So, You Want Sponsors/Advertisers, Huh?

By Joe Burns

Use these to jump around or read it all...

[What Do You Have That People Want?]
[Hits Vs. Visitors] [What Is The Magic Number?]
[How Much Do I Ask For?] [Flat Rate Or Impressions?]
[How Do I Get Started?] [Getting Advertisers]
[Do I Have To Advertise to Get Advertisers?]
[How Many Advertisers on One Page?]
[Final Thoughts]

     Note to the Reader: The following is a tutorial that people have been asking me to write for some time now. Below are a lot of my opinions. Most of the information comes from my slant after having gone through the process. There are other ways of doing this. What is below is my way of doing it. So far, it's worked. The topics discussed are from different e-mails I have received.

What Do You Have That People Want?

     That's a bold question, Joe. Yes, but it's a pretty good one. I get letters all the time saying they want to advertise on their home page. I say, Great! How many people are coming in a day? I'm not talking hits mind you, I'm talking visitors. How many? Furthermore, does that warrant someone paying money for your site?

Hits vs. Visitors

     When you are talking to a possible advertiser about the number of people that roll through your site in a day, month, or year, the advertiser usually wants to know about "Impressions" or "Visitors." Too often this gets confused with the concepts of hits. Here are the differences:
  • Hits: A "hit" is a request of the server. Let's say, for example, that you have a page that has five graphics on it. That page is equal to six hits, the page and then the five graphics. Sometimes people report "hits" to a possible advertiser. This is wrong, as it creates an inflated report of site traffic. If I could report hits alone, I could create graphics-filled pages and report numbers into the tens of millions.

  • Impressions (also called "Page Views"): This is a listing of how many times the ad banner was seen. It may be that one person saw the ad banner three times. That's fine. Impressions are simply the number of times the banner was seen.

  • Visitors: Visitors are the number of individual people coming into the site. Usually this number is reported right alongside Impressions. Something like, HTML Goodies creates 3 million impressions a month from 1.1 million individual visitors. (True, by the way.)

     When I first started Goodies, I made a point of making my pages one hit each, three at the most. The reason was that I sold by impressions, but I paid by hits. I wanted the two numbers as equal as possible. Now I pay by space rather than impressions so I've gussied up the pages a bit.

What Is The Magic Number?

     Ten thousand per month. The question I am asked time and time again is how many people must come through the site for it to be worth selling to an advertiser. The number I kept hearing was 10,000 per month. Not 10,000 hits, but 10,000 individual visitors creating however many impressions. This appears to be the threshold where a serious advertiser will begin to talk to you.

How Much Do I Ask For?

     How much do you need? I don't mean that to be clever, either. What does it cost you in both hardware and time each month to run your site? I add "time" to that list because you must put in time. People want to be able to talk, or e-mail, to a real person. People also want to see change and improvement. It is my opinion that a site must evolve or it will die. I am forever answering e-mail or writing a new tutorial.
     Now stop and think how much profits you wish to make. Yes, we'd all like to make 500% profit, but that's not always possible. You may price yourself right out of contention.
     Finally, be flexible. You know what you want, but maybe an advertiser would like a break in price. You might say okay if they then offer to buy for five months rather than one, or pay up front. There is always a deal to be made.

Flat Rate per CPM, Click-Throughs, or Impressions?

     Your choice. I go with a flat rate per 1000 impressions, called a CPM (cost per thousand). I think it is most fair to the advertiser. I often give more impressions than I offer. That's good for the advertiser and shows good faith on my part. The advertiser also has it easier with flat rate as he/she is able to budget easily and can forecast whether they can remain on your site next month.
     If you go by exact number of impressions, you make the cost a floating number and that makes it harder to forecast dollars. It may lead to the end of an advertiser relationship. Plus, with a floating rate you will need to prove exact numbers which are far more difficult to provide than your simply hitting a plateau of visitors.
     Selling by click-throughs is another popular method. A click-through is when someone clicks on the advertiser's banner to see what it links to. I've seen contracts anywhere from .20 cents to $1 per click, though.
     The problem with click-though advertising is that you need to be able to keep track of the clicks. I do it through a program I purchased that rotates my advertising banners and records impressions and clicks. The program is from Central Ad Pro and cost me around $600. You have to decide if that is worth it to you.

How Much Does HTML Goodies Ask For?

