There are many different ways to make money online. Some of them are legitimate and can work well, while others are simply scams and take your money while offering you little in return. One popular legitimate idea for making money is with ads. Specifically, people often try to make money selling advertising space online.
In many ways, this idea works and it can work well. There are various services out there that provide some income if you host ads and no shortage of ideas about how to make the best out of the process.
But, how practical is selling advertising space, for the average person? Is it something that you can reasonably achieve or are you better off trying to make money a different way? This post aims to answer those questions and introduce you to the overall concept of selling advertising space.
Why Sell Advertising?
Advertising is often promoted as the easiest way to make money online and, in a sense, that claim is true. Unlike most other techniques, advertising doesn’t directly influence the content of your site. This means that you can write a blog as you please, without having to tie what you’re saying into any specific product.
Doing so is especially appealing for websites that don’t naturally connect with products. For example, many food blogs partly rely on ads for revenue, as do many webcomics. In both cases, these types of sites don’t want to have to promote products within their content itself, so ads are a natural fit.
Ads are also good if you just want to make a little money from a site. For example, many bloggers aren’t actively trying to make a living from their sites. Instead, they may try to earn enough to cover the various costs or to treat themselves once in a while.
So, there is certainly appeal to ads. If nothing else, ads can be a relatively passive technique, as you don’t have to micromanage them. In fact, some people just set the ads up and let them run, although you can also tweak things like placement to figure out what is going to be the most profitable.
Types of Advertising: PPC Versus CPM
When it comes to making money, there are two main types of ads to consider.
One of these is PPC, which stands for Pay Per Click (sometimes called CPC, meaning Cost Per Click). As the name suggests, you get paid based on how many people click your ads. In contrast, there are also ads where you are paid based on impressions. These are sometimes called CPM, which is a reference to cost per thousand.
Of the two, PPC will tend to pay more. However, this type of ad also means that your viewers have to do something. Now, as a general rule, people often won’t click on ads, particularly if those ads aren’t all that relevant to them. So, you might be more per interaction but you’re going to get many more impressions than clicks for a given ad.
This is something that you seriously have to weigh up when it comes to making money from advertising. Ultimately, which type of advertising is most profitable is going to partly depend on your site and your audience, as some people will be more likely to click on ads than others.
Taking Advantage Of Advertising Networks
The most practical way to make money from ads is to take advantage of advertising networks. There is no shortage of these out there and some pay better than others. Essentially, the networks act as a way to match people buying ads to those wanting to sell them, so there is always going to be income potential.
Picking a network is a major decision and it can have large impacts on your site. For one thing, different networks will tend to vary in the specific types of ads that they host. As such, some networks may be more relevant to your site than others. Likewise, how visible and annoying the ads are is going to vary across networks.
For example, one network is Infolinks, which is promoted as having very unobtrusive and easy to use ads. However, that network is also frustrating, as they use contextual advertising, which I personally hate.
In contrast, many people go with Google AdSense, simply because it is Google’s program and has no shortage of users. Google also offers many tools to help people use AdSense effectively. There are many alternatives to Adsense, and though they used to be less common, they are growing in popularity due to Google's fickle policies.
With an advertising network, you’ll basically end up with pieces of code that you can put on your website, which display ads. These tend to be extremely easy to use and there is often decent support, simply because ad networks want you to have the ads live.
At the same time, advertising networks also have their challenges. This includes the fact that your site will need to have a certain amount of traffic and some networks may also want your site to be a specific size.
From my own experience, I’ve also found that terms and conditions can frequently be confusing and unfair. For example, I was actually banned from Google AdSense, at a point where I had made around $100 with the program. I was told that the ban was due to ‘invalid click activity’.
However, I hadn’t actually done anything wrong and it wasn’t even clear what the underlying problem had been. Now, the income that I’d been making was a fraction of what I’d been earning with affiliate marketing but the whole situation left a sour taste in my mouth.
I can only imagine how horrible it would be if you suddenly got banned if you were earning hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.
As such, you need to be extremely careful about the terms and conditions of any advertising network you use and follow them very closely. Even then, there is always the risk that your account will get closed without warning and there may be little that you can do about it.
Selling Advertising Space Directly
It is also possible to bypass services like Google AdSense entirely and sell your own advertising space without an intermediate. This practice isn’t nearly as common and it tends to be used primarily on larger sites.
