You want to make money from your blog, right? When it comes to the subject of blog monetization it seems like the first two methods that come to mind are usually AdSense and banner ad sales.
Maybe it’s because these methods seem easy. Or maybe it’s because the most popular blogs sell ads.
But the truth is, for the vast majority of bloggers there are other approaches that are far more effective and profitable than selling ads. Creating and selling your own digital products, promoting other people’s products as an affiliate, and offering premium content or a members-only section have the potential to be much more lucrative for most bloggers.
These monetization methods may not be as quick or easy as slapping some AdSense code into your WordPress theme, but for bloggers who are serious about making money, they are far superior.
Now, I’m not saying that absolutely no blogs should sell ads. There are tons of blogs that are monetized primarily or exclusively through ad sales. Massive sites like Mashable and TechCrunch make loads of money by selling ads, but the reality is these sites are not typical blogs. They have a team of writers that crank out large volumes of content and their business model involves getting as many pageviews as possible to increase ad revenue.
Most blogs are one-person operations with the blog owner producing all, or almost all, of the blog content. There is a world of difference between Mashable and the average blog. The approach of monetizing the average blog through ad sales or AdSense can bring in some revenue, but if you want to maximize revenue and profit you are better off focusing on other methods.
In this article we’ll take a look at 9 reasons why you shouldn’t sell ads on your blog.
But first, I have a confession to make.
For a few years my blogging income primarily came from selling banner ads and from using AdSense. Fortunately, I had a high traffic blog in an industry where there were plenty of willing advertisers, so I was able to make a full-time income from ad sales and AdSense. But after relying on ads for a while, I started to branch out into other monetization methods and realized that ad revenue was just the tip of the iceberg.
Fast forward a few years later and selling ads is no longer a part of my business strategy because there are simply better ways to make money with a website or blog. I still use AdSense on some small niche sites that I don’t put much time or effort into, but this is a very small percentage of my income.
And here are the reasons why I no longer sell ads on my blogs.
If you’re interested in learning more about creating a successful blog, please see the Guide to Profitable Blogging.
1. Ads Turn Visitors Away from Your Blog
In order to be able to make money with banner ads or AdSense those ads will need to attract clicks. Every time one of your blog visitors clicks on an ad they will be leaving your site. Since about 75% of most blog visitors will never return to your site, there is a good chance that each ad click is that visitor’s last encounter with your blog.
With AdSense you will only make money when a visitor clicks on the ad, so you will be essentially pushing people away from your blog in order to make a few cents per click (of course, the amount you’ll make per click will vary based on a lot of different factors).
Most banner ads are either sold at a flat monthly rate, or at a rate per thousand impressions (CPM). In neither of these cases are you directly paid per click, but if the ads aren’t driving clicks and sales the advertisers will not continue to pay for the banner. So any way that you look at it, if you’re selling banners or using AdSense you will be turning visitors away from your blog in order to make money.
When visitors are leaving your site through ads you are hurting your long-term growth and stability. In an ideal situation your ad clicks would come from repeat visitors who come back to your blog frequently to see your new content. These visitors may leave your site by clicking on an ad, but they’re still likely to return again, so the damage is minimal. The problem is, your repeat visitors are the ones that are likely to tune out the ads on your site and focus on the content. Most ad clicks come from first-time visitors, so the damage is more significant.
You can set ads to open in a new window or tab so that your website is still open after the click, but there is no guarantee that the visitor will come back to browse your site, most don’t.
Another way that ads push visitors away from your site is through the message that they send. Even a visitor does not click on an ad, some visitors will be turned off by sites or blogs that feature excessive advertisements. A blog that is filled with ads will usually give the impression that ad revenue is more important than anything else, and readers pick up on that.
2. Prioritizes the Short Term Over the Long Term
You may not have thought about it this way, but monetizing a blog with ad sales or AdSense really prioritizes short-term earnings over long-term stability and profitability. With ads you are trading exposure at your site and a small percentage of your traffic for a short-term payout. You’ll collect money when the ad is sold or the month after an AdSense click, but beyond that you will make nothing from that exposure and traffic that you provided for the advertiser.
If you were to pursue other monetization methods instead of advertising, you would be in the position to improve the long-term profitability of your blog instead. For example, rather than taking up valuable screen space and sending traffic to someone else, you could use the same space to promote other content on your blog. As a result you would retain more of your visitors, increase the average time on the site, and improve the relationship with your readers. There is no short-term payout in this scenario, but long-term you’ll be more likely to have loyal readers that will buy your products or purchase affiliate products based on your recommendations.
