At some point, whether you started your site out for fun or set out to create an online business, you are probably going to want to make some money from your website or blog.
Whether you are looking to make millions or just cover the cost of your web hosting I hope this article and the resources provided will help get you started.
There are a few ways to generate income depending on the type of site you have. For instance you might be providing a service and charge per hour or you might allow user to subscribe to see some priority content.
However, I’m going to concentrate on advertising, since this is what I know most about and also how most content based sites make money.
In General there are three types of advertising Cost per Action (CPA), Cost per Click (CPC) and Cost per Impression (CPM). Each of these has its own benefits and a lot will depend on the content of you site.
Advertising networks typically pay you 30-120 days after the end of the month in which you ran the adverts. This is commonly called the Net term, so Net 30 or Net 60.
So how do you get started? Well you can try and sell advertising direct but if you have a new site and not a lot of traffic you are going to find it very hard to get advertisers and deal with the overhead of chasing them up and indeed you might even struggle with serving the adverts on your site.
The first thing you will have to do is get the adverts on your site’s pages. The easiest way to do this is just paste the advertising code given to you into the position in your HTML where you want the ads to appear. If you want a bit more control than that then you could use some ad serving software.
There are several you can download for free like or you could use a hosted solution like. However, really ad servers are worth a separate article as although they have some big positives they also have some down sides. Google offer theirDoubleClick for Publishers for free but I’ve found it one of the most counter-intuitive pieces of software I’ve ever used. Though there are some good features like being able to have Adsense compete with a floor CPM. If you stick with it then it can save you a lot of money.
I prefer the hosted solution provided by Adspeed as it offers scalability and is really simple to use. However, in the past I’ve used self-hosted scripts likeAdcycle or the old PHPadsNew, now OpenX. These self-hosted solutions do have a hardware overhead though.
AdSense is probably the easiest network to sign up for and to get started with. Just head to their sign up page and fill in your details. Once accepted you will be able to generate code for your site and within an hour or so you will have contextual ads showing up on your site. Most of these will be paid out on CPC but some of AdSense’ ads now pay out as CPM.
Google say they automatically show the most valuable ad but I’ve found sometimes their recommendations are not right for my site. So sometimes one ad is better than three or text only makes more than text and image. Again this is one for its own post. But sign up and get experimenting.
The CPM Advertising Networks
There are loads of CPM advertising networks, almost seems to be a new one popping up every day. I’ve created an advertising networks page that I will update over time with any personal experience I have with them.
Top Tier and Custom Networks
These are the companies who will offer the most in terms of CPM and even sell creatives like skinning your site, where the site is branded in a product skin, or the likes of sponsored articles or posts.
Gorilla Nation is a popular choice for movie, DVD, comic and other special interest sites…sort of geeky sites I guess. A great team and some good money to be made if you can get in. They usually want you onboard for a while before they will invest time in marketing your site but once they do you should see pretty high CPMs and a variety of non-traditional opportunities.
Glam Media started a few years ago and tend to take on lifestyle and women’s interest sites. Though they also have a men’s interest channel called Brash. Glam are unusual in that they have their own sites as well as all the bloggers and sites they represent. Positives are that CPMs can be high and they sometimes sell a lot of skins and sponsored I’ve worked with Glam a lot in the last few years and although all the front-line staff are great, the management can ride rough shod over publishers a bit. For instance they changed the payment terms of from 60 days to 120 days overnight. They did eventually lend us our own money to tide us through but it nearly sunk the business.
I guess the biggest reason not to use them is the payment terms of 120 days. This makes it easy to leave them but very hard to start, as you’ll be switching from the more typical of 30-60 days. It is also not typical in the industry. One caveat is that the German part of Glam is operated separately and has better payment terms of Net 30 and generally seems more reliable.
Tribal Fusion are I guess top tier but their CPMs will not be as high as Glam Media or Gorilla Nation. They do offer a good fill rate sometimes 80% but not so much in the way of skins or custom sells of your site. They pay Net 45, which is a bit of a pain sometimes, as bills tend to come in at the end of the month not the middle. Also their dashboard for publishers is not great, with their default ad server being clunky to use. But overall they are very reliable and a good company to work with.
