Ads are still the primary way that bloggers try to make an income online. But is it really the best solution? Probably not.
There seems to be a common perception (among newer bloggers in particular) that the best way to make an income with a blog is to write content and then put some kind of advert in the sidebar or at the top of each post.
I regularly hear from people who want to know how to get more AdSense clicks, or where to find advertisers to pay them for a prime piece of website real estate.
In my experience, this is one of the worst ways to make money online.
Today’s post will take a look at why ads are not the best way to make an income from your blog, and what alternatives are available to us in the short and long term.
Note: I’m always happy to be wrong and learn new things so make sure you read to the end if you’ve got a different point of view!
Why I don’t like ads on blogs
Let’s start this post by jumping right in and looking at why advertising and programs like AdSense aren’t the best fit for blogs.
- Lack of quality control
One of the first things you notice when you sign up to a program that delivers ads on your blog is that you often don’t have much control over the ads that are then displayed on your blog. I often find it a bit sad to see a high quality magazine, for example, displaying ads from questionable products that they would otherwise never approve.
- Site load time
If you run a speed test on any website that uses an advertising network you can almost guarantee that it will be slowing down their site. As we know, a fast loading blog is essential for good Google rankings and, as such, we should be a bit careful about installing anything that affects this negatively.
- Low earnings per lost reader
When you think about it, a program like AdSense is sending readers away from your site for a few cents (or maybe a few dollars in a good niche). While this can add up to a lot, it’s still a relatively cheap way to lose readers that are quite difficult to acquire through content creation, SEO, networking, etc.
- Intrusive display options
From an advertisers points of view, they are going to want to maximize the amount of coverage they get on your blog. But from your readers point of view, that represents an annoying intrusion or a big break in page momentum. This can have a huge effect on bounce rate and subscriber conversion rates.
- Lack of trust
In some extreme cases, ads can cause readers to lose trust in the site. For example, there are some blogs that have so many ads and pop ups that I no longer visit them (even with a pop up blocker) because I don’t like the scripts and cookies and some of the nasty things they can do to your computer.
We’ll take a look at the flip side of all this in a minute, but these are the main reasons why I don’t think bloggers should consider ads as a main source of income for their long term careers.
A quick example of the problem with ads
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, I thought it would be good to look at an example of how advertising might have a negative effect on a site. Please keep in mind that this is me talking personally as a user/reader of a site. I don’t have any data on this particular example.
The above is a screenshot from News.com.au which, at the time, had at least five ads on the homepage for well-loved painkiller, Panadol. For many web users this makes it extremely difficult to determine where the news ends and the advertising begins. I think there would be a lot of accidental clicks, which, to me, doesn’t do any favors for the advertiser or the seller.
I acknowledge that news sites in particular are in a difficult position at the moment as revenues fall, fake news gains popularity, and budgets are tight. But I can’t help wonder whether this is doing more harm than good over then long term, as opposed to sites like the New York Times and New Yorker which are adjusting quite well with subscription models.
Note: This is also why I don’t recommend free blogging platforms where ads are often a non-negotiable part of the user experience.
So, what’s the alternative?
At this point you’re probably wondering what a good alternative is. That’s where it gets a little bit tricky and we have to start thinking from a more long term perspective.
- Develop a strategy for the future
The first thing we need to do is develop a long term blogging strategy that factors in all the different goals and ideas you have for your blog over the next five or so years. This really helps to make the next stages more focused, and gives you ideas about where to go next.
- Explore temporary sources of income
In my guide on how to make money from a new blog we go into some better details about what is possible for short term income sources that enhance your blog instead of detracting from it. For example, using your blog as an Internet business card to sell services to businesses in your area, freelancing, etc. This really helps while you’re getting established.
- Build a mailing list around a particular niche
Throughout all of this, we should be focusing the majority of our efforts on building a mailing list that is very closely targeted to the area that we want to monetize in the future. For example, if your blog is about Bonsai growing you could set up a mailing list with a weekly Bonsai expert tip and, throughout this process, introduce people to some affiliate products that you use with your own Bonsai garden at home.
- Create a product that appeals to your mailing list
The majority of bloggers who have gained some level of success have created a product that they then sold to a mailing list that was primed for the sale. Examples include ViperChill opening an SEO training course after writing about Google for months, Darren Rowse selling photography guides to his enormous community at Christmas, Pat Flynn building a podcast player while also having the best how to podcast guide on the net, etc.
- Reinforce these systems with more traffic
Once you have a good system of email list > affiliate products > original products set up then your main job is to drive relevant traffic to those posts and pages that promote the funnel. This can mean getting more traffic Google and then exploring things like advertising, guest posting, instagram marketing, etc. as a way to ensure that you get a continuous and reinforcing flow.
One of the main reasons that I like this style of monetization is that the whole process, if you so choose, can be of value to your readers – the content that originally lands them, the email course, the products – all of it can solve problems and help people in their daily lives.
