Is This a Real Advertiser or Something That Might Hurt My Blog?

Is This a Real Advertiser or Something That Might Hurt My Blog?

Hi Angela

I have another question for you regarding ads on blogs. I’ve been asked by an insurance company to place a monthly ad on my blog. I researched the product and I am okay with that. They want to put their hyperlink somewhere near my title, not on a side bar. I’m okay with that, too.

My question is, what is a good monthly rate to ask for?



Hi T.S.,

This is Richard.

I don’t think these people really want to advertise. I think they want to improve their search engine ranking. And the way they are going about it is dangerous for your site. More on that later…

But to answer your original question, there are two aspects to consider when pricing online ads.

The first is quality of the audience. If a blog attracts a specific demographic (a.k.a. audience) such as mothers, writers, or teens, then one can generally charge a higher price for allowing advertisers access to that audience.

The second factor is the number of visitors a blog gets on a monthly basis. Even if a blog gets a hodgepodge of demographics, it can still have value if it gets a lot of visitors, as some products, like insurance, can be of interest to many demographics.

One sells online ads by packaging up single “impressions.” An “impression” is an opportunity for a single visitor to see the ad. So, for example, when someone loads a blog’s front page and an ad banner pops up, that counts as one “impression.” The price is per thousand impressions, and annotated with the acronym CPM (Cost Per Thousand). So a $1.00 CPM means the advertiser gets charged $1 each time the banner is shown 1000 times.

CPMs can range from a few pennies per thousand, for sites with broad audiences, to as much as $6 per thousand for sites with a specific audience.

It is hard, though, to price your advertising based on impressions if you can’t give an advertiser an accurate measure of your website traffic. In that case, the easiest solution is to just charge a flat monthly rate. But, a savvy ad buyer isn’t going to pay a lot for an unknown amount of traffic. I’d say in those situations, depending on how narrow the audience is, the price anyone will pay is probably $75 a month or less.

Now, as I mentioned at the start of this, I don’t think advertising is what the people who contacted you really want. I believe, based on what you describe as their request, they may instead be interested in improving their search engine ranking in Google.

Here are all the messy details on these schemes if you want to know them:

But, this is the long and short of it:

The number of links a site has to it is a major factor in coming up high on the list of search results in Google. The assumption is that if Sites A, B and C are all linking to Site X, then Site X must be the best for whatever Site X is about. After all, everyone is linking to Site X, right?

That assumption, though, is based on another assumption that Sites A, B and C are all linking to Site X because they all really believe it is the best, and not because they are being paid by Site X to do so.

Recommending a site because you are paid to do so, and hiding that fact by making the “ad” a simple text link, runs counter to Google’s purpose – which is to deliver search results that contain the truly best sites on a particular subject. And, when Google finds out sites are not linking to what they think are the best, but rather what they are getting paid to link to, Google generally penalize ALL the sites involved.

It’s possible that manipulating Google’s ranking may be the intention of the people who approached you for two reasons:

1.) Their insistence that the ad be a text link.

2.) Their insistence that the link be near your title (the closer the link is to the top of a page, the stronger the implied endorsement).

This method of search engine manipulation is popular because it is difficult to detect. But, once uncovered, it is easy to figure out everyone involved.

If it were me, I would stay away from this deal. But, if you really want to test them, tell them you’ll only do a banner ad. Google knows that links associated with banner ads are paid placements, and probably won’t penalize you for it should the “relationship” ever be uncovered.

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