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Selling Ad Space: Tips from Top Design Blog Owners

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The sale of ads is one of the primary sources of revenue for blogs, allowing the owners to continually pump out great content by covering the time required to maintain their websites. It also gives a platform for companies to promote their products and services to specific niches, delivering great results. In this post the owners of some of the top design blogs share their experiences of selling ad space, give advice on the tools they use and share an insight into their best performing ads. Todd Garland from the awesome BuySellAds marketplace also offers his advice to anyone looking to buy ads to generate exposure or sales, helping you achieve the best return on investment.

Collis Ta’eed / Skellie

TutsPlus

TutsPlus

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

Like many sites in the creative niche, BuySellAds is our service of choice. We’ve been with Todd, who is the CEO of BuySellAds, since the early days of the service, and we’ve grown together. For companies with more formal procedures for purchasing ads (requiring contracts, invoices, reporting, et al) I handle the arrangement privately. These advertisers generally need a more ‘hands-on’ style of ad management and want to be dealing directly with someone at your company.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

Experimentation and testing is key. We’re always trying out new ad blocks, sizes, positions and prices. As a publisher, the worst thing you can do is let your ad offerings stagnate. If your advertising structure is stale, viewers and advertisers will treat it as such.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

In practice, we try to minimize ‘cold-calling’ potential advertisers – since we don’t want to be seen as doing anything spammy. Most commonly someone will contact us about promotion – wanting a link, or to sponsor something – and we’ll suggest that they advertise. Because they’ve freely opted in to a business discussion with us, success rates are quite high.

I think this strategy works because Tuts+ is already very well-known in the industry, so we don’t often need to make our existence known. If we were just starting out with a small audience, I would definitely be the putting word out about us and what we could offer advertisers.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

The leaderboard banner on our biggest site, Psdtuts+. Offering large ad spots on a high traffic property will always help you attract high quality advertisers, and we’ve enjoyed working with Adobe in that space.

Jacob Gube

Six Revisions

Jacob Gube

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

I use BuySellAds for all my banner advertisements on Six Revisions. Prior to that, I did direct ad sales which was very ineffective and time-consuming; dealing with finding sponsors and managing ads took a lot of time that I could have used in focusing on the site’s content creation. With BuySellAds, you just set it and forget it. Todd Garland, the founder of the service, will work with you and will proactively look for site sponsors for you; so it’s like having an ad sales team working with you so that you can just focus on creating content on your site.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

To decide pricing structures, I typically look at other sites that have comparable readership size and determine it that way; but in case people are wondering, I don’t have an empirical way of figuring out how much ads should cost. I mostly rely on Todd to tell me if the price is unrealistic and hard to sell, or if it’s too low.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

I no longer have to contact advertisers. I do, however, get a lot of inquiries and that’s when I provide them information about advertising on Six Revisions.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

Right now, Six Revisions has three types of side banner ads, all in the sidebar. Of course, the higher and bigger it is on the page, the better it performs (and the ad rates are reflective of that disparity in performance).

Henry Jones

Web Design Ledger

Web Designer Ledger

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

We are using Buy Sell Ads and Google Adsense.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

I always look at what other sites are charging, and Todd Garland from BSA is always there to offer pricing advice.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

I wouldn’t say actively, but we have contacted advertisers directly in order to sell empty spots.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

The ad for The Best Designs is the best performing. Despite it only being a 125 x 125 banner it is up there with the larger ads on the site in terms of CTR.

Fabio Sasso

Abduzeedo

Fabio Sasso

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

Buysellads.com and Adsense

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

It was based on the traffic, but I talked to other site owners Todd Garland of buysellads helped me with that as well

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

No, I’m really terrible at that.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

The 250×200 pixels ads are the best performing.

Grant Friedman

Colorburned

Grant Friedman

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

I use Buy Sell Ads to manage my banner ads but I also have several other options to sponsor my website including text link ads, reviews, giveaways, and sponsored articles.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

My pricing structure was derived partially by trial and error and partially by taking a look at other websites that have about the same traffic as mine. I also try to take into account supply and demand when it comes to text link ads, reviews, and giveaways. For instance, if I receive a lot of requests for text links I have to raise prices because I don’t want my sidebar to be overly cluttered. Conversely if my sidebar is looking a little bare, I lower prices to woo potential sponsors.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

I do my best to actively recruit sponsors. As time has gone by however I have found that many sponsors come to me; which is great.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

Most of the banner ads on my site perform rather well. I’ve found that it mostly depends on the graphic. Designers seem to love clicking on cool looking graphics but in terms of click throughs, my big 270 x 180 and my 570 x 100 Above post ads do really well.