     None of your business. Just kidding! I used to have different costs for each of the pages. When I first created "htmlgoodies.com", if you wanted to be at the top of the main page, I asked for $500. Each tutorial was $200. That was for one calendar month.
     That meant I could offer 150,000 impressions for $500. Maybe that will help you decide on the amount you want to charge as you're getting off the ground.
     As I said above, I am now using a CPM rate. Plus I have someone selling for me. I actually stay pretty far away from the money side of the site. I believe the rates now run about $30 or better for a thousand impressions. The site's pretty profitable.

How Do I Get Started?

     I would suggest putting together two things, after the Web site of course:
  • A description of the site (make this detailed). This is a PR-type thing. Say someone asks you to send some information about your site and what it offers. This is the information you would send them.
  • A Rate Card. This is a listing of every page and its price. Or how much per 1000 impressions, or however you are going to do it. You may only be selling the main page. If so, great. List it.

Getting Advertisers

     There are couple ways of doing this. I only use one.
  • Sell yourself.
  • Hire someone to sell for you.

Sell Yourself

     Get out there! Press the flesh! Shake a few hands! Slap a few backs! Sell! Sell! Sell!
     Not much I can say here but to sell where you might find clients. Head to Internet shows. Write to advertisers over the Net. Put your pages on every search engine you can find. Post a rate card for all to see. I've never really done this outside of people asking about advertising simply because the site was there. I personally have never solicited for an advertiser outside of a return e-mail now and again.

Hire Someone

     This is what I did. I felt I put enough time in working on the site. I'd head to the poorhouse before I made any contacts, so I hired a company to sell for me. I think it's the best way. The site became fun again when I got out of the money side. I actually came pretty close to closing Goodies altogether in 1996 because of having to sell the site myself.
     The one downfall is that you don't get to keep all the money. These people won't work for free, you know! There is always a commission involved. In my case, it's 30% of the gross. Also, usually there is a statement that you don't get paid until the advertiser pays. So you may run a banner for a while, the advertiser doesn't pay, and you lose out. It happens, and it's part of doing business. That said...

Here is Yahoo's Internet Services Page. You can find companies there.

Do I Have To Advertise To Get Advertisers?

     I guess you can. I never had to outside of search engines. Plus, you should get some form of advertising from the company you sign up with. People tell me that the Internet Link Exchange is good for some free advertising. The only problem with that is that they want to post a banner, which takes away from space you, may sell in the future and also makes it appear that you have banners already and might not need advertising.
     I'm just a big believer in "build a better mousetrap and they will come." Just make a point of registering all your pages so you are fairly easy to find when someone goes looking for what you offer.

Click Here to learn how to register your pages!

How Many Advertisers Should Go On One Page?

     That depends on you, your advertisers, and the size of their banners. Some advertisers want to be the only one on the page and will write that right into a contract. Other advertisers will allow themselves to be around other banners if they themselves are at the top or close to the top. My limit was four when I had the old format of one long page linking everything; two at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom. I offered special prices to the one at the bottom.
     Now that I use a program to rotate my banners for me, I only go with just a few per page.
     Notice on this page, too, that ad banners are different sizes. Smaller banners allow for more per page with less intrusion.

     If you do start selling ad space on your site, let me suggest that you also purchase a program that posts banners to pages on the fly. If you assign specific ad banners to specific pages, it tends to make the site look static. The CentralAd program I use can do that for you.

Final Thoughts

     It is my opinion that undertaking advertising is more than a hobby on the side. You must look at this as a small business. Not only must you offer something nice to attract people, but you need to continually update and add to what you offer. You need to keep balance sheets for tax purposes. It's hard to hide that you're making money on the WWW since everyone can see it.

     Most important of all, ask yourself the question: "What do you have that people want?" The purpose should be providing something people will come to see. The advertising will come easily after that.

     Finally, I can give no better thought-provoking information than this: This site was up and running for a year and five months before I made a penny in profit. Now that it is getting established, I am making enough for the site to pay for itself, and a dinner out with my wife once a week ...and that's about it.

     May you become rich! I'm certainly not... not yet anyway.

[What Do You Have That People Want?]
[Hits Vs. Visitors] [What Is The Magic Number?]
[How Much Do I Ask For?] [Flat Rate or Impressions?]
[How Do I Get Started?] [Getting Advertisers]
[Do I Have To Advertise to Get Advertisers?]
[How Many Advertisers on One Page?]
[Final Thoughts]


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