My first order of the day was to ask some of the bloggers I know and respect why they do/don't use paid advertising on their blogs.
Here's what I found out.
Banner Advertising: Thumbs Up or Down?
Yaro Starak – Entrepreneurs-Journey.com
“Advertising on my websites is the longest and most stable income stream I have ever had online.
Back in the year 2000 with my very first website I sold banner advertising at $50 a month. From that time forward every single month I have had some form of income coming from sponsors on my websites. That's over 10 YEARS of stable income.
One of the key things I wanted from advertising is to make it as close to passive income as I could get it.
Initially I was very hands on, negotiating prices with every advertiser, handling their banners manually, etc. This all required too much time, which is why I came up with a few systems to make the process as close to passive as possible. With help from an assistant to approve ads, my system became completely passive for me and has been for several years.
Of course it's important that your sponsors get value too, otherwise they won't stick with you for long. Finding the right kind of sponsor is just as important, so don't get too caught up in the “easy money” aspect. You will need to find the right sponsors to make the relationship win-win.
Every month for the last five years I've had anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 a month coming in from sponsors. I consider this my “salary” that no matter what other project I am working on, I can count on this money.
I strongly recommend you consider adding direct sponsorship to your blog too. At the very least give it a try for a few months and you may be surprised who is interested in reaching your audience.”
Pat Flynn – SmartPassiveIncome.com
“I've definitely has success with paid advertising in the past on my previous sites (http://www.greenexamacademy.com, for example), although I took it down on that site for one particular reason – I wanted people to buy my products (or products that I recommended) instead of the products of my competitors.
Affiliate marketing was more profitable than renting out space on the site.
On SPI, I don't do paid advertising because, again, I can make more money through affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, I'm more in control of how much money I make.
The more traffic I drive through those affiliate links (and the better my lead in to those links), the more money I can make.
With paid advertising, at least in the traditional “rent this space for X dollars a month” model, the money I can make is capped, and I could possibly earn less than I could with affiliate marketing.
Plus, I only recommend products that I've used and have helped me somehow in the past, and I'm not comfortable, at least on SPI, with promoting things for an advertiser just because he or she paid me money to do so. I think the recommendation becomes much more powerful when it comes directly from me instead of from an ad, where the payment to recommend is implied.”
Kristi Hines – Kikolani.com
“I think sponsored advertising on a blog could be a viable stream of income if you have a lot of traffic. Traffic is the key to getting advertisers.
If you look at the Design & Development websites looking for advertisers on BuySellAds, you will see that sites with higher traffic can charge the most.
IconFinder, for example, is making $5,283 per month in ads based on the number of spots they have, cost per spot, and what is currently available. If that is their average, then they are making over $60,000 a year in ads.
Definitely a viable income IF you have the traffic and niche to demand that kind of pricing.”
Lisa Irby – 2CreateAWebsite.com
“I actually tried selling ad space on my blog for awhile. The click through rates were soooooooooo dismal no one ever renewed. So I dropped AdSense AND paid ads.
Then I discovered how well the 728×90 AdSense unit converted when I redesigned my blog, so I just decided to make money with AdSense.
I think if I had sold a larger ad spot that was more prominent like my 728×90 AdSense unit on my blog it would have done better, but I didn't have that design setup then.
I was selling 125×125 in the right column. Terrible click-throughs. I even dropped the price way low… still no one renewed. The click thrus were that bad.
I sell paid ads on my static site 2createawebsite.com and it goes over a lot better because of the traffic.”
Successful Banner Advertising Breakdown
Before you say “Great, sign me up!“, let's see if your site has what it takes to become a successful advertising income-churning machine.
5 Things You Need to Consider:
Understandably, advertisers want to make the most of their advertising budget and invest into the blogs that might bring the biggest return.
How much traffic is enough?
I'd say that you need close to 500 unique visitors per day to make any decent amount of money with advertising.
Sure you can make some with less and it'll be up to you (and your potential sponsors) to decide.
2. BANNER PLACEMENT
This is something you'll have to test on your blog – one size doesn't fit all.
For Lisa Irby, 728X90 spot at the top of her blog and site performs the best.
You can also add banner advertisement within the content of your home page or posts, like Yaro Starak does.
Yes, it's true that readers can develop “banner blindness” for 125X125 ad spots in the sidebar, but I think it all depends on how you do it.
A couple of successful ingredients to great click-throughs for those spots are clean and uncluttered sidebar, limited amount of ads, and yes, the blog authority.
For instance, Pat Flynn does NOT do paid advertising, but makes a killing in affiliate marketing – combine that with his reputation and insanely loyal readership and it's no wonder, right?
If my blog did that well with affiliate marketing programs, I might not be considering paid advertising either. Just saying.
