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How To Use Inception Marketing on Your Blog

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

Have you seen Inception yet? For those who haven’t, all you need to know is that it follows a team of thieves who access dreams in order to steal information for their clients. The term “inception” refers to the notion that information can be implanted in, rather than taken from, a person. An idea can be planted so that it feels organic to the dreamer, and when he or she wakes up, the person will take certain actions without questioning his own motives.

A similar concept can be used with the advertising that supports your blog. We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, but if you had a way to skip over it, and use advertising in a way that let you wake up a week or two from now with more devoted readers than you have today, would you be willing to make the effort?

Enter: social networks

“An elegant solution for keeping track of reality.” – Adriane

For a long time, the targeting process for advertisements was limited to basic parameters: age, gender, location, and context. Now, we have social networks. What used to be the outer limits of a consumer profile now constitute the baseline of information most people consider “safe” to share online.

And, thanks to social networks, many more will share specific likes and dislikes, their employment history, educational background, and more. All of this can be pieced together into a audience profile that has real dimension to it.

Gathering information from Facebook ads

“If we are gonna perform Inception then we need imagination.” – Eames

There’s something special about Facebook ads. Before you jump ship or question whether Facebook is appropriate for your blog, consider this fact:

There are over 500 million people on Facebook.

The total of the populations of the United States, Australia, Canada and Russia combined is only slightly above that figure. How many readers would you need to consider your blog successful? I’m pretty sure you could find at least a few thousand people who are interested in what you have to say—provided you’re willing to make the investment to locate them.

In order to use the Facebook ad platform to its full potential, you need to understand the differences between Facebook ads and search ads.

The most notable difference is the targeting techniques these ads use. The strength of Facebook’s ad platform comes from its ability to target users via the “Likes & Interests” section of a user profile. Search ads are targeted to the information a user is actively searching for in a given moment.

So, for example, I see Facebook ads for the Golden Girls box set because Facebook knows from my profile that I’m a fan of the Golden Girls. (Just … don’t tell anyone, ok?) Google or Bing will show me ads for the same thing—but only if I ask for them by performing a search on those terms.

The beauty of Facebook ads lies in the quality of the information you receive in the reporting data generated when someone clicks on your Facebook ad. Unlike a search ad’s reporting data, Facebook’s reports provide access to detailed demographic data plus a Responder Profile report, which details the nitty-gritty of the common interests of the people clicking on your ad.

The end result

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” – Cobb

Bloggers can create an Inception-like effect using Facebook advertising. We can use the ad reporting data to create the illusion that our blog or our website is, and always has been, beloved by its audience.

We start the process of inception by using the Responder Profile. This profile will vary from ad to ad but is typically similar to this:

The Responder Profile is your toolbox when it comes to learning how to approach your users. Review this data, learn to love it, and wring the life out of it by incorporating it into all the techniques you use on your blog.

For example, let’s imagine you have a blog about home improvement and hope to monetize it, but you need to build your readership. You have some basic audience demographic information to get you started, and you decide to target an ad that includes keywords like, “home improvement,” “decorating,” “construction,” and “home repairs.”

Your ads start running on Facebook, and two weeks later, your Responder Profile tells you that people who include those keywords in their profile, and clicked on your ad, also tend to share interests you never even thought of. Facebook’s report lets you know that 60% of the people who like “construction” also like “Uncle Fred’s Light Beer.”

Suddenly, Uncle Fred’s Light Beer has some power to it. Perhaps you can use that as a targeting parameter: if Uncle Fred’s is what connects Group A to Group B, then Group B may like your blog, too. You can study Uncle Fred’s marketing techniques and apply them to your own campaigns.

Furthermore, you might decide that Uncle Fred’s should probably be mentioned somewhere in your blog content—probably with the same level of humor, or using the same language, that your intended readership uses.

