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How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Tips for Selling More Sidebar Ads

Last week, we talked about how to maximize your affiliate earnings. Today, we’re delving into a another way to make money blogging — by selling sidebar ads.

While selling sidebar ads yourself does require more work and effort, it can really pay off in the long run. Plus, it’s a great option for blogs in every genre. And if you don’t want to use an advertising network because you don’t have as much control over the ads they run (we’ll talk more about advertising networks soon), selling sidebar ads yourself allows you to have complete control over what is running on your blog at all times.

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.

If you’ve sold advertising on your blog, I’d love to hear what has and hasn’t worked for you.

photo credit

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  • Great tips!! I prefer not to use ad networks if I can help it. So many of them have contracts, which can really hurt later on when you would rather move on to something else.

  • I followed Crystal’s idea for doing a half-price sale. It ends tomorrow! I’m in the process of migrating from Blogger to WordPress as well (should be done in the next couple of days), so the new site will have an ad grid. 🙂

  • Heather Short says:

    so I am just wondering, if you have google addsense, and other adds running on you site, do you end up having to pay taxes on the revenue on what you bring in on that. Do you proclaim your self as as self run business : I realize it depends on the amount you bring in, but I don’t know what that amount is, nor do I know how you would claim that income. I am getting ready to start a small blog and this type of info would be extremely helpful to me, if you can help me, thank you so much 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      All income from blogging — no matter where it comes from or how much it is — must be declared as income on your taxes. However, when you are running a blogging business, you can also take deductions for all business-related expenses, too.

      You can either set up your blog as a sole proprietorship, or form a business entity such as an LLC. I’d recommend starting with a sole proprietorship in most cases. If you have a sole proprietorship, recommend setting up a separate checking account, for all blogging income to be put into in order to keep money separate.

  • Thanks for the advice, Crystal! I need to remove my “ad here” blank spot…I guess I’ve known it was tacky, and now that’s been confirmed! 😉

    One thing I did as I was getting started with advertisers was to contact a couple of friends/businesses I thought would be a good fit and offer a set amount of free advertising in exchange for helping me learn the ropes (getting an advertising agreement together, etc).

    And no baby yet…but all prayers appreciated! 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Great idea on offering free advertising to get things off the ground!

      I prayed for you this morning — for patience and for Baby to come quickly!

  • Laurie says:

    Thank you! After getting back from SBSummit this was on my list of to-dos, but I really didn’t have a clear idea of how much to ask for (to be honest, I still can’t imagine advertisers would pay to be in my sidebar!) Thanks so much for giving specific ideas ideas on prices, as well as pageviews for month . . . I’m hoping to implement these ideas in the next month!

  • These are amazing tips. I have a question though and I hope I don’t sound too stupid but what is the difference between a text link ad in a RSS feed and a post write up. Wouldn’t they both be post write ups of some sort?

    Thanks again Crystal.

    • Crystal says:

      The RSS feed would only show up to people who are subscribed to your RSS feed. There are plugins in WordPress to add this and you could set it so that it is at the bottom of every single post for a month.

      A post write-up would be a more in-depth post on the company that everyone would be able to read — whether they subscribe to your RSS or not.

      I hope that helps clarify!

  • Sounds like I followed all of your advice without even knowing it! I went a few months trying to get people to sign up for advertising on my site. Finally, I ran a giveaway of sorts. Low cost advertising ($10 a month) and facebook shout outs. I had quite a few bites! And for the first month, I had advertisers!

    That month, I was not very confident that sticking their ad in my sidebar would be enough though. I wasn’t convinced of my worth/value at that point. So I threw a giveaway in my sponsors honor to help them boost their facebook #’s. Several of them loved the success so much they immediately signed up for the next month, and the next month and the next month.

    I recently raised my price (still less than the $0.50 – $1 per thousand pageviews though, I guess I still don’t value my worth that much!) and lost a few of those initial advertisers, but they were all very nice about it (in fact many of them mentioned I probably should be charging much more)! I quickly filled the spots with new advertisers and I still do my sponsor appreciation giveaways.

    The set up works well for me. I have to admit though, I worry every month that I won’t get those spots filled!

  • Ashleigh says:

    This is wonderful! Thanks for this write up. I have been wondering how much to charge, etc, just because I have no idea!! Thank you for this straightforward post with numbers!
    I also love how you take time to reply to reader comments. That’s huge.
    In regards to setting up your blog as a sole proprietorship (saw that comment above), how do you go about doing that?

  • I’m still looking for my first advertiser; however, I think I will be able to get one in the next few months.

  • Ana says:

    Crystal, thank you for the useful info and link to the Michael’s blog, I’ve found some interesting stuff there too, his article on saying ‘no’ is just great.
    If you have a new blog and low number of visitors/readers, how long should you wait before trying to sell ads?

    • Crystal says:

      If you’re just getting started blogging, I’d say to focus on building up your blog for three to six months before branching out and trying to sell sidebar ads.

