Make Money Blogging: Advertising Networks

[This is a part of the Make Money Blogging Series.]

A very close cousin of using direct advertising sales is the advertising networks that many bloggers opt to use instead of doing it themselves.

On the outside it looks nearly the same as the direct advertising sales model since it’s trading space (and other options) on your blog for advertising, but behind all that is a different beast altogether and the differences can be considerable.

Essentially an advertising network is an organization or service that connects advertisers to bloggers who want to sell advertising space.

Some people think of it as simply being the relational arm of your inventory so that you don’t have to go searching for buyers for your advertising spots and so that you do not necessarily have to spend the time, energy, and know-how to market yourself and your blog. This can be a good and bad thing, naturally.

Here are a list of things to consider as well as some examples of well-known advertising networks:

The Advantages:

The advantages of using an advertising network to supply advertising and to fill advertising spots on your blog are extensive and definitely worth considering.

Here are a few:

  • A blogger has the opportunity to “set and forget” their blogs and essentially establish the spots on their blog to be automatically populated.
  • A blogger has the opportunity to save a lot of time since the level of automation can be near 100% enabling the blogger to do what bloggers do best: Write.
  • A blogger has the expanded reach into a wide array of advertising dollars and businesses, some of which would never have known of their blog before entering into the network’s ecosystem. The possibility of selling stock can go up when done well.
  • A blogger can save time providing justification for buys (in the form of marketing pdfs, landing pages) since some of the advertising networks provide metrics and statistics based on the site’s usage and traffic automatically.
  • A blogger can save the end buyer tons of time too since the path of purchase is so darn easy and simple; no need to manage or create an ecommerce system, invoicing, and follow-up.
  • A blogger can also save time since reporting, metrics, and return on investments per clicks, per impressions, and per time can be calculated on the fly for a few of these ad network systems.
  • A blogger doesn’t have to manage disputes nearly as often since the buyer works through the stipulations and program of the ad network.

The bottom line here is the overhead time, energy, and cost of managing your own advertising; you essentially give the keys to someone else and save yourself a lot of potential hassle.

The Disadvantages:

The disadvantages should also be considered since there’s a definite cost associated with using an advertising network. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Some will take a certain amount of money off the top as a service fee. This can range from as little as a few dollars up to 50% of the purchase price.
  • You will lose a bit of creative freedom in terms of the display of ads.
  • You will lose a bit of control as it relates to the type of ads displayed as well as the quality of advertising displayed.
  • Some ad networks require your 100% usage or dismissal from the network.
  • You are ultimately subject to the rules and regulations of the ad network, their affiliate partners, as well as the organizations that purchase stock through their system.
  • Some of the software may require a bit of technical knowledge to setup correctly on your blog.
  • Some of the scripts and software that is required to serve the advertisements are “heavy” and even “bloated,” thus lowering load-time and impacting the end-user’s experience with your content and site. Some scripts and code will also compete with your blog’s code and produce errors unintentionally.
  • The business and performance models of each network can vary dramatically as some use on a per time, per impression, per click, per action, and more. You may have a preferable method that may simply not be available.

The bottom line here is that you ultimately lose a bit (or a lot) of control of your advertising, from all angles, as well as money that you could keep if you choose the direct advertising sales route. Sometimes you will be forced to show ads that you are simply not comfortable with, for whatever reason, and denial will have you removed from the network.

Whether or not all of this is a valued trade-off based on the time required to manage your ads yourself is entirely up to you, the individual blogger.

Types of Ad Networks with Examples:

At one point there were only a handful of advertising networks to choose from and the rate of return for a blogger were quite large.

More than a handful of well-known ProBloggers made their jump into the professional space through some of these larger ones earlier on and then had to later diversify as the returns dropped.

But they continue to grow in both options, technology, and delivery.

1. Large Open Networks – Google Adsense

Google Adsense is one of the grandfathers of advertising networks. You can get started quickly and throw up your first advertising within a few minutes.

