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How to Optimize Your Blog Advertising Like a Pro


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It amazes me that there are still web sites and blogs out there that slap AdSense ads onto the page along with some marginally relevant ads from Commission Junction into the sidebar and seemingly expect money to start rolling in. I’ll admit I was guilty of it myself when I started this blog. But even a year ago, monetization of a site was different than it is today.

More than ever, site visitors don’t want to be “sold to”. But they do want to “buy in”.

We talk about our blogs and web sites as a place to have a conversation. Our ads can either add to or detract from that conversation. Admittedly, I’ll give kudos to AdSense for improving the relevance of ads that they are serving. But to truly add value to a site visitor experience, shouldn’t an ad be a little more than relevant?

Enter Monetization 2.0.

This requires more than html skills. And more than design skills. And more than optimization skills.

To make money from a blog you need People Skills.

Social networks, blogs, and word of mouth marketing have changed the way companies market to consumers because they have finally figured out what works: Add value, and people will listen. Connect with people on an emotional level in a positive way, and marketing isn’t a push, it happens.

This is a no-brainer when it comes to writing great content. But how can your advertising do the same?

  1. WIIFM? “What’s in it for me?”

    When writing an ad, always, always ask “What’s in it for me?” from the readers’ perspective. What is the benefit is the advertiser offering? This goes for advertising your own products as well as promoting affiliate links.

    I’m continually dismayed at the wording that many advertisers use for their text ads in Commission Junction. As if we care about something being new or improved! I change the link text in those ads 90% of the time, reworking the message to let a reader know why the heck they would want to click on that link in the first place. (Keeping in mind, of course, that the product or service is one that is truly relevant and is delivered at a time when a reader is seeking that kind of information.)


    I just installed OpenAds on this server so that I can split test all promotions on the site (running two different rotating ads to see which one gets a better response).

    By tracking what ads get the most clicks, site visitors tell me what they really need - and sometimes, it’s not what I think they need. I’ve yanked more ads than I’ve added to this site, based on what doesn’t get a response. If readers don’t click, the ad hasn’t added value.

    In fact, it probably takes away value. So if you don’t want it around here, neither do I.

  3. Guard Your Brand Like a Hawk

    As individual bloggers, we are our own brands. The advertising on your site is akin to the clothes you wear to a networking event. Show up in a pink boa, and you’ll likely not make many good connections. :)

    Be PICKY about the advertisers and products you promote. If site visitors have a bad experience with one of your advertisers, that bad karma will rub off on you. Notice that Darren Rowse only rotates six banners at the top of ProBlogger, and all of them are companies or products he is personally involved in, or will personally stand behind.

  4. Be Creative and Innovative

    Whatever you think about John Chow being the root of all evil, his Google IM campaign was one of the best ideas in blog marketing I have seen to date. People are drawn to innovation and fresh ideas - it’s probably best called the “entertainment factor”:

    Steve Olson Rocks!

    Give site visitors a cohesive experience, in which ads actually create interest by themselves, and nobody will be complaining about ad space.

  5. Invoke an Emotional Experience

    When I redesigned this site a few weeks ago, a couple of regular readers mentioned they missed seeing pictures of my kids. I was surprised to say the least as I was hoping to go for a more professional and clean look. But as I thought about what they said, it occurred to me that by including personal pieces of my life on this site, people were able to connect with the content on an emotional level.

    So to foster that emotional connection again, I put together a custom designed campaign in the most valuable real estate on this site - the upper right corner. Each ad is now an emotional endorsement of hand-picked favorite advertising partners by including photos of the little people most important to me. And the click-through on them is astonishingly good.

    Of course, not every blog can get away with this kind of ad campaign, but every blog can find a way to appeal to the emotions of their readers:

    TextLinkAds Promo Six Figure Blogging Promo

Lest anyone assume the worst, this kind of advertising optimization only works when there is a real person behind the campaign - one that cares about advertisers, customers, and readers on a personal level. People can spot a fake or ingenuine author a mile away.

It takes an emotional investment into the process in order to get a real experience from the process.

Dare I say it… inject a little love into your site.

