Monday, June 22, 2009

Making It!: Advertising

by Cassie Gray

It's no secret that I love blogs. You probably do, too, it's a common addiction around these parts. :) So if you've got a little handmade business, have you tried blog advertising? It took me a while to make the leap (for some reason, it just didn't occur to me.) My first paid ad was last April on Creature Comforts.

Once I saw the response (even though it was before Etsy added Google Analytics, it was clear I was getting more traffic), I added Heart Handmade, as well, for the Holidays. I'm now a firm believer in blog ads (and curated online exhibitions, like Poppytalk Handmade and Paper 'N Stitch). A good ad on the right blog can firmly establish your brand in the minds of your target customers. Sure, everyone wants editorial coverage, but a month-long ad is going to get way more eyeballs on it than one feature on a random Tuesday (which is not to say I don't love features---I loooooooooove being featured, it freakin' rocks and always gives me a thrill.) Really, you should cover all your bases, hope for features and pay for ads.

Anyhoo, the best advertising reinforces your brand. Recently, I went to Craft Cult and just noticed which ads stood out the most to me. They were either a) beautifully simple, perfectly conveying a mood; b) intriguing (I had no idea what Potato Benevolence was, but damn straight I was gonna click!); or c) perfectly concise and clear about what's for sale. The ads that don't work? The ones that try to shove too many images into a single, 100x110 px space. One image, maybe two TOPS--any more than that, and it quickly becomes muddled and unclear. Also unfortunate were the pixellated ones that had clearly just been blown up/reduced from an original. I would rather take the time to create an ad to each site's specs than try to use one image for every site and risk having some of them look bad--an unreadable or visibly distorted ad is such a waste of time and money, and could be worse for your business in the long run than never advertising at all. Maybe the most important thing you can do is to check the site you're advertising on the day your ad goes up--if it doesn't look right, fix it asap and resubmit it. I'm also a firm believer in NOT using animated .gifs. I think your ad will stand out more (at this point, in what's become a sea of animation on most blogs) if it doesn't move!

Finally, I think it's good to know when to call in the reinforcements. There's something about being a handmade artisan/crafter that makes us think we should be able to do it all: create our product, photograph it well, maintain an online shop, package and ship efficiently, write a blog, promote our work, and create ads in our spare time. I say: know when to delegate. If you're gonna spend days agonizing over creating an ad in picnik or photoshop, maybe it's worth the money to pay a professional to do it. There are tons of folks on Etsy who offer ad design--your time is money, so if you can't do an ad quickly, pay one of them to produce one for you (that said, I haven't taken my own advice yet! I'm still making my own ads). Some blog owners--like Jena of Modish--offer ad design as part of an advertising package. This seems like a great option if you're just getting started.

So, do you advertise on blogs? What tips and tricks have you picked up? What's your ad strategy? I'd love to hear from you guys on this topic.

*Visit Cassie:,

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Jan said...

Great post - from my experiences with Scoutie Girl, I concur with everything!
*the simpler, the better
*web address out - logo in
*don't animate if poss
*good photography or crisp images

I offer a "click minimum" - where your banner ad stays in place until it receives a certain number of clicks - feels fair.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your article! I have limited experience with blog advertising but one thing I've read is to make an offer with your ad (free shipping, free gift with purchase, 20% off etc) to encourage people to click. I've noticed few blog ads have an offer so I think it makes your ad stand out even more.

Unknown said...

this is a super cool article. i have two ads going on two different blogs. i think the advantage of sponsoring a blog is that when you have a sale or a new collection out, it is nice to have the blog you sponsor tell its readers instead of resubmitting to blogs.

modish said...

Great article, Cassie! I agree and am glad you found benefits from advertising! I personally don't think animated banners are bad tho- I think they can oftentimes be the most effective way to convey a sense of the brand and your variety of offerings in a tiny space. Most of the top performing ads on my site are animated ones. But a well designed static banner can be just as effective, for sure!

And thanks for mentioning my ad design offerings too, that's one of my favorite things to do! I do it for people in general too, not just advertisers on my site. Thanks Cassie!