I used this technique recently on a page I was running for a client. After I saw my first Responder Profile, I realized that my initial approach to the target audience was likely bordering on offensive: it was a little too young-sounding. I also noticed that many of our users shared the Bible as their favorite book, and had a penchant for the Blue-Collar Comedy series.

As I interacted with the community over the next few days, I took on a more at-home tone. and made sure that the content I provided had a sense of humor (sometimes at the expense of usefulness). Our interaction rates went through the roof. The more I knew about these users, the easier it was to approach them on their own wavelength. This, in turn, helped me learn even more about what we needed to be offering our customer base.

Ultimately, you can use Facebook’s Responder Profiles to take on a virtual version of your own client’s personalities. The effect is that your blog’s visitors will feel at home communicating candidly with you, following your work, and buying from you, without ever questioning why they feel so comfortable.

And when people like you that much, they become brand advocates. It only takes a few of them to spread the word about your site among the people they know—and beyond.

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” – Eames

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.

Newsletter Readers Do Click Ads

I recently attended an event where a presenter talked about the reasons that they didn’t use email marketing as part of their online business. One of the main reasons that he presented was that he didn’t think that people coming from a newsletter would click the ads on his site.

His reasoning was that people coming to his site week after week from a newsletter would become blind to the AdSense ads he was using (his main source of income). So rather than working on building loyal readers he put all of his efforts into SEO to generate one of readers.

There were lots of nods in the room from attendees – on one level what he was saying did make some sense – but for me it didn’t quite ring true.

You see my biggest days of earnings from AdSense are always the day I send out my newsletter. It drives a lot of traffic but also does seem to convert in terms of income (all kind, including eBook sales, affiliate promotions and AdSense).

Today I decided to dig a little deeper into my Google Analytics stats (which now integrates with AdSense) to see if what he said was actually true. Here’s what I found when it comes to AdSense earnings on my photography site from different sources of traffic over the last 3 months.

adsense-traffic-sources.png

I’m not able to share with you actual eCPM (earnings per 1000 impressions) or CTR (click through rate) as I think it’d break the terms of service with AdSense – but I think the chart speaks pretty clearly for itself.

‘Aweber’ is the traffic coming from my newsletter and I’ve included a number of other sources of traffic to compare how it performs. You can see on both eCPM and CTR that Aweber out performs not only Search Engine traffic but traffic coming from different types of social media and referral traffic from other sites.

Newsletter traffic is certainly converting on both CTR and eCPM. This is confirmed when I look at other newsletter traffic (for example traffic coming from AOL and Yahoo’s mail servers) which is similarly higher than other types of traffic both in terms of eCPM and CTR.

What I also found interesting in these results was traffic coming from sites like Facebook and Flickr which both again out performed Google traffic on both CTR and eCPM. I had always assumed that social media traffic didn’t convert as well as other types of traffic but at least on these results it seems that not all social media traffic is alike. On that topic – Twitter didn’t convert anywhere near as well as Facebook.

Of course these sorts of results will vary from niche to niche. Perhaps because my photography site is not specifically a ‘product’ site but is a ‘how to’ site the traffic from Google is a little more general and less in a buying mood which could decrease the conversions – but for me at least it is an indication that I’m on the right track investing time into growing my newsletter list!

How I Got Some Paying Sponsors Without Really Meaning To

A guest post by Josh Hanagarne.

World’s Strongest Librarian was about four months old when I got interested in sponsors. I’d read the articles about how to do it, and none of them sounded that plausible for me and my situation.

For one, my traffic wasn’t impressive, certainly not to the point where sponsors were approaching me. And, while my blog has become slightly more focused in its first ten months, it wasn’t targeted at any group of readers in particular, so I wasn’t sure how confident niche advertisers would be. It’s a little more focused now, but I can’t really think of a better term for my readers than “The Loyal Weird.”

So I tried a little sponsorship experiment. My expectations were virtually non-existent. I did it more out of curiosity than anything, hoping that it would engage readers and foster some good will.

Here’s what happened.

