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How to Secure an Advertiser for Your Blog

How do I sell advertising on my blog? It is a question that I’m asked a lot so when Brandon J. Mendelson asked if he could write a post on this topic as someone who has sold a lot of advertising online and in TV I thought it’d make a great guest post.

Putting together a media kit for your blog is an excellent start; However, unless you know how to navigate the competitive waters of advertising, the media kit will be useless.

What’s Your Story?

Everyone has one. Do you know what it is? Can you describe your blog in under a paragraph? Two sentences? Seven words? If you cannot, you are not ready to sell advertising.

Take a few moments and condense your blog’s description into:

-A paragraph, which you can use in your media kit

-Two sentences, which you will use in your pitch email

-Seven words, which you will use for your pitch’s email headline

Wait, Email? Shouldn’t I Call?

Here you need to figure out what sector of the market you are looking for and what level the company finds itself at (local, regional, or national).The size of the company will determine the method of contact.

First: Think of natural fits between what your blog is about and what product might best serve your audience. Today, it is not about advertising but adding value to your user’s experience. Advertisements are a reflection on you as much as they are on the advertiser, so choose wisely.

Second: How big is the company?

Emailing a local store for advertising is a waste. You need to go in person or make a phone call. Small business owners do not have time to wade through sales emails; They need convincing when it comes to using their limited marketing dollars.

A regional company may be more open to email, but most regionals started small and likely still posses a small business mindset of wanting to meet people first to gauge interest.

A national corporation or international corporation? Don’t bother walking through the front door or making a phone call. Locate the marketing department’s email, which can usually be found by making a subtle, non-sales query to corporate communications, requesting that information.

How Much Information Is Too Much?

You want to use as little information as possible in an initial sales inquiry. This is who you are, this is what you do, this is what you are looking for. Are you interested? Include your contact information and move on to the next pitch.

Volume is key, but automation will kill you since each letter must be personalized. You need to master the ability to effectively communicate with a minimal amount of effort and do it often to increase your odds of making a sale.

The same goes for phone conversations and stopping in person. You need to see if there is interest in what you are selling before proceeding.

In person or on the phone, you want to follow-up on interest by scheduling an appointment at a time that is convenient for the store owner. Call first, stop in second (if the store is local or regional), and email third.

Once you know someone is interested, then you can send your sales kit and other collateral. All of which should be kept brief. The odds are, if a party is interested they have already googled you and visited your website.

Make sure your sales information is available on your website.

Wait, Won’t My Competitors See?

Yes, but if your competitor is any good, they will already know what you are charging. Charge what you think your services are worth, the only time your competitor’s rates matter is when you are first starting out. When starting out, you should see what your competition is charging and offer your services at a discounted rate. This will allow you to break into tight markets and get your name out there.

How Do I Know What To Charge?

Only you can decide how much your time is worth. Do not rely on Google Adsense or other online forms of measurement. Look at what the competition charges, ask yourself what an acceptable rate would be for your time and stick with it. Make sure to stay competitive by using stealth, but legal, methods to find out what your competition is charging.

Think of it like this: There are no rules about sending a sales inquiry to your competitor or calling them to see what their rates are.

When Can I Start?

Advertisers will come to you when you average 30,000 unique visitors a month without much drop off Until then you should factor:

How many subscribers do you have for your RSS feed? How many people follow you on Twitter? What is your Google, not Alexa, page rank? How often do you come up for key search terms for your niche? What your unique web traffic is?

You can go into the market and start charging for a new product at any time, but unless you have some sort of cross media access, it is best to firm up these numbers first.

Contracts And References

It is important to develop strong relationships with smaller advertisers who can vouch for: 1) Your character and 2) Your ability to deliver.

Character is key. If you are not trusted, kiss access to bigger paydays goodbye.

Get everything down on a sheet of paper that explains who gets what, when, and for how much. Deliver on what you promise, and serve as a resource for your advertisers.

By serving as a resource, you build credibility and positive relationships. These relationships are critical when it comes time to chase corporate sponsorship and they ask you to provide references from previous advertisers.

