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Traffic Technique 3: Online Advertising

When bloggers think of online advertising, they usually think first of selling it, rather than buying it.

But buying ad space can be a great traffic-generation technique if you’re careful in terms of how you go about it.

There are really two types of advertising—brand advertising, and tactical or action-oriented advertising—and for traffic generation purposes, you’ll probably want to focus on the second type.

Making a traffic-focused ad campaign work depends on a few elements:

  • the audience
  • the ad space
  • the ad
  • what you do with the traffic the ad generates.

Your target audience

Last time, when we looked at content marketing, we saw how important it is to work out who you’re targeting with any traffic-generation strategy since, of course, not all traffic is the right kind of traffic.

So your first step is really to think about who you want to target with your advertising. If your answer is, “well, more of the same people who are visiting my site now,” that’s fine. If you want to target a specific sub-segment of that audience, that’s great too.

The important thing once you’ve identified those people is to work out a key need related to your topic that all of them share—and that your blog solves.

Buying ad space

Now you know who you’re targeting, you need to work out where they gather online. Broadly speaking, we can break down the options into three categories:

  • search engines
  • social media
  • informational websites.

Buying advertising space on search engines can be a great way to ensure that the people seeing your ads have expressed a need in your offer. Your ads will appear alongside search results for the keywords you target (there’s a range of other filters you can select too, like geographic targeting), so the users have already expressed an interest in the need your blog meets.

Buying ad space on social media also targets your ad to the right users—but depending on how closely you select your ad filters, this targeting can be less stringent, which means you could wind up paying for more “wastage” (the amount of ad impressions that are seen by people who aren’t in your target audience).

Also, social media advertising can automatically restrict your ad’s reach, since it only gets seen by users who are subscribed to a particular social media network. Pretty much everyone online uses search engines, but does your target audience use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter … or not?

By buying ad space on an information or entertainment website, you’ll be actively targeting the users of that site specifically. Whereas social media advertising can inadvertently restrict the reach of your message, on-site advertising lets you proactively target your ad’s reach—which is something that you can use to your advantage.

Of course, different sites sell ad space differently. On some, you can buy ad space privately, though the site owner; on others, you’ll go through a network like AdBrite, Kontera, or DoubleClick.

An example of an on-site ad is the in-page Genesis ad we run on ProBlogger. This ad targets ProBlogger users specifically in its headline.

Genesis ad on ProBlogger

So before you buy ad space, it’s important do your research: compare services and costs, and make sure your ads will be seen by as many of the right people as possible.

If you’re looking at buying ad space on an informational or entertainment site, check the rates and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak to the site’s owner (or ad sales rep)—they should be happy to talk with you.

Your ad

You’re in a good place now: you had a target audience and you’ve bought ad space. You’ll have chosen ad ad format, too: when you buy ad space, you’ll need to choose a format, and the format you choose will likely be driven by your budget. If you can’t afford to have a designer create a banner for you, for example, you might opt for text ads until you can afford design expertise.

That’s all good, but before you race off to work up a catchy copy line or cool visual effect for your ad, backtrack to the first thing we discussed in this post:

Work out a key need related to your topic that your target audience shares—and that your blog solves.

For the Genesis ad, we can define the audience as ProBlogger readers who already use WordPress, or don’t mind the idea of using WordPress.

And we can define their need as being something like this:

I need (or want) to do more with my blog.

We could say this about every person who reads this blog. It seems like a pretty general need—what does “do more” mean, exactly?—but the thing is that when you hit on a need like this, in natural language that the readers probably use themselves, you can create an ad that cuts through and really speaks to them.

You can write copy that uses words that respond to that need, like:

  • empowers
  • build incredible websites
  • takes [you] places you never thought [you] could go.

Even the headline no the ad—Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework—implies something to our loyal readers: you’re reading ProBlogger because you want to do more with your blog … like Problogger has … and here’s the secret.

To write good ad copy, you need to think about who your target audience is and what they want, understand what your blog could mean to that need, and then tell them.

This will probably be easier for you to do if you have a specific offer to give the people your ad is targeting—like a free report or ebook. You could even make an ad for an especially great blog post on your site that specifically meets a felt need of your target audience.

Also remember that ads tend to be small (much smaller than that Genesis ad, usually!), so short copy is essential. If you’re not great at writing headlines or elevator pitches yet, practice getting better at those as a starting point for creating really engaging copy lines. It’s a good way to learn to hone a message with a small number of powerful words before you start spending money on advertising.

Responding to ad traffic

Even if you’re just starting out with advertising, it’s a good idea to track the return you make on your investment in ad space—whether you’re making money off that traffic or not.

If nothing else, track the return you get on your investment not just in terms of clickthroughs to your site, but in terms of responses to the offer you’ve included in your ad (e.g. downloads, signups, etc.). This will let you improve your ad content—headline, copy, images—over time to get better and better response rates.

Even if you’re not getting a direct return on the investment (for example, selling a product) it’s still worth tracking the return you make for your effort.

