Photo by ahmed (john)
A while back I wrote two in depth articles on blog monetization, that got really well received and went popular. One tackled almost all the ways a blogger can approach his ad inventor, while the other offered a backdoor on how to avoid middle man commissions and how to sell ads directly. However, all these talks about blog monetization, making money online and all that mambo jambo, can cause most bloggers to deviate from their blog’s main goal, to other, more corporate, intentions. Money talks, and small time bloggers can get engulfed pretty easily.
Ads can make a blog seem nontransparent or ill intended, when blog posts are concerned, simply because they run money off of its content. It seems a bit unreal, but a lot of people feel very cheated away when reading blogs with ads on it. Few actually take in consideration hosting bills or even the obvious issue, such as a blogger’s time. Actually, if you run a blog with no ads, and then suddenly revert to monetized action, you could actually have a mutiny on your hands!
So, let’s try to look at an alternative: an ad free blog. Sounds crazy, right? Well, in a ever expanding blogosphere, that’s trying to get more “pro” by the day, an ad free blog may startle some as a novelty. You’ll be surprised, however, how many great blogs out there don’t run any kind of ads, how some ads can actually make you LOSE money and how displaying no actual advertising can still bring a decent income. All will be unraveled soon.
Why Monetization May Not Be Healthy For Your Blog
Photo by Stuck in Customs.
OK, first, let me clear some things out. I don’t have anything against ads, moreover I perfectly understand why people would result to ads. After all, it would be only hypocritical of me to bash blogs that run ads, when I myself run 10+ such monetized blogs, down at my own network.
Now that we’ve disclaimed the discussion, lets analyze a few issues that usually happen with poorly monetized blogs, with absolutely no business plan in mind. Here’s a word of advice: if you want to make money out of blogging, you better be very good and get prepared to work a lot! A lot of people get fueled by various success stories of self-taught bloggers, who make as much as four-five figures. Work at home moms, regular 9 to 5 average Joes etc, people who come from all sorts of backgrounds and professions. This is part of the charm of blogging, anyone can do it, but not anyone can make a living out of it.
Let’s face it, these success stories that you see posted over at sites like ProBlogger are rare! One in a few thousand people actually make a decent income out of it, and it’s gonna get even more difficult. Why? Because thousands of new blogs pop-out everyday, and this leads to market saturation, and this, in term, leads to lower advertising rates.
I’ve waited about 6 months for my first adsense check a few years back, when I first started blogging. Yeah, 6 months for a meager 100$. Don’t forget it’s a lot harder now, as opposed to, let’s say, 2-3 years back. I’ve heard a lot of people saying they’ve waited as much as 12 months for their adsense to cash in. Let’s look at the CPM model, too. At a normal CPM rate of 1$ per thousand impression, a blogger would need about 100k hits per month to make 100$, which, let’s face it, is both not much at all and hard to achieve. A normal mid-trafficked blog has a few thousand impressions per day, working pass that requires a heck of a lot of work. Yeah, you can add multiple banners (leaderboards, skyscrapers, blocks etc.), but in the process you may risk over-flooding your blog with commercial ads.
Sure, after 200k uniques a month, the difference is enormous. A blog that has traffic in the 200-300k range can get 5-6$ CPMs or even two figures, because they appeal to a larger audience. How many of you have such blogs? I thought so.
I’m sure, most of you will say there’s nothing wrong in adding a few ads, even though they don’t actually make nothing out of it. “A few extra dollars, can’t hurt. Right?” “You’re taking, not giving.” OK, but is it worth selling yourself out for a fist full of dollars? No, it’s not, because once with those ads you’re be also be making sacrifices. If the benefits don’t out weigh the downfalls, why should you endeavor in the first place?
Don’t forget, both CPC (adsense) and CPM advertisers require a certain treshold before performing the payment. Millions of adsense publishers haven’t been payed because they haven’t reached the respective threshold, this means that’s dead money - it can’t circulate. The ad networks know this and make a killing off of it.
Here’s just a few downfalls to using conventional advertising.
- Credibility. You can argue with me as much as you want, but the truth is advertisement will hurt your blog’s credibility. How come? Well, once you put advertisement, questions can begin to be pondered. Are you writing for the community or the advertisers? Let’s not forget about the advertisers themselves. Do you support the respective advertisers or products? If not, they could get into some trouble, if a complaint arises or one of your readers is insatisfied with one of the products bought from your ads. It’s complicated.
- Targeting. Most ads served by ad networks (not sold directly to the blogger) are completely bogus and unfocused to the blogger’s niche. Smileys, emoticons, ringtones, flashy text, ‘zomege click here to win a gazillion dollars etc.’ kind of ads harm the over all user experience, and, in consequence, your blog as well.
