Menu Search
Jump to the content X X
SmashingConf London Avatar

We use ad-blockers as well, you know. We gotta keep those servers running though. Did you know that we publish useful books and run friendly conferences — crafted for pros like yourself? E.g. our upcoming SmashingConf London, dedicated to all things web performance.

Successful Strategies For Selling Ad Space On Low-Traffic Websites

Upon first thinking about it, the idea of selling advertising on a website or blog with limited traffic seems a bit daft. After all, aren’t most advertisers interested in putting their product in front of the highest number of eyeballs possible? Approaching them with piddly visitor numbers seems like a surefire way to end up in the deleted folder.

But though it may feel like putting the cart before the horse, there are many good reasons and ways to sell ad space on low-traffic websites. What you need to always keep in mind is that, while advertisers are drawn to high traffic numbers, they desire something else even more: high conversion rates. There are plenty of success stories of websites that have limited traffic but sell a ton of advertising. These websites succeed because they do one thing well: they deliver the right type of customer to the right type of business.

You may also want to take a look at our previous related articles:

What Do You Have To Offer? Link

Now, before you rush off and draft your first advertising offer, take a page from the Greeks and “know thyself.” This means you have to research your website first so that you can pitch it effectively to potential advertisers. Here are some good ways to research your website and its audience.

Clicky Link


Clicky5 has the advantage of providing real-time analytics, unlike Google Analytics. Areas to look out for are:

  • What do people look at when they visit my website?
  • What are my most popular pages?
  • What pages do people stay on the longest?
  • What keywords do they use to find my website?

With this knowledge, you can develop a picture of what interests your visitors and what kinds of advertisers would pay for access to people with those types of interests.

Here are some other analytical tools:

  • Piwik6: Open-source analytics that you install on your server.
  • Woopra7: Real-time analytics. The free plan is limited to 30,000 page views per month.
  • W3Counter8: Free hosted website analytics.

Poll Your Traffic Link

Getting feedback9

To delve even further into your visitors’ interests, put together a quick poll to find out what makes them tick. With a polling service, you can quickly put together a questionnaire that sheds further light on where your advertising focus should be. To get the best results from your survey, make it short, and perhaps even give away a gift to make it worth the respondents’ time. People rarely fill out surveys without an incentive.

Polling services include the following:

If you would rather not go this route, a simple request for feedback might work. Just put the word out that you are looking for input and then ask for comments.

Keep Your Ear to the Ground Link

Tweet Deck
Here, in the Smashing Magazine Team, we are monitoring all mentions of our products and services and reply to our customers when they have problems, ask for support or just share their opinions.

Another great way to find out what interests your audience is to track what people say about you on social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Twitter lets you track mentions of your website or a particular phrase in tweets. See which of your posts gets a lot of retweets or what people are saying about your website.

Also, watch for articles that get bookmarked on Pocket and other social bookmarking websites. Searching for your domain name reveals articles that have been the most interesting to your visitors.

Finding Advertisers Link

Now that you have a good understanding of your website’s traffic, it’s time to get out there and find advertisers. Is there a minimum number of visitors you should have before approaching advertisers? While nothing is set in stone, 500 to 1000 unique daily visitors is probably a good starting point. However, numbers below these can still be workable, especially if your audience is highly targeted.

Here are some places to find advertisers:

  • What websites link to yours?
    One place to look for advertisers is in your own analytics. Look for websites that currently link to yours and that offer a service or product you could advertise.
  • Who’s commenting?
    Visit your commenters’ websites to find any advertising or promotional opportunities.
  • Let Google AdWords lead the way.
    If you run Google AdWords14, make note of which advertisements come up. After all, they are already spending money with Google, and Google is saying that your website is a good match for theirs. Approach them with an advertising opportunity that would give them greater visibility than what Google AdWords can deliver.
  • Research websites with similar content.
    Who is advertising on those websites? They would probably be interested in your website, too.
  • What names jump out?
    After compiling your visitor’s interests, some businesses may immediately spring to mind. These businesses will likely gel with your content. Make a list of them and contact them directly.