Steven Snell

Vandely Design

Steven Snell

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

I use BuySellAds. I have also managed ad space manually, but with multiple websites it is much easier to use BSA. I highly recommend them for any blog or website in the design/development niche, Todd does a great job.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

Mostly on inventory and renewals. If all of my ad spots are filled up and no one cancels in a very long time, most likely they’re priced low. Like anything else, ad spots are only worth what someone is willing to pay. So I try to gauge prices according to how the ad spots are selling and if advertisers are renewing or canceling rather than comparing my prices to other sites.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

I did when I first stated selling ads on my site and it worked very well. I contacted people/companies who would be a good fit and who were already advertising on other similar sites. I briefly told them my stats and prices and had a very good response. Now I rarely contact potential advertisers directly. If I have a new spot open up sometimes I’ll go back through a folder in my inbox for advertising inquiries and email some people who had contacted me when nothing was available.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

The best performing ad on both Vandelay Design and Designm.ag are the ads above the content.

Joost de Valk

Yoast

Joost de Valk

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

BuySellAds.com :)

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

Started of at $125 a month and gradually raised based on demand.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

Nope, but BuySellAds does, and they do contact people directly.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

Currently the ad for VideoPress.

Tom Ross

PSDFan

Tom Ross

  • Website: PSDFAN.com
  • Twitter: @psdfan
  • Average Monthly Pageviews: 400,000 – 500,000

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

BuySellAds!

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

I mixture of looking at the competition, and past/current response to my pricing by my advertisers.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

I did do this initially to help fill up the empty spots early on. Now I just focus on growing my traffic, average pageviews and community.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

It’s actually the 600X90 banner beneath my posts (above comments), although this is likely due to the ads subject matter. This is followed closely by the 600X90 banner near the top of the site.

Shawn Rubel

Eezy network

Shawn Rubel

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

To manage ads on our network we have a custom ad manager built into the backend of our sites that we use to manage our advertisers that advertise with us directly. We’ve also been using BuySellAds.com to start managing our outside sales and it has been working out very well.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

There were many things we had to consider when we set our pricing. Our goal has always been to provide value to our advertisers. We first looked at websites that had similar traffic stats to ours and checked to see how much they were charging. It was important to us to keep our prices low enough to attract new advertisers while still providing value. Another thing we had to consider was user engagement. Because our content is free, users typically just come pick up a few freebies and leave. This makes our site less attractive to advertisers which was another reason why we had to keep our prices low. Right now our lowest ad rates are less than .10/CPM which is well below the average market price for sites with our similar demographic and traffic stats.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

We did this when we first launched back in 2006. I would email them and tell them I was looking for “Sponsorship” and give them my traffic stats. We had some luck with this, but the majority of our advertisers found us. It was a long and slow process to get to where we are today, but the majority of our advertisers have suck with us because we’ve kept our prices low and our traffic volume is high.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

We can not disclose which exact ads receive the highest CTR on our network but, I can tell you that any ads that offer ‘Premium”‘ content that is similar to ours always does well. We’ve also found that the 300×250 Medium Rectangle and 728×90 Leaderboard Sizes receive the higher CTR.

Franz Jeitz

Fudge Graphics

Franz Jeitz

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

I use both BuySellAds.com and Google Adsense.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

Through comparison with other design blogs having similar stats to fudgegraphics. Mathematically it works out to be roughly pageviews (in 1000) divided 2 is equal the monthly cost for a 125×125 ad spot in the sidebar.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

Yes, every month or two I contact a bunch of potential advertisers to make them aware that they can advertise on fudgegraphics. I also occasionally send out a tweet to inform my followers of available ad spaces.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

The main banner at the top of each post is the best performing ad when it comes to CTR.

Chris Coyier

CSS Tricks

Chris Coyier

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

I exclusively use BuySellAds.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

I just started out really low and went up from there. My current strategy is to put the prices at a level that are underneath what other blogs in my similar niche are charging for similar traffic. I prefer to keep a full rack of ads with a backlog of demand rather than put prices high and see unsold ads. Having income be consistent is important to me.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

I never have. I think it’s probably a good idea in general, to build relationships that way. I just have never had to so far.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

Strangly enough, it’s 390×200 ad way down in the sidebar. It has the highest number of clicks and highest click through rate of any ads on the site. They are all pretty decent/average, but this one has the slight edge, which you wouldn’t expect for being further down the page.

