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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Advertising as a source of revenue

When I started this blog five years ago, I wasn't entirely sure where I was going to go with it. For example, I wanted to use it to promote my worldview, but I didn't want it to be politically partisan. I wanted it to be a place where I would lay out my point of view in such a clear an irrefutable manner that anyone who read what I had written would have no choice but to abandon whatever positions they had previously held and accept mine as the obvious and only rational choice.

But that changed fairly quickly.

Another thing that changed, albeit more slowly, was my decision not to have advertising on my site. I wanted my writing to be free of any taint of sponsorship that having ads might imply. But Google quickly took care of that by imposing context-sensitive ads on all Blogspot blogs, sometimes with humorous results. That went away after a little while, and the ads were replaced by the Blogger toolbar at the top of the page. Once again, my blog was free of the taint of advertising. Who needed that filthy money, anyway? (Not that bloggers were getting any money from the ads back then.)

In February 2007 I lost my job. And I quickly realized that I needed that filthy money.

I've written about my decision to install AdSense before. The revenue from these ads has been very nearly negligible. It reached a peak in late June and early July of last year, for reasons unknown to me, but has since fallen off dramatically.

Part of the problem may be me. I've tweaked the ads a few times to try to increase their effectiveness, but each time my efforts have seemed to have the opposite effect. Part of the problem may be the AdSense program. It assigns semi-random ads to many of my posts, since my writing covers such a broad range of topics that it is virtually impossible for the 'bots that assign the ads to say "oh, this blog is about astronomy," "oh, this blog is about photography," or "oh, this blog is about stained glass windows." The AdSense program itself has been tweaked lately, eliminating some useful features - like the referrals feature, where I could advertise popular programs like FireFox and earn revenue based on installs by people clicking through from my site. AdSense has also modified its pay rates, apparently, though the metrics upon which these are based are so baffling that it is almost impossible to know for sure. And, of course, it is AdSense itself that is keeping track of how many legitimate clicks are coming from a given site, so there is a large element of trust there.

I'm working again, and have been since August of 2007, though lately my job situation has become...well, somewhat day-to-day. Unstable. Uncertain. Not good. And as you may have noticed, there aren't many alternatives out there, for me or for anyone else.

Advertising revenue would help. If I could figure out the magic formula to get people to legitimately click on my ads, things would definitely be looking up. Getting 10% of visitors to check out a single ad each day is my goal. Right now my rate is less that 0.1%.

It seems like an easy enough thing, but I just haven't figured it out. And then I read this article in last week's Newsweek:

Growing Rich by Blogging Is a High-Tech Fairy Tale - Daniel Lyons, Techtonic Shifts, Newsweek.com

For two years I was obsessed with trying to turn a blog into a business. I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea. I rationalized this insane behavior by telling myself that at the end of this rainbow I would find a huge pot of gold. But reality kept interfering with this fantasy.
Well, I'm certainly not of the mindset that I can get rich through my blog. (See "How to get Rich with Adsense", Part 1 and Part 2.) But a little supplemental income, a hundred-dollar check every few months, would be nice. Is that asking so much?

Technorati, a blog researcher, estimates that bloggers who run ads earn an average of $5,060 per year.
...err, apparently not.

Part of the trick, I am sure, is to increase my reader base. The Technorati estimate above is skewed by a few dozen blogs that attract over a million visitors a day. My average number of daily visitors peaked a few months ago, for reasons I'd rather not get into, but even then ad revenue was just a fraction of what It was in June and July of last year.

There are things I can do about that: visit and comment on more of the popular sites, with comments that link back to my site. Publicize my site more. Write more about hot-topic issues that will attract more search engine traffic.

None of that will guarantee increased ad clicks. So I will continue to experiment with the layout of the ads on this site, to make them more visible without being excessively intrusive.

(Did you know that the Google search boxes at the top and bottom of my page are also considered ads? Though I'm not entirely sure how they work. Either you have to do a search through them and click on a sponsored link in the results, or you have to do a search, click on a sponsored link, and buy something. I'm still a little unclear on this.)

I'm also aware that there are other advertising revenue services out there. But I don't know if any of them are any more effective than what I've got now. And I'd hate to bog down this site with ads, and unleash a flurry of privacy-invading cookies on my visitors, just in the hopes of earning a few more pennies a day.

I'll keep on plugging away. Keep on at my post-a-day pace. Keep hoping that more people will legitimately click on the ads. (Legitimately! Don't think you'd be doing me a favor by clicking on each ad a zillion times. All that will do is get me banned from the program for life.)

If anyone has any suggestions, or knows of other, more effective ways of monetizing my blog, please let me know.

And look over the ads once in a while. If there's something that catches your eye or sparks your interest, why not check it out?

8 comments:

Marc said...

I didn't even know you had ads until you just mentioned it.

qwerty said...

...

Hey D. B. ... the answers are right over there in your google ad-bar: Need To Make Money Fast? and Ride the Blog Gravy Train

Ha..!! Too funny . . .or maybe not to you.


...tom...
'morsolat' and then 'epighane'

D.B. Echo said...

The meta-irony: I am forbidden to click on those links! Doing so is one of the many things that can get me banned from the program for life.

MaryRuth said...

One of your banner ad thingys was for "sassy monkey shoes" or some such thing..I always had to laugh about that one. Haven't seen it for a while though.
Some food bloggers get book deals and magazine articles. One is going to be a movie. Plus swag from companies that then want them to use/review it on their blogs.

whimsical brainpan said...

I'll click on an ad every time I visit. It can't hurt.

D.B. Echo said...

MaryRuth, those are "Naughty Monkey Shoes"! And I had no idea what those were until Dr. Isis started blogging about them.

http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2008/11/take_a_walk_in_dr_isiss_shoes.php

Whim, thanks for the clicks. I generally ignore the ads on other people's sites, but I've been trying to make an effort to give them a once-over and click on anything that looks interesting.

MaryRuth said...

Wow! I had no clue they were something legit! I assumed it was something X-rated. =)

...tom... said...

...

MaryRuth, those are "Naughty Monkey Shoes"! And I had no idea what those were until Dr. Isis started blogging about them.

Have you shared that with Dr. I. D.B..?? She would find that funny I am sure...


...tom...

. . .'miste' for word veri...