Internet Advertising 101: What Publishers Need to Know to Start Monetizing Their Blogs
Got a successful blog and want to start making money from it?
For many publishers, running ads on their blog is the best way to fund it. But it can be a tricky game to get into.
Internet advertising today is a baffling complicated system, a maze of conflicting interests and confusing acronyms. If you don’t know what you’re getting into, you’re unlikely to get the optimal results.
I’m going to give you a very basic overview of how it works, all the way from advertisers to your PayPal account. With a little knowledge, you can quickly start bringing in revenue.
Advertisers, Publishers and Viewers
Imagine a simple online world, the simplest arrangement possible.
You have advertisers, companies with a product to sell and a marketing budget. They’ve created ads and are looking for websites to display them to their target customers.
Then you have publishers, private individuals (or companies) with their own website. They’re looking to make some extra cash, some passive income, from their site. They have traffic and space on their page, but nothing to sell.
Well, nothing except space and traffic.
In this simple world, advertisers and publishers would form direct relationships with each other. The advertisers would provide the ads that were most relevant for the publisher’s audience, and the publisher would provide the audience for the brand’s marketing campaign.
It can work that way sometimes. There are certainly publishers who make direct arrangements with brands, and for those who can pull it off, it’s often a great deal for both sides.
However, it’s usually much more complicated than that.
Ad Networks Step In to Bridge the Gap
In today’s online world, there’s a big gap between advertisers and publishers. Both want to get the maximum value for themselves out of their relationship, and neither of them has a way to interact clearly with each other.
That’s where ad networks (or “ad-tech,” ad serving technology) come into play, creating a middle ground between the two.
Ad networks are companies that connect advertisers to online publishers. Marketers don’t want to spend all their time looking site-by-site for places to put their ads, and most publishers don’t have the time or industry knowledge to go directly to brands and partner with them, so ad networks can help both sides get what they need with minimal effort.
Advertisers will pay ad networks to help them run their campaigns and find suitable websites for their ads.
As a publisher, when you sign up for an ad network, you will usually get paid in one of two ways: cost per mille (CPM) or cost per click.
Cost per mille means you will get paid every 1,000 times the ad is seen, regardless of whether the viewer clicks on it. This arrangement favors the publisher, since you’ll get paid even if you’re served with a lame ad that no-one clicks on.
Cost per click means you get paid every time the ad is clicked on. More advertisers use CPC, so going for CPC expands your options. This is the primary model for Google AdSense, among other ad networks.
Other options are a flat-rate or cost per action, where you get a commission for every time the product is purchased or some other more involved action takes place. However, these are more common with affiliate marketing or direct deals with the advertiser.
Signing Up for an Ad Network
Some ad networks have very strict requirements for site owners, while others will allow just about anyone to sign up.
If you’re a low-traffic site, you should try a network like RevenueHits that has no minimum traffic requirement.
Once accepted, you place ad tags – a simple piece of code that identifies the page and tracks activity associated with the ads – on the parts of your site that you want to monetize.
The Labyrinth of Ad Tech
Some publishers distrust ad tech. There are concerns about transparency and where all the money goes. There are issues with viewability, fraudulent traffic and slowed-down pages.
It’s much too thorny and complicated a subject to explore here. But basically, most problems come down to a lack of standards within the industry.
So as a publisher, what do you do about this?
The best solution might be to accept what you can’t change and just find a solution that works. Choose an ad network that’s reputable and makes all their data available. By signing up with a network that plays fair, you’re encouraging the whole industry to do the same.
The Real Challenge: Monetizing Your Site Without Annoying Your Viewers
As I’m sure you know, more isn’t always better when it comes to advertising.
You go to all this trouble to design a beautiful, user-friendly site that looks good, is easy to navigate and gets your viewers where you want them to go. And now, you’re expected to stick ads all over it?
Ads don’t have to detract from overall experience. If they’re relevant, unobtrusive and offer products that your visitors are actually interested in, they can be a positive element of your site.
However, given the rise of ad-blocking software in recent years, it seems that this isn’t usually the case.
Whenever you sign up for an ad network, you’re giving up some control over the advertising that appears on your site. But there are still some aspects that you can control to make sure your ads are helping your site more than hurting it.
- Ad Inventory: This means the space that you allot to ads and how you place them. How do you know if you’re making the best use of your inventory? Testing, testing, and more testing. You have to test hundreds of different ad placements, and there’s no formula for success. But if you go systematically, it’s not such a daunting task.
- Content: The quality of your content is one aspect where you have 100% control, and you can’t overdue it. Good content is the key to success, now as much as ever. If you have great content, you’ll attract the right viewers and keep them interested. That’s how you’ll get long-term, sustainable income from your blog.
- User Experience: Giving your visitors a good experience on your site is obviously one of your most important tasks. You have to consider how ads will impact that. However, you can’t always tell intuitively what ads will be annoying and which will positively catch people’s interest. Again, testing is key.
The world of internet advertising is strange, convoluted and always changing.
However, monetizing your blog doesn’t have to be.
As a publisher, you can’t really know what works until you try it. I recommend getting your toes wet as soon as possible. Find a free ad network, sign up and start seeing the results. As you go, you’ll learn more about the industry and what works best for your blog.
Then, you can start fine-tuning and really see your earnings flow in.