Blog advertising can be a great source of income for many bloggers, and a great source of customers or visitors for many businesses. Some blogs claim traffic numbers close to that of many major traditional websites, and there are blogs out there for virtually any niche or subject matter.
Whether you’re a blogger who’s trying to decide how to (or even if you should) incorporate ads on your site, or a company trying to figure out how best to set up and manage a blog advertising campaign, the guide below will get you started. It covers the types of blog advertising, and then gives the rundown for how to proceed for both bloggers and advertisers.
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Kinds of Blog Advertising
There are a number of different kinds of blog ads out there, and choosing the right kind to implement, whether you’re a publisher or advertiser, is vital to your success. Here’s an overview of the types of ads out there:
- Pay-per-click: With pay-per-click ads, publishers are paid when one of their visitors clicks on an ad appearing on their site. The amount of payment varies widely, depending on the individual advertiser and the competition within their niche (higher competition niches generally have higher ad payouts).
- Pay-per-impression: With pay-per-impression ads, publishers are paid whenever a visitor lands on a page containing the ad. No further action on the part of the visitor is necessary.
- Contextual Ads: Contextual ads are served automatically based on the content within a particular page. These ads could be text-based, banners, or in-line ads. Google AdSense ads are one example of contextual ads.
- Text Link Ads: These ads are simple text links placed on specific pages. They’re often seen in sidebars.
- Banner Ads: Like text link ads, banner ads are generally placed on a specific page, and are common in sidebars, headers, and in individual posts. Banner ads can also be used in contextual advertising programs, and with all revenue models. 125?125 pixel ads are particularly popular on many blogs.
- Pay-per-action: With pay-per-action ads, publishers are paid when a visitor clicks on an ad from their blog and then performs some kind of action, like requesting information or purchasing something.
- Affiliate Ads: These are a type of pay-per-action ad. For a publisher to get paid, a visitor has to click on an ad and then purchase a product. Amazon and Ebay both offer affiliate ad programs.
- Direct Ads: Direct ads are sold by bloggers directly to advertisers, without going through any kind of affiliate or advertising network. They could be text link ads or banner ads, or even reviews.
- Reviews: Paid reviews are a popular form of blog advertising where an advertiser pays the blogger for a review of their product or company. Ethically, bloggers should disclose when a post is paid for by a company, and in some countries it’s required by law (including the U.S.). Some companies that currently offer brokering of paid reviews are PayPerPost and SponsoredReviews.com.
- Feed Ads: Feed ads are ads that appear in the RSS feed of a blog. These are almost always text-based. Sometimes they’re sold separately from on-site ads, while other times they’re included in an ad package.
Ad placement makes a big difference in not only how much an ad costs, but also how effective it is. There are a number of common ad locations on most blogs:
- Above the Header: This is a popular place for banner ads and is generally the most expensive position.
- Below the Header: This is another popular place for banner ads, and also for contextual text ads.
- Within Posts: There are three positions here, really: at the top of the post, generally with the post text wrapped around the ad; between paragraphs in the post (usually the first and second or second and third paragraphs); and at the end of the post, usually before the comment form. In-post ads can be sold on a per-post basis or throughout all the posts on the site. Inline text ads are also placed within posts.
- Between Posts on the Home Page: This is another popular spot for either banner or text-based ads. They’re usually placed between the first and second posts on the home page, or directly under a featured post.
- Sidebar: This is one of the most common spots for both banners and text link ads, as well as for contextual ads like AdSense. Sidebar ads, if they appear near the top of the page, can be effective and can rival other ads on the home page.
- Footer: This is generally the lowest-impact ad space on a blog, but some blogs only include ads in their footers. It’s also generally the least expensive position.
- Page-Specific: Sometimes a blog will allow advertising on specific pages of their blog, such as the archive page or category pages. The cost and effectivenenss for these can vary widely based on traffic for the particular page/category and the ad format.
As a blogger, the first thing you should consider is whether or not to even have ads on your blog. Not every blog is well-suited to advertising. There are a number of things to consider when deciding whether to include advertising, and what kind is most suitable for your blog.
- Do you even want ads? Not every blog out there needs to have ads on it. If you’re not comfortable having ads on your blog, or if you just don’t feel like having them, then don’t.
- Are ads appropriate? If you have a professional blog related to your job, you may not want ads on your blog, or at the least you may want to retain complete control over those ads. In these cases, direct ad sales are probably best, or just leave ads off altogether.
- What type of ads are best-suited for your design? Consider what kinds of ads will fit within your current theme. If there’s no room for banners, consider in-line contextual ads or text link ads. A very minimalist design might not be well-suited to banner ads either. On the other hand, a design with a lot of colorful graphics might not be well-suited to text link ads.