      Love Michael’s blog; it’s packed with helpful information, isn’t it?!

      • Ana says:

        Yep, instead of decluttering my house I am reading Michael’s blog :).

        Thank you, Crystal. One more question:
        Should I invest money into my blog from the beginning or just wait?
        (For example, should I pay the host, pay for the theme and blog design or should I just stick to free options at the beginning?)

        • Crystal says:

          I think that’s one of those things that you have to decide what you feel best about and what your longterm plans are. I started on Blogger with a free template and just upgraded as I could afford it.

          This is usually how I encourage people to operate their businesses. However, it does make it challenging when you have to move from Blogger to WordPress, etc. Unless you have a nice chunk of extra money in savings that you can invest for the upfront costs of hiring a designer, setting up your blog on WordPress, etc., I’d say to just upgrade as you can afford it with your business earnings.

    • Great question Ana, I was just getting ready to ask it myself. My blog is only 3 weeks old so I need to continue to focus my energy on building readership and improving my content.

      @ Crystal – Thanks again for this series, it is absolutely fabulous!

    • Ana, I thought I would just chime in…my blog is now just over a year old and I just now started accepting private advertisers. I could have done it earlier, but I guess I didn’t really know how. 🙂

  • Actually, I thought of a question. Let’s say you have a newer blog that is getting off the ground but you think there would be some advertisers attracted to it because the Google searches are increasing quickly. What do you suggest an advertising rate for a new blog? Or should a person wait until they have a certain number of views a month before advertising from private advertisers?

    • Crystal says:

      If you’ve gotten yourself established as a blogger (I’d say this typically takes 3-6 months), then go for it! And go with the same advertising rate I mentioned in the post of $0.50 to $1 per thousand pageviews.

  • Tracy says:

    This information came at the perfect time!!! Thanks so much Crystal.

  • This was a very timely post for me, Crystal! I’m just about done moving from Blogger to WordPress and now that I have more control, feel that I’m ready for paid advertising. I just wasn’t sure how to price it, so you’ve given me some concrete numbers to work with. Thanks so much!

  • Thanks for these great tips, Crystal! My favorite tip is about offering discount packages. I’ve never thought of that before and it sounds like a great idea! I will have to work on putting some packages like this together. Thanks again!

  • Jessica says:

    Thanks for the nod. 🙂 Another thing I would add would be to respond to pitches from brands with your media kit or an offer for advertising. Even if they settle for a giveaway, you’re making your options more widely known for future campaigns they might do and getting more practice at bouncing pitches back.

  • Heather says:

    Thanks so much for the informative posts–so helpful! I just created an advertising page and started a sale last week. Would love for any of you other blogger who are interested in trading ads or advertising with me to check out my sale.
    Thanks so much!

  • Lynn says:

    My question isn’t really about advertising as much about basic blogging, but you all seem so knowledgable I am hoping you can help me. I have taken over a very basic blog for a small local charitable org. This is more informative and the goal is not to have it be a money maker. That said, it is set up through WordPress and I am able to do the very basic things. But all the other set up – well, I am overwhelmed. I don’t even have a handle on terminology! Anyway, does anyone out there who utilizes WordPress have a book they recommend that would help me get up to speed? I normally consider myself quite tech savvy, but wow, I am apparently starting to show my age!!!

    • Ana says:

      WordPress for Dummies and Professional Blogging for Dummies :), although I’ve found lots of useful info on blogs and forums just by googling.

  • meghan says:

    Hi Crystal!
    I have a question that I am hoping you or another blogger can answer!! 🙂

    It’s related to blogging, but not to ad space.

    I just (finally!) got around to buying my own domain name in blogger… and suddenly my stats (in blogger) have plummeted. I don’t know what the issue is and I know my old url is redirecting to my new one. I think the views are still there, they just aren’t being tracked.

    Has anyone had this issue or know how to fix it?
    Thanks! I’ve really enjoyed this series on blogging!

  • Alison says:

    I have Blogger, am I able to place custom ads on my blog? I’m still learning and not sure how to do this quite yet though I would like to and have some businesses in mind that would be happy to.

    ~ Alison

  • Is there a limit to what advertisers are willing to pay for a sidebar ad? For example, if you have 40,000 page views per month, would you charge $40 for that spot, or would you still just charge $25?

    • Crystal says:

      Definitely charge more if your traffic is higher!

      However, I’d say that once you get to one million pageviews/month, you probably will need to start charging less than $1 per CPM for small sidebar ads. For instance, I average somewhere between 4 to 5 million pageviews/month right now and charge $500/month per sidebar ad. That price works well and I rarely have trouble filling all the spots (typically, there’s a waiting list). It’s only $0.08 to $0.10 per CPM, but I feel like it’s a good price for the value.

      You can make more per CPM with by going with an ad network, since they pay you per CPM, regardless of how much traffic you have. We’ll talk more about that this coming week.

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