I previously explained my simple formula for pricing ads on your website. If you missed the article, please read it first here –
How Much Should You Charge For Advertising On Your Blog?
Now you know how much to charge, the next step is exactly where to place the ads on your site so you can achieve these goals –
- Sell more ads
- Find the right combination of ads (not too many, but enough to make good money)
- Test to maximize your return
And let’s not forget…
- Deliver good performance to sponsors, so they keep paying your ad fees month after month
To put it simply, I will explain how to first set up advertising on your site to give you the best chance to actually sell ads, and not make the common mistakes that can actually harm your chance of attracting sponsors.
If you haven’t yet installed CrankyAds, I recommend that be your first step. CrankyAds is the ad management tool I created and use on this blog. It allows you to rotate, manage and automate the selling process of all the ads on your blog.
Not An Exact Science
I want to begin by saying that all the advice I am about to give you is just that – advice.
This is not an exact science, rather a few techniques I’ve noticed over the years that have helped me to sell more ads and make more money. These techniques make sense, as you will see, because they work with human psychology, and of course at the end of the day what you are doing is attempting to convince a human to buy an ad on your site.
Be aware that because these techniques have worked for me, does not mean they will work for you. In fact just the opposite might be the best tactic for you.
These techniques will not fix fundamental problems with your website. If you do not have enough traffic, or your subject is so obscure that no sponsors exist who wants to reach your audience, then no amount of good ad positioning psychology is going to help. There has to be a certain amount of the right people seeing what you are doing for these techniques to work.
I suggest you test these things out, give them a month or two, and see what the results are. You may deliver ad sales in a matter of days, or none for a few weeks or months.
What I can tell you from my own experience is that these techniques work, but often unpredictably. Sometimes I will make changes, like changing the size of a banner and notice instant results. Other times I will go through downturns where lots of advertisers cancel with no new ones coming on board for a month, then suddenly I’ll have four sponsors buy ads in two days.
Seasonality has a big impact on ad sales, as does the economy. When companies have money to spend on advertising, times can be great. Other times it can be rather horrible to rely on just advertising for your income (not something I recommend). What’s important is that you position yourself to maximize your chance of capturing sponsors. That’s exactly what this article is about, how to optimize your blog so you can sell more ads and build up a solid advertising income stream.
Here’s what I suggest you do…
The Advertising Heatmap
To begin with, if you have never had a good look at an advertising heatmap, now is the time to do so. Here’s the one Google provides for AdSense, which is just as relevant for us selling ads directly.
As you can see, the hottest areas of your site are above the fold (what you see on your website without scrolling down) and in the middle to top left areas of your layout.
The important thing to realize is that your ads are more likely to be seen and clicked if they are placed in the hottest areas on your website. That challenge is doing this without negatively impacting the content your site delivers, which is after all the reason a person is at your website in the first place.
Most website designs today use a left or right sidebar. You probably have one of these too. I personally like to keep make sure content is first, advertising second, so I reserve the hottest parts of my websites for content, and place ads in the sidebar, or just after content.
The footer and header are options too, but often do not perform as well.
What I don’t want you to do is go and place ads in every hot spot on your site. Too many ads is not good.
Not only can it look bad, it often increases your bounce rate and reduces visit duration (people coming to your site and leaving straight away). Also, as we now know because Google has said so, they are factoring in the amount of ads on your site when discerning quality and thus how high to rank your site in search results.
My formula is to place one main ad in the top of the sidebar, then secondary ads a little further down the sidebar, maybe some text links at the end of the sidebar and possibly banners at the end of content too (I like that a person reads an article to completion, then sees the ad – it works with reading flow, rather than disrupts it).
I have in the past also had header and footer banners. Many bloggers also place ads aligned left or right within the start of an article, which is usually the hottest spot for clicks. I’ve not done this because I like to separate ads from content, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a viable option.
What I suggest you do is start by installing CrankyAds, then pick two to three locations on your site to place the ads. Model my own site if you like, and have a browse around to see what other top blogs do – where do they place their ads?
Avoid Negative Social Proof
We recently took on a client for CrankyPlus, a service we offer where we help higher quality websites source sponsors.
I had only just completed setting up the ad zones on this particular site when we received an email from a potential sponsor. They were interested in buying some advertising but they were concerned about something.
They wanted to know why there didn’t appear to be any ads on the site.
This is what we call “negative social proof”. Social proof is when other people’s actions (or lack thereof) impact the decision making process of a potential person or customer. In this case it is negative, because seeing no sponsors make a potential sponsor wonder if there is a reason why – perhaps something is wrong or maybe the site is not a good site to sponsor.
