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5 Recommendations For Small Bloggers (Less than 10K Pageviews Per Month) Looking To Monetize

5 Recommendations For Small Bloggers (Less than 10K Pageviews Per Month) Looking To Monetize

I’ve recently been posting a series on tiers in online advertising networks. Maybe you heard something about it. Over the course of writing those posts what became apparent was that there was a real need for a set of my recommendations for blog owners of varying sizes who are looking to monetize, given these new pieces of information regarding how revenue is affected by ad inventory, traffic-based, and CPM tiering in networks of all kinds in the blogosphere. So I’m going to start posting some thoughts for you guys and putting them here, take them or leave them . . . bear in mind that these are ideas for people who are specifically trying to grow their blogs into businesses and/or attach them to businesses (e.g. using them to market some other form of business), rather than people who specifically blog for fun or “community.” I have personal thoughts on the use of ads for those kinds of blogs as well, but that’s not really the point of this blog, so if you want to know about my unsolicited advice in those cases, you can email me and I’ll happily unleash a torrent of verbal diarrhea on you. UPDATE: Alternative network resources for people who want to meet hosting fees, etc., but aren’t necessarily professional bloggers: check out these lists here and here (ignore the first ad network name, though), and also check out Project Wonderful (hat tip: Maria Melee).

  1. Running Network Ads Are Not Worth It At This Stage.

    If you are currently at a traffic level less than 10K pageviews per month, then in my opinion, putting network ads on your blog is not worth the space and the editorial guidelines with which you will have to hassle, provided your ultimate goal is to turn your blog into a business. This is for a couple of different reasons: (1) your blog sidebar real estate’s value and (2) the value of gaining experience in selling ads and growing a list of blog advertisement sales leads. Some people are tempted to put network ads on their blogs at this stage to lend your blog credibility to outside observers. I have done this myself, and I do think there was a time in which this was a valid move to make. I think that time has passed, and here’s why: it is comparatively easy to get into a blog advertising network these days. It may still be difficult to be accepted into certain networks (cough — Federated Media — cough), but many networks will let you in once somebody drops out, and there are few quality control guidelines barring people from entry. Therefore, you are not getting any kind of professional stamp of approval anymore by running a network-affiliated ad on your blog they way you might have done at one point.

    More importantly, you are going to get a lot more money and a lot more valuable experience by going out and convincing a small business to buy a sidebar ad from you. All you have to do, at this traffic level, is convince a small online business to buy one sidebar ad for $25 a month to beat a BlogHer ad contract, and they are probably the best paying network at this point, with the possible exception of Federated Media and I’m not even completely sure about that because Federated does not have many (if any?) blogs on its network that have traffic levels taht low. So, just do it. You’re going to be in much better shape in the long run: these days, and in my opinion, a blog stands out more by exerting control over over both its editorial and its advertising content.

  2. You can’t just put up a call for advertisments and call it a day. When BlogHer first announced they were taking a bigger cut of their commissions about a year or so ago, I announced private ad sales and put up an advertising sales page. Then I forgot about it. I got some bites every now and then but no sales. This is because nobody really responds to things like that. You have to chase sales down, they don’t usually come to you. Even when you have good traffic, the sales pitches you get tend to be bad. Example, I occasionally get unsolicited ad offers in my email now, and I’ll get all excited until I realize that the people have not even looked at my media kit yet. The other day I got one from a payday loan place that was looking for advertising space. I hate payday loan places, naturally, but I directed them to my media kit anyway. The guy wrote me back, “leveling with [me]” that what he was looking for was a sponsored post, and that even a negative post about the payday loan industry would be fine, provided I didn’t malign his company specifically. I wrote him back and told him that, for $5,000, I’d be pleased to write a post about how morally abhorrent I found the payday loan industry, that disclosed a sponsorship relationship between myself and his company. And that for an additional $5,000, I’d be happy to write a post about how I’d brokered this deal between myself and his company. He never wrote back. His loss, because it would have been AWESOME product placement. But anyway, those are the kinds of unsolicited deals you get offered when you hit about 75,000 to 100,000 pageviews. At 10,000 or less, you might not get any yet. Don’t get discouraged. This hit home for me at Mom 2.0 when I heard Design Mom (300,000+ pageviews) say she kept all her solicitation emails so she could email them with ad offers. We ALL have to hunt down potential advertisers, it’s the name of the game! Look for small Etsy shops that will appeal to your readers, people that advertise on blogs you read, people that read your blog who have online shops, people you know who sell online, eBay sellers, etc. for prospects. Those are people who might be good prospects for buying your ads.
  3. Be tenacious with your advertising solicitations. If you figure that you’re going to get $20 per month from BlogHer (or a similar ad network) for running ads on a blog at this size, then you need to set about getting a sidebar ad at the price of $25 per month. The $5 extra is your commission for finding a sale, along with the experience you get in hunting down prospects. You need to work on a media kit and a pitch letter. You also need to compile a list of contacts to solicit. And then you need to keep asking places to advertise, even when they are turning you down left and right. Many, many places will turn you down. Many. Keep asking. You only need one, expect like 99% to not even return your email, that’s normal. Even if the one that finally agrees has to be begged, and it’s an ebay who is your brother-in-law, and you have to design the 125×125 button, it still counts. Because once people have seen that you got that one ad, then they’ll think about buying one at some point. you get one, then another one will be that much easier to find. And every month you do this, it will get easier and easier.
  4. Treat all of your readers like gold. This should really be true at all levels, but it’s especially true in the beginning, because many of the people who find you in the beginning are the ones who will end up being your biggest evangelists and who will shape your readership the most. I cannot emphasize this enough. The early days are the ones in which you will have the most time in which to interact with your readers and make them do your dirty work for you. I know you want tips on how to make money, but when you’re just starting out, a lot of what you can do is community building, long-term stuff. You have to be in it for the long con. Build relationships. Make friends. Build a community around your blog with people you really like. Not everybody will stay, but make sure the ones who do are people that you really like, because they will end up getting more people that you really like to show up further down the road.
  5. Think about other opportunities for monetizing. At low traffic levels, your ability to sell a display advertising opportunity is limited. However, if you can demonstrate that elusive “influence” that people are always talking about, you can do a bunch of stuff. Throw a party at a conference, and you can get tons of sponsors. Organize a an event for your real life friends with a small business sponsor, take lots of pictures, and set it up in your media kit as a sponsorship opportunity for anybody who wants to get involved. All you have to do to sell these kinds of things is convince one company to do it and boom! everyone else will think it’s a thing.

