Back in the day, ad swapping was not a thing. Sometimes blogs would display the buttons of their favorite blogs, but it wasn’t advertised as “swapping” and certainly not everyone did it. Eventually I started to notice that more and more blogs were charging for their sidebar ads, and I think that’s when the idea of swapping really started to take off. I really started seeing a lot of it last fall, and so as the new year rolled around I had started to think very seriously about swapping ads with other bloggers. It seemed like big and small blogs alike, everyone was doing it.
So I put “start sponsorship program” on my list of New Year’s Resolutions and put together a sponsor page. Here is what it looked like.
There weren’t many rules, just to send me an email! (Typos, yes, rules, no!) I emailed some of my blog friends that I also knew were also doing button swaps, and I was in business!
Somewhere along the way, I came upon a few issues. I started feeling like I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of swapping. I was getting lots and lots of requests to swap, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Sure, my blog was growing, but was it because of swapping ads? Was quick growth worth it at the expense of the aesthetics of my blog or directing my readers to blogs that I didn’t have a relationship with? I wound up taking down my sponsor page around mid February just because I couldn’t keep adding new buttons without taking any away. I just didn’t know how to handle it.
After a lot of thought, this month I decided to make changes to my ad swap policy. I’m changing up the ads on a monthly basis, and I’m only having ten on my blog at a time. This way I can rotate people around and hopefully swap with more blogs overall. I’m also hoping this will benefit those who I swap with, because I think readers are more likely to click on something new they see in a sidebar than something that sits there for months and months on end.
I know this post is already a novel, but after all this thought that I put into ad swapping, I thought I would share my discoveries with you guys, the things I wish I had known from the beginning. Here are 7 things to do when you’re thinking about starting ad swaps, or reforming your current ad swaps.
1. Decide what you want out of ad swaps. Are you looking to grow your blog? That’s a given. Do you want to promote your favorite blogs? Your blog friends? Become the patron saint of promoting fledgling blogs everywhere? Really think about what it is you’re looking to do with your ad swaps, it will help you make decisions about how to proceed with swaps down the road. I’ve come to realize that I want to grow my blog, support blogs I like, and point my readers in the direction of blogs that I think they would like, too.
2. Set limits. I was really just winging it when I started. It didn’t occur to me to rotate ads on a monthly basis, or to set a limit for how many I would take. How would I know how many ads was good for me? I didn’t want to ever have to turn down one of my favorite blogs, so why would I set a limit? Here’s why: if you take on ads indefinitely, then your sidebar just keeps growing. Some people are cool with that. You might be too. For me, I felt like I always had the same people rotating in there, and the size of it was preventing me from reaching out to other blogs that I liked that I wasn’t swapping with yet. I’ve decided that if I take 10 per month, then I can rotate what’s there and get exposure on different blogs. And just because I swap with someone for one month doesn’t mean that in two months we can’t swap again!
Limits also don’t have to be about the space on your sidebar, either. You can also set a limit where you only take swaps from blogs that are in the same genre as you. If you are a food blogger, maybe you don’t want to swap with fashion blogs. Again, think about what you want out of it and set your limits accordingly, it’s your blog and you don’t have to swap with everyone.
3. Prepare to say no. By virtue of setting limits, you’re going to have to say no to people. It’s harder for some people than others, and I find that it’s really hard for me. Just be friendly and sincere. Most people are very understanding!
4. Have your buttons ready. I think it’s important to have at least two different size options when you start swapping. Have one square button and one rectangular one, because people set up their ads differently and prefer different sizes. Remember that if you don’t have to scale the same image bigger or smaller for people, just code your buttons to include width and height, and then point them in the direction of this tutorial!
Also, try not to just have the image ready, but try to also provide the HTML code for your button. Otherwise people have to host the image on their own blog or account, and after a while, all those buttons can clog your Photobucket account! Adding a text box for your button is easy! Here is the code for a button and a text box, just add it to an HTML Gadget or a Text Widget and you’ll be good to go! (you’ll probably have to retype the quotations… just be careful not to miss any!) If this doesn’t work for some reason, just Google it! There are tons of button tutorials out there!
<a href=”YOURBLOGDOMAIN” target=”_blank”><img src=”YOURIMAGEDOMAIN” alt=”Your Blog Name” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>
<textarea rows=”2″ cols=”16″><a href=”YOURBLOGDOMAIN” target=”_blank”><img src=”YOURIMAGEDOMAIN” alt=”Your Blog Name” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a></textarea>
5. Rotate your ads. It’s just nice to give everyone equal exposure! If you’re on Blogger, check out this tutorial, and you can read this post if you need some clarification. If you’re not on Blogger, there are a ton of WordPress plugins out there that should do the trick.
6. Plan ahead. Whether you’re looking to swap with people in the future or if you’re making changes to an existing swap program, make sure you give people at least a week to act. It’s easy to realize the month is about to end and then be like “oops, I guess I should say I’m looking for sponsors!” Mark your calendar and schedule a post or draft an email for at least a week before the end of the month (I think halfway through the month before is even better!)