A quick example of this being done right
There are so many places to see this type of strategy but I thought I would just show you one that I really like in the hope that it’ll give you a few ideas for your own blog. This example is from The Chess Website.
This is a fantastic demonstration of how to use free content as a way to encourage people to sign up for a highly relevant paid product – in this case the unlocking of further strategies.
The Chess Website is also prolific on YouTube and its videos get millions of views to its free training and strategy videos.
Once you visit the website to practice more chess openings or strategies you see that you can get many more tutorials unlocked by paying a small membership fee. This is a really flawless transition from free to paid content and gives them so many opportunities for further promotions as they already have an active and very engaged customer base.
When are ads on blogs a good idea?
I couldn’t end this post without taking a look at the inevitable situations where ads are a reasonable idea.
This mainly occurs where traffic is relatively large but the time on site is relatively low because readers are getting the information they need quite quickly, or the information doesn’t require much analysis.
For example, product review sites where the products aren’t that interesting (think fridges, vacuums, etc.) are going to really struggle to get people subscribing for a mailing list. It’s different when the product has a cult following (think iPhones, video games, PC hardware, etc.), but where someone is just looking to see if a thing is good or bad based on others’ reviews then there isn’t much more you can do than ads.
Another situation might be where you site gets a lot of traffic but is about a very generalized group of sub-topics. Some magazines and newspapers run into this issue – while one reader might like to see articles on climate science updates that doesn’t mean they’ll want to read about elections in New York. In this situation it’s still preferable to use affiliate product where you can, but some advertising might be necessary.
The last option I wanted to throw out there is when an advertiser approaches you directly and wants to place ads on your blog exclusively. They might buy naming rights, or sponsor your site for a period of time. This could happen, for example, if your blog is about a new movie or video game that is coming out. In that scenario you have complete control over the ads and the price.
Do you use ads on your blog?
I know that a lot of you gals and guys use ads on your blog and I’d really like to know whether you disagree with my assessment, or whether I’ve missed any important point. Have ads worked well for you? Or have you found another alternative that you think bloggers might like to know about?
Please leave a comment.
Top photo © Danomyte Scared Man.
114 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
What you say makes a lot of sense. At the same time I think if ads are placed strategically and. It interrupting your reading too much then they are no harm to the reader and a potential income bonus to the blogger.
I do like your ideas though. I have google Adsense on my blog but not reached a point where I’ve made any income from it yet. I see it as being a bit like the lottery though. You have to be in it to win it. I regularly log in and check my blog as an outsider to see how it’s perceived though and ask friends and family for feedback.
Some blogs I have visited I feel like you say. Like a virus is taking over because I have a million things popping out at me from all angles. Puts me off ever going back and needless to say the post they’ve written doesn’t get read.
Good comment! Have you seen any downsides to the ads? Like, do you think they could interrupt your readers?
The biggest issue I have with ads is trust. No one monitors them. Right? At times content that you think may not be right for your audience.
I once saw a “Join Illuminati now” ad in a Christianity blog. Probably the owner had no idea if anything like that existed.
Furthermore, they pay less to dirtify a site or cause load time issues as you mentioned.
There are some options but often you’re right, it’s hard to monitor them.
I agree 100%. maybe some ads might be good but putting a lot of ads on your site will for one bog down your site as well as usually causes your clients get annoyed with all the pop ups.
Well, I’m sure you are right because you usually are Ramsay… but since I added adsense to my blog, I’ve been making an extra £85-100 a month and it hasn’t really harmed anything else (that I’m aware of)… 🙂
Hey Lisa! I don’t know about me usually being right… I usually find the opposite!
That’s great that ads are earning you that extra income! As long as you’ve tested other options I don’t think there is any harm in it.
Thanks for sharing.
A friend has a high traffic site that gets 3-4M pageviews monthly. With heavy ads they’re able to generate ~$4K/month. However those ads are so intrusive they all but BEG you to use an adblocker (and stats show that growth of adblocker use is significant). The user experience is a mess on mobile and site navigation becomes muddled as users accidentally click on ads.
Coming up with a native revenue option is a challenge I’ve struggled with as well so I get the pain. Signing up for google adwords seems like a quick/easy alternative. But we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch 😛
Wow, ads on mobile that block user experience will also shortly be having a hugely negative effect on their SEO. Such a shame.
Good morning. I have been using ads on my blog. Of course, I am still new to my own blogs so I am always looking for more help and better ideas.
I have not read anything until now which addresses advertising at all. I will streamlone my blog and take your advice.
Please tell me what you think about text links to affiliate sites.
Text links to affiliate sites are a great option as long as you disclose that they are affiliate links and you only promote stuff that you use and know that your readers will love. That is a great way to do it, in my opinion.
This is one of my biggest fails. I also think I have too many ads on my site, but because I write about diets, beauty, depression, homeschooling and all kinds of stuff, I’m an affiliate with quite a few companies. Every one of them wants me to advertise and want to see people click on their banners or links, but I can’t keep writing articles about them every time they have a special on or something because the core product stays the same and it’s almost something like writing an article about it once is enough.