Medium Tier Networks
These are advertising networks that provide lower CPM ads. These are often easier to get your site into and can help fill up your inventory.
Casale Media I’ve not used in a while but in the past they were always very professional and sort of straddled the gap between medium and high tier networks. I’ve been speaking to them again more recently and they seem to be pushing a market based system where you inventory is bid for on an electronic market….worth a look. I’m hoping to give them a whirl again soon.
Value Click Media, formerly Fast Click, provide a variety of ads from popunders to traditional leaderboard, towers and rectangles. They have fairly low CPMs but cover a lot of different countries and their admin is fairly easy to use. Payments to us have always been on time and are made Net 30. It is essential you use their filters though so you can remove in bulk any existing and future annoying ads. These tend to be the strobbing “you are the millionith visitor to this site and have won a banana!”
BlinkX Media (Burst Media) I’ve not used Burst for several years but they seem to be still going strong. When I used them they often had high CPM ads but suffered from a low fill rate. Little update I signed up for Blinx mid January 2013 and ran a leaderboard for a day with very low (9 cents on USA/UK traffic) eCPM results, I’ll have another test run soon.
Lower Tier Networks
I’ve not got a lot of experience using these as often I find you are better promoting one of your other sites or even an affiliate than running these. However, I guess you look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves. I’ll add some to this and the network page shortly.
Inline Advertising Networks
These are the solutions that highlight and link, usually double-underline, some keywords in your content. If a user mouseovers the link then a little info box or even video will popup. If they click then you’ll get paid. Some also offer to highlight your own content when no ads are available.
Some people hate these but I think they are an OK way to make some money at low impact to the user without eating in to other advertising real estate.
Kontera don’t pay as well as Vibrant but are a bit easier to get in to and are maybe more consistant with their inventory and fill, especially in the USA.
Vibrant Media offer very high end ads that pay really well. Their inventory can be patchy but when they have plenty to go around you can make a lot of money. More recently they have started to roll out some new formats.
Adbrite are probably a bit lower end than Vibrant or Kontera but they do have an inline text offering that runs in tandem with their standard ads. I have an account with Adbrite but have not used them in years, worth a look.
Popunders and Popups
A lot of people hate these with a passion, especially popups. I’d run a few popunders on certain sites, likes of games sites and sometimes I run popunders of my own sites to promote them…but with a 24 hour cap. Ill post up the code in another article as handy for self-promoting. Most networks have a popunder option where CPMs can range from $1 to $10, but fill is usually limited and of course many user block popunders. I’d not recommend using popups at all.
Other Types of High Impact Advertising
There are some other types of advertising you can run such as pushdowns that push the content down or intermediate pages. Indeed there are always new creatives coming out and in fact many will actually be attached to standard ads you will be running from the network above. So for example a 300×250 MPU might spawn a floating video ad if a user mouseovers for more than five seconds.
Here are a few networks that actually specialise in these more exotic ads.
SayMedia offer high CPM and high impact video ads and pushdowns. They don’t always have a lot of inventory but when they do those double digit CPMs really generate a lot of revenue quickly. $10-$13 for USA is typical.
Adside (formerly Doclix) offers a few different formats including a small text window that site at the bottom of your page, can be a nice little extra earner. Sort of unused space filler, if your looking to maximise page eCPM.
Adexcite offer floating video ads and pay quite a high CPM. I had to remove them the other week though as Google flagged the whole of Monsters and Critics as a malicious site, saying adexcite adcode was a code injection exploit…I’ll need to drop them a line about it.
Unruly Media offer video ads that are user initiated. If the user plays the video and watches it you can earn quite a lot. They have a lot of UK inventory but also have USA and Germany. I’ve found if put in the right position they can make as much or more than Adsense. They do need a good position though in order that users engage. Also you might want to frequency cap them with an adserver. That way you can maximise the eCPM and maybe default to Adsense or something like that.
What I haven’t touched on are the likes of video pre-roll or showing Adsense before Flash games. These are areas I’m not that up on and really just starting to look at some of them as I deal more with video and Flash games.
I’ll update my network list as often as I can and over the next while I’ll do a few posts on the likes of optimising Adsense and getting the most from more than one advertising network so you can maximise your revenue.