Friday, October 29, 2010 @ 6:43 AM

How to Earn Advertising for Your Small Website or Blog

I attended today an event sponsored by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for long tail publishers, a fancy ad-speak for small publishers. For all of the participants in the event, the most popular way to earn income from the site is through advertising, with Google Adsense often as the ad network of choice.

Inspired by the discussions during the event, I realized that it is important to constantly ask the following questions when you are trying to earn advertising for your website or blog:
  • With the ad networks you are using, are you maximizing the earnings potential of your site?
  • Should you use Adsense exclusively, or should you use other ad networks as well?
  • What other ad networks can you use with Adsense to maximize your earnings?
  • How can you use Adsense together with other ad networks to generate the best income potential of your site?
  • Do you know how to skip the middlemen (ad networks) and go straight to the advertisers? Do you plan to sell ads yourself?
  • Do you want to win the ad business of big companies — which often work with media agencies? Do you want the hassle and all the requirements (request for proposal, special ad codes, impression audit, etc.) that often comes with working with media agencies?
If you are planning on earning from advertising for your website or blog, here are some items to consider:
  • Believe that you can do something to increase your revenues. Do not buy into the notion that you can’t do anything with Adsense (or any other ad network) to increase your income. You control the site, and there’s always a way to increase the income it generates. The answer may be finding ways to increase your traffic. Or changing your site design to make your ads stand out without cheapening the content. Or it can be to find and use other ad networks in conjunction with Adsense. Whatever you do, do not fall into the trap of thinking that there’s nothing you can do to improve your site’s advertising revenues.
  • Shop around to find the right ad programs for you. There are a number of ad programs out there that you can check out. Some examples would be Kontera  and Chitika  – and determine how you can make them work together on your site. Study the effective cost per thousand impression (eCPM) that you get for each of the ad networks you are using, and give priority to those that give you better eCPM and revenues.
  • Carefully examine the type of visitors your site is attracting. Do they tend to click on ads? Or do they basically ignore your ads? Your Adsense income mostly depends on the responsiveness of your visitors to your ads. If your visitors do not tend to click on the ads, then you may be better off to go with a cost per impression ad monetization model, instead of Adsense’s cost per click model. Try ad networks such as BurstMedia  or TribalFusion
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It is hard to rely only on one income source. Imagine the worst case scenario: If Adsense is your only way to earn money from your site, what will you do if Google kicks you out of the program for whatever reason? All of a sudden, you lost the only income source of your website! That is scary; sort of like losing your job especially if your website is your main source of livelihood.
  • Study carefully how your ad networks (such as Google Adsense) are performing in your site. Use channels to analyze what pages bring in the most Adsense income: ad format that performs the best, placement of the ads, and pages in your site that does well (or not). You may not want to mess with the pages where Adsense really performs well, but you may want to totally remove or use other ad networks on pages that Adsense is not doing well.
  • Test, test and test. Determine the best ad format, the best placement of the ads, and the best ad network to use. If you are daisy chaining your ad network – e.g. 5 ad networks in a medium rectangle rotating – try experimenting and use only one network and see how it affects your ad revenue.
  • In preparing to sell ads yourself, get as much data as you can about your website. If you are planning to start approaching advertisers directly, be prepared to show to them data about your site. They will want to know about your traffic and your demographics (don’t confuse the two!). In some cases, work with your advertisers to get data and information on the results of spending ad dollars in your site. You can use this information as testimonials to convince future advertisers, or as a case studies that you can include in your media kit.
  • To target big advertisers, bring loads of patience.  Big advertisers will very rarely work with you directly, and instead refer you to their media buying agency. However, working with agencies is not easy. They will demand request for proposals to see if your site is worthy of their client’s advertising dollars. After dedicating precious hours working on the RFP, don’t be surprised to hear that your site didn’t make the cut. In fact, for many small publishers, the hassle of dealing with the demands of big advertiser and their overworked media agencies are simply not worth it.
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