Prep your site for the Q4 ad season
The holiday-shopping season is in full swing, and that means that advertisers have entered their full push towards the end of the fourth quarter. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your advertising profits during this crucial period of time.
We’ve discussed in the past the downside of this — the inevitable Q1 slump that occurs in January, when ad budgets are depleted and budgets for the new year are being determined.
But let’s talk about the other side of that coin — making hay while the sun shines.
For those of you who use Google’s Doubleclick for Publishers, this means that it’s time to re-calculate your rates. Ad space is in higher demand right now, and that means higher prices. For a refresher on using DFP, please read this post.
The Rate is the CPM price at which Google AdSense competes with the ad defined in your Line item. (Except for House ads, which uses Value CPM to define this competition). For example, if you’re getting $.40 CPM for a leaderboard through Tribal Fusion and your Rate is set to $0.50, then Google can’t replace the Tribal Fusion ad with a better-paying AdSense ad — at least not until Tribal Fusion reaches $0.50. And if that never happens, you’re going to be stuck getting a $0.40 CPM.
To adjust your Rate, open each line item and scroll down to Settings.
To calculate the number that should go into this space, you’ll have to log-in to your ad network and find two statistics for each ad unit: Fill rate and CPM.
Multiply the ad’s CPM by the fill rate.
For example, if I’m getting a CPM of $1.50 for a skyscraper ad through PulsePoint — but my Fill rate is 25%…
1.5 x .25 = .375
Therefore, I’d set my Rate at $0.38
If your ad network doesn’t offer a fill rate, simple divide the number of served ads by the total number of impressions.
If you’re running Project Wonderful, this is an excellent time to establish a minimum bid.
Think of it this way. If you were selling ads on your site the traditional way — billing on a CPM (Cost Per Thousand impressions) basis — you would make about $50 a day for a site trafficking about 10,000 a day displaying a $5 CPM ad.
Of course, the beginning-or-intermediate webcartoonist isn’t able to command a $5 CPM. (And if they are getting $5 CPM through an ad server like AdsDaq or Tribal Fusion, chances are they’re not serving all 10,000 impressions.)
So, let’s do the math on a much more modest $1-CPM basis. The same 10,000-pageview site would have a earning potential of $10 per day. Then, why is your minimum bid less than $10 per day?
I should pause here and note that $10 is not a magic number. My point is that your PW minimum should be set to what you feel you could make in a day selling the same number of ads on a CPM basis. That might be a $1 CPM for you. Or it might be $5. Or it might be $0.50.
Perhaps you keep your minimum bid low because you feel as if setting it higher would result in a complete loss of advertising through Project Wonderful. And if you’re not offering merchandise, you may be absolutely right. Your best bet is to either bide your time or use Project Wonderful in a rotation along with other CPM-based ad servers.
But if you are selling merchandise on your site, you might be much better served setting a high minimum bid and using a “house ad” instead of a “Your ad here” announcement. When there are no bidders, Project Wonderful defaults to a “Your ad here” message. However, in your settings, you can upload a banner ad of your own and set the link URL. (Click “edit” on an existing ad box, and look for “‘Your ad here’ image and link” under “Publisher Options.”)
And if you have merchandise planned for the holiday shopping season, this is a perfect opportunity to get the most out of your own ad space!
After all, you can solicit PW ad purchases through elsewhere on your site. You don’t really need the “Your ad here” message. Consider uploading an attractive ad for your own merchandise and using it as the default for when there are no bids. How many sales do you have to make before you’ve made back the amount that you “lost” by setting a higher minimum bid? One? Two? It shouldn’t take much to make that money back. And over the course of a few months, you might find that you actually make more.
If you don’t already have house ads that promote your own merchandise, this is an excellent time to create a few and set them as defaults to whichever ad network(s) you’re using.
This is also a great time to re-evaluate the effectiveness of your Web-site design from the perspective of your advertising.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for where to put ads on your site. The leaderboard-across-the-top placement is fairly ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Google has developed a “heat map” however, to suggest ad placements that might yeild better results. Obviously, ads that appear “above the fold” will fare better than ads that readers have to scroll down to see. (And, yes, Google has developed a handly tool for that, too.)
Redouble your commitment to blogging.
I’ve spent a litle more time writing some long-than-usual posts for my blog. This gives ad spiders a little more to work with, and, as a result, opens my site up to a wider range of advertisers. Case in point: I wrote about my family vacation to Walt Disney World. It allowed me to share some happy stories, and it provided a good vehicle from which to thank my readers for the support that makes such a vacation possible. If you go to my site, chances are very good that you’ll see ads for Disney-related vacation packages.
Redouble your social-media promotion
During the last part of the year, my social-media outreach slowed and lost focus. The first part of Q1 is an excellent time to get back on the horse. I’m back to using 14blocks.com to place two site promotions into my Twitter and Facebook feeds every day — targeted to times during which my Twitter traffic peaks. One is a general “today’s comic” promote, and the other is a “This date in Evil Inc history” comic that points readers to a place in the archive.
This is the time to rake in all of the ad dollars that you possibly can. In two months, the bottom is going to drop out of the ad marker — as it does every January — and we’ll need to access the extra funds that we’re generating right now.