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How Sponsored Posts Can Ruin Your Blog

This guest post is by Kalen Smith of OnlineRookies.com.

More bloggers accept guest posts for their sites.

Guest posts are an arrangement where a guest author will write content and submit it to the blog. In exchange, the blogger will allow the blogger at least one backlink to promote their own website. Guest blogging is a great opportunity for both the blogger and the guest author to receive exposure and share ideas.

Or is it? Some use guest blogging as a means to monetize their site: they charge a fee to guest authors for sponsored posts.

What is a sponsored post?

Most bloggers are more than happy to receive free content to their site and offer a backlink in return. A blogger will not generally pay nor receive money for a traditional guest post. However, some bloggers insist on taking sponsored posts instead.

A “sponsored post” differs from a traditional guest post in that the blogger will require the guest author to pay a fee to post the content. They see guest posts as a way to make money blogging.

I generally discourage bloggers from using these kinds of sponsored posts for several reasons. I think they are unfair to the guest author and can damage your site. I suggest you pursue other advertising strategies if you are looking for a way to monetize your site.

Let’s see why.

Why do bloggers take sponsored posts?

I don’t blame bloggers who are frustrated with guests who submit low quality content. Many SEO linkbuilders certainly fall into this demographic.

Some SEO companies do a very good job guest posting. One of the SEO companies I’ve worked with actually secured a guest post with one of the biggest social media managers in the world, because they were committed to quality.

However, there are other SEO companies that do a very shoddy job with their services. Although I want to encourage bloggers to be open to anyone offering a guest post, I certainly understand and respect their decision not to take a guest post from freelance writer or business they aren’t familiar with.

What concerns me is bloggers who insist on taking a payment from authors wanting to secure a spot in their blog’s schedule. These bloggers clearly aren’t discouraging what they consider “thin content” from being submitted as a guest post. They are simply using guest posts as a means to monetize their sites.

I am opposed to this as matter of principle, but it can also ruin your site in a couple of ways.

What harm can sponsored posts do?

I have a few qualms with sponsored posts. If you are offering sponsored guest posts, I ask that you at least hear me out here.

They’re unfair to the guest

Many bloggers charge a fee because they want to receive something from a guest blogger. They don’t realize they are already getting something: fresh content for their blog.

A guest poster has to spend time writing the content that they are going to submit. Warn any guest poster of your standards beforehand so they don’t waste your, or their, time. If they take their work seriously, they will submit a high-quality post to you.

As a blogger, you understand how long it takes to write great content. By accepting guest posts, you get several hundred words of great content and a fresh perspective for your readers. This can save you a considerable amount of time writing content yourself.

In return, they get a two-sentence biography and a link back to their own website. It is still a great arrangement for both parties, but you are already getting the better deal for the amount of work involved. Is it really fair to ask for a payment on top of that?

Most bloggers who charge a fee to place sponsored posts do so arguing that these posts are “advertising.” However, they stipulate that sponsored posts cannot be promotional in any way. I find this to be ironic and very unfair to the guest blogger. If a business is paying for promotion (sometimes to the tune of $250 for a post), shouldn’t they have a chance to promote their company somewhere in the post?

I can understand charging for a post that is specifically written to promote the company. However, guest blogging was intended to be more of a bartering system.

They can hurt your relationship with readers

I don’t have a problem with affiliate marketing or any other business model that makes money from great content. You can build affiliate links into your content naturally without compromising the value of your post. Affiliate marketers still focus on creating great content and share resources that benefit their readers. Sponsored posts are a bit more awkward.

Your readers could actually be offended to see you running guest posts. Why? If I see a blog taking sponsored posts, I assume that they are relaxing the standards of quality to make a buck. I am sure other readers feel the same way when they see that they are reading a “sponsored” or “paid” post. You may argue that you only take high-quality content on your site. However, I don’t believe most bloggers hold companies and SEO freelancers to the same standard when they are paying for the post.

