How To Sell Private Advertising

Private advertising is this blog’s biggest money maker, accounting for nearly 50% of the March 2008 income. I get many emails and comments asking me how I built up such a huge private ad income. My free eBook never addressed the subject of private advertising because I didn’t do any at the time the book was written.

Ad Networks Vs. Private Ad Sales

I had always relied on third party ad networks for the blog’s income and hadn’t seriously considered selling my own ads until the blog was redesigned.

I recommend new bloggers start with ad networks rather than trying to sell their own inventory. In the beginning, your job is to produce content and that’s hard to do when you also have to service private advertisers. Private advertisers can be a lot more demanding than an ad network like TTZ Media or Kontera. You make less money because the networks take a cut of sale, but it will allow you to stick to what you do best.

You’ll Need Some Decent Traffic

Another reason why you’ll want to stick with networks in the beginning is because you won’t have the traffic nor the branding power to take on private advertisers. How much traffic do you need? That will depend on the niche you cover and the advertisers you’re trying to target. As a general rule, I would recommend you get your traffic to at least 1000 page view per day before trying your hands at direct ad sales. This is not to say you should give up the ad networks when you start selling direct. The best solution is always a combination of the two.

If you have enough traffic, then keep the following tips in mind when you’re ready sell your advertising privately.

Automate The Sale Process

The key to successful private ad sale is to do as little work as possible. The more you automate the process, the better off you’ll be. The less time you spend on a sale means more time to blog. The big blog networks have their own ad sales team that is separate from the editorial team. You don’t have that kind of luxury. Unless you can automate your sale process, I don’t recommend doing private adverting. How do you automate ad sales?

Have a Really Good Advertise Page

Your advertise page should provide all the information an advertiser needs in order to make a buying decision. It should include some site stats plus all your available advertising options, plus prices and order links. Nothing turns off an advertiser more than having to email you to find out the price. I’m an advertiser and I have never responded to an advertise page that asked, “Email us for more information.” Just spell it all out on the advertise page and let the chips fall where they may.

It’s also a good idea to include some testimonial from past advertisers. If you don’t have any past advertisers then make sure you email your new advertisers after a month or so and ask for their feedback. Assuming it’s good, you can use that as a testimonial.

Use PayPal Subscription

PayPal Subscriptions has been one of my biggest time savers. Before, I had to send advertisers PayPal invoices every month for the ad renewal. Then I have to wait for them to pay. This blog has over 30 direct advertisers with ads coming due on different dates and keeping track of everything was a big headache.

PayPal subscription helps automate the payment and renew process. The advertiser subscribe to an ad spot and the money is taken from their PayPal account every month (or whatever billing cycle you choose), unless the subscription is canceled. This saves you time sending out invoices and saves the advertiser from losing the spot in case he forgets to renew the ad. An evil bonus to the subscription setup is often times, an advertiser will forget to cancel and end up paying for an extra month. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

Get Rid of Google AdSense

If you are seeing a lot of Google Sitematch ads on your blog, that’s a good indication that it’s time to sell your ads directly. A sitematch ad is a Google AdSense ad targeted to your site and only your site. Many advertisers will use Google as a back door to get cheap advertising on a highly prized blog.

For example, I used to send tons of “I Love Darren Rowse” ads to Problogger.net using Google Sitematch. My average cost was about $2.50 CPM, which is extremely cheap for a 300×250 spot on Problogger.net. However, the full $2.50 doesn’t go to Darren. Google needs to take their cut so Darren is left with $1.25 (assuming Google takes 50%). Darren discovered what I was doing and removed the Google ads when Problogger got redesigned.

By removing the Google ads, you stop cheap ass advertisers like me from stealing your ad space.

Do Not Have Any Blank Ad Spots

This is a mistake I see many new blogs make when trying to sell direct ads. They set up their six 125×125 buttons and every button says “Advertise Here.” Advertisers are like normal people – they never want to be the first. Like everyone else, they want to see social proof before stepping up to the plate.

I unveiled my new blog theme with every single 125×125 button sold. I accomplished this by emailing past sponsors and offering them the spot for a discounted price. I was hoping to sell out six spots but ended up selling eight. Those original eight button advertisers became the social proof for future advertisers.