- Aethetics. While some ads, like the ones from Intel or Apple are just a pleasure to watch (read click), 99% of the rest are totally lameass. They break your sidebars, interupt your design’s natural flow, they’re distracting etc. Lately, ads are getting more interesting and smarter, because people are getting more and more internet savvy, and, in term, become more and more ad blind. However, before ads can really become effective and competitive, aestethic-wise, there’s still a long way to go.
An Alternative View on How Your Blog Can Provide An Income
Hey, just because your blog doesn’t have any kind of visible, conventional advertisement present, it doesn’t mean you can’t make any money from your blog. Far from it. The only problem with the following alternative income stream I’m going to list soon, is that your blog needs to have a stable, loyal readership formed, otherwise you won’t manage to turn a profit. Actually, if you can’t manage to build a readership, you’ll blog will never grow/become popular. So, like it or not, you’ll have to concentrate on forming a community around your blog anyway.
- Consultancy. If your blog’s been around for long enough, and if it’s relatively popular enough (decent subscribers numbers, traffic stats, post comments etc. I won’t detail on numbers, because they vary from nice to niche), changes are you’ll be regarded as an expert in your field. This means people will go to you, when they have questions or various issues. Why not leverage this new found status? A lof o people, including myself, pride themselves with the “consultant” etiquette, and offer counsel to people on how to improve their business, personality or life. Life coaches have been doing this for decades, so there’s no reason why you can’t do it as well. Here, on my blog, I have a consultancy page, where I list my services to any blogger who wishes to seek counsel in the field of blogging and social media. People who visit the blog for the first time or long time readers, alike, can visit the respective page and hire me for a few hours of mentorship.
- Provide Services. A lot of people use their blogs as a portfolio, where they pitch various services each of them is good at. A lot of freelance designers, programmers or writers have managed to gain an impressive income thanks to services they provide to clients referred by their blogs. Look at David Airey for example, one of the most famous designers on the web, who’s managed to gather countless clients thanks to his two blogs, DavidAirey.com and LogoDesignLove.com.The key here is to make sure you provide maximum visibility to your services. Set up a portfolio page and link to it from your blog, so that your readers may check it out and eventually contact you for a gig. Be sure to put links to the various websites of companies you’ve previously worked, for testimonials and so on.
- Sell a(n) book/e-book. You’ve got a following, you’ve somewhat established yourself as an authority, now it’s time to consider writing your own e-book or, if you’ve got a far enough reach, even a genuine, hardcover book. Now, releasing a book, compared to a simple internet ventured e-book, is really tough business. First, your blog needs to be huge, so that your following may guarantee a few hundread/thousand sales, then you need to have some really solid content for it to be approved by a publicist, and so on.
Let’s face it, writing a book isn’t quite for everyone. Big folks like ProBlogger and Lorrelle Van Fossen were successful with their endeavors, but small timers on the internet like me or you will have a tough time. So, yeah, the easiest, most affordable and accessible solution is, naturally, producing an e-book. Almost everybody writes e-books now, because they’re fairly easy to produce and release. A normal e-book has just 5-6000 words in it, roughly 15-20 hours of work - a more then decent amount of time investement, if you weigh in the benefits. After completion, you just pack it nicely (I suggest hiring a designer to do the front cover and over-all layout of the .pdf), announce its release on your blog, e-mail your friends and other bloggers, make a separate page or website for the e-book, launch an affiliate program and you’re on your way to making some nice money. I just layed out the standard process in a few seconds, but, trust me, it’s a LOT harder then it sounds.
This is part of the reason I haven’t managed to release an e-book of my own by now - time.I barely find the time to write here a few posts once in a while, imagine me starting working on an e-book. All in do time, though. The e-book shall come, too. But is all the work on an e-book worth it? You bet it is. An e-book sells for something between 5-15$ - it’s your call on how you price it.Think about it. If you’re selling 50 .pdfs in the first month (when you’ll probably sell the most, because of the buzz), you’ll be making something like 500$. After that you can expect selling something between 5-10 copies a month, that’s about 60-100$. Remember this is passive income, and the number of copies sold is only up to you and your marketing skills. Further details on the subject in a future post installment.
- Donations. Many people overlook this particular source of income, but believe me or not bloggers who don’t give readers the possibility to incentive, are missing out on what’s potentially a pretty good amount of cash. A lot of people misinterpret donations as a lower form of income - as something trivial. That’s because they view donations like begging, which is completely stupid.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for donations. You’re just appealing your reader’s senses, on whether he wishes to express his appreciation for your work by helping out a bit, financially. Take my donate page as an example, where I give a few reasons on why you, my readers, should donate in the first place. I’ve also added a paypal donate button in the sidebar. The whole process took about 30 minutes, but thanks to it I’ve managed to gain some pretty solid money, which would’ve been otherwise nonexistent. By the way, thank you, guys!
