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How to Sell Ads on Your WordPress Website

A website isn’t just a place to post content, express yourself, and sell products and services. Like any business, a successful website is an asset, and advertisers are willing to pay top dollar to advertise on websites that can bring them extra revenue.

Many website owners consider selling ads at one point or another but have trouble wading through the tons of website monetization ideas out there.

Here, we’re going to cut through the noise and clearly lay out all your options for selling ad space on your website. We’ll go over the benefits of hosting ads, the types of ads you can host, different ways you can sell ads, and how to actually set up those ads.

Finally, we’ll bring it all home with some tips on making sure your ads work as best as possible.

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Why Sell Ads on Your Site?

The answer is quite simple: Selling ads makes money.

Lots of content creators find themselves in something of a pickle. They’ve grown a sizable following on their blog, their content is pro-quality, and they’re getting lots of traffic, but they don’t know how to turn those visits into bucks.

For many, selling ad space is the solution. It’s a way to almost immediately transform a high-traffic site into a cash cow without making any significant changes to your business.

Selling ads is most popular among bloggers and other content creators because they often lack a concrete product or service to sell. E-commerce stores or websites for SaaS companies, for example, generally would not benefit from ads — they’re more likely to hurt business by drawing customers away from the site.

Ads are so commonplace nowadays that running some on your website is unlikely to drastically affect the user experience. Most people are used to tuning out ads, and if they’re not tuning them out, it’s because they like what they see.

Plus, with so many different ad types to choose from and targeting algorithms getting better every day, it’s easy to place ads on your site in a way that fits with your branding and customer base.

Overall, it’s a fairly low-risk way to begin monetizing your website. If you do notice some type of adverse effect, you can easily remove the ads anyway.

Types of Ads You Can Sell On Your Site

There are four common types of ads that you’ll want to know about: CPC, CPM, flat-fee, and affiliate ads. Let’s take a look at what each of these terms means.

CPC Ads

CPC stands for cost per click. This refers to how advertisers pay for the ads they purchase. You may have also heard these ads called PPC ads, which stands for price per click.

When an advertiser decides to run CPC ads, the price of each ad (and consequently the campaign) is based on the cost per click. Essentially, that means that every time someone clicks on the advertiser’s ad, the advertiser pays a fee to the ad host.

Let’s break this down into a concrete example. Imagine you’re selling ad space on your site at a rate of $2 per click. An advertiser approaches you with a budget of $2,000. That will get them 1,000 clicks. Each time a visitor to your site clicks on one of their ads, the advertiser will pay you $2 until their budget is exhausted.

CPC ads are especially popular among advertisers because they guarantee that they’re only paying for actual website visits, not just views that don’t lead to anything.

These ads are very useful for advertisers with a strong sales funnel but who aren’t entirely sure about the quality of their ads. If they think that a lot of people will make a purchase once they click on the ad, but don’t think very many people will click on it, then it makes sense to only pay for clicks.

CPM Ads

CPM stands for cost per mille. Mille is an archaic word that means “thousand.” So, CPM means cost per thousand impressions or views.

Much like a CPC ad, advertisers only pay for a CPM ad when someone views it. For example, if an advertiser with a budget of $2,000 runs a CPM ad at a cost of $2, they will be able to get 1 million impressions (views). The advertiser pays the $2 fee once the ad has been viewed by 1,000 people (but not necessarily clicked).

Compared to CPC ads, CPM ads are particularly useful for advertisers with killer ads but less than stellar sales funnels. CPM ads are usually cheaper than CPC ads at the unit level, so a highly-converting ad can get more clicks for less money with a CPM model.

Affiliate Ads

Affiliate ads are sometimes called CPA (cost-per-action) ads. Like CPC and CPM ads, payment is based upon the viewer’s behavior.

However, with affiliate ads, advertisers can be even more selective about what actions they want completed. For example, an advertiser could specify that they will only pay when someone buys one of their products.

As you might expect, affiliate ads are much more expensive on a cost-per-action basis. While you can find CPC ads priced at $2 per click, you’re more likely to find affiliate ads priced at $50 per action.

Although expensive, affiliate ads make it very easy for advertisers to calculate ROI per ad and see whether they’re making a worthwhile investment.

For website owners, you can charge a much higher price, but there’s no guarantee the advertiser will ever make a sale. That means you could theoretically be running tons of ads without ever getting any money back.

Flat-Fee Ads

Flat-fee ads are exactly what they sound like: ads that are paid for on a flat-fee basis. This is the most simple pricing model out there, so it’s popular among advertisers and website owners who enjoy simplicity. There are never any surprises with flat-fee ads, so website owners and advertisers have a clear view of their future finances.

For example, as a website owner, you could charge a business $2,000 per month for a banner ad on your homepage. It’s essentially like running a billboard ad. Once the advertiser stops paying, the ad goes down. Visitors and ad viewers have no effect on pricing and payment.

3 Ways to Sell Ads

Now that you know the types of ads you might want to sell, let’s move on to actually selling them. Here are three of the most popular ways to start monetizing your website by selling ad space.

1. Use a WordPress Form Builder and Sell Ad Space Directly

Often, the easiest way to start monetizing your website is simply to advertise that you have ad space available.

By doing this, you cut out the middleman and deal directly with advertisers. It also gives you full control over pricing and affords you the most flexibility — you can set whatever terms you want, choose the ads you want, etc.