If you’re using an ad network of any sort, it will provide you with reports on how your ads are performing—impressions, clicks, and so on. Depending on how you’ve set things up, you may need to combine this data with tracking information from the landing page on your own site to get the full picture of the return you’re making on your investment, and find points upon which you can improve.

The bottom line

The best way to get a feel for online advertising, and what it can do for your traffic levels, is to give it a try. If you can, try a mix of at least search an on-site advertising through an ad network; if you want to go further, give private (or negotiated, non-network) advertising and social advertising a shot. In all cases, test and track your results so that you can improve your ad’s impact over time.

Later today, that’s exactly what we’ll be looking at, in a post that compares search and social advertising, and breaks down the numbers to help you choose which one’s right for you. But for now, let’s here about your adventures in advertising for traffic generation. Share your tips and advice with us in the comments.

Social Media Advertising: Should Bloggers Bother?

This guest post is written by Lior Levin.

Social media has proven its worth as a networking tool and a means of raising brand awareness, but the future of sites like Facebook and Twitter depend on convincing brands that that it’s worthwhile to invest in advertising on their sites in addition to interacting with customers.

Ads on Facebook usually appear in the right column, though Facebook has been experimenting with more socially-based ads that show up in the streams of users. With its simpler interface, Twitter relies on promoting tweets that show up in the tops of users’ update streams.

No one has any doubts about the value of social media marketing through engaging customers, running promotions, and creating company pages. The majority of doubts surround the ROI and overall value of paying to advertise on social networks.

Many brands are still engaged in social media advertising, and the data available changes from year to year. However, for bloggers, it can be difficult to decide whether social media advertising is worth it.

Here are a few of the current advantages and disadvantages of using social media sites for your advertising campaigns.

Advantages of social media advertising

Social helps campaigns go viral

According to Kelsey Jones of the Social Robot, “Companies and organizations can experience a large swell of website visitors, new customers, or Facebook fans all within a single day, depending on the effectiveness of their ads. This type of viral activity can be great for events and product launches.”

Brands are satisfied with the level of engagement

There’s no doubt that the right campaign can make a huge difference in driving visitors to a website. This spike in traffic for some major brands makes social media advertising worth considering.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Companies that have bought Twitter ads generally say they are happy with the percentage of people who click on their ads or circulate them to other Twitter users. But marketers also say these ads haven’t proven they can convert people into paying customers.”

Disadvantages of social media advertising

The cost for national advertising campaigns is prohibitive

Kelsey Jones writes at Performancing, “For some targeted campaigns, competition can be very high, leading to high rates for clicks on social media ads or sponsored tweet impressions (views). For certain industries, the cost to run a viral campaign of this magnitude can be significant, up to thousands of dollars per day.”

While the cost of social media advertising can be quite steep for national campaigns, running an effective social media campaign through a free account on social media can produce similar results if managed properly. The opportunity to engage users through a free account may make it hard to justify the cost of Facebook or Twitter ads.

Social advertising can be perceived negatively

Unlike ads in magazines or on television, ads on social networks may prove to be ineffective or even a liability for brands, as customers may view them as an unwelcome intrusion.

One Forrester analyst mentioned to Bloomberg that injecting ads into a social platform is like interrupting a conversation among friends in order to attempt a sales pitch.

In fact, ads on a social network may be perceived as completely counter to what users are trying to accomplish. Some suggest that the success of social advertising hinges on whether brands can identify the purchasing intent of users and find the perfect point to introduce an ad into their social experience.

The ROI is difficult to measure on social media

Sean Jackson, the CFO of CopyBlogger, suggests that for all of the talk about being unable to measure the ROI of social media marketing in general, businesses should not be dismayed. Jackson says, “An investment is an asset that you purchase and place on your Balance Sheet. Like an office building or a computer system. It’s something you could sell later if you didn’t need it any more. Marketing is an expense, and goes on the Profit and Loss statement.”

Whether or not you agree with Jackson’s statement, the constant challenge of all marketing efforts over the years has been determining their ROI.

Is it worth it?

Social media advertising will undoubtedly produce greater brand awareness and user engagement with your brand, but the real risk is that brands may need to designate significant funds to their marketing efforts without necessarily receiving a guarantee that they’ll work.

That is a significant risk to take, but as brands seek to reach customers, we’ll see ongoing innovation among advertisers on social media platforms.

What do you think of social advertising? Have you tried it—or seen it? Let us know your take on these new ad media in the comments.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for pre shipment inspection companies located in China and Latin America, and who also consults for a psd to html conversion company.

Google Publisher Toolbar—a Must-have for AdSense Publishers

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

Google AdSense has been in the news a lot over the last month, for all the wrong reasons. Many top AdSense publishers such as Zac Johnson and Spencer Haws have had their accounts banned and their last month of earnings withheld. And Google won’t give a specific reason as to why any particular account—including either of these—has been banned.

