You are a small business hoping for an additional income stream, so you turn to placing ads on your site. Did you just loose a client? Are you loosing authority?
Have you seen a good website go bad? Or have you lost respect for a site, which makes you wonder about the business behind it? These and other thoughts popped into my head this week while I was negotiating an ad for one of my sites and while looking at other sites. I think that there is nothing wrong with modeling your site after a successful web page, so why not look at what they have done to discover how it can be used in your own pages. I study. Typically, I do not look at the advertising placed on a site, because I am there for the content, yet those bits of marketing may have something useful for me. Like most people surfing the web, I have mixed reactions to someone trying to sell me more stuff, but this week I encountered a couple of badly handled sites that left them looking a bit less trustworthy in my eyes.
First, making an extra income through advertising is not a bad thing, but have your priorities straight. Why did you set up your blog? To promote yourself? To promote your business? If you did it to sell ads, then this post may not be for you. I wanted to share some facts about advertising on your site as a small business if you are beginning on this path. When I started, I thought that I could make enough money from Google AdSense to cover some of my own promotion expenses. This is still what I do with advertising revenue, but that revenue does not come from Google. That program is great. It is simple to use on your site. I remember being told that to make an income from that service, I would need at least two hundred visitors a day with a really good niche. As it turned out, the niche that I was in (real estate) had a fairly high price per click, so I thought I would have it made. I passed that visitor mark, and nothing happened. Oh yes, I was obtaining more clicks, but not significantly more. I even studied the techniques of others to see how I could optimize my site for making more money, and still no luck. To create an income stream from AdSense meant devoting quite a bit of effort that was taking me away from my main goal: creating business opportunities for myself, so I stopped worrying about those ads. I focused on what the user may want from my site. As my daily visitor count grew, I did find myself being approached directly about ad space on my site. Now the problem was that advertisers were willing to pay me directly, but they wanted to dictate where the advertising went. Again, would this be good for my business? My site user? I have become more flexible about accepting advertising on the site, but I do stop when an advertiser may be asking me to sacrifice my business for his own benefit. By the way, other businesses first came to my site inquiring about ads when my Google Analytics account showed two hundred visitors per day on average, and you will earn more money that way than from Google AdSense, unless your are willing to focus a lot on advertising.
Back to the reason for this post: advertising and the user experience. Scenario one: I am contacted by a business about a job opportunity, so I decide to check them out. My business relies on referrals, so I want to know who is recommending me. I do a search to see what may turn up in the results about their firm. Nothing bad, and I see their website, so I click on the link. Welcome to the video that could be a television commercial before you enter the site. There was another problem. The firm had an English name, and there was no indication that their business was being geared towards Spanish speakers, but the video and directional cues were in Spanish. I knew why they contacted me though (part of my site is in Spanish serving their clientele). However, do I need to sit through an ad for your service before entering the site? I have to wait for it to load, and even though I bought what I was told is high speed internet, it is not always that fast. The other problem for another visitor would have been the Spanish. There was no indication that this firm was gearing exclusively to a Spanish speaking community before I went to the site. Listen, videos can be great for selling your service, but let them be an option to view once the visitor has reached your home page, or you may have lost them.
Scenario 2: I really want to use social media to increase my visitor numbers, so I come up with a great hook to get people to come to my site. Personally, I sometimes feel that the only people benefiting from social media is the social media experts. I have my presence on the various sites, and I do become involved, but lately, when I click on a link from someone I do not know, I feel that I have been scammed. Here is what happened recently. I like supporting other bloggers, so when a person posts a link with something that could be interesting to me, I look. Now on Twitter, I am not going to have a close relationship with everyone that I am following; how can you with over a thousand followers, but you do try to engage when you can. I began following this one person because they were from my city and they blogged. In fact, they blogged about a filed that was somewhat related to my own. I had not seen her post much though, yet I was interested. The other day she tweets that she is beginning a new series of articles with a topic that piques my interest. I click the link. I find a wall of pure advertising. If there was a post on that page, it never loaded. The advertising could only be described as very loosely fitting the topic in the tweet. Will I suggest to other to go to her site? No. I tired contacting her, but I was ignored. A great way to loose authority is to place advertising above your content.
Scenario 3: as a site, you are building trust in your readers, but you want to make more money from advertising, so you keep placing more ad space around the content. Regular users of your site will more than likely not click on the ads, so why bother them; hide the ads from them. Over time, every blog site that I have read has increased advertising space. The better sites have always worked to make the user experience come first. Navigation takes precedence over a banner. User engagement like a “recent comments” section will be more prominent. The advertising is not forgotten, but it is balanced with other site needs. How to balance this on your own site depends on the site design, so I suggest that you stop and look at the sites that you are visiting to see what appeals to you. What happened to me was that I found a site which was providing me with useful information for my business. The content was well written (a staff of professional writers and good guest authors). I still suggest this site to other professionals in the real estate industry, but I am a little disappointed in the site, and I am wondering how others may react when landing on one of their posts. You see they are surrounding their posts with ads. The main page showing the list of posts is not so bad, but the individual post page is filled with ad space. Here is my problem: if I was landing on the site through the main url, I would see a blog that is engaging its audience; if I land on the site through a blog post, my first impression is they are more concerned with selling me something than having me read that post. Most of your visitors will come to a site through a post. Yes, you have set up a lovely landing page for your home page, and it would be great if visitors entered the site through that page. Reality is that your site will be accessed any number of ways, so you have to treat any page as a possible starting point for a visitor. Do not leave a bad impression by layering on more ads.
My last word is balance, but balance for you may be different than my sense. My argument here is that each site has its own personality and flow, so where you put the ad space will depend upon the site design. I think in general the concept of less is more may apply. If there are less ads, but they are well focused to the post, I would be more likely to pay attention to them. When you come to the point of accepting advertising directly, do not be afraid of walking away from the negotiation, but be willing to listen, so you can evaluate the proposal. For example, one advertiser did not like the idea that I had the ad space labeled “sponsors”. Now many sites use this term. He wanted me to change this to ” suggested or recommended sites”. My thought was that I was not suggesting his site. To me, if I was suggesting his site, it meant that I had discovered his site, found it useful, so I put up a link to tell others about it. His concern was that people would ignore the link if they saw it only as an ad. Changing the wording from “sponsors” to “partners” was all it took to seal the deal. This change may have improved that section for all I know. If you do walk away from the deal, one of two things will happen. One, the potential advertiser will come back to accept your terms, or two, another advertiser will come along soon enough. You will find advertisers, so do not be so keen on placing ads for that additional revenue that you hurt your own business.