David Leggett

Tutorial9

David Leggett

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

Flexibility, Email, Good Communication and BuySellAds.com

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

On Tutorial9, we try to generate enough revenue to pay as many contributors as possible. We price as needed based on expected submissions in a month, and try to work directly with as many sponsors as possible so that we can offer fair packages all around. It’s a lot of guess and check work.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

Only if we’re having trouble paying for new submissions. We really only want sponsors that our community will really connect with, and even then we like to lean towards fewer for a better viewing experience (and it also gives the sponsors a bit more exclusivity).

What is the best performing ad on your website?

That’s very hard for me to say since I never get to see conversions. We’ve had some sponsors with us for over a year now in the 125×125 blocks, so those definitely work. In regards to traffic, I’m pretty sure that our premium sponsor bar (1000×40 ad unit on the bottom of the page) is the most active unit, sometimes sending double or triple the traffic of any other ad on the page. Surprisingly, it’s a unit we’ve had very little luck selling because of it being so unconventional.

Chris Spooner

Blog.SpoonGraphics

Chris Spooner

What tools or services do you use to manage the ads on your website?

I use BuySellAds to completely manage the ads on Blog.SpoonGraphics, however I do keep a little text document to keep track of past and present advertisers for my own records.

How do you decide on your ad pricing structure?

Pricing can be one of those subjects you’re forever going back and forth on, but I eventually decided on a figure by comparing my stats and pricing to blogs of a similar size with equal traffic and subscriber stats.

Do you actively contact potential advertisers for your website?

Nope, I leave advertisers to find my sites manually via the marketplace. If I receive an email directly, I’ll often simply forward the link to my website’s marketplace listing.

What is the best performing ad on your website?

The large banner above the content is the best performing ad, even though it only displays on posts older than 2 weeks.

Ad Here

Expert advice from BuySellAd’s Todd Garland

The BuySellAds marketplace appears time and time again in this article, and has plenty more publishers throughout the design community. I asked BuySellAds owner Todd Garland if he could spare some advice for both publishers looking to sell ad space on their site, and advertisers looking to promote themselves through banner advertising:

Todd Garland

BuySellAds

Todd Garland

  • Website: BuySellAds.com
  • Twitter: @buysellads
  • Number of websites hosting ads via BSA: 1800-ish
  • Average number of impressions served each month: 175K

What tips would you offer to anyone looking to sell ad space on their site?

The best way to sell ads is to NOT sell ads. What I mean by this is don’t put ads on your site when you launch. Certainly plan for the ads in the design, but don’t launch with ads – it looks tacky and desperate. Create quality content, build up your visitors, rss subscribers, twitter followers and general website “asset”” first, and then sell ads. Then, when you start integrating ads you can better justify the interruption to your visitors. And, chances are, since your site will be large enough at this point to attract larger advertisers (i.e. not AdSense or some run of network junk from all of the crappy ad networks out there) and those larger advertisers will many times ADD value to your site. If a quality company like Freshbooks or Mailchimp is advertising on your site specifically – that’s pretty cool.

What are advertisers generally looking for when considering ad space on a particular website?

They are looking for the following (in no particular order):
- Conversions: they want results from your site. Your sites content, pricing, traffic, stats, etc. will help them figure out if they want to place a bet on your site.
- Branding: they want their ad to be on a quality site that is producing quality content, thought leadership, etc.
- Visitors: they want something to measure, and the number of visitors your site sends them is one of those metrics.
- Standard ad sizes: they do not want to create a special ad size for each and every placement, a standard ad size will help you get more advertisers.
- Breathing room: the more breathing room around their ad the more attention it will get. Surely, this isn’t the case for 125×125’s, but for most of the larger ad sizes it is a good idea to give them some breathing room.
- Mediation: This is a shameless plug. They want someone in the middle who will provide some sort of “guarantee” on the transaction and that things will be done right. Since we do good business at BuySellAds.com this is a big value-add for most Advertisers.

What advice could you offer to companies looking to promote their products or services through web advertising?

