Selling Advertising; Not Adsense

There are essentially two options when it comes to monetizing on the presence of your site through advertising; affiliate/partnership programs and direct media buys.

Most website owners opt for affiliate programs to fill their site space up with advertising. WSM has featured in a previous web log post the Top 50 affiliate resources and its a good place to start to locate affiliate solutions. The reason that most website owners sign up for affiliate or partner programs is that it removes the administrative and sales work that selling advertising directly requires.

If you feel you have outgrown affiliate programs let's concentrate on helping you sell your advertising space directly. What does an advertiser want to know before they sign on the dotted line to advertise on your site? Information, information and yes, more information.

Before approaching potential media buyers to advertise on your site it is imperative that you gather as much information about your site, its opportunities and potential as you can. If you are serious about selling advertising on your website, you need to develop both an online and offline Media Kit. The bigger your site, the more information you need to gather and include in this media kit which explains why your site is more of an optimum location to advertise that anywhere else. Media kits for Web-based businesses typically include information about your company, its position within its industry or category of business and well as data - the all important data.

What data should you include in your media kit?

Unique Visitors : Number of unique visitors to your site.
There is a lot of debate about what is more important to an advertiser - 1000 regular users or one hundred thousand one time visitors. As someone who buys online advertising regularly it is hard to say but I would probably prefer the 1000 regular users as it would give me an opportunity to convey the essence of my brand more clearly over a period of time and pick up a few one-timers over time as well.

Impressions : The number of times an ad is seen over a set period of time.
Impressions are key in online media buying. Content networks are best suited to selling advertising because they generate more impressions that a site which features only a handful of pages which sell corporate or business services. Impressions are important for advertisers because their ad will be seen more often and important to site owners (if selling on a CPM - cost per thousand impressions basis) because they can sell advertising at a higher rate.

Site Demographics : Information about your site visitors and users.
If you plan on selling advertising it is essential that you provide demographics about your users. Demographics include average age of visitor, percentage of males/females etc, geographic location, income level, and any information which reveals the mindset of users (psychographics). Simply stated - the more information the better.

Cost of Advertising :
Advertisers will obviously want to know how much an ad on your site costs and you should want to tell them. It's tricky developing a rate structure that appeals to both advertisers and your bottom line. While it's important to be competitive in your pricing, it's even more important that you have clearly expressed the benefits of you site. If you are confident that you can get what you are asking for, then proceed. If not, remember that you can always raise the rates, but you diminish the appearance of value when you reduce the rates. So, start with low rates and increase them over time.

Contacting Prospects
When it comes to selling advertising, some people have it and some people do not. The best method to contact a client is to start with your existing affiliations and move on to prospecting search engines or directories for companies that may be interested in your site. The best first contact will always come from a direct phone call, followed by an email.

There are companies on the web however who will act on your behalf and find you a customer in exchange for a fee or a percentage of a sale, but these solutions are typically best suited for larger, more established websites. If you have the resources to hire a ad sales team, it really is best and will produce the best results. If you do not have resources immediately available, make advertising information readily available on your site - you may surprised at the inquiries you receive.

Until advertising sales really start taking off, many website owners utilize a combination of house ads and affiliate links which gives the impression that advertisers have noticed the value of advertising on your site which (if all goes well) will be the same for your advertising prospects.

Ad Selling Summation:
The buying and selling of advertising is big business. If you are interested in monetizing on your website and its traffic, there is not better way to do so that selling space on it directly to interested prospects. It's a hard road so be prepared, work smart, be honest with advertisers and clearly express the benefits of advertising on your site at every opportunity.