One of my New Year’s blogging resolutions for 2009 was to set up my advertising page and sort out my offering for sponsors. As it’s nearly time to make some 2010 resolutions, I guess we should say better late than never. Anyway I finally got it sorted and for those of you wanting to do the same, here are a few pointers.
Different types of advertising
There are a number of different types of advertising that you can offer on your blog, and of course these are only one approach to earning money from your blog. Typical advertising mechanisms include;
- Paid Text Links
- Sponsored posts (which are a variation of text links)
- Banner advertising
Many people do not sell text links, the main reason being that they are concerned that they might be penalised for doing so by Google who will downgrade their Page Rank. The Page Rank from 0-10 is the value Google gives to a web-page and is one of the factors in how much traffic Google will send you. Lower page rank means less traffic, higher means more traffic. If you want to know what the Page Rank is of any web-page, download the Google Toolbar and look for the little green bar (you may have to enable the PageRank icon through Tools/Options/Tools) or alternatively use a checking website such as PRchecker.
Because Google uses the number of links as a measure of importance, they want them to be generated organically rather than being bought and sold. You can still offer paid text links, but if you want to comply with the Google guidelines, the links need to incorporate a No Follow Tag, which indicates that it is a paid link and will then not be used for page ranking purposes, although when clicked it will still lead to the relevant website. Read Google’s advice on Paid Links here.
What this means is that many advertisers may not want to pay for a link if it does not enhance their own Page Rank. The choice is yours, but if you sell a text link without a No Follow tag, you risk your own Page Rank being taken down a notch as a penalty, which means less traffic for your blog in the long run.
If you choose to offer text links, you can add them to your blog in a number of ways. You may wish to have a list in your sidebar, or to add them unobtrusively to existing articles, or the sponsor may provide you with an article to post which contains their links. To comply with Google guidelines, the links in a sponsored/paid for post should have the No Follow Tag. You can read my Guest Posts Page which contains information on Sponsored Posts.
These are the small advertisments you commonly see in the sidebar of blogs. The best sizes for you will depend both on the layout of your blog and the popularity of a size with your advertisers. Popular size banner ads are;
- 125×125 pixel squares in blocks in the sidebar
- 300×250 pixel rectangles the width of the sidebar
- 120×600 pixel column in the sidebar
- 468×60 pixel rectangle in the header or at the bottom of a blog post
The most popular positions are those that can be seen immediately when the web page is first launched, such as in the header and on the top half of the page, known as “above the fold” that can be viewed without scrolling down. If you have a lot of demand for advertising (what a nice position to be in) you can also rotate different advertisers in each position, although this should be stated and priced accordingly.
The main determinants of what you can charge for banner ads are;
- Traffic (Unique visitors & Page Views)
- Position of the banner ad
- Size of the banner ad
- Reputation and style of the blog
- Any other incentives you can offer
Pricing is always a difficult one when you’re starting out – obviously there’s an element of trial and error but you want to do your best to pitch a fair price at the outset. The rule of thumb I’ve seen used is that for every 500 unique visitors a day to your blog, you can charge $50 per ad, but I’m not sure how big an ad that would be.
The other approach is to look at what other blogs in a similar niche are charging for banner ads relative to their traffic. I spent some time looking at the Advertise pages of other travel blogs to see what they offered at what price. Most will state their Unique Visitors and Page Views, but some will not disclose their charges. However, if it’s someone you have communicated with before, they’ll probably be happy to let you know their rates if you e-mail them. The key ratio is to compare price versus blog readers for a similar size and position of ad.
If your blog doesn’t have a huge readership, you shouldn’t overlook the fact that some advertisers are looking for brand awareness rather than a huge number of click-throughs, and if your blog has the right content and feel for their market, they may still want to advertise with you.
You may also be able to give some incentives, such as discounts for booking 6 months or over, or offer additional advertising space on a secondary website if you have one, or support their product in other ways through reviews or information in blog posts.
