Last week I posted Part 1 of the Niche Site Private Advertising Experiment, a little case study I’m running to see if I can generate additional income from my security guard training niche site by having related companies pay for ad space.
Last month, the site pulled in $2,801.06 from Google Adsense alone, but as I always mention it’s dangerous to rely only on one income source from a website – so I’m giving private advertising a shot.
In Part 2 I’ll be explaining more about the mechanics of how you can actually run ads on your website or blog and accept payments too. Later posts in the series will cover pricing, marketing your ad space to potential advertisers and hopefully some real life examples along the way.
Side note: since I posted Part 1 of the series the niche site has already landed one paying advertiser and many more have already expressed interest!
I’m excited to talk about that, but let’s take it one step at a time and get into exactly how you can place advertisements and accept payments on your site first.
The Old School Way
This isn’t my first experience dealing with direct advertising on a website that I’ve owned.
My first experience came when I began monetizing Green Exam Academy back in 2008 after news of my layoff from my architecture position. After having mild success with Google Adsense, I learned that I could potentially cut out the middle man and try to sell advertising to companies own my own.
A couple of weeks and a number of phone calls later (yes, phone calls) I landed my first advertiser who paid me $150.00 total for 3 months of advertising (at $50.00 a month).
Like I mentioned before, we’ll talk more about pricing in part 3 (including the major mistakes I had made with my first deal) – but first things first, let’s tackle our options for placing ads on our site and accepting payments.
As any newbie would do when he or she wants to do something on their site but has no idea how (and I was a total newbie at the time), I searched for a WordPress plugin to figure it out.
The plugin I used for GreenExamAcademy.com was called WP125 and it worked pretty well.
The plugin automatically creates 125×125 pixel ad spaces (the most common ad size that seemed to be floating around at the time – and even still today), which you can then manually put anywhere onto your site with some shortcode or into your sidebar with a widget.
From the plugin’s settings in WordPress, you can control:
- The number of 125×125 ad spaces shown including how many in each row and column.
- What ads show up in each space through an image URL (not by uploading).
- The target URL for each ad slot.
- The number of days each particular ad will be shown before it’s taken down.
- If you want to track the number of clicks or not.
- A default ad to show when you don’t have enough ads and/or one of the paid ads expires.
This was everything I needed to get started, but unfortunately this plugin was limiting in 3 major ways:
- It only shows 125×125 ads – there are a lot more sizes and ad opportunities available.
- It was not automated – I had to manually setup the ads and report the clicks to the advertiser on my own.
- I had to deal with invoicing and payments manually.
Without any knowledge of shopping carts I basically had to accept payments manually, and I figured Paypal would be the way to go.
With my first deal, I simply asked the company who confirmed interest in advertising on my site to send $150.00 to my Paypal email address. After all, I most companies who has some type of online presence had a paypal account that they could send money through, right?
Fortunately, the company was nice enough to overlook my newbie-ness and suggest that I send an invoice, which I knew was something I could do via Paypal.
The second company that advertised on my site approached me instead, which was a nice surprise. I negotiated a higher fee for a longer time period (yay!), but then they asked me to send over an advertising order first before any sort of transaction could take place.
An advertising order is basically a form (like a PDF file or faxed sheet) that describes the ins and outs of the advertising relationship, such as price and payment, length of service, positioning, restrictions on the types of ads, information about renewals, statistics, cancellation, etc.
There are several templates for advertising orders online, but it’s recommended that you craft one carefully with each advertiser because each advertising relationship is different.
Here is a quick note from my attorney about the subject:
“When taking specific orders or dealing one-on-one with a client, a custom advertising order is the best way to go. First, both parties know exactly what they are getting in the bargain as well as the terms for ending it. Second, the negotiation of the deal can actually help you build a relationship with the client that can lead to further deals down the road.”
Great points, by the way, because I did end up developing an affiliate relationship with one of the companies that previously advertised on my site – which is interesting.
The New School Way
Nowadays, there are some great tools and services available that can pretty much automate the entire banner advertising process. It takes a little bit of setup, but after that it’s pretty much hands-free and you can focus just on marketing to advertisers at that point.
Most of the available services generally work like this:
- You setup ad zones on your site – specific areas in and around your site that advertisers can choose to “rent” or advertise on for a certain fee.
- An advertiser views your advertisement page or rate card which describes each of the ad zones and displays the according price and a buy now button. Most will connect to your Paypal account, however the advertiser can still pay with a credit card. Many will even process a subscription model and bill the advertiser every X number of days.
- Advertisers will be given information about how to plug in the destination URL and upload their banner to the system which will then place it in the ad zone that was purchased.
- Advertisers can log in to the system to check their stats and change their banner if they wish.
Here are a couple tools and services I have experience with below:
Cranky Ads is the latest project from Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs-Journey.com. It’s probably the most robust and easy to use advertising platform of the bunch, and rightly so because it comes straight from an experienced Internet marketer who built and uses this system on his own site.
