One of the primary reasons I chose to re-design Lowell.com was to change my approach to advertising sales. At the moment, the sales process is manual, and advertisers cannot sign up without contacting me. Big mistake. I am not a great sales person when it comes to advertising, and I don’t like making cold calls or sending emails. As a result, I only have a few advertisers on the site.
With the new site (which I hope to launch within 2 weeks), advertisers will be able to create and pay for directory listings manually in the Yellow Pages, although the more expensive banners will still be generated by me. I’ve had considerable interest in Yellow Pages listings, and I expect the revenue from listings to pay for the re-design within just a few months.
Although I have a few local advertisers (including the Courtyard by Marriott), I want to add some affiliate banners as well (including a new prominent 728×90 spot and 250×250 spot). Finding appropriate affiliate programs is a bit of a challenge because of the broad nature of Lowell.com, but I want to share a few things that I am doing, hopefully starting a bit of a discussion.
Here are a few things I am considering when selecting affiliates from Linkshare:
- Does the affiliate compete with current local advertisers (like hotels or photography)?
- What companies are running advertisements on competing websites?
- What is the commission rate and length of time for cookies?
- Is there local brand recognition?
- Will the banners look good on the site?
I think the biggest thing for me will be testing. Since Lowell.com gets between 15,000 – 20,000 unique visitors a month now (despite not being updated in 2 months), there is enough traffic to test different banners. I plan to rotate affiliate banners, testing CTR/Revenue with different banner offers, as well as Adsense.
I know Adsense generates revenue as I have it in select spots on the current site, but I also know it leaves money on the table. I want to see if I can find compelling offers that will blow Adsense out of the water. I don’t know if it will be possible, but I am going to test it.
One thing I do know is that direct ad sales will be the most profitable banner advertising. I hope to be able to fully replace affiliate banners and Adsense banners within a few months. However, I am not counting on that since I don’t have a sales representative yet. In the meantime, I will be doing a lot of testing.
Have you run affiliate banners on a general interest website (like Lowell.com), and if so, what has your experience been?
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