Despite its critics, Google AdSense remains a reliable source of income for many bloggers and website owners across the world. Earlier this year, the developers released a tool that helps you check your earnings more easily and track the performance of your ad zones. The AdSense Publisher Toolbar is an official Google Chrome extension that adds a publisher toolbar to your Chrome browser. It also adds an overlay to your advertisements so that you can see exactly how they have been performing.

I’m surprised that Google hasn’t been promoting this extension more heavily as, in my opinion, it’s vital for anyone who makes money online using Google AdSense.

The Publisher Toolbar

Google publisher toolbar

Google publisher toolbar

Once you’ve installed the extension in your Chrome browser, you will see an AdSense icon at the top right-hand side of your browser (to the right of your address bar). Once you have authorised the extension to log in to your Google account on your behalf, clicking on the icon will display a menu that shows your AdSense earnings. (Note: I’m not 100% sure of Google’s policy of displaying earnings etc., so I’ve used its screenshot instead of taking one of my account.)

At the top of the box you can see today’s earnings, yesterday’s earnings, earnings this month, and earnings from last month. The bottom half of the box shows your top five performing custom channels and top Five performing URL channels. Your lifetime earnings via Google Adsense are also shown at the bottom of the box.

The Publisher Toolbar was obviously not developed as a replacement for checking your stats through the main Google AdSense website, however it’s perfect for anyone who wants to quickly check how their AdSense websites are performing without logging into the main site.

The in-site ad overlay

The second, and arguably its most useful, feature of the Google Publisher Toolbar is the in-site ad overlay. Once you’ve installed the toolbar and signed into your account, the extension will place an overlay over all Google Adsense and DoubleClick advertisements on your websites.

When you load one of your website pages, your Google Adsense advertisement will be displayed as it normally would.

The ad overlay

The ad overlay

Then, a second or so after the page has loaded, the ad overlay will be displayed. The overlay places a see-through black box over all of your AdSense advertisements. The name of the ad zone is displayed at the top of the overlay, and at the bottom you can see how much that particular zone has made today, yesterday, and over the last seven days.

Comparing performance between days

Comparing performance between days

What does this all mean?

In a nutshell, it means that when you are browsing your websites you can quickly see which ad zones are performing well today, yesterday, and over the last week. I’ve found this to be a really useful tool when optimizing the ad positions of my Google AdSense ads, as it highlights which zones are under-performing and which zones are making the most money.

The great thing about this feature is that you can see the performance of each ad zone while you are browsing your website—you don’t need to log in to some external location to view your performance.

If you make money online using Google Adsense, I encourage you to try Google Publisher Toolbar out as it makes checking stats a breeze. Unfortunately, the extension is currently only available for Google Chrome but hopefully in the future we will see this available for other browsers such as Opera, Fireox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Kevin Muldoon is a Scottish webmaster and blogger who currently lives in South America. His labour of love is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News, Modifications.

13 Ways for Bloggers to Make Money with Advertising

Recently, I posted my “How bloggers make money MindMap” on Google+. I’ve had a few people ask for clarification around the Advertising section, and what all the options there mean. Here’s a summary:

1. Ad networks

These are services like AdSense and Chitika but also smaller or more local ones like NuffNang (which operates out of Australia and Asia). They can probably fit in some of the other categories as well, as they use different models to deliver their ads.

2. Cost Per Impression (CMP)

This is where you sell space for an ad and get paid based upon how many times it loads. Usually you get paid per 1000 impressions of the ad. The rate varies a lot, depending upon topic. There are lots of very low, “remnant” ad networks out there that pay you a pittance per impression, but if you have a higher value niche you can get better money. I’ve been paid up to $40 per 1000 impressions.

3. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

These ads pay out only when someone takes some kind of action after clicking the ad. The action might be a sale but could also be them signing up for a service, leaving an email address, etc.

4. Cost Per Click (CPC)

This is what AdSense used to be: every time someone clicked your ad, you’d get a certain amount. Now AdSense do a combination of CPC and CPM ads—they mix them in.

5. Sponsorships

This is what I do on ProBlogger. I sell ad spots on a month-by-month basis to sponsors for a fixed amount per month.

6. Text links

When you sell a text link on your site, the person buying the link is usually doing it for search engine ranking purposes. As a result, Google frowns on these and you could be risking your own search rankings by doing it. I don’t do this, as I see it as a little too risky, but some bloggers still do. Proceed with caution.

7. Pay per post

Also known as sponsored posts (advertorials), this is where you’re paid to review a product or to promote it in a post. Bloggers have varied ethical stances on this. Generally these days you are required to disclose that you’re being paid for the post.

8. Job board/classifieds

If you operate in a niche where people are buying and selling products or there are jobs that people want to advertise this can be a nice source of income. You need to be able to attract both advertisers and those they want to see the ads to make it work, though—so you need traffic and profile.

9. Newsletter advertising

This is a growing area for me. Some advertisers love to have their brand included in emails that you send to readers. We find bundling some onsite sponsorship banner ads with inclusions in our newsletter is a good way to sell space to advertisers.