To start, you can use any plugin that allows you to create forms on WordPress. Essentially, what you’re doing is creating an ad for advertisers — something along the lines of a banner that says “Advertise with us!”

Advertisers can then use that form to contact you if they’re interested in renting out ad space. You’ll enter into direct negotiations with them, which can be great if you’re a keen negotiator.

However, if business negotiations make you uncomfortable, you may want a more hands-off and automated approach, like Google AdSense (we’ll cover this later).

Keep in mind that while selling ads directly gives you ultimate control, it also comes with increased time investment. You’ll be directly managing your advertising space, so you’ll need to dedicate time to fielding advertising requests, which can cut into the time you’ve set aside for the rest of your work.

Plus, there’s always the risk that you’ll get yourself into a tricky situation with an advertiser who refuses to pay, pays late, or something similar. While there are always ways to prevent this, like requiring payment upfront, it’s something you’ll need to stay mindful of.

You’ll also be responsible for collecting payment, so make sure you have a payment processor and are able to receive payments. Some plugins have payment processors built-in.

2. Approach Advertisers Directly

On the flip side, you can always approach advertisers on your own. You’ll have all the same risks and benefits of fielding direct advertising requests, but instead of waiting for advertisers to come to you, you’ll go to them.

As you can imagine, this can take a lot of work. You’ll essentially need to launch a cold outreach campaign if you decide to go this route.

However, if you already have relationships with advertisers you know are trustworthy, this can be a sweet spot where you have a lot of control over the ads’ pricing and terms while exposing yourself to fewer risks. With the right connections, this can be as easy as sending an email to a partner brand and getting some ads hosted within a few days.

For most businesses, however, this will be one of the more challenging paths to pursue. It can have its benefits, but it will require a decent amount of cold emailing and outreach to get there.

3. Make It Automatic

Google AdSense dashboard.

Nowadays, having a direct relationship with an advertiser isn’t necessary. Automated advertising networks have grown in popularity and are now perhaps the most efficient way to monetize a website.

In fact, you’ve likely already heard of one of the most popular ones: Google AdSense.

AdSense is a network of millions of businesses and websites. In short, Google automatically places ads on relevant websites. Google takes care of vetting the websites and advertisers, matching the ads to the websites, and handling all the payments.

Since it’s entirely automated, website owners really don’t have to do much besides sign up. Once AdSense is set up, website owners can sit back and let Google do the heavy lifting.

Plus, Google uses its world-class targeting methods to run different ads based on each unique visitors’ cookies, demographics, etc. This makes it much more efficient than the other two methods as the ads are more personalized and relevant to each visitor — think of it like a billboard that changes based on the interests of every driver that rolls by.

While this saves the site owner a lot of time and improves efficiency, it does remove some of the control. For example, website owners can’t set their own pricing or terms and can’t choose which specific ads they want to be displayed. Website owners will never have any relationship with the businesses advertising on their site.

For most, this is a good trade-off, but some will miss having a more personal relationship and more control over what’s being displayed on their site. That said — since the ads are much more targeted, it’s less likely to hurt the user experience as the ads that do appear are much likelier to be relevant to visitors.

Google AdSense isn’t the only automatic advertising network, but it is one of the most popular and trusted. If you’re interested in using automated web ads, it’s the best place to start.

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Setting Up Banner Ads on Your Website

If you’re ready to set up ads on your website, there are several ways to do it. Here are a few of the most common.

Manually Insert the Code

If you’re well-versed in the tech side of things, you may enjoy the control that manually writing the code for ads can bring. You can do this either by directly editing the code or using a plugin that injects code for you.

As you can imagine, this gives you ultimate control over your ads but also requires the most effort, and it’s easy to make mistakes. You could also end up making your site more vulnerable to security threats if you’re not careful.

Use an Ad Management Plugin

If coding isn’t your thing, there are several ad management plugins out there that can make adding banner ads to your website easier.

Google’s Site Kit is a very popular ad management plugin that provides analytics tools.

Another popular solution is AdSanity, a WordPress advertising plugin that lets you manage both direct ads and automated ads from networks like Google AdSense.

The AdSanity WordPress plugin in the WordPress dashboard.

Experiment and Measure Your Progress

Monetizing a website is both an art and a science. While there is a creative aspect, it’s also important to pay attention to the hard numbers and adjust accordingly.

If you want to get the best ROI, you shouldn’t settle on one option and then never reevaluate. Instead, try out several different types of ads and see which ones generate the most revenue.

There are lots of tools available that let you analyze and measure the performance of your ad space. Google Site Kit is an extremely popular and trusted option, and it’s highly recommended if you’re using Google AdSense.

Which Ad Type Will You Start With?

Placing ads on your website is one of the easiest ways to monetize a blog that doesn’t sell a concrete product or service.

Luckily, website owners have a myriad of options available to them, ranging from selling ads directly to using automated advertising networks.

But if you want to start making money from ad space, you’ll need a website first. You can start by learning more about our WordPress hosting options so that you can start building your site.

Overall, building a successfully monetized website is a long-term challenge. But with the right information, a solid website, and a passion for what you do, a lot of ad revenue is well within your reach!

We’re Here to Help

If you have questions or just could use some help figuring some thing out, get in touch. Our team of web experts has been in the business for over 20 years and knows how to help you figure out the right next steps.