Unknown said...

it took me far too long to start advertising, too! you're not alone, cassie. but i'm SO happy that i finally decided to take the plunge. i've been advertising on creature comforts for the past few months and i've definitely noticed a change in my traffic. since i've just started with ads, i'm taking it slowly and will likely increase my ads before the holidays.

Melissa de la Fuente said...

This is awesome Cassie ! Thank you hun, this is so useful. Thanks for doing all that research for us! :)

Laura. said...

thanks for the helpful info! i am about to open my shop and have at the top of my list to contact bloggers about advertising, so it really is helpful to know that it brings results.

Laura said...

I have a secret project in the works, and when I finally reveal it to the world, I will definitely be out there buying ads. This is something that I think lots of people are afraid to do, worried it will be spending money they don't have for limited returns. They don't realize how much you get back from these ads. Advertising is essential!

Anonymous said...

This really helps. :) I'm thinking about purchasing my first little ad space and need to pull something together. I will be relying on reinforcements (my graphics-able little brother) to help out and will pass this post on to him!

Brenda said...

Great post, Cassie! The whole concept of blog ads can be so overwhelming and confusing, until you just do it, and then you wonder what your issues were. I love nice crisp ad photos that pop out at you from the computer display.

One word of advice to those new to placing ads - just make sure that the blog you're considering advertising with has sufficient traffic that you'll actually get visitors to your shop. Check out the blog's daily, monthly or other stats (total and unique visits).

Kate8085 said...

Great advice!
I started blogging at the beginning of May, and cannot believe the response and traffic our shop has gotten in return!

Ez said...

This was a wonderful article Cassie! Thanks so much for your insight.
I'd like to second what you mentioned about building a trusted brand through blog ads. As an advertiser it is important to remember that the value/return on placing an ad isn't only the immediate click-throughs or product sales, but the familiarity you are creating with your brand. It is easy to become discouraged if you don't see instant results, but stick with it...try new things (a different ad look, different blog, etc). Find what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to promoting your business! : )

Thanks again for sharing your wisdom here with us Cassie!

Clementine said...

Thanks so much to everyone for weighing in on this! It's so helpful to hear from you blog owners about what you think works.

Unknown said...

Great article! Thanks for talking about this. We are thinking of starting to place to some ads in blogs and weren't sure but when you talk about how you place brand recognition, it makes me see things differently now and more open to how it will work, thanks!

Valentina Harper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
white owl said...

Really great article! We have been thinking that the next step is to advertise, but it's hard to figure out which blog best fits with our jewelry/ target audience. Thanks for the helpful information!

Malinda said...

thanks for the post! I really like the creative suggestions and the tech nerd in me loves that people are thinking this way! More technical detail would be cool too - it's just the way my brain works.... CPM's, advertising networks, java script versus flash ads....

Capree said...

This was a really great post! Any advice for people on the other end: bloggers looking for sponsors/advertisers? :D

Christine from Fey Handmade said...

Thanks for featuring our ad : )
We try hard to design well, so it feels great to be recognized!

Good luck to all the small business owners out there!

Christine from Fey Handmade

Blogging Masterclass said...

This is great, you've done a really nice job explaining this. I'd like to add something though that I think may be beneficial to bring up in this thread.

I have done this for awhile and recently realized I've been doing it wrong -- I call my advertisers "sponsors" but they are not really sponsors. It's important that, as small business owners, we recognize that and use caution in how we label those who are paying us to advertise on our blogs.

I recently taught an online blogging class where I discussed this in depth, but in a nutshell:

A sponsor is much different than an advertiser and I think many feel using the word sponsor sounds less sales-y or commercial which is why some bloggers incorrectly say their ads are sponsors. Legally they’re not. We are not being sponsored by people, people are placing ads on our sites — two very different things legally. It’s good practice to not refer to your ads as sponsors.

Nicole said...

Some useful advice for sure! Nice post.