If you don’t have any old sponsors to sell your ads to, then you can try offering a free ad to a well know site. This was how Fat Man Unleashed got started with private ad sales. To help fill out his ad space, he offered me a free 300×250 spot on his blog. Suddenly he was able to say, “John Chow advertises here.” Most of the ad spot on the Fat site are now sold.

A good model for bloggers selling the six 125×125 buttons is to load five buttons with affiliate deals and the last button with “Advertise Here.” The site will look like it has advertisers and the Advertise button will make it look like there is only one spot left. As orders come in, you’ll replace the affiliate buttons with the private ads.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

How much should you sell your ad space for? My rule of thumb is to at least double the eCPM rate you’re getting from Google AdSense. If a spot is making you $2.50 per 1000, then sell it for a minimum of $5.00 CPM. It would be stupid to sell it for anything less than double because that is what Google is selling it for (assuming Google takes 50%).

OIOpublisher – Tying It All Together

The easiest and most painless way to sell direct advertising is with OIOpublisher Direct. This WordPress plugin allows advertisers to order, pay for and upload their ads onto your blog. All you have to do is approve the ad and it’ll go live. It also works with PayPal subscription.

OIOpublisher is used by many well known blogs to automate their direct advertising sales so they can concentrate on the more important task of producing content. The WordPress plugin sells for $37 and allows you to use it on an unlimited number of domains. If you can’t make back the $37, then you have no business being in this business.


91 thoughts on “How To Sell Private Advertising”

  1. Azrael says:

    I’m afraid that I may have to stick to Ads network by now because I don’t have the audience yet.

    Thanks for the tip for getting rid of Adsense! One day I will do just that.

    1. Since OIOpublisher it is pretty much automated I think it’s a good choice to use it even from the beginning. If you don’t have the audience, you can fill up your spots with affiliate banners and earn some cash through that route.

      1. Robert says:

        That’s true. Even if you get lucky and get one private ad. That’s still more money that you’re making instead of getting ripped off through Google.

      2. Jacob Share says:

        You definitely should use OIO from the beginning. John’s recommendations aside, you can always set it up to default to AdSense if you have unsold inventory.

      3. Syed Balkhi says:

        Yes OIO publisher is great. You can use affiliate banners, even adsense in there and once someone claims the spots it takes away the affiliate banners.

    2. Well that’s fine, If you still can’t get rid the adsense, but just try not to concentrate on it.
      Because I spen over the years depending on adsense and just a few month before I try another ads metodh.
      Guest what? I have better income when I was looking for other alternative… :mrgreen:

    3. DeboHobo says:

      John,
      I would love to give you some free 125×125 ad space—if you are interested please email me with the details. http://debohobo.com ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

    4. Zozob Media says:

      Basically, I can’t wait to get rid of adsense too, but the hardest part would be finding advertiser. I use to get 5000 views daily, is that enough to start private advertising?

  2. Michael says:

    Great info in there. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’ve been wondering about this for quite sometime. Thanks for sharing all of your secrets with us! Again… you rock!

      :mrgreen:

  3. I just started using OIOpublisher and it is awesome. I earned back the $37 cost on my first sold ad.

    1. Robert says:

      What’s your Alexa rank/Google page rank?

      1. Alexa ranking is 72,3860 and Google PR is 1. Hoping for a better PR in Google’s next update.

        1. DeboHobo says:

          My PR is a PR4, come on over to my blog, leave a comment and you will automatically get a linkback. Because my blog is NO Follow Free! http://debohobo.com.

      2. Syed Balkhi says:

        bah I don’t really look at the google pr. If everyone starts doing that then John won’t make half of what he is making right now.

    2. Xtradosh says:

      What site are you using OIOpublisher on?

  4. John,

    This post is the perfect example of why I subscribe to this blog. It’s also a perfect example of being insanely useful. Your knowledge that you provided in your ebook that I read a while back, and on this blog is fantastic.
    I’ve bookmarked this article for future reference when I start to sell ads on my blog.

