The conventional wisdom among bloggers is that putting advertisements on their sites is the best way to earn money from their content. Unfortunately, this conventional wisdom is just plain wrong. Read on as we take a hard look at the ugly truths about online ads. We offer several superior alternatives for monetizing your blog without resorting to this counterproductive strategy.
Blog Ads Earn Next to Nothing
Unless your daily traffic is off the charts, advertising is quite possibly the slowest, most tedious method for earning money via your blog. Most bloggers use Google’s AdSense platform to accept ads on their sites. The amount of money AdSense pays is determined by several things. These include blog topic, level of traffic, the type of ad being displayed and how many clicks it receives. Consider the following example:
- The average click-through rate (CTR) for ads varies based on industry, but it generally hovers around 0.1%. That means 1,000 people will need to visit your site for just one of them to click on an ad.
- Assume the average cost-per-click—the amount you earn when a reader clicks on an ad—is $.50.
- Over the course of a year, you might earn around $180. This isn’t nothing, but it’s certainly not enough to allow you to quit your day job.
In short, a site needs to get hundreds of thousands of visitors per day to make decent income through advertising. If your blog is getting that kind of traffic, there are other higher-yield avenues for earning money. These far exceed what you could generate through ads.
…are Distracting to Readers
As a blogger, your goal is to develop compelling, relevant content that your readers value and are motivated to share. Unfortunately, ads pull readers’ interest away from your content and toward someone else’s product or service. In many cases, this defeats the purpose of your blog’s very existence. If visitors to your site are paying attention to your ads, it means they’re not paying attention to the content. And this is content you worked so hard to create.
…Stop a Call to Action in its Tracks
If you’ve done your homework on blogging strategy, you know that every quality blog post includes a clear, powerful call to action. You may be asking readers to leave a comment, share the post on social media, read a related post or subscribe to your newsletter.
However, if you place ads on your site, it’s important to remember that they are also calling your readers to take an action by clicking on them, placing your content and the advertisements in direct conflict. If readers click on the ad, you earn a small amount of money, but you may simultaneously damage your conversion and retention rates. If readers ignore the ad, they’re more likely to complete your requested action, but you’ll earn no money from the presence of the ad. It’s up to you to decide which action is the higher priority.
…Lower Your Site’s Value
Most bloggers achieve their goals—higher traffic counts, more engaged readers and monetary income—by providing their readers with something of value. That value may be imparted by solving a reader’s problem, providing them with sought-after information or even entertaining them.
Ads, on the other hand, provide virtually no value to readers. In fact, many readers report being annoyed by advertisements on a blog, which can actually diminish a site’s value. Not only that, but ads encourage readers to click away from your site instead of staying to consume the content you’ve painstakingly created for their benefit.
…Damage Your Credibility
Accurate or not, the presence of ads on your blog sends the message to readers that you’re trying to sell them something. Instead of looking to you as a trusted subject matter expert or caring online friend, they might conclude that you see them as simply a means to an end (making a profit). As a result, you’re likely to lose credibility and connection with your readers—two critical elements for growing and maintaining a loyal blog audience. Readers will also be less likely to trust your advice and recommendations, which reduces the influence of your blog in the long term.
…Take Away Your Control
Many bloggers enjoy the feeling of autonomy they get from managing their own sites. They are responsible for creating the content, fine-tuning the design and deciding where and when they want to work. But when you sign on with AdSense (or any other online advertising platform), you give away much of that control to a powerful third party.
You have no influence over the terms and conditions of your agreement, the per-click rate you receive, how quickly you can access your earnings or even what the ads on your site will look like. That’s a lot of authority to sign away for such a small price.
…Get in the Way of Quality Content Creation
A common misperception about blog advertising is that it’s basically passive income: all you have to do is post the ads and wait for the profits to start rolling in. In reality, you’ll need to invest significant time in testing, monitoring and managing your ads to ensure that type, size, placement and other factors are all optimized to deliver maximum results. The time you spend fiddling with ads is time you won’t have to devote to creating quality content and interacting with your readers, which are the pursuits that truly provide value to your audience.
…Can Damage Your Reputation
Many readers assume that blog ads are specifically chosen by you, the site owner, rather than being randomly chosen by the Google algorithm. As a result, they may think that you are personally endorsing the product being shown in the ad. This is the case even if it’s not a product you’re familiar with or one you’d recommend.
