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Selling Advertising Space Part 3: How Do I Manage and Sell Ad Space and What Type Should I Offer?

Keller Hawthorne | September 17, 2009 | 23 Comments
Selling Advertising Space 101
Selling Advertising Space Part 3: How Do I Manage and Sell Ad Space and What Type Should I Offer?
This post is part [part not set] of 5 in the series...
Selling Advertising Space

Welcome to part 3 of this article series! In this post, I will continue on with questions 7-8:

  • What type of ad manager should I use / How do I sell the space?
  • Should I offer text links, banner ads, paid reviews, etc?

What Type of Ad Manager Should I Use?

When I first launched, I chose not to sell ad space as I didn’t have enough traffic to make it worth an advertiser’s while. But, I did want to add affiliate banners to my blog and I needed an easy way to manage them.

What I Was Looking For In an Ad Manager

  1. Easy Install
  2. Seamless Integration into WordPress
  3. Ease of Use
  4. Option to Serve My Own Affiliate Ads or Sell Ad Space Directly On My Website
  5. Affordability

Since my blog is powered by WordPress, I began researching plugins that would integrate seamlessly into my WP-Admin. I chose a free ad rotator script in the beginning, but quickly found it difficult to manage. It also lacked the capability of selling space, which I knew eventually I would want to do.

I decided to do a little investigating by observing what other blog owners were using. One of the most common software I found others utilizing was OpenX. It’s completely free and seems to be quite popular. You can use it on any type of website (not just blogs) and it offers its users a marketplace for buying and selling space – not bad.

However, I chose NOT to go with OpenX as it appeared to be a little confusing (I didn’t want to spend too much time learning how to use an ad manager). It also wasn’t offered as an integrated WordPress plugin. I really wanted something that I could manage from within my WP-Admin, so I kept looking.

Somehow, I stumbled upon an ad manager called OIOpublisher. Not only does it work with any type of website, it’s also offered as a WordPress plugin, integrating seamlessly within the WP-Admin. You can read my full review of OIOpublisher here: The Best Ad Manager for WordPress – OIOpublisher

So, what ad manager should you use? Well, to best answer that question, we first need to figure out what you want out of your ad manager. Following are some questions you should ask yourself before committing to any software/plugin:

1. How Much Am I Willing to Pay?

There are many free ad managers, but there are also a lot that cost money. OIOpublisher costs $47 (FresheVenture readers enjoy coupons throughout the year for OIO). Others charge upfront AND take a cut of the revenue you earn with each sale. So, are you willing to open your wallet? I for one am NOT willing to share my ad revenue with anyone. So, I chose OIO which only requires a one-time purchase price.

2. How Do I Want It to Integrate With My Website

Most ad managers exist as separate entities, meaning you will have a separate website to log into where you will manage your ads. OIOpublisher offers a free WordPress plugin so that you can manage your ads from your WP-Admin. It also works as a separate entity for non-WordPress users.

3. What Kind of Code Do I Want to Work With?

Do you want to use PHP or Javascript? Which one do you prefer and what does your host support? OIOpublisher offers code in both PHP and Javascript, but other ad managers may only support one or the other.

4. How Easy Is the Installation Process?

Will you have to hire someone to install the code for you or can you do it yourself? This goes back to the learning curve question – how much will you need to learn and do you have enough time for it?

Some ad managers appear complicated while others couldn’t be easier. OIOpublisher, for example, offers an easy Web Installer that uploads the files to your server for you!

5. Will My Web Host Support My Ad Manager?

You will need to look at the installation requirements for your perspective ad manager prior to purchasing in order to ensure it will work on your website.

OIOpublisher requires that you have a php compatible web host. It also does NOT offer a hosted version, which means Blogger and WordPress.COM users will be unable to utilize it.

You will need to have access to your FTP account in many cases, so ensure you feel comfortable either using an FTP manager or understanding your FTP login.

6. How Many Websites Can I Run My Ad Manager On?

If you run several websites, a multi-site license will save you a lot of time and money. A multi-site license allows you to use your ad manager on an unlimited number of websites, provided you own them. Every OIOpublisher purchase is multi-site licensed.

