"Cashing In on Ad Space"
by Fawad Ahmed

There are two ways to earn an income from your website. One is to sell a service or product to your visitors. The other is to sell ad space to advertisers. Sites such as mine, which do not market tangible goods or services, rely solely on the latter to generate income. In this scenario, a site is best viewed as real estate that is developed and partially rented out for profit. Here are some pointers for attracting sponsors and maximizing your revenue.

1) Basic Design and the "Sidebar Revolution"
The most basic element in attracting sponsors is an intelligently designed website. In five months, I have changed my design three times in order to maximize ad space and to make it "sponsor-friendly." There is no doubt that well-designed sites will attract more sponsors than poorly-designed ones. Elements of good design include symmetry, color theme, and ease of navigation.

An excellent design element that maximizes ad space is the sidebar. The sidebar should be at least 90 pixels and located either on the left, right, or even both sides of the page. The sidebar allows for the placement of traditional 88x31 buttons as well as links. Many sites have begun to use this technique, and it is so effective that the term "Sidebar Revolution" is being used lately.

2) Know your stats
In order to sell your site, you must know your traffic. Your sponsor will definetly want to know how much exposure he can expect at your site. The two most important stats you should be aware of are page views and sessions (or unique visitors). If you do not already have a good log analyzer, consider Fast Stats, Web Trends, or Website Reporter.

3) Banner Rotation
Even before you have a sponsor, you should have banner rotation on your site. If you must, rotate affiliate or link trade banners at first. The presence of a banner system signifies that you are serious about selling ad space and that you have a system in place to deliver ads effectively. WebAdverts is an excellent rotator script available at (http://awsd.com/scripts/webadverts). If you don't know HTML from Perl, or you just don't have the time, hire a service such as Planet CGI (http://www.planetcgi.com) to install it for you.

4) Media Kit
Many sites have what is known as a "media kit" for potential advertisers. The media kit traditionally includes the following information:

-Your visitors demographics and advertiser benefits in reaching them
-Your traffic stats (optional)
-Rates for buttons, ads, or banners*
-special discounts for bulk purchases

*Note: Rates may be based on CPM (1000 exposures), pay-per-click, or on time-limited basis (for example, monthly or yearly rates)

5) Finding the Sponsor
Finding a sponsor can take a while, and the wait can be frustrating. To verify that you have done your part, make sure you have carried out steps 1 thru 4. Consider seeking out advertisers yourself. An excellent way to do this is to visit sites similar to yours and note who their sponsors are. You should then proceed to send an email with an invitation for sponsorship to the party in question. You may also consider joining programs such as Value Click or TeknoSurf which pay you per click on ad banners displayed at your site. Not my preferred way of generating income, but better than nothing.

6) Long Term
Finding a good sponsor is not easy and maintaining a good relationship is essential. It is tempting to submit to greed for short term gains by increasing your rates or misreporting your stats. However, honesty and flexibility should govern your policy. Be sure to occasionally offer specials and discounts. Remember that the ideal sponsor-webmaster relationship is of mutual benefit. In this way, you will both prosper in the long run.

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Fawad Ahmed is webmaster of Goldvisions (http://www.goldvisions.com) Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials for a successful online presence. To subscribe to the Traffic-Builder send a "subscribe" email to webmaster@goldvisions.com

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