What I Think About Ad Networks

In today’s Advertising Age, Lenore Skenazy, the lauded blogger behind Free Range Kids, laments how difficult it is to find a sponsor for her site despite being featured everywhere from Dr. Phil to NPR and most recently on Babble’s Top 50 Mom Blogger list. In response, Danielle Wiley, Senior VP-digital brands at Edelman Chicago, notes ad networks are the best fit for bloggers and marketers.

I agree with that to a certain extent, but also believe ad networks aren’t a great fit for all bloggers.

For Skenazy, who clearly has great traffic and an engaged audience, an ad network will suit her blog just fine, as Wiley mentions. What’s important to me, however, are the thousands and thousands of smaller bloggers who are members of the Mom Bloggers Club. Most of these bloggers’ traffic is too low to benefit from an ad network. So, if you’re reading this and fall into the my-blog-is-too-small-to-buy-a-cup-of-coffee-from-an-ad-network camp, here are some tips for you to start earning money.


1) Sing It From The Rooftops: Let people know that you sell advertising space on your blog. A lot of smaller companies and PR firms scan blogs just to see who is selling space. Make sure to have a tab on your blog for advertising requests or somewhere on a sidebar let potential advertisers know that they can contact you for media kit requests.

2) Know Your Numbers: Make sure to embed several stat counters on your blog and create a media kit so you are ready if someone requests advertising information. Some stat counters to use: Google Analytics, Sitemeter, Statcounter, GetClicky.

3) Dedicate Space: Some blog templates come equipped with ad space that you can easily fill. If you don’t have built-in ad space, dedicate a spot on your blog for advertising and make sure that the space is clearly marked. It is also optimal to have space for a variety of ad sizes including leaderboard ads (728 x 90), skyscrapers (120 x 600), wide skyscrapers (160 x 600), medium rectangles (300 x 250) and small banners (125 x 125). Click here for the standard IAB Ad Units.

Also, make sure all of your advertising space is full so potential advertisers can get an idea of where their advertisement will be placed. If someone hasn’t purchase an ad space on your blog, fill it with an affiliate banner so you won’t have holes in your blog.

4) Set your rates: This is the the tricky part of selling your own ads. Make sure to be as fair to yourself as possible. That is, don’t under-price your space. I have seen mom bloggers sell advertising for $5 a space. I don’t care who you are or what your traffic is, that is way too low! The bottom line is don’t overprice your ads and don’t sell yourself short either. Know your worth and price your advertising accordingly.

5) Be versatile: Give advertisers another option to reach your readers. Create a newsletter for your blog because you can sell advertising there. Also think about attaching a forum or community to your blog. Many white label communities like Ning allow you to accept advertising for a small fee to run them.

5) Be realistic: Most of your advertising in going to come from small companies. Large brands place advertising through PR firms and ad agencies and those agencies go to the ad networks. If you have lofty notions of large global brands coming to you, it’s not likely to happen.

6) Measure the Ads: A lot of companies are appreciative of traffic information for their ad. The ad server I use is AdSpeed. I have used them for about four years and have been happy with them throughout.

7) Cold Call: There is nothing wrong with approaching companies who you think would make a great fit on your blog. The only thing they can say is “no”. In the process of cold calling, you may get a “maybe” or even a “yes”. Don’t always wait around for companies to contact you. Be proactive in your approach.

Benefits of Selling Your Own Ads Include:

1) Retain control of your own blog

2) Choose the advertisers you want featured on your blog

3) Get paid up front as opposed to waiting for a check to arrive

4) Learn selling skills and how to work with companies

5) Feel accomplished as a business owner

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