Online advertising - how does one get it?
November 22, 2007 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Online advertising for dummies?

Thanks to everybody who answered my question last week re: CMS. I eventually chose a Dreamhost package, with a one-click install of Wordpress.

This question is about advertising for the site. To remind you, this is a tech news and reviews site covering a specific but under-served area (I don't want to give away details before the launch). Think Anandtech or Engadget and you're in the right area.

I've signed up with Google Adwords and Amazon Associates but is there anything else I can do? I notice that even some "amateur" sites like have "proper" ads (American Apparel in particular seems to get about on these sites). How do they get the ads?

I have some friendly ex-colleagues who work in ad sales. Is it worthwhile asking them to sell space on commission? Or should it be done through larger agencies? If so, who? Should I be putting in place any back-end auditing software?

When designing my site template, what spaces should I leave for adverts? What are the most common ad sizes nowadays? The last time I designed a website, the 468x60 banner was all there was.
posted by deeper red to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This doesn't address your main question, but Matt's has a great article on ads for websites. In it, Matt links to a previous article on adsense that is dated, but still mostly relevant afaik.

Happy blogging!
posted by ODiV at 10:42 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're doing a bit of cart-before-the-horse here.

Most major advertisers need to get a sense of your web traffic before they commit to an ad-buy. At the moment, your traffic is 0 and therefore not that valuable.

Additionally, many large companies advertise via Google AdWords anyway, so they may be hitting your site regardless.

Good luck!
posted by softlord at 11:29 AM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: Like softlord said, you are kind of putting the cart before the horse, though. You need to have sustained traffic for a while before attracting the types of ads you are talking about, which for example can certainly do.

You should definitely be putting in some traffic monitoring of some sort, so if/when advertisers come calling you have some data to support your traffic. Google Analytics works just fine, and a lot of companies are very familiar with its reports. Also, it works very well with Adwords, which you have already. You will more than likely need to use the static php version of the analytics tracking code, if you chose to use it. I insert mine in the WP template footer.

I have only done ad buying, not selling, but in my experience text ads can appear in pretty much any/all parts of a page. Graphics ads are most common as Banner (480x60), Skyscraper (120x600 or 160x600), Leaderboard (728x90) and then as various size squares and rectangles on the page. I would take a look at the sites that you consider competitors, and see what types of ads they are running. Set up an ad campaign on Adwords and see what types of ads you can buy for those sites (you don't have to ever actually run it), and then determine which ones you want to do. For what it's worth, I have found that a mix of text and graphics ads on the same page is most effective, so I would recommend that you offer both text and graphics ads. Personally, I'm fond of wide skyscrapers and leaderboards, but that's just me.
posted by gemmy at 12:09 PM on November 22, 2007

you can worry about display advertising when designing your templates, since the optimal spot for a display ad and a context sensitive ad differ. Beyond that, I wouldn't worry about them until you have a real chunk of traffic.
posted by Good Brain at 12:15 PM on November 22, 2007

I'm really interested in this topic as well. I have two websites that are getting, what I consider to be, the lower levels of good traffic for their subjects and traffic is continuing to grow each week for both of them.

Google AdSense is doing ok on both sites but I would like to get rid of those ads because they aren't really beneficial for my readers (meaning the subjects of these two sites make it hard for Google to really get contextual ads right) and so they aren't very beneficial for the ad buyers whose ads end up on my sites either.

I can think of many, many, many companies and products whose ads would be not only appropriate on my two sites but also of great interest to my readers. Ads of interest to my readers would be good for the readers and of course good for the advertisers but I'm at a loss on how to move forward. The traffic is still too low (I assume) for a large ad network like say Federated Media, but comparatively low but growing traffic would mean equally low prices for ads. Win for the advertisers, win for the readers and win for me. So how do I get to the advertisers and convince them to give my sites a try?