- How many ads do you want? This is something that will be largely dependent on your blog’s theme, but how many ads do you want to include on each page? Realize that the more ads you include, the less you’ll be able to charge for each ad. But you can make up for it in volume if you manage to sell all the available ad space.
Direct Sales or Network?
You’ll need to decide whether you want to sell ads directly to advertisers or join a blog network. In many cases, you may want to do both. Join a network like Google’s AdSense for some spaces and then sell other spaces directly.
Realize that a network may take anywhere from 10% to 50% of more of your advertising revenue. But they can also be much more effective at filling your ad spaces than you might be on your own, especially if you don’t have a particularly high-traffic blog.
If you opt to go the direct sales route, set up a page for advertising on your blog and link to it prominently. On that page you should include your rates, ad sizes available, and information about the kinds of ads you will or will not accept. Make sure you include a contact form here, or better yet: an ad order form.
Affiliate programs can be a great way to make money from your blog if you don’t really want to incorporate traditional ads. Find specific products you believe in and see if there’s an affiliate program associated with them. It’s important you disclose that they’re affiliate links, but as long as you make your policy clear (that you only include products you’ve personally used or had recommended to you, or something similar), many of your readers won’t mind a bit.
If you blog with WordPress, there’s a plugin (the Amazon Associate Filter) available to automatically convert Amazon product links to include your referral ID, so you get commission on any sales. Plugins like this streamline the affiliate process and make it easy to implement on your blog. Just don’t forget to acknowledge that it’s an affiliate link any time you include a link to Amazon.
Special Blog Themes
The majority of blog platforms out there have themes that already have specific spaces set aside for advertising. The benefit of these is that they’re often already optimized for programs like AdSense or affiliate programs, and make integration with those programs much easier, even for those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy.
The other advantage to some of these themes is that they’ve placed ads in optimal positions within the theme to maximize the number of people who click on those ads. While not all themes do this (some just put the ad space wherever they need a filler graphic), it’s worth looking around for themes that seem to have considered optimal ad placement.
If you’re looking to advertise your company or product online, blogs can be a great avenue on which to do so. But figuring out which blogs to advertise on and which format is best for your company and product can be tricky. After all, there are millions of blogs out there, and probably thousands or tens of thousands that target visitors who might be interested in your product.
It’s all a bit overwhelming. But there are some specific things to consider when deciding where and how to advertise. Here’s a guide:
Finding the Right Blogs
Choosing which blogs to advertise on can sometimes seem overwhelming. After all, there are thousands out there that might be appropriate for you to advertise on. How do you narrow it down?
The first thing you need to do is find all the appropriate blogs that might be a good fit. Now, when I say “appropriate” I don’t mean every blog out there that caters to your prospective customers. Rather you want blogs that:
- Are updated regularly
- Have reasonable traffic levels
- And have engaged readers (you can tell this by the number of comments on each post; higher numbers are better)
There are a few methods for finding good blogs. First, you can check out blog directories that organize blogs by category. You can try searching for “best of” lists in your niche (for example, if you have a financial product you want to advertise, you might search for “best finance blogs” or something similar). And you can also ask around. Ask your current customers what blogs they read regularly, or ask around on Twitter or Facebook what people’s favorite blogs are related to your product.
You should probably end up with between 50 and 100 blogs to consider, though it will vary depending on the niche you’re looking at. Once you have this list, it’s time to go through each one and determine whether it’s a good fit or not. Things to look for include:
- Do they accept advertising?
- Do your competitors advertise with them?
- Are their rates within your budget?
- Do they publish their traffic or subscriber numbers?
- What types of ads do they accept?
Based on the answers to those questions, you’ll probably be able to eliminate half the blogs on your list, or maybe more. From there, consider which blogs are the best value for the rates they’re charging, and start with those.
Consider Related Blogs
You don’t have to stick to blogs that cater specifically to your product’s niche. Consider other kinds of blogs that are likely to attract your target customer. For example, if you sell luxury goods, you might target finance blogs, or vice versa. Or if you sell camping equipment, you might target blogs that cater to people who mountain bike or rock climb, as those people likely spend a lot of time outdoors and there’s probably some overlap.
Think outside the box when it comes to where to place your ads, especially if there aren’t a huge number of blogs in your particular niche. You may find you get even better results when advertising on related blogs, and you may find there are fewer ads from your direct competitors on those blogs.