You can also use the valuable real estate on your site for promoting your newsletter or email list, which will increase the number of optins that you get each day. Getting more subscribers on a daily basis means that you’ll be able to grow your mailing list exponentially, and there are all kinds of ways that you can make money from an email list.
Rather than advertising another company’s products on your blog, why not create and advertise your own products? Creating and selling products can sound a little intimidating, but digital information products provide all kinds of possibilities. Selling products is hands down one of the highest potential methods of blog monetization.
When you promote someone else’s products you are helping that person or company to create their own list of buyers. Converting a one-time buyer into a repeat buyer is much easier than converting a visitor into a first-time buyer, so a customer list can be an incredibly valuable asset for leading to future sales. If you create your own products and use the available space on your blog to promote those products, you will be able to build a list of buyers that can prove to be extremely valuable for months and years to come.
For more information on this topic please see 10 Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned from Selling Digital Products.
3. Lower Income Potential Than Other Monetization Methods
While it’s true that some blogs do make considerable amounts of money selling ads, for most blogs the potential income with other monetization methods is much higher. In order to make decent money with ad sales you’ll need a very high volume of traffic, a well-defined target audience, and companies who are willing to pay in order to reach that audience. Without those 3 things you aren’t likely to make anything significant with ad sales.
However, even blogs with lower traffic can make money with affiliate marketing, product sales, services, and membership. Of course, having huge amounts of traffic doesn’t hurt, but not having hundreds of thousands of visitors each month doesn’t eliminate the possibility of making good money with these other methods.
And even for those blogs that do have high traffic numbers, other methods will have potential for higher income than ad sales.
If you would like more details about other blog monetization methods and their potential, please refer to the Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Blog Monetization Strategy.
4. Ads Take Attention Away from Your Own Content and Products
Regardless of what type of content you publish at your blogs, ads will take some of the visitors’ attention away from that content. Ads can be distracting, even if visitors do not ultimately click on the ad.
In the previous point I mentioned that using the space on your blog to promote your own products is better for the long-term profitability of your site than selling banner ad space. However, some bloggers do both. If you are trying to sell your own products and also selling ad space at your site, those ads are taking attention away from your own products. And what makes this really bad is that you’re probably not being compensated enough for those visitors that you are losing.
5. Less Than Ideal Potential for Growth
While high-traffic blogs can make a nice income from ad sales, banner ad revenue is a little more difficult to scale than some other monetization methods, at least from my experience. For example, your blog may have 100,000 visitors and you might be able to sell an ad at a particular location on your blog for $100 per month. Now, if you are able to increase your traffic to 200,000 visitors, it would make sense that you could sell the same ad for $200 per month, right? Well, in reality, ad prices often do not scale so nicely. Instead, you may only be able to get $125 or $150 for that ad.
Exponentially increasing your blog’s traffic does not mean that you will be able to increase your ad prices at the same rate. In some cases you may be able to, but from my experience and from others in my network, it usually doesn’t work out this way.
Instead, other monetization methods tend to scale much nicer. For example, product sales can increase at rates that are higher than your traffic increases. As your blog grows, your brand and name recognition also increases, and this can lead to much higher conversions on your product sales pages. Also, more visitors and customers may lead to more people sharing links to your products, more affiliates promoting your products, and more reviews on other blogs and websites. More paying customers also means more people to promote your future products to, and an opportunity for higher future earnings. For all of these reasons, the potential for growth with product sales is much higher than the potential for growth with ad sales.
One of the problems with monetizing a blog through banner ad sales or AdSense is that there is a limited amount of space on your pages and posts. If you want to increase revenue you can create a new ad zone, but do this a few times and your blog will very quickly become overrun by ads. Another problem with this is that increasing the number of ads will decrease the effectiveness of each ad as they drown each other out, so you may make less money from each ad zone if you use too many of them.
To the contrary, if you are monetizing your site with product sales or affiliate products you can create an infinite number or pages or posts on your site, and each one can promote a different product without adding clutter. Each of those pages can then serve as a landing page that visitors will see through searches, links from other sites, or mentions at social media sites.