Check out the following article for additional information:

  • How to Find Advertisers for Your Website: The Ultimate Guide

How to Approach Advertisers Link

Now that you know about your website’s visitors, you will want to draft an advertising package to present to potential advertisers. Here are a few things you may want to include:

  • Demonstrate visitor interest.
    List the interests of your website’s visitors. Advertisers want to know that what they’re selling will appeal to your visitors.
  • Disclose bounce rate, average time on site and page views.
    Advertisers will want to know how sticky your website is. If much of your traffic stays for only a few seconds, advertisers would want to know that. The longer your traffic sticks around, the higher the chance that ads will be seen and clicked.
  • Showcase your monthly stats.
    Advertisers will want to know your website’s statistics over several months to see what kind of increase you have had and how many unique visitors you are getting per month. A steady climb in traffic shows great potential.
  • Track outbound links.
    You certainly don’t want to overpromise the number of clicks an ad will receive. If you’ve been tracking outbound links with a service such as Google Ad Manager15, you will have pretty concrete numbers to work with when approaching advertisers (assuming, of course, that you have already run at least one test advertisement on your website).
  • Keep it personal.
    Don’t blanket email advertisers with a cut-and-pasted pitch. Advertisers will more likely respond if they feel you have personally researched their product and matched it carefully to your website.

These statistics will be a great help when you are ready to approach your first advertiser. Your goal is to show how you’ll be able to leverage your audience to deliver a highly targeted customer to them. Doing that successfully will show value even if your traffic is relatively low.

To give you a real-life example, I recently ran some advertising on a website that averaged 92,000 daily page views, along with one that had only 2,000. The website with less traffic brought in 41 clicks, while the bigger website brought in only 2. Which website do you think I would spend my advertising dollars on? Traffic is one thing, but conversion numbers are much more important.

Keep Advertisers Happy Link

Happy dude

So, you’ve landed your first advertiser. Good work! But getting the advertiser is merely the first step. If you want to develop a long-term relationship with your advertisers, you’ll need to know how to keep them happy:

  • Give them the information they want.
    Conversation rates are king. To keep advertisers happy, deliver information on how their ads are doing. The good news is that most ad-management services have built-in reporting that sends advertisers updates on how their ads are doing.
  • Promote your website.
    Give your advertisers your best content and promotions. That may mean holding back some premium content while you get advertisers lined up, especially if you will be guest posting or foresee a huge spike in traffic. You want all of your ads positioned so that they can take advantage of that new traffic.
  • Keep them informed.
    Introducing a new ad size? Writing a new series of articles? Give your current advertisers the first crack at these premium ads spots.
  • Run promotions.
    Advertisers love a deal. Sweeten the pot with occasional promotions. This is a great way to bring back former advertisers that have recently dropped out.
  • Get feedback.
    Ask your advertisers outright what they think. They’ll appreciate that you care, and you will receive a heap of useful information that you can use to improve your ad strategy.

Sell Ads Yourself Or Join A Network? Link

Handling your own advertising or joining a large advertising network each has its pros and cons. Some large networks may not give you the time of day if you don’t have enough traffic to begin with. Here are some ways to sell advertising; you can mix and match methods to come up with your own solution.

Sell Directly Link


If you prefer the hands-on approach, then you’ll probably want to sell your advertising spots directly to advertisers. Using one of the following programs will alleviate some of the stress that comes with selling directly:

For more options and management tips, check out the article Ad Management Plug-Ins And Tutorials For Your Website20.

Remember, handling your own ad sales will net you the biggest slice of the profit, but it also requires the most work.

  • Limit your offering.
    No advertiser wants to see 10 different “Advertise Here” boxes on your website. Start small by offering one advertising slot, and then increase as you sell them.
  • Get the word out.
    Use social network websites such as Twitter to spread the news that you have advertising spots available. You don’t want to spam your network, but an occasional reminder won’t hurt.
  • Partner with websites with similar interests.
    If your traffic is too low to attract the kind of advertisers you’re interested in, why not partner with other websites that share your interest? Start your own mini-network, and then offer advertisers the opportunity to pay one price to advertise on multiple websites.
  • Start a promotion.
    In the beginning, you may have to give away ad spots for nothing or next to nothing. So, offer a promotion to get advertisers in the door. If you’ve done your research and you deliver high-quality traffic, those advertisers will be much more willing to pay when the promotion runs out. Remember to track outbound traffic on these links because it contains valuable information that you can use when you contact your next advertiser.

Selling Through Ad Networks Link

Ad networks can put you in touch with many more advertisers, but they also take a chunk of your bottom line. Often this chunk will be negligible, considering the network will allow you to sell more ad space. Here are a few good networks to try:

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably already heard of Though a relative newcomer to the advertising scene, has achieved great market penetration. One caveat is that it focuses on websites for designers and developers. So, if your website falls beyond this category, you may want to try elsewhere.