Any ideas on that?
Can you make the promotions more targeted to certain areas of the site and perhaps work it into the content somehow in a transparent and disclosed way? Or have specific mailing lists where the promotions are done only to the people who want to see content in that area?
I think I must look at something like that but I must say, I’ve been thinking about changing my entire site for more than a year now, I’m just not sure where to start which leads to not starting at all.
In the beginning, I put up a “shop” for each category like beauty, diets, homeschooling, etc. But no-one went to the shops…actually thinking about it, if they wanted something they probably would go there, right?
I think the main thing I must do is start changing my entire site using all the advice you’ve been sharing here (and in other posts as well). – how do I make it “under construction?”
Search the plugins for a maintenance one, pop it in your site and activate it. There’s a good one I’ve used in the past, I think it’s just called Maintenance.
Thanks deb, you’re awesome. 😉
I have ads on one blog and not on the other. The blog with ads is one that I don’t really monetize in any other way and it gets residual traffic from Pinterest, bringing in a few hundred dollars a month. To me, it’s worth it.
But I’m picky about what KIND of ads, so I work with a network, not Adsense. I think anyone wanting to really up their game could consider this. I’m with MediaVine and another great one is AdThrive. Usually these have a minimum threshold for monthly pageviews to get quality blogs, and they handle optimal placement. You can also tell them you don’t want ads on mobile, or fewer ads, and can choose to amp them up (if you want) by having ads on images. (Something I don’t do.)
These networks really do a better job caring for the blogger and using quality ads. You can report ads that don’t line up with your brand. I even just got back from a conference JUST for the bloggers using MediaVine. It was a great chance to get to know the company and the people behind it, and the whole conference centered around helping us do a better job as bloggers.
This might be a great option for someone wanting to run ads, but wanting more control. The payout (from my experience) is also MUCH better than Adsense or other ad options.
That is a really great tip. Thank you. I haven’t heard of them but will take a look for future reference. No page slow down?
I was going to say the same thing, a network like Federated Media (https://goo.gl/5D2mUq) that was built to consolidate blog sites could be a viable alternative.
I enjoyed reading your blog post. It makes a lot of sense. Placing ads on a blog is like telling your readers to go away literally.
It can also make your site load slowly, that can cause to huge amount of bounce rate.
And yes, you’ll not be able to make a lot of money with ads like adsense unless you have a huge amount of traffic.
Thanks to this post, very informative !
Glad you liked it!
Recently i started working on a new online magazine project with my fellow team members. We were ready to through Adsense ads over it with content for streamlining the revenues but after reading this article, I am now going to rethink the monetization strategy.
Although we decided to come up with products to sell for revenue gradually but initial strategy was to go with native ad systems like Adsense. Now I think it will be good to stay away from Ads for a time being instead of hampering the initial impression of audience.
One thing more from side which I wanna add in this regard is- if you have not another option except Native ad model system.you must check yourself the ad quantity and placement and how much it is affecting you as a reader.i do not mind as a reader having 2- 3 banners and would often get attracted to products showing there. But if a blog has popping chains of ads and every third block is an ad segment, I would not mind to ignore that webpage / magazine / blog in spite of how useful is the content there.
At last ramsay you have come up with a brilliant article and loved to get your insight about it. Subscribed your blog about 9 months ago but was a silent reader untill first comment today.
I think for the initial days of a blog when you’d be doing a lot of promotion and outreach etc. you’d really want to push one offer only and it should get people on your email list. That’s just my preference.
I have never been a fan of ads in blogs. I have limited time to read. I want the info, I want to scan for what I need not have to scroll past ad after ad. Food bloggers are the worst at this. I just want the recipe. Affiliate ads embedded into copy are much more reasonable. If I want to know what spuralizer to buy for zucchini spaghetti I can click on the link, if I don’t I can just keep reading and not have my concentration interrupted by visual nuisance!
I agree with that.
I don’t have adsense or similar on my site. I agree with all the reasons you gave!
I do have some affiliate ads in sidebars here and there – ones from companies I actually use and fit with my blog content.
How have they been working for you?
Not making a huge amount, but my traffic is still too low to make any long term judgements.
I don’t have a blog yet but when I do, I would definitely serve ads, either as a secondary or temporary source of income.
Not all blogs can sell courses, ebooks or subscription. For instance, I plan to open a blog on facts – history and current. My source of income would be ebooks (about facts) and ads.
Sounds good to me.
I personally feel interrupted when I encounter so many ads on any site that I look at. however I still don’t see any problem with reasonable number of ads on one one the side bars.
As long as it’s not losing one subscribers or high sale opportunities then I’m sure it’s fine.
Own products > Affiliate marketing > Ads is pretty much the prevailing wisdom, and I agree, but I was glad to see you also listing instances in which regular ads make sense.
