I am frequently asked, “How can I begin to monetize my platform.” Of course, we deal with this at Platform University, but I thought I would tell you how I started.
In 2008, my friend John Saddington convinced me to convert my blog from TypePad to WordPress. It was one of the best decision I ever made.
As he was finishing up the project, he asked, “Have you ever thought about running advertising on your blog?” At the time, I was averaging about 20,000 unique visitors a month.
“No, I really haven’t,” I admitted.
“You should,” he said as though it should have been obvious to me.
Surprised, I pressed further, “You think I have enough traffic for that?”
So with that I decided to give it a go. I was soon making a couple of thousand dollars a month. After eighteen months or so, I was averaging $3,500 to $5,000 a month—not bad for something that had started out as a hobby.
I stopped accepting advertising last fall, simply because I have too many of my own products and affiliate relationships to advertise. However, I still think it is one of the best ways for people to begin monetizing their platform.
And, no, I am not talking about Google AdSense. I tried this for about a week. I hated the ugly ads. Plus, they didn’t really produce for me compared to what I am about to share with you.
Here are five steps for getting started and maximizing your advertising revenue. This assumes that you have at least 10,000 unique visitors a month. This is a somewhat arbitrary number, but it takes about this many to get prospective advertisers interested.
- Launch a reader survey. When you are selling advertising, you are selling access to an audience—your tribe. The more you know about them, the easier it is to arouse the interest of prospective advertisers.
I even published what I learned as another blog post. By the way, this information will not just help you sell advertisers, it will help you better focus your blog’s content and write more relevant posts.
- Setup an advertising page. I had a very simple advertising page that told people what to do if they were interested in advertising on my blog. This page is now obsolete since I don’t offer advertising, but I thought it would be helpful to show you a copy.
As you can see, I had the contact name and e-mail address my Advertising Director, a part-time mom to whom I paid a commission. I also had a download link for my “Advertising Kit” (see below). I had a link to this page in my main navigation. It looked like this:
I wanted people to be able to find it, so I put it first, after my about page.
- Create an “Advertising Kit.” For years I worked in marketing, so I know how marketing directors think. They try to be as metric-driven as possible, so you need to provide the specifics. I included my site traffic, site rankings, reader profile (based on the survey I had done), audience details, advertising options and rates, examples, and how they could optimize their results.
I created the kit in iWork Pages. I then saved it as a PDF:
You can download a copy of the original Pages document here. (Sorry, I don’t have a version in Word.) Feel free to borrow or modify it. I delivered this as a PDF, because usually the marketing director would need to copy it for a meeting. However, you could also deliver it on a web page.
- Signup with an advertising service. I initially inserted the ads on my own using a plugin called WP125. However, I could only use 125 x 125 pixel ads. I also had to invoice the client and collect the money, which was a pain.
Everything changed when I signed up with BuySellAds.com. They automated everything. I created the “advertising inventory” using almost any size I wanted, established the prices, and put it on auto-pilot. All I did was insert their code in my blog’s sidebar. (By the way, they have a faith-based division called BeaconAds.com)
Best of all, they collected the money up front and gave me the opportunity to approve or reject each ad. If I wanted the design of an ad modified, I could even do that.
Naturally, they take a commission (around 25%), but it was well worth it. The money they collect sits in your account until you “cash out,” which happens once a month.
- Pitch an irresistible offer. To get started, I pitched some friends I thought could benefit from access to my audience. Here was my script:
Hi [name], I have decided to begin running a limited number of ads on my blog. I think your product would be a perfect fit.
But, to be honest, I don’t know if it will be beneficial to you or not. So, here’s what I’m thinking. How about we run an ad for 30 days and then assess the results?
If it generates traffic for you, you can decide if you want to continue on a paid basis. If not, no problem. We’ll pull the ad and still be friends. What do you think?”
The big advantage for you is that you don’t have a bunch of blank ads on your page, which translates to advertisers as “no one wants to advertise on this blog.” By putting some ads up, even if they are not generating money yet, you create the impression that your space is valuable because others are adverting.
I would always leave one blank advertising spot, so it looked like I had some inventory available. This would promote click-throughs and inquiries.
Obviously, you can adjust your prices as your demand increases. Don’t get greedy or too far ahead of the market. I found that I could adjust my prices upward about every six months. I let people know I was going to do this, so they had an incentive to lock in on a rate by purchasing multiple months.
Advertising is only one of many ways to monetize your platform, but, relatively speaking, it is one of the easiest, particularly if you have the traffic to make it attractive.