How To Sell Private Advertising

Private advertising is this blog’s biggest money maker, accounting for nearly 50% of the March 2008 income. I get many emails and comments asking me how I built up such a huge private ad income. My free eBook never addressed the subject of private advertising because I didn’t do any at the time the book was written.

Ad Networks Vs. Private Ad Sales

I had always relied on third party ad networks for the blog’s income and hadn’t seriously considered selling my own ads until the blog was redesigned.

I recommend new bloggers start with ad networks rather than trying to sell their own inventory. In the beginning, your job is to produce content and that’s hard to do when you also have to service private advertisers. Private advertisers can be a lot more demanding than an ad network like TTZ Media or Kontera. You make less money because the networks take a cut of sale, but it will allow you to stick to what you do best.

You’ll Need Some Decent Traffic

Another reason why you’ll want to stick with networks in the beginning is because you won’t have the traffic nor the branding power to take on private advertisers. How much traffic do you need? That will depend on the niche you cover and the advertisers you’re trying to target. As a general rule, I would recommend you get your traffic to at least 1000 page view per day before trying your hands at direct ad sales. This is not to say you should give up the ad networks when you start selling direct. The best solution is always a combination of the two.

If you have enough traffic, then keep the following tips in mind when you’re ready sell your advertising privately.

Automate The Sale Process

The key to successful private ad sale is to do as little work as possible. The more you automate the process, the better off you’ll be. The less time you spend on a sale means more time to blog. The big blog networks have their own ad sales team that is separate from the editorial team. You don’t have that kind of luxury. Unless you can automate your sale process, I don’t recommend doing private adverting. How do you automate ad sales?

Have a Really Good Advertise Page

Your advertise page should provide all the information an advertiser needs in order to make a buying decision. It should include some site stats plus all your available advertising options, plus prices and order links. Nothing turns off an advertiser more than having to email you to find out the price. I’m an advertiser and I have never responded to an advertise page that asked, “Email us for more information.” Just spell it all out on the advertise page and let the chips fall where they may.

It’s also a good idea to include some testimonial from past advertisers. If you don’t have any past advertisers then make sure you email your new advertisers after a month or so and ask for their feedback. Assuming it’s good, you can use that as a testimonial.

Use PayPal Subscription

PayPal Subscriptions has been one of my biggest time savers. Before, I had to send advertisers PayPal invoices every month for the ad renewal. Then I have to wait for them to pay. This blog has over 30 direct advertisers with ads coming due on different dates and keeping track of everything was a big headache.

PayPal subscription helps automate the payment and renew process. The advertiser subscribe to an ad spot and the money is taken from their PayPal account every month (or whatever billing cycle you choose), unless the subscription is canceled. This saves you time sending out invoices and saves the advertiser from losing the spot in case he forgets to renew the ad. An evil bonus to the subscription setup is often times, an advertiser will forget to cancel and end up paying for an extra month. 😈

Get Rid of Google AdSense

If you are seeing a lot of Google Sitematch ads on your blog, that’s a good indication that it’s time to sell your ads directly. A sitematch ad is a Google AdSense ad targeted to your site and only your site. Many advertisers will use Google as a back door to get cheap advertising on a highly prized blog.

For example, I used to send tons of “I Love Darren Rowse” ads to using Google Sitematch. My average cost was about $2.50 CPM, which is extremely cheap for a 300×250 spot on However, the full $2.50 doesn’t go to Darren. Google needs to take their cut so Darren is left with $1.25 (assuming Google takes 50%). Darren discovered what I was doing and removed the Google ads when Problogger got redesigned.

By removing the Google ads, you stop cheap ass advertisers like me from stealing your ad space.

Do Not Have Any Blank Ad Spots

This is a mistake I see many new blogs make when trying to sell direct ads. They set up their six 125×125 buttons and every button says “Advertise Here.” Advertisers are like normal people – they never want to be the first. Like everyone else, they want to see social proof before stepping up to the plate.

I unveiled my new blog theme with every single 125×125 button sold. I accomplished this by emailing past sponsors and offering them the spot for a discounted price. I was hoping to sell out six spots but ended up selling eight. Those original eight button advertisers became the social proof for future advertisers.

If you don’t have any old sponsors to sell your ads to, then you can try offering a free ad to a well know site. This was how Fat Man Unleashed got started with private ad sales. To help fill out his ad space, he offered me a free 300×250 spot on his blog. Suddenly he was able to say, “John Chow advertises here.” Most of the ad spot on the Fat site are now sold.

A good model for bloggers selling the six 125×125 buttons is to load five buttons with affiliate deals and the last button with “Advertise Here.” The site will look like it has advertisers and the Advertise button will make it look like there is only one spot left. As orders come in, you’ll replace the affiliate buttons with the private ads.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

How much should you sell your ad space for? My rule of thumb is to at least double the eCPM rate you’re getting from Google AdSense. If a spot is making you $2.50 per 1000, then sell it for a minimum of $5.00 CPM. It would be stupid to sell it for anything less than double because that is what Google is selling it for (assuming Google takes 50%).

OIOpublisher – Tying It All Together

The easiest and most painless way to sell direct advertising is with OIOpublisher Direct. This WordPress plugin allows advertisers to order, pay for and upload their ads onto your blog. All you have to do is approve the ad and it’ll go live. It also works with PayPal subscription.

OIOpublisher is used by many well known blogs to automate their direct advertising sales so they can concentrate on the more important task of producing content. The WordPress plugin sells for $37 and allows you to use it on an unlimited number of domains. If you can’t make back the $37, then you have no business being in this business.