Blogging for Ads is Dead – 5 Reasons Why You Sell Yourself Short & How You Can Fix It

January 9, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

japan adsThe 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 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?

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68 Responses to “Blogging for Ads is Dead – 5 Reasons Why You Sell Yourself Short & How You Can Fix It”

Dominique on January 9th, 2009

As a relatively small blogger I have yet to make any “real” income with banner ads and selling affliate products. I believe that choosing the correct product to promote on your blog does affect your potential revenue income and I’m still sorting that one out.

Nicholas James on January 10th, 2009

You should use third party services, until you grow your blog to a decent level where you can generate more revenue from private ad sales.

You should consider using affiliate marketing referrals within your posts as well.

(Basically summarizing the point made above)

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Using ad networks is a solution for smaller blogs that can’t get private deals. However, I’d still advise against it because you can’t control what’s displayed. You don’t make much money anyway and you compromise your credibility. Not worth it if you’re trying to establish yourself as a top blogger.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Wesley on January 9th, 2009

I actually intend to use my blog mostly for announcing each and every of my website projects. The blog audience is my targeted visitor so that works out really well.

Nicholas James on January 10th, 2009

As well as announcing them, you should consider posting on a consistent basis – to aid with your goal of “advertising” your other websites.

This will also provide you with a larger audience to join your services.

cooiky on January 9th, 2009

if one blog has good traffic,i think it is still good for it to earn money through advertisement.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

A highly-trafficked blog can make good money with ads – I clearly state that in my post. However, monetizing through ads doesn’t have much long-term potential compared to selling your own products or endorsing others you believe in.

Melvin on January 9th, 2009

Exceptional post Gyuatae. I agree so much with it and I as well as other bloggers can certainly feel how the online advertising model has declined. Before you can create a blog and get a sold out private ad spots after a month or 2. Now its really different and you hit it right there. This is definitely a good reminder to those who are planning to start a blog and get passive income out of it.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Thanks Melvin. Blogs ads offer passive income, but they’re too passive. As I mentioned, a blog is a relationship-building tools. You need to leverage your influence as a blogger to make money – not just slap on a bunch of ads.

Nicole Price on January 9th, 2009

Your post makes eminent sense. My site will eventually be completely ad free considering what you state here.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Hey Nicole, I’m glad you’ve decided to make the jump. Let me know how it goes for you. Just be sure you have a monetization plan that you can use to make money from your blog without ads.

Donny Gamble on January 9th, 2009

All this is definitely true because I have just seen two pretty good internet marketers quit blogging as a whole and going else where to make their money. I think this will continue to happen because everybody is producing the same kind of content and people are starting to get sick of reading the same kind of stuff over and over again.

Kathy@ Virtual Impax on January 9th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

The “problem” with selling ad space on your blog is that if you engage in direct ad sales – then you’ve just created another J-O-B for yourself.

Ads are purchased based upon the number of page views – period. For many bloggers – the number of page views just doesn’t justify the time and effort involved in selling and servicing advertisers. That time would be better spent (as you’ve pointed out) doing other things that have a better ROI.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Very true. Thanks Kathy. Most bloggers don’t generate significant pageviews – definitely not enough to attract big advertisers. Instead they need to leverage their influence and relationships to promote their own stuff or others they recommend. That’s the winning long term strategy for bloggers to make money online. on January 9th, 2009

We’re thinking along exactly the same patterns Gyutae. Advertising is the only fall back when you don’t have your own product, but when you do, how could you ever justify or afford losing a life long customer to a business you don’t even endorse? And for pennies on top of that.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Great point Raymond. Once I launch my premium content membership site here on Winning the Web, I’m saying bye bye to most of the ads on the site. I can easily make a lot more revenue doing that than by selling advertisements. Brian Clark of Copyblogger has followed the same route with his blog and his products.