Be prepared to be open as your business’s financial success to larger prospective advertisers. The more money on the line means more scrutiny.

Demographics

Who uses your website? When do they access it? How long are they on? What else do you know about your users? Marketing and demographic data is the linchpin of your entire sales kit.

Corporations operate using systems such as Six Sigma to track department results in terms of their performance in utilizing resources (re: money).

The demographic and marketing information alleviates any concerns and allows for your advertising pitch to advance because marketing can show their superiors the resources are being allocated according to the corporate mission.

How do you do this? Surveys, soliciting feedback, conducting online focus groups are some examples to help compile this information. Read up on different qualitative and quantitative analysis methods to show that you know how to interpret the information.You do not need a consultant to do this for you.

Even the simplest survey can tell you critical information as long as you know how to analyze it. This may sound daunting, but trust me, you will pick it up fast.

Deliver

How do you know when to start advertising? When you are confident in your ability to deliver an acceptable amount of business to justify what you are charging.

Test ads on your site before you sell them, ask for reader and user feedback on how to best implement them, see if you can get a high click through ratio or high awareness of imaginary post sponsors first.

Use this information in your demographic data to share with advertisers and show them you can hold up your end of things.

If you are going to put up an advertisement when you say you are, do it. You are now responsible for someone’s money, and if you cannot hold up your end for just one client, you can expect others to find out quickly.

Good luck, tread carefully, and be nice to everyone as you go through this process. It is easy to lose allies and resources than it is to make money.

Brandon J. Mendelson is a graduate student attending UAlbany and a published American humorist. You can follow him on Twitter and help him kick breast cancer’s butt at The Brandon Show

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. There are many plugins that I can recommend to bloggers who are looking to sell ads on their blog. The one I like very much is OIO Publisher. It costs $37 but it is well worth the price.

    Of course, the most important thing is that one should write a good advertise page.

  2. David Risley says:

    This is an awesome primer on getting sponsors for any site. I took notes myself. :-) I must say, I usually go the route of using middle-men to take care of this stuff for me.

  3. gel says:

    i’ll take note of this so in the future, when my little blog gets big (i hope) i can secure an advertiser:-) another great post

    Merry Christmas everyone! :-)

  4. Great post… I’ve never really reached out to advertisers or considered my pricing. Maybe it’s time to do that, I should put together some packages.

    Thanks Darren and Brandon!

  5. This is exactly what I needed. I am looking at contacting a few potential advertisers and this has given me a great headstart!

  6. I so believe in sponsorships in everything! that was a great bunch of information that i would get back to for good and refer to it as well!

    Thanks Brandon & Thanks Darren for giving Brandon the chance to post his article!

    Btw, i think that there is a spelling mistake:

    is it “Contracts And References” or it should be “Contacts And References” ??

    Thanks,
    Firas

  7. Kyle Reddoch says:

    This is such great information for all of us to take into consideration! I have taken a lot of thought into this exact question.

    Thanks for helping me out!

  8. This is exactly what I was looking for , I have not yet begun to leverage advertising on my blog , these tips have been helpful in drawing a plan. Thanks

  9. Melvin says:

    I like the point here. Most people nowadays, especially those who are just starting out think that its easy to get advertisers for their site. As for the traffic, demographics is also important.

  10. Cynthia says:

    Thank you very much for the information! I will be using the reference when I start looking for advertisers in the new year.

  11. Awesome Post as I am approaching the point of time when I will be moving into paid advertising more.

    One question I have though is how much daily views should I have before I even think about getting paid advertisers?

    -Tobias Fransson

  12. Some interesting points conveyed in this post. The most pertinent snippet for me was the the number crunching exercise. So, 30k visitors a month is the benchmark before advertisers begin knocking on your door.

    Guess I’d better start a new blog and talk about making money online. ;-)

  13. redwall_hp says:

    Great post. I’ve been doing ad deals for awhile now, and have had pretty good success. I generally handle everything through email, and things have worked out well thus far.