    Keep up the good work,
    Hafiz Dhanani

    1. Well said Hafiz…My thoughts exactly.

  5. Eric says:

    OIOPublisher rocks – it has been on my blog for quite sometime. Even though I still have AdSense, the income from OIOPublisher is 10X the AdSense income.

    1. Hannah says:

      This is good to know, I’d never heard of them before, will have to check them out!

      1. Syed Balkhi says:

        yes definately check it out. The $37 is well worth your investment. I got my return within 1 month.

    2. Xtradosh says:

      What blog do you use it on Eric?

  6. awesome! Thank you for this great information! I had planned on trying to figure this out and you just laid it out step by step for us! Thank you very much!

    1. Robert says:

      This should be added to the ebook in a future revised version!

  7. Mike says:

    I still don’t have enough traffic at my website to do any private ads. I also don’t have my own domain yet and I don’t think that blogspot is too appealing to advertisers. Currently I’m trying to keep my blog totally ad free so as not to scare away potential readers.

  8. wisdom says:

    A good article! Well done.

  9. Derek says:

    I’ve yet to sell any private advertising on my personal blog – although I am currently holding a contest to give away three 125×125 banner spots and one spot in my RSS feed footer on alternating posts. I’ve got another blog that I have managed to land a handful of private deals with although the traffic is less than what you suggest.

    1. Gotta fill up those empty spots, even with affiliate ads. As John said, it’s just not a good thing for potential advertisers to see a majority of youir spots aren’t filled.

  10. Adam says:

    Excellent information – thanks for the great post. We are in the process of setting up our WP blog for our site (the site supports our Second Life business), and the question of private ad sales has been at the back of my mind. Great up the great posts!!!

  11. Chetan says:

    Now this is called a good post by Chow ๐Ÿ™‚
    Good info, and the best part was cpm increase due to problogger love ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Thiago Prado says:

    that’s the kind of info I need to make my blog profitable.
    always a good way to teach how to make money blogging.

    congrats…

  13. Mayank Rocks says:

    Very nice post. Thanks for the ideas!

  14. Dexter says:

    A great info fr selling ads

  15. Awesome post! OIOpublisher looks pretty sweet…gotta try it out!

  16. Thanks for the great post. My blog is too new to worry about private ad sales at the moment, but when I do, I’ll know where to come for some good info. To me, this makes up for the April Fool Rick Roll

    ๐Ÿ˜€

    – Dave

    1. car345.com says:

      Good point Dave… When you like a company and services , their 50% cut can cover future publicity. If you don’t like then its all different story.

      I am sure john gets lot more from reviewme from them for taking 50% cut indirectly and might work well for him…

  17. Sean-Fu says:

    I’m surprised that people are able to advertise on well established blogs by doing what you said, you would think that there are penalities for doing something like that. Perhaps there will be? It would be a shame to remove ads that are generating a person money because someone else is taking advantage of it.

    But then again, I’m somewhat evil like *cough* you are.. so if I would that thought of it I would have probably done the same, but.. well maybe.. my morales are like a big thick wall sometimes even at the sacrifice of making a lot of money.

    Oh, I thought you also *cough cough* maybe did this to Steve Pavlina’s site too? I thought I read a “I LOVE STEVE PAVLINA” at one point on his site lol. ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. I don’t think that John gets a lot of traffic from Google so a penalty wouldn’t do much. I don’t think there are any penalties for selling ads on your site other than text links, but who knows. But doesn’t it suck how much we all worry about if we’re doing something that might make Google mad. This is why Google is such a pain. really, what the heck is wrong with selling advertising on your blog that Google has any say in what-so-ever?

      1. Sha says:

        Well, selling links – I guess Google looks at that as someone trying to cheapshoot their way to the top on Google’s search results. I guess they want to see everyone start from the bottom.

  18. Ebay Blog says:

    As a recent convert to this blog I just wanted to say that this post has been very informative, I simply couldn’t get past the “Adsense is the Daddy of all Ad networks” and simply focused on this.

    After reading the post I now have something else to aim towards and the private spots is my ultimate plan, I have some serious work to do however to get my traffic up and running to the levels that you suggest but i am working on that.

