners both within BlogAds and with other methods.
Sourcing the advertising
Advertising can be sourced either with the use of third party providers such as BlogAds, Blogkits, or through advertising on your own site. BlogAds will only list your site in their list when you pass 3,000 pages a week, but provide a good range of advertisers. Jim Kukral’s BlogKits also matches up blogs to advertisers. Adbrite, previously Marketbanker, and now owned by Amazon, provides text link advertising services as well as generic advertising, although the advertising is only rarely blog related. If you’re not using a third party company to assist you, you need to either pick up advertisers from your viewers or seek out other places where advertisers may be present and interested, such a bulletin boards and the like, unless of course you get to the stage where advertisers come to you on a regular basis. You should also have at least a basic rates card available (I have mine in pdf) which is available at short notice to email to potential advertisers at request that provides a full run down of the various advertising options available, current rates and details like visitor numbers and page views. There’s also a little trick I’ve been using lately that’s been attracting a few more advertisers; when I receive a request for a “link exchange” from a non-blogging related commercial company (and they seem to arrive several times a day some days) I email them back thanking them for their advertising enquiry and I attach the current rate sheet. Believe it or not I actually picked up 2 current advertisers this way and actaully have 2 more which are potentials. Sure, its hit and miss but a few returned email requests everyday and eventually you find someone who is interested.
So why bother?
Sure, its a bit more work and some people make a good return from Google Adsense alone, but I promise that once you build your traffic and profile, DIY Advertising provides great returns and better quality advertising on site. Look at it this way, sure, I’m not a rich and famous blogger, but its the same strategy being used day in, day out by on Jason Calacanis’ Weblogsinc and Nick Denton’s Gawker Media blogs, and I can assure you, these guys know what they’re doing. Even Calacanis, who is now bringing in $1400 USD per day in Adsense still provides DIY Blog advertising on his network of blogs through text and graphic advertising options.