The basic idea here is that you set aside some spaces on your site where you will manually host ads. Then you advertise that service. For example, some people have a separate tab that contains information for advertisers, with information that may look like this:
Others may promote the service within the advertising space they are offering – until it gets filled. Selling advertising space like this can be much more profitable, as the example above shows. In many cases, you may end up getting a set fee for a period of time, rather than having your income tied into how many visitors or clicks within a given month.
The concept is also very appealing to people who want to strongly control what shows up on their site. In particular, this gives you the ability to directly approve or disprove specific ads. That is very different than using programs like Google AdSense, where your control is extremely limited and you may not even be aware of all the ads that are shown. One place to get started is BuySellAds.com
Nevertheless, this process does involve more management, especially as you have to individually negotiate with each potential advertiser. Additionally, it can be harder to get going with this type of advertising. Depending on the topic of your site, you may get just $5 CPM, which means you get $5 for every 1000 impressions on your site.
Being Successful With Ads
But, even though it’s easy to sell advertising space, being successful in this field is surprisingly difficult. This is something I learned myself in a rather frustrating lesson.
One of the problems with advertising is that you typically don’t get much per impression or per click. If you had a huge amount of traffic going to your site every day, this might not be an issue. But, that’s not the case for most of us.
So, in practice, you could easily find yourself just earning a few dollars a week from ads – even if you think your traffic is relatively good. For some people, that might be okay as a little bit of extra money, especially as you don’t have to manage the ads on a daily basis. But, it’s not great if ads are your only source of income from a website.
This is actually why you’ll see some sites use multiple techniques. For example, combining ads and affiliate marketing can sometimes work, providing that your ads don’t annoy visitors too much. Nevertheless, unless your traffic is exceptional, ads alone probably aren’t going to cut it.
Besides that, if you did actually have the traffic needed to make good money from ads, then you could probably make more money from using a different technique.
At the same time, you typically have to rely on advertising networks, which have the ability to close your account at a moment’s notice. You’ll also find that many people don’t like ads and don’t click on them, which doesn’t help your chances to make money either.
Monetize Your Website With Affiliate Marketing
The biggest appeal of selling advertising is the simplicity of the process. The ads themselves are easy to set up and your content doesn’t have to relate to them in any way.
Yet, for most websites, ads really aren’t that profitable. They simply don’t pay enough and they often end up annoying your audience at the same time. This is one reason why I prefer affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing does involve more work but you also have much more income potential. You can make more money from less traffic with affiliate marketing, which is perfect for new sites. I have personally created websites with 50 visits per day that make more money than websites with 1000 visits per day.
If you haven’t heard of it before, affiliate marketing is somewhere in the middle between selling products and advertising. Basically, affiliate marketers promote products from other companies. They often do so by using reviews or ‘best of’ lists, although there is no shortage of different methods. Something like “Best bluetooth headphones of 2017” would be an example.
In doing so, an affiliate marketer provides a link, which the customer then follows. That link might take them to Amazon or whatever site the product comes from. If the visitor buys something through that link, then the affiliate marketer makes money.
This process works extremely well in practice because you’re providing readers with information that they want. For example, you might write a product review, highlighting whether a particular type of supplement is better than another, or you might talk about why one type of surfboard is worth buying.
The choices are endless. The income potential with affiliate marketing is high too, as you might make anywhere from 5% to 50% from an affiliate sale (depending on the specific program). There is also less risk, as you can be a member of multiple affiliate programs at the same time, without any issues whatsoever.
Overall, this is a much more effective process of selling. It's TARGETED. Rather than having random ads on your site and praying for clicks, you can target specific products to people reading articles on relevant topics. An article about how to create your own organic compost could link to guide on how to make a raised-bed vegetable garden.
Plus, it’s a better fit for anybody just getting started online. With ads, you really do need decent traffic to get ahead and beginners won’t have that. In contrast, you can start to make money with affiliate marketing even when your traffic is fairly low.
So, how do you go about it?
In theory, you could get started in affiliate marketing entirely on your own, as much of it is straightforward. However, if you truly want to be successful, it’s worth getting some education under your belt. Doing this can help make sure you go in the right direction from the beginning and can teach you key concepts, including SEO.
Of the various options, the place that I recommend for training is a site called Wealthy Affiliate. The information on this site played a key role in me developing my own online business and I owe much of my success to the lessons there along with the community support that the site offers.