If you can’t do that, you should probably pick a different business. ;)

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Related Posts

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  • Advertise on eMoms at Home
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  • Monetize Your Blog Like an A-Lister

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    On March 13th, 2007 at 1:43 pm, Char said:

    The timing couldn’t be better on this - I am just adding advertising back into my Casual Keystrokes site after its revamp and these are points I need to consider!

    On March 13th, 2007 at 3:20 pm, Wendy said:

    Hey Char - the Casual pad redesign looks awesome! Great job! :)

    On March 13th, 2007 at 3:44 pm, Edward Mills said:

    Great post - as usual - Wendy. As you know, the issue of adding advertising to my blog has been a big one for me. You’ve made some excellent points here. I especially resonate with #s 1 & 3: WIIFM and Brand Guarding. Keeping those two points in mind I hope to find a balance between my desire to generate income from my blog and my intention to maintain the utmost integrity with my readers.

    Thanks for leading by example!

    On March 13th, 2007 at 3:48 pm, Wendy said:

    Ed - our conversation today definitely added some great fodder for this post, as your concerns are very valid and critical to the success of monetizing your site!

    But remember also that your brand is built separately from those of your advertisers. And if something happened with one of them, the Edward Mills brand could very likely ‘weather the storm’. So if you’re worrying about the “What if’s”, don’t let that hold you back from putting together a great campaign.

    Did that make sense, or did my tangent just run awry?? ;)

    On March 13th, 2007 at 4:42 pm, Alex Shalman said:

    Funny, we were just talking about monetizing my site on healthy webdesign… I wonder if that sparked this post.

    Thanks for the information though, I’ll keep it in mind in future monetization ventures.

    Btw, I hope you weren’t speaking specifically about my site when you said you look down upon sites that DO NOT have any ads up =)

    On March 13th, 2007 at 4:46 pm, Wendy said:

    Yes, that conversation over at Dawud’s was also good fodder for this post. :) But actually, I didn’t notice you had no ads until you mentioned it - so your template must be super-spiffy to outshine the fact that you haven’t monetized it yet. ;)

    And I didn’t say I look DOWN on sites like that, just that sometimes they can come off as less credible. OF COURSE YOU are the exception to that rule! Duh!

    On March 13th, 2007 at 4:54 pm, Alex Shalman said:

    Good save Wendy, you win this round, but I will be keeping my unmonetized eye on you.

    Seriously though, if you have a moment for your super duper top commentator sometime this week, take a good look at the site and give me some feedback on placement. Much appreciated.

    On March 13th, 2007 at 5:07 pm, Wendy said:

    OK, Alex, here’s my $.02 ::

    Carefully select on image ad to feature up there with your RSS and Technorati icons. Or you could try a Google ad there, too. AdSense performs very well on personal development sites.

    Consider adding a text link ad between posts the way Dan and Jennifer do it on their site. I’m about to try that one myself.

    Put a big AdSense leaderboard ad in your footer like I do (sometimes it doesn’t show up because there are already 3 ads on the page above it). This position gets a surprisingly good amount of clicks considering it is at the bottom of the page.

    And if you haven’t signed up with AdSense or Commission Junction already, here’s where I invite you to use my links to get there. ;)

    On March 13th, 2007 at 6:05 pm, Aaron M. Potts said:


    Can I just say that I LOVE what you’ve done with the image ads? How cool is that?

    I have often modified the normal text or graphical links that have been given to me by advertisers, but I never thought to create such wildly unique and click-magnetizing ads as you have done.

    Big props to you!

    p.s. - When I try to emulate your idea and it comes out looking like crap, I’m gonna tell everyone it was YOUR idea! ;)

    On March 13th, 2007 at 6:12 pm, David Airey said:

    I guess I’m too late into the conversation. Dawud has already claimed the exception to the no-ads rule. :(

    Ah well, a great read nonetheless Wendy.

    On March 13th, 2007 at 6:13 pm, Peter said:

    Right on the money. I think you will connect with a lot of readers on this post after all is done we are trying to have a conversation. You have just raised the bar.

    On March 13th, 2007 at 6:57 pm, Alex Shalman said:

    Thanks for the e-mail Wendy. I’m not sure if I would be able to be your Toppest of Top Commentators if you had no pointed my attention to responses to my comments. Haha!