The best part about CrankyAds is that for us publishers, it’s 100% FREE.
It makes money by taking a share of advertisements sold in its marketplace, instead of the ads you sell on your own.
Also, installation is very simple – it’s as easy as installing a plugin.
CrankyAds also takes a lot of the heavy lifting off your shoulders by automatically generating a well-designed, optimized Advertisement Page that dynamically includes all of the ads you decide to offer. It’ll also insert a link to the Advertisement Page in your navigation menu if you’re running a compatible WordPress theme.
And lastly, something I haven’t seen from any other advertising platform, CrankyAds features “Sponsored Videos” as well, which is really cool and something you could potentially earn a lot of money from if you find the right advertisers.
Even though I’ve tested Cranky Ads myself and believe it to be the best of the bunch – it’s not the one I am currently using for my security guard training niche.
Because of the nature of the niche.
The security guard training industry is unique because almost every state in the U.S. has a different set of rules and requirements for how to become a security guard.
As a result, most companies who would be training potential security guards would only need to advertise in one state (or even city). A security guard company in Arizona, for example, doesn’t really need to show ads to those who live and want to train in Wyoming.
This could be seen as something negative, but I think there’s a lot of potential here.
Let’s say I have Ad Zone 1, which is a banner across the top of my site.
Instead of selling that banner space to one company who is only relevant to one state for X dollars a month, I could figure out a way to geotarget the advertisements so that it only shows for people who live in that one state.
This opens up the possibility to show 49 more ads in the same Ad Zone, one for each remaining state.
I’m being optimistic here, but even $20.00 per month for 1 ad in each of the 50 states is $1,000.00 a month. Rotate 2 ads per state, and you’ve got $2,000.00 per month – and that’s just from Ad Zone 1.
What if I broke it down to city-level? Then you’ve got even more possibilities.
Of course, this is easier said than done (especially getting advertisers on board – along with the fact that impressions would be far less, so rates may have to accomodate), but this isn’t even possible if there’s no such thing as an advertising platform that can geo-target the ads.
Fortunately, there is, and it’s called AdPeeps.
(Warning: annoying audio/video auto-plays upon arrival!).
It’s not as pretty as Cranky Ads and the setup isn’t as user-friendly, but I spent a good half a day learning and figuring it all out and am happy to say it’s live and working on site.
Much of the platform works in the same way that Cranky Ads does – the setup of the Ad Zones, an automatically generated rate card, Paypal subscription payments and a login area for advertisers to check stats, but there are some drawbacks as well:
- The design, both on the backend and on the rate card itself (the actual page where advertisers click to make a purchase) is very Web 1.0. The only thing customizable is a logo which you can place in the header, but the text, tables and buy now buttons could be optimized much better.
- It’s not a free service. You can either pay a one-time $99.00 fee to download the required PHP/MYSQL files to self host Adpeeps on your own site, or you can pay a small monthly fee (which ranges based on monthly impressions) to have Adpeeps host everything for you, which is what I do. I’m currently paying $9.99 a month for 500,000 impressions (and remember an impression is one pageload per advertisement on a page. If a page has 3 advertisements, for example, 1 pageload equals to 3 impressions).
- Customer service was not as fast as I would have liked it to be. I had emailed several questions to their help desk and the average response time was 2 days, although one time it took 6 days.
Despite the negatives, I decided to give Adpeeps (and their 7-day free trial) a shot – primarily for the geo-targeting feature.
I already have one paying advertiser – so at least I know it’s working.
If down the road I feel like things could be better, I’ll probably make a switch to another platform.
There are other advertising platform options available that will automate the process for you and handle payments as well. I don’t have experience with using these companies myself, but they were recommended to me when I was finding a solution:
- BuySellAds: This is probably the most popular one that most people know about. It’s free to setup, but they take 25% off the top from every ad that you sell. On the other hand, they have one of the most highly trafficked banner ad marketplaces on the web, so you may land some advertisers without even having to work too hard for it. Another nice thing about BSA is that it gives advertisers an estimated number of impressions before making a purchase – something unique to BSA, I believe.
- OIOpublisher: OIOpublisher is another popular ad manager on the market. As a publisher, it will cost a flat $47, and that’s it. It has a medium sized marketplace, and although I haven’t installed the software myself yet, it seems like it’s pretty straightforward, especially if you are running WordPress.
I hope this post sheds some light on the mystery behind the different types of options you have available to easily serve advertisements on your site and collect payments for doing so.
In the next post in this series I’ll be covering pricing – something that a lot of people, including myself, have trouble wrapping their heads around.
Totally off topic, but important: I’m collecting kind words from the SPI community to share with potential publishers and event organizers, and possibly here on the blog as well. If I’ve ever helped you out in any way, I would appreciate any kind words you can leave here: http://www.thankyoupat.com.
Thanks so much, and all the best!