About a decade back, nobody thought that blogs would transform from a personal diary to full-fledged money making websites. Blog monetization strategies have undergone several transitions during these years, and bloggers have tons of monetization options at their disposal. One of the options is 'Direct Advertisements'. Interestingly, large number of bloggers does not use this option for many reasons. Let's try to understand the dynamics of direct advertising and the methods to grab direct advertisement deals.
If you own a blog with decent traffic (at least 500-1000 unique visits/day) and are planning to monetize it, direct advertising is an excellent option for you. Quality content and good traffic are two most important prerequisites before pitching for direct advertising.
Advantages of Direct Advertising
Cuts out the middleman - Almost every blogger who has monetized his/her blog is familiar with PPC (pay-per-click) ads served by popular 3rd party advertising networks. Since they act as a middleman between the advertiser and the publisher, they take a good share of revenue. On the other hand, getting direct ads from advertisers removes the middleman and you as a publisher get full incentive for your service.
More choice on type of ads - You can offer almost any type of ad format for the advertisers. With 3rd party advertisements, you have limited choices with some predefined standard ad formats. Through direct advertising you can offer a wide array of ad formats with much more flexible ad placements. Following are some popular ad types used by bloggers.
1. Banners (Animated/Static)
2. Text Links
3. RSS Ads
4. Newsletter Ads
5. Site Reviews
6. Audio/Video Ads
When you are in complete control of your ads, advertisers gets more variety to choose from that suits his business demands.
Flexible payment options - Another advantage is acceptance of payment in multiple ways. If an advertiser is not willing to pay by one method you can opt for the second. Normally, bloggers prefer wire transfer or Paypal as the best method to get payments from advertisers. Still, if an advertiser chooses any other payment medium you can be flexible and can go ahead with that option without any chance of losing the deal.
Long-term relationships - More than often, bloggers develop long term relationships with advertisers who are satisfied with their service. This not only opens the door for consistent stream of income from these advertisers, but also increases the probability of grabbing more advertising deals through referrals of these satisfied advertisers.
Flexible pricing - Since you are in complete control of your ad inventory, you can exercise extreme flexibility while quoting price of different types of ads to grab virtually every advertising deal that comes in your way.
Builds Credibility - A blog that gets consistent direct advertisement deals automatically builds it's credibility and is seen as an authority in it's niche.
Disadvantages of Direct Advertising
Difficulty in finding advertisers - Initially, a lot of effort goes in finding advertisers for your blog. Sometimes, it may take considerable time before any such deal is finalized. Once you start getting the deals, things become easier though you still have to move your legs aggressively to clinch new deals.
Time consumption - Keeping track of ad inventory, negotiating deals with advertisers, keeping track of payments and time deadlines consumes lot of precious time. If you have multiple blogs that are updated daily, things can become more difficult as considerable part of your blogging schedule is spent in maintaining your ad inventory and in finding new advertising deals.
Disputes - Sometimes, an advertiser is not satisfied with the results and may nullify the agreement from his end demanding refund of his payment. This can also lead to negative feedback to other advertisers in the pool.
Preparations For Getting Direct Advertising
Before you decide to approach advertisers, you must do some very important preparations to increase the probability of clinching your first direct advertising deal.
Create a dedicated advertising page - An advertising page concentrates all the necessary information needed to convince potential advertisers (kind of a portfolio of your blog). This page tabulates the most important statistics about your blog. In simple words, this page gives all the reasons why advertisers should choose your blog for advertising.
Following are some of the essential ingredients of a typical advertising page.
About your blog section - This section gives a brief introduction about your blog. What it's all about, it's niche, target audience and the purpose of its existence (reader's perspective).
Traffic statistics - The most important part of advertising page. Give all the important data related to your blog traffic to convince the potential advertisers. Following are some major blog statistics that are commonly used by bloggers in their advertising page.
1. Page Views (per day/ per month)
2. Unique Visits (per day/ per month)
3. Alexa/Compete and Similar Services Ranks
4. Number of Feed Subscribers
5. Demographic Data (V. Imp)
Some advertisers don't give much importance to Alexa and similar ranks but others do take them into consideration, so its better to include them in your traffic statistics section. Similarly, providing concentrated demographic data increase the chances of getting advertising deals.
Available Ad Slots - In this section the available ad inventory is showcased. This includes each ad type, their format, their exact placement and the number of such slots available for any location. To give a clearer picture you must supplement this section with appropriate snapshots of ads placed in a particular location.
Now here comes the tricky part. What about pricing of ads? Should we straightaway quote the price of each available ad slot? Well, I would strongly suggest you to keep your cards closed. Let the advertiser contact you with relevant details and then you can play your cards according to the situation. Ask for advertiser's website address when he first contacts you. This way you can visit their web site and can get fair idea about their budget and purchasing power. Through this approach, you create an opportunity for yourself to assess the situation and then create a flexible pricing plan. If you publicly display your ad prices, websites with considerably low budget may not approach you and big websites may grab it in much lesser rate then they were willing to pay earlier.
