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Six Apart Launch an Ad Network and New Services

SixapartTomorrow Six Apart will launch a new ad network, the acquisition of a social media agency and new ‘services’.

I’ve published the full press release below but tomorrow Six Apart are going public with some major developments.

The main components of the announcements today:

A New Ad Network – for ‘influential bloggers’ Six Apart will now offer a way to monetize their blogs. They’ve long been selling ads for their own services like Vox so it makes sense to extend this and do it for other ‘VIP’ blogs also. They’re doing so through a partnership with Adify on a revenue share basis with bloggers.

The cool thing is that there’s no need to be on one of Six Apart’s platforms to join.

New ‘Services’ - SA are also now offering to sell services to medium to large bloggers including the management of the back end of blogs, SEO, blog design and more. They are also offering consulting services for bloggers of all services. These ‘tune up’ services are available to TypePad bloggers.

Alongside these developments there are a few new business units being announced today by Six Apart to run them. Full details of it all in the following press Release.

Six Apart Press Release

Six Apart Launches New Services as Blogs and Social Media Go Mainstream

New advertising service, acquisition of social media agency, and opening of New York office respond to growing need from customers and advertisers

San Francisco, CA – April 21, 2008 – Six Apart, the world’s leading blogging software and services company, today announced that it is adding a host of social media services to its existing technology offering in response to the growth of blogging into a mainstream communications technology. The company will provide new advertising, design, implementation, development and site optimization services to bloggers and companies of all sizes.

“Our customers have asked us for complete solutions as their blogging and social media efforts grow,” said Chris Alden, CEO of Six Apart. “We’re expanding our business so that our customers can benefit from our years of experience in this space. We can provide them not just with the technology but with the expertise and services to help them succeed.”

To support this growth, Six Apart has acquired leading social media creative agency, Apperceptive, LLC., and established an office in New York City. Apperceptive has worked with Six Apart for the past two years providing cutting edge development and design to leading web properties that include Huffington Post, Washington Post, Gothamist, Serious Eats, Boing Boing, Major League Baseball, and more. The New York team, currently hiring, will play a significant role in the delivery of social media services to customers and advertisers.

Advertising and VIP Services
Six Apart now offers a premium advertising program for influential bloggers and social media web sites as a powerful alternative to current advertising options. Thousands of bloggers on hosted platforms like TypePad and self-hosted tools like Movable Type and WordPress.org have the opportunity to make money from their blogs by participating in advertising solutions created by Six Apart that bring together the best of social media, blogging, and advertising. This new program builds on Six Apart’s years of experience providing innovative, custom media solutions to major brands such as HP, MSN and Universal Studios.

Six Apart’s new advertising services combine the depth of blogging with the breadth of social networks to create engaging, relevant online experiences that connect advertisers with influencers and their audiences. Six Apart is partnering with Adify, the premier technology and media company focused on vertical online advertising, to provide the advertising program to bloggers.

In addition, the Six Apart VIP program will promote and support influential bloggers in building their audiences and visibility. Services for VIPs include blog assessment and optimization, design and template analysis, and educational services and webinars.

Design, Development and Implementation Services
With the acquisition of Apperceptive, Six Apart will continue to design and develop next-generation social media applications and experiences for major bloggers, large media companies and corporate customers. Six Apart Services will help online publishers that want to power custom communities, encourage user-generated content, and manage web publishing from a single, scalable application. The group will also integrate social publishing platforms with customers’ existing systems to create effective internal collaboration tools.

Blog Optimization and Tune-up Services
Six Apart is offering a set of personal consultation services to bloggers of all sizes that help them get the most out of their blogs. The new “Turbo Tune Up” and “Power Launch” services, designed to improve the marketing impact of their blogs, are now available to all TypePad bloggers. These services are an addition to the existing world class support currently available to TypePad customers.

