HOW TO: get the most of your blog advertising

Categories Articles, How To

Sergiu Poenaru works in the advertising industry ever since he created his first website back in 2005, and in the past 5 years he’s been focused entirely on building the largest ad marketplace with the fantastic team over at We’ve asked him to discuss advertising strategies and more specifically guide web design bloggers in the right direction when it comes to handling advertising on their blogs:

The design and development vertical has been and still is the most representative for BSA, I’ve seen it grow from a handful of websites to the huge network that is today. Chances are you’ll find this article useful if you’re managing a blog about web design or considering doing so in the near future.

Alright, let’s get this started. There are three major ways to monetize your blog:

1. Programatic ads The best example here is AdSense, where you simply place the ad code on your site and you pray to the Gods of CPM to provide you with quality top paying advertisers. A premium solution here would be Google AdExchange, which is what we’re using at BuySellAds Unreserved.

2. Direct ad sales Now you have to consider a few things. If you’re not SmashingMagazine with a great sales team and a big brand behind your blog, you’re going to be the one that handles everything including ad sales. This means emailing potential advertisers, setting up their campaigns, scheduling them, receiving (and sometimes chasing) payments, and so on. If you’re part of a marketplace like BuySellAds, you can expose yourself to a pool of advertisers and take advantage of the platform to automate ad sales.

3. Affiliate and product sales It seems like a general trend nowadays to have a “deals” page where you post great apps and products at a discounted price. You get an affiliate commission every time someone purchases the product and everybody is happy. I’ve started by explaining these three methods and now we’ll use some real examples!



This is a perfect example of hybrid design/development type of blog. Chances are you’ll find HongKiat on many searches #1 on Google. I recently tried “developer wallpapers” to fill my Thunderbolt display with something pretty.

To check on the traffic and have an overview: There you go, a site with a lot of traffic and authority, uses standard IAB sizes to sell ads and a mix of non-IAB with his 500×100 next to the comments (sold out).

Key takeaways:

  • He’s using direct ad sales to get the most out of the ad units
  • He’s using AdSense to monetize the unsold impressions
  • He’s mixing IAB standard units with non-IAB. Most likely the non-IAB were requests from advertisers.

Good job, Hongkiat!


Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 13.53.56

There are so many logo galleries out there, css and whatnot. Yet Logopond manages to be an authority in his field, generate traffic and most importantly making a living out of it.

To check on the traffic and have an overview: Right off the bat you see that most ad units (with the exception of the 728×90) are non-standard IAB. While I can’t say for sure, my guess is that David cares a lot about the aesthetics of the site so he kind of created the ads around the site. Nevertheless it’s working for him, especially for the masthead which is above the fold in the best location possible.

Key takeaways:

  • He’s using direct ad sales to get the most out of the ad units
  • He’s using BuySellAds Unreserved to monetize the unsold impressions
  • He’s such an authority in the field that standard IAB isn’t a must have and it’s working great for him as it is.


Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 13.53.35

Codrops is absolutely beautiful. One of those sites where pixel perfect is really a mantra. Being gorgeous doesn’t put food on the table so let’s see how they are doing.

To check on the traffic and have an overview (oh, did I say this twice before?): Every ad unit is almost sold out, especially the 125x125px spots. Why? The sidebar looks entirely dedicated for advertising. The alignment is perfect, the visual impact for the advertisers is great. She’s also monetizing the site with an affiliate program via Mighty Deals (another great site, by the way).

Key takeaways:

  • She’s using direct ad sales to get the most out of the ad units and it’s the #1 source of income for the site as it seems.
  • The very small inventory left away is probably monetized as well, although hard to even get an network ad showing up since direct takes up pretty much the whole thing. Remnant/Unsold always comes as a second priority.
  • IAB mostly, 125x125px for direct sales is performing great being a very popular ad unit.


Web design ledger

Another web design blog legend, with tons of great content. They’ve been around for as long asI can remember. Being old school in this niche is a plus. Here’s what they’re doing.

Let’s check on the traffic: The 125×125 ad units are doing great, sold out, priced well. The advantage of using the 125x125s is they’re popular and they also allow you to go with 4, 6, maybe even 10 ad units like WDL is holding. The only non-IAB custom size is the 1100x40px, which has a fixed position as you scroll down. You can’t get a better spot than this one as an advertiser.

Key takeaways:

  • Direct ad sales are doing great for WDL especially the 125x125px flat-fee priced spots.
  • The remaining inventory is monetized as well via AdSense
  • They’re killing it with a custom deal on the 1100x40px spot.

To draw a conclusion from these reviews, direct sales produce a higher income, either you do it yourself or you take advantage of a marketplace. Always monetize every single impression your site generates, even remnant via network ads. Affiliate sales require a bit of A/B split testing, see if they’re making you more than regular ads and don’t quit after one or two tests.

I’d be more than happy to review any other websites with you guys, if you’d like me to do so, please leave a comment below. Hope this article was useful or at least shed some light on what to keen an eye on when you’re reviewing fellow bloggers.

Catalin is the founder of Mostash - a social marketing boutique - and he's always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.