Some of the most common questions I receive revolve around how I get advertisers to my blog, how I make money with advertising on my blog, and anything related to money and advertising.

While there are a variety of questions and answers surrounding this topic it all really comes back to the basics: Content equals traffic and traffic equals money.

Why I Didn’t Have Ads On My Blog For Nearly Two Years

One of the things that used to mystify people was why I didn’t have advertising on my site when it was new. While I didn’t for the most part it doesn’t mean I wasn’t like every other new blogger out there: I experimented with advertising.

When my blog was maybe a month old I signed up for a Google Adsense account and placed a few ads on the site. While I wasn’t getting much traffic and therefore not making much money from the ads, somehow in my mind I thought it made my site look more professional. Although much of the advice that I read said ads on a newer site were a bad idea, I still thought that for me it was different. One day that all changed.

In maybe my second week of having the ads up I had written an article which made a mention of then Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis and it noted that he wasn’t exactly the most fit guy in the world. This reference to Weis’ physique was less than a sentence but because of the contextual nature of Adsense, an ad for “Find Fat Chicks” appeared on my site. I believe seeing that ad on my site was my moment of clarity where I realized, maybe Adsense wasn’t for me.

After about six months, my traffic reached what I thought to be reasonable levels of over 1,000 visitors a day on a consistent basis, and because of the massive amount of content I was starting to produce, I was delivering seven to ten thousand page views per day. I wanted to be able to leverage those page views into money. I had heard of such a thing as CPM advertising (Cost Per 1000 Impressions – you are paid a set amount for each 1,000 banner impressions you deliver) but never knew exactly how to get involved with it. I found out by asking around that the way to get these CPM deals was through Agencies.

Since I thought I had finally “arrived” I decided to contact ad agencies and let them know I existed. I did what I usually do to find anything, I typed into Google “Internet Advertising Agencies”. I probably applied to 25 agencies and received very few responses, and the responses I did get told me they weren’t interested. Although I don’t give up easily, and I had enough other projects as my site was still growing, I put this idea on the shelf.

Why I Read Every Email I Get

Like most people, I get a ton of email and a lot of it is junk. As a blogger, I receive all kinds of emails the regular world doesn’t receive such as people wanting to exchange links (which I no longer do), SEO companies promising to get me to the top of Google, and other various emails about how I am missing out on some great money making opportunities. While a lot of these emails I have a good idea where they are going just by the subject line or the first sentence or two, I usually open and read all of them.

A little over a year ago I received an email that said in the subject line “Partnership Opportunity: Make more money Advertising”.  Some of you may have never received an email with a similar heading, but I am willing to bet that most of you who have your contact information readily available on your blog get similar titled emails often.

As I read the email it went on to say stuff I had heard before: “I found your site, Sports Chat Place, and I find your content and format to be a good fit with our clients. You can make more money advertising than with Google Adsense. If you are interested, please reply”.

While I had gone down several roads which ended in dead ends from similar emails, I replied anyway and gave my phone number. A few hours later I got a call and the caller referenced the email. To make a long story short, within a few hours I received a 12 page contract from a top agency paying top rates for internet CPM advertising. Had I ignored what seemed like a common email, it may have been some of the most expensive keystrokes I didn’t make.

It’s probably a good time for me to add this: I can’t help you get a CPM deal. If you have lots of traffic on your blog (around a million page views a month), the agencies will find you. Even after you sign your deal more agencies will continue to find you.

One thing I should also note here, I don’t know what my Alexa Ranking is but I’m willing to bet it is at least 40,000-50,000 or even more spots lower than many people who don’t have a deal with an agency; the agency won’t offer them a deal because they don’t get enough traffic to make it work. Just another indication of how meaningless the Alexa number is and how it isn’t taken seriously when it comes to what matters most, making money.

The Real Truth About CPM Advertising

Since this is something a lot of people care about, I’ll do my best to cover this in the most detail I can. People in general have a lot of misconceptions about CPM advertising. However, what you will read in the next several paragraphs should answer a lot of the questions and give you the real picture of how it all works. You will know as much as anyone really needs to know on this subject unless of course you want to work for an agency.

1) How The Payouts Work

The Agency will go out and recruit advertisers to run a campaign and more than likely your blog is just one of many who will be part of the package the agency sells to their clients on a cost per thousand impression basis. For any of you who have done any kind of sales, you know the agencies’ work isn’t so easy, especially when you aren’t making money because then they aren’t making money. Meanwhile not only are they selling a product, they are also trying to convince potential advertisers of the relevancy of your site to their product and campaign, and how your site nails their demographic.

The client will have the right to accept or reject any site that runs their ads so while your agency may get the campaign, it’s still possible that you and your site are left out in the dark. This usually isn’t the agencies’ fault, they want to sell as many ads as they can.

