Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shake your money maker

Hello there! I have emerged from under the massive, huge, endless piles of LAUNDRY I have been tackling for the past two days. We had SO much to do since the dryer went on the fritz – so now that it’s fixed, it’s been 48 hours of nonstop, never-ending loading, washing, loading, drying, folding, putting away (I hate that part!), repeat.

BUT, I do have to say, it isn’t as bad when the machines actually work. Who would have thunk it? :)

I’m back today with another (what I hope will be helpful!) installment in my blogging series. It’s not really a “series” – just a bunch of posts labeled “blogging” – but you know what I mean. :) 

Many of you know I’m pretty transparent when it comes to what I’ve learned about blogging. I have met so many wonderful women who have been so forth-coming and helpful along the way, and I figure this is my way to pay it forward. :)

One of the most common questions I get about blogging is when/how/why to include advertising on your site. My first piece of advice is the most important one – and it’s a BIGGIE.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT start a blog to make money.

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The only reason you should start a blog is because you enjoy what you do, you want to share it with the world, and you love writing about it.

NEVER to make money. If you start for that reason, blogging will NOT be fun. It will become a job, a burden, and you will not have nearly as much fun as you would if you just did it because you love it.

Now, if you have done it, you love it, you are seeing more traffic to your site, you are still loving it, maybe someone has contacted you about advertising, you STILL LOVE IT, then it may be time to try out some advertising! Whoohoo!

There are a few different types of advertising that I was totally confused about in the beginning so I thought I would go through the options a little deeper for you blogging Squeezies!

In January of 2009, I decided it was about time I start accepting private ads on my blog. I wrote this post announcing the ad space, which is the first step in the process. I felt SO uncomfortable putting it out there – it was the most awkward feeling, assuming that someone would actually pay to put their ad on my blog.  Ugh.

I looked back at my analytics for the day I wrote that post, and I had 2,149 page views the day I made that announcement. When I started, my ad rate was only $10 a month.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to start out with a (fairly) low ad rate. You will open up ad opportunities to so many small businesses – and if it goes well for both parties, they may be able to stay with you as your rates go up and your site grows.

About six months after I started taking private ads, I learned my first lesson in advertising rates – I was charging way too little. :) By that time my page views were up to about 7,000 a day, and after I started asking around, I found out I was charging an obscenely low amount compared to other bloggers with similar traffic.

Since then, I have raised my ad rates numerous times, and most recently lowered them a bit. So how do you decide what your rates should be? You need to consider a few things – your traffic, rates for similar blogs (don’t be afraid to ask around!), what folks are willing to pay, and even the general economy. Things are tough right now for many, so I decided my rates should reflect that.

There is a rule of thumb, called CPM, floating around out there that says you can/should charge $1 (or more!) per 1,000 hits per month. Say your blog gets 20,000 page views a month – this means you should be charging $20 a month. I’m still not sure how I feel about the CPM equation for blogs. Some use it and charge accordingly, and it works great for them. But if I followed this, even at the lowest conversion, I’d be a very rich woman, and I am so not.  :)

Basically, you need to “listen” to what’s going on around you and take many aspects into consideration when deciding on your private ad rates.

If you want to avoid trying to figure all of that out (and I don’t blame you!) – you can always go for a pay per click or impression type of ad instead. Examples of that type of advertising are the Google ads I have along the side of my site, over there

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They don’t say Google, but they are the rotating ads you see along my sidebar. They have a few options available – text ads, image ads, ads for your “feed,” for mobile sites – in just about any size you can think of!

I started out with the text and search ads a year ago, way down low on my site, and saw such a small result I took them down. Then I put an image ad up a few months ago, and I tell. you. what. They ROCK! Zero effort on your part, and you can make decent money.

I added another Google ad to my sidebar a couple weeks ago just to try it out, and it’s doubled my revenue. These are such a great option for just about any blogger – no matter what your traffic! Google ads are a fantastic way to get into the whole ad thing without having to deal with the logistics of private ads. (And no, Google is not paying me to say this – ha!)

A third option that I am very pleasantly surprised with is the network-type ads, like my fun Juice Box Jungle ad in the upper left corner.

I am LOVING working with these folks! JBJ ads do not have any restrictions on my content/site – you have to watch those with this type of advertising. (They vary based on the company.) BlogHer is another option – but I think there has been a waiting list for years now. (Not sure of the current status though, so it wouldn’t hurt to check it out!)

I find the Juice Box and Google ads are fantastic options because there is very little upkeep on my end. The downside is you have to be patient when it comes to getting paid. :) No instant gratification in the bank account where those are concerned.

My advice? Diversify as much as possible! I am seeing great results from including ads from each type – private, network and Google. The success of each one varies month to month as well – sometimes private ads are low, and Google goes through the roof. Then I’ll get a bunch of private ads, and the others don’t do as well. Having some variety helps.

So, once you’ve got your ads, where the heck do you put them? My past life marketing experience and recent research continues to show that the upper left of your site is the best spot – the reason for that is that our eyes reads left to right, so the upper left is the first spot your readers see when they reach your site.

There are arguments for other placements as well, and I see the benefits of either left or right. Research also shows the higher up the ads are, the better the results for your advertisers. Again –- I am NO EXPERT peeps! I’m just sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Some bloggers I’ve seen have them on the bottom right and do very well! Sometimes I think placement doesn’t matter as much as the content of the blog does.  :)

I know a few readers are put off by some ads – the blinking ads for instance. Because I know it was driving a few people nuts, I stopped taking those and only take static (non-blinking) ads now. The pop-up ads are another annoyance fro some, and I can promise you you will never see one of those on my site.

My general rule is if I would be annoyed by it, you won’t see it on my site.  :)  I do my best to keep the ads clean and relevant. And I will make one more promise to you – you will NEVER be directed to anything other than what the ad says – no spammy or offensive links here.

And if you do ever see anything like that, please let me know so I can address it. I love having an extra few thousand sets of eyes. :)

Oh by the way – having NO advertisers is always an option too.  :) Ads aren’t for everyone – and I completely respect those that decide it’s just not something they want on their site.

So what about you? If you have  a blog, have you made the jump to accepting ads yet? If yes, how has it gone? If no, is there something holding you back? As a reader, are there ads that drive you bonkers?

Oh wait – one more thing. You will not get rich from advertising on your blog. It will help – maybe a little bit or maybe a lot. The advertising from my site has been a Godsend – we are thisclose to having our debt paid off (after years of chipping away at it) and it allows me to continue doing what  love – tackling new projects and sharing them with you!

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