Selling advertisements in your site (links,banners,etc) is a cool way to make more money from your site. The best benefit in this business model is that you don’t have to wait for any third party to send you a cheque, so you can faster “recycle” the money you earn.
Selling text links
Selling text links is the easiest thing to do, as the requirements are not so difficult to get reached and there are plenty of places to find new customers. Bellow are my thoughts on this subject.
Put your links in a visible place
Most webmasters buy links for SEO purposes, but as Google wants to “eliminate” sponsored links from their algorithm, more and more people are actually looking for traffic. So make sure that the sponsored links in your site are visible, and that they exist on a high traffic web page.
Don’t use common phrases in your sponsors listings
Google can recognize sponsored links by the tag line you have before them. Instead of using the phrase “Sponsored links” or “Sponsors” you can use a graphic or a phrase like “Sites we like”. This will give more value to the links you sell.
Put some links there before start selling
People don’t like to be the first to use a service. If the advertiser see some links there he/she will probably like to follow more. But you should be careful on that as none wants to buy a link on a page that has 20 or more listings
Selling your banner inventory
A common thing I see in banner sales is that people sell their inventory on monthly basis. I am not really sure if this, or if selling on CPM basis is better, but I guess it depends on the site. In general there are a few principles for both ways.
Selling banners on monthly basis
In my opinion the best way to do this is by having a few small banners in the sidebar of your site, and a very small number of banners in the header of your site. A big mistake is to use 10 or even more banners in rotation in the header of your site. This way the value of your ad space is getting lower and the traffic/visibility is getting smaller and smaller as new advertisers come in. Make sure that you rotate no more than 5 banners, and rotate them on a random way so that each banner will get the same impressions with the others.
Selling your inventory on CPM basis
Selling banners on CPM basis (cost per thousand impressions) has the main benefit that you can reach bigger advertisers and that you sell ads by performance. So if your site have a big raise in traffic (eg. you got on digg’s frontpage) you will earn more money, while with monthly basis ads you should wait some time to raise your prices
If you use this model make sure that you are using a well known script to do the job because this will make you look more serious to your clients. A great choice is openAds (aka phpAdsNew) which is open source and you can download it for free.
Also be sure that you are not displaying too many times the same ad per session because this will cause lower CTR and your clients wont be satisfied. In general advertisers want to fill their campaign the soonest possible but they care more for clicks.
How to find clients to sell your ads
So you set up your ad platform, created some nice places in your site to display ads and you need some clients. Let me show you how this is get done
Is your site a good choice for an advertiser?
Ok you know that your site is the best advertising opportunity in your niche, but you should tell that to the possible client too
You should explain in your sales page why your site is good for advertisers. For instance you can define your visitors, or give some information on the niche that your site is.
Additionally you can add some graphs (traffic, alexa, pagerank buttons, etc.) Those will help them to buy.
Have an “advertise here” link in your site
I know this is so obvious, but believe me there were countless times I wanted to buy advertisements in sites and couldn’t reach such a page. You need to cross link your sales page from all your site, and make sure that this link is visible. I am emphasizing on this obvious thing because most of my in house advertisements are soled to regular visitors of the sites I own.
Post your ad in forums
As you know there are countless webmaster forums out there, and most of them have a marketplace where webmasters can buy/sell or even trade several webmaster related services and products. You can use them to post your ad, but be careful not to write BS in your thread
Get your site listed in AdBrite’s marketplace
Ok, that’s a little black hat, but as Mark Cook explains here, it is easy to get listed in AdBrite’s marketplace without using their system
Give incentives to your clients
You can always give some added value to your clients. For instance you can give some freebie to your advertisers like an ebook or a review in your blog. A great incentive that worked for me is giving a lifetime link to the donators of webdigity.
In general selling your inventory yourself requires some time in order to find out how to make the most out of it. But it really worths your time as you don’t have to wait for third party network cheques, and you don’t need to pay a big cut of your earnings to them just because they connect you with the “client”.