Auditions and criteria

I decided to hold “tryouts” for anyone who was interested in a sponsorship slot on World’s Strongest Librarian. If you like, you can read my initial post here. If you’re terrified of leaving this page because there’s so much wisdom in the air, here’s the summary of what I asked interested readers to do:

Dear potential sponsor, please give me:

  • One paragraph on something you did in the last year that you are proud of
  • Your URL
  • A description of your blog/business
  • Why you’re interested in running an ad on World’s Strongest Librarian
  • Your pitch: Why you? Just how cool are you?

And I made it very clear that I did not care about the size or look of the blog. As long as a blogger wasn’t peddling anything heinous, illegal, or spammy, they had as good a chance as anyone.

I would run auditions for the rest of August and then make my decisions.

The plan at that point

I figured that I’d get a small response and run ads for the four people who responded out of pity. Then I’d run their ads for the month of September. When September was winding down, I would thank each blogger, ask them if they wanted to pay for another month or more to stick around, or part ways while remaining friends.

I figured I’d repeat this cycle for a few months until all of the ads were paid for. Then I’d end the auditions.

What I didn’t expect

I got a lot of responses. In fact, I got close to 100 auditions. Some were lengthy and hilarious. Others were half-hearted and poorly written. Some came very close to flat-out begging, and others were so standoffish that I couldn’t tell if they were actually interested or not.

The good things about this

Any reader response and engagement can feel like a huge win for the new blogger. So of course it was gratifying to see that there were people paying attention.

I also learned just how eclectic my reader base was. I got emails from bloggers covering every topic and angle imaginable. I got emails from foundations. I got emails from businesses. Word spread, and suddenly I had a bunch of new readers, and some readers I’d never engaged with came forth out of hiding.

The bad things about this

There’s really only one: because I had underestimated the response, I hadn’t really thought through my judging criteria. And suddenly I had a mountain of auditions to sift through. It was really, really hard to decide. And in a couple of cases, I wound up choosing in a more arbitrary manner than I was happy with, but I couldn’t figure out a better way at that point.

Here is my post announcing the winners.

This caused some hurt feelings, a lot of negative emails from disappointed applicants, demands for explanations of how I chose…and so on.

“Okay,” I thought. “Next round, I’ve got to do this better.”

There wasn’t going to be a next round.

The best things about this

A couple of the winners left after one month with no hard feelings between us. But several of them stayed…and paid. When I was able to show them their click-through rates and they told me how “sticky” the traffic from my blog had been, I didn’t need to convince them at all. And suddenly I had a very, very modest income from sponsors—but I had sponsors!

I was also spared the difficulty of going through another round of auditions and making people mad.

It also got a lot of people blogging about the experiment, and of course, the traffic was its own reward.

Suggestions for anyone interested in trying this

  • Overestimate the response you’ll get, this way you (hopefully) won’t get overwhelmed
  • Explain your judging criteria. You may still have some sore losers, but having a prior explanation to fall back on may be helpful
  • Give it your own spin
  • Decide which system you’re going to use to display ads with, and figure it out earlier than the night before you’re supposed to run the ads. I can be a real dunce. This was one prime example of my duncery.

Your own variant of this experiment could be a way to grab some sponsors and figure out how some things work before your numbers are commanding sponsors on their own.

Above all: enjoy it, have fun, and use this experiment opportunity to make connections, spark some creativity, and do your own thing.

Don’t try too hard to be like anyone else. You are not anyone else. This is a good thing, whether you believe it or not.

About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to stay in touch.

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand: Is AdSense Costing you Money?

A guest post by Kevin from BeginnerBloggerTips.com (with some comments from me below too). Image by Shawnson.

My journey into affiliate marketing.

Before I start, I’d like to make two disclaimers:

  1. I don’t hate google or AdSense—this article isn’t a rant against either.
  2. I recognize that every blog is different—what I’m about to say may not apply to your blog. Regardless, I think you should ask yourself the question I’m presenting here.