My current blog is about Nutrition from a data perspective, and there are plenty of opportunities to link to especially valuable foods on Amazon. Ads would only sully the readers impression of the site, and take them away from what I want to tell them.
But if I may offer another example for where ads make sense: My first website is about online dating, but mainly focusing on answering common questions regarding Tinder, providing some technical information, plus some advice on pictures. I said all I had to say and there will most likely not be any future posts. I have no interest in regularly blogging about dating, and I’m not the right person to offer more advice on dating in general.
People mainly find my site when they google how the Tinder algorithm works and they find my post on the matter, or when they search for the correct Tinder account reset procedure, Tinder Plus Features, or for a Tinder F.A.Q.
But, once they found that information, they will move on. There is no reason to subscribe, or even to browse the other posts. They were looking for a specific piece of information, and found it. In this case, I think working with adsense is pretty much the only option to monetize my content and make something out of the about 20k visitors a month I get at the moment (after about half a year of being live). So I recently applied and hope it all goes well.
I originally didn’t want any ads on that site (only one well placed affiliate link, but that’s on a page with almost no visitors as it turns out), but I’d like to at least pay the hosting fees.
PS: I wanted to write a short comment, but I didn’t have the time. So I wrote a long one instead.
Yeah that sounds pretty reasonable to me. It’s an interesting dilemma on the net as a whole these days.
Could not confirm email, did not receive download. I hate ads on blogs!
Hi Nancy. Did the confirmation email not arrive?
I think I’ll stick to my adds for now. I find that adsense have evolved in a positive way. The adds are better looking and usually can read your post, so the add is relevant to your post.
I also think that the public is so used to seeing ads, they feel safe when they see a blog with adds. I cover nursing and write a lot about diabetes. I think I could sell some products there.
I have Amazon products displayed but seldom clicks on it, so I figure I need more traffic. I figure If I can at least pay my Bluehost with adds – it is good.
However I really appreciate the clean look of your blog and sometimes I wonder if I should do the same just because it is so much better. Thanks
Hi Marcos. I’m happy to hear that AdSense has evolved positively. Do you mean about the ads that appear as well?
Yes, at least some of the adds are better designed, with nice pictures and style. I think they tend to follow the subject on the pages. That is compared to a few years back. So in a way they don’t interfere with my design.
Yeah, true. Some of them are horrible.
Ads are good especially if they are relevant to your website content. But I do stand by my previous comment about having to many ads is a bad thing. I don’t want to go to a website to be sent to a completely different website. it can be confusing for some people.
Thanks for your timely post. I am just getting ready to phase out my four year old book blog. Honestly, when I started I had no plan and definitely no long term plan. So my blog was all-over the place in terms of themes and advertisements. I’m considering starting a new website and I tend to agree with you. This one will not have advertisements, but may have affiliate links specifically related to individual posts.
Best of luck with the next step!
Exactly the same.
I had off AdSense on my blog. I felt it was not giving a good experience to my readers.
Though I had not such a explained reason but all those points are roaming inside me in terms of intuition.
There are multiple ways to earn money through the blog. I have very small traffic but that is sufficient to get me three to four digital marketing consulting opportunities in my industry.
That’s awesome! I’m glad to hear you have found other opportunities.
I agree with you too. If I’m reading a post and having to skip past ads I’ll sometimes just close a page completely. Well placed, relevant text links work and I don’t mind them if the reading is easy and flows.
It’s a bit of a balance, I agree.
I don’t really Like pop-ups and Ads on a website but l still want the owners to earn income from their site so l wouldn’t complain about it.
I guess that’s my point, I think there are better and more effective ways to do that than ads. But if it’s necessary then that’s fine too.
Hi Ramsay. Very informative article on a topic I was coincidentally looking at yesterday.
Many of us newbie bloggers are quickly distracted by the ‘how to make money’ topics flooding the web & unfortunately we tend to shift towards monetizing our blogs too quickly and forgetting our goals.
I’m glad to see where you stand with all this. (Your article in alternative number 2 above is very helpful)
I also agree that things like Adsense don’t make sense especially for newbies … I read somewhere that I have to have like 1000 clicks to earn $6 This can be really discouraging. Also in my country (Kenya), most companies are very reluctant to accept affiliated marketers or have very stingy programs & some of the huge international ad networks haven’t provided such policies here.
I am planning to launch my travel review blog soon and BlogTyrant in general has really shed insight on what structures to follow before starting out.
Wish me luck & thanks again mate!
I have heard it can be hard to get approved for some programs from countries in Africa – that must be really difficult. I’d love to know if you find ways around that.
It’s a bit like the chicken or the egg.
To put ads on your website or not.
I always find blogs with too many ads a cluttered mess. Especially when you click on the wrong spot and end up on a virus filled website… always happens to me when I watch reality shows online ha ha.
I think the best thing with all things in life is to put it to the test, you can start with ads and remove them in the future if they’re not adding to your bank balance or improving user experience!
Testing is always a good start!