No one wants to be first if they are spending money on something that may or may not do what they want it to do. They want to spend money on things other people have spent money on and earned the result they wanted. This is positive social proof, and is the reason why you see testimonials and case studies on so many product sales pages.
Social proof is huge when it comes to advertising too. If you have read Richard Branson’s autobiography (Losing My Virginity) you may recall one of his very first projects was a music magazine at his school. In typical Branson style, he managed to monetize his small publication by selling ads, but not just to local small businesses – he went after big brands.
I can’t recall the specific companies mentioned in the book (I read it many years ago), but I do remember that Branson was clever when it came to using social proof and competition when sourcing sponsors for his publication. He would effectively call the advertising manager at Pepsi and tell them that Coke had bought a full page ad on the back of his magazine and then ask if they wanted to buy the front page (even though it wasn’t true). Once Pepsi signed on, he could then call Coke and say that Pepsi had bought the front page, did they want the back.
It may be a deceptive, but you can’t help but admire the hutzpah Branson had, not to mention the clever psychology he used to secure advertisers.
In your case with your blog, what you want to do is place a few internal advertisements or affiliate ads in your zones when you first start and have no sponsors. This is a smart idea because it allows you to monetize unsold advertising space, and shows potential sponsors that you have advertisements running. Sponsors won’t know if ad campaigns are paying adverts or affiliate campaigns – and that doesn’t matter – it just shows that you have ads on your site so it’s safe for them to buy an ad.
Ideally, you should mix your adzones with affiliate ads or internal campaigns, “advertise here” banners so sponsors know they have the option to buy a campaign, and paying sponsor ads. As you slowly sell ads to sponsors, you can drop out the internal/affiliate ads. Make sure you always keep one spot spare so the advertise here banners displays (and of course so sponsors can buy it).
Incidentally, CrankyAds handles the mixing process easily, including automatic insertion of “advertise here” ads, and the ability to easily upload internal campaigns through the manager interface. You can instantly cancel or reinstate affiliate ads in response to selling sponsor ads (or when they cancel) so your adzones are always full of the right mix of media.
Hopefully given enough time you will sell most of your ad spots to paying sponsors, but until this happens, you should make sure the mix is good so you don’t turn away potential sponsors with negative social proof.
Sometimes Less Is More
When I recently launched a redesign of this blog, I made available quite a few new ad positions. One of them was a site wide header banner just below the navigation bar. I considered this the maximum exposure spot, and accordingly charged the most for it.
After a few weeks I hadn’t sold any ads in the spot and I was beginning to think I may have a dud zone. I wasn’t a big fan of the spot because it was quite invasive – it really stood out. Truth be told, I had probably gone a little too far adding too many ad positions on my site (this can be very subjective, people will say this site currently has too many ads, while others will say you can squeeze more in).
I decided after a couple of months to just completely remove the ad spot.
After making this change, the banner slot in the top right sidebar suddenly became much more prominent. Prior to this it was competing for attention with the header banner. Now with the header gone, it was clearly the hottest ad zone on my site for attracting eyeballs.
It turned out this wasn’t just my “feeling” about the difference, I quickly sold out of banners in the spot after the change. By removing one banner, another became more popular.
Changes like this won’t necessarily be obvious. All you can do is test. Understand that context matters. Each element of your site layout impacts the others, and when it comes to ads, less can equal more.
In my case I increased my ad income by removing an adzone because it resulted in selling more of another.
There are important psychological triggers behind changes like this: Scarcity and the Paradox of Choice.
When you remove options you have fewer ads to sell. Scarcity drives sales. It increases demand because chances are if an advertiser doesn’t buy, someone else will and they will miss out. This also helps with social proof because when you sell ads you are more likely to sell more ads.
Having too many options creates a paradox where potential sponsors choose not to buy an ad at all. If they have seven ad zones to choose from, they become concerned that they will waste money by not buying the best spot. If you drop down to three ad zones, or one of each type of media (one banner, one text link, one video ad for example), you make it that much easier to make the choice because they won’t be concerned they are not buying your best option.
Some sites offer just one adzone. This makes the decision of what ad spot to buy easy to make and drives up demand because you have limited supply. It also makes your site “cleaner” – free from excessive ads.
The flipside of this strategy of course is that you minimize how many ads you can sell. Some people want options beyond just one banner zone, so personally I feel offering a few different options is a good idea, but don’t go over board. Lean on the side of less and you will do well.
I recommend you ask an innocent bystander to take a quick look at your site and ask them which advertisement stands out. Ask if they feel overwhelmed by ads and how hard they found it to find your actual site content.