The United States Federal Trade Commission requires you to disclose whether or not have received payment to post any promotional content or links. Other countries may have similar laws. If you are abiding by these laws, then your readers will know that you are getting paid for these posts.

Many bloggers argue that they need to generate advertising revenue. I understand that we need to make a living. But is the content itself the right way to advertise?

You are selling links

Many people who take sponsored posts claim they are against black-hat tactics such as selling links. Frankly, I don’t really care if someone wants to sell links or not. It’s not usually illegal and it’s not hurting anyone.

However, you should at least be honest with yourself. I roll my eyes when someone pretends they are superior to anyone who sells links but then turns around does the same thing themselves.

Of course, my personal opinion shouldn’t concern you. There are bigger implications, such as the fact that selling links can harm your blog’s ranking. No matter how many times you tell yourself you aren’t in the link trade business, Google will probably decide otherwise if they know you are taking dofollow, sponsored posts. In fact, Matt Cuts has written on this very topic in his article Paid Posts Should Not Pass Pagerank.

Anyone who knows you take money for guest post placement can report you to Google (including a guest blogger who was irritated that you asked for payment). Google itself can find out how much sites are charging for post placements. Matt Cutts said that Google did a small test and found a number of sites that were running sponsored post contests. Those sites are now on Google’s naughty list.

Of course, you can put the “nofollow” tag in a sponsored post, but what guest poster would agree to that? Commercial companies are usually interested in getting link juice.

Also, you better be honest with them if you are going to nofollow the link once they’ve paid good money for it. Withholding your intentions can get you into trouble later on—and with others besides the disgruntled author.

Is it worth it?

Taking sponsored posts can be risky. Is it really worth alienating yourself from your readers and damaging your position with the search engines in order to make a quick buck?

What are your thoughts on taking sponsored guest posts? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Kalen Smith writes about the importance of a social media marketing plan and Internet marketing experiments and case studies on his blog OnlineRookies.com.

Blog Smarter: A Step-by-step Strategy to Boost Your AdSense Earnings

This guest post is by Daniel Scocco of DailyBlogTips.com.

Let’s start with a question: What’s the single most important factor when it comes to making money with Google AdSense?

It’s organic traffic (i.e. traffic from Google and other search engines).

Here’s a simple example to illustrate the point. Suppose you have an online forum which receives 500,000 unique visitors per month, but 100% of those are coming directly to the forum, either by a bookmark or by typing the URL on their browsers, because they are already regular members. The second website is a niche site that receives only 250,000 unique visitors per month, but 80% of those are coming from search engines, while the remaining 20% are coming from referring sites. Despite the huge different in traffic levels, if both sites started using Google AdSense the niche, one would earn a lot more (I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be five or even ten times more).

How come?

That’s because visitors coming from search engines are already looking for something in specific (i.e. they are looking whatever they searched on Google) and when they end up on your site they are very likely to click on your AdSense units should they see something that is related to what they’re looking for. Other types tend to click on ads much less often (the ones that visit your site regularly even stop seeing your ads—it’s called ad blindness).

The bottom line is that if you want to increase your AdSense earnings, one of the best things you can do is to increase your organic traffic. That’s easier said than done, I know, but it’s totally possible, and below I want to to share a strategy you can use for this.

The long tail

The central idea of this strategy is to use the long tail to increase your organic traffic.

If you are not familiar with the term, the long tail refers to the tail-shaped curve that is produced when you consider the distribution of certain things. For example, consider the books sold on Amazon.com. There are some books that end up selling millions of copies. Those are the best-sellers, and they are responsible for a big part of Amazon’s revenues. Nothing new here. What about the more obscure books that sell a much fewer number of copies (e.g., from 100 up to 1000). One could think they are negligible to Amazon’s business model, but quite the opposite! The sales volume from each of those books individually might be insignificant, but there are hundreds of thousands of such books, so if you combine their sales the result is quite significant (and some people argued that this is a key advantage for Amazon).