How about you guys? Suggestions from the peanut gallery?

Comments (17)

  1. May 3, 2010

    You can make absolutely decent change (equal to what you’d make on a Blog Network) with Text Link Ads and the like.

  2. May 3, 2010

    Yes, I’ve heard this.

    I think if you’re at a lower traffic level there are definitely a bunch of things like that you can get into. Link to Text Link Ads.

    You guys were talking about networks for bloggers who are not necessarily in it professionally but wanted to meet hosting fees on Twitter. I’ll put those links into the post, too, so that they’re here as well. Thanks.

  3. May 3, 2010

    I really feel that for $25 or less, bloggers should be thinking long and hard about what kind of ads they want to run anyway. I took my BlogHer ads down because I didn’t feel that an ad generally promoting big BIG brands wasn’t worth less than $20 a month. I run Juice Box Jungle because I think the widget is cute and unobtrusive. But beyond that, I agree with selling your own space. Especially because you can establish relationships with small businesses you believe in and products that resonate with you. Or, as you’ve shown, by offering ad space to other bloggers.

    TLA and LinkWorth have been okay for me. I think I make $30 a month from the combined mishmash of asinine text links on my bottom lower right sidebar. And that covers, I dunno. Something.

    I’m obviously not in it to win it.

  4. May 3, 2010

    What’s your take on affiliate programs?

    One thing about my new niche (genealogy) is that most of the companies in the market are subscription services (i.e. you subscribe to a site, and you can search their databases for info on your ancestors). They all work on affiliate programs…you run their ads for free, but if somebody clicks through and eventually subscribes (within 90-180 days, depending on the site and assuming they haven’t deleted the cookie), you get a percentage of the subscription fee. These sites costs $40-200/year, so 25% of that can be…not bad. But the traffic on genealogy blogs is much lower, so you have fewer people to sell to.

  5. May 3, 2010

    Affiliate programs can be worth it if you sell them. I’ve made some money off affiliate programs for Liquid Web, Thesis and some stuff through my Commodity Fetishism site. The way I do it is I just find stuff I like and if it happens to be offered for sale through a site that I’m signed up as an affiliate (Amazon or any of the ones in Share a Sale, LinkShare or Commission Junction) then I’ll use their link. It’s good to have a general disclosure about this in your about page that you do this, though some people are more aggro and do it on every link, I think this is kind of excessive but whatever. It’s my opinion that you’re not going to get rich off affiliate sales but then there are people who do make their living off it now, and I realized the other day that I’m making like $15 a month at this point and I’m not sure how that happened.

    So let me say this about all of these means of making money: what display ads have over all of them, DECEPTIVELY, is that they seem effortless. That’s why we all run them. They take up room in our sidebars and we don’t have to do anything. We get a tiny tiny check and have to put up with annoying editorial standards and BS, but we don’t have to think about them. The other versions of sales require more of our brain cells but FAR less of our resources and exploit us less. I think you can really make more with affiliate sales if you find the right product for you. But it’s kind of feast or famine. You might make enough in affiliate sales, for example, in one season, to pay for the whole year’s hosting fees. You aren’t necessarily going to be able to count on it to pay for hosting each month like clockwork.