Some ad networks (like AdSense) have ways of doing this but you can also sell sponsorships in your RSS feed directly. We use a WordPress plugin called RSS Footer to add an advertisement in the RSS feed of ProBlogger.

Here are a few more ideas that I should add to the mindmap…

Ad networks like Kontera offer these, and I think Chitika and a few others do, too. They are ads that appear in your posts, turning certain keywords into little ads (they usually change the color of the word and/or underline it to make it look like a link). When someone hovers over the word a little ad pops up with a description of a product that they can buy. Some bloggers find these ads convert well, but others find them intrusive.

12. Video advertising

If you publish videos, you might be interested in Youtube’s integration with AdSense, which allows you to earn money from ads that appear in your videos.

13. Image ads

Yesterday +Scott Fitzgerald alerted me to ImageSpace Media, who have a system that adds advertisements into your images. These are similar to the ads you might see in Youtube videos that pop up and that can be minimized.

There are of course other typs of ads and ads that fit into multiple categories above. What types do you use, if any?

Boost Your Blog #3: Optimize Your Advertising Page

Continuing our discussion of things you could be doing right now to improve your blog, today’s tip is:

3. Optimize your advertising page

When I mentioned I was writing this post on Google+ (connect with me here), Nick Roshon suggested auditing your advertising page.

If monetization through selling advertising is part of your business model, then this one should be a task you build into your regular schedule of pages to update.

Keep your advertising page up to date with the latest options for advertisers to advertise, update your stats so that advertisers know what reach they’ll have, and make sure that this page is prominent on your blog so that they can find it.

Do you have an advertising page on your blog?

Advertising Your Blog: Go Viral on a Blogger’s Budget

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

Until now you’ve been relying on organic methods to grow your blog’s traffic—search engine rankings, guest posts, social media and word of mouth. But now you are thinking about stepping into the league of the the big boys (and girls) and spending some money on advertising your blog to the world.

Where do you start? Where do you find the money? How much do you spend? And where?

photo credit: x-ray delta one

In this article I am going to show you the ins and outs of advertising your blog on a budget. I am going to show you how to raise the money and then where to spend it to reap the most rewards. And trust me, if you haven’t thought about spending money to promote your blog you really should. The potential benefits are mind boggling. You might even go viral.

Why you should start spending money on blog advertising

I’m not sure how it started (it is probably Old Man Rowse’s fault) but bloggers seem to be afraid of spending money on advertising. For over a decade now there has been a real aversion to spending money and instead people focus on organic methods only.

Now don’t get me wrong, organic methods are super important. They are the backbone of your blog promotion. But adding some paid advertising is like adding adamantine to that backbone and becoming the Wolverine (non-comic readers please ignore). With just a little bit of cash you can totally change the speed at which your blog grows, the audience it reaches and the income you earn.

  • You can go viral more easily
    One of the major benefits to spending some money on advertising is that you can go viral so much easier. Normally you’d write some amazing content and hope it gets Tweeted by some big shot but with a little bit of money you can give it a major kick start. All the big guys do this.
  • You can laser target the right people
    Forget about all the tire kickers, with modern online advertising you are able to promote your blog only to the right people; people who are interested, ready to interact and possibly pay for something that you might end up selling.
  • You bypass the beginner stages
    We all know the beginner stages. The first few months where no one visits your blog and you have no subscribers. With a bit of advertising you can totally bypass those annoying months.

Like I said, you should never forget about the unpaid, organic ways of promoting your blog. You need to continue with them as you have always done. But why not try something new and spend a little bit of money on kick starting your blog and potentially launching it in to a whole new category of amazingness?

Proof is in the Fortune 500

If you still need proof you just need to turn your attention to the biggest companies in the world. Do you think they just rely on free methods of advertising? No. They spend millions of dollars promoting their websites, blogs, and products. Even their viral campaigns have a lot of money behind them.

“But we don’t have millions of dollars, Blog Tyrant!” I can hear you say.

Well, neither did they. Or, if they did, those millions are a proportional spending to what they earn. And that is all I am asking of you. Spend an amount of money that you can afford. But I’ll get more into that in a minute.

The strategy, advert and landing page

photo credit: sarihuella

Please keep in mind that these topics really are limitless. If a marketing student came on here they would be able to talk for hours about these matters. My goal is not to educate you on every possibility that you could think of but rather to give you an idea of where you can start.

1. The strategy

So, to develop a strategy for your blog advertising you need to do a few things:

  • Solidify your goal
    What is the goal of this campaign? Are you trying to reach a certain number of subscribers, sell a certain number of books, etc. Make sure this is very clear before you start.
  • Know your target market
    Who are you going to pitch to and why? Is it stay at home moms who are looking to make money online? Is it 18 year-old students who spend all day on Facebook? Who is your target market?
  • Research the competition
    Spend some time finding out what your competitors are doing. What is working and what is failing? Where are they advertising and how are they doing it? Try to get a very detailed picture about what is going on.
  • Find a point of difference
    You want to find a way to stand out from the rest, something that will make people sit up and pay attention. This point of difference is very important for the viral aspect.
  • Solve a problem
    The best viral campaigns solve a problem. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem might seem, chances are it is being experienced by millions. If you can solve that problem in a new, clever or funny way and then kick-start it with some paid advertising you are well on your way to going viral.