New Business Units
Six Apart is forming two new business units to provide the new services. Six Apart Media, led by David Tokheim, will provide the premium advertising program to influential bloggers and custom advertising solutions to marketers. This group will also identify, cultivate and support bloggers for the VIP program.

Six Apart Services, led by Marissa Levinson and David Jacobs, will provide design and implementation services to large publishers and corporate customers.

Any blogger can receive a blog tune up or power launch service from Six Apart’s professional support team.

“By adding these services as we continue to invest in our core technologies, Six Apart is ideally positioned to capitalize on the rapid growth in the blogging market and provide complete solutions to our customers,” said Alden.

About Six Apart
Six Apart Ltd. provides award-winning blogging software and services that change the way millions of individuals, organizations, and corporations connect and communicate around the world every day. The company provides the Movable Type social media platform, the TypePad hosted blogging service, Vox, a free blogging service for friends and families, advertising solutions for leading brands and influential bloggers, and services dedicated to making bloggers successful. Founded in 2002, Six Apart is a global company with its headquarters in San Francisco, CA, and offices in Tokyo, Paris and New York City . For more information visit the Six Apart corporate web site at http://www.sixapart.com/.

Here are some examples:

Since Six Apart powers the platform we have the ability to connect the bloggers and the advertiser in fresh, innovative ways no other network or digital media company can. We’ve been providing innovative campaigns to companies like HP, MSN and Universal Studios for the past two years and we’ve learned a lot about how to spark and sustain the conversations between marketers, bloggers, and their readers – in a way that puts the control in the hands of the consumers. Here are some custom examples

http://www.livejournal.com/entertainment/ – You’ll see the MSN Brand integration underneath the LJ Editorial

http://www.vox.com/politics/ – You’ll see the MSN Brand integration underneath the Vox Editorial

http://community.livejournal.com/knockedupmovie/ – LJ Sponsored Community that was developed for the theatrical release and then revived for the DVD release.

http://joydtaylor.vox.com/ – Vox Blog Themes that were developed for the HP campaign.

Another aspect of the campaign that was remarkable, was on http://www.designtoinspirecontest.com/ Over 330 users submitted designs that they created both to share with others and to enter the contest. The designs were placed in a gallery for users to vote on.

Chitika Add Interactive Premium Listing Ads Into the Mix

Here’s a piece of news that slipped through without me noticing while I was traveling last month – Chitika have announce a program to serve ‘graphic ads’ in your Chitika ad units when they feel that a CPM would earn you more than a CPC ad.

The announced it back in March here and here:

“This new graphic ads service has one goal: maximize your revenue. The Chitika ad on your page will display a relevant and targeted banner/graphic ad on your page only when it makes sense – when it will earn you more revenue.

Graphic ads will pay per impression (CPM) and will be shown only when they can earn you more revenue than a CPC-based ad. Our ad targeting system will intelligently find and display relevant graphic (CPM) ads for your pages when appropriate.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing these ads in action before I pass comment on them. For me it’ll all come down to the relevancy of ads as to whether I’d opt out of this program (they are giving publishers a choice to opt out). While the ads will definitely increase revenue on pages that are not generating clicks if the ads are ugly/irrelevant then they could hurt the look and feel of the page and reader experience.

Also today I received an email from Chitika announcing another ad unit - Interactive Premium Listing ads. Here’s how they look:

Chitika-Premium-Interactive

These ad units are not focused upon any one specific product and Chitika say that they work best when you ‘have mostly US traffic and are looking for a Chitika ad unit that is NOT product centric!’

Once again – these ads are going to be rotated in through all publishers ad units when Chitika feel that this ad unit will pay more than regular ad units. The exception is when you opt out of the program. What is displayed in the ads seems to be dependent upon what a reader searched for in a search engine when arriving on your site – so in a sense the are still targeted/contextually relevant but to the search terms of your reader and not necessarily your content.

It’s a good concept and one to watch to see how they perform.

Not yet a Chitika Publisher? Sign Up here.

Exploring Shopzilla [Interview]

In February I posted a first impression review of the Shopzilla Publisher Program.

