How To Sell Ads On Your Blog

Banner advertising is usually the first monetization option explored by any blogger looking to make some money. Within this method are two ways of going about it: (1) Using ad networks like Adsense and, (2) selling it yourself. Some may get confused on the basics of how to sell your own ad space. In this…

Banner advertising is usually the first monetization option explored by any blogger looking to make some money. Within this method are two ways of going about it: (1) Using ad networks like Adsense and, (2) selling it yourself.

Some may get confused on the basics of how to sell your own ad space. In this article, I’ll shed some light on that by providing an overview.

When To Begin Selling Ad Space

Obviously, ads on your blog will be much more valuable to an advertiser if you have an audience and traffic. So, you’ll need to have that. The question is – how much?

There is no clear cut-off for this. Much of it depends on your market. Some markets don’t see much traffic by their nature, but the audience might be very dedicated. In this case, you can sell ads on your blog despite having what you perceive to be low traffic numbers.

Because of all the various markets out there, I’m not even going to try to give you a number for a cut-off. All I can say is that it depends. 🙂

How Much?

Ahhh…the age-old question – how much should you charge? Again, it depends. My recommendation is to check out other blogs in your niche and see what you can glean from them.

You can charge based on impressions (usually a set price per thousand impressions, aka “CPM”), or keep it simpler by charging a flat monthly rate. I tend to prefer flat rates myself.

My suggestion is that you pitch advertisers on the branding opportunity rather than raw traffic numbers. The ability to associate their brand with your content serves to put their business in front of your audience. To sweeten the post, you could offer to feature them in your email list, or do a post on your blog about them (announcing them as a new sponsor, etc.)

Final price will be a result of balance between what you can offer them (quantity of exposure) and your traffic numbers. A low traffic blog isn’t going to command that much money.

If you already have a history with Adsense and have been running Adsense on your blog, then go into your account and look at the average CPM being paid for those ads. Double that number (at a minimum) to arrive at a price for your direct sales. Why? Because Google is paying you half of what they make on your site.

What About Logistics?

You could go with an option like OIO Publisher plug-in. This system integrates directly with Wordpress and works pretty well. I also wrote up an article on how to configure OIO Publisher.

You could also go with a stand-alone system such as OpenX. OpenX used to be called PHPAdsNew, but has evolved into a much more robust solution. You can still download it for free, after giving your name and email address. You can also grab an older copy for free from Sourceforge without the registration. Once installed, you can set up your different ad zones. The system will give you ad tags which you will then insert into your Wordpress theme.

To my knowledge, OpenX does not handle the purchasing process, so you would need to take care of that separately. OIO Publisher does, however, have a direct sales process as part of it so that advertisers can literally purchase ads on their own and all you need to do is approve them for them to go live.

If you end up selling ad space on your own, you need to have a way to collect payments. You don’t necessarily need a business account with your bank, but that is up to you. Paypal is probably the easiest method of taking payment. You could even set up Paypal subscription buttons on your site so that advertisers could pay you quickly and easily and be re-billed each money until you cancel. This might work if you have set prices. Otherwise, just provide your Paypal email address to your client and they can pay you normally via Paypal.

Where To Put Ads On Your Blog

You’ve got two factors to consider here:

  • Ad Placement
  • Number of Ads

In terms of placement, most advertisers are going to want to be “above the fold”. This means that their ad will be visible without the user having to scroll down to see it. For this reason, ad space at the bottom of a site is usually very devalued. The best places to put ads on a blog are usually:

  • Very top
  • Sidebar, but toward the top
  • In-content (whether it be top or bottom, as a call to action)

In-content ads usually work pretty well because that is the section of the site your readers will be paying most attention to. Sidebar ads on blogs are usually the small 125×125 ads, placed in a grid. Usually these ads are more for branding purposes than raw traffic click-throughs.

When deciding on ad space, be careful not to overrun your site with banners. Remember, banners detract from the user experience so you need to be very mindful of that. Secondly, the more banners you have, the less effective any placement will be for your advertisers. So, your ad space is more valuable if you don’t have that many ads on your blog to begin with.

Who Makes The Ad?

They do. It isn’t your job to create their ad banners for them. Most people won’t even ask you to. If they do, you can either just refuse or offer to have a designer create it at their cost.

Even though they create the ad, it is within your right to refuse the banner if it in any way detracts from your blog.

How To Go About Selling The Ads

To sell ad space, you need to make it known that you even offer it. So, my suggestion would be:

  • Have a page on your blog which offers advertising options
  • Have a “media kit” that you can send via email which more or less offers the same information as your advertising page online. The media kit doesn’t have to be long or involved. Just get the information to them and offer them some benefits to advertising on your blog. Put it in a PDF format and you can email that PDF to people as an attachment.