    My advice for finding companies that might advertise is

    1. Look for companies that fit your niche. Use Google, think about companies that *you* like, see what your competitors are running on their sites if you can. In my case, hosting companies and Web 2.0 startups are a good fit. I recommend trying companies that you believe in.

    2. Research the company. Figure out why they would want to advertise with you. Find out the name of the person(s) you will be contacting, and address them by name. This small personal touch may make the difference between a yes and a no.

    3. Fire-off an email, not too long so as not to waste the recipient’s time. Introduce yourself and your blog in one paragraph. In the next one, say why you’re emailing, and what you can offer. (Maybe give some basic traffic statistics.) In the third paragraph, wrap-up the message. Supply some little bit of information that may sway their opinion towards a “yes.” If you’re a big fan of the company and really enjoy their products, mention it. If you refer to the company in your posts occasionally, it might be worth saying. Etc.

    I realize that I’ve pretty much described the process of writing a query letter and sending it to a print publisher or agent, but what works in one area often carries over to another quite well…

    I’d also like to recommend (if you don’t mind a dash of shameless self-promotion) the WP125 plugin for easily managing 125×125 ads in WordPress.

  14. Blog Expert says:

    People are always asking how they can get an advertiser when their blog is only six months old. Well, this article is the way to get advertisers on your blog when it is still young. You should definitely take these recommendations and use them. You definitely have to put some work in to get advertisers. Is it worth it in the end?

  15. Mark Anthony says:

    This is a fascinating post but, in my experience, it is also a little misleading in that it suggests a 30,000 traffic requirement. I am sure this is true for technology or consumer-product oriented blogs.
    My own personal blog has less than 100 unique visits per day but remains well-received and, above all, profitable.
    I am serving a very vertical niche with my blog (the European demolition industry) which certainly helps my cause. But, for the record, a blog doesn’t need a huge following anywhere near as much as it needs a loyal one.

  16. While I feel I am not ready for my own personal blog to have advertisement this is an article I will reference when to time is right.

  17. Rob H says:

    Thanks for the advice.

    How do you collect the advertising fees, percentage cash up front with monthly/quarterly invoice?

  18. Vladan says:

    Definetely a good and solid information about how-to get an advertiser to buy space at your blog.

    I’m using a MyADmanager WP plugin which actualy simpifies the whole process. The advertiser buys the space via Paypal. You can fix the price for a week or a month.

    Great article though.

  19. Cher says:

    Excellent Post! I was looking for the info on advertiser so as to fund my blog. Nice tips.

  20. John says:

    I’d like to add a few comments:

    1) It’s important to recognize that not everyone can and deserves to generate revenue this way. Direct sales / sponsorships work really well for some types of blogs, and poorly for others.

    2) Put yourself in the mindset of selling a product. When you sell ads, you are a merchant delivering a product (your audience) to your customer (your advertiser). Treat it as if it were a box of goods.

    3) Make it easier to find and purchase your inventory. Advertisers won’t jump through hoops to buy your $50 125×125 button.

    Self promotion: http://www.isocket.com is a startup in private Beta. Our application supports bloggers direct sales for display ads. Publishers use our system to make their inventory more discoverable, collect payments, serve the ads and metrics, etc.

    If you’re interested, please sign up for a Beta invite at our website.

    Happy Holidays!

  21. I wanted to check in and thank everyone for the feedback on this article. I am happy to see it will be of use to so many:-). If you might have any questions on items I did not touch on, feel free to leave them here as a comment and I will make sure to address them if I can.

  22. This is pretty helpful, I have been having difficulties finding advertisers. Thanks for this article, it has a lot of great points.

  23. what a great post. one thing that I think that you may have missed is what to do in the mean time while you are building your readership up to 30k. I’m going to start networking the beginning of the new year. You can build some cred and trust during this time. Once you have this and they trust you then it is only a matter of numbers and once you have those then they don’t have to question your integrity. Thanks.

  24. Taripre$ says:

    Great stuff, 30,000 visitors a month! That would be great…lol, I’ll keep this post somewhere safe..lol!