I removed all ads from my blog. Due to the nature of my blog, I found that the ads took away from the seriousness plus I didn’t want people to click on an ad to take them 10 pages further and then they would forget to finish reading my post.
Thanks for doing what you do Ramsay,
Have you found a good alternative?
You’ve just nailed it with this awesome post: well detailed enough!
I’ve never been a fan of monetizing a blog using ads because it’s one of the worst ways to make money from a blog, especially if your traffic is not very high!
Most smart readers these days can identify an ad when they see one and tend to click on it.
What methods do you use on your blog?
I think a lot of people like ads and ad networks because they feel like it’s a very passive sort of income – hook up your network, and then just focus on creating content.
I can totally see the draw that would have for a lot of people.
But I really hate the idea of working my butt off to get traffic to my blog, only to send it to someone else who’s only going to pay me pennies on the dollar for those clicks.
That’s a really good point about the passive nature of it – it definitely is easier. I wonder if there are any ads where the readers don’t get lost?
I know there are some programs that seem to be focused on the mommy/lifestyle bloggers (like Izea and Sway) and the women I know seem to love them.
That example you showed in your post is horrible blog design. No one should have that many ads showing at one time no matter which network they’re using.
Yeah, that is a bit sad. It’s a good brand too.
I think they work if they are fully controlled by you, and unobtrusive. I have 6 sidebar advert slots of my website sidebar, I only feature companies closely tied to the content of my site and that I want to work with. In the beginning I chose them and approached them but now they come to me and I have a waiting list of around a year. My site gets well over 1 million hits a year so I get approached by a lot of dodgy companies wanting to advertise but I stick to companies I know and trust and that are in my niche (sewing).
It accounts for 50% of my income so is well worth doing, and I constantly keep an eye on their stats to make sure they get a good return on investment. I have a close relationship with most my advertisers, many have been advertising with me for over 7 years. Plus I do not allow flashing ads or anything distracting, only static adverts that fit with the style of the site (not something garish that stands out in a bad way).
If you are in full control of who advertises, where on the site the adverts go and what they are promoting in their advert then you avoid many of the issues you mentioned above.
I’m curious, how did you find your advertisers? Did you reach out to them directly, or did they approach you?
Inititally (for the first year or so) I reached out to companies I wanted to work with. After that they started coming to me, I guess as my site became better known plus maybe some word of mouth from my advertisers helped.
I turn down quite a few companies because they don’t fit with the subject matter or ethos of my site. Others go onto a waiting list until a slot comes free. Most have been waiting around a year, sometimes more. Exisiting advertisers always get the first option of renewal, if for any reason they choose not to renew then I turn to the waiting list.
That’s really awesome to hear!
The questions you should be asking yourself is how much are you losing by doing that and what can you do differently to prevent it?
There are really only two issues as a blogger or webmaster that I see that we need to keep control of to avoid many of the issues raised here:-
1. Gaining and keeping hold of our own site visitors
2. Providing them with as much as they need on our site
With 85,000 hits per month, chances are that if you have been diligent in selecting a network and a product or service that is closely related to your own niche then your are most certainly also guaranteed to be sending the majority of your site visitor directly to a competitor who probably also has the same or similar product and service ranges on their own site or who also has ads that then redirects that person even further away from you.
Most of these ad companies also invest in sophisticated email autoresponders that they use very effectively that keeps the visitor you sent to them – ‘Top of Mind’.
How much do you think you are losing by doing this?
We may have more control over the selection of related ‘affiliate’ sites but with many of these ads services there is no control whatsoever.
We know that the internet is a rabbit warren and that we have short attention spans. Why would that visitor ever need to come back to your site again once they have been directed to an ad and then purchased what they need elsewhere?
Regardless of how much control you think you may have over what ads are shown, where and when – the bottom line is that you are still encouraging your site visitor to leave your site and that is surely bad for business.
If the cost in time, effort and money to get that visitor to your site in the first place is subsequently being offset or recouped through ads then it defeats the object of having a blog or website in the first place because you don’t need either to use that business model.
I don’t sell any products, which might be why this work well for me. My income comes soley from advertising, 50% from sidebar adverts. My website is an information site, a resource people use for free patterns, projects, techniques etc and to find retailers and local sewing businesses (I run a directory).
So I view my site as a channel which funnels traffic through it and off to the relevant website that meets their need. I help direct people to where they want to go. So I don’t view the sites I’m sending them through to as competition.
Of course if I was selling something then it would be different, I would want to funnel people to the place where they can purchase my product. But products (my own or affiliate) doesn’t interest me.
Many land on the site because of the content, they might come and view a sewing project, and then click on an advert for a fabric shop where they can buy the fabric to make that project.
Very interesting post, Ramsay. I totally agree about ads slowing down the speed of your site. You lose readers and potential email sign-ups when they are waiting for your page to load. It’s very hard to find a blog/website without any ads. I would say yours is one of the few, so congratulations to you!
I’m glad you enjoy it here. Thank you.