Shopzilla

This CPC (cost per click) ad unit is similar to those used successfully by many with the Chitika program. There’s one live in action at the bottom of this post.

I’ve been getting some good feedback from quite a few ProBlogger readers who have tried the program and am consistently getting good results with them so I approached Shopzilla’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Business Development, David Weinrot, for an interview about the program. He kindly agreed. Here’s our chat about Shopzilla.

Can you describe Shopzilla to us in a few sentences?

Shopzilla.com, which operates both the Shopzilla.com and BizRate.com websites, is consistently ranked (by comScore) as the number 1 or 2 most visited comparison shopping site in the US. In addition, Shopzilla operates comparison shopping websites in the UK, France and Germany under the same brand names. Our comparison shopper features enable online buyers to compare prices on millions of different product offers from thousands of retailers. The comparison pricing information is complemented with detailed customer ratings of online retailers, which help buyers identify vendors with high reliability scores along dimensions that are important to them.

Shopzilla, Inc. is wholly owned by the E.W. Scripps Company.

Why did you start the Shopzilla Publisher Program?

Recognizing that the Internet allows all manner of content developers to publish their content and achieve broad market reach, Shopzilla introduced the Publisher Program as a way for those publishers to complement their content with our vast inventory of monetized product listings. In other words, we believe there is a market need to make our “where to buy” listings available to shoppers at any point of presence in their buying & purchase flow.

What does Shopzilla offer that other ad networks don’t that makes it attractive to bloggers?

One of the Publisher Program’s most distinguishing features relative to ad networks is that it is a “direct program” and is thus likely to result in higher monetization yields for publishers. Many of the popular ad networks actually utilize the Shopzilla Publisher Program as an underlying source of content for their own ad programs. As a result, publishers that use alternate ad programs generate only a portion of what they would otherwise generate if they used Shopzilla Publisher Program for the same set of monetized product listings.

Other meaningful features include the program’s link and ad building flexibility. In addition to having access to customizable, standard display ad units, publishers can create custom text links that point to any page on Shopzilla.com, and subsequently integrate them into editorial content. Most ad network programs do not offer the flexibility to link to specific and precisely targeted pages on the advertiser site nor do they enable publishers to tailor the ads in a way that make them most relevant to the page content.

We also think bloggers will appreciate our newly launched referral program, which allows participants in our publisher program to earn $25 for each account that they refer to the Shopzilla Publisher Program.

Do you accept all publishers into your program? If not – why not and how do you make decisions on who is accepted?

Shopzilla does not accept all publishers. Every application is manually accepted into the program by our dedicated Account Management team, led by Rex Roberts and Talia Drake, who you will find are incredibly accessibly and highly responsive to publisher support inquiries. While we do not disclose our approval guidelines, though we typically accept all bona fide US sites and select international sites that tailor to a US shopping market, subject them meeting our decency guidelines.

Do you have any restrictions on the location of publishers or on international traffic?

We do not have any specific restriction on where a publisher is domiciled. However, as previously mentioned, we approve sites that are tailored to the US market.

You’ve obviously seen a lot of publishers using your program – what type of publishers are doing best with it in terms of topics?

Without question, the most successful sites in our publisher program are those that produce editorial content around specific product categories. Niche and specialty retailers are consistently the highest yielding participants of our program; these publishers can command effective CPMs of up to $45. Sites that cover GPS, Digital Cameras, Televisions, MP3 Players, Fashion & Apparel, and Fitness & Athletics all seem to enjoy good success with our program. In addition, at the far end of the integration spectrum, there are content producers who utilize Shopzilla’s commercial API to build full-featured, stand-alone comparison shopping sites and shopping mash-ups. It’s really exciting to see what the publishing community is doing with our openly available content. Examples include ShoppingBounce.com who have built a comparison shopping mash-up as well as yourminis.com, which utilizes our API to publish facebook, typepad, and google widgets/gadgets.

