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Selling Advertising Space Part 1: Is Your Website Ready to Sell Ad Sponsorships?

Keller Hawthorne | September 8, 2009 | 15 Comments
Selling Advertising Space 101
Selling Advertising Space Part 1: Is Your Website Ready to Sell Ad Sponsorships?
This post is part [part not set] of 5 in the series...
Selling Advertising Space

One of my very first blog posts was on OIOpublisher, the awesome ad manager plugin I use on my blog. At the time I installed it (back in May), I was only managing my own affiliate ads. I didn’t have enough traffic to sell ad space on my blog yet, nor did I expect to for quite some time.

Now, just three months after launching my blog, I’ve dived into the world of selling ad space. I was bombarded with questions about how to do this and whether I was even ready. Questions like:

  1. Why would I want to sell ad space?
  2. Is it too soon to try to sell ad space?
  3. Will this conflict with the purpose of my website?
  4. Do I get enough traffic to entice advertisers?
  5. Do I get enough page views to make it worth my advertisers’ expense?
  6. How much should I charge?
  7. What type of ad manager should I use / How do I sell the space?
  8. Should I offer text links, banner ads, paid reviews, etc?
  9. How will I accept payments?
  10. How long should I offer an ad placement?
  11. What should my refund policy be?
  12. How do I convince advertisers to buy?
  13. How do I get the word out?

So, let’s take a look at each of these questions and see if we can come up with the answers! In this post, I will discuss the first three questions.

Why Would I Want to Sell Ad Space?

This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. Truth is some websites should NOT sell ad space. For example, I would NEVER sell ad space on one of my ecommerce stores. Why? Because I don’t want to offer ANY links leading potential customers away from my website. The goal of my store is to sell products to visitors. Why would I want to give them a reason to leave by placing an ad for a different website on my store?

Tip!ANY time you link to another website, you give your visitors an opportunity to LEAVE your site. If you can make money from them leaving your site (i.e. Adsense, affiliate links, etc) then this is fine. Otherwise, you’re potentially losing customers. Only link outside of your website when it provides value to your visitors or your website. Also, make all outbound links open in a different window so your visitors never actually leave your site.

If you sell products or services on your website, you probably don’t want to offer ad space. However, if you own a blog or information site, ad space can help you earn an income. In fact, selling ad space is one of the most popular avenues of income for many successful bloggers!

I earn a little income from my blog through affiliate programs – I recommend products or services I like to my readers. I’ve actually been able to pay for my first year of hosting and bring in a little extra income for myself since launching back in May. But, the income is limited – limited to how many posts I write on affiliate products. The point of my blog is NOT to sell affiliate products, so my content tends to be focused on helping my readers rather than selling my readers. See the limitation?

Selling ad space is, in my opinion, the perfect way to begin generating a consistent stream of income from my blog. Advertisers essentially pay me for my page views/traffic. The ads are placed on my sidebar or footer and I don’t have to “sell” anything to earn an income. So, I can continue to focus on writing content that benefits my readers!

Look at it like this – you offer valuable content to your readers. Because of this, you’ve developed an audience of your own and generated an ever-increasing tide of new visitors. In order to make sure you can continue to offer your insight, you have to find a way to earn money from your website. By selling ad space (to advertisers related to your website), you leverage your traffic for income without manipulating or annoying your readers. Everyone wins!

Is It Too Soon to Sell Ad Space On My Website?

When is a website truly ready to begin leveraging its traffic for ad revenue? Truth is you can offer ad space on your website the second you launch it – even with no traffic. This doesn’t mean you’ll get any paying advertisers, but you can offer space right away.

Like I mentioned earlier, I chose not to bother with ad space when I first launched my blog as I knew I wouldn’t get any takers in the beginning. I guess I decided to wait until either my traffic increased or I received my first advertising request.

Tip!Even if you’re not ready to officially sell ad space on your site yet, go ahead and put “Advertising” as a subject line in your contact form’s dropdown menu. This way, even when you’re not thinking about it, people who use your contact form can see it as an option and a possible opportunity!