I wish there was an internet entrepreneur advisory council to discuss these things with. Oh wait, there is, it's called Ask Metafilter. Anxiously awaiting council.
posted by mjones at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: As I mentioned, a site like has many ads. How are they getting them? Through an agency?
posted by deeper red at 12:32 PM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: media purchasing online is currently kind of a holy grail. there aren't many actual media purchasing agencies doing it yet that i've seen, and a lot of networks doing it poorly. even more micronetworks doing it with worse results.

the current favorite strategy seems to be very LazyWeb: gather up a portfolio of blogs under an umbrella, then don't do much targeted promotion, then sell what you can. doesn't work all that well from the results i've seen.

if you're asking about ad sales to the level of gawker media (disclaimer: i design visuals for them, so i am biased), you need a dedicated ad staff -- someone who understands your properties and your viewpoints. it's the only way to get advertising that works for you specifically.

i also design for networks besides gawker who cannot necessarily afford in-house advertising sales yet. they're on networks such as adsense and federated. those two have left me underwhelmed in terms of appropriately-targeted advertising and amount of effort spent selling the properties to advertisers.

case in point: one latino-specific publication in startup mode is using adsense, which once served us an ad for ann coulter's latest book containing some bilious little anti-mexican screed on top of a story about a mother and son being separated because of US immigration policies. appropriately targeted in terms of keywords, yes, but utterly insensitive and more than likely costing us a few viewers.

also, fwiw, i've noticed a lot of advertisers asking for wide skyscrapers (like the ones on cnn and nytimes) and large rectangles rather than leaderboards and skyscrapers. almost nobody likes working with skyscrapers very much any more because the shape is so weird to design into.
posted by patricking at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2007

Reverse your cart and horse, please.

You need traffic to attract advertisers. To get traffic, you need to have some posts (say, 20) before your public launch, and then advertise your site to potential visitors via a press release and, hey, ads!

Check out sites like adbrite and blogads as platforms to advertise your site; you'll get more traction than if you advertise off of Google adwords. (Google is someone you want to take money from, not give money to, unless you are in online retail. As in flogging a product, directly to consumers.)

Once you have established traffic (2 - 3 months if you hit your audience right), you can then flog this traffic to advertisers - again, adbrite and blogads are a good way to do this, but you can also run your own ad server for direct ad sales.

Having previously done this in a tech niche blog, I can tell you that you need reasonably hefty traffic for ad placement agencies to even take your call, or for Federated Media to rep you. However, with high but not dooce level traffic, you can yourself sell ads directly to retailers within your niche. So, you might not be able to land Apple as an advertiser, but you might land ifrogz or someone similar.

To sell direct, you need stats (google metrics are fine) and you need rates - standard IAB ad sizes, and your own standard rate card for each of those ad sizes, per 1,000 views (your CPM). You need to be prepared to give advertisers some sort of metric for success, ie access to your stats if ads are run off your own server.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:34 PM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: Reverse your cart and horse, please.

Will people stop saying that?

I know that I need to build traffic before trying to get ads! For God's sake, a three year old child knows that! There's nothing wrong with planning for adverts now. It's called having a plan.

I'm about to dedicate half my working life to this project and I'm not about to wander into it with my fingers crossed. I need to find out about adverts now, hence the specific questions about how sites get ads. I know I won't get any until I get a lot of visitors!
posted by deeper red at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2007

On mjones' comment, I can totally see why you would be leery of letting some adverts on your site, like the example you cited. When I place Google ads for work, I only use site-specific ad placement because I'm very protective of my brand and only want it showing up where I put it, rather than having it show up on sites I don't approve of. Isn't there a way to be that selective from your perspective too? Can you only accept site-specific ads?

Deeper red, if you have friendly ex-colleagues who work in ad sales, I bet they would be more than willing to help you out with some tips as well. It might be worthwhile for them to sell your ads on commission, but that probably would depend on the type of traffic you end up getting.

Designing templates to incorporate ads and making long term plans for your site is certainly prudent. But it's extremely difficult to tell what you already know from your question. Because you didn't address it in the question, the basic traffic issue jumped out at a lot of us - no need to bite peoples' heads off.
posted by gemmy at 4:21 PM on November 22, 2007

Mod note: comment removed - if you can't answer the question without calling someone a cock, please don't bother.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:02 PM on November 22, 2007

Deeper red, if you have friendly ex-colleagues who work in ad sales, I bet they would be more than willing to help you out with some tips as well.

i totallysecond this. advertisers love to hear from people who know how to talk about addressing their audiences in creative ways, and your media pals have probably seen some of that in action.

simply placing ads is good. coming up with customized solutions for spreading messages makes advertisers hot.
posted by patricking at 5:18 PM on November 22, 2007

As I mentioned, a site like has many ads. How are they getting them? Through an agency?