The goal here is to come up with an idea about how you are going to talk to these people and get them interested in what you are doing or selling. You need to get a complete picture of the environment before you jump in.

2. The advert

Once you have developed some sort of strategy you need to take a look at the advert itself. These has several components to it and it can be in the form of an image, some text or a mixture of both.

  • Use a call to action
    Your advert needs to have a strong call to action. This is where you tell people what to do next. It is important because people often get confused or forgetful and without a specific command they will fizzle out. Show them what to do next.
  • Show social proof
    Social proof is where you alleviate people’s anxiety by showing them that other people are doing this as well. No one likes to be first, make sure they know they aren’t. Amazon do this really well.
  • Develop scarcity
    Your product isn’t limitless. This offer isn’t going to go on forever. To encourage people to interact with your advert you need to make it seem scarce. This is extremely important for conversions because people hate to miss out on things. Here is how I use scarcity to get a huge amount of comments.

If you aren’t very good at crafting ad copy you should check out a lot of resources. If you are really crap at it you need to hire someone to do it for you. Small mistakes can mean huge losses of interest and/or money.

3. The landing page

We are not sending all this traffic to the homepage of your blog. Nope. We are sending it to a specifically designed landing page that is built perfectly to deal with these new visitors. It needs to be specific and it needs to address all of their concerns. It is here that you will do things like:

  • Pitch the idea and the benefits
    Tell them why they are here and what the benefits are. Now, I said benefits for a reason. We are not telling them about the features of whatever it is you are advertising. We want these people to know what will happen to their lives if they get involved. Will they make more money, sleep better at night, or progress towards enlightenment? Tell them the benefits.
  • Reiterate all the advert copy
    You want to reassure people that they are in the right place and reiterate what your advert promised. This is very important if you want to keep the people on the page. Make sure they know they are in the right place doing the right thing.
  • Give something
    Before you can get you need to give. So give them something free. It might be a video or an eBook, it doesn’t matter. The act of giving helps to establish trust, good karma and gives you an opportunity to hit them with a little bit more sales speak. Increase the pressure so to speak.
  • Convert your goal (virus)
    It is here that you need to convert the visitor so that they do whatever it is you want them to do. If you want them to sign up to your newsletter make sure that is strong. If you want them to just share on Twitter or Facebook then tell them and make sure they can do it easily. It is from here that you want the virus to start happening.

Your landing page is the thing that starts it all off. It needs to be tweaked, refined, changed, and improved constantly. Everything you’ll ever need to know about landing pages can be found right here on Copyblogger.

Where to advertise your blog

photo credit: Daveness_98

Now we need to get into some of the fun stuff. Where exactly should you advertise your blog? What works best? What is cheapest? Over the years I have tried all of these methods with varying levels of success. Hopefully I can save you all some time and money.

1. StumbleUpon Ads (Paid Discovery)

StumbleUpon Ads, which is now called Paid Discovery, is basically a platform where you pay for other Stumble users to view your page. Let me be clear from the outset, this does not work for every niche. In fact, some of the results I’ve had have been dreadful. But, if you do it right, you can get those paid viewers to give it a thumbs up and potentially send it on the hundreds of thousands of other users … for free.

How does it work?
Basically you just sign up, pay them $20 minimum and then show them which page on your site you want them to send traffic to. You can also set the demographic (age, sex, location, etc.) of the people or you can let them choose the best ones.

What works well?
The best thing to use StumbleUpon for is super cheesy link bait articles and interesting photos. Stumble is all about sharing so you have to find something that is both interesting but generic enough that everyone would want to read it. I have had health and fitness articles get

Resources
Check out the StumbleUpon Ads Blog, Darren’s tips on running a Stumble campaign and a good discussion from the Warrior Forum about the ads.

2. Facebook Ads

Years and years ago Google AdWords was the best platform. They allowed anything, you could get really cruddy landing pages approved and make lots of money really easily. Then they made things harder. Well, Facebook Ads are a bit like that old AdWords except they are now getting more strict and controlled. If you want to get in on the action with Facebook, now is the time.

How does it work?
Facebook Ads are done through your own personal page by clicking Ads in the left side bar and then following the prompts. Basically you just create a text or text and image advert and select a target group or set of keywords. You have much greater control over who you target as Facebook collects a lot of information about its users. You then choose whether you want to pay per impressions or per click (perhaps we can talk in the comments about which is best) and then they invoice you once week.

What works well?
Facebook Ads work really well for anything that targets young people. High school kids. Why? Because these guys aren’t completely blind to ads yet and they love to click on things that will help them through their high school days. I have also had success targeting women looking to save money but, for some reason, I haven’t done well with the male demographic.

Typically you want to send traffic to a well designed Facebook landing page as this allows them to like it and then send it on to their friends. Also, if you send people to an outside website you might get the warning “You are leaving Facebook” which can put people off.

