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?

Waiting…

Waiting…

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.

Update:
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.


Comments


  • Nate Moller

    February 22, 2007
    at 1:42 am

    I really agree with this! Nothing is more annoying than to see a blog that doesn’t really have quality information but is laced with Adsense, affiliate links and other “monetizing” strategies. That’s why I love Aaron Wall’s Blog: I never feel like he’s trying to directly make extra money on my reading interest. The question I have: what’s the best and easiest way to teach new bloggers to come back to your blog? Thanks for the good content!


     
  • […] Affiliate Marketing Opportunities: as you can see at clogon.blogspot.com and bestdanceshoes.blogspot.com, I have a few different ways to actually make money with these blogs. The first is through Google Adsense, a pay-per-click campaign that makes money as visitors click on the advertising links. Google Adsense is free to set up and can be a great supplemental income to your business plan, at least to start. The other affiliate marketing campaigns on those blogs are the products on the side navigation. These affiliates were found through Commission Junction (www.cj.com). Sign up as a Publisher and start applying for affiliates within your industry or that compliment what you are doing. The pay may not be as good as getting products at a wholesale price and reselling at a retail price but at least you give yourself the opportunity to make money (and the cost is minimal if at all).  Before you start adding tons of ads to your blog, you should probably read about why it is not best to monetize your blog right out of the gate. […]


     
  • […] an attendee from the first Elite Retreat, posted about why it is not best to monetize a blog right out of the gate: So, your focus at the beginning has to be on attracting and retaining readers. You do that by […]


     

  • nika

    February 23, 2007
    at 9:55 am

    I agree tho its likely that you should wait and see if you can maintain that 1000 hits/day for some time.

    I have had people write me to ask my I DONT have ads (these are not advertisers looking to place either, just readers). I think that in some ways a web page with no ads looks odd to people used to seeing and blocking them out.

    I wonder if people see a blog with no ads as some how less professional?

    I move in the food blog world and some blogs are more like photo blogs (but with lots of verbal content too) so the no-ads ethic from the photoblog world can bleed over, to a small extent.

    I have been over that 1000 hpd threshold and have technically “monetized” at various times but have never found the income to be work the visual garbage.

    Food bloggers do it for the love it, we do not make money (except for a few media darlings). It would be great to convert to successful monetization.. that just seems unlikely from my paltry and unscientific experiments :-)


     

  • Shane

    February 23, 2007
    at 11:43 am

    What great comments, Nika! You make several great points, and they just go to show that every situation is different, particularly in blogging. There is no one-size-fits-all advice, so take everything anyone says very cautiously as you apply it to your own situation.


     

  • nika

    February 27, 2007
    at 5:15 pm

    Shane: thanks! With blogging, on Mondays, take everything for granted, on Tuesdays, take it all with a grain of salt, on Wednesdays, try not to hit “delete this blog” and on Thursdays, try not to ask your mom, who has a higher page rank, to give you a link, she just wont do it, and on Fridays, just try to forget about it all, its just blogging right?

    With all this reading about monetization, I am experimenting with more attactive food-specific ads again and I am picking up my posting rate. The result? not much at all and zippo ad clicks. Patience is a virtue.. a hard one.


     

  • Sugarlicious Money from Your Blog

    April 18, 2007
    at 1:02 pm

    […] again, at least) before we spend much time at all on monetization. I can’t say it enough: focus on content, not ads. And spend some time each day attracting new readers, too. It’s just as important to be […]


     
  • […] you definitely want to avoid monetizing too soon. Very few things can kill a site quicker than letting your advertising overwhelm everything […]


     
  • […] I know many of you are dying to make some money with your blog despite my advice to be patient, so I figured I’d throw you a bone today and list the top 10 blogs that I’ve found […]


     
  • […] that are purely informational in nature, some experts suggest to wait until a site can draw around 1,000 visitors per day before placing […]


     
  • […] first step might be counter-intuitive: don’t monetize your blog too soon. I know it’s tempting to put ads up right in the beginning, but trust me: resist the […]


     
  • […] is not in favor of monetizing from the start either. He quotes Aaron Wall as saying “don’t monetize your site until you […]