Interesting options to ads there, but to me it’s six of one, half dozen of the other. You either annoy your reader with sidebar ads (and annoy Google rankings), OR you annoy your reader with emails promoting your products.
Hey, I know they’re awesome products (I love your emails, Ramsay), but fact is most people just delete the email dross they receive each day.
I didn’t monetize my blog with ads until about 2.5 years in — and now they are a necessary evil. My traffic has grown so much that it costs nearly $300/month to host my site. Ads offset that. I’m part of the BlogHer network — so they find the ads and there are opt out options of certain kinds of sites.
It’s not a perfect system. Yes, it slows things down. It means I have a sidebar devoted to ads. (Blah.) And my biggest beef with BlogHer is I’ll be damned how they pay. Some months are very good, some are wildly variant and not so good. I look at my traffic and it’s the same or growing, so I don’t get it. (Probably something to do with how many people are using Adblocker.)
But I run a support site. I don’t have a lot to market other than my book. (Which pays off my advance from my publisher and lines their pockets.) When I had a self-published book, that was a very nice income stream, but I gave that up to get a traditional book deal. (Nice advance vs. income stream from self-publishing.. not sure on the tradeoff yet.)
So… all to say… not sure what I could be affiliate posting. (I write about pain and humiliation. Snarkily.) Got a mailing list… and I’m ashamed to say I do bupkis with it.
BlogHer takes care of it. They make money off me. I make money off them. It keeps the blog afloat. I dunno. Works for me.
I wonder how you’d go with a paid membership area? Something simple like $1 per month and then all the discussion is behind that wall and you add some new things like books for free (or discounted), extra content like interviews or whatever, etc. etc.
That’s probably a great idea for monetizing it, but really I’m just trying to help people who just found out they’ve been cheated on. The community (“Chump Nation”) is a big part of what makes it special, and I’d hate to wall anybody off from needed support.
It kind of divides people into classes of supporters, which frankly, I see a lot of support sites do. I guess I have those divisions (some people donate to the blog, which is awesome). I just don’t give them badges or special content. Maybe I should… hmm. Something to think about.
That’s a really good perspective and I’m glad you’re the kind of blogger who cares that much. I’m sure you’ll find the right solutions.
I think Ramsay has made some really positive suggestions that you should seriously consider implementing as soon as possible.
Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees and the blogger blinkers that we all wear occasionally start to blare our focus.
You have so many ‘vertical’ possibilities and avenues that you could take with your site and your interactive audience.
Aside from the excellent suggestion of a paid membership you also have those other emotional triggers that your audience need a solution to.
Anger management, meditation, yoga etc etc
You also mention that you aren’t that happy with how your audience responds to your email marketing!
That is more likely down to how you have it set up.
Your posts don’t need to be posts at all. They would work much better as an email sequence that leads to the sales pitch of either your book or related affiliate books.
Just needs that ‘system’ crafting properly so that you maintain the personal approach without being ‘
Your auto responder is just a ‘tactic’ that won’t work unless it is part of an overall ‘system’.
I think Ramsay has been trying to tell you this politely.
Steve, I think you’re missing the point of the blog. It’s to help people. Chuckle all you want at the “scorned” comments and get back to me if you’ve ever had to paternity test your children.
I read Ramsay to stay up-to-date on this WordPress thing, and yep, monetize enough to keep the thing afloat and pay me something for my trouble.
Please don’t pity my lack of verticality. The book was picked up by Hollywood (Paradigm Talent) and is being shopped for a scripted TV series. I’ll skip the yoga sales. Thanks.
Having just visited your site, reading a few of your posts, chuckling at some of the scorned comments and then searching to see what you are promoting to make some dosh I realised that you are missing out on a huge opportunity.
The interaction you get and the passion and involvement that comes from both sides is something that most bloggers can only dream of.
Why are you not taking full advantage of that?
Seems like you just want to be a one trick pony with your own book.
You could be doing so much better than just covering hosting fees etc.
Amazon. Plenty of ‘self help’ books and guides that your audience would lap up.
They will go and buy that shit anyway regardless of your morals.
Are you this fit business or as an internet warrior?
Your competitors are making money doing what you are doing. The only change you need to make is to your system.
Stop with the one book tactic. It’ll make you broke.
Tracy, as an ‘over it long ago’ Chump Gentleman and father of 4 I’m very familiar with the topics covered on your site. Chuckling was for my benefit.
The rest of my response was directed to some of the open negatives you raised in respect to list building, traffic fluctuations and which direction you could take with affiliate marketing.
I believe I covered each of those negatives in a constructive manner. Nothing to do with pity. I simply tried to offer some constructive suggestion to fill those negatives.
If they are of no use to you and monetising your site is not a priority then I am sure that others will benefit.
Many who come here are new to blogging and with sites 1/4 the size of yours or less and they will be looking at your traffic and your interaction and will be wandering why you are not monetising and only just covering your hosting fees, which you stated fluctuated.
Now they know that you don’t need to be reliant on the sales of a single book and a few ads because you are going to Hollywood.
