"No good deed goes unpunished" is th...

"No good deed goes unpunished" is the subtitle of this Ferd'nand Sunday strip (March 5, 2000). Henrik Rehr, who took over the strip in 1989, uses the signature "Rehr.Mik". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a problem. Last year, around this time, I decided to donate a bunch of advertising on this site to benefit the victims of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. I sold the adspace with the proceeds going entirely to the relief. I blogged about it at the time so you probably remember this.  This was one of the main reasons I wanted to be able to sell my own advertising on the site: so I could donate it or give it away when I wanted to.

I gave the people who were kind enough to donate what should have been three months worth of advertising on this site based on average traffic and set their ads up by number of impressions. Then we had a traffic heavy couple of weeks and I figured their ads would probably end up ending sooner then planned.

Here’s where the problem comes in: The advertising plugin I use used to count impressions instead of visits. Literally weeks after I started these charity ads, it switched to counting visits without warning and with no way to reverse. It didn’t count repeat visits from the same users anymore and other tweaks which all boiled down to this: though traffic to the site was up, the plugin was now reporting a fraction of the number of impressions it was before. My conservatively estimated number of impressions for three months was now, despite traffic having increased, WAY too high.

Those “three month” ads are still running today, almost a year later, most only about halfway to that original impressions goal. I can’t sell, donate or give away any more advertising on this site until at least some of them end because I have way too many ads running at once because these ads have lasted much longer then planned. (Though I guess that could be moon logic. If everyone’s ads are running by number of impressions or number of clicks, then it doesn’t matter how many are running at once… you’re still guaranteed your clicks or impressions, right?) I guess I could go in and “pro-rate” the number of impressions on these ads but that doesn’t feel right. These buyers were kind enough to make a donation in exchange for advertising, shouldn’t they be rewarded with this “bank error in their favor”? I also don’t feel right about having to explain to them that I’m docking their number of impressions, surely they’ll just assume I’m trying to get rid of them or pull a fast one. Ditto to moving the charity ads somewhere other then the prominent places they were promised so I can sell that prime space… It just doesn’t feel right to do that.

But I am turning away paying advertisers and that is not ideal. Before this change, ads ran their course fast enough that I was able to give a good amount of impressions for a good value and there was still a pretty fast turn around where I could sell ad spots pretty regularly. As glad as I am that I was able to donate the ad space, I’m feeling trapped because, through no fault of their wonderful owners, these ads are clogging up the works by overstaying their welcome. And even admitting this makes me feel bad because I don’t want the people who donated to get the ad space to feel bad at their unexpected good fortune of getting extra time on the site. But I kind of miss that income stream. Gah! I’m feeling a little, no good deed goes unpunished right now.

I don’t really know what to do. It looks like it will be at least another 6 months (assuming traffic stays about the same) before these ads are finished. I can prioritize ads and just make sure that any new, paid for, ads are set at the highest priority and start selling adspace again but dare I trust selling space by number of impressions ever again? I can just sell it based on a length of time and, while I’d be fine with that under normal circumstances, it doesn’t feel right now when there are so many ads competing for your eyeballs. I’ve also never liked selling it based on a length of time because traffic can vary. I prefer to do sales by impressions or clicks so you’re guaranteed whatever you pay for no matter what traffic is like or how many ads run in that spot. But maybe that’s just my weirdness.

At the moment, it feels like my only option is to keep doing what I’m doing: keep my commitment to that original (now insane) impression count and just wait until those ads end on their own before I start to sell anymore spots no matter how long that takes. There are a few other ad spots, less prominent, that weren’t part of the charity sale so I can at least sell those in the meantime. I could also try to make the site magically go viral so I get so much traffic it solves all my problems. 😉

But, going forward, what should I do once these ads end and I can sell space freely again? Do you prefer ads done by impressions and click so that you have that guarantee of what you’re getting or are you fine with buying adspace by, say, the month? What factors make you decide to buy ads on a website or blog? And what would you do if you found yourself in a situation like this?