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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.

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.