    I am now a firm follower of this blog, thank you for your work and effort and long may the returns keep rolling in ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Fitness Site says:

    Why are you still using Reviewme for paid post reviews then ? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    1. Chetan says:

      Don’t have the link but i am sure John had posted about this quite a few time in comments.

      1. Fitness Site says:

        If he already gave reasons, then sorry for that. I haven’t read them. I think Reviewme gave him a boost too and so be loyal to them. OR a private deal :mrgreen:

  20. Simon says:

    Thanks for the OIOpublisher mention. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’d also like to quickly point out that OIO will soon be fully integrated with a blog ad network we are producing. It will fill in your ad spaces, until they have been purchased directly. I fully agree with the need to reach a certain traffic level before you can rely on direct sales alone, which is why we are going to try and combine the worlds of ad networks and direct sales.

    (The plugin also supports the use of 3rd party ad code via the admin purchase manager.)

    Our other big goal is the integration / joint promotion with wpauctions.com (check it out if you haven’t already, it’s a great idea) – we want to let users auction their adspace that is setup via OIO, and have it managed 100% automatically.

    1. Robert says:

      Wow, that’s a pretty cool endeavor. By doing that, you’ll branch out to smaller bloggers.

    2. Sha says:

      That’s pretty cool. I’ve been thinking of buying this.

    3. Syed Balkhi says:

      that is great news Simon keep up the good work.

  21. SImon Lau says:

    Great info John!

  22. car345.com says:

    Very good post and informative… To get this post, Defanitely I went thru some timewaster posts on this blog, thats different story…

  23. Mister Poo says:

    This is so right!

  24. Hannah says:

    Great post, thanks John! While my blog is too new to really go for private advertising just yet, I’ll be looking to it in the future and this is a really useful post!

  25. I am still waiting for the 1000 page view/day ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    Thanks f0r the post anyways

    ~jjs~

  26. Robert says:

    Ah, the long-awaited private ads post. This post has a lot of great information and guidelines. Private ads–if automated–is a great way to earn passive income from your blog. You obviously need the content first. But wow, once you put the work in, this can become very lucrative.

  27. Pete says:

    Good advice here, John. Thanks as always.

    I started selling direct ads on my World War II Database http://ww2db.com website last year when I broke 200k page views per month (I’ve grown much larger since than), and was able to very significantly increase my revenue with that. Direct ads are definitely the way to go, and it will also help you establish better relationships with others in the same niche.

  28. Pete says:

    I currently have empty spots in my private ads rotation. If you’re interested, contact me via my website:

    http://ww2db.com/credits.php?contact=Y

    Mention JohnChow.com and I’ll give you a significant discount!

  29. JC–I have been waiting for this post for quite sometime now. While I still don’t have ads in my blog, I have been curious on how you sold your private ads.

    1. Traffic is king in this business!

  30. Marty says:

    Terrific post. I’m new to your blog and just signed up for an email subscription. The point about Google AdSense was particularly interesting and revealing. I’ve just started the process of building my traffic and will be taking your advice regarding private ad sales as soon as I increase my traffic to a level that will support that strategy.

  31. Adam says:

    John,

    I would be interested in your thoughts on rates for private ads at different traffic levels. Currently we get between 500-1000 uniques/day and we’re just starting to offer private ads. We were thinking $5/week for 125×125 and $10/week for a leader board.

    1. Well, it looks like John gets about 5,000 visitors a day and charges $500 per month for a 125 x 125 ad. Using that criteria, you could charge maybe $100 per month at your high traffic level. I get about 250 to 300 people a day and charge $35 per month for a 125 x 125 and have 4 banners sold.

      1. Terry Tay says:

        This a pretty good price for advertising.
        ~Terry

  32. Mo says:

    As usual – another great post. The comments make the post even more interesting plus gives some great insight into those of us that have just started our blogs are are eager to monetize it. I’ve done the AdSense thing in the past, and while it was profitable — creating thousands of splogs is not my idea of fun (or an entirely ethical way to make money). I love what I’m doing now 100x more! I will definately be looking to purchase OIO – based on my stats, I get about 200-300 visitors/day — nowhere near the 5,000 that you’re getting, but I’ll get there eventually!

