Focus on Content, not Ads
On Monday, Shawn Collins gave some advice to someone just entering the Internet publishing world. One portion of that in particular stood out to me because it was something that was on my list to talk about:
After you’ve posted five to ten times to your blog, check out the affiliate networks for some relevant offers to promote. Don’t fixate on the EPCs – rather look for what is most relevant to you.
Pick two to three merchants that you like and would endorse that relate to your topic and join their affiliate programs. Put up a couple or three ads on the blog and monitor which ones are getting clicks and sales. Test everything and if it’s not working out, try something else.
In addition to some banners and text links as ads, work an affiliate link into your posts if it comes natural – don’t force it.
When you’ve followed all of these steps, add your AWeber account into the mix. There are three things you should try out with AWeber: follow-up e-mails, broadcast e-mails and feed broadcast e-mails (the AWeber site details how to use these).
So in other words, Shawn is advising Mark to monetize his blog right away. I’m not at all in favor of that.
Among the many great things said at the Elite Retreat in December was this piece of unintuitive advice: don’t monetize your site until you hit 1,000 visitors/day. It was Aaron Wall who said it, and I initially disagreed. Why should the number of visitors have any bearing on when you put up ads?
The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I realize he’s right.
Think about it this way: what’s the most important factor to the success of your blog?
Seriously, think about it for a minute. Don’t keep reading. I’ll wait. What’s the single most important factor?
Okay. I think the absolute key to the success of your blog is readers. Think about it. If you don’t have readers, does anything else even matter? Who will see all those ads if no one’s reading your blog? And if no one’s seeing the ads, how are you actually going to make any money?
So, your focus at the beginning has to be on attracting and retaining readers. You do that by having a great site, and nothing turns visitors off more than a brand new blog with just a handful of posts and ads splashed everywhere. It says to them that you’re more interested in making money than you are in providing good content. Who wants a site that’s all sales and no substance?
Now going back to what Aaron said, the 1,000 visitors/day number is a very loose guideline. It may be much more or much less for you. However, the key is to not monetize too early.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure yours is the best it can be. Don’t let ads turn visitors away before they even see what you have to offer.
Tim O’Reilly made the same point just an hour ago now about a very different industry: satellite radio. He then goes on to name other industries where the companies forgot to “pay the user first.” Definitely worth a read.