Once again finding the right mix is critical. I like having two to three banner zones and one text link area as a good starting point. However if you are really unsure and new to selling ads, start with just one zone and perhaps increase the price a little and see how you go.
Elements You Can Test
Now that you are ready to place the ads on your site, the next step of the process is testing to find the right combination of all the different elements for maximum return.
Here are some of the elements I have tested and recommend you try. Don’t test changes all at once, make one change at a time and give at least a month before drawing conclusions, especially if you don’t have a lot of traffic.
- Test Price: This is obvious, but of course obvious doesn’t mean you will actually do it. I test pricing using a simple method. If I am not selling ads, drop the price. If I sell out, or nearly sell out, raise the price.
- Test Media: Banners are by far the most common ad format, but have you considered offering video ads? (CrankyAds can help you sell video ads). What about text links? I’ve made consistent income from text link sponsors for years – even before I was a blogger. Mix up your media type and price options, for example, offer text links as a low cost entry ad format.
- Test Discounts: I offer one free month of advertising for every five months paid for in advance. This allows your sponsor to lock in a campaign long term and get a discount for doing so, and you get a nice chunk of income up front. Play with options and other discount formats and see what works for you.
- Test Bundles: One thing I used to do was offer a package that included all my adverting formats for one monthly price. You can test bundling different adzones together, or even offer a bundle where a sponsor who buys six months worth of advertising gets a free sponsored review. Options abound.
These are some of the elements I have tested that have worked for me. Give them a try yourself, but do it slowly. Too many options or changes at once turn people away.
One Final Tip
I’ll end this article with something that might seem obvious but is so worthwhile.
Ask your sponsors how their campaign went.
It’s not something I always do, but when I have I always learn interesting things – important things too – like what exactly motivates my sponsors. The better I understand the people who are buying ads from my site, the better I can serve them.
Now it is your turn. Go set up your adzones, start lean, price well, test options and get excited when you sell that first advertisement.
Photo courtesy of mars_discovery_district
I agree that less is more, I’ve had more success using less ads but placing them in better areas, thanks to the very same Adsense heat map you used above. The more targeted the ads are the better also.
One of the things I like about your texts is that, when you finish it, there is hardly anything else to comment or ask about the topic!
Very well laid out.
Negative social proof is always a problem especially for new blogs; I like the suggestions you made.
There is so much to learn from this post Yaro, thanks for sharing and teaching.
Thanks, Yaro. I especially appreciated the final tip. I would not have thought to ask my advertisers how their campaign went. I think there is still a part of me that would be hesitate about asking just in case I find out it didn’t do well. But, I also think that it is better to deal with a problem then to ignore it.
Very thanks for the awesome information you shared.
Fantastic advice. Especially love the heat map. It really put things into perspective. I have just recently received ad requests and it is a little mind boggling what to do with them.
Very informative, as always! Great ideas for testing, so important to make sure you are seeing results for yourself (and your ad clients).
Very well explained. I’d probably need this in a few months. I love the bit about Branson, who used to live in a houseboat near my home in England, many years ago. Like you, he is an inspiration.
I wish you all success in the future, Yaro
This was perfect timing – we are looking at having sponsors on board! Good to know what price to charge and how much money can be made from sponsored ads 🙂
Impressive advice from an expert webmaster! I’m glad you shared this. I’m starting to optimize my site and start accepting direct sponsors, your advice is what I’m just looking for. Thanks Yaro.
I’m still building my blog, so don’t feel it is ready for adverts yet, but I have bookmarked this post so I’m ready when it happens. What sort of traffic should I be getting, or do I start now? Cheers Janice
Knowing how to place our ads is important to ensure good exposure, CTR (click through rate) and conversion.
For advertisers, they want good ROI after spending a dime to advertise in our blogs.
For website owner or bloggers, they want to have some amount of money to survive and keep updating content.
Yaro, this article really helps me to understand more deeply about placing a good conversion advertisement. Thank you. 🙂
Thank’s Yaro, your post could not have come at a better time. I am currently reviewing the advertising slots in my blog and I cringed when I read your experience with a site-wide header banner. I believe you have just pointed me to the right direction on what I should do next. Thanks again!
Nothing wrong with a site wide header banner – just balance it against the other ads on your site.
Thanks Yaro! By the way, just finished watching the videos for CrankyAds and I was blown away! I am using OIO publisher right now and I can’t help but compare the two. If there is one thing that CrankyAds does better, it would be the “no nonsense” advertise page created automatically that shows ad availability, and with a nice looking layout that should attract advertisers. Even if I paid for OIO publisher, I will give crankyads a try. 🙂
How are CrankyAds different from BuySellAds.com?
