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AuctionAds Update Their Look

Auctionads-1AuctionAds has done an update in a number of areas of what they are offering publishers with what they describe as a new ‘Web 2.0 Ad Creative’ (new colors and a new design – see the example to the left).

They’ve also optimized ad images (much improved) and have updated their hardware which will improve uptime of the network.

I continue to hear from some readers that AuctionAds is performing particularly well for them – it does vary from niche to niche but if you have a topic that has a good second hand market attached to it where people sell products on eBay it can convert very well.

If you haven’t tried it yet signup today and get $5 for just trying it as a ProBlogger reader.

Find a Sponsor for Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today’s task in the 31 Day Project will appeal more to those who are looking to make money from their blogs. If that’s not you – there are plenty of other daily tasks in previous days of the project that you might like to repeat. This task might also be easier for more established blogs than new ones – although it’s not impossible for a new blog to land a sponsor so give it a go!

Today your task is to go on a hunt for a sponsor for your blog.

You might not think that your blog is big enough to find sponsors (and you might be right) but even if you’re unsuccessful in finding one you will hopefully learn a thing or two about finding sponsors and might even start a relationship that could be fruitful at some point in the future.

Getting a sponsor for your blog (or selling an advertising spot directly without relying upon an ad network like AdSense) is a great thing for numerous reasons – not the least of which is that you cut out the middleman and don’t have to share the revenue with a company like Google!

It’s not always easy to land a sponsor – but it’s a skill that bloggers wanting to make money from their blogs should learn – even in the early days.

A few tips for finding a sponsor:

1. Before you go out and start asking companies to sponsor your blog read these two postsFinding Advertisers for your Blog and 10 Ways to make your Blog more Attractive to Advertisers. A big part of finding an advertiser is to get your blog in order first and to be prepared for what they might ask you.

2. If you have a smaller blog and haven’t had a sponsor before don’t aim for the stars straight away. It might be worth starting out by approaching smaller retailers, websites or companies in your niche and see if they’d be interested in some sort of partnership rather than aiming for the very biggest ones right up front. I did this a couple of months after starting my first digital camera blog and emailed 10 online digital camera sites to see if they’d be interested in advertising. 3 of the 10 bought small ads on my site (I think it was for something around $15-$25 a month). It wasn’t a lot of cash (and I didn’t have a lot of traffic to send to them) but I learned so much and made a little money in the process.

3. Target Potential Advertiser Carefully - before you start approaching potential sponsors think carefully about your blog and the topic that you write about and about who might want to reach your readers. Brainstorm a list of companies and websites that might fit the bill.

4. Wondering who to approach? Why not check out who is advertising on other websites and blogs in your niche. Quite often they’ll also be open to running a similar campaign with you.

5. If a sponsor isn’t sure whether to go with you or not – give them a discounted or free trial. I’ve done this a number of times and found it beneficial on three levels:

  • It gives the sponsor a taste of what your blog can offer
  • It can help get your readers used to the idea of advertising on your blog
  • I’ve found that having one advertiser (even if it’s a free one) can actually attract other advertisers (or at least make selling sponsorships easier)
  • You’ll learn a lot by getting the ad up, finding out how it converts and at a discounted rate you’ll even earn a few dollars

6. Find an Angle and Sell it - don’t just email a potential sponsor asking if they want to advertise with you – sell yourself. If your blog has a loyal community of core readers then sell this, if you get a lot of search engine traffic for certain keywords that the advertiser would want to have, sell it to them on this, if you have an audience who is researching to make purchases – this is a key selling point and if you’ve never had an advertiser before on your blog – turn this into a selling point. You need to give a potential sponsor or advertiser a reason to align their brand with yours.

7. If you can’t attract anyone – run a campaign of your own. Pick a part of your blog that you want to drive traffic to (perhaps a post, or a category, or a subscribe page) and develop a button or banner ads to drive traffic to it. I’m doing this here at the moment in the 468 x 60 banner position here at ProBlogger at the moment (there’s a number of different campaigns running there including some internal ones). The beauty of this is that you can test your conversion rates on different positions. Run a heat map test and you’ll learn a lot.

8. If you do manage to sign up a sponsor give sponsors as much value as possible. Do everything you can to over deliver on the campaign. Announce the sponsorship on the blog with a post, mention it any other newsletters or lists that you have, position it high on the page, consider throwing in a bonus text link in another part of your blog etc. The more traffic you can deliver to your sponsor the more chance of getting them to renew.

Run an Advertising Audit on Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Todays task in the 31 Day project is to do an Advertising Audit on Your Blog. I know that not everyone doing this project is making money through advertising – be there are enough tasks from other days in the project that you can always go back and redo one of the others.

It’s easy to set up advertising on your blog and to spend time optimizing it but then let it run the same way without ever giving it much more thought.

Take some time out to think strategically about the design and placement of your ads.