From a new bloggers perspective that kind of financial backing that isn’t as a result of blogging takes this out of the realms of a new blog being set up on a shoestring with ads in tow.
This post is awesome but a little bit controversial. Thanks for saying your viewpoint.
Great post Ramsay and you covered much of what I also think about ads.
I think that ‘perspective’ must be taken into consideration here.
Given the industry we are all involved in, most visitors to your blog and blogs in the niche of ‘how to blog’ are a little more seasoned and aware of what is happening on any given page or post so they become ‘numb’ or ‘immune’ to those annoyances of pop ups, exit intent solutions and of course ads.
Their threashold of acceptance is higher and more importantly their given opinion on how these annoyances are perceived by ‘customers’ is usually far of the mark.
I see ‘make money online’ tutors actively promoting adsense etc as if it is the holy grail and eager student following every word.
It can be difficult for a business blogger to take a step back from ‘blogging’and put their real life customer hat back on but if they did then they would see what their customers actually see and the annoyance they feel.
You demonstrate with a minor example using the pain killer example. There are far worse examples out there of every type of niche cramming their sites with ads that take over the blog.
The negative affect this has is so damn obvious as soon as you visit these sites that I can’t help but think that the blogger is either a complete imbecile or has simply given up on blogging and has placed ads on the site as a last ditch attempt to make some money.
I think the only niche where ads would be of any benefit are those with extremely high visitors numbers – I’m talking 500,000 daily. And those are news sites or porn sites.
Ads are a negative marketing strategy and unless you own CNN then don’t entertain them.
If your blog is underperforming so badly that you need to rely on a few buckets per month from ads then perhaps it’s time to change career.
My tupence worth as a blogger AND a customer.
Great post Ramsay. On point in many respects.
Hi Steve. Thanks for the huge comment! It’s such a tricky one – I’ll admit it took me many years before I realized what was possible when moving away from small-change clicks.
Despite the negative effects that ads have to the physical function of a blog and the detrimental effect they have on SEO (speed, bounce rates etc), from a customer perspective, which ultimately is the most important, three words spring to mind when i see or think of ads:-
I generally click away within seconds as soon as I see an ad. I believe i think like most people think – i didn’t visit this site to be taken somewhere else as soon as i got there so why should i stay.
Yeah, takes a while to remove those blogger blinkers.
I think without annoying readers one can place ads like using the sidebars. And the website niche is also important. E.g. a blog teaching about WordPress & Blogging must not provide any ads as every reader might be another bloggers who is never going to click.
On the other way, an amazon niche site or shopping website should put ads in various places so that user should find the best deal he/she is looking for.
Thank you for raising this topic here.
Thanks for chipping in, Santanu.
On our “author” website the ads are for our Books in the sidebar, below the fold.
Our readers expect that.
Our biggest source of revenue is the sale of our books through the site because of engagement. One Novel has generated over 6,300 comments, all personally answered.
AND our readers know the books will always be available to READ for FREE on the site
6,300 comments! Love it!
You said it all.
It’s really heartening to see some of those biggest websites are flooded with ads nowadays. That really annoys a reader which in turn results in the loss of traffic, so it does more harm than good.
Unfortunately it just means more people use ad blocker.
You make sense, but I would make it deep, like I use ads on my sports blogs, where there is very rare possibility of using any other income generation method, but with my normal blogs, i use affiliate links as well as I try to turn readers into subscribers so that I can promote my future posts to make some affiliate income.
So, I agree with all your points, Ads are for high traffic sites or for sites with no other option.
That’s a very clever idea. Nice work, Jelina.
Believe it all not I removed all the ads from my blog just after reading this article. Now, I only run an Adsense ad at the sidebar in an elegant way which does not clutter the page at all. And, in the mobile view, I put ads at the very bottom of my article in a way if the reader has completed reading the article and still choose to scroll down, then only he will see it.
My priorities are not ads or income from my blog, I only wish to create a good content to serve my readers. But, you would understand better that to keep it going we need some income and that’s where this advertisement comes into the picture.
Nice Article Ramsay!
Just make sure you keep testing to see what works!
Ramsay, agreed, I am against the ads as well (especially for new bloggers). No or little quality control and your niche-specific blog article may end up with an ad from a “dating company” – leaves a horrible impression on the reader.
Yes, it can be an option if they are controlled on quality and quantity fronts and also, if the traffic on one’s site is decent enough to make a decent income from them. Good article, bold point of view and straight to the point. Sharing now. Cheers.
Thanks for the consistent support, Ahmad.
My site is still new, but a lot of people I know told me to not put ads on my site for multiples reasons, the same ones you wrote about. Quality control and load time are my main concerns.
Recently I’ve put Amazon ads on my site. It didn’t affect my site, so I’m going to keep them, it’s an additional chance to make a small buck!
Once again, great tips!
Hope it goes well!
