This is the dream, right?
You get out of bed, stretch, and make some coffee.
You settle in on the couch and start your work day – in your pajamas.
(You’re a professional blogger, so nobody gets to tell you what to wear).
You open your laptop, check your email, and see dozens of notifications: “You’ve Been Issued a Payment.”
Overnight, you’ve made hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars.
Money literally appears in your bank account while you sleep.
And what’s the secret to this coffee-swigging, pajama-wearing lifestyle?
Advertising, of course! Those little ads waiting patiently in your sidebar to earn you money while you whip up your next mochaccino.
Well, prepare yourself for a shock…
Why Advertising is a Foolish Strategy for Serious Bloggers
Want to know something surprising?
If you really want to live that dream, full-time blogger lifestyle, putting advertising on your blog is the last thing you should do.
Regardless, many bloggers believe they can install WordPress, throw up some ads in the sidebar, learn a few traffic tricks, and then sit back to watch the money flow in.
But in reality, it doesn’t work that way.
Too many bloggers are wasting their precious time with a strategy that’ll never pay off the way they hope.
The following reasons finally dismantle the myth that advertising is a smart way to monetize your blog.
1. Blog Ads Pay You Peanuts
You want to make money blogging, and you want to do it quickly.
But the funny thing is, advertising is actually a painfully slow path to monetization. Until you have serious traffic, the amounts involved are so small it’s almost embarrassing.
Let’s look at the typical case – most of the ads you see on blogs are generated by Google AdSense.
Many factors affect how much you can make through Google Adsense, including the topic you blog about, the specific ad displayed, how much traffic you have, and what percentage of that traffic clicks.
The average “click through rate” (CTR) varies by industry; however, the average is around 0.1%.
Let’s say the average cost-per-click (how much you earn when somebody clicks an ad) is $0.50.
That means you would need around 1,000 unique visitors each day to get even one ad click and earn $0.50 for the day.
If you enjoy 1,000 unique visitors each day to your blog, you can do a lot better than $0.50 per day in income.
The bottom line is that advertising requires a ton of traffic to be worthwhile, and when you have a lot of traffic, you have much better ways to monetize it than through advertising.
2. Blog Ads Are… Look – Squirrel!
As a blogger, you’re constantly trying to discover ways to hold your readers’ attention with your content.
And it’s not easy! You craft the perfect introductions to your posts to draw readers in. You hold their attention with crisp and clear writing packed with engaging and quotable snippets of information. You write closings that make them want to jump up and take action.
In other words, you work hard for every second of your readers’ attention.
But advertising competes for that attention by drawing their eyes away from your content and onto the ad.
Think about it. Advertising is designed to distract readers from the content you want them to see – the content you worked your ass off to create for them.
3. Blog Ads Are a Conversion Killer
Smart bloggers always know what they want readers to do next.
It might be to share the post they’ve just read, subscribe to an email list, or read another relevant post.
So they’ll prompt readers to take that next step by including a clear “call-to-action” like a button or a link.
But the problem is, blog ads are also a call-to-action.
And if a visitor is acting upon Google’s call-to-action, that means they aren’t acting upon yours.
Advertising affects conversion and retention because it gives readers another option – to click a tantalizingly worded ad – instead of doing what you want them to do.
4. Blog Ads Undermine Your Blog’s Goals
What is the goal of your blog?
Most bloggers want to build an audience. And the best way to do that is by providing value to their readers.
But blog ads undermine that goal because they don’t provide value to the audience at all.
In fact, many readers feel that ads are annoying and devalue a website.
Consider the other goals that advertising conflicts with on your website. For instance, the whole point of an ad is to have a reader click it, which takes them off of your site.
So if the ads are successful, they encourage your readers to leave your blog.
On the one hand, you want readers to stay on your site. On the other hand, you want to make money from ads.
Experience shows that the blogs that grow the fastest are those with every element perfectly in tune with every other element.
Just like a company needs to stay true to its vision and mission, bloggers need to stay true to their goals to build cohesive, successful brands.
5. Blog Ads Make You Look Sleazy
When a visitor lands on your blog and sees that you have ads, they feel you are immediately trying to sell them something.
Transfer that situation to the real world. What would you think of someone who tried to sell you something within a few moments of meeting you?
You probably wouldn’t trust them. You’d probably be suspicious of them. You’d certainly be wary of developing a relationship with them.
Like it or not, blog ads are a constant sales pitch living on your blog.
And when visitors see ads on your blog, they subconsciously trust you a little less. Which is unfortunate because trust is the cornerstone of a popular blog.
When you lose trust, you lose influence. Readers may see any recommendations you make in a different light.
You can find other ways to make an honest buck from blogging, but blog ads always look a little sleazy.
6. Blog Ads Force You to Work for “The Man”
Bloggers are entrepreneurs, right?
After all, you’re building something for yourself. You’re your own boss. You have the control. Right?
