Over on Reddit today someone asked for some advice on switching from monetizing a blog using just ad networks (like AdSense) to selling advertising directly to advertisers. I found myself writing a rather long response and thought it might also be of some use to readers here.
Here’s the question:
I was reading a post about blogging and money and was wondering when in a bloggers career do the emails start coming in where companies are trying to advertise on your website? I am curious because when first starting out you don’t have a lot of traffic so no proof of presence so companies don’t really care to be shown for long periods of time on those blogs. So people get adsense or amazon ads up. Then at a certain point there are a ton of people coming in and people now want to throw ads up. This is a great point to just take down the automatic ads and go with the ad management setup.
When did you realize your traffic was high enough to switch over?
And my response (which wasn’t really written as a blog post – so I hope it is helpful):
This is a question I hear fairly regularly and I wish there was a magical number that applied for all blogs. The reality is that I’ve seen bloggers sell ads directly to advertisers before they launched and to bloggers who couldn’t sell ads directly, even with tens of thousands of visitors a day.
As with most things in blogging – there is no formula.
My own experience is that I have monetized my blogs in a variety of ways from day #1 and that as my blogs grow this has not changed. What has changed is the type of monetization.
As your traffic and brand develops, new opportunities will open up for different types of monetization.
So for me, in the early days, I started with AdSense and a little affiliate marketing (Amazon’s program). This generated a few cents a day – but they were a few cents more than I had when I started! More importantly, I learned a lot about ad placement and design, and what type of ads worked best on my sites.
As my traffic grew, I began to realize that I might one day be able to sell ads directly to advertisers. However, these advertisers didn’t magically appear. I had to go and chase them.
While I had an ‘advertise with us’ page on the site, the only ads I was able to sell were small ads with small advertisers. I had a camera review blog and my first advertisers were small local camera stores who paid $20-$30 for a month of advertising (discounted for 12 months). It wasn’t much – but it was $20-$30 a month more than I had… and again I learned a lot from selling those ads!
As traffic and brand grows, you can command more for ads but you shouldn’t just rely upon advertisers coming to you.
Ask yourself a few questions to identify potential advertisers:
- What is my readers intent? Why are they coming to my blog? If you can nail what this is you might just find an advertiser who matches that intent. For my camera review blog, I realized my readers were researching before they purchased a camera, so pitching to camera stores was a smart move.
- Who are my readers? What are their demographics? Knowing who is reading your blog is golden information when finding advertisers. Surveys and polls of your readership can help work this out. Once you know that, ask ‘who is trying to reach this type of person?’
- Who is actively advertising on my niche? Look on other blogs/sites/forums to see who is advertising. Look to see what advertisers ads are appearing on your site through the Ad Networks you use. Look to see who is advertising on Google when you type in key words related to your niche. These advertisers are in the market for readers in your niche and should be places you go to pitch your site as a place to buy ads.
As you approach advertisers you’ll see that they want certain information that you can begin to pull together into a media kit.
Information about your readers is important to include (readership numbers, demographics, reader intent etc) as well as the opportunities and costs associated with advertising.
Include what type of ads you can run (ad size and placement).
Also think about how you can offer bundles of ads. For example, you might offer ads in your newsletter, on social media or to do a giveaway to your readers. These extras could be offered either as incentives to advertisers (buy some ads and we’ll throw in XXXX) or you could use them as up-sells.
In time, you’ll see what kind of information that advertisers want. Smaller advertisers often won’t need as much but as you approach bigger advertisers (usually you need to do this through their agencies) they’ll ask for more and more information and make more demands in terms of paperwork and your pitch.
Even when your site is big, you’ll still find that you need to pitch TO advertisers more often than not. Some will come knocking but I find that these are more likely to be PR people wanting you to write about their products for little or no money or in return for product (it’s hard to live off free products).
Having said that – this depends a little on your niche and traffic. If you’re writing about something very specialized and in demand, advertisers are going to be more keen and will seek you out, even if your traffic is small.
Lastly – I’ve done many direct ad deals over the years but even though they are regular I still run some ad network ads on my blogs to fill the gaps.
I’ve also found that as your traffic, brand and reader engagement grows there are other ways to monetize by developing your own products (eBooks, courses or even physical products) as well as doing some affiliate marketing. But that’s probably another story :-)
Hope something in that helps!