Advertising alone is not enough. It’s not the full picture, to promote your product properly and “do it right”, you really need to have a nice blend of advertising, word of mouth, and you need to be active within the communities you users frequent.

Design a quality ad. There is nothing less inspiring than an ad that just doesn’t look professional, and the difference is obvious.

Set a 3-6 month budget and stick to it. Don’t get discouraged and be agile. Be prepared to switch up your ad buy every month while you work towards finding the right placements for your product or service.

Test. Test out different landing pages, different creative’s, etc. Don’t just set it and forget it, be active with your ad buy.

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Written by Chris Spooner

Chris Spooner is a designer who loves experimenting with new web design techniques collating creative website designs. Check out Chris' design tutorials and articles at Blog.SpoonGraphics or follow his daily findings on Twitter.

  • http://www.brandensilva.com Branden Silva

    Great Article Chris. I’ve seen buysellads dominating the ad space for quite some time in the designer community.

    Their 25% cut is worth the hassle-free ads?

  • http://www.stilmagazin.com/ Andreas Grads

    Great post and insights – thank you!

    Best

    Andreas

  • http://www.online-blogger.net Indrek

    Excellent article Chris. I really enjoyed reading about how the “big dogs” do it.

    Also a clever idea to put Todds suggestions in the article. It gave me a lot to think about.

    Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.Brusheezy.com Shawn Rubel

    Excellent post Chris! Thanks for including me :)

  • http://www.pixellica.com Derek

    That’s an excellent article, Chris. It was a very good idea to ask Todd as well; The article gives several-first person perspectives, but Todd spoke from the other side of the argument, in a way.

    Thx!

  • http://www.dawghousedesignstudio.com Jan Cavan

    Great article chris!

  • http://www.cmstheme.net Yogi

    BuySellAds is the best!
    I always use BSA on all of my network sites :)

  • http://www.zeemidesign.com zeemiDesign

    You interviewed yourself…
    How cool is that ;)

    Great article with amazing information!

  • http://www.deluxetemplates.net Klodian

    Ye, BSA rocks :)

  • http://www.psdfan.com Tom Ross

    Great post Chris, it’s really interesting to get an insight into other people within the industry, as well as to receive some great tips from Todd. Thanks for including me in the post :)

  • http://btemplates.com Francisco

    Very helpful. Thank you!

  • http://www.rochelledancel.com Rochelle Dancel

    Thanks for this!

    It’s super useful to find out which ad placements and sizes have been the best performing, and blog designers can have a point of reference in the future.

  • http://iamashley.co.uk Ashley Baxter

    Very interesting read. I recently signed up to BSA for my gaming blog, but I’ve found it isn’t very optimal for the subject I blog about. As mentioned in the article, it’s more so geared towards the design/development field.

  • http://www.inspiredcss.com jason millward

    Great article – Thanks. I’m just looking to build up my blog so I can sell advertising as this article has given me some very usefull advice.

  • http://www.gregprogramming.com Greg

    Very good read. This definitely brings both expertise and perspective to displaying ads on sites. I enjoyed reading the comments on how a number of them started off managing their own ads and then giving their feedback on how this affected their time and workload

  • http://tutorialzine.com/ Martin

    A great article, Chris! Seems managing adds and finding sponsors is not voodoo magic after all.

    Loved to read what Todd had to say on the subject. Taking his advice on content first, adds later.

  • http://www.nextdayflyers.com/ Next Day Flyers

    What a great in-depth posts. A must read for any blog owners looking to monetize their websites.

  • http://www.design-drift.com Deja

    Thanks so much! I just launched my own blog and I’ve been actively researching all my advertising options. This gives great insight into what some of the big players are doing.

  • http://maxbeatty.com Max Beatty

    I’m using isocket (http://isocket.com/) on my site. I like that I can display Google Ads when no one has bought the space. When they get out of beta, I think a lot more people will use them.

  • http://buysellads.com todd

    thanks for the interview Chris, I was pleasantly surprised to see the rave reviews from our publishers – the reviews were so overwhelming it almost felt like this was one big BSA ad ;) Some additional advice: no matter what ad network you decide to use (or ad software) make sure that you are with a company that will treat you right & help you make more money (not just provide technology).

  • http://designinformer.com Design Informer

    Very helpful advice here. The interview with Todd was especially nice. It will definitely help out any beginner with getting advertisers to advertise to their site.

  • http://circleboxblog.com/ Callum Chapman

    Great article and very helpful!