  33. JGirl4You says:

    Thanks for this advice mr. Chow ! I’m still new in this business and I already learn a lot from your Blog ๐Ÿ™‚
    It’ll be great if you can write an article on how to make money by selling domain names ! I heard someone sold pizza.com for 2.6 Millions !

  34. Marita says:

    Thanks John for the useful info. I’ve checked my Google adsense for the “site” links, but Google displays “contextual and placement” instead. It doesn’t look like that’s the same as sitematch, is it?
    Anyway, I do have a bunch of “placement” ads in my stats and they also get dirt cheap advertising (advertisers pay by impression, not per click).
    What’s the difference between placement and sitematch?

    Thanks!

  35. Marita says:

    You mention paypal subscriptions – how do you set this up? I currently have a premier account with paypal. The only thing I found was “recurring Payments” which charges a monthly service fee. That’s not what you meant, is it?

    1. Terry Tay says:

      I’m not sure what you’re looking at but the fees are the same as regular paypal payments.

      Here’s a link for more info on the Subcription and recurring payments…
      https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/xcl/rec/subscr-intro-outside

      ~Terry

      1. Marita says:

        Thanks for your input – how do you set it up? Is a premier account enough?

        I like Google checkout, but last time I checked, they didn’t offer subscriptions yet.

        1. Marita says:

          I found info on setting up
          “recurring payments” for a $9.95 monthly fee.

  36. elezend says:

    Thanks for the tips, John. Although my blog is new (less than a month), I still get about 70 unique visitors per day ^^. I actually made an Advertise Here on my blog but I removed it right after I read this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. germz says:

    Very nice tips john. Although I do not understand why you ask to remove adsense? I don’t use adsense, instead I use Yahoo because the Google corporate bastards banned my site because apparently I was causing a highly dangerous risk for Google’s advertisers, basically just bullshit. So I joined YPN, and it’s been great with them so far.
    So I’m not so sure if you are talking about just adsense or YPN as well.
    Thank you for the help you are the man!

  38. Infogle says:

    good points to be marked…
    as one or the other blogger at some point thinks about selling private advertising and these point should be kept in mind at that time

  39. diets says:

    You are certainly the king of private ads. I like your pricing tip.

  40. SiteHoppers says:

    Lol…that was one of the best John Chow posts. Thanks for lettin us in the knowledge of selling 125×125 ads.

  41. Jim says:

    I only sell private ads now, and am liking it so much better than the lousy ad networks that try to pull you in. I have OIO Publisher as well. I made back the $37 in less than a month no problem, and have been loving life every since. I highly recommend it!

  42. tom says:

    Someone may have already mentioned it.. (i didn’t read through all 60 comments) but private ad sales also give you the ability to control what you are advertising. It’s a little bit of a screen, which is always a good thing.

  43. Chetan says:

    I see OIOPublisher recommended by many people.. And as these days traffic is flowing in very well into my blog, i thought it would be good to install it and sell banner ads ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Sha says:

    John Chow is back!

    I agree that the “Email us for more information” is a turn off. I’ve never understood why some people don’t just put all the advertising information on their site. I love the evilness of an advertiser forgetting to cancel their subscription. Mwahaha.

  45. Liane says:

    You did that to Darren??? Pretty evil. Ingenious really. Haha!

    I always love your evil ways. They are actually great.

    Great post!

  46. Syed Balkhi says:

    I love oiopublisher as well. I have been using it on my blog too. I gave them a free review because I liked it so much. I have already recovered my money that I put in to get the plugin.

  47. Deborah says:

    Thanks for reiterating this information. I was just reading through this section of your ebook the other day and this post served to reinforce what you talked about on those pages.

  48. Mike says:

    All very good information. Thanks John and everyone else for the informative comments. They are really helpful.

  49. $37 is nothing infact its a very good deal ๐Ÿ˜›

  50. Excellent assessment and subsequent discussion in the comments. Clearly traffic volume is key.

    Thanks John,

    Thanks everyone

  51. David Cheong says:

    No traffic no money. True John, will try to learn something more from your site.

  52. Excellent post. I just recently installed OIOPublisher, but haven’t fully tweaked it yet. Didn’t even know you could default an AdSense ad if the slot is not sold.

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