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advertising (3)

My Modern Met has been running their own ads since 2008. By achieving high growth and traffic to their network, as well as creating high quality content, they’ve been able to secure deals with top tier ad networks and achieve CPMs in the double digits. Recently, these ad networks have brought to them site-specific buys and unique sponsorship opportunities.

Hi, I'm Alice from My Modern Met. I was asked to share my story on how we've managed to make money on our Ning network. Though our story is unique, there are common experiences we as Ning Creators will all face. Particularly if you're going to try and make money through advertising, I'd love to share with you some things we've learned along the way.

There are a whole bunch of ways to make money on your Ning network by advertising which include banner advertising with Google Adsense or ad networks, contextual advertising, affiliate sales (cost-per-click, cost-per-action, cost-per-sale), direct advertising and sponsorships. CPM (or cost per thousand) banner advertising is traffic driven, the more people you have looking at your banner ad, the more money you can make. Cost per thousand means that for every 1,000 impressions (or eyeballs), you get a certain amount of money which can range from a few cents to double digit dollars.

When I first started My Modern Met, we focused our attention on building up the community and providing interesting content. We started as a private, invite-only site and we took off the Google Adsense ads immediately, though looking back we probably could have kept them on. The reason we took them off was because our site was a little too broad, meaning we didn't have such a specific niche that Adsense was working effectively. That being said, even if you're not making a lot of money in the early stages, you want people to get used to seeing advertising on your site and making some money is better than none. We decided that it was better to use up the web real estate with interesting content. We built up our core community through friends and family. After about three months, we opened up My Modern Met to the public. Our content started to spread virally around the web, bringing in tens of thousands of people a day. At that point, we knew we were big enough to approach ad networks.

Through our own research and by talking to people at conferences, we found a bunch of ad networks that would fit with us and found out their criteria for getting accepted. We knew that we had to reach a critical mass of unique visitors and pageviews before we could even approach them. Once we hit those milestones, we reached out to them and were able to secure deals.

We manage our ads through Google Ad Manager. (Here's a good article from Hongkiat on how to set it up if you're looking into managing your ad networks or even your direct buys.)

With time and increased traffic, we were able to partner with more premium ad networks. After two years, we're now in the position where we're receiving site specific buys and sponsorship opportunities.

Here are our top ten tips on how to make money through advertising:

1. Be patient - Don't expect to partner with ad networks until you reach a minimum threshold (number of unique visitors or pageviews).
2. Research ad networks - Find out which ones best fit with your Ning network. There's a wide range of ad networks for particular niches like luxury and tech.
3. Be persistent - If you get denied from an ad network, don't give up. Approach them again after a certain period of time. Legitimacy comes with increased traffic over time.
4. Have high quality content, find your niche - If possible create original content that others would want to link to and spread.
5. Decide on your business model - Banners advertising works well for sites with high traffic, while smaller, more targeted niche sites work well with Google Adsense or affiliate sales.
6. Grow your community - What sets your site apart from blogs is that you have engaged members. Make that one of your selling points when you approach advertisers or ad networks.
7. Build traffic - Don't overlook the power of Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon.
8. Use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter - These will also help you spread content and build up your community.
9. Get to know other Ning Creators - Find out what works for them and see if you can apply it to your network.
10. Get outside your comfort zone - Attend conferences and network. You may want to just sit at your desk and work on your site but getting out there into the real world will help you see if you're headed in the right direction, find new ideas and identify trends. This is invaluable.

I hope this information helps. Good luck to all of you Ning Creators out there and if you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me at alice@mymodernmet.com. Thanks!

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Generating revenue through advertising can be golden; however, how does a network creator manage the advertising real estate?


First...what is advertising real estate? Since there is only so much space on a web page (okay so technically there is nearly unlimited space on a web page, but being realistic, there is only so much that is considered quality space) advertising real estate, is that space that a network creator allocates to advertising.

A few of tips before moving forward:
  1. Too much advertising can take away from the site visitor's experience and too little can be lost revenue. Finding a balance that works for your demographic is key.
  2. Work within your chosen web design. Placing advertising in awkward places on the site just to draw attention can be counter productive. Yes, you may get a visitor's attention, but by diminishing their experience on your site can be a huge negative.
  3. The key to success in advertising revenue is going to be return site visitors. The amount of effort and cost to get a new visitor to your website can be very costly and usually is. Keeping a balance of new visitors vs returning visitors is key. The balance and mix of these two variables is dependent on the site business model. For a social network, heavy percentage on return visitors is a must. If they aren't returning, something is wrong.
Okay, so how to manage the ad space? First, what are the variables that affect ad space?

They are:
  1. Ad size
  2. Ad placement
  3. Ad cost
  4. Ad exposure
In a nutshell there are just four variables to consider. Let's break each one down.

First, Ad size. Ad size is defined by the actual space that the ad will occupy on the web page. Whether placing graphics-based or text-based advertisements, the space requirement should be considered. Banner ads are typically sized by pixels, so for example, a 160x600 banner requires 160 pixels for the width and 600 pixels for the height.

Second, Ad placement. There are many combinations that can be used with regard to ad placement. The typical placement on a Ning network will be the right column. This space will receive the highest exposure because nearly every page on the network will have this column visible. It is also easy to manage by simply placing a text box and adding a banner image. Network creators can also easily place ads in all three columns on the network homepage. With bit more work, posting ads in the header, footer, and content areas, can be done; however, at present this will require a bit of javascript code and may offer some unpredictable outcomes.

Third, Ad cost. In determining how much to sell advertising space for, there are numerous considerations.
  1. What are the demographics of the site?
  2. Who could benefit from advertising?
  3. Do I charge CPC, or CPM?
  4. How much traffic does this network generate?
  5. Where will the ad be placed, (for example above the fold or below)?
This consideration (ad cost) can be expanded even further, but I will leave that for the comments.

Forth, Ad exposure. Ad exposure has four basic variables. They are:
  1. How many times an ad is seen by an individual.
  2. How often an ad is seen by an individual.
  3. The geographical location of the individual seeing the ad.
  4. The time the ad is being seen by an individual.
There are additional variables, like age, gender, browser type, etc., but those are beyond the scope of this discussion and can be explored in the comments.

Managing the complexity of advertising space can be daunting if not properly equipped. for the task.

For this reason, I recommend, Google Ad Manager as a solution for managing your advertising campaigns. This robust solution offers handy tools for managing your campaign along with providing confidence in reporting for your advertisers.

What experiences do you have regarding generating revenue via an advertising model?

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Perhaps you're not sure how to or are having a hard time landing sponsors for your Ning Network. If you can't afford an agency or are not a marketing company with rate cards, site metrics, and a large enough audience to justify a monthly fee for sponsors, making money by obtaining and placing the right ads on your websites is not a secret.
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