I get asked questions like “How can I sell more ads on my site?” all the time so I thought I would share a few things that might shed some light on what Advertisers really look for when buying links.

You’d think it was really simple. Advertisers are just looking for basic relevance, high PR (barf), or lots of traffic, right? Well, yes and no.

While all of those are true, savvy advertisers are scrutinizing the links they buy more today than ever before. And, especially given the nature of what we do here at LinkWorth, we’ve become very familiar with link buyer motivations.

99% of people who buy links expect one of these three things:

1. Improved rankings or PageRank
2. Click-throughs (from high traffic domains)
3. Buzz (new company, reputation management, re-branding, or whatever)

Once you understand what the motivators are you can then consider how the link buyers go about selecting the websites they use when building a campaign. The smart ones do a lot of homework and base their decisions on a variety of factors. As a publisher, you should know what they’re looking for.

Since I have “list-o-phobia” I will refrain from putting these in any particular order, but here are some recurring themes I hear when it comes to paid link selection.

Strength of site
Thankfully, this does not refer to toolbar PR exclusively. (That is so 2005!) Strength can be measured in other ways like age of domain, inbound link profile, Alexa/Compete ratings, pages indexed, clean code, etc. I’ve even heard of really hardcore buyers that check out the WayBackMachine and see what they’ve got on tap. (You can tell if a site was keyword stuffing back in 2002!) We don’t get to see the TrustRank of a site but it’s something that is critically important for ranking on Google.

Even further, nothing says “buy a link from me” quite like great rankings for your own title phrasing or keywords. Just the fact that you rank well is a key-indicator that your site is trusted and will probably pass juice. (And don’t think for one second that your prospective customers aren’t looking at this, because they are!) If you’re ranking for popular keywords you’re probably getting a good bit of traffic which can be a tantalizing added bonus for Advertisers.

Related content
This is beyond your control as a publisher, but what you can do is have well-written, unique content about whatever the theme of your site actually is. If someone from your niche comes along, be the obvious choice because your content is the best out there. I realize this is much easier said than done, but if you are serious about monetizing your website FOR A LIVING in the midst of the millions of websites being added to the internet, it is probably a good idea to be thinking this way.

This just in: advertising online is expensive! Provide value and you’ll attract more advertisers. Be reasonable in your asking price and people will come. Always keep in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, too, because marketers come in all shapes and sizes with different philosophies and levels of knowledge. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Just don’t price yourself out of the game.

Perceived value can extend beyond the realm of cost, too. If go above and beyond for an advertiser they’re likely to stay with you month after month after month. For example, you might get a special request in regards to a link placement or something. My advice? Do it if you can! Or at least consider it because educated link buyers know going in that they want to have the same inbound links indexed for an extended period of time. Sure, that might make them a bit picky, but when you consider that they’re prepared to commit to you for YEARS in some cases that it’s probably not an excessive request. The way I see it is, you’re in this together. Work with your partners!

Especially within this community, the more options you have available the better. Offer multiple ad types, page locations, packages, etc. Buyers are getting smarter and don’t want just the typical sidebar or footer link on the index page anymore. Be open to this! Take the time to list your sub-pages that address specific topics, for example. Fish with a big net! Offer rotating ads or paid blog posts, too, because you never know how you might fit in to someone else’s campaign. Why exclude yourself?

LinkIntxt is going to be another HUGE factor. I have clients salivating right now; just waiting for their keywords to become available on Partner sites so they can snatch them up.

Websites that aren’t “obviously” selling links for rankings or PR

Over-the-top disclosure, especially with all the recent dialogue about paid links, can be a deal-killer. Is it right? That’s not for me to decide, but if I’m a publisher I’m following the money. Most advertisers I speak with request that we find them sites that make it difficult to determine if their outbounds are sponsored or not.

Hint: use your blogrolls! 😉

Websites that aren’t completely littered with ads & outbounds
You’ve seen the sites that have very little content but an enormous amount of ads, right?. MFAs, banner buffets, link farms, and every other junk site you can think of are losing business in a hurry these days because it’s difficult for these types of sites to have a positive impact on a linking campaign. I, along with everyone else who knows anything about it, always advise clients against using “hollow” sites because they just don’t produce.

There is a fine line between monetizing your site and whoring it out. Sites that are written out of passion tend to do the best. Even if your sole intention is to monetize your site (which is most often the case, right?), there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Just be aware that if your site looks like the Las Vegas strip you probably won’t attract tons of link buyers!

I’d say I hit the majority of the hot-buttons. Inevitably I’ll publish this post and think, “Damn! I forgot to mention ‘this’ or ‘that’….” but that’s how it goes. Good luck!