If you watch the lists of websites for sale on Flippa you’ll soon notice that ad-funded sites consistently attract interest from buyers. Sale prices vary greatly though. What’s more, many websites that are promising at first look fail to sell at all. Thankfully, there is plenty that a seller can to make their site more appealing to buyers and to ensure it sells for a reasonable price.
Why advertising sites are popular
Advertising sites are popular with buyers and sellers alike, second in number only to e-commerce sites in the Flippa listings.
Low barriers to entry and multiple niche possibilities mean that there will always be plenty of these types of websites for sale. All you need is an AdSense account and a good idea to get started and demand from buyers for this type of website site remains high.
What makes an advertising site attractive to buyers will depend a lot on the buyer. However, there are some key features that remain popular with all buyers.
Advertising is a well-established model : Ad funding is the dominant financial model for website and one that buyers are quick to grasp. This model is simple for buyers to quickly gauge the potential value of a site and submit a strong bid.
Residual income: Ad revenue is the ultimate residual income opportunity online. Even if you stop publishing new content tomorrow, the impressions will continue and so will the revenue. This allows buyers to focus on the future direction of the website whilst still having revenue coming in.
Minimal administration: Whilst the admin involved in running any particular site will differ, the administrative overhead of advertising as a model is low – particularly when it comes to programmatic advertising. Get content production right, and the result is attractively high margins.
Six ways to quickly boost your ad revenue
Bid prices tend to be guided by income multiples. Smart and saavy buyers will carry out their due diligence, so it’s important not to do anything that brings short term gains at the risk of long term harm. Nonetheless, there are easy steps to follow that can have a positive impact on ad revenue
1. Additional ad units
The fastest way to increase revenue is to add additional ad units to your website. If you are going down this path it’s important not to overdo it. If a buyer thinks that the revenue is only being driven by showing too many ads, they may decrease their offer. One of the best ways to increase impressions is to selectively add one or two additional units only to the most viewed pages. This will help to achieve the most impact per unit.
Another method is to add a unit that has a 1 view/day frequency cap. This can have a big impact on revenue on sites that have a low average visit depth without creating a site that feels overly monetized.
Don’t overlook missed opportunities either. Check for popular pages that have fewer units on than the rest of the website.
2. Replace poor performing units
Most websites have a few units that perform at a fraction of the level of the average. These are invariably placed without thought somewhere below the fold where there is a convenient space.
Hunt these down and look for better placement opportunities on the same page. For ads to perform they need to be viewed so try to get your placements where they are going to be seen. Scroll depth monitoring tools can be a great way to find those placements, but don’t forget to check for both mobile and desktop users.
3. Optimize for viewability
If your ads are paid per impression, then most revenue will only come through viewable impressions. If they are paid per click, then those ads still need to be seen to be clicked. Either way, optimizing for viewability is a proven way to boost ad unit performance.
Google measures an impression as viewable when at least 50% of the creative has been in view for one second. If you have ever watched recordings of users on your site then you already know that one second is a long time in a page view and users can scroll past your valuable inventory in a fraction of that time. This is especially true of units at the very top of the page.
Units placed alongside the stickiest parts of the page will tend to achieve the best viewability. For example, the opening paragraphs of content will generally perform better than the very top of the page.
4. Speed things up
Multiple articles have been written about the impact of page speed on e-commerce website conversions. A study by DoubleClick found that publishers whose sites loaded within five seconds earned up to twice as much ad revenue than sites loading within 19 seconds.
Whilst it would probably take significant time and investment to optimize a site from an average 19 seconds load time to under 5, many improvements can be made quickly and cheaply. One of my favorite quick wins for performance is to use a CDN like Cloudflare.
Using Google’s lighthouse tool is a great way to find more quick wins. The greatest dividends can usually be found by focusing on “time to first paint” and then on how fast the ad server itself is called. If you are serving ads via Google Ad Manager you can also use the Ad Manager Speed Test offered for free by my own company.
5. Introduce competition
If all of the ads on your site are currently served through one network or exchange (for example AdSense) then you could see huge increases by introducing more competition through Header Bidding or Exchange Bidding. The same is true if you are running multiple demand sources but they are either served into different placements on run in an old-school waterfall.
Header bidding has every interested buyer compete for the impression and only gives Google the opportunity to buy the impression if they can pay more than the winning bidder. With an effective set-up and the right buyers in the auction, this can have an instant and significant impact on ad revenue. We typically see increases of 30% to 60% from this step alone.
6. Consider using a specialist monetization agency
As the founder of one such monetization agency, I have to confess some bias here, but I still stand by this advice. A good website monetization specialist will be able to tackle all of the issues above and also be able to introduce demand from premium networks and exchanges that you might not be able to access directly. Most work on a revenue share basis but are able to work quickly to significantly increase your take-home revenue, even taking their fee into account.
If optimizing the sell then you should be careful not to enter into longer-term agreements that might be seen as risky to a buyer. Many specialists now though, like us, offer services without long term commitment.
Working with a specialist agency also offers another advantage to sellers. Agreements with such companies are often more portable than trying to transfer direct accounts from the likes of Google. The best providers will also be able to lend expertise during the sale.
Ways to quickly lose a sale
Whilst it’s not difficult to boost the ad revenue on most sites prior to a sale, there are pitfalls to be wary of. In a bid to increase revenue and maximize those multiples, it is vital that you don’t do anything that is going to put off buyers. Some examples which I’ve seen that have caused problems are listed below.
Getting an AdSense ban
Once a domain finds its way onto a Google blacklist it can be a long hard job to get it removed again. Google plays an important part in most display ad stacks, so a site that cannot run Google demand is going to be worth significantly less.
If a potential buyer is getting alerts from their anti-virus as they view your site, they are going to be a lot less willing to part with good money for your website. Bad ads are unfortunately a feature of programmatic advertising, but they are far more common with some low-quality partners. Pick your partners carefully.
Too many ads
Revenue is great, but if your website ends up covered in too many ads then it is going to put off buyers. Not only can it impact the perception of quality, but if it seems that revenue is only being achieved by aggressive monetization then buyers are less likely to see an opportunity to add value and make a profit.
If those ads are putting off users and your page views per session drop as a result, then there is going to be a revenue impact too.
Not planning ahead
Buyers are likely to want to see at least 3 months of revenue before even discussing prices, and most of these methods require some work to get gains from. It’s important to plan ahead and start as soon as possible.
However, even if available time is short these tips can help. An upturn in revenue, even if it is only for the last month, is going to help when securing a sale and will keep paying dividends if a sale isn’t immediately completed. So, if you are wondering when to get started then the answer is now.