Nothing to do with my love for social media, for about 6 months The Social Network (2010) was my favorite movie.
The dialogue is amazing, and I still get goosebumps watching Mark launch theFacebook. Plus, the friend vs friend business rivalry is just timeless.
Much like us bloggers, Mark wanted to create a website that made a difference in people’s lives.
But unlike most bloggers, Mark had a plan for his advertising.
In this post, sorta like when we covered high-standards, I’d like to offer you 6 ways to know when and if ads are the right move for your blog.
As usual, your insight will really help.
1) Not if coolness is your main asset
In the clip below, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) explains to Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) how ads could ruin his most valuable asset at the moment, his only asset.
If your blog is just cool, meaning your blog or website’s concept is new and undefined, don’t post the ads. At this stage, you need 100% of the focus on content.
While I know it is tempting to fill the sidebar space with an Amazon ad, which are free to setup after all, please don’t. You’ll just look like every other new blog.
2) Not if you think blogging is just some party
At a recent pool party, I caught my friend telling folks how he could have made hundreds of thousands off of yolo.com. His plan was actually quite simple:
- Buy yolo.com before the phrase blew up
- Slap an Adsense unit on it
- Get thousands of clicks per day (because people were Googling “yolo”)
This pretty much sums how many folks mistakenly view blog earnings. It must be easy, right? With all that traffic? But blogging isn’t a party. It’s never been easy to earn from blogging, and starting up with this view will only set you up for disappointment later on.
My friend’s idea would have never worked – Google won’t send you traffic for a simple EMD site, and if people arrive they simply won’t click ads. People are smart, at least smart enough to smell out a spam site. Try Googling “yolo” right now, if you’re curious to see how hard this master plan would have played out.
3) Not if you’re just building up pennies
As someone who’s dabbled with Adsense for a couple years now, I know how hard it is to earn the first $5-10.
And while the first paycheck feels pretty good, I don’t like how other advertising guides tell you to start early and build revenue slowly. I think having an ad begging for clicks in your sidebar cheapens your content. And while it may earn a couple cents each day, it’ll hurt your ability to make larger moves down the road.
I know you’ll disagree with me – any form of earnings are good, you might say! I need to eat too! But I recommend waiting. I think you’ll make a larger impact waiting, then delivering a powerful ad campaign you create yourself.
Set yourself some goals, like get 20 comments on an article, or wait 6 months, before the first ad. This will really force you to secure your voice and audience before monetizing, which is a great practice.
4) Yes, if you CAN get clicks
The best part about an ad you put is the clicks, you already know this. Some range from $1-5 or even $10 if your blog has the right profile. If you do have the right audience for your ads, and think you can get enough clicks to justify the real estate cost, then here are two methods you might employ…
With Adsense ads right in the left pocket of a post and direct ads to the right, this blog creates a single column for the reader to focus. What do you think of this strategy?
Using a totally different strategy, eHow laces their version of sponsored links into Search results. Is it wrong to trick readers into thinking ads are your own website’s articles?
5) Yes, if you make sure your ads are relevant
Any good advertiser needs to create relevance; the worst move is to simply slap an ad in your side bar without really reviewing it, as this only does good for the advertiser.
How to know if your ads are relevant
Are your readers talking about the products?
You can always ask readers if they have interest in the things you advertise, and tailor your efforts around that. Or, you can be totally lazy and assume people will just click eagerly.
Would you use them?
If you wouldn’t buy your products or click your ads, chances are readers won’t either. Afterall, they’ve showed up to your blog to listen to you – they will probably follow your lead on these things.
Mini-case study: Adsense relevant or not?
Time to explain the worst case study ever. Well, not entirely, but not exactly productive. A few weeks back, I put up two Adsense units, one in the sidebar and one in my header. The goal wasn’t clicks or views (they got about 15 clicks total) but instead to see if Google would intuitively offer specific blogging related ads for you and I. This blog has been around for several months now, building only blogging related content, so I wanted to see if Google could really dig into their ad database and actually find some useful ads for us. Yes, some ads are useful.
After 3 weeks, there 5 ads appeared the most:
- Dreamstime: buy cheap photos
- Danny Iny’s guide to making 250k from blogging in 1 year
- Get a blogging degree at X university (no free advertising anymore for you, sorry)
- Build an easy website with X company (seriously, #$%# them)
- Ad words free $50 ad credits
Needless to say, I cancelled the study. While I enjoy Danny Iny’s work, I was underwhelmed by the rest, and I think ultimately this shows how even still Google ads are bit behind what people actually want.
6) Yes, if you understand your niche
Whether you blog about cats or cowboy boots, if you know a bit about your niche, what others are doing, and where eager advertisers are hanging out (hint: they always exist) then you can really start your first ad campaign on the money.
Note: I’m sure I’ve missed some types of blogs here; don’t be shy to yell at me for that in the comments, and I’ll try to help!
- Cooking blog
If you run a cooking blog, you’d think the best advertisers would be Kraft, General Mills, Frito-Lay or other big industry names. Quite the opposite. It’s direct, targeted ad deals with local businesses and small companies that will earn you the most revenue. Yes, you might have to get on the phone and negotiate then create the ad yourself, but the result will be a lot more effective and satisfying.
- Travel blog
Travel blogs are frequented by open-minded web-surfers; as such, you can promote literally anything related to travel. You could advertise again for the small guys, like a start-up travel agencies at your local mall, or could advertise for a flip-flip and towel purveyor.
- University blog
These blogs have an excitable, social media savvy audience, giving them a wide range of advertisers. Personally, I’ve had success within the electronics/software industry with Sony and Adobe, but you might also want to get creative and contact some start-up food and drink folks. I’d say far away from text book reviews, that niche is insanely competitive.
- Fitness blog
A fitness blog is something you should probably contact Ramsay about, as he built a really profitable one and sold it shortly after. Being a huge fitness nut that slams a protein shake each time I get back from the gym, I can also help you out, just ask in the comments.
- Blog about blogging
Meta blogging blogs have it easy 🙂 The best things to advertise are the very things we use, like hosting software, email marketing tools, themes, plugins, and anything else you actually think would actually help level up your reader’s blog.
- Music blog
A music blog is a place of creativity. If you are running one, I’d honestly consider advertising your own services as a tutor or full-blown instructor.
- Gardening blog
A gardening blog is probably going to be all about any sort of gardening products you can buy online. As such, try becoming and Amazon Associate if you run one of these blogs.
- Home improvement blog
A trickier category, you could advertise your own services, or some product you find totally useful. You have to be sensitive to what city you’re in though. I did some Googling to help if you’re trying to monetize a home-imp blog, check it out here.
- Tech blog
Check out Mashable.com and good luck. Highly competitive niche here.
- Automobiles blog
If you run an automobile blog, you are probably best off writing an eBook! Write a book on your car expertise, then load it up to e-Junkie and sell it for $5 a pop. Or, try to direct traffic to new sites like truecar.com which may have affiliate programs. Not sure though, do any of you guys run automobiles blogs?
Hear from you
I guess I’ll round this post off with a few questions because I’d really like to hear from the Community (especially you newcomers!) on the issue of advertising on your blogs.
- When is the best time to start?
- Are you earning at all? (you don’t have to share exact numbers)
- Perhaps most importantly…
- Why do you think some blogs (Mashable, Vogue, Inc.com, DailyBlogTips) do so well from advertising, while others aren’t worth a dime?
Let’s see, post a comment and tell us about your views on blog advertising.