And here's one more example of a great ad spot, but this time it's for text links.
Take a look at how John Chow is using the banner strip at the top of his blog to draw attention to his advertisers.
It’s the first element to load and the first thing readers see when visiting his site. The ad is locked to the top of the browser so it's visible at all times.
I bet it gets killer click-throughs, especially for this one that mentions “Playboy Mansion”. I need to get me one of those… LOL
So obvious, yet so often ignored.
I see many of my clients advertise products that don't relate to their niche in any shape or form.
Like placing a CommentLuv Premium banner on a weight loss blog.
When you do paid advertising, you don't necessarily vouch for the products advertised, but the quality of advertised products still reflects on you and your business.
After all, if your reader ends up purchasing a product through an ad on your blog and it turns out to be a flop, guess who will hear all about it and possibly even risk loosing some readers over it?
5. GO THE EXTRA MILE
Banner advertising income is fairly passive, but not hands-free.
If your advertisers are not getting the click-throughs they expect, they won't renew, just like Lisa Irby mentioned above.
Keeping your present advertisers happy is much easier that getting new ones, so make sure you do just that.
Here's a great tip I got from one of Yaro Starak‘s newsletters on how to attract blog sponsors:
“Depending on the results you deliver to sponsors, you might consider taking extra steps to ensure your sponsors stick around for a long time.
Making a “thanking the sponsors” blog post once a month to send additional traffic and links to your advertisers is a good practice, and/or highlighting a specific sponsor with a dedicated post about their business.”
Simple and brilliant.
How to Attract Advertisers
This was one of the questions I struggled with when considering banner advertisement at Traffic Generation Cafe.
Would I have to send out dozens of emails, beg and plea with product/service vendors, prove that my blog is worthy of their advertising budget?
Then Kristi Hines told me:
“I know the way you are supposed to do it is to reach out to advertisers (companies that advertise on similar blogs, for example). I really don't pursue my ads… I just put them up if someone asks and get rid of the whole block if there aren't any. Having an advertise page really helps too so people know you are open to (almost) anyone advertising.”
Yes, it was as simple as that.
LETTING everyone KNOW that you are open for advertising business is the single most important thing you can do to get the ball rolling.
How to Choose Advertising System
Unless you are a coding genius, you would need some help getting your ad spots set up on your blog.
There are plenty of plugins to help you do that (most of them are free).
I've personally used Ads by Datafeedr.com to power my rotating affiliate banners; however, setting it up is not very intuitive.
Now that you've got your ad spaces all figured out, you need to find an advertisement management system.
Do you need to have one? No. However, it'll make your life a lot easier and I am all for easy.
What are the choices?
Kristi Hines already mentioned BuySellAds.com – one of the most popular advertising systems out there. Then there's AdvertiseSpace.com and plenty others.
The way those systems work is they charge you a percentage of the ad revenue from your blog in exchange for acting as a middle man between your site and advertisers. Their commission can range anywhere from 25% to 50%.
How's Traffic Generation Café Doing?
UPDATE: as you can tell, I don't use banner ads at Traffic Generation Café at the moment.
1. I don't like to overwhelm my readers (you!) with too many calls to action:
- sign up for my email list!
- follow me on social media!
- click on this affiliate link!
- check out these banners ads!
2. I had to say ‘no' to way too many potential advertisers because I didn't like their products.
Even those these are just banner ads, I still felt responsible to make sure the products behind them were of value.
This lead to too much work for me, plus what's the point if I want to so closely censor everything, right?
3. I feel like my readers are too savvy for AdSense, plus I didn't want to send them off my blog for a few cents.
Of course, this might change in the future, but for now, Traffic Generation Café will remain ad-free.
I spent about 2 days doing research on the validity of banner advertisement as an income stream, researching different advertising systems, plugins, setting up my “Advertise” page, and getting opinions from other bloggers as to whether I should do any of the above to begin with.
I really wasn't sure if those 2 days were to be written off as a complete waste of time, but I saw it through.
My ‘Advertise Page' went live on December 1.
By December 5, I sold a text link and a banner ad in the sidebar, as well as landed a sponsored review.
All in all, I made $775 from my advertising within the first five days. If you ask me, it's not that bad.
Will it be smooth sailing from here on? We shall see.
It is my goal though to do everything I can to make this work for both my readers (continue to offer quality products through paid links) and advertisers (make sure I do all I can to drive more traffic to their sites.)
I am sure I'll be doing a follow-up post on banner advertising soon. After all, it takes longer than a week to see true results.
However, for now I am pleased with the results and will probably remain in the ignorant bliss that this is a great money making strategy for my blog… until that is I run out of advertisers.