We’ve all seen it: websites and blogs that offer up great content suddenly becoming littered with ads. Sometimes it happens overnight- but more often than not, it starts slowly: an ad here, some Adsense there, another ad here, and so on- until the blog looks like it’s almost all ads, but you really can’t tell, since the ads look so much like the content. Sound familiar? When this happens, there’s just one thing I want to do: leave the site.
Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with monetizing your blog- not at all. Just that you can do it without necessarily uglifying your previously clean and beautiful site. Here, some tips to keep in mind when monetizing your blog:
Keep the ads relevant. If you blog about web hosting, feature ads from web hosting companies. If you blog about your pet labrador Mimi a lot, you want ads that will appeal to other labrador owners- maybe ads for dog biscuits or training videos. Services like Google Adsense, of course, make this easy: they’ll target the ads for you based on your content.
Make it look like an ad. Okay, I know you’re likely to get paid more if an unsuspecting visitor clicks on something thinking it’s part of your content and not an ad. The problem I have is with the word “unsuspecting”: by doing this, you’re fooling that visitor- and nobody likes being fooled. Let people know when an ad is an ad.
Choose ads that suit your design. Yes, you should make the ads look like ads- but at the same time, you don’t want them to stand out too much. The key is placing ads that complement your site- and that’s your content and your design.
Consider using RSS advertising. There are lots of sites I love reading, but hardly ever visit; I subscribe to their RSS feeds instead. Somehow, ads in RSS feeds don’t bother me as much. They’re usually unobtrusive, and if you have a good RSS subscriber base, can bring in a decent amount of money.
Do not use pop-up advertising. Ever.
Find other methods of monetization. You don’t have to place ads to make money off your blog- consider merchandising (CafePress, for example), affiliate sales (especially of products you review), or simply asking for donations (e.g. “Liked this post? Buy me a beer!”)
The most important thing is to be selective. You want your visitors to become regular visitors, and the best way to do that is to give them what they came for: not a bunch of messy ads, but your posts, your voice, your content.