    I took notes, I’m going to give your suggestions a try. Thank you kindly.

    On March 13th, 2007 at 7:05 pm, shaz said:

    very nice post, thanks. I didn’t even realize there was a re-design, because, of course, I read through my newsreader… new look is nice, professional, but I feel like the old one was more personal and I kinda liked that… just my 2 cents.

    On March 13th, 2007 at 8:55 pm, Scott said:

    I am struggling with ads. Even though my traffic has gone through the roof, my Adsense clickthrough rates are abysmal.

    My challenge is that any revenue tools I add to my blog need to be clearly identified as ads, and they also need to pass my standards. This has not been as easy as I thought it would be.

    Now that my traffic growth is on target, I’m going to spend some time looking at revenue solutions. Thx for the great article Wendy.

    On March 14th, 2007 at 9:20 am, Dan and Jennifer said:

    Hey Scott,

    Some thoughts on this…

    There are LOTS of monetization options, but take a serious look at AdSense - AdSense is also very clearly labeled as advertising, so that should work for you. It just takes a little patience and being VERY ANAL WITH TESTING and OPTIMIZATION!!!

    For your audience (read: non bloggers, non-techie) your clickthroughs should be excellent.

    We brought in just shy of $1k in AdSense last month, with 80k pageviews - up from just $20 or so a few months earlier. :-)

    It’s largely about position optimization. We’ve been optimizing it EVERY week for about 4 months, and more than doubling our revenue every month since.

    Try something similar to our current layout - both in post detail pages and post listing pages.

    Oh, and be sure you put the ad calls in your blog template, not in your posts - putting them in your posts makes it impossible to change your layout later on… and much of your traffic will be coming directly into your previous posts - that’s 95% of our traffic on any given day.

    ** ALSO - make sure you’re getting RELAVANT ADS - this is KEY for getting clicktrhoughs.

    They’re pretty good at this to begin with, but you can suggest to AdSense where the meat of your page content is by putting in two simple HTML comment tags.

    Just to clarify, this change isn’t made in a post, but rather in your blog’s Wodpress template - I think the ’single.php’ file for your theme, if you’re comfortable changing that.

    Check out an example here on our site - and View Source:
    is before the title of the post
    is after the tags, but before the comments (that way you control the main content)

    Here’s what the beginning of our single.php template looks like:
    [From Wendy :: Dan, I was able to tweak the characters in the code you put above to get it to appear, but I couldn’t get this part to appear.]

    Have an awesome day!

    On March 14th, 2007 at 9:24 am, Dan and Jennifer said:

    oops, should have realized that pasting HTML tags in there wouldn’t work.

    ** Wendy, sorry, would you edit my comment above to remove the HTML I inserted after the “here’s what the beginning of our single.php template looks like”?

    Scott, if you want more info on the adsense suggestion thing msg me.


    On March 14th, 2007 at 10:17 am, Alex Shalman said:

    Hey Wendy,

    I have finally given in to your peer pressure. You can see the beginning phase of my monetization project now. Partially at but more so at where I am able to use OpenAds.

    On March 14th, 2007 at 10:19 am, Wendy said:

    See?! I’m SO good at hypnosis!

    Alex, look deeply into my eyes… er, I mean, my typed words… you WILL give me all of your advertising revenue! You WILL send me money every week!


    On March 14th, 2007 at 11:32 am, Jeffrey Kishner said:

    I feel good about my Adsense optimization, and it performs much better than my affiliate programs. I’m on the fence about kontera (double-underlined keyword ads) because most often the ads are not contextually relevant, and I am wondering if they detract value from my brand. Any feedback?

    On March 14th, 2007 at 11:43 am, Wendy said:


    I just went and checked out your site. I can see why AdSense would perform well over there!! :)

    I had to kind of laugh at the Kontera ads - “Get great deals on ‘planet’!”.


    But to be honest, I think that for the most part, it served up good ads on your site.

    The branding question is a good one. You have to strike a balance between the time it would take you to really go through your posts and add relevant ad links manually vs. what Kontera can serve up for you.