I've some h&t's too:
- Use an iconic image
- Use text to frame your image
- Give a call to action. Like someone said earlier an offer, or a simple 'click here to see the latest pens'
- Also do some research and take note of what grabs your addition.
- You can use GIF's just make sure it's not a strobe light at a rave party.

Look forward to reading more!


Marichelle said...

Thanks for bringing up this topic Cassie, it's obviously something that's on everyone's mind! So happy to see everyone else chiming in, there some really great comments from both sellers and fellow bloggers here.

Here's what I would keep in mind when advertising on blogs:

1. Identify your goals: Each of your campaigns should have a specific goal. What are you trying to achieve? Branding & awareness or direct sales/conversions? The language and creative used on your ads should reflect your goals.

2. Targeting & Positioning: Identify blogs that speak to your brand (or whose target market you're after). Familiarize yourself with the blog and what makes its readers tick. Make sure you request a rate card/media kit - this will usually include both monthly traffic info and reader demographics. Be careful when analyzing numbers, just because a site has lower numbers doesn't necessarily mean it won't give you results. It could very well have a very niche or engaged audience.

3. Creative: You've identified a couple of blogs to advertise on and have done your homework and truly feel that its audience is right for your product/brand. Now what? Make sure your creative speaks to the audience and is in line with the overall taste & aesthetics of each blog you plan to advertise on. Remember that the blogger gives you the eyeballs but it's your job to convince everyone to click on your banner. Be very brutally honest when critiquing your own creative/banner. You've done all this work, now don't let it all go to waste with a poorly designed banner.

4. Tracking: Obviously track the click-throughs from all of your ads especially if you're campaign is geared towards product sales/conversion. You could even provide a discount code on each ad or offer free shipping, this way you can track where a sale comes from. Keep in mind that branding & awareness is much more difficult to track. Just like tracking the success of a magazine ad or a billboard - you can't simply rely on click through numbers.

You should also analyze these numbers once you have them. Ask yourself questions like, why did this blog outperform this one? Was it a different banner? Was my ad banner below the fold? Is the audience right for me? etc.

This is such a great topic and I'm sure we could all go on forever!

Anonymous said...

As an advertiser, I find that the handmade and decorating blogs have a great following, loyal (and attentive) audience. Click through rates from blogs in this category tend to perform better than other websites.

There were some great banner advertising reports that were just released by Doubleclick and Google:

Clementine said...

Damn, Marichelle, you're like Clark Kent/Superman-- mild-mannered blogger by day, and then you jump into a phone booth and turn into to an amazing advertising superhero!! Thanks for that awesome advice :)

jennamichelle said...

I know I need to advertise, but when my sales are great I put advertising on the back burner, exciting that these fantastic sales will last forever! They never do :( I really need to get on the advertising boat, because I love what I'm doing, & I want people to see it! :) Thanks for the push.

Pikaland said...

I agree totally about putting your shop/business out there. Even though I am a blogger, but I still advertise on other blogs to get more attention and feedback rather than just hope for a feature.
Placing your ad on the blog that your target market reads is important as well. If you put up ads unrelated to the readership of the blog, then it's going to be harder to get clicks or hold potential buyers attention once they do!

Lovely and very informative article!

Molly (Traveling Painter) said...

Great article- really well said- "I say: know when to delegate. If you're gonna spend days agonizing over creating an ad in picnik or photoshop, maybe it's worth the money to pay a professional to do it."

Time IS money and we have to remember that!

Thanks for the tips! :-D

hear.t. and hue said...

great advice! THANKS! my problem is i keep waiting to have a great [the perfect] portfolio to feature & an array of items in my etsy shop ... because i know you only get 1 shot at a 1st impression. does anyone agree with me or am i just dragging my feet? :) i think i know the answer... this info is awesome.

Bonbon Oiseau said...

you are a godsend....and i have a picture to send you...

Laura said...

great post! I'm glad to know what you think about the simple vrs. animated ads. I'm new to the blogging world and can't wait to get more into it!

LaWoodstock said...

Great advice!
Thank you for sharing!!!!