Have you ever seen one of those “buy me a beer” buttons that allow you to donate to the blogger? They used to be everywhere.
In fact, I know a few bloggers who would rake in four figures a year just from their donate button. Pretty amazing right?
So where did these buttons go? Why aren’t we all using them? And why is the donate button almost dead?
How did the donate button work
The donate button was a pretty simple invention. Using Paypal’s donate feature you could add a snippet of code to the sidebar of your blog and take money from generous people.
Most of the time the blogger would add the catchy “Buy Me a Beer” phrase to the top of the button to make it seem more casual and friendly.
Other times people would have a little bit of text explaining how the money would be used; server costs, time writing more posts, etc.
Where did the donate button work best?
The interesting thing is that the donate button did not work equally on all blogs. In fact, if you took two blogs with an equal amount of traffic and subscribers you would find that they all made vastly different amounts from their donations.
Well a donation is a very specific thing. You usually give it to someone based on an emotional impulse like compassion, love, pity, gratefulness or guilt. Therefore, unless your blog really evokes these specific emotions you aren’t going to get a lot of donations.
So the text you add to your donation button area is important (as talked about here and here) but the topic that you write about and the relationship you have with your readers is even more crucial. The sites that got the biggest results were:
- Personal development blogs
Blogs are now like philosophy texts in that people will change their life and circumstances based on something they read online. If a blog helps someone get over depression or lose a lot of weight there is a good chance they will buy you a beer.
- Daily routine sites (like video game forums and server hosts)
My little brother is a Star Craft addict that plays in tournaments around the world. Each day he visits his “clan” website which pays for their daily video gaming servers. They all chip in to keep this going – he’d pay for this before food bills. Blog hosting bills anyone?
- Personality based sites (ie sites like Steve Pavlina)
When people become loyal to a single identity they will donate cash. Especially if that personality adds a lot of value to their life and is considering going offline due to a lack of funds.
Of course these examples aren’t hard and fast either. I know of some really terrible sites (in my opinion anyway) that ended up getting a lot of donations from very infrequent readers.
Why the donate button is dead
So why is the donate button not seen so much anymore? Is it dead?
Well in some respects it is dead. And I think it is a case of death over use. They just got used to the point where people got sick of seeing them.
In fact, I know that it became a little but uncool to put these badges on your blog. People started to see them as “sell outs” and stopped reading or connecting altogether; just because they asked for a donation or two.
The distinction between ads and selling
A really interesting point came up in my post on blogging controversy last week. It seems as though there is a massive perceived gap between selling and adverts. People don’t mind ads like affiliate buttons and Adsense but they hate being sold to. People think selling is something really dirty.
I think that is one part of the donate button controversy – it just seems too needy.
Places its alive and well
One thing to note, however, is that people still donate to online marketers and bloggers, just in different places. For example, you will often see Wordprss Plugin developers ask for donations inside their plugins. Some of them do quite well. And I think that shows something important – you need to be providing a huge amount of value, something seemingly tangible even, to get people to send you Paypal money.
Would you donate?
I’d really like to know; would you donate to a blog? Have you ever donated in the past? What would a blogger have to do to get you to part with your hard earned cash? Oh, and do those buttons annoy you? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.