Eric Hamm on January 9th, 2009

I totally agree that blogging will become more a platform for influence than anything else. As you stated, ads are just clutter that waste the potentially valuable real estate that they reside on. Affiliate ads and direct sales make much more sense and have a much great potential for making you money.

Excellent advice for what is certainly a growing trend. When I launched my first blog, I couldn’t wait to put up my first Google ads. It made me feel like I was really becoming a blogger. But soon after that I dropped them like the wasted space they were. Not to say that I will never use them on any blog, ever again. But I just see too many other, better options to use up my sidebar space. Eric.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Thanks for the feedback Eric. A lot of people seem to agree that passive advertising isn’t optimal for blogs. The valuable real estate can be used to promote your own products or to further establish relationships to increase influence.

Gobala Krishnan on January 9th, 2009

I’ve been saying that for ages. I think people get starry-eyed with blog ads cos you just slap come codes in there and you make money. Most of my income is derived from selling information products and building and email list.

Gary Lee on January 9th, 2009

in a way . . you’re selling yourself as well

Gary Lee on January 9th, 2009

I’ve decided to start fresh with my blog this year and with that have come a new design and purpose. Taking down pretty much all my ads was one thing that I wanted to do for a lot of the reasons you mentioned above, but not because I wanted to make money in other ways. I wanted to use my blog just as a communication device to help people understand me as a marketer and person better, which I think will give me a better ROI in the long term than any short term income.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Hey Gary,
I like the new look of your blog – very professional and more focused on the content than anything else. I think taking down the ads and selling more of yourself will give you a ton of benefits down the road. Best of luck to you! I’m subscribed to your blog so I’ll keep up with what you’re doing.

AndyW on January 9th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

The big problem when it comes to affiliate marketing is one of trust. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how highly esteemed the blogger is, if they are reviewing a product and put an affiliate link within the review then, in my eyes, all their credibility goes out of the window. As far as I’m concerned there is an obvious clash between an impartial review and making money in this way.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Hey Andy,
That’s a big issue in the affiliate marketing world. I’ve even seen people make up fake reviews so that they can sell more of their products. While this is totally unethical and holds affiliate marketing back, I think it’s present in every industry – not just online.

Online businesses will always be motivated to make more money and try to do so in various ways. Some will be ethical, some unethical. Regardless, the people who do it right in ethical ways will gain your trust and make money at the same time. If you’re recommending something that you truly believe in, why not use an affiliate link to make some money?

Dawid Ryba on January 9th, 2009

hi Gyutae
Great post but even you have Sponsors !
I have my own blog and I don’t have any Sponsors .
I don’t thing that having Sponsors is something negative in reality them make you look more professional.

Dawid Ryba

Nicholas James on January 10th, 2009

Gyutae mentioned he was selling himself short. However, as Gyutae is building up the blog and additional revenue streams the current advertising on the blog is ensuring he has revenue until they can replace these earnings.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Yep, I do have sponsors but I’m realizing more and more that they take away from the blog and only offer small compensation. I’m planning on taking them off once I launch my premium content site in a few months.

I would have to disagree with you about sponsors making a site more professional. Partnerships I can understand but blog ads only clutter a site and take away from credibility.

Evan on January 9th, 2009

My blog is way too low traffic to attract advertisers.

So it is my own products for now.

The deeper issue I think is that the www and the blogosphere in particular runs on credibility. Anything that takes away from this is ruining the industry (and yes, Internet Marketing scammers, I do mean you!)