Well, not exactly, if you run ads on your blog.
When you run ads, the ad platform (e.g., Google Adsense) is your boss – and not the type of cool boss you’ve always hoped for.
Don’t like the per-click commission you’re getting? Too bad. You can’t ask for a raise.
Want to get paid regularly? Not so fast. Your earnings are withheld until you reach a minimum.
And if you don’t read the fine print? This horrible boss can wipe out your earnings if you accidentally infringe their terms and conditions.
Just when you thought you were on your own, blog ads put you at the mercy of somebody else.
7. Blog Ads Are a Dangerous Distraction for You Too
Hosting ads on your blog seems like the easiest form of monetization.
You just post the ads, wait for people to click them, and then count the cash, right?
And while that does sound easy, it is not the reality.
Advertising is a huge distraction for you, the blogger.
If you want to optimize your earnings, you must take time to test, monitor, and manage the ads.
So you end up effectively working as a part-time advertising manager instead of working on your blog.
However you look at it, blog ads pull you away from what is truly important: creating great content and providing value to readers.
8. Blog Ads Risk Your Reputation
You see a lot of different products and companies advertised online, and I’m guessing you wouldn’t personally vouch for every one of them. In fact, some of them you definitely wouldn’t recommend, or even want to be associated with.
So how would you feel if an ad for such a product or company popped up on your website without you knowing?
Now, how would you feel if, when the ad popped up, your readers thought you were actually recommending it? After all, it’s on your blog; you must have approved it, right?
As a blogger, you’re more Internet-savvy than the average reader. You know that blog ads are selected by Google’s algorithm not the blog’s owner, but many people won’t see that distinction.
And when you host ads on your blog, your face could appear next to a product or company you don’t endorse, or even like.
You could just be one rotation away from a negative juxtaposition that sends your reputation into a tailspin.
9. Blog Ads Make Your Blog Ugly
Studies show that when you go for a job interview, the interviewer decides within 10 seconds of meeting you whether you’re right for the job.
And that first impression is formed based on your appearance.
The same goes for your blog. Your visitors will know within seconds of visiting whether they want to stick around. And their first impression is based on your design.
So it’s important to have an attractive site. After all, 94% of people apparently say a bad design is a reason why they don’t trust certain sites.
But including ads on your blog taints your design.
It’s like showing up to that job interview wearing a nice suit but with a “Enjoy Coca-Cola” T-shirt underneath.
Sure, you could adjust the ads to better match your design, but do you really want people to think that other people’s products are an integral part of your site?
10. Blog Ads Put Your Blog in the Slow Lane
Did you know that if your website does not fully load within three seconds, most visitors will leave?
It’s true. Many factors can slow down your blog, from plugins, to hosting issues, to – you guessed it – ads.
Yes, ads slow down your website. A test done by Steve Souders, website speed expert, author, and Google employee, proved it.
Why give readers another reason to bounce from your site?
11. Blog Ads Sell Your Readers For Cents
Many bloggers who turn pro do so by transforming loyal readers into happy customers of their products or services.
But if you try to monetize your blog through ads, your readers are the products. And you’re selling them to Google for a few cents on the dollar.
What message does it send to your readers when you treat them as a commodity? That your blog is really just the front end of an operation to traffic readers to the highest bidder?
You’ll struggle to convince your readers that you truly care when your blog proves that you’d give them up in an instant.
A blog’s readers are its most precious asset. Don’t throw that away under the banner of “covering your hosting costs.”
12. Blog Ads Force You to Give Up Control of Your Content
Most successful bloggers are control freaks. At least when it comes to their blogs.
And you’re probably the same way.
After all, your blog is your baby. You’ve worked hard to build it to where it is today, and to do that, you need to have full control over it, right?
Well, advertising forces you to relinquish some of that editorial control.
Because when you place ads on your site, you don’t control the look of each ad, the copy on the ads, or where the click takes you.
It’s like giving a stranger your WordPress login and hoping they only post content you like.
Putting ads on your blog compromises your power. It puts responsibility for some of your content in the hands of someone else. Someone who couldn’t give a damn about your blog.
13. Blog Ads Make You Look Like an Amateur
A big part of growing a popular blog is building relationships with influencers.
Influencers give you reach far beyond your own audience and can help you grow your blog faster than you could by going it alone.
But influencers are smart people, and most recognize that blogs ads are a huge waste of time for all but the largest of blogs.
So when you reach out to those influencers, what happens when they visit your site and see it’s plastered with ads? Will they still view you as credible?
Approaching an influencer when your blog has ads is like attending a networking event and handing out business cards with a coupon for a local steak house on the back.
Chances are, any influencer will conclude one of two things:
- You’re naive to think that advertising is a good strategy for a blogger.
- Your blog can’t be successful if the few dollars you’ll make in a month from ads are so important that you’re willing to endure all the disadvantages.