I also have a test blog that looks exactly like my real blog. Whether you’re on Blogger or WordPress, it should be pretty easy to set one up. That way, each month I get my sponsors ready on the test blog and then just copy and paste the code on the first of the month! It makes it really easy!
7. Keep track. I started using a spreadsheet in Google Docs to keep track of my ad swaps. I record the name, the blog URL, the email, and what months they are swapping with me. I also use the sum feature to keep track of how many swaps I have per month! You can also record people that you might like to swap with in the future, or people you have swapped with in the past. Here’s what it looks like.
Here are some more great posts that talk about ad swapping and sponsorships, to give you a couple of difference perspectives!
The Curious Pug
I’m hoping that these changes to my program will make a big difference, maybe I’ll have to do a follow up post after I’ve tested it!
Lindsay @ Trial By Sapphire says
Follow-up would be helpful! I’m so glad you took the time to write this post, Kate! I, sometimes, feel equally concerned about swapping. I do need to work on kindly declining certain requests, especially if I feel like the other blogger has never read or commented on my own blog. I prefer to promote friends, but then I’m caught feeling like I’ll never meet new people if I stick to those I know. It’s a tricky thing, this swapping thing! :-)
Thank you for writing this! Happy day to you, pretty Kate!
I agree, it seems so simple when you start, but there are so many variables that it actually become quite complicated! Thanks Lindsay :)
Katie Price says
I found myself nodding along to this whole post. It is a tricky thing & changing my rules is something I’ve been avoiding for at least a month now. I think the hardest part will be saying no to people, but it needs to happen for the integrity of my blog. Thanks for saying this out loud, and offering good tips for moving forward!
I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s been struggling with it! It seems like such a dumb thing to worry about, but I wound up spending a ton of time worrying about it, so hopefully I’ve got a better system in place now.
What a great post! And thank you for the shout-out. Turning people down is hard work! Thank you for giving me some sound advice.
No problem, I hope it helps!
this post is brilliant. I loved all the tips and also really like that you support ad swapping.
when i start i will be coming back to this page for sure for tips.
Thabk you for taking the time to write this out!
Thanks Hannah! I’m so glad it’s helpful :)
I love your spreadsheet idea to track things, excellent idea. I really need to do that :)
great post btw and thanks for introducing me to Blog Brunch!
I love Google Docs! Thanks Brooke, you should definitely join in on Saturday! Blog Brunch has definitely been a game changer for me in terms of blogging :)
Emily @ Hope Squared says
I agree with everything here. I especially like your tip about using the spreadsheet. Though I don’t run a sponsorship program on my blog – I think it’s important for those that do keep track of who they are sponsoring. I am looking forward to reading about how this works for you. I think sponsoring new blogs each month is great exposure for both yourself and showing off new blogs that you come across.
Thanks Emily! The spreadsheet thing definitely helps, I feel much less stressed now that I have it all in front of me.
Loved this post. One of my most hated/loved thing is swapping. And I’m one of those people that has a hard time saying no! But you and Aunie are making me rethink how I do things! Thanks!!
Thanks Jenna, I’m glad it’s helpful! Saying no is definitely stressful, I’m right there with ya!
Hey Kate, this is a really great post. I think the most important lesson here is to learn to say no and not to care so much about what someone else will think of it. I think that the way we learn anything is to first understand the norm and the ways that world works. And it’s only after you know that you can start to decide how you want to move away. Anyway, thanks for highlighting some great points.
Well said, Lot! I really liked the direction you took your swaps, thanks for weighing in!
This was such a great post, with really helpful tips and things to think about. I love your idea of organizing everything in Google Docs… I know it’s so simple, but I love to see how other people keep things organized and keep track of everything, I find it so helpful! I would love to get my sponsoring situation all organized like thig at some point!
Thanks Clare! I’m with ya, it always helps me to see how others stay organized too!
Wow…this post is great..THANKS! I’m not even sure how I found your blog (I think I followed a link from the blog designer netowrk? Maybe? Not sure..) but I’m glad I did! This is the 3rd post I’ve read and I’m diggin’ it! Hope you don’t mind that I’ll soon be a stalker of your blog (in a non-creepy…totally sane kind of way!) ;D
Thanks Debbie, I’m glad you’re finding it helpful! I’ve been kinda lame about posting these weekly, but I’m hoping to get better about it, so keep coming back! :)
I put together an ad policy this winter, but now that it’s summer and there is nice weather with so much to do I have given up on ads. Maybe when things slow down a bit I’ll give it another go. I just felt that if I wasn’t putting any effort into it it wasn’t fair for everyone involved.
I know what you mean- ads are a lot of work! That’s great that you knew your limitations and decided to take a break.
Hannah Stein says
This was super helpful! I’m just beginning to get my feet wet with my blog and I’ve been reading about all of these ad swaps and I didn’t know what to make of it so this was really helpful :)