Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Advertising

I've been thinking a lot lately about advertising on my blog, and felt the urge to write about it. This post is a little long, but I haven't been blogging super-regularly lately, so why don't we just average it all out and call it a day, eh?

I received an email a few weeks ago from a "fellow money blogger and saver" who wanted to make me "a little offer." Basically, the company this fellow works for would pay me $18 per month in exchange for placing a text link to their website on my website. Fine. Except when I responded to further investigate this offer, he revealed that the link did not need to be in a prominent place, it just had to be on the site somewhere. I didn't have to write anything about it, or even claim to know anything about the company. This raised a red flag for me - obviously, they are using link-placement to boost their pagerank on Google search results. After asking a few people about this, I learned that this is fairly common, and why wouldn't it be? Bloggers often need money, and this is an easy way for companies to boost their placement in results. However, as a former Googler, I just can't do it. To me, this is fraudulent inflation, taking advantage of the algorithm if you will.

I'm not saying this is anything new. I know it's not groundbreaking or scandalously revealing. But this is the first time I've been directly confronted with the choice to make easy money ($18 a month, wow) to do something I don't really feel comfortable with. Maybe it's the "do good things and help people" mentality I was raised with, or maybe it's just the fact that I still feel a sense of commitment to supporting Google's mission and ideals. Either way, I just don't feel right receiving money to help a company take advantage of the system.

So, that's out. I wrote to the salesman (because, let's be honest, that's what he is), thanked him for his interest in advertising on my blog, and told him that I just did not feel comfortable with this type of advertising. He hasn't responded, and I don't expect that he will. I'm sure he's moved on to someone else, and I know there are a lot of people out there who do put text-link ads on their blogs, and that's their deal. No judgement here, it's just not for me. But what now? Is there still a chance for me to monetize this blog? Do I care?

As you may or may not have noticed, I use AdSense Advertisements on this blog. I've made about $4 in ads over the last two years or so, which leads me to believe that this is not the best form of moneymaking. Go figure. BUT the purpose of this blog is not to make money. I write this blog because I like to write, and I have things to say, and regardless of whether or not people find it interesting, I enjoy putting it out there. In writing. And sometimes pictures.

But I digress.

I tried AdSense because it seemed like a good idea. I mean, I don't have to do anything and money will appear in my account? Sweet! I suppose it works better if people actually, oh I don't know, click on the ads, but I didn't think about that. I just slapped them in areas I thought wouldn't be too intrusive, and hoped for the best. And to tell you the truth, I mostly ignore them myself. I log into my AdSense account fairly infrequently, and have thought of it mostly as a mostly-passive experiment in using the AdSense program. I did work for the AdWords team at Google, after all. I might as well use a related product. A few weeks ago, I decided to try placing ads in more visible places on my blog, to see if more people would click on them. Not so much a success. Maybe this is because many of you subscribe via RSS feeds rather than visiting directly (I know I view 99% of the blogs I read on my Google Reader). Maybe, like me, you don't tend to click on the ads anyway, whether you see them or not. Either way, they don't seem to be making much of a difference.

So...do I leave them up or take them down? I think I'll leave them up for now, and I'll review the literature online about improving your AdSense revenue to see if there are easy ways to up my CTR. Google just out an email about updating Privacy Policies - I didn't even have any posted on my blog in the first place. If you click on an ad, the advertiser may "drop a cookie" - that's the gist of the privacy policy. My understanding is that just about everything online these days "drops cookies" though, so it's not really as intrusive as it sounds. Do what you want. Click or don't click. It's your choice. How's that?

The moral of the story is that this blog was not started in the interest of making money, but if it ends up doing so, that's fine by me. I will continue to write what I want to write, and you can continue to read if you want to read, and whatever happens with that will happen. Honestly, simply, and on my own terms.


  1. Interesting. I've not been contacted by any salespeople, and I would be just as skeptical as you. I've actively sold product, and I feel you have to try and believe in a product before you can "sell" it. At least AdSense is mostly related to your blog topic (I'm laughing, because right next to your discussion of AdSense, is an ad for Kohler Kitchen Sinks - k, not so related to the topic). I guess I've gotten a few clicks, because they are things that my readers are interested in. Not enough to receive a check yet, but you're right. It's not the point of the blog. The point of the blog is to share thoughts and ideas. And I think AdSense is a good tool along those lines because it's (usually) related.

  2. Have you thought about applying to a blog ad network like BlogHer or Commission Junction? I don't know enough personally to know if they're worthwhile, but it's an idea. Also, I've seen a lot of blogs with Amazon referral links, so you can like recommend products?

  3. I hadn't thought about BlogHer or Commission Junction, but I'll check 'em out! Thanks, Shannalee!