Testimonials - Great marketers use their customers feedback to promote their products. Same rule applies here. Get some testimonials from your satisfied advertisers and prominently display them on your advertising page. This builds your credibility and shows your track record of giving excellent advertising services. Apart from publishing the plain testimonial statement, you can further replenish it by including thumbnail image of the person with his/her designation.
Calculating Advertising Prices
Often newbies are in dilemma about setting the correct price for their advertisements. Sometimes, they fear that quoting a high price can result in loss of advertising deal, while quoting less will be like giving their real estate in pennies. How to overcome this situation and how to correctly calculate the prices for your ad inventory? Here are some basic guidelines to calculate ad prices.
Image Vs Text Ads - Normally image ads are always priced high than text ads. The CTR (click-through ratio) of image ads is much higher than text ads and hence this pricing difference.
Size Does Matter - Larger the size of the banner, higher the price is. If your 125x125 image banner is priced at $30/month, a 250x250 banner should be priced at 4 x 30 = $120/month.
Placement - If the advertisement appears above the fold (area visible without the need of scrolling), it is priced much higher than those ads that appear below the fold. If an ad is going to appear in the footer, it's price will be considerably low than that placed in the header of your blog.
Pricing Model - There are two popular pricing models for advertisements. The CPM (cost per thousand impressions) model and CPA (cost per action) model. The CPM model is the preferred way to calculate ad prices and is widely accepted model throughout blogosphere. In this model, a fixed amount is paid for every 1000 page views, simple. But how would you calculate the right price for a particular ad in this model? Here are some ways to do it.
The best way to get the correct value of an ad is to check public ad inventories and see their CPM rate. Login to your Adsense account and go to advanced reports to view the CPM rate for a particular ad. Take at least month long data to get the clear picture, though a long-range data will give much more accurate rate. Let's suppose you get a CPM rate of $1.20 from the report. Now according to your assessment of the purchasing power of the advertiser you can increase or decrease this rate. A low budget advertiser can be offered a rate of $1.00 or $0.80, while a big web site can be asked for a CPM rate of $1.50.
Let's assume that the deal is finalized with a rate of $1.50 CPM. How the monthly rate will be calculated? Suppose your blog generates 5000 page views per day. This amounts to 30 x 5000 = 150000 page views per month. So, at this rate the price of the ad will be (150000 / 1000) * 1.50 = $225/month.
Daniel Scocco has written an excellent article about calculating ad prices for your advertising space. If you are still in dilemma, you can also ask an expert to assess your blog's worth.
Finding the Advertisers
Now comes the real tough part (at least for newbies) of finding advertisers for your blog. There are many ways to do it.
Visit Marketplaces - There are several popular forums and discussion boards where advertisers and publishers meet solely for the purpose of finding and negotiating advertising deals. You can visit Digital Point - Buy, Sell or Trade Forum, SitePoint Marketplace and Webmaster World Commercial Exchange Forum to find advertisers for your blog.
Check Competitor's blogs - Visit popular blogs related to your blog's niche and see who is advertising on these blogs. This is a good source of creating a list of potential advertisers. Since they are already advertising on a blog related to your blog's niche, a chance of clinching a deal from these advertisers is more likely to happen.
Check public ad inventories - Some 3rd party advertising networks give public access to their inventory to account holders. Sign-up for these ad networks and browse their ad inventory. Again, filter out advertisers related to your blog's niche. Here not only you can get a list of potential advertisers but can also get a fair idea about how much they are willing to pay.
Write a blog post about it - This is one more way to attract advertisers. Write a blog post explicitly stating that your blog is now open for direct advertising.
Search engines - And last but not the least is search engines. Type in relevant keywords and visit the web sites. Check their contact page and create a list of potential advertisers.
How To Approach Potential Advertisers
Once you have the list of potential advertisers in your hand, its time to contact them inviting to advertise on your blog.
Write a mail giving your brief introduction. State your purpose of writing in brief. To speed up the process give your phone number and messenger id. Attach the media kit/rate card showcasing various advertising options available on your blog. It's somewhat similar to mobile version of your 'Advertise' page. However, this document must contain detailed pricing of every ad type. You must also quote discounted prices for long-term deals. One more convincing methodology is to give limited period read-only access to Google Analytics dashboard to verify your traffic claims for long-term deals (6 months or more). This offer increases the confidence of advertiser and the probability of negotiating a deal also increases.
If this is your first advertising deal, be ready to be flexible enough while negotiating pricing of your ads. Remember, your first deal will open the door for more such deals.
What Else I Have Missed?
I would like to know your experiences in maintaining independent ad inventories and your approach towards grabbing such advertising deals.
1. Ad Inventory Management For Bloggers: A Comprehensive Guide
2. Google Ad Manager: Complete Ad Management Solution For Bloggers