Blogging for Ads is Dead – 5 Reasons Why You Sell Yourself Short & How You Can Fix It
January 9, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park
The mass media publishing industry, both online and off, is essentially run and monetized by advertising. Big companies buy out ad inventory on related sites and strive for maximum branding exposure by reaching as many eyeballs as possible. Content and promotion are completely separate and that’s the way it’s been in most big name publications for a very long time.
However, with the emergence of online blogs and the new social web, the traditional advertising model is quickly losing its effectiveness. People no longer use ads as a way to inform themselves about buying decisions. Instead they utilize the easily accessible opinions, reviews, and testimonials of bloggers and interact with others via social media to come to their own conclusions.
If you run your own blog and plan on making money with it in the near future, this ongoing behavioral trend is especially important to you. By monetizing your blog primarily with banners and passive advertising, you sell yourself short and miss out on a ton of opportunities to make good money online.
What do I mean?
A passive ad on your blog is a bad deal for everyone involved: you the blogger, the advertiser, and your readers. Blog ads don’t offer much compensation and can actually taint your credibility. They don’t give active exposure to advertisers and are obtrusive and irrelevant to readers.
As Brian Clark of Copyblogger puts it, “a blog is an influence platform, not an advertising doormat.” You can do a lot better monetizing your blog in more interactive ways than solely depending on ads.
For example, the popular tech blog TechCrunch sells banner ads for thousands of dollars and generates great revenue from it. However, they also endorse certain companies like Media Temple (for web hosting) and back it up by being a customer themselves. How much in affiliate commissions do you think that endorsement is worth? A lot more than any banner ad I’m sure. TechCrunch also runs a startup conference which uses the blog’s popularity to create even more revenue. That sort of leverage is a lot more powerful for monetization than what running advertisements can offer.
Don’t get me wrong. There are bloggers out there who still make a ton of money from advertising alone. John Chow for example made over $30k from his blog last month, a big chunk of which was from direct ads. However, as the web matures I think we’ll see blogs used more as influence platforms rather than as content to sell advertising against. Instead of monetizing with banner ads we’ll see a lot more bloggers promoting their own products and services or those that they truly like and recommend. Furthermore, sponsorships will come more in the form of business partnerships rather than simple advertising deals.
Blog networks like Weblogs and b5media are already feeling the effects of this trend and are struggling to stay alive selling their ad spots.
Will you be ready to adapt?
If you need a little more convincing, I’ve listed out the reasons why monetizing your blog through passive advertising is less than optimal.
5 reasons why you should avoid placing ads on your blog
1. Blogging for ads is whole lot of work for little pay
Blogging by nature is a very labor-intensive activity. You constantly need to write quality posts, moderate comments, develop relationships, and promote your content. But all for what? If you rely on ads for revenue, you simply cannot reach your full money potential and you ultimately sell yourself sort. There’s limited ad inventory on every page and you often need to drive down prices to attract new sponsors – especially since demand is so volatile. Not only that but selling ad inventory in itself is a time consuming process and takes away from the precious time you should be spending to write engaging content. Of course you can always outsource and go with the ad networks, but that will only further cut into your profits.
What’s your solution? Make the most of the influence platform your blog offers. Don’t monetize with passive ads but rather monetize with offers that you can confidently represent and endorse. It’s a lot less work and a lot more pay.
2. Blogging for ads makes it very difficult for newcomers to survive
According to Technorati, 120,000 new blogs spring up every single day. Crazy, huh? Out of those numerous blogs, how many do you think actually make money? Probably less than 1%. Starting a blog is extremely easy and has a very low barrier to entry. However, it takes a whole lot of work to be successful and advertising income will be virtually non-existent for new blogs just starting out. Advertising is most effective on sites with huge audiences – the more exposure the better. It’s the reason why the majority of advertisers flock to the big players and ignore the others. Knowing that, why would you kill yourself trying to “get big” for advertising deals? Why not use the audience that you have now to make good money?