The same principle applies to many things online, including search queries on search engines. A small number of search queries (e.g. “money”, “health”, “business”) take the bulk of the resources on search engines. However, if you sum all the rare and obscure search queries (e.g. “how to make money selling pets”, “health therapy with dolphins”), their volume end up being significant. The image below illustrates this:

How can you use this principle to get more organic traffic? It’s simple: discover the long tail keywords related to your niche and create content to fill the needs of those users. Here’s a step-by-step guide for doing this:

Step 1: Use the double-filter process to find long tail keywords

You can do this step using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Before getting started, on the Filter options make sure to select the locations as “all countries” and the language as “all languages” (after all you are aiming from global traffic). Also, on the left sidebar, change the type of match from “Broad” to “Exact” (this is to ensure the data will be more reliable).

Let’s suppose you have a blog about PC games. You should start with the broadest possible keyword, “PC games”. Now scroll through the results looking for narrower keywords that have at least 50,000 monthly searches. For instance, “pc games download”, “free games for pc” and “pc game list.” Write those on notepad. This is the first filter.

To filter the keywords one more time, pick each of the narrower terms you selected on the previous step and put the on Google’s tool. For instance, I’ll use “pc games download”, as you can see with the screenshot below:

Now you need to scroll through the results one more time, looking for very narrow (i.e. long tail) keywords that have between 1000 and 15000 monthly searches. Some examples I found are: “old pc games download”, “full pc games downloads”, “free pc games downloads for windows 7″, and “games download free full version”.

The longer the keyword the better (as long as it has at least 1000 monthly searches) because ranking for it will be easier.

Step 2: Create a piece of content filling the needs of those users

Google’s main business is search. This means that it needs to deliver results that will completely satisfy its users, else it will start losing money. Knowing this, the starting point for any promotional effort to increase your organic traffic should be the needs of the users you want to attract.

In other words, if you want to receive traffic from the keyword “old pc games download” you must make sure that the page in your site that is supposed to rank well for that keyword has all the information, links and resources someone searching for that term could be looking for.

Now your goal is to create one page/blog post for each of the long tail keywords you found in the first step. You don’t need to do this all in the same day. Instead you could aim to publish a new one every week or so.

Just make sure that the content on that page will be complete and top notch (i.e., don’t be afraid to spend some hours researching and composing it).

Step 3: Promote those pages like you mean it

As you probably know, having great content is only part of the equation if you want to rank well in Google and receive organic traffic. The other part is promotion and backlinks.

Here are some methods you can use to promote each of your pages/posts once you publish them:

  • Email the URL of your page to bloggers in your niche saying they might find it interesting. And I don’t mean five or six of them. I mean email it to 100 bloggers and website owners. If you can’t find 100 in websites your niche, you aren’t trying hard enough.
  • Guest post on other blogs and, instead of linking to your homepage on the byline, link to the page you are trying to promote. Again, I am not talking about one or two guest posts, but ten or 20 for each page you publish targeting a long tail keyword.
  • Leverage social networks like Twitter and Facebook to promote the page, and perhaps create a contest to encourage people to share the page with their friends.
  • Post about your page on online forums, Q and A sites, social bookmarking sites, you name it.

Step 4: Wait and profit

That’s pretty much it. After you do all of the above, you’ll just need to wait while your pages go up in the search rankings. Usually this take between four and eight weeks to happen. At this point you should start seeing an increase in the organic traffic, and consequently on your AdSense earnings.

If it works as planned you can go back to Step 1 and repeat the process with other keywords or with other niches as well.

editor’s note: tomorrow, we look at blogging smarter with affiliate sales.

Daniel Scocco is the owner of DailyBlogTips.com, and today he’s launching his AdSense Profits Course. Check it out if you want to discover new strategies and methods you can use to boost your AdSense earnings.

What’s the Secret to Monetizing Social Media?

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

Have you been able to make money from social media? Has your effort and time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and your own blog paid off?