Nicholas James on January 10th, 2009

You should consider using third parties whilst you are growing your traffic.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Most people think that traffic is the currency of the web. The more traffic you have, the more money you can make right? While that is true to a degree, most people fail to see credibility as an important factor as well. People buy from people they trust – someone with low traffic but high credibility can sell with high conversion rates although traffic and credibility often come hand in hand.

amanda on January 9th, 2009

This is something that I’ve struggled with for years. On my first blog I hesitated for about 3 years before deciding to put any ads up. I definitely believe that ads can cheapen and devalue the content on website and have been feeling a strong urge to pull down the one ad we have. I still have not been able to convince myself to put ads up on our other sites, but I have also not had a clear vision as to how to monetize them otherwise. This post certainly helps put what I’ve been feeling into words.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Amanda. I can definitely relate to what you said about ads cheapening the blog and devaluing content. It’s definitely ideal for you to pull down the ads and focus on other forms of monetization. However, you need a plan of action to implement it (i.e. simply pulling down the ads won’t necessarily make you more money – you need an alternative plan). Good luck! Let me know how it goes for you.

Mike Huang on January 9th, 2009

Gyutae, I love your points #2 and #4. Bloggers really think it is easy to start a blog and make money, but fail in blogging period. However, I never thought of #4, but it really is true that we have to put advertisers before us. They pay us!

Nicholas James on January 10th, 2009

This is because of the cost to enter the market is so low. If it was $100,000 people would reconsider.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Hey Mike,
Thanks for stopping by. A lot of newbie bloggers think it’s easy to make money online. They write a few posts every week, slap on some ads, and voila. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way – advertising revenue is the most difficult to attain for new blogs – and it’s why most people give up after a short while.

TStrumps on January 10th, 2009

Very timely article as I am just learning about advertising and blogs.
You make very good points which will definitely change my strategy.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

I’m glad I could help. I think the info is especially valuable to new bloggers just getting started. A business focused on advertising revenue only is definitely going to be in trouble in the next few years.

Brian D. Hawkins on January 10th, 2009

Wow, You just explained my whole way of thinking when I pulled the ads from my blog last week. You even helped clear it up for me!

This post is going in the next issue of the Extreme Ezine under ‘Great Reads’.

I’m also adding this quote from you under ‘Not So Famous Quotes to Ponder’:

“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.”

I’m very impressed 🙂

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Thanks Brian. I appreciate the kind words and I’m glad that you found the post useful. A mention in your next issue of Extreme Ezine would be awesome. I’d also love to hear about your results from post-ad blogging. Good luck!


Great points about why blogging for advertising spots is not the best idea. Especially for someone just entering the blogosphere. Well said.

Gyutae Park on January 10th, 2009

Thanks Gerald. I know that it’s not really a popular idea – since most bloggers monetize via ads. However, in the next couple of years I think the trend will shift towards direct monetization and it’s better to start now to gain an advantage.

Frank Carr on January 10th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Allow me to make a bold prediction…

Membership sites and premium content sites are all the rage right now but just how many can the rather limited ‘make money online’ niche market support? How many can deliver on their promises? How many webmasters can keep up the pace with 100, 200, 500, 1000+ members? My guess is that it will be only a few and that a year from now we’ll see a post here or elsewhere lamenting that membership sites are dead.

While I’ll dip my toe in the MMO market from time to time, I’ll continue to make the bulk of my money online selling to the less hip, less with it, crowd. People who aren’t online experts and who still click ads. Amazingly, we’re not talking old folks either but people of all ages who just aren’t interested in membership sites but in buying a product that fits their current needs.

JustinSMV on January 11th, 2009

Nice reality check here, its like the restaurants business, everyone wants to have that piece of the pie and thinks its easy but in reality it takes hard work and luck, most restaurants fail by the 1st year same as blogs

Vikas Sah on January 11th, 2009

The points raised are no doubt great but I think the Adsense model is a great advertising model which is what most of the new bloggers use. Also a tool which picks from affiliate network and displays ads relevant to your post might be more effective and useful to the users.

As for providing premium content, many newspapers started with that premise but that model did not work for them and most of them are back to providing free content.

Make Money Online on January 11th, 2009

Affiliate marketing seems to be dying off as well I presume?

Caleb on January 11th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Affiliate marketing in a review type fashion is a big one for blogs…but still ads are being bought up like crazy everywhere. I mean $1000(that you make) a month from that alone ain’t bad.