Basically, if you can design a page or site that promotes something that is valuable and to do with pop culture you will do well with Facebook. Remember, people are paranoid about what will show up on their wall so they won’t look at anything even slightly confrontational or iffy.

Resources
Some great tips from All Facebook about how to improve your campaigns, an interesting step by step guide from the world’s most evil blogger, a good first time try and more goodness from Zac.

3. Google AdWords

Google AdWords is, for those who don’t know, the reverse side to Google AdSense. This is the part where you pay to appear in the paid section of Google’s search results, or on the ads that appear in people’s websites and blogs. It is the largest online advertising method and is extremely well evolved.

How does it work?
You sign up for an account, add your bank details and then develop a campaign. This means doing all the regular things like creating an advert, setting a daily budget (important), setting your keywords or target sites and your locale. Always run a cheap $5 campaign first to get the feel for it and learn some of the downfalls. There is a lot of room for error with AdWords as the speed at which you can spend money is immense.

What works well?
In my experience local stuff works really well. If you want to target downtown Melbourne in Australia you can do it. This is extremely good news for people selling things from a local shop or to specific group of people. Football shirts, for example, can be targeted by city.

Landing pages, squeeze pages, affiliate pages, etc. won’t get approved so don’t even bother. If you want to sell a product through AdWords you better make sure you have a whole site of useful information before trying to apply. The good news is that most blogs already have that.

AdWords is not great for going viral but it is very good for targeting people ready to buy. Don’t bother paying for ads on people’s websites, just go for search results. Those people are looking for solutions to their problems and have their wallets ready. If you can solve a problem quickly, Adwords will work well.

Resources
Shoemoney has a good one here about an arrow ad, a great post about improving your quality score, something about increasing conversions and a great Adwords guide.

4. Private Advertising

Private advertising is where you contact other blogs or websites and pay for a spot on their site. For example, all those small square buttons on the right hand side of ProBlogger are either private ads or affiliate programs. Yaro also sells space all over his blog.

How does it work?
Sometimes these blogs will be partnered with an ad network that does all the deals and payments for them. This can get expensive. Other than that, you simply send them an email and ask for a spot. Generally these prices are fixed but you should always try to negotiate because often they are pretty keen to just fill a spot. Try coming down on the price 40% and then bargaining up if needed.

What works well?
Directly relevant is the key here. If you are running a viral campaign about becoming a millionaire then look to get ads on pages, posts and sites that are directly relevant to that. Why waste money appearing on pages about dogs if your product is about Porches? Keep your advert simple (no flashing rubbish) and to the point. Ask people a question or introduce your scarcity right away and make sure your landing page welcomes them directly from that blog.

What doesn’t work well?
Don’t ever pay for in-post links because Google will ban you as soon as they find out. Sidebar advertising is about as far as I would go in this regard.

Resources
For this section I just want to give you an article on how to haggle. It’s where its at.

Raising the money for paid advertising

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

So how do you raise the money for paid advertising? Well, it is as simple as you want to make it. And it is all about reinvestment.

Reinvesting for advertising

Remember I talk about my millionaire uncle who told me to have various projects on the go? Well he also told me to reinvest part of everything you earn. You want to set aside 5% to 20% of everything you earn to put back in the business and part of that goes on advertising.

So, if you make $100 writing a freelance post you should put aside your tax, your savings, your spending amount, and your business reinvestment amount. It takes a lot of mental toughness but you have to (just like with tax) imagine that part of that cash is not yours, it belongs to the business.

This allows you to advertise and actually grow your business further. Soon you’ll be getting more $100 jobs or more authority and as such be able to raise that fee to $200 and above. This is how advertising works. If you can go viral with clever campaigns you will find that you will be able to grow your authority, Google rankings and sales figures all at once and the momentum from that campaign can carry through for a long time.

Tax deduction
Remember that almost everything you spend in the course of earning money is a tax deduction. Advertising is usually included in that so make sure you keep records and reciepts and talk to your accountant about it. The more money you can get off your next bill the better.

Will you spend some money?

I’d really like to know whether you are open to spending money on your blog. Have you done it before? Will you try it after reading this post? Please leave a comment and let me know, especially if you have any stories, experiences, or advice to offer. I would love to make this comment thread a resource-rich stop for anyone wanting to advertise their blog on a budget.

Lastly, if you aren’t going to ever spend money on advertising your blog, why not? I find that really interesting.

The Blog Tyrant is 25 years old, works from home full time and sells blogs for $20,000 plus. Subscribe to his feed for a free eBook on increasing your email subscribers by 120% overnight or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Is Advertising Revenue Dead as a Blogging Income Stream?

Earlier in the week I observed a conversation between two Internet marketing bloggers on Twitter which grabbed my attention.

The topic of conversation? Monetizing blogs by selling advertising directly to advertisers.

Their conclusion on the topic? It’s a dead and obsolete method of making money.

