Many of the consultants I talk with are surprised to learn that I sell ads on my consulting websites. The common wisdom among consultants is that because they are trying to find new clients through their websites, they don't want to do anything that would distract a potential client from learning what they have to offer.
There's a certain logic to that viewpoint. I completely understand the hesitation most consultants feel about ads, and selling advertising might not be right for every business. But I actually think that for most consultants, selling advertising can provide a nice stream of income without hurting their core business. In this article, I'll make my case, and show you how to get started if you want to sell ads on your own consulting website.
What's the Purpose of Your Website?
I have a different view of my websites than most consultants. In talking with hundreds of other consultants, it's clear that most of them see the primary goal of their sites as selling services. They want people to visit their site, see how great they are, and pick up the phone or send an e-mail to schedule a call. They figure that's the fastest way to make money.
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know that my view is completely different. For me, the primary goal of a website is to get people to sign-up for my e-mail list. In fact, I don't want potential clients to visit my site and immediately set up a call to discuss my services. If they do that, there's a significant chance that we'll do the call and then they'll never actually become a client, because they don't understand my values or trust me the way they need to in order to write a check.
Instead, I want them to be on my e-mail list, hearing from me over and over again for weeks or even months. If they read my articles, watch my webinars, and read my guides before they set up a call, there's a much higher likelihood that after the call, they'll become a paying client. That's because they know me and trust me far more after being on my list than they would if they weren't hearing from me in their inbox one or more times per week.
What Does This Have to Do with Selling Ads?
You may be wondering what all of this has to do with selling ads on your site. It's simple: when you don't view your website as a single step process to finding a new client, your options open up. The single most important goal of my websites is to get people to sign-up for my e-mail list. I do this with a sign-up form in the sidebar, a pop-up with a sign-up form, and offers for lead magnets like free books and reports. Beyond that, I also see my websites as places to earn money via various revenue streams.
I spend a lot of time trying to make my websites destinations for people in the industries the sites are focused on. I post great content. I offer free guides. I focus on SEO to make sure people can find what I offer on search engines. In short, I do everything I can to get lots of traffic to my websites. And because of that, I want to earn as much money from the visitors to my websites as possible.
There are lots of ways to do that, including selling e-books, webinars, and online classes, doing affiliate marketing, and selling advertising on my sites. While first-time visitors to my websites may not be ready to pay $5,000 for a consulting project, they may be ready to spend $19 on an e-book, click on an affiliate link, or click on some of the ad on my site… all of which add to my overall revenue.
Don't Ads Detract from Your Revenue?
The most common fear that consultants have is that placing ads on their websites will detract from their overall revenue. I have simply not found this to be true. My number one goal for my sites is to get people to sign-up for my e-mail list. In the extensive testing I have done on my sites, I have found that placing ads on the sites has not ever lowered the number of e-mail subscriptions I get. I'm not saying that it couldn't happen… you have to test for yourself. But what I am saying is that in my experience, running several different consulting sites in a number of niches, ads haven't caused my e-mail sign-up rates to go down.
Similarly, ads haven't cause me to earn less on my product sales (e-books, webinars, classes, etc.). Instead, ads have provided a nice (though relatively modest) additional stream of income, monetizing work I was already doing (building my website traffic).
Of course the key here is moderation. If you go crazy and stick ads all over the place, chances are your sales and e-mail subscription rate would go down. Instead, be respectful of your readers, and focus on your visitor's overall experience on your site. I usually place ads on the sidebar, and sometimes inside my content, but when I do it's always several paragraphs in, and it is always clearly an ad. Never try to fool your visitors or make it difficult to read your content without getting distracted by the ads.
What are the Best Types of Ads to Include on Your Site?
The honest answer is: it depends on your site, your industry, and your visitors. The only way to know for sure is to test. That being said, I'll tell you what has generally worked for me on my own consulting websites.
There are two main categories of ads you can place on your website:
Direct Ad Sales
The first are ads you sell directly to companies in your industry. For example, when you go to my blog at Garecht.com and look at the sidebar, you can see ads from “Featured Partners.” These are ads sold directly to complementary (not competing) companies in the non-profit fundraising industry.
Selling these types of ads takes time and work, because you need to reach out to lots of prospective companies and convince them to buy an ad. The upside, though, is that you can make a lot more money this way than using ad networks, and you get to keep all of it (you don't need to share any with the network). Even modest websites can earn $100+ per month, per ad that they sell this way (and sites with more traffic can earn considerably more!)
The second category of ad you can place on your website are ads from ad networks. Ad networks are companies that host ads from lots of different advertisers, and allow you, as a website owner, to place a short snippet of code on your website which the network uses to place ads. Based on the content of your page, the network will place ads that are targeted at whatever your page is about (e.g. if you're talking about sales and marketing, the ads will be for tools, books, companies, etc. in the sales and marketing space). The ads that appear on each page of your site will be different, based on the content of that page.
The upside here is that it is easier for you – you simply place the code (or use a website plug-in like Ad-Inserter) and the network does all the rest. The downside is that you earn far less, and have to split it with the network. Plus, you only get paid when people click on your links, as opposed to direct ad sales, where you usually get paid a set fee per week, month, or year that the ad is live.
Don't Be Afraid of Adding Advertisements to Your Revenue Mix!
As I said above, selling ads isn't right for every consultant, but far more consulting websites could benefit from selling ads than are currently using this tactic. If you're working hard to get visitors to your site, why not build as many revenue streams for that web traffic as possible? I can tell you that you don't need to be afraid of ads… if you sell ads the smart way (without letting the ad content take over your entire website) you won't ruin your reputation or your visitor experience.
Are ads right for you? The only way to know is to test. My suggestion (if you have at least moderate web traffic, say 2,000 visitors or more per month) is to reach out to companies in your niche and try to directly sell some ads on your site. Then, consider adding AdSense or another advertising network. Let it run for a month, and then look at your revenue from before and after placing the ads. Chances are your other revenue streams and e-mail sign-ups will remain the same, and you'll have added another revenue stream (advertising) to your overall mix.
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