On your advertising page or media kit, include the following:

  • The benefits of advertising on your blog (a little mini sales pitch)
  • Your audience demographics (the more info, the better. You might want to consider surveying your audience to find this information out because advertisers will want to know). Important information would be gender, age spread, average household income.
  • Traffic estimates (page views, unique visitors, list size, etc)
  • Prices (unless everything is customized)
  • Contact information and how to start (a call to action)

Balancing the Ad Space

Network ads are a lot easier to get than direct ad sales (unless your blog is already pretty established). My recommendation is to use network ads (Adsense or other networks) as fall-back inventory, meaning it will use space not used up by direct advertisers. As another option, you could simply leave the ad spots as blank if you have no advertisers. Some people choose to do that simply because the appearance of Adsense on a blog does cheapen the blog (in some circles).

Any ad system is also going to allow you to run more than one ad in any ad space using a rotation. This is fine, however rotations make the space less valuable (due to less face time for any single ad) and you’ll definitely want a cap on how many advertisers can rotate.

Don’t Depend on Ads

As I wrap up this overview, I want to again emphasize that you shouldn’t stop with banners as your main monetization source. I will remain an evangelist for idea that selling your own products to your audience will always be the best (and more lucrative) approach to blog monetization. That said, banner ads can definitely make you money, it is relatively hands-off, and the market for it will always be there.

For more on how to monetize a blog outside of simply banner ads, download and read a FREE copy of the Six Figure Blogger Blueprint.

Good luck!


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  3. Wow David, only today have I come to notice you’re on longer displaying any form of private/affiliate ads except selling your own products…This is a milestone indeed, being able to survive by only selling your own products.

    I’m impressed.

  4. Daveid,
    Heres what I dont quite get.
    There is so much controversy and warnings about having “paid links” and how Google considers it to be black hat to buy links. I dont quite understand how its risking google penalty and SEO death to game the system in paid links but its ok and acceptable to sell text ads and banners that link back to advertisers sites?.
    im sorry if this sounds like a dumb question but whats the difference as far as google spiders and google penalties are concerned?
    If One strategy is ok, and the other one is penalty box, where is the line and how do you keep from crossing it?
    thanks and take care.
    Bryan Bliss

  5. I think more people should start providing more text ad spots than Banners. I see alot of blog with these sponsors sections with the standard 125/125. I think people would click more with text ads instead of banners.

    Nick (RefAccess)

  6. The whole area of selling ads is something I have yet to look into in any depth – on my brief searches it looked a little confusing with many ad brokers etc out there with people asking wildly different figures for ad space. I like the idea of looking closely at other blogs / sites in your market to see what they are doing – sounds like a good starting point in what looks to me to be a bit of a minefield! Hadn’t heard of OIO but that looks pretty interesting so thanks for that.

  7. Anyone have good suggestions on how to survey your readership? I’ve been thinking of doing this for some time but an online quiz doesn’t seem like it would get a lot of results.

  8. Great post. I’ve been using Google Admanager as my first ad system, does anyone recommend this over the others, or are there reasons OIO or OpenX are better?

    Also, I’d love to survey my readers to get a better understanding of demographics, does anyone have preferred methods of surveying?

  9. This is a great article on how to sell ads on your blog. Every time I visit here I leave with more work to do. It’s all good though.

  10. Very thorough post David. I agree with you and the comments above. One of our blogs is a community portal for where we live and the only ads we serve our from local merchant. We find it MUCH EASIER to sell space face to face like Mike mentioned above. My partner and I both became board members of our local Chamber of Commerce and that has really helped in attracting business.

    When starting out a new blog, I think it is better to have your ad layout all in place from the beginning, and just fill them with affiliate ads. That way when your blog starts to become more popular and you can start charging for ads, your readers are already accustomed to the ads being there. Otherwise, some reader will quit visiting if all of a sudden you put a bunch of ads up.

  11. When selling ads I find that the best long term solution is to come up with an agreement that both you and the advertiser will benefit from. You might be able to have an advertiser pay a too high amount for the ad space but they will sure leave you within a very short period of time. Personally I would rather make long term partnerships so that everyone benefits from it.


  12. You’ve pretty much covered it all there David. One thing I would add from personal experience.

    If you’re in a niche where you can attract local advertisers, then go and see them. One of our blogs is a travel one about the island we live on. We put up the “advertise here” page, emailed every local business about the opportunity to advertise, and got……nothing! We changed strategy and started visiting the businesses to show them the site and talk face to face about it. Result – so far 5 appointments and 5 new advertisers!

    It isn’t always possible, and it is time consuming, but face to face sure is effective.

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