  • What could you do differently?
  • Would using a different size ad make them perform better?
  • Would changing the colors have an impact?
  • Could a different position increase CTR?

Pick one aspect of your blog’s ads to change and watch what happens to your ads performance once you have. I did this last week and increased the ad unit size of my AdSense ads on this blog from 300 x 250 to 336 x 280 and saw a jump in CTR without losing much in the way of readability. It’d been a year since I tweaked those ad sizes – just think about how much money I’ve lost in that time!

A few basic and fairly general principles to keep in mind as you run your eye over the advertising on your blog.

  • Generally ads above ‘the fold’ do best (ie ads that can be seen without having to scroll)
  • Ads close to content tend to do better than ads in sidebars (see the AdSense heatmap for hints)
  • Ads above and below comments are other spots which can work quite well on a blog
  • Blogs generally have fairly loyal readers so to rotate the colors, size and position of your ads can be effective at combatting ad blindness
  • If you’re using ads like AdSense or Chitika try blending ads (ie making the colors similar or the same as colors on the rest of the blog)

I’ll finish by saying that every blog is different. The ads that perform best will vary a lot from blog to blog – the key is to test, track and then test and track some more!

ReviewMe adds Advertorials – My First Impressions

AdvertorialsIt looks like ReviewMe is adding another product to their range – this time it’s Advertorials.

On their Advertisers page they share what they are:

  • You can browse our marketplace of top blogs and choose the blogs to run your message which you remain in full control over.
  • Advertorials also feature full impression and click tracking so you can measure your return on investment.
  • Advertorials are a great way to generate buzz and traffic while controlling the message and measuring your results!

They don’t seen to have officially announced it yet but what it seems like is that instead of the blogger writing the review – advertorials have more input by the advertiser. I’m hoping that they’ll be marked/disclosed as such (as they require for reviews).

OK – so as a blogger, would you use this type of service?

I’ve always had mixed thoughts on review posts. I think if they are on topic, genuine and disclosed they are one option to explore as a blogger – as long as you don’t become obsessed by posting too many of them and as long as they give actual useful information to your readers (and realize that for some readers they can be a turn off).

I personally don’t do paid reviews because I don’t want to put myself in that kind of position with my readers – however some bloggers seem to be doing well with them.

With advertorials I’m feeling similar thoughts – although am probably even further away from running them on my own blogs than running paid reviews. While I guess ReviewMe will give bloggers full control of whether an advertorial is placed on their blog (after seeing the copy) I think there are a couple of downsides to this as a blogger wanting to develop a community and relationships with readers:

  • Disruption of Style/Voice – one of the potential downsides is that the voice that advertorials are written in could well be different to the voice that you write your blog on. I guess this will be a case by case thing that bloggers need to assess – but most advertorials that I read in newspapers and magazines have a certain kind of ‘spin’ on them. I guess to be fair that this disruption of voice is similar to when you put a guest post up on your blog.
  • Loss of Balance – the point of an advertorial is to sell something. Whether it be a product, brand or service – an advertorial is an advertisement of some sort and as a result it is not generally a balanced exploration of the pros and cons of that service. Is this what your blog is about – this is a call that a blogger will need to make for themselves.

I’m not about to reject the idea of an advertorial completely for all blogs – but I would suggest bloggers think carefully about running them or not (as I would encourage bloggers to do with any type of ad on their blog. Remember that everything that goes up on your blog either adds to or takes away from how readers perceive it – particularly those things that appear in the content areas of your blog.

They are my initial thoughts, having not seen many details of what the service entails. What do you think about advertorials on blogs?

PS: one last question that I have about this – will advertorials be unique from blog to blog? Seeing the same advertorial numerous times around a niche could become annoying to readers but also could have implications when it comes to SEO both of the advertiser and blogger – ie duplicate content. Knowing the smart SEO types behind ReviewMe I suspect they’ve given this some consideration and will be interested to see what they’ve come up with.

Update: Thanks to Patrick from ReviewMe who has made the following clarifications for us:

- all links within Advertorials are redirects, no direct links (this means they have no SEO benefit)
- all Advertorials BY DEFAULT are clearly marked at the beginning of the post as a “SPONSOR POST:” (good on the disclosure front).

Here in Australia if an article is an advertiorial they are actually marked with that word – I wonder whether this might be something to consider or stop confusion with readers wondering if it’s actually written by the blogger themselves. While I’m happy they are disclosing I think it worth pointing out to readers that a blogger did not write the post for fear of it being confused with a paid review that readers might think is unbiased. Just my two cents worth.

WP Text Ads Review

Wp-Text-AdsA couple of days back I linked in a speedlinking post to a WP plugin called WP Text Ads – a plugin that allows bloggers to sell their own text links. In that post I asked if anyone had used it and offered to publish a review of one if anyone wanted to write it.

Ryan Imel from who reviews WordPress themes and plugins at Theme Playground kindly offered – here’s his review.

