Last week, Ed Bott announced he had removed advertising from his personal blog. It’s worth reading the whole thing but this quote stands out:
The advertising industry, on the other hand, seems to be engaged in a race to the bottom. I finally got tired of ugly, misleading ads, which in turn were accompanied by tracking code that aggressively monitors your movements on the web.
It’s an opinion that I largely agree with. This may seem hypocritical – after all, I use advertising on my blog. At least, I do for now – I am considering following Ed’s lead and getting rid of the advertising for good.
My income from advertising is drying up
I’ve been carrying advertising from Google Adsense for many years, and October 2005 was probably the high watermark when I earned £175 in one month. Since then, revenue has declined; three years ago £10 a month was typical, and now it’s more like £3 per month. This is despite a brief bump last year when I enabled image-based advertising (as opposed to only text-based) last year.
Hosting this site costs £15 per month so nowadays I’m making a net loss, although it’s one I’m willing to absorb. Blogging has always been a hobby of mine – it’s never been about the money, and I have a day job so the blog doesn’t need to justify itself financially.
As for why the income has gone down, I expect it’s mostly due to falling visitor numbers. Despite my efforts, successive changes to Google’s algorithms have seen this blog’s position in search engine results pages (SERPs) fall, and so less people click through. I could try to encourage people to click on adverts by making them more prominent, but I see that as a hostile move that would be against the interests of the few visitors I have. And, in any case, I tend to attract a more technical audience who probably has ad-blocking software installed. Again, I’m a hypocrite because I myself use Adblock Plus, despite carrying advertising on my own site.
I also have worries about the adverts that do appear on here. Most of the adverts I see on this site are for dating web sites, which doesn’t fit well with the largely technical content of my blog posts. Those that are at least related to computer software tend to be for products that I wouldn’t use or recommend either.
Affiliate links aren’t a cash cow either
About a year ago I belatedly joined Amazon’s Associates programme to earn commission from any clicks from this site. And, so far, I’ve managed to earn a little over £3 in the UK (less than the £5 minimum payout) and $6 in the US. More recently I also signed up to TradeDoubler and LinkShare to get commission for links to iTunes and Apple’s App Stores, which have netted me a mere 20p in Europe and nothing in the US.
Whilst I prefer affiliate links, as they’re less obtrusive and I can control what links I use, they don’t bring in as much money as plain-old banner advertising.
Is it worth just getting rid of it all?
I could follow Ed’s lead and just get rid of all the banner advertising (and just keep the affiliate links). This wouldn’t reduce my income much, but would free up a big chunk of space on the sidebar. It would also give me more flexibility in any re-design and would open the door for a single or double-column layout, instead of the current three columns that I need right now. And there wouldn’t be the visual distraction of a brash advert.
On the other hand, any income is better than no income, and maybe I should be pleased that I’m making any money at all from advertising. I may, however, look into alternatives to Google Adsense – perhaps with smaller and less intrusive adverts.
And there is a third option. I could add a polite request for donations via PayPal (or similar) at the end of every blog post. If one person donated 50p every day, that would cover my hosting bill.
It’s a lot to think about.