Straight out of the gate I’m going to acknowledge that this post won’t apply to everybody. But there are plenty of folks out there for whom it will apply. The plain and simple truth is that your blog should probably be ad free.
I saw a post on this topic come through my Twitter feed over the weekend by one particular self published author. He was trying the tactic of patiently explaining to his readers why the ads were there, and that he needed them to pay for his blog. Among the points he made was that the blog costs him $2500 a year to run. My first impression was amazement. He must get a heck of a lot more traffic than I do! But then I read on, and I’m not so amazed. Among that $2500 were the following expenses.
- Site hosting and bandwidth.
- Themes for the blog
- Site design work
Now, this author probably sells a lot more books than I have (so far!). But unless he’s pulling in a lot of money from his books (like well over six figures annually), he’s simply spending too much. Only one item on this list is a required cost: site hosting and bandwidth. That one can – and should – be amortized in other areas. As for themes, there are lots of free themes out there. Pick one you like. It doesn’t matter if it looks like everyone else’s – many of the most popular blogs out there all use only a handful of themes anyway. And those are all free themes. And you don’t need site design work. These days, WordPress does everything but write the posts for you.
Those two factors alone almost certainly accounted for more than half of his $2500 total. They probably accounted for four fifths of it. Cheap site design usually runs in the $300-600 range. It’s not uncommon for it to hit $1500 or more. Themes can easily be a few hundred dollars each.
I pay $98 a year for the site that hosts this blog. But in addition to that, I host three other business related web sites on the same server for the same fee. That means I’m paying $25 a year for hosting. My host has bandwidth limits. I get enough traffic to manage all of those businesses. I’ve never even come close to exceeding my bandwidth limits. And this is paid hosting. There are several decent blog hosting sites out there that are still free, and several more that will host a blog (if that’s all you’re hosting) for $45 a year or so. My only other notable expense for the blog is the annual cost of renewing the domain name itself (around $15).
But the big problem is that he’s looking at his blog in entirely the wrong way. Your blog isn’t a revenue generator. This is the part where I reiterate what I started with – there will be some people out there for whom this isn’t true. Your blog is advertising. Treat it that way, and pay for it that way. If you’re careful, it can be one of the lowest cost advertising methods you use – and it will likely have one of the highest returns on investment (most likely far superior even to social media). But it needs to go in the expense column under ‘advertising.’
Running ads on your blog causes several problems. First, it degrades the user experience. Nobody likes ads, it’s that simple. But beyond that, they’re slow, they’re obnoxious, they eat up your readers’ precious bandwidth (and mobile users, at least, are paying for that!), they frequently cause layout issues. I’ve had sites crash on me due to the ads – and this very writer mentioned the time he spends fighting to keep the ads working right.
Second, you lose readers. Again, this very writer mentioned that he needs the ads… to make up for the revenue he loses when people click through the ads and don’t come back to his site! Your blog is about gaining readers – and potential paying customers! – not running them off.
Third, online advertising pays shit. The revenue you get from it is simply terrible.
But fourth, and most importantly, your blog is your advertising. Keep it focused on you. Advertise yourself, not somebody else.
I ran a very successful blog at this same URL for more than half a decade in the early 2000s. One reason I shut it down because I didn’t have a good way to monetize it at the time – and that included looking at web ads. They just didn’t bring in enough revenue.
I brought the blog back because I figured out the correct way to monetize it: by driving traffic to my other businesses. Blogs are excellent tools for that – one of the best out there. The hows and whys of that are enough to fill an entire other post, but it works (if done right). Forget the ads – make up the revenue by driving traffic to yourself. One click to another site will give you anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars. If you’re an author, one click to yourself (ie, your own page, where you’re selling your book directly – or to Amazon, where you’ll get royalties from it) can give you a few dollars. If you run other businesses, it can be more. With my wife’s videography business, for example, one click could generate up to $2500 in revenue. With my dojo, one click could generate a paying student. The immediate revenue might not be as high. But if that student ends up staying long enough to, say, reach black belt, it will be substantially higher even than that.
There are a very few people who generate enough blog traffic for ads to become a significant revenue source. If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly not one of them. Your blog should be a piece of your sales funnel, and that funnel should end with you – not with somebody else.
Ditch the ads. Pay for your own blog, and chalk it up as a cost of doing business. At the end of the day you’ll get more business from staying ad free.
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