Most blogs today are monetized either in full or in part by banner advertisements. Bloggers who sell banner ads have a lot of options in terms of marketplaces and ad servers. I started selling ads on my primary blog at the start of 2008 by simply hand coding the advertisers into my sidebar and changing them manually each month. While this system works, it’s not the most efficient, and in this post we’ll look at a number of options for bloggers who want to sell ads.
A Little Background Information from My Experience
When I started selling ads I wanted to handle everything myself, rather than using a third party service that would take a portion of the ad revenue. This is a personal choice that will vary from blogger to blogger, but I’ve since changed my approach and I’m now using a third party service on all three of my blogs. At some point the convenience and ease of this approach made it worth the money to go with a third party. I don’t think any approach is better than another, it’s just a matter of what works best for you in your specific situation.
Banner Ad Marketplaces:
The following services will not only help you to display the ads on your blog, but they’ll also help you to sell ad space. Although they take a cut of the revenue, the idea is to save yourself the time of managing the ads and to take advantage of their marketplace to earn higher dollar amounts, which may offset the commission that they take.
I started using BuySellAds here on Traffikd several months ago, although I was skeptical of the service at that point. Like I mentioned earlier, I handled everything manually at my primary blog, so I figured I would test out BuySellAds here. Since that time I’ve launched a third blog, DesignM.ag, where I decided to go with BuySellAds from the start, and just this month I switched the ads on the Vandelay Design blog to use BSA as well.
BuySellAds takes 25% of the ad revenue, which is reasonable, but their system makes the process easy for advertisers and for publishers. It’s nice to check your email and see that an ad has been sold and is already being displayed (you can set them to require your approval or to display automatically) without any effort of your own.
My experience with BSA has been very positive overall. The customer service is excellent if you have any problems, and it’s very easy to get set up quickly. From my observations it seems like most of their market belongs to tech-related blogs or tech-savvy audiences. For bloggers who want an easy hands-free approach to selling ads, I recommend trying buy sell ads. One of the nice things about their service is that it’s not limited to 125 x 125 ads, you can specify the dimensions of the ads.
Performancing Ads was launched a few months ago, and they seem to have been pretty successful so far. Performancing, of course, is a Technorati Top 100 blog with a large and established audience of bloggers. I haven’t personally used the service, and the terms listed on their website are somewhat vague, in my opinion. With Performancing Ads you can either sell 125 x 125 ads, or you can participate in a traffic/ad exchange with other publishers. Published opinions of their service are very mixed.
Blog Ads is an invitation-only ad network. Their commission of revenue is 30% for those blogs in their network. You can get accepted into their program by being sponsored by someone that you know, or you can contact them and they’ll notify you when a sponsor becomes available in your niche.
In addition to the marketplaces listed above, bloggers can also take advantage of ad servers that are available to help them manage and track results, although they will not sell the ads for you. Some of these options are more involved than the average blogger would need, as they are intended to be a comprehensive solution for larger sites.
OpenX (formerly OpenAds) is a free, open source ad server with plenty of potential. It offers advanced inventory management and targeting tools as well as stats and reporting. It’s a great option for those who have serious online businesses, but probably more than what’s necessary for the average blogger.
Google Ad Manager
Google Ad Manager was launched a few months ago and has been perceived to be an “OpenX killer.” Google Ad Manager is also a free ad management service with all kinds of options. When it was launched I signed up for an account to give it a try, but I decided it was more than I needed at this point. It has lots of options for companies that have a team of people selling ads and just about any tool or report you can imagine. My opinion is that small bloggers are better off with a simplified solution since all the bells and whistles won’t even be used.
OIO Publisher is a bit of a unique option as it is an ad server and a WordPress plugin (meaning, you don’t have to be using WP, but it’s a simple solution if you are). The cost for a lifetime membership is $47. OIO Publisher will help you to sell ads without the middleman, and it will help you to manage the ads on your blog. I did use OIO Publisher for a while, but I only used a fraction of the options available. I have a few friends who have very good things to say about their experience with OIO Publisher.
Atlas is another advanced option along the lines of OpenX and Google Ad Manager. The emphasis is on forecasting and related tools.
For blogger using WordPress, there are a number of plugins that are available for ad management. Most of these options are simple and not as feature-rich as advanced ad servers, but that’s usually what bloggers need, without all the features they won’t use anyway.
I looked for a while for a simple plugin that would handle and rotate banner ads, and WP125 was the best option that I found. I used it on my primary blog for a few months before deciding to go the route of BuySellAds. WP125 is very simple to use. All you do is activate the plugin and enter ad details, such as the banner URL, the URL the banner should link to, and the date the banner will expire. If you want to sell your own banners, I highly recommend this plugin, although it only supports 125 x 125 banners.
WPAds is an older plugin that hasn’t been updated in a while. It was one of the more popular plugins for ad management, but be careful if you’re using a newer version of WordPress, as it may not have been tested.
UBD Block Ad Plugin
The UBD Block Ad Plugin (from Unique Blog Design) is not one that I’ve used personally, but it looks promising. The features and functionality seems to be very similar to WP125.
Show125 is also similar to WP125 and UBD Block Ad Plugin. From the WP control panel you’ll have easy management of your ads without getting into the coding.
What’s Your Experience?
If you sell ads or use affiliate banners on your blog, what tools do you use?