Disclaimers finished; let’s get to the point:

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand

42549598_b0780fcbfe.jpgImagine a lemonade stand. The entrepreneurs get the ingredients, start up their business, and have dozens of customers per day. It earns twenty dollars a day. Not bad for a humble lemonade stand, right?

Now, let me throw in a twist: imagine the before-mentioned entrepreneurs are in their 30’s. They own the lot on which the lemonade stand is located. The lot is located along a major highway in a rapidly growing suburban area. All adjacent lots have businesses making thousands of dollars per day. Suddenly our lemonade stand seems rather silly.

This concept is called opportunity cost—the economic consequences of choosing one thing over another. I’m learning about this the hard way — I’ve been making pennies per click when I could have been making dollars per click.

Let me explain in a little more detail. As I’ve mentioned before, strongandfit.net is the first profitable blog I’ve ever had. As my traffic increased, so did my AdSense earnings. A few dollars a day ads up, so I was finally seeing checks come in at the end of every month (I’m new to making money online, so I’m easily amused).

But I started noticing something: a few products in particular kept showing up over and over on my blog (in the AdSense widget). “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “these products obviously convert well if someone is willing to spend money promoting them.” I realized I had inadvertently put myself at the bottom of the economic food chain: I was getting paid a few cents per click while someone else was earning commissions on sales produced by these clicks.

I did a little research and started directly advertising these products with affiliate marketing. So far it seems to be paying off—my blog is making more money.

But there’s another benefit: I have complete control over what gets advertised on my blog. It’s turning into a win-win situation: my readers are referred to high quality products, and I earn more in commissions.

I still use AdSense, but I’m devoting more of my prime “real estate” on my blog to affiliate marketing. Maybe you should also consider doing this.

A Note from Darren

Like Kevin says, I don’t have anything against AdSense either. In fact I find that it works quite well on some of my sites. For me the idea of ‘Opportunity Cost’ is a powerful one. For every decision you make to use ANY type ad unit on your blog (whether it is AdSense, some other ad network, an Affiliate product, an ad sold directly to an advertiser, an ad for a product of your own there is a potential opportunity cost of that decision.

The key is to test different options. Kevin has had success in substituting affiliate ads in the place of AdSense, for others affiliate products might not work, but an ad for your own product might. For others it might be about swapping ads to Chitika or another ad network. For others it could monetize better by selling ads directly. For others still it could be better to not have ads at all but to sell yourself on your blog as a consultant.

The key is to test and experiment with different models.

Does Your Blog Look Like NASCAR?

In this post, Jack Gamble from Babeled talks about ad placement and the risk of overdoing it.

nascarAre you responsible for a website that has so many ads that it looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. should be driving it in circles at high speed with a strange aversion to right turns?

That is because your advertisements are out of control.

Like all things in life, with advertising you need to know when to stop. If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it’s arriving at a blog and being bombarded by a mess of Goggle Adsense, pop-ups, and 125×125 banner ads. All of these are ways to bring in some cash for your hard work, but at what point does it become counterproductive?

Here’s a hint: if I need to scroll down to get to your content because you have nothing but ads above the fold, then I am never coming back to your site. I will not click your ads. I will not subscribe to your feed. I will not download your e-book. I will not tell my friends about you. Are you getting the point? Too much advertising on your blog is simply insulting to your readers.

You need to come up with some simple guidelines for your ad campaign and stick to your guns. I’m not going to tell you that this ad is good and that one is bad. But I will tell you that there is certainly a point where the next ad you put up will cost you money.

Try testing yourself. Click on any post in your blog and scroll down to an arbitrary point in the post. Now take stock in what you see. What percentage of the screen is dedicated to advertisement? If the number is too high, then you’re readers are not happy (if you have any left).

So what percent of space should you dedicate to displaying ads?

Let’s look at the other popular media outlets our there. In television for example, the average 1 hour show has about 44 minutes of programming and 16 minutes of commercials. That is an ad/content ratio of just over 26%.

