Should You Use Advertising to Monetize Your Blog?

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Let’s dig right in on this one –

Advertising is a good way to monetize your blog audience if:

1. You have enough pageviews to attract advertisers. 

You’ll need a large and growing readership since many advertisers pay for advertising using a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) model. For example, if you are selling advertising at a $10 CPM/month rate  and have 50,000 pageviews per month you can expect to earn $500 (pageviews / 1000) * CPM Rate.

As you can see, you’ll need a large reader base to make these numbers attractive enough to invest the time.

2. Your blog attracts a specific type of reader

Advertisers like blogs because they cater to specific interests.  The advertiser can be sure that they their ad is being viewed by a passionate group likely to spend money enjoying their interests.  This applies for “problems” as well.  A person looking for solutions on a blog are likely to investigate an ad from someone offering a relevant product.

3. Your blog has a steady stream of new visitors

Advertisers understand that they need to capture a person’s attention during the first few visits to a blog.  This means that their ad performance will deteriorate the longer it is shown to the same reader.  Smart ad buyers will want some assurance from you that your blog has a healthy flow of new “eyeballs” viewing their ad.

4. Your rates are competitively priced

A simple rule to remember is that targeted-interest blogs can charge higher rates than general-interest blogs.  Targeted blogs have a higher probability of delivering a reader who is likely to consider a relevant product.  In this case, the advertiser has a lower risk of wasting their ad view on people who won’t care about their product.

From my experience, targeted-blogs can charge a $10+ CPM.

On the other hand, general interest blogs can deliver more views but there will be higher wasted impressions since the audience isn’t targeted.

General interest blogs can expect to charge less than $10 CPM with most rates hovering around $2-5 CPM.

5. You offer a variety of ad types

Display Ads

The display ad (banner ad) is the most popular ad type. Unfortunately it is also the lowest performing ad unit normally offering a click-through-rate of less than .05%. Yes, that is lower than 5 hundredths of a percent. Advertisers buy these ads in bulk with the goal of keeping their ad in front of buyers for branding purposes.

You will need to offer the standard sizes for these display ads.  The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), the standards-setting association for online media currently recommends offering these sizes as part of their Universal Ad Package:

  • 300×250 (pixels) Medium Rectangle 
  • 180×150 (pixels) Rectangle
  • 160×600 (pixels) Wide Skyscraper
  • 728×90 (pixels) Leaderboard

Paid Links 

Essentially an advertiser will purchase a link to their website placed above, below, or inside content.

I advise you to be VERY careful with this ad type and do your homework to make sure that you are following Google’s linking guidelines.  Many advertisers and blogs have been banned/de-indexed from Google by offering these ads.  The current best practice is to make sure that all link ads have a “no-follow” attribute or be redirected through a file that is excluded from search indexing by your robots.txt file.  Here’s an excellent primer from FeedtheBot.com

Like I said, paid links are dynamite requiring extraordinary care.

Before accepting ads, I recommend reviewing the IAB guidelines and selecting ad units that work well with your blog theme design.  These guidelines will insure that you are ad units that advertisers are willing to buy.

6. You offer a variety of ad placement options

Smart advertisers seek out blog publishers that offer creative ways to get their ads seen by readers. You’ll need to look beyond the simple 150×150 sidebar button ad to get the most revenue from each pixel of screen real estate.

Blogs that advertise should use theme designs that offer attractive but non-obtrusive areas to display advertising.  For example Studiopress’ News Pro, Magazine Pro, and Metro Pro themes offer “bucketed” homepage areas where ads can be placed.  For example, the News Pro Theme (this site’s theme) can accommodate advertising in the:

  • Top-Right Header
  • Top Navigation
  • Sidebar
  • Featured Story Buckets
  • Featured Posts Bucket
  • Footer

This theme like most of StudioPress’ themes also offer an “After-Entry” widget for you to easily include advertising at the end of each blog post.  Other theme providers offer similar options.

Each of these ad positions should be able to rotate multiple ads.  For example, rotating 3 ads in each of the positions mentioned earlier will allow you to offer placement for 18 advertisers.

7. You can accurately and easily provide ad performance reports

Advertisers will want to know how many times their ad has been shown at a minimum.  You should have a system in place for gathering this information and reporting it to individual advertisers.

The following plugins offer excellent options for tracking ad performance as well as managing your advertising program:

OIO Publisher: Allows you to sell ads directly to advertisers.  Excellent capabilities for placing, rotating, and targeting ads.

Google DFP: Google’s ad offering integrating their DoubleClick display ad service along with Adsense.  For most, this will be the preferred option since the service offers Google-approved advertising.

BuySellAds: This service + plugin will help you set your blog up for advertising and get your advertising options in front of relevant advertisers.  The service is simple to use and configure.

AdRotate: Simple plugin that gets the basics done with ease.

WPBeginner published an excellent review of these plugins and more here.

Should You Monetize Your Blog With Ads?

Yes –  if you have a large enough audience for it to make sense.  In the past, bloggers frowned on advertising because it somehow signaled a commercially crass regard from readers.  Thankfully this short-sighted view is being challenged.  You can serve your readers and offer relevant advertising at the same time.  

In my experience, many bloggers place advertising too early.

I recommend building an audience large enough to monetize first.  Once you’ve built the audience, slowly introduce advertising making sure that each ad unit is worth the time required to manage your ad program.  Be vigilant to maintain the creative integrity of your blog.  You don’t want tasteless advertising to drive off your current readers.

One last thought – 

Ask yourself why you are advertising.  It’s difficult to make a primary income with advertising.  You will need a growing and advertising-tolerant reader base, technical and creative expertise to customize your theme for advertising, and the time to manage advertising clients with frequent questions about their placements.

In most cases it makes more sense to offer your own products or try affiliate marketing if you already have the readership. Regardless, make sure that you take care of your readers even if it means upsetting advertisers.

About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

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