  6. May 3, 2010

    Obviously I agree with this, but I’m kind of ashamed with how long and how much it took for me to realize this. And yeah, I’m pretty proud of the Featured Bloggers because that’s going to cover about half of hosting fees for me and it’s at least doing something productive for other bloggers.

  7. May 3, 2010

    Thanks for these insights, as well as the recent posts about networks. For those of us just starting out, it’s really enlightening as well as important info!

  8. May 3, 2010

    Wait—so I’m not required to disclose affiliate links on every post? I thought that was part of the new rules from [can’t think of the government agency at the moment due to massive dose of allergy meds].

  9. May 3, 2010

    No, I don’t think so, I think that’s only if you got a free product in exchange for writing a review? Somebody? Help?

  10. May 3, 2010

    Chris Brogan et al recommend that as a good idea I think just because they think then your readers won’t ever feel like they’re getting screwed, but maybe I’m wrong? I don’t know. Also, a Harvard Law Review article just argued that the FTC regulations for bloggers were unconstitutional, which means I’m not going to wait for them to go to the Supreme Court for me to start following them, because I’m a Maverick. Just like John McCain. Except, you know. Liberal. And under 100.

  11. May 3, 2010

    I realize I run the risk of cluttering my sidebars with the approach I’m taking, but I have BlogHer (x2), Savvy Source and Google skyscraper ads in addition to selling 125×125 ad blocks AND text links on my main site (I have similar set ups on my other sites without BlogHer)… I’m not paying the mortgage with it, but it brings in some decent cash and I have well under 5k page views a month.

  12. May 3, 2010

    Are you making good money with the BlogHer ones — I mean, are they paying well in comparison to the ones you are selling, when you consider the space they are taking up? Not trying to further bash BlogHer, but if it’s a differing opinion, then we should share that experience here too. I’ve only been hearing about varying degrees of BADLY diminishing returns on BlogHer ads lately. Personally, I think that the more your pageviews go up, the worse it is to run BlogHer ads right now (unless you’re PW, obviously). That’s just based on numbers I’ve been running.

  13. May 3, 2010

    I think this is all really good advice. I actually belong to BlogAds network (and I like them because they don’t care that I’m occasionally naked and I can also truly decide which ads are run on my blog and when they run). I am currently part of Google Ads, too, but really should turn that real estate over to BlogAds although I do make a significant amount from them which I know is surprising. In addition, I have one awesome paying advertiser that has been there for a very long time and keeps my dogs fed. I’m also in negotiations with another potential long-term advertiser that would mean I could give up Google entirely and not miss them.

    Like you, I get those unsolicited requests for sponsored posts all the time. They are their own brand of particularly awful.

  14. May 3, 2010

    what i like about BH ads is they are a no brainer. yes, my revenues have diminished of late, but it’s essentially free money. the restrictions mean nothing to me since i don’t violate them regardless of whether i’m running BH ads. additionally, while my text link/125 ads pay better, no advertisers have requested above the fold, so there hasn’t been a need to choose between one or the other.

  15. May 4, 2010

    I hate text-link ads. HATE Nothing I like less than reading someone’s site and seeing a link and thinking that it’s something relevant only to find that it’s an add for butt ointment, teeth whitening, snake oil, or car insurance. I’d just as soon read a blog with sidebar ads because those are pretty forthright. Anymore, I hover the pointer over links or right click them for their address info before I get duped into some irrelevant advertising.

  16. May 5, 2010

    Thanks Anna. All of your recent posts have me thinking about blog ads and about my own business promotion. I think encouraging people to sell their own ads is great advice. Do you have suggestions for blog media kits (I’ve done standard print journalism kits before, but I feel like this is a new beast) and for pricing strategies for blogs? Also, how do you approach businesses for which new media is still a new concept (or whose knowledge is limited to Facebook and Twitter)?

  17. May 8, 2010

    This thread is REALLY fascinating. I have two food blogs that I want to put advertisement. Right Now I run FoodBuzz ads but I get paid very little. I checked out your website and you do have a lot of ads but it’s unobtrusive, I thought, which is nice. I appreciate this whole post and all the comments buts I want NUMBERS. Like when you say it doesn’t pat the mortage but it pays something how much is something? Like how much can I REALLy expect to make with a blog that has less than 10K? If I run a whole sidebar full of ads can I make more than $100 can i make $1000 a month? and yes I know it’s relative but I’m just frustrated trying to figure out if it really is possible to make money.

    I want to make $1000 a month. It doesn’t seem like a huge amount. It seems like a reasonable amount, but am I being realistic since I have less than 10K visitors a month?

    Another question I have is how long should we stay with it? I stated Within the Corners of my Kitchen http://www.kitchencorners.blogspot.com (I’m not putting the link up to be obnoxious I just want you to be able to see the blog if you want to so you can help me out) 2 1/2 years ago. I’ve gotten TONS of free products. FUN. but not much moolah which is even more fun. Is 2 1/2 years a long time? should I give up hope of making money?

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