Lee Heidel

Website Advertising Strategies

If you're a writer or publisher looking to monetize a website or blog, advertising is a natural fit. With services like Google Adsense and affiliate programs from companies like Amazon, it's easy to get professional looking ads running quickly. 

Ten Years of Google Adsense

Ten years into its existence, Adsense is still the biggest player in the personal publishing advertising space. It relies on the content surrounding the ad as well as a user's personal browsing history to send targeted ads that (hopefully) turn into clicks and commissions for the site owner. More clicks = more revenue. If you have highly targeted and specialized content on your site for high dollar advertising words, that equals even more revenue. 

This realization led to many spammy blogs in the mid 2000s on healthcare topics (like specific cancer drugs) and a firesale of good websites that created solid content and earned those advertising dollars legitimately (like PVRBlog). With the ubiquity of these ads in today's web, it's hard to make them stand out. So, some publishers are turning to extreme measures to make sure their ads are seen, often at the expense of their content.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to check out an article on 3D printing technology. When I opened the link, my first instinct was that I had been duped by a phishing scam. Everything about the web page looked spammy and it took a solid 20 seconds for me to find the article. 32.3% of the initial screen load is absorbed by advertising. The featured article is 614 pixels from the top of the screen and takes up only 11% of the screen, with no text other than the headline.

too many ads

In fairness to the source site, I've blurred out their logo and tagline because I know it's tough out there for independent publishers. I write for several niche sites myself and realize that you're lucky if Adsense dollars cover a month's hosting bills. But is this the only option? Plastering your site with ads and making your content - the truly valuable part of your website - an afterthought?

Read on for some of our most popular ideas on how to monetize your website.

Option 1: Other Ad Networks
Adsense is the 800 pound gorilla; but it's not the only choice. Search out niche advertising networks specific to your content area. They may be able to leverage better payout deals because of the specialization of their focus. Or, if your site has a large enough following, there are larger networks that can help expose your brand and work on your behalf to sell ads almost like having your own sales team.

Option 2: Sponsorships
Compare this to a local running event. There is often a "title sponsor", a company whose name appears as top billing above the event name on the promotional materials. For example, if you are a music blogger, reach out to a local festival, record store or promotions team for a sponsorship. Give them more ad space, custom ad units or the occasional featured post in exchange for cash. Another example would be for a website about office productivity to partner with a software company launching a new app for a special run of ads. These sponsorships would usually be temporary - but it is less time intensive to find one big advertiser than following leads for lots of smaller buys.

Option 3: Associate/Commission Programs
If you write about products like books, music, movies or other items that can be purchased, referral programs are an excellent source of revenue. Big websites like Amazon excel in this space; but there are broader based programs and niche sites as well. Just write your content like usual and then link to a location to buy the product using your referral code. It's a service for your users as well as your pocketbook.

Today's readers are savvy - but you should still be up front about disclosing anything that may be revenue generating with a small disclaimer. That way, you're able to create some distinction between your independence and credibility as a writer with the financial realities of running your own website.