This is in response to Sarah’s excellent
Rants From the Geek Lab: Improving Your Blog.
The questions hungry bloggers want to know: How do I make money from my blog, should I put ads on it, how much traffic to I need to make money?
The short answer is: you are asking the wrong questions.
First, pageviews aren’t the most relevant issue to selling ads.
If you are considering ads, the issue is does your topic lend itself to ads? Would a business want to advertise on your blog? Do your readers click on ads?
I have two sites that get decent traffic (not blogs). One gets 250K pageviews a month and I make about $1400/month on it (it’s about half-monetized to its potential right now I think).
My second site gets twice the pageviews. And I’ve never made more than a few dollars a month in clicks on it. Why? Different audience, different mindset.
The first site is a hobby site, it’s about how to make jewelry. The ads are for jewelry supplies and jewelry. Both of which my readers are interested in. And, when they are in “hobbyist” mode, they are also in “shopping” mode.
The second site is a free wallpaper site. It’s nice, high quality photos, but still…it’s free stuff. Hardly any relevant ads are available (when I tried that I had to keep screening out the ads for actual wallpaper). And nobody is in a shopping mood. They want their free wallpaper and that’s it. They aren’t browsing around looking for opportunities to spend money. They are looking for something pretty, they find it, and they close their browser.
And that’s fine. I have that site because I like purty pictures. I don’t expect it to make money (although I do explore various ideas now and then because money is always nice, and if I come up with a way to monetize it, I’ll let you know).
Your ability to sell ads on a blog depends more on what your content is and what kind of traffic that brings – not how much.
If your blog is about digital camera reviews – well gee, you’ve got a lot of ad options. If your blog is about postmodern gender dynamics, good luck. Maybe you can sell ads for textbooks for grad students. =)
A blog can be highly trafficked but fundamentally not ad-worthy from the perspective of ad buyers. And that’s your customer, if you are trying to sell ads.
Personally, I have 3 blogs, but I don’t plan to make money directly from them at all. I have a separate business, that pays my bills, and I blog for fun. I plan to write ebooks maybe at some point, try that out, I there is potential there if you market it well and it’s info people think they need. But monetize my blogs themselves? I think it would be pointless.
Second, ads may not be what you want to sell.
Most blogs, mine included, are better suited for being a vehicle to build awareness of your personal brand – which you can then use as a platform to sell products or services that you’ve developed. Not ads.
Ads will only work for a small percentage of blogs that are about real-world topics that are well researched and thoughtfully presented to be useful. Hobbies, product testing – those will work for ads. Anything that’s personal opinion and commentary is not going to be very lucrative unless you are well known enough that your opinion is taken as an endorsement. And it takes a lot of work to build up that kind of reputation.
Most of the time, ads dilute the personal brand that a blog is such a great vehicle for building.
If you are going to spend the kind of time/effort it takes to build that reputation, I think it makes more sense to develop your own information products as your primary business model. These kinds of products are an extension of your personal brand – it makes sense, they go together. Endorsements and partner deals (recommending each others info products) can be a supplement.
There is a lot more profit in this than selling ads. Ads are essentially selling other people’s products, which means you get just a small percentage of the revenue from the sale. It makes more sense to me to make your own products and sell those. You can make a heck of a lot more profit for less work, if you learn how to write good sales copy.
The bottom line: if you are asking the question “How can I make money from my blog?”, you need to back up.
The question to ask yourself is: “What business am I in – what is my business model?”. When you answer that, you can then ask “How could my blog help build that business?”.
In short, making money is about thinking in terms of business, and blogging is no different.
So think about your business. What business do you want to be in? Do you want to create content to sell ads…or do you want to create content to sell yourself? Or do you want to use your blog to promote something else that is your main business? Getting clear on this will help you make any decision about how you present and position your blog and whether ads are appropriate.
Wei Liang | ABloggerBlog says
You provide some concrete information on monetizing blogs. But I believe selling ads space would be the bread and butter of most bloggers who tried to monetize their blog for the first time.
The more advanced bloggers will know that selling your own created products are the most profitable when accompanied with a good sales copy. I guess it all bores down to the level of confidence one have in monetizing their blog at different phase of blogging.
Thanks for visiting. =)
I think most people who try to monetize their blog for the first time with ads don’t make more than pocket change and end up diluting their brand, which means they lose earning potential in the long run. Each person seeing the blog has a bit of reaction like ‘ick, those ads aren’t relevant’ rather than a pure ‘wow, this blog is so awesome’. (this is brand dilution = creating cognitive dissonance in your user)
I think it has to do with awareness of business concepts. And sure, people are going to experiment and learn the hard way. But if I can save the world from one more AdSense-laden baby blog, I’ll be happy. =)
It’s the difference between seeing your blog as an investment in a platform that will help you later, vs thinking “hey, I can squeeze 50 cents a day out of it with ads!”.
Wei Liang | ABloggerBlog says
Great response from you. But new bloggers goes crazy when they see that they are making $50 from their blog. And this might be the way to keep them blogging.
I feel that people can accept the fact that bloggers are placing 125×125 ads by the side as long as it is related to the niche. Just my 2 cents on this.
Peter Chee says
This in an interesting post that you have. It’s also in an non-threatening environment, where I don’t feel like someone is trying to sell me some great new way to make more money the fast way. Thanks for your insight into this.
I think a lot of times people get caught up in the really successful stories where bloggers make six figure salaries. I guess if it’s just passive income where you get a check once in a while and the ads are small and relevant enough then it doesn’t transform your blog into a splog, then why not!
I see I’m a little late in responding to your blog, but I think it is still relevant today. I agree with you, and this has helped me to understand how to think about the affiliate advertising craze and how important it is to “monetize.” You mentioned the problem of “diluting your brand.” I think that this makes sense, but could you explain this a little more? Thanks for any thoughts…
Everything on your site communicates your brand in some way. So, if you have ads, those are also communicating something about your brand. They are part of the entire experience of your site.
If the ads are really relevant and part of something you are personally recommending to your readers, then they can add to your brand – because you are recommending them as an expert, and they are congruent with the rest of who you are and what you are doing.
If they are just random Google ads, that mostly sends the message “I want to make money off you, the reader.” On some blogs it doesn’t hurt too much, because the content is less personal and more commercial. In those cases, there are usually enough ads to be relevant.
But on most blogs Google ads are jarring and make the reader feel like the author isn’t there to be a blogger but rather to try to make a few cents from clicks. It diminishes trust and the overall experience of the site.
Thank you so much for this response, Emma. It reminded me of how the Google ads first affected me on other people’s sites – especially when they appeared before the blog-text. Then I assumed that this was just an inevitable aspect of “monetizing your blog,” in the same way that one might have thought of direct selling as an inevitable part of marketing a product. Now it’s clear that you don’t really need to do anything distasteful and alien to yourself to get your point across. Quite the contrary, successful blogs seem to market themselves. Well, I don’t mean that one doesn’t have to be attentive to them. It’s like a child. You must be totally sensitive to the child’s development, yet relinquish the need for immediate, let alone constant, control, and – wonder of wonders – the child grows. Thank you again for the answer. I thought you might be irritated by the quest for clarification, but you gave me more than I expected here – more new thoughts rather than just a “translation.”
=) Glad I could help.