Bob the Website Builder- One Publisher’s Adventure in Ads

In our last article we examined the vicious circle that drives ever more intrusive advertising. In this article we begin the search for a virtuous circle; a way for publishers to battle the spread of bad ads. To begin to define this virtuous circle we must understand how people choose the ads that appear on their website.

Meet “Bob the Website Builder”: he loves to create content about home-page improvements. It occurs to him that he has pretty good traffic to his website and that he could make some money from advertising to pay his hosting costs. But Bob is a busy guy and he doesn’t have a lot of time to put into an advertising strategy- he simply wants to set up the ads and let them run without any more maintenance required on his part.

Where To Begin?

A simple Google search of “how to put ads on your website” reveals some expected paid results up top: Google Adsense– a popular ad solution that targets users based on their profile and interests, Twitter Ads and Adroll (another popular advertising service) all make up the top 5. These are all great resources to help install an ad solution, but they aren’t really a place for Bob to learn about what options are available to him. When he gets to the organic results he finds another technical guide to installing Adsense and two WikiHows- one of which explains an Amazon ad solution while the other highlights a few other ad solutions Bob can use.

Bob dives in to learn about these options, but right away two things worry him. He’s read about contextual advertising– advertising on a website that is relevant to the page’s content- but he doesn’t have the thousands of pageviews per day needed to make this method effective. His second concern is the ads themselves. It’s considered “taking a risk” to work with some of these contextual ad solutions, due to the nature of the ads they show- such as gambling or pornography. Neither of these sound like suitable options to Bob. He’s learned a little about some particular solutions, but he has yet to find comparisons of these solutions to figure out which would best suit his site and audience.

Back To the Drawing Board

In the first search results Bob noticed another phrase that seems relevant, so he searches for “how to monetize your website”.

The first paid result Bob sees is an ad solution called Viglink. They provide affiliate advertising- site owners get paid when someone clicks through an ad on their site and buys something. Viglink also provides information for online publishers in blogs and forums, that show techniques other websites use to drive traffic and increase revenue. He doesn’t know if affiliate links are the right way to go and he moves on to some other articles. The organic results reveals 3 great advertising resources- A Guide To Blog Monetization, a Top 10 Monetization List, and a “4 Step” affiliate marketing article from Mashable. Each quickly dives into affiliate marketing solutions. After reading them Bob thinks this solution won’t work until he can bring in a specific audience that’s interested in high value products and services.

Learning The Basics

While these guides provide lots of advice Bob is still not familiar with some of the terms they use, such as the different ways to get paid. For example some solutions pay per thousand ads that his site visitors see (CPM), but others only pay when a visitor actually clicks on an ad (CPC) or when they buy something (Affiliate). The concepts themselves are easy enough for Bob to understand, but it’s difficult to find consistent information on which pays more. One site states the average CPM is anywhere from $1.95 to $8.95 while another claims a much lower rate of $0.24. Bob realizes he may have to test out multiple options to figure out what drives the most revenue.

“Its impossible to find real-world comparisons of ad revenue from different ad solutions”

So what has Bob learned?

There’s still a little uncertainty, but Bob decides that he’s learned enough to make an educated decision. He needs to have the right kind of visitors for affiliate marketing, and a lot of traffic for contextual advertising. In the end, he chooses to use Google Adsense. This ad solution appeals to Bob because it applies to almost all types of websites and will give him a chance to sell some really valuable ads that target specific user interests.

Looking Towards The Future

Google’s Adsense makes a lot of sense for Bob. The most important thing to him is that the solution doesn’t require a lot of work to install and operate. Adsense is a well-known and respected advertising solution, but there’s no guarantee that his visitors won’t see intrusive ads. On the positive side Adsense doesn’t allow ads to obscure content and they are clearly labeled so that they cannot be mistaken for website content. On the downside, however, animated ads with sound are allowed and can be intrusive to website visitors.

The choice to give up control of their ad space leaves website owners like Bob in a vulnerable position: they do not control the ads that appear on their website and this can lead to low-quality ads appearing. Bob wouldn’t even be aware of this issue unless his visitors complained. With so much conflicting information on which ad network to use, it’s difficult for publishers like Bob to know where to begin.

In a future article we’ll look at what happens if Bob doesn’t see positive ad revenue; there are other ad solutions out there that may be more suitable, and even a risk he may try more aggressive or underhand tactics to drive ad revenue.

If you’d like to share a story about your journey towards website monetization, please contact us.

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