After kicking around WP Text Ads on my blog, I think it’s one of the best all around plugins for WordPress I’ve used, let alone reviewed. And if you get nothing else from this review, know this – Text Ads is fun to use.

It’s really fun to manage your own text ads.

IMPRESSIVE CONTROLS

The first thing I noticed was that updating aspects of the plugin on the Dashboard didn’t require a refreshing of the page. It updates and you save your place on the page. This is a huge timesaver. When will the rest of WordPress operate this way?

*Cough* 2.3 *Cough*

Note: Remember to activate all three plugins when you add this one. That’s two widgets and the main plugin.

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Blog Advertising Methods Ranked

Chad Randall (b5′s Ad Sales Manager) caused a real stir here at ProBlogger while I was traveling a few weeks back in his guest post about making a blog more attractive to advertisers when he suggested bloggers remove AdSense from their blogs.

Chad wrote more on why he doesn’t like AdSense on his own blog after that post – and today wrote another useful post titled the 7 Levels of Revenue for Your Blog which ranks advertising methods for blogs.

While I think a lot of what Chad says is true my own position on AdSense isn’t quite as extreme. As someone who has some blogs that are highly read by Australian audiences – ad networks like AdSense and Chitika provide a very valuable opportunity to monetize a site as it can be difficult to find alternatives. I also find that my average CPM rate is considerably higher than the $1 Average that Chad talks about.

This type of thing does vary from blog to blog somewhat – how would you rank ad revenue types?

Get $5 for Free Today from AuctionAds

Get $5 for testing AuctionAds – find out more below.

Us $5 Obverse

A couple of days ago I asked readers for their reviews of AuctionAds – a new income stream for bloggers that has been going for two months now.

Today the team behind AuctionAds contacted me to let me know that they want to offer ProBlogger readers a special incentive to try them out on your blog.

They are going to put $5 into the account of every ProBlogger reader who signs up today via this Special Offer Form. To qualify you just need to sign up and try Auction Ads out on your blog.

This is an exclusive deal (from what I’m told) – open only to ProBlogger readers and while it might not seem like a large amount to give away – considering the readership of ProBlogger they could be giving away some serious cash (if every RSS reader signs up they’ll be into six figures – gee I’d love to see that).

So if you’ve been meaning to try out AuctionAds on your blog what better opportunity than this? While AuctionAds work better on some blogs than others they are worth a try. The worst thing that can happen is that you walk away with a free five dollars!

Auction Ads – Reader Reviews

Auction-AdsI’ve just jumped off a skype call with a blogger who has been testing Auction Ads since they were announced back in March.

He wishes to remain anonymous as he’s wanting to protect his niche – however was very very excited as he’d just received a payment from them that was bigger than anything he’d previously earned from a blog.

I’m not allowed to share his niche – except to say that it’s in an area that there is a healthy second hand market for products in.

I’ve heard from other bloggers that if you have content that relates well to anything with such a market that it will do well as the ad system draws its inventory from ebay.

I’ve dabbled with Auction Ads (with some success) but suspect that it will do incredibly well for some topics but not so well with others.

I’m interested to hear your feedback after two months of experimenting with Auction Ads (as I know many of you have been).

How is it working for you? What have you found to work best in terms of design, positioning and topics? Write us a mini review and share your experiences (anonymously or with your name – your choice).

Finding Advertisers for Your Blog

Reader QuestionsAlistair asks – ‘Having a niche blog means that I will never have the same amount of visitors as some of the larger technology/media blogs. This means that advertisers such as blog ads will not allow me to use their ads as they see me as having lower visitor numbers. Traditionally manufacturers in my niche are wary of the internet even though they have websites – I have contacted a few and state my visitor numbers etc but still they are unwilling to even trial. I think it is because my blog is “personal” but in my niche I can get away with that as it is classed as a diary. Any advice?’

Tough one Alistair. I could write a lot on this (and have actually asked Chad, b5media’s Ad Sales guy to write some posts for me on the topic too) but here are a few tips that come to mind. I hope you don’t mind me compiling them as a list as they’re somewhat random ideas:

1. Show them what they’re buying – one of the most powerful strategies I used in my early days of selling ads to people was to show them how I ranked in Google for their keywords. Compile a list of words that you rank for that you can pull out next time you’re talking to an advertiser. If when people search the web for information on products that they sell they end up on your site you have a key selling point.

2. Traffic is a Powerful Motivator – there’s no getting around it – to many advertisers traffic numbers are key. I hope that this trend is changing (what I saw at ad:Tech in Sydney recently confirms this as advertisers are looking to get more niche in their focus) but in the mean time it does count. Keep working to build traffic and be ready to share your numbers and back them up with graphs/tables etc.

3. Collect Demographics – every ad agency I ever spoke with about buying space on my blogs asked about the demographics of my audience. Do some surveys and collect this data as it’ll help sell your case.

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