In many cases, this perceived association can seem harmless. However, if an ad pops up for a product or service with a bad reputation or a controversial history, your reputation can suffer as well. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, you have no control over what companies or products will be promoted in close proximity to your name and brand.
…Ruin Your Site’s Aesthetic
First impressions matter, and that goes for your blog as well. When a new reader clicks on your site, the quality of your design will strongly influence things. One of those things is whether they decide to stick around or make a return visit. In fact, studies have shown that a whopping 94 percent of people say bad site design is a major reason they don’t trust certain sites. If your blog is cluttered with annoying, flashy ads that detract from your overall aesthetic and distract readers from the reason they visited your site in the first place, chances are they’ll click away and never come back.
…Drag Down Your Page Speed
Loading speed is a critical factor in keeping visitors on your site. Up to 40 percent of web users say that if a site takes more than three seconds to load, it’s an instant deal-breaker for them. On average, most sites take just over two seconds to load, which doesn’t offer much breathing room for site owners.
The most common sources of website slowdowns include plugins, hosting problems and ads. According to tests performed by website speed expert and Google employee Steve Souders, Google AdSense has a significant impact on page load speed, which could mean that up to 40 percent of would-be readers give up on your site before they have a chance to see your content or the ads.
…Make You Unattractive to Influencers
Developing relationships with online influencers is a key component to an effective blog growth strategy. Influencers act as a force multiplier. They work by extending your reach beyond your limited audience to their considerably larger following. This can also enhance your credibility with their endorsement. However, most successful influencers are also well aware of the many downsides of blog advertising. So, when they see ads on your site, chances are you’ll lose some respect in their eyes.
They’ll either conclude that you’re naïve to the negative aspects of blog ads or worse, are so desperate for revenue that you’ll sell your readers out for a few cents on the dollar. Either way, you come across as an amateur. You won’t be considered the kind of impression you want to make on influencers in your field.
Monetizing Your Blog Without Resorting to Blog Ads
If you’re now thoroughly convinced that putting ads on your blog is a terrible idea, you may also be wondering how it’s even possible to generate revenue from a blog in their absence. Fortunately, there are a plethora of other options for earning money through your blog while still delivering the value your readers expect.
Sell Your Services
Services are the easiest way to generate revenue while providing something of value to your audience. A few of the most common services offered by bloggers include:
- Online coaching: You can teach beginning bloggers how to launch their sites or offer your expertise in your particular niche. If you blog about corporate recruiting, you might coach readers on their interview skills. If you manage a blog about running, you might develop training programs to help readers improve their times or complete a marathon.
- Consulting: Similar to coaching, you may offer consulting services on a wide range of issues, from small business management to website development.
- Freelance services: Certain niches lend themselves well to this type of service, including writing, editing and web design.
Develop a Product
As a blogger, you’re intimately familiar with the needs of your audience. This gives you the perfect springboard for developing a product to meet them. This product may be purely informational, such as an e-book, an online course, or a smartphone app. Another great option is a membership-based site offering premium content that’s not available through your blog.
Your product may be a tangible item, such as a hard-copy book, apparel or accessories related to your subject matter. You might also consider launching an event. Options include as an annual convention or retreat featuring keynote addresses. More great options are presentations and breakout sessions featuring experts and influencers in your field.
Become an Affiliate for Third-Party Products and Services
If developing your own product doesn’t interest you, consider becoming an affiliate. This entails promoting someone else’s product or service in exchange for financial or in-kind compensation. Just make sure it’s a product or service that you genuinely use and support (and something that would appeal to your audience). Otherwise. you risk coming across as insincere.
Final Thoughts on Blog Ads
You’ve invested hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours into growing your blog. You’ve spent significant resources building your reputation as a thought leader in your niche. You want to be financially compensated for your hard work, and rightfully so. But too many bloggers get caught up in the fallacy that blog advertising is the easiest and most effective way to earn money through your blog. As discussed above, placing ads on your blog can actually hamstring your ability to monetize your blog. This can affect your ability to continue its growth.
Ads annoy your readers, scare away influencers and slow down your site. And, on top of all that, they hardly even make you any money. Before you decide to risk your reputation by accepting ads on your blog, consider pursuing some of the other avenues for blog-based income. You can test and see if they’re viable for you. You may discover you don’t need to resort to advertising to make serious bank from your blog.