Have a good play with the software and you will notice some key differences. We don’t take 25% of ads you sell on your own for one thing, but we are new as well, so we don’t have a lot of features that buysellads has developed over the years. I really do admire what they have done, but we have a few different ideas we would like to offer to the blogging community.
You mentioned Adsense, which I use, it’s slow going.
I pay (the minimum) for my blog, and since I pay
the lowest price, my ads are on the side.
Should I upgrade my blog (for $6 more) and take advantage
of the ads that will be placed above and under the text?
Thanks again, Yaro!
This article wasn’t about AdSense James, it’s about selling ads directly to sponsors. I can’t really help you with AdSense, it’s not my strong point as direct sponsorship has always paid more.
There’s a lot of good information here, but without a doubt, this is one of the most important tips you have ever given. As you know, Yaro, I’ve read and exchanged occasional emails with you for years.
I wish I had a dollar for every unanswered email from other “a list” bloggers, or even more importanly, people who have sold me things over the years, who never, ever, get in touch again or tried to keep alive any sort of relationship.
I have news for people who dream of selling me something. Like a great majority of folks, I earn money each and every month. Also, like most folks, I spend money every month on aa , things I have to … already a given, and b., things I choose to.
I very seldom choose to spend the second time with a stranger. I very often spend with people I feel I know and whom I feel actually give a care for something aside from my PayPal login.
Simplistic? Oh yes, but oh so true!
I will try to put cranky ads on my blog later, I agree with less ads pays more and your sponsors will love to place ads on the site without competitions.
Great article Yaro and I definitely agree with you about testing and finding the correct amount of ads and their placement. One thing I’d add related to Adsense is that while images ads are seldomly relevant, at least in my niche, text ads are better. I’ve never used text ads but I’ll definitley try, together with running internal campaigns, great advice.
Go on with CrankyAds as it’s the best thing it could happen for bloggers. 🙂
Excellent tips Yaro, like with advertisement, your rates have to be flexible at times too.
Thanks Yaro…great post! I’m currently using the CrankyAds on my blog and I’m so excited to see how it all turns out. Your suggestions really put everything into perspective for me 🙂
Great post man. I really like part with the touch on Branson. It adds a nice element to your post. As you say in your post, testing is key to everything.
Good luck with Cranky Ads btw.
Very well explained, just want to ask, if you want to provide Sponsor ADS, how much traffic do you need on a daily basis in order to profit in a positive way?
Hi Yaro, thanks for this extensive and well written post. I have a question though. I downloaded Cranky Ads a while ago and have set 2 slots on my sidebar but see nothing happening yet. Is there something else I should be doing? Would you let me know if you get a moment? Thank you!
Thanks, Yaro. I also like your touch with Branson.
This article came in time as my blog is taking off and I was not sure of how to do this. I ma now going to work on that.
This was a very helpful post. I had been working in the dark with placing ads on my sites. (First time someone contacted me I was so amazed I was looking for the scam!! LOL) What I like about CrankyAds is that we can set our own prices to cater for lower traffic sites. Next trick, of course, is increasing traffic to justify higher prices – am sure Yaro will come up with some tips on that 🙂
Nice work Yaro, the article is nice, surely I will try the Cranky Ads soon, one thing I want to advice is as follows:
Aks your sponsors how their campaign went.
The line above is from your One Final Tip: Change AKS to AKS.
Thanks Yaro, for the powerful insights into setup of ads on a blog..I absorbed the heatmap suggestions and bookmarked for referencing. Was hit pretty badly with panda it annoys me that a lot of money goes into hosting and domains and the reliability issues and security headaches with that, when it comes down to how many plus ones or tweets, and likes people throw at you.. If to start again..probably just have squidoo and hub and throw everything else out. Seems to me no amount of wizz bank wordpress plugins matter a hoot.
Good advice Yaro, but I dislike the part concerning Mr Branson’s allegedly “on the border” practices at school; lying to get advertisers. A new world is emerging out of this recession and I would have liked to have read some criticism on your part before such methods. Not everything is valid to get ads, or to get money. I’m sure you secretly disapprove of them, because you transpire goodness and your generosity is far beyond doubt. I’ve benefited a lot from it. But even he being Richard Branson, besides praising the good things he has done and the amazing projects he has gotten ahead, if he lied to get that small project ahead, he deserves a negative. OK, nobody’s perfect, me least of all.
Thank you for the additional information about selling ads and how to test it.
I installed Cranky Ads a few weeks ago and immediately added an affiliate banner. As I still have not had any reaction from potential sponsors, I am going to follow your advice and add more affiliate links to these empty ad spaces for now to see if anything happens.