For their part the agency gets a percentage and the most common figure is around half. While that seems like a lot to some people, it doesn’t sound like a lot to people who are getting even less than half from their agencies and believe me there are plenty of them. Personally I look at it like I really don’t have to do much and the agency does the rest. I just keep producing content and getting traffic, the agency sells the space, serves up ads and then sends me a check like clockwork every month. It’s really not a bad deal.

2) How Much Money Do Campaigns Pay And How Much Will I Make?

There is no correct answer for this question but I can give you some solid background. I have seen CPM campaigns pay anywhere from 20 cents to 15 dollars per thousand impressions. While I know it’s a broad range, it is the reality of it and I believe as the economic conditions improve and the more targeted and desirable the demographic of the audience, the will get even bigger. Also, when I refer to what a campaign pays, I am referring to only the portion that goes to the site owner.

At the higher end of the spectrum are the real Premium Campaigns. Most of the campaigns that pay out big money are in limited quantities for limited amounts of time. While you can tell your agency you only want ads that pay $10 or more, it doesn’t really mean you are going to get all of your inventory filled at $10 or better, it more than likely means you’ll sell the same amount you would have at $10 and the rest of your inventory will go unsold. Remember, the more your inventory sells for, the more your agency makes so it’s in their best interest to maximize every impression.

As for the lower end of that spectrum, most of the agencies that deal with numbers so small are more targeted to less trafficked blogs or to people who have unsold inventory on their site that are just trying to get whatever they can get. As you move up to the 70 cents to a dollar range most of that is what is referred to as Premium Fill. Premium Fill is usually impressions owed to advertisers for past campaigns or the like. While it doesn’t pay as much, with the right amount of impressions, it can still work.

Some agencies offer live stats where you can see in real time or with a delay exactly how much you are making.

3) Can I Tell The Agency What Types Of Ads I Want And Don’t Want?

Most agencies will let you kill a campaign from running on your site if you ask them to do so. Why you would want to kill a campaign could be for a number of reasons. Some people don’t like certain types of ads on their site, usually these are pop ups, stretch ads, or ads that have video and sound. Some ads you may feel are directly competing with a product you sell or endorse or have an affiliate deal with, so for a CPM it simply wouldn’t offset what you would make on the other side.

4) What Calculates An Impression And How Do I Know This Is Right?

An impression happens whenever someone views a page you have an ad on. If you have more than one ad on it then it is simply the page views multiplied by the ad spaces. Most agencies will guide you as to how many ad spaces you can have but the standard is three to five. Your agency may ask you to remove spaces if they feel you have too many or ask you to add if you don’t have enough.

There are a variety of methods used to calculate the impressions but usually if you use a stats program of any kind and you just do the math; I have found that mine are very close. As far as how much I am going to make, I have no idea nor do I wonder about it.

5) You Make Most Of Your Money From Advertising, Right?

Not even close. I make most of my money through my membership/subscription portion of my site. It’s my own product and I don’t have to share it with anyone except when an affiliate sells it and I am more than happy to give them their cut when that happens. CPM advertising is great supplemental income but as far as relying on it as my number one source when I have so little control over it except for bringing in traffic, that is not where I want to be.

When I get a check for several thousand dollars from my agency, it’s a great thing, when the checks are a little lighter because they had a slow month, I don’t want nor expect an apology from my agency nor do I give them a hard time about it.

6) Can You Have More Than One Agency To Maximize The Best Paying Campaigns?

Some agencies will make you sign exclusive deals meaning they own all of your inventory and only they can sell it, fortunately for me my first offer was a non-exclusive deal so I have never felt like I was in a take it or leave it situation where I would even consider taking an exclusive deal.

I have run multiple agencies impressions on my site usually just as a test to see if I can make more money with another agency and I have the right to do so if I want to, but to be honest, for right now I like to keep it simple.

7) Contract? How Long Does That Run?

Contracts are for various lengths and in most cases if you wanted to get out of them you can as most agencies I have dealt with want it to be a win-win and feel good situation for everyone. I have seen some that run a year, others that run a few months or a trial period.

I guess this is where I should add something important: I get offers from agencies all the time now and I would be lying if I said I didn’t listen to every single one. I know I can listen to what other agencies say because I know if I needed to, my contract has a way out where it wouldn’t take me more than 10 days. Like most things that are 12 pages of legal jargon, I had my Lawyer check it out.

While other agencies have promised me better payouts than what I am getting, I haven’t switched agencies. I’m not saying I never would I am just saying I like and trust the people I am doing business with and they don’t bother me too much, and as I mentioned earlier, they always send a check.

While it doesn’t mean if someone gave me a tremendous offer I wouldn’t take it, I think there is something to be said about my agency who really took a chance on me when I was a small fish in their pond. While I’m still not the biggest fish, I’m nowhere near the smallest but I am still very appreciative that they sent me that email asking me if I was interested in the “Partnership Opportunity”.

Mitch Wilson