Print magazines are far worse. The average magazine has an ad/content ratio on the order of 40%! This doesn’t exactly demonstrate a devotion to reader satisfaction. Could this be part of the reason that print magazine circulation has fallen more than 10% since 2008?

So what can we take away from these numbers? For starters, you need to get your ratio down as low as possible. Certainly the 40% magazine standard is a failing number, and in my opinion, the 26% TV figure is not much better.

All the ads in the world won’t do you any good if there is nobody there to see them. If your blog has been sitting idle with no growth in earnings, subscribers, or traffic then try removing some of the ads. You will find that a user friendly site with solid content and a few small ads will consistently outperform a confusing cluster of banners.

So unless your blog has a world class pit crew and can do more than 200 miles per hour, you better do something about your ad/content ratio. My challenge to you is get your ratio down to 20% or less. Your readers (and your revenue) will thank you.

Image: aarmono

Learn From My Mistake – Don’t Leave Money on the Table!

Have you ever found that you’ve been leaving money on the table? It’s a frustrating feeling and one that many of us can relate to. I discovered that I’ve been doing it for the last few months – here’s my story.

I run Chitika Premium ad units on some parts of my blogs – particularly at my photography site on single pages. One ad unit that I’d had running for a while now was one that appeared above posts whenever anyone from the US arrives at my site from a search engine.

I like these ads because they don’t appear to regular readers arriving from RSS feeds, newsletters or other sites – just those people coming in from Google – PLUS the ads that show are contextual ads to the search that the person has just performed.

I’ve always found that the ads convert pretty well – but this week I realised that for months now they could have been converted ALOT better.

I made this realisation by making one simple change to one ad unit – here’s what happened to my earnings on that ad unit when I made the change.

chitika-ad-1-earnings.png

Yep – the ad unit had been averaging around $37 a day – but in the few since making the change it’s earned around $108 a day on average – around 3 times as much!

Considering I’ve had the ad running for quite a few months now – I’ve been leaving money on the table.

OK before I tell you what change I made (and it’s so simple that I’ve been kicking myself for a week now) I want to really emphasise the take home message here – even though it is so very obviously – test your ad units!

Here’s the thing – the chitika ad that I did have in this ad position used to perform to the best of its ability. I’d previously tested it and made sure it was working well. However Chitika added a new option to their premium ads – an option that I ignored. In actual fact someone from Chitika told me to make this change months back – I got distracted (life’s busy) and never got around to doing it.

While I feel pretty stupid and am completely aware that I’ve cost myself thousands by not making this change earlier – I know I’m not alone.

Many bloggers are in the same boat. We put ads on our blogs, get them to a point where we think they’re well optimised and then move on to work on other aspects of our blog without ever coming back to make sure things are still performing at their highest potential. Ad networks change their offerings, add features and sometimes blogs just change and things that used to work well no longer do.

The lesson here is to revisit your ad units and to test if there might be someway to increase their performance. You might not see the tweaks you make bring in $70 a day like my one did – but over time the small tweaks add up!

What was the change I made?

The change was so simple – I just made the Chitika ad unit bigger. The ad unit I used to have on there was a 468×180 pixel sized ad. The new one is a 550×250 pixel ad unit. It’s considerably wider (it now takes up almost the whole width of my content area) and a little deeper.

It does push the content down the page a little but as it’s only impacting search refferal traffic and the content is still above the fold user experience isn’t impacted that much – but the ad performance is so much better (with 3-4 times the click through rate depending upon the day).

5 Ways to Make Money Blogging (Once You Have Traffic)

This is the last post in our series of tips for bloggers who have gone through their launch phase and want to grow their blog to the next level. In it we’re going to talk making money from your blog.

Making Money From a Blog – Moving Past AdSense

While it is possible to make some money with a blog of any size – your chances of earning income from a blog do generally increase as you increase your readership numbers.