If you’re like most bloggers, you probably realize it’s not so easy. However, no matter how difficult it seems, it’s not impossible.

Just like Darren Rowse of Problogger, there are people and companies out there who are turning a profit with social media. Let me introduce them to you and show you how they do it.

Step 1: Build brand awareness and traffic

I love what Gary Vaynerchuk says in this interview when asked, “How do you monetize social media?” His answer: the same way you monetize any other media.

Vaynerchuk says that from newspapers to magazines, to blogs and commercials, advertising has been the backbone of social media monetization. However, he points out that you shouldn’t even be thinking about monetization until you’ve built up traffic and brand awareness.

Fortunately, when it comes to traffic and sales, the news is good for you. In a study done earlier this year by HubSpot, they discovered that blogs with at least 51 posts see 53% more traffic than blogs with fewer than 50, but more than 20 posts.

Furthermore, you’ll see three times the traffic if your blog has over 100 posts. Two hundred or more posts? You’ll see almost 4.5 times the result.

So, your first step to monetizing your blog is to drive adequate traffic to it, which as the HubSpot report showed comes down to consistently producing good content, whether it is interviews, podcasts or useful copy on a daily basis.

Step 2: Build audience engagement

Social media is all about conversation. Companies who think that the conversation is one-sided and do nothing but pump out sales promotions tend to look at social media as a necessary evil. In addition, they don’t tend to be as profitable, which just re-enforces their bad attitudes about social media.

But running an effective social media campaign is all about creating engagement with your audience. If you don’t have that engagement, then trying to monetize it will not work.

One company who is doing social media right is PETCO. They have a really strong presence on the social web with their Facebook page and YouTube Channel. Both these channels generate a lot of comments and discussions.

PETCO is generating all of this engagement by asking their audience specific questions about their pets, their pets’ diets and other concerns pet owners might have. Why are they going through all this effort to engage their audience?

Well, as you get to know your audience, you can start to give them more of the content they care about. As you give them the content they want they become more engaged. And it’s a whole lot easier to promote a product to an audience that is engaged.

Step 3: Monetize with online advertising

Once you’ve built consistent traffic to social media sites and built up your brand and credibility through meaningful conversations, you can start thinking about making money with advertising.

The most basic form of advertising is simply to put ads on your website. According to the 2011 Technorati State of the Blogosphere, of the bloggers who put advertising on their blogs, 60% use self-serve tools, while 50% have affiliate advertising links on their site.

Want an example of what this looks like? This is the Problogger sidebar:

If you don’t like the idea of displaying an ad across your website or blog, you could offer an advertiser a page devoted to their product or service.

Still another way you could make money is to charge for a membership into a teaching series, club or software, like SEOMoz and Copyblogger do.

Or do it like Darren Rowse does and create information products that people buy, like his popular 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Of course these options only work if you have highly engaged, consistent traffic coming to your site, so don’t jump the gun. Get the traffic first, the trust second, and then sell your audience something.

Step 4: Monetize with applications

Another monetization, traffic-building trick is to offer apps.

Some people generate income through their social sites by building software apps to sell. But if you think about, providing free apps is a great way to drive traffic to your blog or Facebook page.

The best apps are those that have a purpose or solve a need. For example, ROI calculators and keyword research tools are popular apps that solve meaningful problems. People will come to your site to use them.

A lot of well-known companies use apps to interact with their loyal customers. For instance, through Gucci Connect loyal customers used their smart phones and tablets to see a Milan fashion show from the comfort of their homes. They could watch runway footage live and behind-the-scenes videos. Live chats were included through Facebook and Twitter. Throughout these experiences Gucci exposed its audience to offers, making money off of all that traffic.

Wordstream uses its AdWords Performance Grader application to drive traffic to their site and capture leads. This app promises a week’s worth of analysis in less than 60 seconds. The goal is to get you to come to their site, use the free tool and then consider buying their PPC management software.