3. Blog ads are passive – they don’t take advantage of your influence
As I mentioned before, advertisements slapped on the sidebar of a blog are very passive. They don’t get much exposure (especially as RSS becomes more popular) and are ineffective for advertisers and for bloggers. A blog is a relationship building tool where readers learn to trust and respect the opinions and recommendations of bloggers over time. There’s really no place for passive ads in that picture and eventually they will fizzle out because they won’t offer much return on investment to sponsors.
4. Blog ads force you to put advertisers before your readers
If I ask you why you blog, you might answer with two reasons: to make money or to help people. Unfortunately, running ads on your blog complicates the situation. You’re forced to cater to advertisers over your readers since that’s where your income is coming from. As a publisher, your job is the provide sponsors with maximum exposure so that they see good results and continue advertising on your blog. This usually means that you sacrifice your prime real estate for ads, shift your opinions and recommendations to favor sponsors, and post content on a regular schedule even if it means quality will suffer. Ironically, you put your blog advertisers first even though it’s your readers who got you to the level of attracting advertisers in the first place. Ads take away from the user experience and put you at the mercy of sponsors while alienating your readers. Is that how you want to run your blog?
5. Blog ads give you a negative perceived image
People are naturally skeptical of paid advertisements and are much less likely to trust them than they would a recommendation from a friend. If you decide to run ads on your blog, your credibility will inevitably take a hit especially if you have no idea what those ads represent. Your brand message may not be consistent to what your blog promotes and people will question your motives. Do you see Wikipedia monetizing their content with advertisements? They hold true to their open-source mission and that’s what has helped them to reach the enormous size that they’re at today. Your image and brand are extremely important and it’s not worth giving them up for a few extra bucks.
How to monetize blogs then?
I’m sure by now you get the point. Blogging for ads is a dying business model with a bleak future. How then can you monetize your blog?
Direct sales of your own products and services
Using your blog to promote your own products or services is ideal because you can focus your content to drive sales and conversions. You essentially develop relationships with your readers and strive to turn them into paying customers. For example, Aaron Wall blogs about SEO and he does a great job giving away free tips to funnel people into his paid training program. Unlike the advertising model, selling something on your blog is extremely lucrative and you don’t have to worry about cluttering your site and sending the wrong message to your readers.
Indirect monetization – new venture opportunities, clients, book deals, etc.
Again, a blog is an influence platform and with influence comes many new opportunities for monetization within your given niche. You can use your blog to explore new ventures and entrepreneurial projects. You can also sell clients your services (e.g. SEO, social media consulting), get book deals and speaking engagements, and partner with new friends you met through the blog. Cutting ads on your blog might result in a dip in your immediate income but it could also mean that you open up new indirect opportunities to make some serious money.
Affiliate marketing – promoting others
The next best thing to selling your own product or service is selling someone else’s and earning a commission. As long as it’s something that you truly endorse and believe in, you can use your blog to give recommendations to your audience. Conversion rates are extraordinarily high especially if the offers are relevant and cater to the needs of your users. You can write about your personal experiences and give tutorials and detailed reviews to sell the benefits of the products. Your readers trust your opinions much more than an advertisement and are thus much more willing to buy and spread the word. For example, Rae Hoffman of Sugarrae.com used her blog to promote the Thesis WordPress theme and earn a four figure commission check in just 10 days. Try getting a banner advertiser to pay you an amount like that!
Walking the talk
As you may have noticed, I’m stilling running ads here on Winning the Web despite everything I mentioned in this post. I make around $1,000 every month from sponsors but I know that WTW has the potential to do a lot better with direct sales and affiliate marketing promotions. Within the next few month, I plan on releasing exclusive premium content that will include a ton of benefits I know you’ll like. Once that’s launched, you’ll see me walk the talk and finally get rid of the ads. I’m going to shift from an advertising model to more of a paid membership model. It’s exciting stuff so definitely look forward to that.
What about you? If you run advertising on your blog, how has it performed for you in the past year? If you want to survive and thrive in the down economy, the time to change is now. How are you monetizing your blog?If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.