  • http://creativeoverflow.net Jacques//An1ken

    Really Great Informative post you have here, Loved reading what other Authors had to say about Pricing Structures and placements.

    Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.insidethewebb.com/ Inside the Webb

    Very interesting collection of blogs, nice to see so many popular design blogs making it big though. Hopefully I can be working out of my office making money blogging soon, too…

  • http://designintheraw.com Roy Ho

    Great post! Definitely an eye-opener to see some of the big players and how they are doing it. “One day my blog will too have some traffic” lol….

  • http://www.abacuswebsoft.com.sg Serene

    This is awesome post! Wish our blog get big traffic and to have advertisers

  • http://www.loudamedia.com James Scott

    Great article. Really gives me some insight as I begin to look into launching a couple blog projects.

    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/DlibrarieD DlibrarieD

    You people really didn`t know that most of them use BSA? I think it`s like who.is this days. You want to know Ad price you go to BSA in the first place.

    Thanks for article Chris. Kind of BSA promo, but still it`s unique interview on web design blog.

  • http://www.codesublime.com Brennan

    Fantastic!

    Thanks to all of the blog owners and Todd for contributing. I love BSA. Would be willing to write a testimonial or review any time. Thanks again.

  • http://www.webdesignsouthyorkshire.com Web Design Company Sheffield

    Fascinating read!
    I didn’t realise BSA had such domination, Adsense dont really get a look in for the big boys of the blog world.
    Thanks

  • http://www.dannyfoo.com/blog Danny Foo

    An invaluable article especially with so many new bloggers asking how to monetize their blogs. :)

  • http://www.matthewpaul.com Matthew

    Very helpful info on BuySellAds. Thanks!

  • http://www.dzinepress.com Dzinepress

    i always learned from successful personalities and work with newbies for get more more more ideas. thanks for this article

  • http://twitter.com/wniizzati wniizzati

    thanks for sharing.
    great ideas on ads space
    trying to sell my ads space..

  • http://CommunitiesDNAblog.com Rolando

    this is one of my favorite articles!! thanks for such effort and sharing it!!

  • http://idaconcpts.com Damian Davila Rojas

    I’ve been using BSA for the last 3 months an I’m very glad with the service. Great insights for bloggers already using BSA and for those that don’t know how to get started (which is most of us!).

    Regarding the comment about BSA being geared mire toward design…hey I’m no designer! I blog about web analytics and online marketing. I’m a BSA user, too!

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  • http://www.usgbit.com USGBIT – web design & ecommerce

    Right after we remodel our website, part of the redesign will be adding a blog. Then we will look for some talented bloggers to work with us too.

  • http://psdho.me brum

    Thank you very much..
    This is a great article for new publishers..

  • http://freeinternationalcall.info/ Trackback – Cheap Internation Call >> How to make cheap international call

    ,..] line25.com is one interesting source of tips on this topic,..]

  • http://www.abhijit.shirsath.com Abhijit

    I have recently tried out using “branchr”

  • http://www.vectorish.com Miki

    great read chris! keep up it !

  • http://www.moxiedisplays.com Mike

    Best blog post I’ve read in a while! I noticed a lot of design blogs use BSA, didn’t realize they actually help you find advertisers!

  • http://tutsvalley.com Slobodan Kustrimovic

    Wow!

    Thanks for this Chris, very useful article :)

  • http://www.ezuca.com/ Ezuca

    This post is so informative. Thanks

  • Lazlo

    Does BuySellAds.com also work well with non-english-speaking blogs?

  • http://fanparty.ru FanParty

    Nice topic. Very helpful tutorial from great guys

  • http://webtoolfeed.com igor ovsyannykov

    Great Article! I wonder is there any other copetitors of BuySellAds.

  • http://www.incomeunlimited.biz/uk-unique.html Utility Warehouse Distributor

    Really good article chris.
    Plenty of solid information.

  • http://www.gomadnomad.com Stephen

    Awesome post. Thanks. Just added a bunch of these to my site.

  • http://touchreviews.net Ravin

    Had been looking for tips on pricing ads. This is a great post!

  • http://www.rocket55.com/ Minneapolis Web Design Guy

    Woooow, this post is chuck full of advertising advice. I know my way around sites, and SEO but one area I really want to try and get more experience in is handling actual advertising and sponsorships for companies. I’m pretty impressed that you were able to get all this feedback to make this post.