Every publisher wants to attract big brand advertisers, but it's not an easy task. Setting up a direct sales force is expensive and time-consuming, so it may seem that the only alternative for publishers is to hand over their ad space to an ad exchange or SSP (supply-side, or sell-side, platform) that engages in programmatic buying, thus devaluing inventory and excluding many of the big brands that don't engage in those platforms.

In fact, there are alternatives, but they require some elbow grease and a little out-of-the-box thinking on the part of the publisher. If publishers want to attract those ad dollars, they have to do the work. They must commit to positioning themselves as appealing to brands by showcasing quality audiences, enticing advertising opportunities, and above-benchmark engagement rates.

If you're a publisher and you're willing to get your hands a little dirty, here are the six things you'll need to do to attract those brand advertisers.

1. Trim the Fat

Review the ad placements you have—and then eliminate the bottom 25%. Yes, that sounds crazy, but I can just about guarantee that they account for only 5% of your revenue. And, most likely, they're degrading your user experience by cluttering up your pages; they are also distracting users from the better, more relevant advertising and content you offer.

2. Location, Location, Location

Move ad placements to nontraditional (but logical) locations to avoid banner blindness and to encourage users to engage. Successful placement alone can increase engagement up to 30-fold. Users don't even see the ads we typically place along the top of the page or along the right rail. Years of predictable placement have trained them to ignore rather than engage.

That is why native advertising has become such a hot trend, and why it's outperforming traditional banners. For example, consider the Stream Ads recently launched on Yahoo's new homepage. These are native-style ads that appear within the content stream, allowing users to engage with fresh eyes. Sponsored Tweets on Twitter and Sponsored Posts on Facebook follow a similar format.

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image of John Yearout

John Yearout is chief sales officer of website ad solution provider Infolinks, where he oversees North American media sales. He occasionally assists his father with a line of hot sauces: Floyd & Fred's HotLime.