What are the most successful publishers in your program doing well that makes them top earners (ie any practical tips that you have)

If I had to pin this down to two points, it would be: contextual relevance and deep integration. This doesn’t mean publishers have to use the API to accomplish this level of integration, but it certainly helps.

What plans do you have for the future of Shopzilla Publisher Program?

We’ve got big plans! We intend to launch this program to our international sites as well as release various reporting enhancements.

Here’s an example of a Shopzilla Ad

How Much Should I Charge for my Advertising Space?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers to another question on the Problogger Question Box (and a question that I get asked a lot). Brian Auer asks:

What about [direct advertising] pricing? Are there any good ballpark price structures? What do we base rates on?

As soon as a blogger decides to play with direct advertising, the question of “how much to charge” emerges. If you charge too much, you might end up with no advertisers at all. If you charge too little, on the other hand, you will be leaving money on the table.

Unfortunately, as Brian wonders, there are no standard pricing structures across the Internet. You will need to take a look around, do some research, and experiment on your own site to find the rates that will maximize your revenues.

That being said, that are some methods that you can use to draw an initial price tag, and some specific places where you can look to cross check the numbers. Below we will cover them.

Defining the metrics: The CPM

Notice that talking about advertising prices in absolute values is useless.

Suppose there are two blogs. One charges $500 monthly for a 125×125 banner spot above the fold, while the other charges $1,000 for a similar spot. Could we say that the first blog offers a much better deal for advertisers?

Obviously not, because the value that the advertiser will get for its money depends on a myriad of factors, above all the traffic that each of the two blogs receives monthly.

If the first blog generates 100,000 monthly page views while the second generates 500,000 monthly page views, an advertiser would be better off by purchasing the advertising space of the second blog for $1,000.

As you can see, the answer to our question comes from a very simple ratio: cost of the advertising space divided by the traffic that the ad will receive.

Several metrics could be used to define traffic, from unique visitors to visits and page views. Most publishers tend to use page views though. Moreover, it is a common practice to measure page views by the thousands, so one should talk about cost per 1,000 page views or impressions. CPM is the term for that, and it stands for Cost Per Mille (Mille being the Latin word for 1,000).

Just to conclude our example, if you do a small calculation you can see that the first blog has a $5 CPM while the second one has a $2 CPM.

Now, we are not suggesting that you should tie your ad rates to the number of monthly impressions of your blog. Offering a flat monthly rate to advertisers is usually the best (and simpler) way to go. Just keep the CPM numbers in mind because they will enable you to compare your prices with those of other bloggers.

What do other bloggers charge?

Like it or not, the Internet behaves like a giant market place, and all websites are subject to the laws of supply and demand. In other words, if you set a price that is significantly higher than the one used by other blogs on your niche, the advertisers will go somewhere else.

The first thing you should do, therefore, is to take a look on blogs that sell advertising space to evaluate what rates they are asking.

The format of the ad (e.g., 468×60, 120×600, 125×125) and the position (e.g., header, sidebar, footer, blended with content) are factors that will directly influence the final price, so in order to be consistent through out your research you should pick a format and position that is popular.

Among blogs selling direct advertising space the 125×125 button ad on top of the sidebar is arguably the most used format, and it should fit our research purpose.

Let’s see what popular blogs on the online marketing sphere are charging, for instance. If you visit the Advertising page of Copyblogger, you will find that the blog generates over 1,000,000 monthly page views, and a 125×125 spot on the sidebar costs $1,500. Divide $1,500 by 1,000 (remember that 1,000,000 is equal to 1,000 times 1,000 page views) and you get a CPM of $1,5.

Similarly, if you visit JohnChow you will find that the 125×125 button add costs $500 monthly, and the blog generates 300,000 page views. Again just do $500 divided by 300 and you get a CPM of $1,66.

As you can see a CPM of $1,5 for the 125×125 buttons is a good average. Even TechCrunch charges a similar rate ($10,000 for 6,5 million page views monthly, converting to a CPM of $1,53), so let’s keep that number as a starting point.