    I would simply do a test and see how it goes in terms of revenue and relevance. If it continually serves up pretty good ads most of the time, and it’s a good earner for you, I would keep it.

    But if the irrelevant ads make you cringe and they aren’t earning anything, chuck ‘em.

    I think I’m about to chuck them myself on this site - I have green underline ads through AdBrite. I was holing out in the hopes it would get better, but I haven’t seen one relevant ad yet. :)

    On March 14th, 2007 at 12:23 pm, Jeffrey Kishner said:

    Thanks for the feedback, Wendy. I don’t mind the search engine ads so much, but when kontera confuses Taurus with Ford Taurus, it rubs me the wrong way. However, I can ask kontera to filter them out.

    I do make sure to not think about ad relevance (too much) when I write my posts, though. Adsense does a good enough job just based on my frequent use of zodiac signs in the titles and content.

    On March 14th, 2007 at 4:08 pm, ScamHunter said:

    Great ideas! Love the kids on the ad. I’ve found I tend to be attracted to voices on the web that are distinctive and yes, genuine. Yours is both. Keep up the good work!

    On March 14th, 2007 at 6:16 pm, Scott said:

    LOL Jeffrey! Until I got some content up, I was getting ads for marble countertops.

    Even now the Adsense engine sends some weird stuff. But most of my targetting seems to be dead-on.

    On March 14th, 2007 at 7:54 pm, Alex Shalman said:

    So far my adsense is showing me half personal development half blogging. I guess this is pretty on par with my content. I would prefer more personal development links though, since that is the MAIN focus of my blog.

    On March 15th, 2007 at 7:39 am, Sherri Caldwell - The Rebel Housewife said:

    Hi again, Wendy. I can see spending most of the rest of the day on your blog! I am an old lady of blogging, but I’d have to admit it has been mostly nonmonetized for the last four years, even though I slapped AdSense up last year (not so good, I know!). I am in the midst of an update at and transition to WordPress. Thanks so much for all the great information!

    On March 15th, 2007 at 5:11 pm, Witchcraft said:

    A Very important tip I think you forgot. Testing. Always test for optomization, try ads in different places and see what kind of CTR or ROI you get. I think testing should be a process that never stops.

    On March 15th, 2007 at 5:29 pm, Alex Shalman said:

    Witchcraft - I’m going to test as much as I can with the new monetization of my blog. I’m going to find some good articles on best placement to model from. Feel free to throw me any suggestions.

    On March 15th, 2007 at 5:47 pm, Dan and Jennifer said:

    Hey guys,

    We’re always testing different changes throughout, always trying to “beat the control”. The winner stays, and gets to compete with next week’s challenger. :-)

    Be sure to keep aggregate numbers as well, since changes to one ad unit MAY impact performance of the other ad units. I.e. a more in-your-face ad unit may take clicks away from an already good ad unit elsewhere, thus leaving you with less gross income not more.

    Just food for thought - track individual ad units as well as aggregate revenue vs. traffic.

    And mix in different monetization options - AdSense, Text-Link-Ads, affiliate links, etc.

    Have an awesome day!

    On March 21st, 2007 at 8:43 am, Steve said:

    Thanks for the information about Openads. I’ve been trying to find which of my ads are performing the best but haven’t had any real success tracking the clicks and conversions. This seems like it would be a big help.

    On April 2nd, 2007 at 3:40 am, Jesper said:

    Great article and great discussion. It’s very interesting to read about other peoples experience in advertising. I’m just starting out and my income is *very* modest so far ( ~ $3 for march), but I guess it will increase with time, if I build traffic and content.

    Wendy, please consider submitting something for the next edition of the carnival as well! :)


    On May 2nd, 2007 at 2:04 pm, Sue Olson said:

    Holy Cow! I have such a long way to go. Is there anyone who can give me their timeline? Like when I was one month into it I did use AdSense then at two months I was into “blank” and so on? I just get blown away then have to rememebr that others have beeninto this for a lot longer than I have. I was proud of my AdSense earlier today - I did know full well that my ads were not placed very well but I am in a trial and error phase since I am just learning code. Two steps forward five steps back…

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