There's definitely a powerful allure to building up traffic to your website and having an ad network do all the work for you. But it goes beyond allure. There can be some significant advantages to going direct.
What are the main advantages of targeting direct advertisers?
- 100% revenue share
- Premium advertising rates
Ignoring your operating costs, the margins on your direct ad sales are 100%. That means no 30% + kickback to Google or the other big players required. However, to be successful with direct advertisers, your ad sales are going to be primarily niche targeted.
What are the caveats of selling ads direct to advertisers?
The most obvious is the difficulty. Ad networks make everything seem easy. You drop in a snippet of code and turn your traffic into revenue. But selling ads direct to advertisers requires selling. The redundancy in that last sentence is on purpose.
It's about selling.
That makes you responsible for a lot of tasks: Identifying advertisers, reaching out, making the sale, providing support and settling disputes. This all takes time, commitment, and skill.
Getting Your Website Set Up for Direct Advertising
# 1. Use a Dedicated Advertising Page
If you have the traffic to even begin considering selling direct advertising, you have potential advertisers visiting your site. Thousands of major advertisers have reps scanning the web for niche advertising opps.
# 2. Create a Media Kit
Your media kit will complement your advertising page. While you're not necessarily going to amplify your Public Relations reach, the media kit is still very helpful for potential advertisers.
# 3. Get Data on Your Audience
If you really want to nail your media kit, aim for more user demographic data than:
Human, aged 20 to 65, with some type of Internet connection, and likes buying stuff
Remember, it's the niche sites that break open your advertisers' budgets. We're going to touch on this more in the next section on pricing. For now, I want to draw your attention to Quantcast. If you run Quantcast, you'll be collecting extensive data that helps to break down the demographic segments of your visitors.
# 4. Make Sure the Price is Right
Oftentimes, your media kit will specify your ad rates. This will be broken down for the various types of ad placements you're offering. This is what is going to get you tracked in the spreadsheets of savvy advertisers looking for good niche sites. Just like you, they are going to be crunching numbers.
# 5. Grab CPM Data at BuySellAds
BuySellAds is a marketplace where some publishers sell off their ad inventory. This is a great source to find out how others in your niche are pricing their CPM traffic.
# 6. Choose Your Ad Server
Yes, this part would be kinda sorta important. When you sell your ads, you won't be Photoshopping and uploading them one by one. At least we sure hope that isn't what you had in mind!
You're going to need to select an ad server. That will keep things running efficiently. However, our recommendation would be that you choose one that makes it easy to backfill your ad inventory. If you're not selling enough direct ads, you do not want any dead air (or the digital ad equivalent).
When ad spots are open, you can fill this unsold inventory with AdSense or AdX ads. Remember, selling direct doesn't mean that you are swearing off ad networks for good. For almost all sites, the ad networks will continue to be an important component of their incoming ad revenue.
# 7. Go with a Modern Design
OK, in fairness we sometimes see high trafficked sites that haven't had a design revision since say 1992. If anything is a testament to the power of great content, they are.
Making sure you have a modern design ensures that you send an immediate trust signal. It says that your site is professional. But remember that they are evaluating the ad placements as well. If you have a great looking site with quality ad placement real estate, you're going to win their business.
# 8. Responsive is Modern Too
We're not here to give you a crash course on responsive design today. If you're not already familiar with it, responsive simply means that the site adapts itself to the size of the viewing device. And if your website is somehow on the internet, we know that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are a major component of your incoming traffic.
# 9. Monetize Beyond Simple Ad Placements
So we're not discrediting standard ad placements. They still generate revenue. However, there are all kinds of new innovations in the digital ad space. So not only may you discover that you'll do more revenue with them, they are going to be immensely attractive to your advertisers.
- Overlay Ads
- Hellobar Sponsorships
- Pre-Roll Video Ads
- Social Media Sponsorships
- Newsletter Sponsorships
- Native Advertising Articles
- RSS Embedded Ads
# 10. Fill Empty Inventory with "Advertise Here"
Now before you take this suggestion as a command, remember that we are a continuous testing team. So this suggestion is that you try this out. What we're looking for is its impact on recruitment of new advertisers.
# 11. Positive User Experience
You have to send the message to your prospective advertisers that you are professional. They want to know your users have a good experience. And they must have a good experience as well. It's about the impressions you make.
Are You Ready to Target Direct Advertisers?
If you've been thinking about different ways to increase your ad revenue, going direct is one possibility. As we indicated, it is not for everyone. You have to have some significant established traffic to make it work.
Whatever happens, as your site scales in traffic, eventually going direct is an unavoidable necessity. 30% + ad revenue sharing to your ad networks gets very significant as your traffic grows. Just remember, if anyone asks, you didn't hear it from us.