Either way, if influencers don’t see you as credible, they won’t want to build a relationship with you. They won’t share your content or interact with you either.
Building a popular blog without influencer relationships is like trying to climb a steep hill wearing shackles. It’s possible, but it is far more difficult.
Ads make you look like an amateur. And influencers aren’t impressed by amateurs.
“So Blog Ads Suck… But How Do Blogs Make Money Without Ads?”
So, you’re convinced that putting ads on your blog is a terrible idea.
Does that mean you have to absorb the costs of running your blog and continue working your tail off, never to earn a dime for your hard work?
The truth is, the vast majority of truly successful bloggers have built careers from their blogs without resorting to blog ads. At least not ads in the usual sense.
How do they do it?
Well, instead of selling your readers through advertising, sell to your readers. Be involved in the transaction – don’t hand it off to a stranger.
Sell something you’ve built yourself. Use the bond with your readers for good not evil. Build something for them, not around them.
Luckily, you have plenty of ways to do just that.
Idea #1: Offer a Service To Get Your Audience Unstuck
The easiest way to start your blog, help your audience and start monetizing without ads is to offer a service.
Services are the fastest track to earning good money from your blog because they don’t take much to get up and running.
Two popular services offered by bloggers are:
- Coaching: Jon Morrow has offered one-to-one coaching in the past, and this is how many bloggers choose to monetize their blogs initially (including myself).
- Consulting: Naomi Dunford, the blogger behind IttyBiz, offers small business consulting to her base of loyal fans.
Offering a service to your audience is also a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what your audience needs and wants while still earning money from your blog.
Idea #2: Create a Product Your Audience Will Love
Since you’ve spent so much time getting to know your audience, why not create your own products to meet their needs?
That may be an information product, such as:
- E-books: The popular travel blogger “Nomadic Matt” from the blog of the same name has monetized his blog by delivering information to his readers through e-books.
- Courses: His Royal Awesomeness Jon Morrow creates courses such as his popular guest blogging program, Guestblogging.com and Blog Launch Formula for his followers.
- Membership Sites: Corbett Barr from the popular blog Think Traffic partnered with two other bloggers and rolled his blog into the popular membership site for entrepreneurs, Fizzle.co. Jon has Serious Bloggers Only.
Or maybe you could offer a physical product, such as:
- Books: Many bloggers publish books as a form of monetization, like Jeff Goins has done with his new book, The Art of Work.
- T-Shirts: Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend created a t-shirt line based on inspirational sayings voted on by his readers.
- Accessories: The husband and wife bloggers behind the popular DIY blog Young House Love created a line of home goods which are sold at Target.
With the right research, you can create a product that sells like crazy from day one.
Idea #3: Sell Someone Else’s Awesome Product
If you don’t want to offer a service or develop your own product, another popular form of monetization is acting as an affiliate for products and services you love.
Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income does this extremely well (as you’ll note when you see his income reports) by acting as an affiliate in an honest and trustworthy way by only promoting products he genuinely believes in.
Idea #4: Get Creative By Monetizing Your Unique Skills
The best part about blogging is that you run the show. Many bloggers have unique skills beyond writing and blogging, so why not find a way to use those talents to monetize your blog?
There are hundreds of examples of creative ways people did just this. Consider:
- Henneke from Enchanting Marketing who uses her blog as a means to promote her freelance writing services, thereby catapulting her into a booming online career.
- The hilarious blogger behind Hyperbole and a Half who used her blog as a platform to promote her comical cartoons.
- Nathan Barry who has used his aptitude for app design to monetize, a process which he outlines in his App Design Handbook.
- Noah Kagan from the popular blog OK Dork who saw a need in the market and built a plugin for website owners called SumoMe.
- Derek Halpern, the author of the popular blog Social Triggers, who developed software called Zippy Courses to help his audience create courses too.
- Chris Guillebeau, from the Art of Non-Conformity, saw the need for a conference in his niche. The World Domination Summit is now celebrating the 5th anniversary.
- Chris Ducker and Pat Flynn host one-day events called 1-Day Business Breakthrough.
These are examples of what other people have done with their skills. How can you use your unique skills to monetize your blog?
Abandon The Ads and Monetize Your Blog the Right Way
You’re a serious blogger.
You work hard on your blog and you deserve to be rewarded.
That’s why you’re looking for ways to monetize.
And nobody can blame you for thinking that advertising might be the answer – it’s a common belief.
But now you know the truth – advertising is a terrible way to make a living from your blog.
It’s distracting for you and your readers, it makes you look like a cheap amateur, and perhaps worst of all, the amount of money it pays is almost embarrassing.
So if your blog has ads for products and companies you don’t know and certainly don’t endorse, it’s time to strip them out.
Instead, offer something of your own. Partner with someone you trust.
Because if you’re going to use your valuable blog space for something other than content, it had better be something you’re proud of.
And it might just give you a shot at that lifestyle you’ve been dreaming about.