You can also give away basic plans for applications to drive traffic and capture leads, like Survey Monkey and KISSinsights do. These limited plans drive traffic to their sites through social media, leading to future sales as they send promotions to these users.

So whether you give away the app to build traffic that can lead to sales from other products or sell the app itself, software applications offer you the opportunity to monetize your social media. Let’s look at another example.

Step 5: Offer special promotions

Some companies monetize social media traffic by tweeting deals to their audience. An operator of luxury hotels in California called Joie De Vivre  tweets exclusive deals every week to their Twitter. These followers only have a few hours to act on these deals. How well does Joie De Vivre do with this strategy? They typically books about 1,000 rooms that might remain vacant.

Even large companies like Virgin use social media effectively. For example, the fourth-highest sales day for Virgin America came when they tweeted, “$5 donated to KIPP Schools for every flight booked today.”

Offering special discounts is really easy to do. Here are some ideas:

  • Post on Twitter and Facebook that you’ve dropped the price on your ebook to 99 cents for the weekend.
  • Go on a guest posting spree teaching people how to use web analytics … offering half your consultations fee in your byline.
  • Build an email newsletter list that promises special discounts on the products that you sell to subscribers.

Can you think of any other ways to share special promotions via social media?

Step 6: Retain customers through social media

Finally, while social media is really easy to monetize once you’ve got the engaged audience, don’t forget that you should also use social media as a customer service tool. Just because you’ve closed the deal doesn’t mean your job selling is done.

See, it’s also about keeping all those people who are buying your products happy after the purchase. It’s about keeping them loyal … and you do that by retaining and increasing mind share of your brand through good customer service.

In fact, notice the top three interactions users want from social media are incentives, solutions to their product problems and to give their feedback on your business:

In other words, people expect you to use social media to answer customer service questions.  In fact, according to Debbie Hemley and Heidi Cohen, you can actually enhance your customer service through social media in 12 ways:

  1. give business a human face
  2. listen to what customers are saying
  3. proactively engage with prospects and customers
  4. provide additional product-related content
  5. answer product-related questions
  6. supply alternative contact channel
  7. give customers a channel to talk to each other
  8. share customer feedback
  9. celebrate your customers
  10. show customers behind the scenes
  11. make special offers
  12. create new purchase options

When you provide an excellent customer service experience through social media, you will continue to build traffic to those sites as people go from being prospects to customers to rabid fans. Monetizing your social media will only get easier.

Conclusion

In the end, you can make money from social media when you have an integrated strategy that includes building traffic to your site, developing your brand, choosing the right products and advertising channels, offering promotions and enhancing your customer service.

What methods and tools are you using to make money with social media?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

Make it Easy for Your Readers to Participate

At Blog World Expo this year, I was in a great session on using Facebook pages by Amy Porterfield. The session was very helpful on many levels, but one thing that Amy said that I immediately put into action—within a few seconds of her saying it, in fact—was to ask simple questions of readers to generate discussion.

Amy had been working with a client on their Facebook page and the client had suggested a discussion starter that was quite open ended and which required a long answer from readers. Amy switched the question into this format:

“What’s one word to describe…?”

This question lowered the barrier of entry for anyone considering responding to the question. Instead of having to write a few paragraphs in response, all that was required to participate was a single word. Amy reported a much higher than normal level of comments.

I immediately asked my own photography community a “one word to describe” question on my photography Facebook page.

367 comments later…

The same principle applies to generating comments on your blog … or any other attempt at reader engagement, for that matter. Make it simple to participate!

Another example of this was recently when a sponsor ran a competition on my photography blog. Initially, the sponsor wanted our readers to fulfill four requirements to enter the giveaway. They had to follow the sponsor and our site on Facebook, tweet something, and then leave a comment of 500 words explaining why they wanted to win the prize.

I pushed back—four hoops was more than I suspected most of our readers would jump through. The sponsor decided not to run the competition with us and I later saw them do it on another blog. The result? Three entries!