    Taripre$

  25. Great list!
    Every blogger should print this out, put a big circle around the part that says get 30 000 uniques and advertisers will come to you. Keep working on your site/content, especially if you’re starting out. Don’t expect to advertise if you’re still small – there are tens of thousands of others just like you. Get some good content & good traffic and the $$s will follow.

    Bruce

  26. Getting 30,000 unique is a little challenging for me at this stage!

    I do know the readers that are coming to my site are staying longer and taking action. I have small handful of advertisers I like to show them what they get is a key target they want to talk with.

    Be open an honest with your advertisers don’t be greedy, I also like to be mindful in selecting advertisers to fit the messages on the site. Try to create partnerships with your advertisers educate them to what works and what doesn’t. Some times its more than slapping a banner up, you need to make it work for everyone.

    I can recommend the google ad manager as great tool for managing your advertisers, so simple a 3 year old could drive it!

    DR – This is a great list will definitely be bookmaking for reference.

    James of littlenomads.com

  27. I wanted to clarify about the 30k number:

    This number is meant to serve as a benchmark, well documented in the media and found within my experience.

    It’s a goal to strive for, but it should not act as a deterrent; It takes a very long time to hit that kind of traffic, and hard work to keep your numbers from dipping. Quite honestly, most of us will never reach that number.

    Thankfully, if you have a great product or blog, you can look for advertising right out of the gate; And yes, I think you can monetize when you start if you have a good infrastructure in place.

    Advertising fortune favors the prepared and the aggressive. If you wait too long, another blog or product WILL show up in your niche that may do what you do better.

    @Rob: “How do you collect the advertising fees, percentage cash up front with monthly/quarterly invoice?”

    A one page document is all you need. Make sure everything is in writing and do not rely on email because it does not hold up in court. Always collect your money up front, particularly if you are selling ads to those in the entertainment business or food service business. Fortunes change quickly in those fields, and a client may be broke sooner than you know it.

    The one page document can clearly detail (and must) how and when future payments should be arranged. This is something you should negotiate with your customer about to meet both your needs. A standard agreement does not work.

    How to reach 30k?

    1. Don’t assume anything. I have been quoted on MSNBC.com, you would think that translates to traffic, but it doesn’t.

    2. I write for popular websites, such as Stepcase Lifehack, you would think this translates to traffic, but it doesn’t.

    3. I network and exchange links compulsively to other websites and items in my category. Think it helps? Nope.

    4. Digg? Fark? College Humor? Done it all, multiple times. Temporary traffic boost? Yes, but it all goes away fast.

    So: How do you do it?

    I’m not an expert. I’d first tell you to listen to Darren, as he’s living proof that you can blog and make money. I don’t trust many experts online, and I don’t even know Darren personally, but I trust him and you should to.

    The second thing I’d tell you?

    Think about the guy doing shift work at the mill. Is he visiting your website? How about the overworked school teacher? The assistant to the Vice President at your job?

    Average people. Good people. The people that don’t read ReadWriteWeb or listen to Buzz Out Loud. Think about ways to get the average person with limited time and limited resources come to your website and keep them there. How? Everyone is different, I recommend the kitchen sink approach. Find what doesn’t work quickly so you can focus on what works the best.

    Does this work? I’ll prove it:

    Snakes On The Plane was marketed with millions almost exclusively online before it’s release. It bombed because the studio thought marketing on the web was the way to go.

    Twilight received little marketing, but built a cult following with young teenage girls, who (arguably) don’t do much online besides play on Facebook and text each other.

    Another example: Ron Paul. Huge on the Internet, right? But the average person had no idea who he was beyond fleeting moments at one or two presidential debates.

    Remember this: Most people don’t digg. They barely Facebook. They work, they go to school, they come home to their family. Those are the people you need to reach to succeed with traffic.