Do you think that it would be ok to send e-mails to potential sponsors after having had Cranky Ads installed for only 2-3 weeks now or should I wait a while longer?
Elsie – It’s never too soon to go after sponsors. They won’t just come to you unless you already have lots of traffic, so start knocking on doors.
Thanks Yaro. I’m going to start sending out a few e-mails today.
Yaro I remember that ad… I think it wasn’t that popular because if I remember correctly it was a odd size other than the standard 720×90 banner ad. Great move though. I have cranky ads on my blog… Couldn’t figure out how to get the 125×125 ads in my sidebar.. If you have any idea, I would appreciate it.
You know those wondering what to do with blank advertising slots until that all important first one gets sold might consider this.
Breathes there a soul here with only one website? Likely many of us have more than one. Why not make up a simple banner for another site(s) that you own and let the ads display, making your primary site “look alive” and incidentally, reaping the benefit of any additional traffic that comes to your secondary sites.
Only own one site? Then maybe you might want to send traffic to a friend’s site temporarily, or exchange banners with a buddy … or even your Facebook page, etc. No one says you can’t put unpaid ads on your own site for “social proofing” or “cloud seeding” purposes.
Now this is a great idea, Dave. Thank you for sharing it here.
Better still go to Clickbank or any other marketplace and put up affiliate banners for some of their products which are related to your niche. Not only are you gaining the chance of earning commissions but you are also getting your readers sued to seeing ads whilst of course showing potential sponsors just how their ads may look.
You could even take this a step further and swap banners with other bloggers/interested parties as Dave suggests, so you are gaining exposure to your site by simply adding banners.
Great post.I agree that testing to find the right combination of all the different elements is one of the most important things to do after placing an add on your blog.
Great and nice post 🙂 i have just started my blog, Once i get good amount of traffic and readers i will sell ads.
Thanks for a most informative post. Just a question:
I have a weight loss related site that enjoys top-3 positions for 4 main keywords and it gets about 25,000 visits a month. It is not an authority blog. It is a WordPress niche site with very good unique content on a very popular diet program. Would this site be a candidate for Cranky Ads? It is currently monetized purely via Amazon and Chitika and earns about USD200 per month.
Congrats on building a successful site!
Anyone can use CrankyAds. It’s free and even if you have zero visitors you can install it and use it to manage all your advertising. Whether you make money is about whether you have the traffic to sell the ads, or if not, whether you are willing to go out there and find sponsors.
Given your traffic numbers and results with Chitika and Amazon, I’m fairly confident you could sell ads. There is no harm in running a test, just install CrankyAds, set up your adzones with prices you are happy with and give it a month. If you don’t sell any ads, consider going and out finding sponsors – I recommend you look at what ads from Chitika and Amazon are doing well and see if you can get sponsors like that paying you directly, thus cutting out the middle man fee.
Interesting post on selling ads.
Hello Yaro, what about adsense ? will it work on adsense ads ?
I think selling more ads is not easy, however your suggestions, where some of them are little bit hard, might be promising if applied right.
Thanks for the great informative post. I have doenloaded CrankyAds and I am installing it right away.
I was wondering if you have experience with non standard ad sizes. I’m trying to fit the standard sizes into my design, but feel like they ruin the ‘sleek’ look of my website. Do advertisers tend to react negatively to non standard sizes?
I’m surprised you can’t find one of the standard sizes that fits. Have you looked up the IAB banner specification list? That has all the standard sizes, though to be honest most advertisers nowadays want 300×250, 125×125 or leaderbaords.
Meanwhile i’ve found a standard size that’s really close to my desired size, a 180 to 150 banner. Thanks for your reply.
currently, I am using Adsense. I am thinking about adding ads on sidebar to sell on blog. Also, i have applied two times for buysellads but i got rejected.
I think the website owner should place less ads but select the right spot which is not offending the audiences while reading the blogs.
these are all good tips. I think placing your “advertise here” banner above the fold and not haveing too many ads on your site are two of the bigest thigs that will help your blog attract advertisers. Great Post!
Searching for some important info as regards advertising rates for blogs on Google made me stumble on your blog. i must say as a financial writer the post was most enlightening and cost implications quite pertinent to the traffic for the kind of blog. i ve got good idea as to contemporary ad rate charges for the blog industry only from your educative post. thanks buddy!
Thanks for a most informative post. A question for you….do you recommend changing out one or more ads when paging through a website or should the original ads that appear on initial entry remain stagnant when paging through the content of the website? The website has been designed to page forward and backward via a Page button rather than using a scroll bar.