It used to be that hosting ads on your content-driven site was a no brainer – there was lots of money for ads out there because there wasn’t much evidence as to its effectiveness. Everyone was throwing money at the internet just to see what would stick. These days it’s unclear whether the time/money/thought you put into online advertising is actually worth it in the end. This doesn’t mean that online advertising is a bad idea, it just means you need to go about it thoughtfully & creatively.
1. Don’t rely on someone else to determine where you’ll be able to advertise effectively, target your own market. Unless you spend a great deal of time tracking and researching it, Adwords often brings site visitors, but not necessarily conversions. So think about where you *know* your audience is, and then make contact to see if an advertising relationship is possible. For example, if you’re a designer looking for clients, target a blog that advises people about hiring designers and find out if you can offer something to their audience. This may be a great time to offer a freebie to their readership in exchange for access to their audience. Make sure that you fit their demographic – it won’t make sense for anyone involved if you’re targeting a mismatch.
2. Get out there in the “real” world. We get so wrapped up in the expanse of opportunity that the internet provides that we forget about what we might provide our local community. Often times people like to work with someone nearby – so offer your services through an old-fashioned tearsheet in a cafe, or offer a prize to a local contest (radio or at a community event/raffle). This approach will not only help bring your business, but will help you connect with people in your community through some good “old-fashioned” networking!
3. Host an event. You don’t need to have tremendous resources to host your own event. For example, if you have a landscaping business, offer a free class on starting a veggie garden. You can host it in your front yard using Craigslist and your local classifieds to get the word out. This is a great way to not only connect with a potential audience, but also get some name recognition for everyone who comes across the posting. And it doesn’t have to be in your front yard – host a virtual event – webinars are a great way to connect with people and highlight your expertise virtually. And there’s great webinar software out there for low or no cost – gotomeeting.com is a great, easy-to-use example.
If you’re thinking about having advertising on your own site to try to generate some revenue, here are some guidelines:
1. It’s not worth it if you don’t have enough traffic. Most advertisers have a minimum site traffic amount to justify their ad space. You might host their ad on your site for 3 months for free if you don’t have enough site visitors to meet their minimum.
2. It’s for content-driven sites, NOT your portfolio. Don’t place advertising on the page of your website that outlines your services, or showcases your work. No matter how much money you might make it’s not worth more than the amount it’ll cheapen your reputation by having them there.
3. Consider the time investment. If you’ll need to spend an hour over the course of a month monitoring your ad space for sale, consider what that hour might be earning you otherwise. If you can use that hour to seek out a new project or client, then benefit from that hour’s investment for the next “X” amount of time you’ll likely realize the finances don’t work out the way you might expect. Don’t get me wrong, passive income is great, but advertising may not be the most profitable of your choices.