Many bloggers start out monetizing their blogs using ad networks like AdSense. While ad networks like AdSense can still earn you a nice income as your blog grows (many large blogs use them) – an increased audience will also open new opportunities to you as a blogger.

1. Direct Ad Sales

One thing that becomes possible as your readership grows is that you can begin to attract your own direct advertisers. I’ve written on this topic numerous times before so rather than writing a long tutorial on the topic let me point you to some previous posts:

2. Ad Representation

Many bloggers struggle to sell advertising on their own blogs. Most bloggers are not experienced in the area of ad sales, don’t have contacts in the advertising industry, are unaware of how much to charge or even what technology to use to serve ads. Most of us also are passionate about writing content and building community – the admin of finding and interacting with advertisers can often be a distraction.

One alternative once you have a reasonable amount of traffic is to outsource your ad sales. Some blog networks and ad networks will handle this kind of thing for you once you have enough traffic. Generally you need a fair bit of traffic for them to look at you but in these tough economic times I suspect we’ll see more and more services to do this.

3. Start Your Own Ad Sales Network

One thing that I’ve been hearing more and more bloggers doing is joining together to sell advertising as a collective or network within a niche. You might not have enough traffic to attract a top tier advertiser alone – but what if you joined with 4-5 other medium sized blogs in your niche and approached advertisers together?

4. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing can work on blogs of all sizes but once a blog has an engaged and loyal readership it can really pay off. Readers that have tracked with you for a while are more likely to buy something that you recommend than a one off visitor – so this is a particularly useful strategy if you have built a ‘community’ rather than just a blog that has a lot of search traffic. The key is to find products to promote that are of a high quality that you can genuinely recommend and that have high relevance to your readership.

Further Reading: 5 Tips for Making Money with Affiliate Programs

5. Sell Your Own Product

Another monetization strategy to start thinking about once you start seeing growth in your readership is your own product to sell.

Whether that product be an e-book, a membership area, a real hard cover book, training (online or real life), consulting, merchandise…. once you’ve got a loyal readership who trusts you and sees you as an expert in your field you’ll find that they are increasingly likely to buy something that you sell.

You’ll also find it easier to get other blogs in your niche to promote your product once you’ve build a blog with profile. I’m seeing more and more bloggers doing this and suspect that as advertising budgets get smaller in the current economic climate that we’ll see more and more of this type of approach (I’ve previously called it ‘indirect income’) by smart bloggers.

Further Reading: Making Money BECAUSE of Your Blog – Indirect Methods.

5 Ways to find Direct Advertisers for your Blog

It is the goal of many bloggers to move from monetizing their blogs with ad networks like AdSense into selling ads directly to advertisers. But getting into this game can be difficult – particularly in the early days while you’re still growing traffic.

Below are 5 ways that I secured direct ad deals with sponsors in the early days of my first blogs:

1. Type your blogs topic into Google

What advertisers come up above and to the right of the search listings? These products and services obviously have budget for advertising online and are looking for exposure and could be open to a direct relationship.

2. Visit other blogs, forums and websites in your Niche

Who is advertising on them? These advertisers are targeting sites on a similar topic to you and are more often than not willing to test new sites that have relevance to their industry.

3. Identify Affiliate programs in your niche

Some affiliates will also be interested in an advertising relationship with your blog. This may or may not be in your best interests to pursue depending upon whether your readership converts with affiliate products.

4. Hit the Classifieds

When I first was looking for advertisers I looked at what local photography businesses were advertising in magazines and papers here in Australia and I got on the phone and rang them to see if they’d be interested in placing an ad. Most had never done anything online before and quite a few took the step in buying an ad.

5. Online Stores and New Sites

This is another tactic that I used early on also with some success. It involved googling the keywords associated with my topic and not just looking at who was advertising (as in point #1 above) but looking at what businesses were listed in the search results, particularly those below me in the rankings. I paid special interest in online stores who had a direct revenue from their sites and contacted them to see if they’d be interested in advertising – quite a few did. I also noticed that new sites who were still getting established were also sometimes more willing to buy advertising.

