Expert: David Ponce, OHGIZMO.com

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About the Expert

David Ponce is the owner and managing editor of OhGizimo.com, a “deliciously geeky” blog on gadgets, innovation and design. Formerly a computer salesman, he quit his job to devote to full time blogging. David’s articles have been linked from sites including Gizmodo, Engadget, Yahoo’s The 9, Slashdot, Digg and BoingBoing and he has been interviewed for publications such as PC World Magazine and SmartMoney Magazine. David is one of the main speakers at PostieCon ’07 where he will be speaking on how to turn site visits into cash. As a respected authority on this topic, we are pleased to have David share some of those tips in his guest blog post, Blogging Alchemy.

So, let’s say you’ve done everything right, and you managed to build yourself (through sweat, hard work and dedication) a shiny blog, with heaps and heaps of traffic. Congratulations! But, you surely must have noticed something: this blogging thing takes an awful lot of time. And as we all know, time is money. So it would make sense to… compensate yourself for all the hours you put into this. Hell, if you compensate yourself enough, and do things right, you could enter the ever growing ranks of the pro-bloggers, and forever say goodbye to the 9 to 5. In the next few bullets, I’ll try to show you the things I learned while doing just that. One last thing before I start: never underestimate the value of the work you do. If you have traffic, it’s because you are putting a quality product out; your readership is proof that you’re doing something good. Your words, your insight, your research is valuable to yourself, your readers and prospective advertisers. I say this to you as a foundation for the advice that follows: always seek to maximize the worth of each and every visitor to your site. Never settle for “good enough”, because all that time you put into this isn’t worth “good enough”. Advertisers will always try to get you to settle for less. Don’t. That said, there is a right way and a wrong way to achieve this. I’ll start by telling you what you can do wrong.

1. Respect your readers. The single worst mistake you can make is to underestimate the importance of this point. Of course, no ads at all is best, but we’re not looking at that option. But there is a balance between too many ads, and too little. So: No one likes flashing ads, pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitials (ads that appear out of nowhere, and obscure the entire page) and a page so full of ads that you have to scroll down before seeing any content. Don’t do it. You’ll lose current readers and wont gain any new ones, so there’s no point in giving in to the extra marginal income.

2. Placement. Where you put ads makes a big difference in how much money they generate. At least, for CPC (cost per click) ads. CPM (cost per thousand impressions) is a different story, and I’ll address that later. Google Adsense is a typical CPC advertiser (Even though they give you an eCPM figure. The “e” is key). Adsense is also the most ubiquitous, so lets look at them. But, before I do, keep in mind that all this applies to Chitika as well, which can be used in addition to, or instead of Adsense. The 300 by 250 unit is arguably the best performing unit. Two spots are best suited for it: Above the fold on the right (or left). In a permalink page, sandwiched between the end of your article and the beginning of the comments. Another great performer is the 728 by 15 Link Unit. Place it below a Leaderboard (728 by 60) unit. Having something graphical right above the link unit dramatically increses its performance. Alternatively, place it below your logo and navigation section at the top of your page. It’s unobstrusive and performs wonderfully. The theme is that the Link Unit does best when placed below something that will attract readers’ attention. Leaderboards (728 by 60) perform reasonably well. Place them at the very top of your page, but leave enough space so that things don’t look cramped. Full Banners and Skyscrapers from Adsense have performed somewhat poorly in my experience. When placing these units, always keep aesthetics in mind. Leave space. Be symmetrical. Be balanced. Be nice to your reader.

3. Layering. Aside from obvious graphical ads, there are many ways that you can layer in more advertisement without crowding out your screen real estate and without annoying your users too much. The “too much” is key. Remember, all ads are annoying to some degree, so it’s important to find the right balance. So, what else can you do to maximise every page view? Text ads. They are a good steady source of income, and they tuck away on your site quite neatly. The advertisers are usually in search of a Page Rank boost. Whether or not this is a good thing is a debate for another day. The best company for text ads is: http://www.text-link-ads.com Dynamic text ads. These are arguably the most annoying ads I’ve ever run on the site, but I found that the impact was less negative than expected. They are the ads that appear when you mouse over certain keywords. The important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to fool your readers, so make sure that the highlighted text looks very different than a regular link on your page. http://www.vibrantmedia.com is the leader in this field. Sponsored posts. You can get paid to write reviews for advertisers, but keep in mind the “not fooling your readers” theme. This is a hot button topic, and I’m quite clear in my guidelines for doing so: Clear, unambiguous disclosure at the top of every single sponsored post. Disclosure should start with “This is a sponsored post”. Don’t, don’t, don’t give in to the temptation to make it any less clear. Never accept to write reviews that dictate tone. Even with disclosure, it’s not right to be told what to say about something, even for money. It’ll make you look bad, no matter what you do. Don’t be afraid to say a product is bad. If it affects your future relationships with the company, so be it; this is the most expendable part of your income, and if you have to choose between your credibility and this stream of cash, the choice should be obvious. If it later comes out that you reviewed something positively, and it turns out to be a total flop, your readers will remember. The two largest companies in this field are http://www.payperpost.com and http://www.reviewme.com

4. CPM ads, fixed monthly ads. Sometimes, advertisers will get so excited about the stuff you put out, they’ll want to strike special deals with you. These can take several forms: Fixed monthly deals. They’ll offer a specific sum to appear on every single one of your pageviews. That’s usually good, but don’t set your price too low. You should aim somewhere in the $7CPM range. That means $7 for every thousand page views. On a site like OhGizmo, with 300,000 page views a month, that means you should ask for at least $2,100 per month. Of course, this number will be negotiated down, but $7CPM is not an ungodly figure to ask for. Straight CPM deals. Sometimes, an advertiser has a set amount of money he wishes to spend on your site. So, it’s up to you to determine how many page views that will buy him.

5. Agencies. Of course, by this point, things are getting a little complicated. You want to write, but you find yourself managing all the ads, buying an ad server so you can split pageviews between advertisers, etc. It’s taking time and becoming counterproductive. So, sometimes it’s better to let someone else do that part of the work, and let them take a cut of your revenue for their effort. The cream of the crop of such agencies, in my experience, is Federated Media. http://www.federatedmedia.net These guys are angels, and they take care of their authors like no one else does. They manage everything for you, so you can focus on your writing. And they get you top rates for your impressions. Of course, getting into Federated Media is not a simple matter of applying. You have to have a special site, with a sharp focus and a strong voice. You have to be respected in your field. If you have this, apply and make your case, but inclusion is not guaranteed. And that’s it really. Well, no, that’s not true. There’s so much more that I could go on for quite some time. But these are some basics. But, if there’s only one point to take away with you, it’s #1. Don’t let greed get the better part of you. And, well… best of luck!