Tips for Buying and Selling Online Advertising

It’s pretty straightforward: buy your ads from other people’s “unsold inventory,” through a service like Flycast or Adbot. Then sell the advertising slots on your own site for full “retail” rates. Rates for unsold advertising slots are often as low as $5 per thousand impressions. That’s a great price, if you can reach the right audience with those ads.

When it’s time to sell advertising on your own site, you might well find buyers at a retail rate of $15 per thousand to $50 per thousand — and some sites with loyal, hard-to-reach audiences, pull in as much as $150 or $200 per thousand.

If you play your cards right, you might also be able to find a “repping” firm to sell ads on your site to advertisers whom you would never be able to reach yourself — doing all your paperwork, billing, and collections to boot.

How likely is this ideal scenario? If you run a site that generates more than 2 million pageviews per month, reaching folks who conduct on-line transactions regularly, it’s pretty likely.

If you’re like most of the rest of the hard-working on-line world, though, you’ll still benefit from having this ideal arrangement as a goal. But it will take a good deal of time and energy — and probably some serious financial investment — to make it a reality.

Here are a few of the things you’ll need to keep in mind as you strive to reach the Internet Advertising ideal:

  • Buying on-line ads is an art, not a science. The “official rate” at most sites is a starting point for negotiating, not a hard-and-fast rate — no matter what the sales reps tell you. Visit FlyCast and Adbot to see what they offer, and call around to the sites you’d like to advertise on. Set a price that you’d like to pay, and tell the sales people that whenever they are ready to do business on your terms, you’re ready to write a check. You can count on many taking that bait. Click here to learn more about buying “unsold inventory” — the cheapest ads on the web, and some of the most effective.
  • Getting advertisers to pay full-freight for ads on your site will probably require you to study up on the ins and outs of the ad sales business — many of the basics of selling advertising in other media, like magazines and television, are helpful for people who sell online. Click here to review some of these rules of thumb. And remember that your advertising space is worth as much as one single buyer is willing to pay for it on a given day. To a special buyer, your space might be worth many times the going rate at other sites. But this principle also means that “standard rates” don’t really exist — and you shouldn’t fret too much about falling short of any abstract benchmarks if you’ve made deals that work for your business. The bottom line: today’s ad space is not worth a penny more or a penny less than today’s buyer is ready to pay for it.
  • Many advertisers are willing to buy an unlimited amount of advertising on a click-through or commission basis. While this is generally a less attractive sell than getting paid for every viewer who sees an ad on your site, it is generally a better deal than serving out ads for free — or serving out no ads at all. Click here to learn more about alternative pricing models of on-line advertising.
  • Third-parties, like repping firms or advertising auction sites, come with their own risks and advantages. These risks and advantages have every bit as much to do with the general principles of choosing good partners in your business as they do with the ins and outs of the Internet. Click here to learn more about dealing with third- parties in your business.
  • Buying and selling advertising does have a quantitative side — and sticking to the discipline of measuring the performance of every ad buy, and measuring the benefits to you of every advertising sale you make, is tremendously important. Click here to learn more about the numbers site of on-line advertising.