Project Wonderful22
Project Wonderful is a great place to start your advertising campaign because its prerequisite to join is relatively low. The idea behind the website is to allow potential advertisers to bid on your ad spots. The more that advertisers want what you offer, the higher your daily advertising rate. While Project Wonderful promises to bring advertisers to you, you may find yourself sitting in the $0 per day budget range as you build traffic or until an advertiser decides to take a chance on you.

Project Wonderful23

Chitika is a little different than other ad networks because it scans the search strings of people who are directed to your website and then serves up ads that match those search strings. Think of it like Google AdSense with a twist.


Whichever ad network you choose, make sure it pays per click (i.e. pays money for every click the ad gets) rather than uses CPM (i.e. money for every thousand views your website gets).

Here are some additional ad networks:

Be Careful With Your Advertising Link

Not all advertisers will be a good fit for your website, and you may be forced to decide whether to run an ad that falls beyond your website’s objectives. For example, you’ve probably seen hundreds of websites lately that advertise teeth whitening and weight loss services. While the revenue from such ads is probably good, would the ads be appropriate for your audience?

Ask yourself these questions before deciding to run an ad:

  • Does this ad fit the content of my website?
  • Would the ad offend or annoy my visitors?
  • Would it distract visitors from the content?
  • Would it call into question the integrity of my website?

Always remember that any advertisement that drives away traffic from your website, even if it pays wells, will ultimately hurt rather than help. You will hear loud and clear from your community if it thinks you have sold out for advertising dollars. Don’t let it get to that point; set firm advertising standards ahead of time.

You may be interested in the following further reading:

Summary Link

Selling advertising on a low-traffic website doesn’t have to be mission impossible. With the right research and pitch, you’re well on your way to landing your first advertiser. Figuring out what works for you and your website doesn’t mean picking one strategy and sticking with it. Try multiple approaches, and track the results. Whether you prefer to sell your own ad spots, partner with other websites or join a network, mix and match methods to create a strategy that works for you. Advertising on your website is an ongoing organic process that takes research, patience and time.

Have you had success in displaying ads on your website? What has worked for you? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

Additional Resources to Sell Ads Link


Footnotes Link

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14
  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19
  20. 20
  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
  25. 25
  26. 26
  27. 27
  28. 28
  29. 29
  30. 30
  31. 31
  32. 32
  33. 33
  34. 34
  35. 35
  36. 36
  37. 37
  38. 38
  39. 39
  40. 40

↑ Back to top Tweet itShare on Facebook

Whenever Travis King is not using all this energy to survive on the frozen Canadian tundra, he spends his time as a freelance web designer ( and writer for FreelanceSwitch. In an attempt to control his obsession with Japan he also runs one of Canada’s premier Japan travel sites – I Heart Japan.

  1. 1

    Hey, informative article. I will definitely use these analysis tools for my next project.

    thanks and keep posting informational posts.


  2. 2

    Rated 5 stars :)
    Thanks Travis

  3. 3

    Time to start making some dime on my web app review blog :)

  4. 4

    OpenX is a great platform, but not specifically for Drupal. It’s a standalone ad server and does a great job. You can place ads on any site when running the full server.

  5. 6

    Great article, I’ve learned a few extra things that I didn’t know before but now I should be able to get the most out of ads on my website.

    Thanks again,
    ~ Deamonic Angel

  6. 7

    Buysellads will only accept you if you have high traffic (you have to meet a certain number of impressions each month), which makes them irrelevant to this post other than name dropping.

    They do seem to have a who’s who of design and development clique going on, but then again if that makes them the most money….

    • 8

      Matthew Heidenreich

      February 12, 2010 2:42 pm

      this is actually not necessarily true. I got accepted to the buysellads network within a week of my site being opened. Once i started getting good content, they will make a guess as to if you will get better traffic in the future.

      • 9

        Matthew is correct. First and foremost we look for quality content and sites that look promising if they are new. Sometimes that “promising” feeling is shown through the design (this also means having a unique or highly customized template), sometimes it’s through a consistent first number of posts, mentions from some other bloggers/site in the network, or a combination of those things.

  7. 10


    February 12, 2010 2:53 am

    Well explained article. Now a days design websites first preparation

  8. 11

    Very interesting thoughts. Thanks a lot, Travis.

  9. 12

    Excellent article, outlines your ad options nicely.

  10. 13

    Excellent article! I didn’t realize this before but it makes sense that you can monetize a blog in this way because marketers are all about TARGET; delivering ads for their products to a very specific market at the right time. If you already have a highly targeted market viewing your blog, you’ve done a tremendous amount of work for them already.

    twitter @joelyboyblue

  11. 14

    Very good article! This gives me an idea as to how to get started with advertising on my own blog and what kind of traffic levels I will need first!