It was a fascinating conversation to observe. They gave some solid-sounding reasons for their conclusions, including:

  1. There’s been a decrease in the budgets that companies are putting into marketing (due to the economy).
  2. There’s much more money to be made in selling your own products and services.
  3. Advertising, by its very nature, sends people away from your blog, to advertisers’ sites.
  4. Online banner ads don’t convert and just distract people from what you are on about.
  5. Selling ads directly to advertisers takes too much time and administration.

As I watched the conversation unfold I found myself agreeing with some of these points, however I also wondered if they might also be writing off an income stream that need not be mutually exclusive to other forms of income.

In my own experience of making money online, advertising has always been a part of my income mix. In the early days, it made up 95% of that mix (too much, to my mind), but even today it remains an important element for me. (Advertising made up around 24% of my income in December if you include direct ad sales and ad network income.)

Let me explain the reasons why I think it’s worthwhile to keep advertising in your mix.

The economy: rebounding more strongly for online advertising?

In talking to a number of bloggers who rely heavily upon advertising revenue, I would agree with the assessment that in many niches there seems to have been a contraction in the amounts companies are spending on their advertising. However I do know of bloggers who have seen an increase in spending in some niches.

Also, as we see the economy improve, I suspect we’ll see money return to advertising budgets—particularly in the online space. Companies are realizing the potential of online media to reach target audiences and get conversions. I suspect we’ll see online advertising bounce back bigger than it was before the Global Financial Crisis.

Your own products and services

I completely agree that bloggers should be looking at ways of developing their own products and services. I’ve written about how I’ve done this myself on numerous occasions over the couple of years, however I do think it’s possible to do this in conjunction with running advertisements on your blog.

In my own experience of blogging—particularly on Digital Photography School—I’ve found there’s a limit to how many of your own product/s you can promote on your blog.

While we sometimes talk about the “ad blindness” of readers to the advertising we run, I suspect the same can be said about blindness to your own products. If all you ever do is promote your own products, readers can switch off from those messages. Mixing things up with other people’s messages (whether they’re advertising or affiliate promotions) can actually keep things fresh (to some point).

Get creative with what you offer advertisers

I also think there’s a variety of other creative ways to weave advertising into what you do as a blogger—without just slapping banner ads everywhere. For example, a couple of things we’ve experimented with offering advertisers on dPS include:

  • Sponsored competitions: here, an advertiser sponsors a competition on your blog. They provide a prize, you highlight their products, and you earn income for giving them that publicity
  • Newsletter advertising: one of the surprises to me in the last year is that we’ve found advertisers willing to pay more for ads in our newsletters than for banner ads
  • Sponsored content: by this I don’t mean that we sell space on our blog for companies to actually write their own content—or even for us to review their posts. Rather what we’re exploring with companies is to have them sponsor particular posts. For example, a company might sponsor a series of posts on a topic related to its industry. They’d have no influence on the actual content—they’d simply be mentioned in the intro to the post as the sponsor of that post.

The above options just scratch the surface of what can be offered to an advertiser—particularly as part of a bundle of sponsorship opportunities.

What I’ve found is that when an advertiser buys multiple points of presence on a blog, rather than just a CPM banner ad, they’re much more likely to get conversions, and renew as an ongoing advertiser.

Is advertising revenue still in your income mix?

I’d be interested to hear if ad revenue is a focus for you. Whether you’re using an ad network like AdSense, or you directly sell ads or sponsorships, do you focus upon it?

Improving Your Ad Clickthrough Rate: the Definitive Guide

This guest post is by John Burnside of Money in 15 Minutes.

Those people who have been using the Internet as a business platform since it began will have noticed that there has been a significant drop in clickthrough rate of ads over the years. During the birth of this massive revolution people were curious and willing to click on anything that promised them fame and fortune or any of the other things that internet marketers advertise.

Nowadays, however, we have developed a generation of Internet-competent people who have seen thousands of ads thrown at them from all directions. This creates a problem for blog owners who would like their readers to click on their ads so that they can have a bit of pocket money for all their efforts.

Understanding ad blindness

This problem, which is sometimes called “banner blindness,” can be tackled to a certain extent by looking at the way users actually view and use your website.

For example, the Clicktale analytical software allows you to see how your visitors are moving their cursors around on your site. This will give you an idea of the areas where your visitors are interacting with your site, but what we really want to know is where your visitors are looking.

There has been some research about the study of how people look at websites and most have concluded that people browse websites in an F-shaped pattern, meaning that they will read the title and then move their eyes down the left-hand side of the page, occasionally flicking their eyes into the content if something catches their attention.

As you probably do yourself, internet users skim-read content to save time and to see if the information is something they are really interested in before they commit to reading it word-for-word. Full images and writeup of the study that produced these data can be found here.

Matching ad style to your content

The next thing that you must do is to match the style of your ads to the content. Because of banner blindness, people will purposefully avoid looking at ads if they can help it and if you make it extra-obvious that your ads
are ads, then most people won’t even consider looking at them: you’ll have lost the chance to attract a click.