7. How Much Support Do I Require?

If you choose to work with a free and basic plugin, you may find the support unacceptable. Find out how much support your ad manager offers and in what forms (forums, contact forms, knowledgebase, tutorials). OIOpublisher offers complete support at no extra cost.

8. Can I Test the Ad Manager Before Purchasing?

Find out if an ad manager offers a demo so you can get a feel for how it all works prior to opening your wallet.

9. Is There a Steep Learning Curve?

As a small business owner, you have enough to worry about without adding on the responsibility of learning how to use a complicated piece of software. Ease of use is highly important if your time is limited and you wish to get started immediately. Check out customer reviews to see how easy or difficult users have found particular software to be. Determine how much time you have to invest in a possible learning curve and choose an option that coincides with your priorities.

10. What Types of Ads Do I Want to Sell?

I will discuss this further later in this post, but this is a very important question to ask yourself. There are many types of ad sponsorships you can offer including banner ads, inline post ads, text links and paid reviews. Think about what you would like to offer and find software that supports those forms of advertising.

11. Can I Incorporate Affiliate Ads or Only Sell Space?

When you decide to sell space, you may find yourself feeling a little lonely in the beginning – there might not be a huge rush of advertisers banging down your virtual door. So in the mean time, it’s wise to add your own affiliate ads to your available spots so that you take advantage of every part of your website real-estate. Make sure your ad manager supports “Default Ads” (ads that appear until slots are purchased).

12. How Automated Is the Ad Manager?

Will you have to manually remove ads once their subscription has expired or will your ad manager handle that for you? OIOpublisher handles all ad purchases and expirations automatically. Make sure you know what to expect from your ad manager prior to purchase.

13. Do I Want to Target Ads By Demographics?

If you want certain ads to only appear to visitors in certain countries, your ad manager had better support this customization. OIOpublisher offers a Demographics Module specifically for this.

14. Do I Want the Purchase Process to Take Place On My Website?

Personally, I wanted the entire purchase process (up to PayPal) to take place right here on my blog. And I wanted every sales page to look like the rest of my site. I don’t like the idea of advertisers being redirected to another website where they will hopefully complete the purchase process. However, this may not be an issue for you. OIOpublisher integrates perfectly with any website, so I was able to customize the purchase pages with my existing WordPress theme. Other ad managers will require advertisers to be redirected to another website. This is a choice you will have to make.

15. What Forms of Payment Do I Want to Accept?

This is a pretty crucial question to ask yourself. How do you want your advertisers to pay you? Are you willing to accept PayPal payments or would you prefer to charge credit cards? OIOpublisher currently offers the following forms of payment:

  • 2Checkout
  • EntreCard
  • PayPal
  • Google Checkout
  • Offline Payments (Checks or Money Orders)

I decided to keep it simple and only offer PayPal at this time. I figure most internet marketers have a PayPal account. Plus, PayPal now accepts credit cards and they charge reasonable transaction fees.

Take a look at the available payment processors for your perspective ad manager.

16. Do I Want to Offer Subscriptions?

Would you like to offer 6 month advertising packages? If so, you will need an ad manager that supports subscriptions. Basically, your advertisers will be charged each month of their subscription, which means your ad manager needs to know how long their ad should stay on your site.

17. Is There a Marketplace or Community I Can Utilize?

In the beginning of your ad management you may need a little help capturing your first advertisers. Therefore, an ad manager that also offers a marketplace for buying and selling ad space can really help you start your journey on a happy note.

OIOpublisher has its own marketplace and even allows people to leave reviews and testimonials of websites. This is fantastic for enticing new advertisers through word-of-mouth. Check out my marketplace listing here:

18. Do I Want Reports for Myself and My Advertisers On Impressions and Click-Throughs?

Yes, in my opinion you DO want reports. One way to ensure you entice an advertiser to come purchase another space on your blog in the future is by offering reports of their ad results. Make sure your ad manager offers reports! OIOpublisher provides reports AND can even email them to your advertisers automatically each week if you choose.