6. Ads Can Clutter Up Your Site
One of the most obvious impacts that ads have on a blog is the visual appearance. Let’s face it, blogs that are full of ads can look cluttered an unattractive. Blogs that include several different ads have elements with all different colors and design styles fighting for visitors’ attention, and the result is an ugly mess.
Some banner ads are very well designed, but many of them are not. In fact, some are ugly intentionally just to get noticed. Even those that are well designed may not be a good fit with the colors or style of your blog theme.
In-content ads can easily get in the way and damage the user experience. AdSense units are especially notorious for being unattractive, and in many cases they tend to make blogs look amateurish.
Blogs without ads tend to look much cleaner and more inviting. Even if you’re using ads for your own products they will probably take up less space than if you were depending on banner ads as your primary source of income. Also, your ads will likely match the design and style of your theme and the blog will look more cohesive.
Some blogs use banners to promote products as an affiliate rather than selling the ad space. This approach has most of the same drawbacks as selling banner ads, but typically bloggers who take this approach will only use a few banners, whereas bloggers who monetize with ad sales will usually sell many more ad spots. For example, using 2 affiliate banners in your sidebar isn’t going to have nearly as much of an impact on clutter as selling 10 different banners in your sidebar. For an example, the banner in my sidebar for SiteGround‘s web hosting doesn’t do very much to clutter up the site since there are no other ads.
7. Avoid Promoting Low-Quality Products
Another problem with ad sales is that you may wind up promoting low-quality products. Now, your blog visitors will almost certainly understand that you are not personally endorsing the companies and products that are paying for ads on your blog. However, you still may be in the situation where your valued readers wind up buying a low-quality product as a result of an ad on your blog.
When you’re promoting products as an affiliate you can stick to promoting only products that you have personally used. But if you’re selling ads it is almost guaranteed that you will not be able to personally verify the quality of all products and services that are advertising at your site. You can reject advertisers if you know that you don’t want their products to be promoted at your blog, but in most cases you won’t really know the quality of the products and services that are being advertised.
8. Pricing Ads Can Be Difficult
One of the things that bloggers find to be very challenging and frustrating is knowing how to determine the price that should be charged for an ad. The best way to determine price is through trial and error to determine what advertisers are willing to pay, and what prices will be too high, but this means that you’ll likely lose some advertisers due to price in the process.
If you knew how many sales or how much revenue was being generated by an ad it would be easy to know how much you should charge, but this isn’t the case. You’ll be able to see how many clicks the ads are generating (if you have it set up to do so, or if you’re using a network or plugin), but you won’t know how many of those clicks are being converted into sales.
If you price your ads too high you’ll have lots of unsold inventory and you will struggle to retain advertisers. If you price the ads too low you’ll have no problem filling your ad spots, but you won’t be maximizing the revenue that you could be making from the ads.
9. Requires Your Time to Manage
Selling ads is an appealing monetization method because it allows you to monetize the traffic that you already have, but it also requires some work on your part.
First and foremost, you’ll have to find advertisers. If you have a high-traffic blog you may be able to put up an “advertise” page or some “advertise here” banners, but chances are you will need to be proactive to fill your ad spots. Most likely you’ll need to find companies that are advertising on similar sites and contact them about your advertising options.
Then you’ll have to keep track of everyone you’re contacting, provide more information to those who are interested and answer their questions, collect money for the ads, place the ads on your site, track the dates of the ads, collect on-going payments for those that want to continue to advertise at your blog, and take down the ads of those who cancel. Then you’ll start over with finding other advertisers to replace the ones that cancel.
For WordPress users there are some ad management plugins that can help to automate some of this process, but it will still require some of your time and attention. Networks like BuySellAds will also take care of the details for you, but there is no guarantee that your ads will be sold. There are a ton of published in BSA’s network with the majority of their ad spots unsold. So while the details of managing the ads may be handled for you, you may still need to contact potential advertisers to try to sell the ad spots.
The time that you spend managing advertisers could be used for other things if you are using a different monetization method. Whether you use that time to create new content for your blog, to network with other bloggers, or to create your own products to sell, there are always plenty of good ways to use your time.
Banner ad sales may be a viable monetization method for the most popular blogs, but for the vast majority of bloggers there are better monetization methods available. If you want to maximize the long-term earning potential of your blog, focus on other ways of making money and don’t turn visitors away from your blog through ad clicks. If you are interested in learning more about creating a successful blog, please see the Guide to Profitable Blogging.