So, when is your site ready to sell ad space? Look at the following factors to find your answer:

1. Upward Trends in Traffic

It isn’t so much the traffic I’ve already generated, but the increase pattern I’ve noticed in my traffic that led me toward selling ad space.

My Traffic from May 8 to August 31, 2009

My Traffic from May 8 to August 31, 2009

See that upward trending line for August? That’s what got my attention. That’s what made me realize I might be leaving money on the table by not initiating the sale of ad space.

Though my traffic (as it exists right now) isn’t going to earn me a full-time income in ad revenue, it is increasing at a pretty nice rate. Traffic increased by 32% in August over July. That is a VERY nice figure and one that leads me to believe my traffic is only going to get better in the upcoming months!

Have you noticed any recent spikes in traffic or a pattern that may indicate your traffic is on an upward trend? If so, it may be time for you to begin leveraging your traffic for income.

2. Connections

In the last two months, I have made more connections, relationships and friends with other bloggers than I thought possible at this time. With all of these connections comes word-of-mouth marketing and potential traffic growth.

Are you forming good relationships with other website owners? Have you been interviewed recently or had your website reviewed? Could any of these factors lead to an increase in traffic? If so, your site may be ready to sell ad space!

3. Advertising Requests

This is a pretty obvious factor. Have you received any advertising requests? If so, you had better begin setting up ad space!

I’ve received a few advertising requests recently, which led me to believe it was time. Even more so though, I’ve received requests from companies asking me to review their products (obviously based on my existing product reviews like The Best Ad Manager for WordPress – OIOpublisher).

I have a HUGE issue with reviewing products/services I have no experience with, so it is unlikely I will ever take a company up on its request, but I can at least respond back with a link to my advertising page!

4. Special Events – Buzz

Is there a special event you’re hosting on your website? Have you created a nice little buzz for yourself online? Then this is the perfect time to begin selling ad space!

I’m currently hosting the Best WordPress Design of 2009 Contest on my blog. All 55 nominees spread the word about the contest on a daily basis in order to generate votes for their blogs. In order for people to vote for their favorite, they have to visit MY blog. Hum… do you see an opportunity here?

My traffic has increased quite a bit in the last week due to the contest voting launch. Plus, all of the nominees help me create a “buzz” online about! This buzz is what could be the selling point for a potential advertiser.

Will this conflict with the purpose of my website?

What is the point of your website? Again, if you’re trying to sell something, giving your visitors a reason to leave will only hurt your business. But, what if your website is a blog or another form of an information-type site – will selling ad space conflict with its purpose?

You don’t want to bombard your visitors with ads. You also don’t want to present ads that are unrelated to your site. The best performing ads will be ones that compliment your niche and offer value to your readers.

As I mentioned earlier, selling ad space on my blog is one of the best options I have for earning an income as it doesn’t affect the quality of my content. My readers still benefit from my posts. I’ve also been careful about placing ads in areas that aren’t distracting or annoying to my readers.

You should notice I don’t place ANY ads in the first fold of my blog. There is a reason for this. Though I’m not selling a product or service, I am selling myself. This means my newsletter, my welcome message and my RSS feed are my “products” and I make sure nothing distracts my visitors from these elements. They get the first fold.

Don’t forget your goals when selling ad space. If you want people to sign up for your newsletter or RSS feed, make sure those elements are easy to find and easy to use – don’t cover them up with ads. Also, don’t put so many ads up that you practically force visitors to leave your site. Though you may be generating income from your ads, your main source of income will always be your readers.

Next: Part 2

In part 2, I will cover the next three questions:

  • Do I get enough traffic to entice advertisers?
  • Do I get enough page views to make it worth my advertisers’ expense?
  • How much should I charge?

Do You Sell Ad Space On Your Website? If So, What Tips Can You Give the Rest of Us? If Not, What’s Holding You Back?

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