How Do I Sell the Space?

The specific steps for setting up your ad manager will depend on the one you choose. For this post, I’ve decided to offer a 40 minute video tutorial to walk you through the process of using OIOpublisher to sell ad space on your WordPress blog. So, sit back and relax as I show you the ins and outs of OIO!

Should I offer text links, banner ads, paid reviews, etc?

Before we make our decision, why don’t we familiarize ourselves with each form of ad space.

Text Links

Text links are just that – text linked to an advertiser’s website. No images/banners – just text.

The reason text links tend to be popular is they don’t look like ads. Rather, they appear to be links your website recommends or finds valuable.

Also, many advertisers like to purchase text links on pages that have high Google PageRank. If the links are do-follow, you share your PageRank with each web page you link to. Same goes for banner ad links, but text tends to be more popular as the advertiser gets to add anchor text.

WARNING: Selling text-links which pass along PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and could get your website banned from its search engine. Please read more about Google’s guidelines here.

In order to sell text links or banner ads while remaining in Google’s good graces, simply add the no-follow attribute to each link. This tells Google not to pass along PageRank or anchor text through these links.

Since text links do tend to appear as normal links rather than ads, they can “fool” your visitors. Some visitors won’t care for this – they will want to know exactly which links are ads and which aren’t. They also don’t stand out as well as banner ads.

A very popular location for text links tends to be at the end of a blog post or page of content. Other popular areas include the sidebar and footer of a blog or website.

You can also place text links on your forum and in your newsletter/rss feed.

Banner Ads

Banner ads are graphics/images as opposed to text. The most common sizes for banner ads are:

  • 125px by 125px
  • 234px by 60px
  • 250px by 250px
  • 300px by 250px
  • 468px by 60px
  • 120px by 600px
  • 160px by 600px
  • 728px by 90px

Banner ads stand out and tend to catch the eye of a visitor. They can hold a lot of information when animated. They also appear to be ads, ensuring your visitors understand what they’re clicking on.

Banner ads, though once powerful, have lost some of their value in recent years as more and more people become used to them and learn to ignore them. Banner ads are obvious advertisements.

On blogs, 125px banner ads tend to be placed in the top right sidebar while 300px ads are pushed further down the sidebar. 468px ads work well at the very end of posts and 728px ads do well in the footer of a website. 300px ads are also often placed in the beginning of a blog post or article. Some website owners choose to add a 468px banner to their header – directly inline with their logo. This can work well, but can also detract from your brand image.

You can also place banner ads on your forum and in your newsletter/rss feed.

Inline Ads

Inline ads are banners or text links placed within a blog post or article.

Since inline ads appear directly next to content, it’s hard to avoid looking at them which helps increase the possibility of click-throughs.

Many readers dislike being forced to look at ads. By placing them inline with your valuable content, you may distract readers.

Inline ads tend to be aligned to the right of the beginning of an article or at the very end of one.

Paid Reviews or Posts

If you would like to make some extra money off of the content on your website, you can choose to charge people to post reviews of their websites, blogs, products, reports, or newsletter. It’s similar to writing a product review for an affiliate product except the advertiser pays you for the review rather than commissions on sales.

This can be a very lucrative money maker if your website has an engaged audience. Online business owners want attention and when first starting out, they’re willing to invest a little money for that attention.

There is a major drawback to paid reviews – are the websites you’re reviewing valuable to your audience? Your blog is a relationship building tool where you hopefully will build trust and credibility for yourself. If you’re paid to review a crappy website, your visitors may begin to lose their trust in your opinions and feedback.

Paid reviews also require time and effort on your part as opposed to simply selling a banner ad slot.

Paid reviews are done in the form of an article or blog post.

Next: Part 4

In part 4, I will cover the next three questions:

  • How will I accept payments?
  • How long should I offer an ad placement?
  • What should my refund policy be?

What Other Forms of Advertising Could You Sell On Your Website? What Kind of Ad Manager Do You Want Or Use And Why?

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