- Sell a product. Your blog can be a launching platform for basically anything. It would be a pity, not to leverage your blog to the maximum and start selling some of your work, packed as a product. If you’ve got a blog about nutrition, you could sell a 9 weeks diet plan; if you’re a designer, you could sell premium wordpress theme etc. There are a lot of possibilities.
- Premium content. Charging for accessing a blog is not only unethical, but kinda stupid too. However, if you’ve got certain tools, resources, private community boards and so on, that are of high quality, you can easily charge a membership fee. If the new found premium content is of great value, your readers will swarm, and, through word of mouth, will also bring their friends. If you dig a little big through the internet, you’ll find that membership sites are one most profitable online businesses around!
- Speak at events. Conferences are loads of fun; I just love them! You’ve got hundreds of people, all who share your own interests, cramped up in a few halls, booths. It’s basically a social bonanza. However, if you’ve established yourself as an authority in your niche, you could have the chance of getting invited by organizers to speak a bit about a certain topic, related to your niche. You’ll get travel, hotel and food expenses covered, as well as, probably, a small salary for your efforts.
- Job board. More and more people are turning blogs into true portals, with more and more community features that help enhance a blog’s quality and, of course, the overall user experience. Job boards have become an ever common practice lately for big blogs, and more modest one, alike. The beauty of job boards is that it provides multiple win-win situations, which makes them pretty easy to become successful with, if played right. The blogger earns money from the advertiser for posting the job, the job candidate (most likely one of your blog’s readers) gets a new job and the advertiser gets to find a capable man for his business. Everybody’s happy.The secret behind this for it to work, like most blog ‘ad-ons’ (forums, group projects etc.), is to have a very solid community in your blog, otherwise it will become very difficult to turn a profit. Some great job boards from which can get inspiration can be found at ProBlogger and Freelance Switch.
- Marketplace. How about a social bazaar? You can also add a special section to your blog where people can come to buy or sell various products. If you’re running a tech blog, for example, you can add a marketplace where people can come and post an auction for various used/new tech devices or even websites. In return you can charge a modest sum for every listing, something 1-5$. That may not seem like much, but if you manage to have 1-5 listings a day, across multiple categories, you can manage to turn a pretty penny.
- Event sponsorships. You can always organize events such as group writing projects or off-line conferences, where you can try to gain some sponsorship. If you’re, for say, organizing a writing competition with a theme like web development, you could ask some top design, out-sourcing or development companies to help out and sponsor the event. Making money off of this is rare and pretty hard, implying a lot of running around, but I’ve still heard people making something decent out of it.
- Merchandise. Can you say ‘I can haz t-shirtz?’ The famous lol cat blog, icanhazcheezburger.com, that’s been ravaging the internet over the last year or so, have been more then succesful with the monetization efforts, eventually even expading to a whole LOL network of blogs. Great job, guys! Anyway, they’re making a killing out of their blog’s store, where various lol cat apparel can be bought by fans. You can turn this particular success model to your benefit as well, by adopting it. Just plug in a e-cart script like osCommerce and you’re good to go.
Of course you can use all of these techniques together with convetional blog advertisement (banners, links etc.) and make even more money, but the point here is to show that even though you basically keep your blog ad free, you can still make some money.
Why, Really, An Ad Free Blog Rocks
OK, I think I may have deviated a bit from the post’s actual main idea, or title for that matter. So, basically, why should you consider keeping your blog free from advertisement? Because you want your blog, or blogger (if you’re one of those personal branding folk), to be focused. You want your blog’s content to be clean, free and concentrated, with its community at its center. Famous bloggers like Skellie, Seth Godin (he may not be the best examples, but I’m too big of a fan not to include him.), Jeff Atwood (from codinghorror.com) or Lorelle understood this and managed to develop ones of the most popular blogs on the internet, all with out advertisement. Examples of bloggers who have become famous thanks to their neat online journal could continue for on and on, but that’s no important here. What’s important is the principle behind it.
Again, if this article may struck you as being anti-capitalist or something like that, then chill. It’s nothing like this. It’s about choice and alternative information on monetization.
Also, if you’re willing and enjoyed this little post, then please consider voting this story on your favorite social media channel. Diggs, stumbles, twitts, doesn’t matter. Anything is appreciated.
The Why An Ad Free Blog Rocks! by Tibi Puiu, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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