Adapting to your own situation

All the blogs mentioned are viewed as authorities on their niche, which affects how much advertisers are willing to pay to get exposed to their audiences. If your blog is new or if you are just beginning to experiment with direct advertising, therefore, you probably should start with a lower CPM.

Start asking a $0,5 CPM, for example, and as your blog grows and more advertisers come along you can gradually raise it. If you have a blog generating 100,000 monthly page views this would translate into $50 monthly for each 125×125 button placed on your sidebar.

If you are going to use other ad formats or position the ads on other locations of your website just estimate how these factors will affect the traffic that an advertiser will end up getting. Placing a 300×250 banner on the sidebar, for instance, is similar to having 4 125×125 ads, so you could charge 4 times the price of the 125×125 ad ($200 monthly if your blog generates 100,000 impressions, converting to a $2 CPM).

Similarly, increase the CPM if the ad is on the header or blended with the content, and decrease it if the ad will be displayed below the fold or on the footer.

Keep in mind that you should consider real page views for these evaluations. Most web stats programs and software tend to over estimate the traffic on your site. Google Analytics is usually the most reliable one.

Cross checking the numbers and experimenting

In order to cross check the numbers with an external source you could join an advertising network (either CPC based like Google Adsense or CPM based) and use it on the spots where you plan to sell direct advertising.

If you are planning to sell a 300×250 banner spot below your posts, for instance, you could firstly put a Google AdSense unit there and measure the CPM that it will give. Most direct advertising deals should bring you more money that what advertising networks do, mainly because you are cutting out the commissions and negotiating directly with the advertisers.

Finally, remember to experiment endlessly and draw your own conclusions. What works for one blog may not work for another, and vice-versa.

Over to you

Defining optimal advertising rates is a tricky business, and I recognize that the methods and strategies described above might not work for everyone.

What other methods have you used on your blog? How did they work?

This post was written by Daniel Scocco from the wonderful Daily Blog Tips.

12 CPM Alternatives to Adsense

Looking for a CPM Alternative to AdSense? Will Reinhardt from Calico Monkey (RSS) shows you 12 of them in this post.

Video content publishers face a unique capitalization challenge on the internet today. Sites that rely on new media for the bulk of their content are unable to earn as much from Adsense as those sites that feature more traditional written articles.

Improving CPM in a New Media Era

There are CPM alternatives to the pay-per-click model that can offer video content publishers better monetization than Adsense. These impression based publishing networks have often been around for many years, while some are new to the field and thus have less stringent traffic requirements. While the CPM amount that can be earned varies depending on the niche and number of unique visitors/pageviews per month, for new media publishers this amount is often higher than Adsense revenue.

The following publishers are ordered by their traffic requirements, in parentheses.

AdsDaq (no requirement) – While they only provide CPM ads to specific countries, their ability to display backup ads from any network makes them an easy first choice for somebody looking to test the waters of the CPM market.

Ad Dynamix – (no requirement) – While not quite as intuitive as AdsDaq, their minimal requirements make Ad Dynamix quite approachable even though their customer support is poor.

ValueClick (3,000 pageviews per month) – While their pageview requirements are quite low, ValueClick is known to be picky with the type of site they will approve.

Morning Falls (10,000 pageviews per month) – A relatively low traffic requirement, solid customer service, simple implementation and easy to understand reports make this a good CPM publisher for beginners.

CPX Interactive (10,000 pageviews per month) – A relatively new face on the advertising scene, CPX Interactive offers good integration and solid reporting. Meeting the traffic requirements is not always good enough, however, as their internal approval process is on the strict side.

Burst Media (20,000 pageviews per month) – Burst Media is an intermediate advertising publisher. Their overly-complicated integration and reports, as well as their poor customer service hold them back from the upper echelon of advertising networks.