All you visitors are interested in when they come to your site is the content. You have to make them interested in your ads. By matching them to your content you are suggesting that the ads are just as important as the content. If these ads are placed in the correct places as well, then they are likely to be seen, and hopefully perceived as a
useful part of your site.

There are a few other ways to blend your ads to your site. The one that I have found through my own research to have the greatest click through rate is the AdSense link unit 15×468. When placed near the top of your site, this link unit can appear like a menu which can create interest and if the adverts are relevant to the content, they can create excellent click through rates.

Now to talk a bit about banner and picture adverts. There is some argument about whether or not banner adverts are a good way of getting people to click through to your site. The obvious advantages are that you have a larger area to work with on the site, and these ads entail a visual aspect which can encourage people to see them. This doesn’t necessarily encourage them to click, though.

Some research suggests that banner advertising is much more useful in creating brand recognition than at actually directly selling products, and I for one would have to agree. If you have banner ads on several websites then even after seeing them only one or two times, the visitor is going to get comfortable with that brand—meaning that if they do click through to the site, they will already have a small element of trust in the brand.

The final point I’ll note is about which types of banners to use. Some bloggers can become enraged if there are what they perceive to be too many banners on a site, and will instantly leave your site with the content unread—that’s the last thing you want!

The words of wisdom here have to be: don’t drown your site in banners. This has to be left up to your own discretion but as a general rule of thumb I would suggest you use no more than about six to eight picture ads on any one page. Also, moving adverts can be great, and will attract readers’ attention, but if you use too many, you’ll risk making your website look like it’s all moving, which can be very disconcerting. My recommendation is to have no more than two moving advertisements in view at any time.

In summary, for maximum, CTR you want:

  1. ads along the top of the page
  2. ads in the top, left-hand corner of your content
  3. banner adverts sold to private sources who want brand recognition or for your
    own products
  4. picture ads in low-eye-traffic areas with moving elements to capture
    readers’ attention (but not too many moving ads).

What steps have you taken to improve your ad clickthrough rates? What advice can you add from your experiences?

This post was written by John Burnside, an expert in the making money and Internet marketing niche. To read more of his content or find out about ways to make money online then please subscribe to his feed at Money in 15 Minutes.

How I Monetize Mobile Traffic on My Blogs

Over the last few days, I’ve been experimenting with monetizing my blogs for mobile readers who view mobile versions of my sites.

Those who read ProBlogger on an iPhone, Android phone, Palm, or Blackberry Storm will know that you’re given the option to view this blog within a theme designed for mobile devices. I use WPTouch to serve this up—it’s a WordPress plugin that I’ve found incredibly easy to use. I have it installed both here on ProBlogger and on Digital Photography School.

I had to switch it off recently while making some server changes, and I was amazed how many complaints I received. It seems a lot of readers these days read my blogs on mobile devices!

WPTouch offers a lot of great features that I won’t go into here, except to say that it lets you customize your display far beyond what I’ve done to date.

One feature that I will mention quickly is that the plugin offers those who view your blog on an iPhone a way to actually add a web app to their iPhone homescreen. This will increase the number of people checking out your blog on mobile devices.

One of the other great features WPTouch offers is the ability to monetize your mobile theme with advertising. Once you’ve got it installed on your WordPress blog, all you need is to open up the WPtouch area, and look for the Advertising tab.

wptouch-advertising.png

In this view, you can select a variety of options. You can see here that I’m testing AdSense, and that I’ve put the ads below the header (you can also put them in the footer), and that I can select a variety of positions for them.

I did try the ads in the footer area initially, but they end up so far down the page that I doubted they’d ever be seen (note: it’d be good to have the option to display ads in the header and footer).

The ads are not the prettiest in the world, but here’s how they look on both the home page of the theme, and in individual posts.

wp-touch-ads.png

The ad position is prominent, yet they don’t completely take over the page, and the ads are contextual—all a good recipe for performance (at least, it is in theory).

WPTouch also gives you a way to use AdMob ads on your blog, or even to show custom ads (so you could advertise your own products or sell ads directly to advertisers—something I’m yet to test.

I’ve had these ads working on the ProBlogger and dPS mobile sites for a few days now, and the signs are promising. Obviously their success on your site will depend a lot on how many readers you have and how many of them are reading your blog on a mobile device. However, already I’ve seen my ads earning more for each day of my test than I’m earning through RSS ads with AdSense.

In fact, the eCPM that I’m seeing is around five to six times what AdSense earns on normal ads on my pages. While the actual traffic numbers to my mobile site aren’t as high as traffic to the blog via computers, I’m excited to see the potential of this tool.

I’m averaging around $30 per day so far in earnings from mobile visitors, so the WPTouch plugin paid for itself in 24 hours. While that revenue figure isn’t huge in comparison to other earnings on my blogs, it adds up to over $10,000 a year. That’s $10,000 which was gained simply by installing a plugin and adding my AdSense account—certainly some low-hanging fruit that I’ve been overlooking.

Note: This post contains affiliate links to WPTouch.