Choosing an Ad Format
We covered the different kinds of ads at the beginning of this post. But you’re probably wondering which kind is best for your particular product or company. There are a couple of things to consider:
- Your budget. Text ads are going to be least expensive, while banner ads will be more. Pay-per-impression ads are often more expensive than pay-per-click or pay-per-action ads, especially when compared to the number of viewers who take action.
- Your goals. Banner ads can be more effective at building brand awareness than text-only ads and are often a better solution for emerging brands.
Once you’ve placed some ads, you’ll want to monitor how effective they are. If you have a good website analytics program (like Google Analytics), this is relatively easy. You’ll want to look at how many visitors click through to your site from each ad you’ve placed, and then how many of those go on to make purchases or otherwise perform a desired action.
Once people do when they reach your site is just as important as having them click on your ad. If they’re not going on to make purchases, you may need to rethink your ad. Is it misleading in some way? Or is it that those who are on the particular blog you’re advertising on not ready to make a purchase? Either one requires some adjustment. In the first case, you’ll need to consider redesigning your ad. In the second, you may want to either change your expectations or consider advertising elsewhere.
Don’t be afraid to do some A/B testing or otherwise experiment with your ad formats, the blogs on which you advertise, and other aspects of your online advertising campaign. Regularly reviewing your results and adjusting your efforts will lead to a more successful advertising campaign.
Examples of Great Blog Ad Placement
Smashing Magazine has ten ad spaces in the sidebar on their home page. They also have a space for a horizontal banner ad just above the main article section. On individual post pages, they have larger square ads below the post title. There’s a good balance of ads-to-content on the site.
HongKiat.com has ad space above and within their header, as well as in the sidebar, with larger ads at the top and two columns of smaller ads below. It’s an effective layout that doesn’t overwhelm and still leaves plenty of emphasis on the content.
Webdesigner Depot has space for ads in their sidebar, with the largest ads on top and smaller ads below. There’s also space for a square ad on the individual post pages, which appears directly below the post title. Keeping ads out of the header strengthens the site’s branding.
Noupe has space for a single horizontal banner ad under the header, as well as for plenty of smaller ads in the sidebar. Noupe differs from many other sites, though, by placing the smaller ads on the top of the sidebar and the largest ad at the bottom of the ad space.
Mashable has space for ads in their header, alongside their logo, as well as plenty of space in their sidebar. The sidebar ads include small square ads in two columns, larger square ads, and even Google AdSense ads. By keeping all of their ads in the sidebar and header, though, they keep the content area of the site uncluttered.
The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post has a limited number of ads on their site. The main portal page has no ads. Each main section page has a banner ad in the header and then a limited number of other ads interspersed with the page’s content. Article pages have header ads, an ad about midway through each post, and ads in the sidebar. Limiting the ads contributes to the credibility of the site.
Gothamist offers banner ads above the header, in the sidebar, and within the content. As shown in the screenshot, all three ads can be bought in conjunction with each other, which can be a great option for advertisers with larger budgets.
Boy Genius Report
Boy Genius Report offers both sidebar ads and header ads. The limited number of ads makes each one stand out more.
GigaOm has a very limited number of ads on their site. They offer three ad spaces on their home page—two in the sidebar and one within the article list. Within individual posts, they offer the same two ad spaces in the sidebar, as well as an ad between the post and the comments section. The ad density works well with the overall clean design of the site.
Lifehacker offers a skyscraper-type banner ad in their sidebar and a square ad in their header on both their home page and on individual posts. The limited number of ads raises their value.
CrunchGear has an ad in their header, as well as a few in their sidebar and a block of 125?125 pixel ads under the first main article on their home page, and then again further down the page. Individual posts have the same ad spaces, with the 125?125 pixel ads appearing between the post content and the comments.
ReadWriteWeb offers ads in their sidebar as well as between posts on their home page. Larger ads are placed at the top of the sidebar, with smaller ads in two columns underneath. Individual posts have sidebar ads, as well as ads between the post content and the comments, and below the comment form. It’s a lot of ads for one site, but they’re placed in such a way that they each remain highly visible.
TechCrunch has basically the same ad layout as CrunchGear, and again, it works well in the design. The 125?125 pixel ads included between the articles on the home page work especially well, as there’s plenty of white space between them, making each one stand out.
BoingBoing offers a header ad as well as a square ad at the top of their sidebar. They also have ad space further down in the sidebar. It’s a limited amount of advertising, and combined with the excellent placement, has great visibility.
Engadget has a banner ad above the header, a large square ad at the top of their sidebar, and an ad among the posts on the home page. On individual post pages, there’s an ad in the header and one at the top of the sidebar. Again, with limited advertising like this, the value of each ad space increases.
Find Something Missing?
While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great information or resources about blog advertising. Feel free to share it with us.