I recently got contacted by an advertiser for the first time since I started blogging again. This was a welcome milestone! Once e-mails from advertisers have started, you can pretty well expect to keep getting them regularly for as long as you run your blog – and for a long time afterwards.
What Are Advertisers Looking For?
Advertisers will typically want 1 of 3 things:
- To exchange links, you link to a site they control in exchange for them linking back to you. Then intention here is to help you both rank higher in search engines.
- Wanting to provide you with free “content” in the form of an ad.
- Offering to pay you for advertising their goods or services.
Two of the things they want aren’t worthwhile and you can have a canned “thanks but no thanks” e-mail to send out to them. Link exchanges are drying up, due to Google detecting and penalizing them. Back when I used to blog we never participated in link exchanges, it always felt unsavory to me, so I’m glad technical reasons are bringing an end to this. I used to just send a reply that said “We don’t do link exchanges. We’ll add your link to our list of content to have a look at, and if we think it’s worthwhile we’ll link to it without any obligation on your part. Feel free to do the same with our content”.
For people wanting free advertising, we’d just send them our advertising rates and we’d never hear from them again.
In terms of advertising, we’d offer a text link on the sidebar and a number of banner ads. Advertisers used to want to buy links with specific terms that they’d “organically integrate with existing posts”. For this they’d always offer a pittance (and expected the link to remain in perpetuity) and want the links from our most highly ranked posts. This was also easy to say no to, and Google has also clamped down on it so this doesn’t happen as often.
Sponsored posts, where advertisers pay for have their ad distributed as if it’s a blog post, seems to be the popular new approach to advertising. I don’t have a problem with this, as long as it’s clearly marked as sponsored content. The FTC encourages digital advertising to make disclosures when something is an advertisement, which I strongly agree with. Apparently this is just a guideline, not anything being enforced, but I think it’s a good ethical guide.
Sponsored posts can take a couple of forms. Either the advertisers provides the content in its entirety and the blogger just posts it through their regular channel or the blogger writes the post for the advertiser.
I read a post about advertisers getting angry at bloggers charging for sponsored posts. This has me scratching my head, but I’m firmly on the blogging side and quite biased. If anyone write an angry e-mail to you after you send them your advertising rates, I’d suggest blocking them.
What Do You Charge?
Once you’ve decided you’re going to sell one of the above things and you have someone interested in buying it, the first question will be “what do you charge?” This can floor many bloggers, as they don’t have costs associated with their banner ads or sidebar links. I’ve previously written a post on properly pricing things on one of my other blogs that deals with this subject in the abstract. We can get more concrete however.
When someone writes asking about advertising, I’d suggest following one of the below three pricing approaches (ultimately you should move towards the third). Send them your price guidelines. Expect them to haggle. If what they offer is reasonable, accept and run their ad.
Strategy 1: Base bones
When you started blogging and first start talking to advertisers, there is a minimum amount to make it worthwhile to spend time talking to them, putting their content into your blogging platform, receiving payment and doing all that. Regardless of your audience size, going below this doesn’t really make sense unless you just want the thrill of having someone pay you – fair enough if you do. I wouldn’t bother selling advertising for less than the following:
- Sponsored posts, written by the advertiser with clear disclaimers – $40 / post
- Banner ads – $25 / month
- Text links (in a featured sites category on the sidebar) – $10 / month
It may be worth stressing that you’ll happily accept purchase of multiple months at these rates, but you can’t guarantee them in the future. As your blog grows, advertising will be more valuable, so your rates should go up. In many ways, a sponsored post in a growing blog is a great deal, as it’s there pointing towards another site in perpetuity.
If you’re writing the blog post for the advertiser to their specifications, Food Bloggers Central suggests charging a minimum of $250, which I’d agree with. I wouldn’t be terribly eager to do this kind of work, so I’d personally set a high price to discourage it.
Strategy 2: Complicated Formula
Many bloggers have suggested how to calculate the price for a sponsored post or other advertising based on your blog’s metrics. For example, The Fox and She suggests charging $100 per 10,000 pageviews per month (your blog’s pageviews) for a sponsored post. Babble uses a more complicated formula of (# of page views + # of twitter followers ÷ page rank # x $ .01 ÷ 2). This is generally silly, and was silly even before Google stopped updating PageRank. The truly crazy formula from Hubspot is
Strategy 3: Dynamic Pricing
Starting with one of the two above approaches, decide how much advertising you’re willing to sell – total number of banners, text links and sponsored posts per month. Start selling them to advertisers, using whichever pricing approach you want. Any time you get close to selling out, start raising your prices. If your “inventory” starts increasing – lower your prices when people ask.
For example, say I started with the above pricing and sold text links for $10 / month. I get advertisers contacting me, buying them, and after 7 months I’ve sold all 10 spots on my featured sites list. When one of those advertisers contacts me to renew, I tell them that I’ve increased the price to $15 / month. Say I then go 4 months with just 8 of the 10 spot filled. That’s fine, I’m still ahead of the game (8*$15 > 10*$10). 4 months later I’ve sold all 10 links. When advertisers contact me to renew or new people contact me, I start quoting them $20 / month. A number choose not to renew and I drop down to 5 links. At this point, it seems like I’m overcharging, so I drop back to $17 / month and see if that sells all the links again.
If you advertise on your blog / site how did you determine your rates?