  28. Patricia says:

    Wow this was perfect timing for me tonight…I am starting a new blog on sustainable, green architecture for my honey’s Christmas gift….and I really want it to bring in business for his design work….we got 2 local ads right away as they could see the ground floor was a good position for this blog…you had just the right information that I needed at the right timing – that is a true gift. Thank you

  29. I love the down-to-earth advice here. I am starting out on my blog and am not looking for advertisers at the moment.

    Hopefully, with enough traffic, I can muster the courage to make a sales pitch.

  30. Laksh says:

    I have become a big fan of yours Darren. Thx for all the info. This post was great too and very helpful.

    Laksh
    http://tinyurl.com/5n9eby

  31. Now, where do I get that 30,000 visitors. :)

  32. I’m glad to see that I am not alone in realizing that 30k visitors a month is a daunting figure. Heck, I should imagine some 90% of bloggers average only half that figure, at most.

    Once a blog hits 30k a month, I can only imagine that the advertisers would be quite keen to get in touch.

    Until that figure is reached, we, the little people shall continue in our quest to try to earn more than $1/day from blogging from our 100 or so visitors per day.

  33. Someone mentioned OIOPublisher. This is a great plugin because it simplifies the process not only for the blog owner, but the advertiser as well. It’s actually $47 now, but most people should be able to make that money back in no time.

  34. Charles says:

    You are more likely to get an advertiser to work with you if you arrange an affiliate deal. If you only charge them when a click through results in a sale, they will have no risk and a lot of upside.

    You can even get an account with Commission Junction where tons of companies will automatically approve display ads on your site and you receive a share of the sale when someone is referred through your site. I would recommend this route if you don’t have a 30K uniques a month.

  35. uwak says:

    I like suggestion above… many thing must be consider

  36. Great tips but I think that advertisers will come automatically when your blog has some decent traffic or high PR.Advertisers will even get more if you offer some bonus like to design their ads for free like Carl Ocab.

    Ying Hang,
    InternetMarketeen.com

  37. greekmanos says:

    a good charge rate for greek market (i am from greece) Would be 4-5 euros per 1000 uniques..

    hope it helps!

  38. Thank you for the information,

    I have a website that showcases a local area (The Tri Cities of Tennessee/Virginia).

    I’m just about to start my campaign for local advertisers, but the site would also lend itself for advertisers such as Charter Communications, Dish Network, At&T and some other large companies,

    Trying to find out where to contact those large companies to submit my site for review to advertise on.

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Sean B. Halliday
    http://www.thetricitiesbest.com
    [email protected]

  39. Steve says:

    I’d love some suggestions for the best way to bill advertisers. ie. is PayPal the best method?

  40. Interesting Post. We’re still deciding whether to accept traditional banner advertising on eSquaredFashion, which is our company blog.

    Any information on whether blogs for companies accept external advertising?

  41. @Steve

    You could use Paypal. Depending on the industry your advertiser is in, you will either have collected everything up front (food, entertainment), or send an invoice. Using a paper invoice, I feel anyway, is your best bet. Why?

    1) You can keep track of it through the postal service.
    2) You can send it certified return receipt if you must to confirm your client received it.
    3) When it comes time for both you and your advertiser to file for taxes, the paper document helps to keep track.

    Remember that a surprising amount of businesses are not too wired up, and they may be wary of doing financial exchanges via Paypal or other related providers.

  42. Precise Edit says:

    Excellent advice. What you are talking about here echoes the components of a good marketing plan and addresses the major marketing elements: product, price, placement, and promotion.

    We are wrestling with these issues, too, as we consider selling advertising space in our Writing Tips for a Year service. We send writing tips by e-mail to subscribers every day for a year, and we are thinking about ad placement at the end of the tips. The points you raise are the very ones we’re considering.

  43. @Eric

    I have come across a few company websites with external advertising. It really depends on whether or not you want the additional revenue. Web viewers are accustomed to advertising, and I see it like this: If they’re on your website, they’re interested in you; So there is not much harm in serving ads for other companies on there.

  44. neon says:

    like the point here. Most people nowadays, especially those who are just starting out think that its easy to get advertisers for their site. As for the traffic, demographics is also important.