The same lesson again: make it simple for your readers to participate on your blog!

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

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

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

Making Money From a Blog – Moving Past AdSense

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

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

1. Direct Ad Sales

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

2. Ad Representation

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

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

3. Start Your Own Ad Sales Network

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

4. Affiliate Marketing

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

Further Reading: 5 Tips for Making Money with Affiliate Programs

5. Sell Your Own Product

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to find Direct Advertisers for your Blog

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

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

1. Type your blogs topic into Google

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

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

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

3. Identify Affiliate programs in your niche

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

4. Hit the Classifieds

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

5. Online Stores and New Sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Put up an ‘advertise here’ Ad

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

2. Run an Affiliate ad

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

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

3. Run an Ad Network Ad

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

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

Picture 8.png4. Run an Internal Ad

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

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

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

5. Swap Ads with another Blogger

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

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

What do You Do with Empty Ad Slots?

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

7 Reasons not to have Empty Ad Spots on your Blog

This is a guest post written by Ben Barden, developer for the CMF Ads advertising network, which offers low cost, no-nonsense advertising.

Blog advertising is an excellent way to reach a wide audience without breaking the bank. It can also make money for your own blog. There is a mistake that quite a few blogs make – using a lot of empty ad spots. There are a few reasons why I think this is a bad idea.

1. It devalues the ads.

If nobody is buying ads on your site, perhaps the ad price is too high for the traffic your site receives. This suggests your site doesn’t provide value to advertisers. Who wants to be the first to buy an ad when there are 5 empty spots?

2. It makes you look desperate.

I’ve seen sites with a whole row of empty ad spots – to me, this looks like the blogger is begging for money. Let’s face it, a lot of people want to make some money from their blog – simply saying “I have ad spots for sale” isn’t enough of a reason for most advertisers, unless they already know your site.

3. It’s a negative lifesign.

It’s like seeing 0 comments or 0 views on a post. If you come back and see the same thing again, the blog is probably dead. Don’t leave empty ad spots on your blog for long.

4. It’s a waste of space.

Some blogs like to put a lot of widgets on the page. But how many of these are worth having? If you have an empty ad spot that just isn’t getting filled, could you put something more valuable in that spot?

5. It puts a limit on the number of ads you’ll accept.

If you have empty ad spots, it suggests there’s a maximum number of ads you’re willing to display. So if you have 6 empty spots, you might not sell more than 6 ads. But if you have 2 running ads and no empty spots, advertisers can just contact you about buying an ad on your site. Also, if you get a very generous offer to advertise on your site, you may want to consider pushing the limit. This is less likely to happen if you limit yourself with empty ad spots.

6. It makes it harder to promote different ad placements.

If a site has different ads running on each post, this suggests the blog is open to flexible advertising. If you use the same “empty ad” image for every ad spot then this doesn’t give the impression of flexibility, as it suggests you can’t buy ads on specific posts. However, you can get around this by using a different “empty ad” image for each zone, or specifying the available ad spots on your Advertise page.

7. It limits you to certain ad sizes.

If you have loads of empty 125×125 ad spots, advertisers may not realise that you offer different ad sizes. Empty spots can show advertisers where their ads will appear, but this could be done just as effectively with an image of your blog, highlighting the various ad spots.

Is one empty ad spot acceptable?

Sometimes it helps to have one empty ad spot if you don’t have any ads up yet. This shows you accept advertising. It’s just better not to have a lot of empty ad spots.

What you should do:

Create an Advertise page that specifies what you allow and what you don’t allow. Advertisers can contact you with their requirements and you can decide if you wish to accept their ad request.

That’s my opinion – what do you think? Do you have empty ad spots on your blog? Why/why not?

Note from Darren: Thanks to Ben for this post. Tomorrow I want to follow it up by sharing 5 things that I do with empty ad slots on my blogs – alternatives to simply deleting them. Watch the Problogger RSS feed for this post.