Here are five tips to help you sell more sidebar ads:
1) Make It Obvious
You know the number one reason most people don’t sell as many sidebar ads as they’d like to sell? Because they aren’t making it very obvious and conspicuous that they even offer advertising in the first place!
Most people aren’t going to take the time to dig through your site and try to figure out how to advertise on it. In fact, some people will never even realize there’s an option to advertise unless you clearly let them know you have advertising spots for sale.
Put an advertise tab in your header that links to your advertising page. This page should include details on your traffic (advertisers typically want to know pageviews and unique visitors), your demographics, a few details on your site, advertising options, advertising prices, and testimonials from former (or current) advertisers. You could do an elaborate downloadable media kit like Michael Hyatt has, or just stick with a simple page like Life as MOM has.
Whatever you do, make a compelling case for why someone should advertise on your site. Don’t be bashful; a potential advertiser needs to know clearly why advertising on your site is going to be a great thing for their business.
2) Run a Half-Priced Special
If you’re just getting started offering sidebar ads, get things off with a bang by offering a half-priced special on your sidebar advertising. Write up a post highlighting this special pricing and approach companies you’ve worked with to run giveaways in the past letting them know you are offering a limited-time advertising special.
With some effort and enthusiasm, you should be able to get at least a few advertisers to bite. And once you have a few signed up to advertise, you’ll find it’s usually easier to find more advertisers — especially if you make it obvious that you offer advertising (see point 1).
3) Offer Discount Packages
It’s great to start out with selling simple sidebar ads, but people will be much more interested in all-inclusive discounted advertising packages. For instance, instead of just selling a sidebar ad for $25 per month, offer a three-month package that includes a sidebar ad, a post write-up about the company, a giveaway from the company, and a text link in your email feed — all for the discounted price of $150 total.
If you want to take this idea a step further, put together three different package levels at three different pricing points. A potential advertiser might not want to pay for your top-tier advertising package that’s $500, but they will be more apt to go for the $150 package versus just paying $25 for a simple sidebar ad.
You can also offer discounts for advertisers who purchase three months’ or six months’ of advertising at a time. Not only will the discount appeal to them, it will save you time and effort in having to go out and secure another advertiser for that slot every month!
4) Throw in Some Extras
You know how fast food restaurants always try to upsell you? Well, you can do the same thing with your sidebar advertising — only you can do it for free! Think of other options you could throw in to seal the deal such as: a free mention of the company on Facebook, a free mention on Twitter, and/or a free mention in a blog post when they purchase a sidebar ad.
5) Keep Your Advertising Spots Filled — Even If They Aren’t Sold
Want to know one of my biggest sidebar advertising pet peeves? When people have a big blank box on the sidebar that, instead of being an ad, says “Advertise Here”.
This screams, “My advertising space isn’t valuable enough for people to want to buy so I instead have this big blank box!” That’s not the message you probably want to convey to potential advertisers.
Put the advertise tab in your header that links to your advertising information page and link to this in a small text link underneath your advertising spots, but don’t have a big blank box. If you don’t fill all your advertising spots every month, either replace the empty spots with an affiliate ad or give a free ad to a friend.
How Much Should You Charge?
How you price your advertising will depend upon many factors — your blog’s traffic, your blogging niche, where the ad will be placed, how many ad spots you are selling, and the demand. I always encourage people to start out with lowball prices and gradually move up from there.
Advertising is usually priced per thousand pageviews (CPM), so I suggest starting with $0.50 – $1 per thousand pageviews and working up from there. This means that if your blog currently gets 10,000 pageviews per month, you could start out charging something like $10 per month for a small 250×250 sidebar ad that is located near the middle of your sidebar or higher. As your traffic increases and the demand for sidebar advertising increases, you can slowly raise this price.
I’d suggest selling no more than six to eight sidebar ads maximum. If you have too many ads running, their value decreases. It’s easier for you and better for the advertiser if you have a few higher-paying, larger ads on the sidebar than a bunch of small ads all over the place.