Casale Media (10,000 unique visitors per month) – A good intermediate ad publisher, perfect for an established site that has not quite reached A-List status just yet. Casale Media handles larger sites as well, making them a good long-term choice for many sites.

Tribal Fusion (60,000 unique visitors per month) – A solid pay scale, depending on your niche. Tribal Fusion represents hundreds of sites with a wide range of categories.

Brightroll (100,000 video views and 250,000 pageviews per month) – Along with Video Egg, Brightroll is the only other advertising publisher on this list that is truly centered on new media. Their video view requirement automatically puts them in the advanced category.

Adtegrity (500,000 pageviews per month) – While their orange and green color scheme may make you scratch your head, Adtegrity is known for their quality customer service and is quickly becoming a leader in the advertising network field.

Advertising.com (2 million pageviews per month) – One of the heavy hitters of online ad publishing, their high pageview entry point means only well-established sites need apply.

Video Egg (10 million video views per month) – The cream of the new media crop, Video Egg concentrates entirely on advertising in online videos.

Conclusion

Once a new media site has obtained a solid audience a close examination will reveal that Adsense simply doesn’t have as much clout as it should. As your site grows, consider other advertising methods and networks. Your bottom line will appreciate your efforts.

The Author

Will Reinhardt shows his own cartoons and discusses making a living creating animation at Calico Monkey (RSS). He also teaches animation at Toon Boom Tutorials.

Chitika Introduce Viral Branding Units

Chitika today have announced a new type of ad unit that I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of a few days ago.

It’s called the Viral Branding Unit (VBU) and you can see it in action on their VBU page but it looks like this:

Vbu

This unit is currently in beta test but I’m told it’ll be released to all shortly. It’s an interactive ad unit which gives users of your blog the ability to actually interact with the ad. The ads are video based and have the ability for readers to leave comments, rating the ad, telling a friend about it – all on the ad itself.

I’ve seen a few blog networks provide advertisers with the ability to have readers give feedback before (I think Weblogs Inc did it) but this is definitely going in a new direction for ad networks. Of course leaving the ability to comment on ads is a risky business for advertisers and I’m not sure if there is any moderation policies – but it’ll be one way for them to get feedback on their advertising.

I’m told that advertisers will have the ability to control which of the viral components that their ads will have (ie they can turn off comments etc) but what moderation there will be I’m not sure.

These are CPC ads – Correction, these are CPM ads – I’m not in the initial beta test so can’t say how much they are paying – but I’m presuming that they’d be reasonably well priced ads as they are a little more intrusive than many other types of ads.

Shopzilla Publisher Program – First Impression Review

Shopzilla

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with a couple of new advertising networks and am really excited by the initial results that I’m seeing.

The first one that I want to introduce readers to is the Shopzilla Publisher Program. You won’t learn a lot about this program from it’s front page as they’re in beta and have been flying under the radar a little while they’ve developed it – but it’s a program that I think has real promise and that makes a good alternative to programs like Chitika’s eMiniMalls and WidgetBucks.

Shopzilla has been around since 1996 as a comparison shopping service. They’re a service that matches shoppers with online stores. Check out their Alexa ranking (around 2000 today) and you’ll see that they do some serious traffic. So Shopzilla has some serious experience and expertise in the online shopping space – so it makes sense that they branch out in the way that they have with their publisher program.

The best way to learn about Shopzilla is to register and to start experimenting with them but let me give you a few details so you know what you’re in for:

  • Shopzilla Publisher Program is a CPC (cost per click) model. You get paid when anyone clicks on one of the ads on your site.
  • It’s ideal for sites focussing upon products.
  • They offer a good range of ad unit sizes – although I’m hoping they expand this further.
  • They offer banner ads, ‘product pods’ (similar to Chitika eMiniMalls), custom text links (where you can link to categories, products or pages in Shopzilla), search boxes (search Shopzilla from your blog) and more.
  • Some of these ad types can be customized to different colors/design. Hopefully they’ll add this feature to all ad types soon.
  • They have a wide array of categories of products to target
  • They offer ad unit IDs to help you track each ad’s performance (think channels on AdSense)
  • They offer an API so that you can customize your ad units even further to your blog
  • They have a minimum payout of $50. Your monthly earnings will accumulate until you hit this level. Payment is via PayPal or check.