It should be said that when you have a blog with relatively low traffic that none of these methods are going to earn you a fortune. You’ll need to be willing to price your ads relatively cheaply until your traffic grows – but securing these types of ad deals is better than no income for your blog and means that you already have relationships with advertisers to grow as your traffic increases.

5 Ways to Make an Empty Ad Slot on Your Blog Work For You

Yesterday I published a guest post here on ProBlogger that gave 7 Reasons to not have Empty ad Spots on your Blog. Today I want to build on this post and give you 5 alternatives to simply removing an empty ad slot from your blog.

Removing the ad is one valid option (especially if you already have a lot of ads) but it isn’t the only option. There are other ways of using the slot to either to earn an income or do something else to build your blog.

When I have an empty ad spot on one of my blogs I generally do one of these five things:

1. Put up an ‘advertise here’ Ad

As Ben says I would only want to have one of these showing per page. Too many of them looks a little desperate. However having one of them shows you’ve got an empty spot and calls potential advertisers to action. I link this ad to an ‘advertise with us’ page that outlines how people can purchase advertising on the blog.

2. Run an Affiliate ad

Just because you don’t have a paid advertisement doesn’t mean you can’t monetize the position. I recently had a spare ad spot on my Twitip Twitter Tips blog (the sidebar one which is now sold) and instead of an ‘advertise here’ ad I slotted in a large ad for a resource that I’d previously recommended on the blog called the ‘Twitter Survival Guide‘.

I was a little dubious about whether it would convert as I usually find affiliate programs work best within a post (as I’ve written in this post on affiliate programs) – but at the end of the month realized that the affiliate program had earned me about 80% of what selling the ad to an advertiser would have – it was a great way to earn something from the position while I negotiated the next advertising deal.

3. Run an Ad Network Ad

Another way to make at least some money from an empty ad spot is to consider placing an ad from another ad network. I generally start with AdSense or Chitika – depending upon the blog and then will begin to experiment with other ad networks to see what converts.

While these ad network ads might not earn you as much as a private ad sale (although they might) they can actually be quite worthwhile using because they’ll give you information on how well an ad spot works and what it earns. This information can actually be helpful in selling future ads in that spot.

Picture 8.png4. Run an Internal Ad

Another option that I use quite a bit is tocreate my own ad for a section of my blog that I want to drive traffic to. For example – currently here at ProBlogger in my sidebar I have an empty ad spot halfway down the page. If you scroll down there you’ll see that at the moment I’m putting an internal ad into the slot for the ProBlogger Job Boards. In effect I’m advertising my own site (or a section of it) to my own readers. Other internal ads that you might run would include:

  • Ads for your blogs newsletter
  • Ads for your RSS feed
  • Ads for a category
  • Ads for a ‘sneeze page
  • Ads for a forum area
  • Ads for one of your best posts
  • Ads for a competition you’re running
  • Ads for your business or a service that you offer
  • Ads for a series of posts that you’ve run
  • Ads for an e-product or resource that you’ve developed
  • Ads for your Twitter or account or some other social media connecting point

Essentially any important part of your blog is a good place to drive readers to – particularly if it is something that will drive revenue or increase reader stickiness /loyalty.

5. Swap Ads with another Blogger

I don’t do this one these days but another option is to do a deal with another blogger and arrange for them to show an ad for your blog in their empty ad spot and for you to show an ad to their blog in your empty slot. This way you’re promoting another blogger in your niche and hopefully expanding your readership by the traffic that they send you. This would work best when you do it with a relevant blog to your audience.

Another variation that is a combination of this and option #4 above is to do it with another of your own blogs (if you have more than one). Many blog networks do this – they run ads for other blogs in their stable of blogs in the hope of cross promoting and driving traffic from one blog to another.

What do You Do with Empty Ad Slots?

I’m certain that these are not the only 5 things to do with empty ad slots and am keen to hear what you do with them?