Ad Inventory Management For Bloggers: A Comprehensive Guide

Unless you are running a non-profit blog, you must have tried your hands on various monetization options for your blog. With the advent of new advertising technologies, bloggers have tons of options to experiment and improvise. Though PPC ads served by 3rd party networks are the most popular option among bloggers, direct advertisements are not far behind.

Ad Inventory Management

If your blog is receiving massive traffic, selling direct ads is a more profitable option. However, the management of direct ads inventory is no mean task, especially if your getting orders in bulk one after another. Keeping track of available slots, tracking of dates/ad impressions, tracking of generated revenue, tracking of payments - all require a solid and effective inventory management policy. Let's see how to manage our direct ads effectively to reduce errors with significant time savings. Let's quickly brush up some basic terminologies before going ahead.

Ad Slot - A pre-defined space on a web page where actual ad will appear.

Ad Slots And Placement/Section

Placement/Section - A logical unit in which one or more ad slots are grouped together to better manage the ads on that location. For example, you have 4 125x125 ad spaces available in your blog's sidebar. It means you have 4 ad slots. To manage this group of 4 ad slots in a better way, you can bind/associate them together into one logical unit - Placement/Section. Let's say you call this section - 'Blog Sidebar 125 Ads'. You can compare Adsense channels with Placement/Section.

Ad Product - An advertising option available to potential direct advertisers.

Targeting Criteria - Different demographic attributes (Geo-location, browser, language, age-group and much more) applicable on any ad slot.

Rate Card Cost - A standard rate of any ad slot given in your media kit/rate card.

Minimum Cost - Minimum possible cost for negotiation with potential advertiser.

Overbooking - Processing/Queuing an order for already occupied ad slot.

CPC/CPM/CPD - Various pricing models. CPC (Cost-per-click): A fixed amount payable by advertiser for every click generated during ad delivery period. CPM (Cost-per-thousand impressions): A fixed amount payable by advertiser for every ~1000 impressions. CPD (Cost-per-day): A fixed amount payable by advertiser for a single day regardless of number of clicks or impressions generated.

There are many more terms, but I have taken the most common to avoid unnecessary complexity.

There are several ad management software that can be used to manage your ad inventory. Some of them are free while others are commercial solutions. The 3 most popular are OIOpublisher, OpenX and Google Ad Manager. I use Google Ad Manager for 4 primary reasons. It is free. It uses the same ad delivery technology used by Adsense. It easily integrates Adsense system into your current inventory. It gives access to highly customizable ad serving API that can be fine tuned to provide custom solutions to advertisers.

Defining Ad Products (Creating Inventory)

Before you start selling your hot dogs, you must create them, right? Identify the premium space on your blog and divide them into appropriate ad slots. If more then 1 ad slot is present on a single location, group them into a logical unit (Placement/Section). All this exercise is for internal use. Now, name each product and assign all the applicable attributes to this product. For example, "125x125 - Sidebar Ad". Calculate the rate card cost, minimum cost (for internal use), ad size, type of ads available (image banner/animated banner/flash component/text link group) and number of ads available for a given slot. Once you have fed all the available ad products in your ad management software, update your media kit/rate card by including the details of each ad product.

This whole exercise ensures that while accepting new orders you do not overbook or book conflicting dates for already occupied ad slots. When any new order will be received, you can check your inventory for slots availability with a click of a button. This will only work if you have already defined each ad product in your inventory beforehand.

Processing The Order

Let's assume you have clinched an advertising deal and now you it's time to deliver the goods. If your order is confirmed, it means you have crosschecked your inventory for the availability of an ad slot as described in previous section. Configuring an ad and integrating the relevant code in your blog is not difficult at all once you are accustomed with your ad management software. The most important things that must be taken care of while configuring the ad are:

1. Binding it with relevant ad slot, placement and ad product.
2. Properly defining the start date and end date.
3. Defining the ad size and type.
4. Choosing the pricing mechanism (CPC/CPD/CPM) and filling the price detail.
5. Configuring the demographic attributes (if applicable).
6. Specifying/Uploading the image URL, script code, target URL etc.
7. Approving the order.

After processing the order, the change will immediately reflect in your inventory (ad products). For example: If you have just processed an order of 1 125x25 ad slot in your blog sidebar from the available 4 such ad slots, your inventory will reflect 1 ad slot booked (the slot which you bind with this order) with associated order details. Rest 3 slots will be available for more orders.

Integrating Ad Code

Once the order is processed and approved, you can create the corresponding ad code with a click of a button. Normally, your ad code will be divided into 2 parts. The first part will consist of a driving script to be placed in the header of your template. The second part will be the actual ad delivering code to be placed at the actual position in the body of your template. If you are not an experienced customer, you must try few impressions on a test blog before integrating it into your main blog template.

Tracking And Maintanenece

Ads Performance/Sales Report

Generally, most ad management software comes with healthy reporting modules. With manual ad management, its very difficult to track impressions and clicks accurately. These ad performance/sales reports make your life easy by giving detailed statistics of running ads. The snapshot shown above has been taken from a report generated for an ad slot running on MintBlogger. You can generate various types of reports to better manage your advertising resources. Generally, these reports can be divided into 3 main categories.

1. Delivery Reports
1. Sales Reports
1. Inventory Reports

Each category consists of several granular reports giving in-depth statistics about specific entities. These reports not only generate general tracking and inventory management reports, but also give you vital data about ads performance. This may help you in identifying heat zones on your blog to further fine-tune ad placements for better results.

In the end, I must stress on the use of specialized ad management software to avoid any conflicts with huge time savings and better results.

Related Reading:

1. How To Get Direct Advertisements For Your Blog
2. Google Ad Manager: Complete Ad Management Solution For Bloggers

First Image Credit: Sarah G...

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About Rajeev Edmonds

MintBlogger author - Rajeev EdmondsRajeev Edmonds has been blogging since 2006 about digital marketing, social media and of course about problogging. He specializes in WordPress installation and Thesis theme customization. He is the founder and editor of MintBlogger where he blogs about new media strategies.

Since April, 2012, he's making his living entirely from his blogging efforts. He holds a post graduate degree in computer applications and loves to dig in CSS/HTML code. Read more →

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