This is a beta program so it’s still having features added to it. Keep this in mind as you apply.

Also from my testing so far (and chatting to other publishers who use them) I’ve found that there is variance in payouts from category to category. Obviously these ads will perform best when you choose ads from a category that match your blog’s topic – however do experiment with different related categories to see what works best for you.

I was accepted into the program reasonably quickly (I think it took under 24 hours) however I’ve heard that at this point in their beta test that they don’t accept every application.

Let me show you some of the Shopzilla ad units (note: I’ve left them largely unaltered in terms of colors and design):

This first one is a ‘Top Search Results’ ad where I put the search term of ‘Canon Rebel’ in and used the Camera category. I was given 15 ad unit sizes and styles to choose from:

Here’s a ‘Product Pod’ – again I was given options to change the design and choose a few different ad unit sizes.

One thing you’ll notice with these ads is that the images are clickable. This is something that Chitika launched with but stopped doing (controversially) because it made the ads too clickable! This is one reason why I think Shopzilla might be a good alternative to check out.

Test it for yourself – Register for Shopzilla here.

How do You Find Private Advertisers for Your Blog?

Daniel Scocco from Daily Blog Tips has kindly agreed to help tackle some of the questions in the ProBlogger Question Box over the coming weeks. Here’s his first reply:

Dustin Brewer asks:

How do you work advertising on your site when it comes to the 125×125 banners? Do most of the advertisers just come to you and negotiate advertising or do you pro-actively go and find advertisers for the blog?

How would you recommend getting more advertising such as this, is it advisable to “look” for advertisers or will they just come with the traffic?

Direct advertising deals represent one of the most efficient ways to monetize a blog or website. They enable you to cut out the middleman, to determine your own rates, and to have more control regarding where and how the ads will be displayed.

Getting started selling your own advertising space is not an easy task though, and the question of whether one should wait for the advertisers to come or pro-actively seek them is a very common one on this subject.

The simple answer is: if your blog is relatively small or new, you will need to pro-actively seek advertisers, while if you already have a significant audience and credibility, you will find that you won’t need to spend much time seeking sponsors (i.e., they will come to you).

Dustin asked specifically about 125×125 banners, but the answer applies to virtually any banner format and direct advertising deal.

Is it always worth?

It is important to notice that until you reach a certain traffic level, though, the time spent searching for advertisers might not be worth it. For instance, if you are getting just 100 uniques per day you will need to spend a lot of time to find a sponsor willing to give your a site a try. Secondly, you will not be able to charge much, and the advertiser will probably cancel it after the first month.

Overall you might end up wasting a lot of time on the process, and the returns will be below your expectations.

Until you feel confident that you can deliver value to potential advertisers (e.g., clicks and leads) you should wait or experiment with advertising networks (e.g., Google AdSense, Chitika and so on).

What is the minimum size to start seeking direct advertisers?

There is no right number of unique visitors, page views or RSS subscribers that you need to have before you can start selling your ads directly. It obviously depends on several factors.

A blog focused on a small niche (e.g., reviews of horror movies or pet food) might be able to sell banners directly even with a relatively small audience, say 500 daily unique visitors. That is because advertisers with products or websites relevant to these small niches do not have many places to go, and they also know that the traffic that they will get from such a sharp focused blog will be very targeted.

A blog covering a broader a more popular niche (e.g., technology or productivity), on the other hand, will need to achieve a higher traffic level to be able to sell direct ads efficiently, say 2000 daily unique visitors. That is because advertisers have more choice now regarding where to place their ads, and because the traffic coming a blog that covers a broad niche has less quality.

