A blog reader named Alicia asked me an interesting blogging question the other day.
Hi Abby, I remember reading something from you awhile ago about when you decided to take the leap from your blog being a hobby to really making it a career and why you chose not to get involved with affiliate marketing and google ads even though almost everyone else is. It’s something I have gone back and forth with since. I really admired that confidence to our your brand first.
My current question/dilemma is sort of similar. These “round-up” type posts are extremely popular right now. I have mixed feelings about them. I could create a bunch of round-up type posts and include affiliate links but where’s the fine line between that being beneficial (bringing in traffic and money) and those being harmful (in the sense they are taking business away from you)? I was really curious what your opinion is.
Alicia is referring to a post I wrote in 2015 about my decision to not do affiliate marketing. I’ve flexed some since then. I’ve been an Amazon affiliate for several years now and use Amazon affiliate links in my podcast show notes and gift guides.
I still don’t have ads on my blog. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making money through ads. I have ads on my podcast and classified ads in my newsletter. Creating media, whether it’s a blog post, a podcast episode, or an email newsletter, takes an incredible amount of time and effort. Content creators need to get paid and selling your audience to advertisers is one way to do that.
As a content creator myself, I try to shift perspectives and think about my blog from the perspective of a reader. Sometimes ads are confusing to readers (this is part of the post? or is this an ad?) and sometimes ads can slow a site down. But most of all, it’s important to realize as a reader that when you’re consuming a blog that has ads you’re not really consuming that content for free: the advertiser is tracking your views and clicks and is using that information for their own profit. So while it may seem like its free, you are actually the product.
Once you’ve sold your audience to advertisers you become motivated to get as many views and clicks as possible. That motivation starts to determine the kind of posts you write. As Alicia rightly points out, round-up posts are an attractive genre because they tend to be big traffic drivers; on Pinterest an image promising 30 free pincushion patterns is going to get lots of repins and clickthroughs. These types of pins tend to build up steam over time so the more round-up posts you can generate the more ad income you’ll earn as the months and years go by. My friend, Stephanie, at SwoodsonSays, is doing a great job building a revenue-generating blog this way. (She talks about how her ads work here).
When you choose not to have ads, you’re choosing to give up that income stream, especially if you have a sizable audience. Instead, you’re giving your audience a really clean reading experience, meaning all that they see on the page is what you’ve put there. Embroidery designer Kelly Fletcher and sewing pattern designer Sarah Kirsten have blogs like this. How does it affect your motivation as a blogger when you don’t have ads? Who are you writing for and why?
This is not to say that ad-free bloggers don’t care about clicks or about earning money. Writing an intriguing headline, optimizing the post’s SEO, creating attractive images for Pinterest, all of these things are important to anyone trying to build an online audience. And so, to answer your question Alicia, round-up posts definitely have a place (I did one not long ago: 10 sewing YouTubers to watch). But in order to generate revenue, you’ve got to do something else with those visitors when they arrive on your site from that pin. If you’re not selling their attention to advertisers, you should be capturing it for yourself. A pop-up or slider that invites visitors to sign up for your newsletter or follow you on Instagram is key.