Classic post Ramsay…you have shown the other side of the story of not using ads for making money….i am using adsense from long time…but due to some ad blockers in the market my adsense revenue has decreased a lot….you have mentioned great techniques to make money without ads….would love to use them in future…thanks for sharing such amazing information….!!
I’m glad it helped!
Wow glad I stumbled upon your blog, I was in a dilemma on whether or not I should use Adsense on my blog. I noticed that the blogs that I love like QuickSprout, Smart Passive Income, and of course, Blog Tyrant do not have those excessive ads.
Maintains quality I know but I was wondering though, doesn’t it slip through your mind that you might be losing some extra income? I don’t use use it but I can’t stop thinking about it :/
Hi Riaz. As I say in the article, I consider that thing like AdSense actually cost money over the long term as the people who clicked the ads and left my site for a few cents could, in the future, become subscribers or purchasers of a more expensive product. So, if you have some other way to make money then I don’t think ads are worth it. If not, then ads are a good option.
Cool, guess I’m on the right path, thanks Ramsay!
By the way, I’m doing a roundup post for my blog and would love to feature you. Would you be okay with that?
It would really mean a lot to me 🙂
Sure. Email me.
Forgive me for asking but may I know your email please? I clicked on the email tab on the left side of the screen where it opened up the email client but it wasn’t there :/
Ooops that’s not meant to be there. Contact page in footer.
I am using Google AdSense on my Blog, and it’s really taking down the speed of my blog. But the only think is that I am making good money from it. Although it is an excellent post and one must rethink before putting the ads on the Blog.
Thanks for the share.
I fee like with ads being a small/ unreliable source of income they should be thought of as small extra income. I don’t think they should be spread all through out the page. Theres nothing wrong with one or two here and there if they fit well in the layout of your site. They really shouldn’t be all over the page and and in places where they can get clicked on by accident. Ads should be extra not main income just for the fact one day all traffic could be gone because of a ranking shift. I really don’t think they ads are worth losing viewers.
Yeah, sounds reasonable to me. Thanks for commenting.
I too have come to the conclusion around this ads issue.
I run many adsense blogs and the quality of the websites and even 404’s that come through them slow my sites down considerably.
I may start either create and promote my own memberships or products, I should then make more money.
Adsense was a great business model for me before panda and I make a good living through it. Now it’s too much work for the small amount of income it provides.
What do you mean about the 404s?
Occasionally when the ads are being pulled it seems to hang. when i check pingdom it shows 404 errors for the adsense destination site. I believe it maybe a missing favicon. Very strange.
Goodness what a good topic Ramsay.
I get these questions about Adsense too and also see ’em all over Quora and Warrior.
I feel ad revenue seems the most comfortable, easy to set up stream to blogging newbies. Or to struggling bloggers. No real skill required to paste HTML to your sidebar. Most of these bloggers are in for a hyper rude awakening when they see how incredibly hard it is to earn ad revenue that reaches appreciable levels.
Unless you get thousands and thousands and thousands and more visitors daily to your blog – and even if you do – this money ain’t adding up. At least in the Western World. Or heck, throughout the whole world.
Bloggers think set it up, write, and earn ad revenue. Sounds sweet. But when you are not getting sick sick sick blog traffic, at month’s end your ad revenue usually adds up to about $.04 cents. Or maybe if it’s a good month you make $7 USD. Yikes.
Scrap the ads and get to work. Offer something useful by learning a product or service. Write and self publish audio books. If I post a widget on my sidebar for an audio book – and I should do it again, as I did a little while back – I don’t get paid per click but the 3 bucks I get in Amazon commissions plus the affiliate commissions I get on those sales will add up to something far beyond the pennies per click I got with Adsense on my old Blogger blocks from 5 years ago.
Create something helpful. A course. A live webinar call series. Advertise that in the place of your ads. Brand yourself, earn a ton more money and feel good what the value you are bringing to the table.
Another underrated point; you have little or no control over ads as you said but you are handing over branding too. I am a b*tch about branding LOL. Really a stickler. Everything on my blog has to have the BFP logo plastered all over it, or it ain’t showing up on my blog. No ad network can resonate with my blog and brand, in that regard. So I just toss audio books and eBooks on there and remain true to my brand, and make more money than I ever world with ad revenue.
When you’re generating that Huff Post traffic with either an army of writers or if you get super duper famous and rake in a boatload of visitors, feel free to post those ads. You can rake it in. But until then, offer a useful product or service and place those ads in that space to rock it out, to make more dough and to feel good about rendering helpful service to others.
Thanks for the fab post Ramsay.
Signing off from Thailand.
If I think if we have a blog with a fairly large number of visitors, I think it does not matter as long as the ads do not interfere and block the view of article readers from our own blog
There are many obstacles for a new blogger. Such as they have to publish quality post, they have to do SEO and they have to do many things to setup a new blog. After all of this, they don’t have much time to find a affiliate product or write a book because of the lack of experience. Then what are the solutions?
Totally agree with that.
I you want to run a serious business, ads aren’t the best profit source at all