How to make a simple banner ad
Obviously most sponsors will provide you with either an HTML link or an image and link. When you are just starting you may want to make some substitutes as an interim measure, which is easy to do. You could also make your own banners to advertise products that you offer or ones that you are selling on an affiliate basis. If you want something special, imaginitive or complex, then you can get a graphics designer to do this for you, but otherwise you can do something simple using photo editing software. I don’t have any all singing-all dancing packages like Photoshop but use Picnik, which is easy and intuitive and free if you just want to do one or two basic things.
Above you’ll see some images I out together using the Free Picnik software. Here’s what I did;
- Uploaded one of my own images or a logo I found on the web
- Cropped and resized it it the exact size of the banner ad required
- Enhanced the colours if necessary
- Using the Create function, added a Frame and some Text (you can go mad and add all sorts of other graphics)
- Note that some of the functions are only available for Picnik Premium membership
How to get the ads on your website
There are two bits of free software that I’ve had recommended to me for adding and controlling the ads on your website. The first is Open X, but I’ve been told it is quite technical to set up and you will probably need some support from a techie to ensure everything is working properly. This is for those who are serious about monetisation or have outgrown the simpler options such as the one below.
The second option which is more suitable if you’re starting out and need to do it yourself, is a WordPress Plug-in called Max Banner Ads, which is what I’ve just started using. You can set up each size of ad and the zone and then you’ll be able to also monitor how many clicks v page impressions each ad receives. There’s lots of help on the site, but here are the basic steps once you’ve uploaded the plug-in and activated it;
- Make sure you have ready the image and link or the HTML of the banner you are going to use
- Choose which zone you are going to ad the banner e.g. Sidebar Widget, Within the post and click on the add banner link or the + symbol
- Choose from the different options on where to upload the image from, browse or add the image HTML, choose the zone from the dropdown etc
- From Advanced Options choose the No Follow Option (assuming you are following Google’s advice on Paid Links)
- Next click on the edit zone icon (paintbrush) to fine tune the placement of your banner ad
- If using the sidebar widget, click More Options to decide which pages the ads will appear on and to create a block of 2, 4 or 6 banners together
- In other zones, such as Within the Post, you can choose whether the ad appears in only some or all of the blog posts and pages and the alignment of the ad.
- If placing the Banner ads in your sidebar, you’ll need to go to Design/Widgets in the WordPress dashboard and add the MBAN-Sidebar Widget to your sidebar, then Save Changes
- These are just a few basics – for more information, look at the help on the Max Banner website
My approach was to set up a few of the ad zones, to make sure they were working properly and familiarise myself with the software, before I published my advertising page. I made a couple of banners with “Your ad here” and filled the rest with my links to Youtube, Flickr etc, so it wouldn’t be too obvious if I had no advertisers. Until you get some advertisiers on board, you could also create reciprocal ads with fellow bloggers in a similar position.
Write your Advertise Page
Obviously, when advertisers come to call, it’s much more professional if you can refer them to your Advertising page, rather than continually send information by e-mail. Some bloggers prefer to keep their advertising rates private & e-mail them on request, which may also give you the option to vary the rate according to how much (or how little) you want the advertiser on board. I’ve chosen to be transparent, thinking that most people will find this stuff too boring to plough through unless they are seriously considering advertising. The things you need to have on your Advertising Page are;
- Some welcoming remarks
- Some text or bullet points that convince advertisers of the benefits of advertising with you, such as your reputation, traffic, target audience, what your blog covers
- Your blog statistics stating your source, such as Unique Users, Page Views, Number of articles, Google Page Ranking, Alexa, Technorati, Subscriber numbers (You could add graphs, tables etc)
- The Banner Ads on offer in terms of size, position, rotations, price
- Payment terms (e.g. min 3 months, payment up front) and how they can pay (e.g. Paypal)
So those are the basics of setting up your advertising page – you can take a look at my Advertise Page now and tell me what you think.