Many bloggers got their start after hearing about other blogs that are making large sums of money, and the most common monetization method for these types of blogs is through advertising sales. Although I didn’t set up with this purpose on my first blog, I now have about 2 years of experience with monetizing blogs through advertisements. While my blogs (Vandelay Design and DesignM.ag) don’t make as much money as some others, they do produce a significant portion of my income through ad sales.
Since advertising revenue is a goal for many who are just getting started, I thought it might be helpful to share some things I have learned along the way.
1. Don’t Plan on Advertising as Your Only Monetization Method
You may have read articles like Blogging for Ads is Dead. The truth is that making a significant income from advertising is difficult. It is possible, as others have proven, but there are other ways that are probably more lucrative, such as selling your own products, membership sites, and in some cases even affiliate marketing. Personally, I use ads as a way to supplement the income that I make from services. However, running multiple blogs takes a lot of time and effort on a regular basis to keep the advertising revenue coming in, and that means less time to work on other things that I would like to pursue. If you’re going to use advertising as a way to monetize your site, plan other methods as well because it’s difficult to support yourself exclusively on advertising revenue.
2. Expect to Work for at Least a Few Months Before Making Any Ad Revenue
If you’re starting from scratch with no existing blog and no reputation in your industry, it will take some time to get to the point where advertisers will want to pay to advertise on your blog. Most new blogs take at least a few months before the really start making anything significant, and in some cases it takes even longer. There are exceptions, such as blogs that are part of an existing network, but for the average person there will be a lot of work that has to be put in before any money is made.
Most people aren’t willing to put in a consistent effort while no money is coming in, so it’s important that you be willing to do so if ad sales is one of your primary monetization methods.
3. Launch the Blog Without Ads
I have gone back and forth on this one and I have sold ad spots on brand new blogs before, but never very effectively for the first few months. On DesignM.ag it took about five months before the ad sales amounted to anything significant (at least a few hundred dollars every month). From my experience I think it is best to launch a new blog without attempting to sell ads, and there are a few reasons for this. First, you won’t be able to charge very much for ads on a new blog because advertisers won’t know what to expect, and they won’t usually have much confidence in the blog and that it’s audience will grow very quickly. You may be able to find some willing advertisers if you track them down and offer enticing prices, but you’ll probably spend more time than it is worth. Additionally, if your blog does grow pretty quickly you may need to increase your rates just as fast, and that could chase some advertisers away.
By waiting a few months for the blog to establish itself you’ll have a better idea of how much traffic you are getting and how much you should be able to charge for ads. By the time you introduce ads you will be more prepared and advertisers will be more interested. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have ads on the site from the start. You can always use affiliate ads or internal ads for other content or products of your own. This can actually be a good way to get an idea of how many people are clicking on the ads before you determine how much you should charge for the spot, plus it will help to avoid any shock on your readers when ads are introduced (although I have not known this to be much of a problem with the vast majority of readers/visitors).
On the Vandelay Design blog I didn’t start selling ads until I had in excess of 100,000 visitors per month, and at that time I had a number of advertisers who were interested in buying spots.
4. Plan for Ads in the Design or Theme Choice
If you plan to sell advertising space at some point, make sure this is considered when you are having your blog designed or when you are choosing a theme. The reason for this is that if you choose a particular design and then decide to include ads later, there may be no good place for them and the result will be a cluttered, awkward look that turns off readers.
5. Focus On Content, That’s What Gets Results
If you want to make money through ads the most important thing you need to do is work on publishing the highest quality content possible. Great content will be easier to promote, it will encourage subscribers and repeat visitors, and it will attract links. All of these things lead to a successful blog that advertisers will want to be a part of. Managing a successful blog includes a wide variety of tasks, such as ad sales, but the most important will always be content creation. That is what keeps the people coming back for more.
6. Work On Building Links
Regardless of how you want to monetize your blog, link building should be part of the equation. Getting quality inbound links to your blog will result in increased click through traffic, improved search engine rankings, as well as better visibility and reputation. If your goal is to make a significant amount of money in the long-term, link building should be a priority.
Search engine traffic is generally better for getting ad clicks as compared to some other types of traffic, like social media and regular readers. More ad clicks means more valuable ad space for advertisers and more income for you.
7. Charge Fair Prices That Will Result In High Renewal Rates
I’ve learned through my experience that selling an ad spot for the highest amount possible isn’t always the best idea. You may be able to get advertisers to bite on an overpriced ad spot, but once they don’t get the results that they feel they’re paying for, they will cancel and you’ll have to sell the spot again. Long-term advertisers are highly valuable, so it is a better approach to adjust your rates so that you’re getting an amount that the spot is worth, but advertisers will still want to stick around for a while.
8. Try Different Ad Spots and Prices
It’s a good idea to try some different things from time-to-time rather than just sticking to the same ad spots in your sidebar. Try selling different size ads in various locations to see what gets results for advertisers and what generates good money for you (without annoying your visitors). New spots will stand out more to frequent visitors and will likely result in some extra clicks and attention from advertisers. You may find some spots and sizes that work well and some that do not.
9. Don’t Try to Manipulate Pageviews
One of the factors that is typically used for determining the price of an ad is the number of pageviews (or more specifically the number of ad impressions). Some bloggers will try to inflate the number of pageviews by showing only excerpts in RSS feeds or breaking posts into multiple pages. In my opinion this is not a good idea as it can be a turn off to visitors. It may increase your pageviews in the short-term, but keeping a site more user friendly will usually lead to better long-term success.
10. Identify Your Target Advertisers
One of the keys to making a decent amount of money through ad sales is having an audience that is well suited to particular advertisers. If you have not yet launched the blog, take some time to think about who would likely be able to benefit from advertising on the blog that you are planning. You may be able to do some research by visiting other similar blogs or by doing a search and looking at the PPC ads.
You may or may not approach potential advertisers, but regardless you should have a good idea of what your blog has to offer to potential advertisers. When I first started selling ads on my blog I did some research on other blogs in the niche and I contacted some of their advertisers with an offer for space on my site. The response was surprisingly positive and I sold a number of spots this way, some that remained with me for a long time.
What’s Your Experience?
Do you monetize your blog through ad sales? Do you have any tips of your own to share?