Eric Tan on January 12th, 2009

I want to see how the effect on your income when you switch from the Ad model to the membership model. It would be a surprise to me if you do not make more. Question: Would there be a chance for both models to work together?

bandisusi on January 12th, 2009

I think the most easier is monetiz the blog with affiliate marketing. But I think all of them must need hard work. Thanks for the great post.

Cheap Mobile Calls on January 12th, 2009

I’ve been contemplating putting ads onto my personal blog. But now I know not to bother. Or should I? It looks like there is still little money to be made by these ads, but the time spent setting that up could be spent on writing quality articles for affiliate products…

Yung Drew on January 12th, 2009

Perfect article for me to read Gyutae. I was thinking about eventually adding some ads to my blog, but I’m going to make sure that I stand behind whatever I put up there… Not just throw up some random google ads that look terrible and that people don’t really care about.

I also like the idea of selling your own products like T-Shirts (which you do) that serve as both promotion, and can generate profits. Awesome job w/ this article. *Bookmarked*

Jonathan Muller on January 12th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Great article, and I totally agree. Your point about having to put advertisers over readers is just plain wrong. I see way too many blogs that are so cluttered with ads and affiliate ads, that I can’t even read the articles. The words get skewed all around the page trying to fit around the ads, and it’s just a waste. Readers should always be placed first. I think you gave some good monetizing tips as well. Excellent article, I am now a subscriber.

Sheryl Loch on January 12th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Hello Gyutae,
I would love to see people get rid of some of the ads. It seems some blogs are not worth reading because you have all the ads to close or distract you from the article.

I do not have Google or affiliate ads all over my blog. I do however have section where I post info about the 2 companies I am a rep for. I hand picked the 2 companies and use the product daily.

I am not worried about making money at my blog because I just do not have the readership or the type of info that ads would be appropriate for.

Thank you for the great information. I will now be able to send all of those, that tell me to get ads, over here for a ‘lesson’. 😉

ps. I came here from a link in your interview with Yan at ThouShallBlog

Market Secrets Blogger on January 12th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Eric Tan: Using both models together is the perfect compromise. membership fees guarantee recurring income while the ad model revenues can be used to give your marketing efforts an extra boost…but that’s just my take on this.

Ann Arbor Web Design on January 12th, 2009

That post was a real eye opener for me! Thanks for sharing your insight and bringing us up do date with what the modern connotations of advertising are; and the pitfalls as well.

wisdom on January 13th, 2009

I am not sure why you want to switch to the membership model. I mean $1,000 a month is very respectable and your blog does not look like it is covered and littered with ads like some websites do.

Matty Byloos on January 13th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Too generous a dose of advertisement love all over someone’s blog always looks dubious to me. The idea of someone endorsing something they use, and offering it to others seems to have more integrity. Good point.

charles palma on January 17th, 2009

Adding ads on a web page isn’t the best idea but it is still a good idea. If you take down ads, you are losing earnings. You are losing hundred bucks. Thus, you should combine placing ads on your website and selling your own products.

muri on February 5th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

well,at the first time ,I am having no such “power to sell my own product since I am no body in the bloghosphere universe,second I love adsense,but I sometimes wish adsense could be more “polite ads,rather then giving massive small figure advertising that I think make bored “alot my reader” I think adsense make the passion inside the blog ,weaken however in contrary without adsense I am confuse how to get moeny from it,without “idea”of having to make money with it also Death my dream as blogger.well I think I should read and follow more about this discussion to find out more

Budi Waluyo@surabaya property on February 8th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

100% I support the idea. I’ve ever tried once and the ads just spoil all over the website quality. It tends to divert visitor’s attention then deviate the website goal. Besides the ads doesn’t support the content and does not influence the PR of the site, doesn’t it ?

Bob Daku on February 26th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

just found your site off of twitter i like the way the info is presented/written you will get lots of recurring clients $walk the walk..

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