No, they are getting them through Google, BlogAds and You can find this out using view source. Ask your three year old how that works.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:13 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a professional online media buyer and planner. My whole job is basically about being the kind of person who you are trying to attract. I plan online advertising campaigns, and negotiate placement and pricing with publishers.

As for how to make the design of your site ad-friendly, here's the short answer. Allow for three ads: 728x90, 300x250, and 160x600. They should be "above the fold," most users should see them upon loading the page, without having to scroll down, and they should be at least partly inside the content well, i.e. they should be positioned in such a way that the typical user will have trouble avoiding them in the normal course of perusing your site.

I have some friendly ex-colleagues who work in ad sales. Is it worthwhile asking them to sell space on commission?

Most media planners are not going to give you any money at first, no matter who it is making the call.

Or should it be done through larger agencies? If so, who?

An online media-selling agency? Never heard of that. You could join a network like Federated or BlogAds, but even that isn't going to happen until you get some real pageviews under your belt.

Should I be putting in place any back-end auditing software?

If you reach the point where you're serving ads constantly, and you're not part of a network that takes care of this for you, then yes, you should get an ad server, such as DFP or OAS. But that's an expense and hassle that you don't need right now.

Additional suggestions:

a) Start thinking of ways to gather demographic info about your users. For example, maybe to post on the forums, they have to register, and to register, they have to answer a survey about their interests, income, etc. Then you can position yourself better, e.g. "85% of my users make over $50k and have a bachelor's degree, and have expressed an interest in purchasing a computer in the next 90 days."

b) Start out with a modest pricing model based on time. For example, $100 per month flat fee for the 728x90. If you try to over-value your inventory, you'll shoot yourself in the foot.

c) Make it easy for potential advertisers to contact you. When I find a site I want to advertise on, I do a text search for "advertise." Usually, there is a link called "advertise with us" near the bottom of the page. If there isn't, I search for "sponsor." If that doesn't work, I usually give up, because it means that the people running the site either aren't serious about monetizing, or don't know what they're doing. And have the link lead to real contact info with an email address, not a stupid form with text boxes and a "submit" button.

d) Come up with some specs. I'll make it easy for you. Your starting specs are 30k for gifs and jpgs. You will consider flash ads if they are served by the advertiser. You will not provide campaign reporting. You require three business days to get things up and running.

e) Don't launch your site with AdSense ads already on it. It just makes you look like a money-grubber with no real interest in content. Give your site some time to get popular first.

f) When you do include AdSense, put it in the same parts of the site above, i.e. boxes sized 728x90, 300x250, or 160x600. This shows advertisers where their ads could appear, it indicates that when they buy from you, they will be able to advertise *instead* of Adwords in that area, and it helps set you up to run banner ads from the Google content network.

Welcome to advertising. That will be five dollars, beeyotch.
posted by bingo at 10:33 PM on November 22, 2007 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for their answers. i see that jessamyn had to step in to moderate, which is never a good sign.

Somebody mentioned that I didn't phrase the question correctly and tell people how much I already knew but I had to leave out personal details to avoid the question turning into an essay.

For the record, I've worked in magazine journalism for 10 years, so have a good understanding of how print advertising works. I just lack an understanding of online advertising. I hoped the comment about having ad-sales colleagues might have hinted at this.

For better or for worse, I'm treating this as I would any other journalistic project. I'm getting everything in place before I begin. Yes, I know I won't be able to get advertising until I can provide figures (and also demographics -- thanks bingo), but there's nothing wrong with planning. What would be wrong would be to wander into it with my eyes closed.
posted by deeper red at 1:53 AM on November 23, 2007

I just wanted to say thank you to Bingo for the clear answer. Although I've been running my own site for a long while, I've had trouble finding a clear answer to this same question.
posted by acoutu at 1:42 PM on November 23, 2007

Very sincere thanks to bingo for such a detailed and helpful answer. It was very helpful.
posted by mjones at 4:01 PM on November 25, 2007

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