  12. 15

    i blog at pcgamersera and working a lot on it .but as u knw it takes time to build page rank and traffic ,but still if i was wondering if i could get some advertisers it would have been great ,this article really helped me to how to do it :)

  13. 16

    this is a big and very informative tips and apart from that. really encourage To the new bloggers. thanks for sharing :)

  14. 17

    Amber Weinberg

    February 12, 2010 7:35 am

    Good tip.s I just recently started offering ads through BuySellAds. They’re pretty selective about who they choose (they had turned me down 5 months ago). I’ve only sold one ad so far, but hopefully I’ll sell all 6 soon ;)

  15. 18

    I love smashing magazine. Thanks for another great post. YOU GUYS (+GIRLS) ROCK!

  16. 19


    February 12, 2010 9:23 am

    Great! This is what I need, thanks SM!

  17. 20

    Ronald | Naldz Graphics

    February 12, 2010 9:53 am

    Very well said Travis:) This article is useful. I’m applying some of the tips actually but I’ll try the others if it will work great :) I use BSA for my ads ;)

  18. 21

    Very good and informative article, the most important thing every blog owner should learn is the right approach to the advertisers.

  19. 22

    Thanks for this article. I have been wanting to get into advertising on my blog, but since my blog is in a subfolder of my website, it cannot be approved by BSA.

    Nonetheless, I will check out Chitika and other places (:

  20. 23

    Very authoritative and in depth study of the small business on Internet. One of the articles which should be printed and read in the morning while you drink first coffee ;)


  21. 24


    February 12, 2010 3:58 pm

    wow this really helps! thanks

  22. 25

    Excellent information, very helpful! Thank you so much.

  23. 26

    Five stars for BuySellAds from me!

  24. 27

    really helps..also your Additional Resources very useful for me as a newbie..

  25. 28

    To be honest I have to keep reminding myself that web ads are still relevant. With tools like Firefox and its AdBlock plugin gaining in popularity it can sometimes be difficult to remember that there are still plenty of users out there that don’t use such tools. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw an ad on a web page.

  26. 29

    Eko Setiawan-dynamicwp

    February 12, 2010 8:26 pm

    Previously, we plan to serve advertisements on our site, but our site has only reached 4000 pageviews a month, we thought of this while we have to focus first on improving the quality of content.
    Thanks for this guide.

  27. 30

    frachet benjamin

    February 13, 2010 4:27 am

    very good article! helpfull!

  28. 31

    you write an really helping article for bloggers and i personally have great experience with BSA and support them.

  29. 32

    Great article, very helpful info.

  30. 33

    Jesse McFarlane

    February 13, 2010 4:23 pm

    Wonderful article. Everyone is a marketer in the new media world and this is the type of content that keeps Smashing Magazine at the forefront of the community.

  31. 34

    Cre8ive Commando

    February 14, 2010 12:07 am

    Thanks for the tips. :-) I think online advertising is quite a difficult area to learn about as there aren’t many people writing about it.

  32. 35

    You could also keep it simple, and instead of OpenX, try something easier like MySimpleAds from

  33. 36

    I thought some of low traffic website is very hard to get the approval from the ads network service. Because the first thing they see is site traffic and then their niche categories etc.Btw Good Article ! Thankx for sharing and keep posting useful article.

  34. 37

    Nice guide.. this is a situation faced by thousands of low traffic sites, they need to get the attention and respect.

  35. 38

    Hm, are banners are still effective? People are using adblock these days, because ads are very annoying.

  36. 39

    Nice! We are just about launching our advertising program on our website ( and definitelly banners, video and sponsorship will be some of them, we were thinking to recruit a larger audience (currently we have more than 500 daily visits) and definitelly the approach of this article about selecting the right customers with the right audience, is a very important point at the time you sell the idea of your website as platform and it had just made me think twice and accelerate the selling time…

    Very useful and interesting post!
    Loved it..

  37. 40

    Great article!

    Just wanted to share that OpenX is a great platform and once you get an understanding of the features it’s really a great tool for managing, tracking your ads. I find it the easiest stand alone to manage, even compared to Google Ad Manager.

    Also another great plugin for WP is “Advertising Manager.” Very easy to set up zones and get your ads rotating although there’s no tracking. So it’s best used for straight buys or when switching between network ads.

