How to Integrate Advertising into Your Blog

So you’ve been blogging for a while, your getting some links, traffic is growing, but your blog isn’t making any money. While you do like blogging maybe it’s getting kind of hard to justify the amount of time you put into it, if it’s not putting any money in your pocket.

For this tutorial I’m going to show you how to integrate advertising into your blog, so that it’s easy to run and how to make it more attractive and desirable to advertisers. While this post is going to have some thesis specific instructions, they can be adapted to work on any blog, it’s just easier to get things done when you use the thesis framework 🙂

So the first thing you need to is to make your blog attractive to advertisers, how do you do that, there are a couple of steps. First thing an advertiser wants to see are some traffic stats, you can use a service like Quancast for traffic and demographic information (see mine here) and they also give you a nice little embeddable iframe shown below:

You’ll also want to show how many RSS subscribers you have, if you are using feedburner you can use the tool they have for an embeddable chicklet shown below

Feedburner can be less than reliable, with numbers varying by several thousand, so just beware. Next you’re going to want to set up an analytics report that just shows the number of page views and unique visitors. This is you can mail it to people who want more information (example from my site). I’d advise putting all of this information on an “advertising information” page. Also make sure you put a contact form up so people who are interested can get in touch.

Once you can prove to an advertiser you have the traffic they want, the next thing you want is to create a space that is advertiser friendly. If you haven’t read Patrick Gavin’s post on “blog advertising is broken and how to fix it“, I suggest you do, he does a really good job at explaining it from an advertisers point of view. Simply put what an advertiser wants is traffic that is on target for their market, and prime real estate to put their ads in. If you are going to offer 125 buttons they better be above the fold. Masthead ads are ok, but the more integral they are the better. Leaderboard ads above the masthead are okalmost useless, leaderboard ads in the masthead are better, and leaderboard ads in the top or bottom of the post are much more attractive.

As a publisher you want two things, ads that are easy to set up and take down, and you don’t want to have to keep running after people to pay their monthly invoices. The easiest way I’ve found to handle invoices is using paypal monthly subscriptions, it auto bills advertisers every month, and they can cancel whenever they want. As far as managing and setting up advertising there are numerous plugins but I have found Ad Rotate to be the most flexible. Once you install the plugin the first thing you need to do is set up “banner groups” this gives you the ability to set aside certain areas and assign ads to them. Look at the screen shot below you can see I’m even using one for my “Hear me Speak” section.

422009_12801-pm

Notice how each group has an ID, we’ll need that information for later.

Once that’s set up we need to enter individual ads for each banner group section. Below is screen shot of the individual ad banner, you may need to click it to see the info but here’s some the info it asks for: start date, end date, link , ad group banner, click tracking option. If you upload the image you can choose it from the dropdown, otherwise just use the URL of the image in the code box.

adrotate

You can put more than one ad in an adgroup, and display several (like the 125 ads in my sidebar) or have it randomly display one, more about that later. When you are setting this up you probably want to put a few placeholder ads up to make sure it’s working properly. OK onto the code …

Here’s how we tell the code to display the ads

adrotate_banner(1,0,6)

The “1” says use ad group 1 (in this case sidebar), the 0 says don’t display a specific ad, and the 6 says display up to six ads. So basically it randomly chooses six ads from ad group one and displays them (more info is on the plugin page)

Because I’m using thesis this is really easy all I do is create a function for it like this in my custom_functions.php file

//show sidebar ads group 1
function show_ads_1(){
echo "<h3>Sponsors</h3>";
echo adrotate_banner(1,0,6);
}

then I call the hook and in my case tell it to place the ads above the multi media box like this

add_action('thesis_hook_before_sidebars','show_ads_1' );

This is the benefit of thesis, it makes it really easy to get stuff done on your blog. Here’s how to put an ad in your masthead, again using just the custom_functions.php file

function add_header_image () {
echo "<a href="http://graywolfseo.com/" title="Michael Gray - Graywolf's SEO Blog" style="border:0px">
<img src="http://graywolfseo.com/wp-content/uploads/wolf-head-logo.jpg" alt="Michael Gray - Graywolf's SEO Blog" style="border:0px; float:left;" /></a>";
echo '<div id=topbanner>';
echo adrotate_banner(2,0,1);
echo '</div>';
}


add_action('thesis_hook_before_title', 'add_header_image');

In this example I told it to use group 2 and randomly display one ad. Once you have this set up in thesis you don’t need to monkey with the code,l you need to use the plugin management screen.

The next part I’d like to talk about is RSS advertising. The thing I like about RSS advertisements are, they allow you to monetize your feed. Including advertising directly in your feed allows you to publish full feeds without the need to drag people to your website, because PARTIAL FEEDS SUCK!

I like to use the Feed Footer Plugin,  it allows you to have 10 sequential messages, and one  gets inserted in the bottom of each post. I allow people the option to purchase just an RSS advertisement, or bundle it with any of the banner ads, but that’s up to you. I also put the word “advertisement” in front, so we don’t blur the editorial line. It’s really easy to enter ads here’s an example:

422009_21059-pm

That’s all there is too it no monkeying with the code. You could also use Joost de Valk’s feed footer plugin. While it only lets you put in one message it gives you the option of putting it first or last and adding links back to your post.

As far as advertisers are concerned I think a monthly “thanks to our sponsors” post is a really good idea. First it puts the sponsors right in front of the audience, second it let’s your readers know that you are accepting advertising. While they may not be advertisers, they may know someone who is. Once a month is often enough people see it and remember it, but not often enough that it becomes annoying.

Pricing your advertising on your blog requires some experimentation. Try to find a comparable blog, traffic and influence wise, and see what they are charging. If you can’t find one pick a price, if you get inquiries but they never sign up chances are you’re too high. if your inventory is always sold, you are too low. If most of your ads are sold with one or two openings, and you probably hit the sweet spot. I like to offer discounts to people who are willing to pre-pay for 3 or 6 month periods.

The hardest part is probably getting your first advertiser signed up. That why I added a line under my ads that says “Find out how you can advertise here” and I also put it in the monthly sponsor thank you post. Lastly if you don’t have any ads sold put up one or two “place holder” ads. You could make them affiliate links so you have some ability to monetize, also creating a “want to see your ad here” graphic is also helpful.

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