The challenge, though, is that “performancing” or optimizing your return for this takes time, practice, strategy, and a bit of luck. We’ll go through some of these later on, but for now I’d recommend signing up, experimenting a bit (carefully), and see what you find.

These are “Open Networks” and have huge inventories (too many to list), tons of business partnerships and relationships, and can result in some large returns (if done well). It can also showcase some sites, content, and advertising that you may not feel comfortable displaying.

So tread carefully.

Some other examples (and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands) are Kontera, Text-Link-Ads, adBrite, Chitika, and DoubleClick.

The number of large networks is immense. You can literally pick and choose the ones you want to be a part of. The more research and due diligence spent here the higher returns, guaranteed.

So pick carefully!

2. Niche, Focused Networks – BuySellAds

BuySellAds is still considered a “newer” player in the ad network space but it’s grown quite large and has proven to be quite successful and is a great example of a niche marketplace.

The networks are typically much smaller but, again, that’s because it’s a much more focused marketplace, and in the case of BSA, their target is the creative space, especially for the web designers and web developers.

Sometimes these niche and focused marketplaces can be a bit more ‘closed’ to new applicants. For example, in BSA, most sites need to have some considerable traffic to be accepted into the system (with just cause) and that keeps the quality of the offerings high, prices competitive, and return on investment healthy for the end buyer.

BSA has been so successful that they’ve branched out into even more niche networks, especially the Christian, Church, and Non Profit space with BeaconAds.com:

Beacon is essentially a white-labeled version of BuySellAds and serves the Christian website market. I see value as well as a significant challenge for bloggers but I’ll reserve my thoughts for a later post perhaps.

Another great example (and very large example) is Federated Media:

There network is huge and some of the blog properties that run through their system is insanely-popular. A new blogger has no shot at getting in here (unless they have a strategic “in”) but if you do you’ve essentially “made it”.

More and more niche-based advertising networks are created weekly (it seems) ranging from Mommy Bloggers (BlogHer Ads) to almost anything in between.

If you can get in, go for it. Otherwise you might want to try something smaller (or larger) without as many limitations.

3. Closed Networks – The Deck

The Deck is an example of a “Closed Network” which means that they both manage and curate the listings of properties which they serve ads on depending on their internal metrics and quality control.

You don’t apply to get in one of these networks; they come and ask you if you want to make buttloads of cash through their system (essentially):

Sites and apps are added to the network by invitation only and are considered based on many factors including traffic, design, frequency of updates and overall appropriateness to the general target of the network.

Another few examples are Fusion Ads and CarbonAds:

And there are more that popup every day it seems. Again, if you can make it into one of these systems then you’re probably already on your way to Full Time Blogging. Or, you could just create your own network yourself.

The Bottom Line & Practical Tips:

Like most of the options for bloggers to make money this one is up to you. There are some great opportunities to make a few dollars here and there to start.

If you grow large enough this might be the only route for you as you find yourself blogging from your yacht in the east indies and can’t handle advertising emails and phone calls anymore.

Right…

But, here are some practical things to consider and think about as you dip your toe in to advertising networks:

  • Do your research. You’re the better off for it and you’ll be more successful.
  • Don’t move too soon or too fast, especially with the ‘Open Networks’ that allow anyone. Remember, because they allow anyone into the networks this can result in tragically low returns and terrible ads on your blog. You’ve already seen too many blogs littered with advertisements when you know they shouldn’t have any yet.
  • Experimenting with one or two at first is a good move. Monitoring the growth pattern (or lack thereof) will be your primary goal.
  • Ask your community if it’s offensive to them or what their thoughts are. Never hurts to ask and it could be dramatically telling of what you should do.

Finally, please review this blog post about how blogs traditionally grow and the type of attitude you need to have when it comes to blog growth. Slow and steady win the race and you’re not racing anyone to have those poor-tasting advertisements on your site!

What are your thoughts? What’s your experience been like?

[This is a part of the Make Money Blogging Series.]

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