  38. 41

    OpenX is an amazing piece of software but we had problems running it on our own server. Eventually we switched to AdSpeed which I highly recommend if you’re selling your own ads. (By the way, I have no vested interest in AdSpeed, we just use it to serve the ads on our site –

  39. 42

    unfortunately i have a forum with 6000 daily visitor from search engines, and i make less than 50$ a month , and i have a lake of reaction in my website :(

    any one can help :(

  40. 43

    Anibal Damião

    March 25, 2010 7:48 am

    One thing that happens with Ads is the compromise between your website identity and 1) the clutter associated with ads and 2) the relevancy of ads toward your audience.

    InfluAds [] tries to remove that. Like The Deck, we only allow one ad per page in a curated environment. We aren’t as exclusive (which apparently doesn’t even answer emails) but we demand quality of content and relevancy toward audience, regardless of size.

    We are open to different topics that interest for Digital audiences like startups & entrepreneurs, Design & UX, Work & Productivity and Web Development and more on the way

    [Disclaimer: I’m InfluAds founder]

  41. 44

    i have had success with seems good …. never tried it .. would check it out :)

  42. 45

    amit thaakar

    April 19, 2010 9:38 pm

    shree Ganesh

  43. 46

    Tracy Buckingham

    August 9, 2010 2:57 am

    Very informative and useful guide. Has given me plenty to ponder.

  44. 47

    Months later this is enormously useful. Thank you.

    It’s worth commenting that as of November 2010 Project Wonderful exists in a state of perpetually low bid prices, rendering the service excellent for advertisers and horrible for producers.

    As far as I can tell a huge fault is that they have allowed $0 cost ad placements with no appropriate minimum for traffic levels and this messed up the economy of the system. With that said if you have a product to advertise I highly recommend you check it out. 20k daily page view sites will accept ads for under $0.20/day with a high degree of frequency. Quite the steal.

  45. 48

    Can you help me with my site?

    Someone asked to place their ad (4 links – short term loans) in my website for 2 USD per link per month for 1 year.

    Should the ad be displayed to all pages? My google ranking is 1 at this moment.

    Does one ad slot means it should only be displayed to one page only? How should I treat this ad? It seems their site is legit.

    I asked them which page they want their ad to appear but it seems to be not an issue because they did not specify.

    Thank you…

  46. 49

    What about self serving advertising solutions like and it would be great to see how these stack up to the competition and if any users have had good/bad experiences with them?

  47. 50

    Thanks for the article. I have been interested in putting adverts on my site for sometime but haven’t had the courage to because it gets a very small amount of traffic. But this has definitely encouraged me to think about it in the near future.

  48. 51

    all the article are very interesting, but would you please fill the article about selling skills “theory and practice” and how to sale my product private label in my store my self, I really need it for my company (kimia farma, indonesia)

  49. 52

    Hot! I’ve gained a lot out of this. Thanks heaps.

  50. 53

    All I can say is, WOW! Just starting out, we are trying to publish a newspaper with online content. Right now, we are starting with the online version, and have the journalist in place, but now we need to pay them…

  51. 54

    it is very nice article , i learn a lot from this article , i am a new bloger and want to earn some money , it give me a rough idea .

  52. 55

    Charleen Larson

    July 29, 2011 10:42 am

    This was just the impetus I needed to finally install Clicky. Thanks for the nudge.

  53. 56

    Jose Carrilho

    November 5, 2011 2:47 pm

    One of the things that I do is to frequently check my advertisers statistics and give advice on how they can improve the CTR, namely by using a better image or placing their ad on a usually more clicked format.

  54. 57

    Gagan Agrawal

    January 31, 2013 8:57 am

    I have recently started my website. It is around 2 months old. I have started earning around $3 per day. I spent around $1.5 Per day in its marketing. Can I sell this website? What should be the right price?

  55. 58

    Informative and well written……. Good to instigate thought process in new direction

  56. 59

    hi Travis

    Brilliant work on here pal. I was trawling the net looking for info for my website implementation of ads so one can make a bit of cash and came across your brilliant blog. Do you know top 10 websites similar to who I can do a bit of research on before joining them?

    Thanks a million, please feel free to email me

  57. 60

    Thanks Travis. This was a very helpful article.


  58. 61

    Incredible article. Three years later and the content is still relevant. I now feel a lot more confident about approaching advertisers with this insight. Now it’s time to get to work.

  59. 62

    Richaard Finland

    November 19, 2013 8:10 am

    I have a problem with this travis!

    That you hadn’t made it soon enough! :-)

    7 stars on a scale of 1-5 . Made me realize that i am about to do everything right!

  60. 63

    Thanks, I tried to sell my ads directly, I used Viewzd ad manager

    I think we should keep posting new content to make the succuss


↑ Back to top