Other factors that might influence the traffic levels that you will need to achieve before being able to successfully sell direct ads include the quality of the content, the design of the blog, the credibility of the authors and so on.

All right, I think I have enough traffic to start selling my ads, what should I do?

As mentioned before, if you are just starting out with direct ads, you will inevitable need to pro-actively seek sponsors.

Before proceeding, though, make sure that you have the requirements in place. At the very minimum you need a clean design and reserved spots for the advertisers. The first impression that they will get from your blog or website will influence heavily their decision of whether to sponsor you or not.

Secondly, you need to have some statistics at hand. The number of daily (or monthly) unique visitors and page views are the two most used metrics. Do not try to pump these numbers up, because the advertiser will be able to track how many visitors you will send his way, and if he feels that you lied to begin with it will hurt your credibility.

Got these, now what?

Once you have these requirements in place you are ready to start your search. Remember that this is a maths game: the higher the number of potential advertisers that you approach, the higher the chances of getting a deal.

By that I don’t mean that should start spamming people over email like there is no tomorrow. But expect to contact a dozen of potential advertisers (or more) before someone actually get back to you with a sign of interest.

The most important factor here is to filter down the potential advertisers that are relevant to your niche and audience. If your blog is focused on pet food, it would be very hard to convince an SEO company to advertise there, and even if you accomplished that the results would be poor. Poor for the company because it would receive small and unqualified traffic, and poor for you because you could end up annoying your readers.

Here are some places where you can go to find relevant advertisers:

1. Blogs on the same niche. Visit blogs that cover your niche and see who is sponsoring them or advertising there. These companies already have banners ready to go, and they understand the whole direct advertising process, so it should be easy to approach them.

2. AdWords advertisers. Do a quick search on Google for your related keywords, and see what sponsored links will appear. If a company is already spending money on PPC networks, they have a higher chance of being interested in direct adverting deals as well.

3. Forums and marketplaces. You can post about your available advertising space on online forums like Digital Point and marketplaces like Sitepoint. If your rates are good you might get a good response from these sources.

4. Readers of your own blog. Pay attention to who is leaving comments on your blog or sending you emails to comment on your work. Once you in while you might get a manager or executive from an online company that is relevant to your niche. Needless to say that it is much easier to sign an advertising deal with someone that already knows and respects your work.

Finally, do not forget to create an “Advertise Here” page on your site. While initially you will need to hunt down advertisers, you also want to make sure that interested people will be able to contact you easily.

Over the time your traffic will grow and you will start to get approached by potential advertisers regularly. That is when you can sit back and focus on the other sides of the business.

Good luck with your search!

Note from Darren – a couple of other links come to mind that might help:

Got a Question about Blogging that You’d like asked? Ask it here

How to Make CPC Ads Convert

Wendy at eMoms at Home posted an interview with me today which focuses upon getting advertising to convert into revenue on a blog – particularly CPC ads (cost per click) like AdSense or Chitika.

I give a variety of tips in the 3 question interview but here’s the crux of it for me with 3 main factors to consider:

1. Positioning – in general ads close to your content work best. Ads above the fold usually work best. Other key spots are anywhere that your reader naturally ’stops’ reading (ie at the end of an article).

2. Relevancy – you can have the prettiest and most well positioned ads in the world but if they are not relevant to your reader (and the content you’re writing about) then you’re unlikely to have them click it. This is why ‘contextual’ advertising works so well – it see’s you’ve just written about iPods and puts an ad up for iPods. If you’re using an ad network that isn’t contextual you’ll need to find ways to manually choose relevant ads.

3. Traffic – it’s obvious, but once your ads are well optimized you can have the most impact upon how much it earns by getting more traffic to it. However not all traffic is equal in terms of conversion. I’ve found that traffic from search engines can be quite good at getting clicks on ads like ‘AdSense’ ads while traffic from another blog with a good recommendation from the blogger can do better with affiliate programs. Traffic from regular readers is harder to convert with CPC ads so again affiliate programs can be better.