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My Experience With Sidebar Advertising - Part I

November 17, 2014

Just a short while ago I promised to write a post on my experiences so far with advertising in the sidebar of other blogs. It's a service that is offered on many blogs, but so far I haven't been able to find many reviews of bloggers that have actually taken the step to promote their blog or business on another blogger's sidebar. So, let me be (one of ) the first!

When starting my little designing business on Etsy I also had to start thinking about how to promote it. I decided to start this blog as an extra service for clients and other people interested in digital design. But of course that isn't enough. While Etsy's traffic to my shops is not bad at all I'm always seeking other options to promote my design work, and since I make a lot of blog related items I thought: why not go to the source? Why not advertise in a place where lots of bloggers and wannabe bloggers gather? So I started looking into the option of sidebar advertising on other blogs.

Setting up a sidebar ad
A lot of these sidebar ads are managed by a company called Passionfruit Ads. If you want to give people the opportunity to advertise on your blog you can create an account and Passionfruit will take care of payment and promotion of your blog on their site. Of course this will cost you a bit, but at least you don't have to worry about people not paying for their ad. As an advertiser you can also create an account and then look for blogs you want to advertise on.

I picked out three blogs that I read myself to advertise on. The first ad was up during the month of July, the second ad from half September to half October, and the third one from half October till half November.

The first two ads were on relatively small blogs, so they didn't charge a lot. I paid $8 for the first ad and $9 for the second ad. None of these blogs had a media kit or a page where I could see some info on their blog's statistics, but given the fact that they had multiple comments on each post they wrote, and multiple ads already in their sidebar I thought: let's give it a try.

My sidebar advertisement results
Unfortunately the results were utterly poor to say the least. The good thing about Passionfruit Ads is that it tracks the total amount of views in the period that your ad is in the sidebar and also the total amount of clicks on your ad. The first blog had a total amount of page views of 2.038 in that month and the other one had 4.903 page views in the month of advertising. On the first blog a shocking number of  only 3 people clicked on my ad and on the second blog it was even worse: 2 readers decided to click on it. Now that's what I call disappointing.

What was even more disappointing was that the blogger from the first blog did a monthly sponsor post, shedding the light on the sponsors in the sidebar, but wrote it a week too late. The purpose of this roundup post was to mention all sidebar advertisers of that particular month, linking to the websites of these sponsors and sharing a little bit of background info on them. The blogger failed to come up with this roundup post in July, and eventually wrote one after the first week of August, using the excuse that it had been a few busy weeks.

I don't care if it were busy weeks. We had a business agreement. I paid for a spot in the sidebar and to be mentioned in the monthly roundup post at the end of the month. What's the point in mentioning sponsors when they have already disappeared from your sidebar?

The other blog did no roundup post and I had to conclude from the first two experiences that it was best to look for a blogger who showed his/her blog's statistics and who proved to keep their end of the deal by writing their roundup posts on time. So I continued my advertising adventure.

Stepping up my game with a more expensive ad
After two small and cheap blogs I thought it was time to step up my game and look for a much larger blog with matching advertising prices. This time I was willing to spend more money in order to reach more people.

I eventually chose a blogger who charged $45 for a month in the sidebar. This blogger also shared the blog's statistics and it stated that in August 2014 the blog had just over 100.000 page views for that month and a little over 11.000 unique visitors in that particular month. Furthermore, this blog had over 5700 followers on Bloglovin. So I thought that the $45 was a fair price to pay for this kind of exposure.

I have to say that this blogger keeps her end of the deal and writes lovely roundup posts every month. She gives some info on the sponsor, adds the link to their site, or, in my case, to my Etsy shop, and she always gives a link to her favorite post on that blog, or, in my case, to a product in my shop that she liked. The day this post was published my views on Etsy definitely went up quite a bit. But unfortunately in the days after the post they went down again. I gained one new client from this roundup post, but it was nearly not enough to cover the $45 I had spent on the ad.

All in all, even for $45 it was a bit of a disappointing experience. In the end I received 18 clicks out of 43.904 page views that month (these are not the clicks from the roundup post though, Passionfruit only registers the clicks on the sidebar ad). The page views were rather disappointing. Of course they were huge compared to the first two blogs, but they were no where near the 100.000 views this blog supposedly received in August. So it makes me wonder if either Passionfruit somehow registers the views in a different way than Google Analytics does for the blog, or that the blogger is a bit too optimistic about the page views and just picked out a month when for some reason the views sky rocketed compared to other months. To be fair to the blogger and not automatically assume that she is exaggerating her monthly page views I've written an email to Passionfruit with the question if they register page views in a similar way than google analytics does. I've emailed them a week ago, but so far no answer. I hope to be able to have an answer by the time I write Part II of my advertising experiences.

The conclusions so far
Even though I offered a 25% discount in my design shop on all three occasions to the readers of the blog, the response was minimal. I gained only 1 client from these three advertising adventures.

You might ask if I'm done with sidebar advertising. I've asked myself that same question. But I want to give it a few more tries before I decide to throw in the towel. The blogs I advertised on were all UK based blogs, my next advertising adventures will be on US based blogs, since most of my clients come from that continent.

I will probably also try out some ads with my personal blog The Daphne Files. Will it make a difference when I advertise for the sake of gaining more readers or for the sake of getting paying clients for my shop? It's totally possible. I assume people might be more willing to click through to a blog that looks interesting and is free to read than to a shop where the purpose is to sell things.

Of course I will write another post on part II of my experiences with sidebar advertising once I've tried out a few more options. This post will probably be written upcoming January or February, so keep an eye out for it! In the meantime, if you want to share your experience with advertising on other people's blogs, please do so in the comments below! I would love to hear some comments from people who had really great experiences with this type of advertising, just to give me some hope for the next few advertising experiences ;-)