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can i make money blogging? We're answering that question / jones design company

By far the most asked questions about blogging are centered around money. Can I make money? If so, how much? And how exactly do I go about it?

The topic of blog monetization is far too big to cover in one post (sorry!). Rather than answer the big question, I’m excited to talk about just a small part that I have a big opinion on.

Even though it’s still a fairly new occupation, some blogs have become quite lucrative and have inspired the rest of us to capture a piece of the online market for ourselves. What most of us assume is that ad revenue is the best and only way to earn an income from our blogs. This has been the traditional method of monetizing (either through privately paid ads, google adsense or through larger advertising networks).  While there is money to be made, the trend is moving away from counting on ads as your main source of income. With a more saturated blogging market, advertisers have lowered their pay-out rates and readers are more savvy to the ads – often skipping right over them – thus reducing profits.  The earning potential just isn’t what it was only a few years ago.

I have tried ads. Several times. Early on I offered private ad space to small shops but the time and effort it took to manage them eventually negated the profits, so I discontinued offering the space. Two years ago, after a few further-along bloggers shared what they were making monthly with ads, I decided to join an ad network (insert dollar-signs-in-eyeballs emoji). We tried out those ads for about a week before I just couldn’t take it.

Today, I’m going to break a few rules, probably stir up differing opinions and share with you my 5 Reasons for Going Ad-Free.

1. Aesthetics

The number one reason I just can’t handle putting ads on my site is how they look.  As a designer and one who loves a pretty space, cluttering up my blog with ads that don’t match my narrow aesthetic feels messy and chaotic. I want my content to stand out and having outside ads becomes distracting. I’m not a fan of animated ads, not a fan of popover ads or ones that sneak into the middle of posts that you can’t figure out how to get past.

I realize that the bloggers who have ads on their sites aren’t big fans either. No one really likes how they look. But they pay and support the work of the blogger (because we all know that a lot of time goes in to blogging and getting paid is important!). A hard-working blogger should be paid for her work and readers can be gracious to overlook the ads if this is how the blogger is making money.

Because I choose not to allow ads on my site, I’ve had to come up with other ways to earn an income – namely, creating my own products. It’s challenging and time-consuming and yet the payout has been much greater than if I had stuck with ads from the beginning.

2. Click Aways

The point of an advertisement is to get a reader to click on it. And when clicked, that reader is taken off the blog to a new site. Yes, you might receive a small payment for that click (like very small) and if you have lots and lots of traffic, you might pull in a decent paycheck. But isn’t the goal of blogging to keep people on your site? You want your readers to engage with your content, click through different pages, share on social media, leave comments, interact. If so, sending them away to another site is not in your long-term best interest.

Additionally, if you sell your own products, you want to use your prime blog real estate (top banner, above the fold, sidebar) to advertise your offerings. By giving your readers only a few places to pay attention to (like your email opt-in form, your shop, a freebie you’re using as marketing) your response will be much greater, which in turn will impact your blog’s growth and revenue. Avoiding unnecessary clicks away from your site is important.

3. Control Over Content

You don’t always get to choose what types of ads are displayed. Most ad networks do a good job of keeping them appropriate, but they are not always applicable to your audience. That was one of our main complaints about the ad network we used. We just didn’t feel like the ads were relevant and if I wouldn’t promote the product or company in real life, I didn’t want to on the blog.

One way to run ads while still maintaining control of content is to offer private ad space and manually approve the blogs/businesses that take a spot. I like how this method supports other small business in your space by sharing them with your readers, but again, the concern is that you will be sending clicks away from your site and taking up space advertising for other companies rather than using the space for your own products.

4. Low Payout

Getting any paycheck, especially when you first start out, feels amazing. You spend a lot of time on your site and getting a check in the mail – even if it’s just for a few dollars – makes it feel more justified. The unfortunate part about ads is that you are paid pennies until you have a high-traffic site. Most ad networks pay a small amount (say $1-5) per 1000 impressions. So if you have 1000 monthly readers, you’ll receive $1-5 at the end of the month. Take the same payout rate and up your monthly traffic to 100,000, your check will increase to $100-500.  The higher your traffic, the more profitable you can be.

The problem is that growing to 100,000 monthly readers takes time! Early in our blogging story, it became imperative that JDC started turning a profit or else I would need to take a step away. With all of the time I was spending blogging and the costs associated with running a blog (not huge expenses, but we were a young family with not a lot of extra money each month to spare) we had to figure out a faster way to make money than waiting until I could capitalize on ad revenue. Hence, developing and promoting my own products. I am able to make a greater income selling to a smaller audience because I make nearly 100% of the profits.

(Need help coming up with product ideas? We’ll share a handful in the Free Blogging Workshop. Sign up below)

5. The One Type of Ad We Do Like

While you won’t see obvious outside ads displayed on the blog, I will confess that ad revenue is part of my monthly income. From time to time, I post about a product, a book, a company I like and link with an affiliate code. When a reader clicks on that link and completes a purchase, I make a small percentage of the sale. It’s a form of advertising called Affiliate Marketing. Again, the payout is low (like less than 10% of the purchase price in most cases), but if it is a product or resource I would share anyway, I always look to see if there is an affiliate program I can earn through.

So even though I say I’m anti-ad, we do encourage naturally incorporating affiliate products into your posts.


Whew. Do you still like me? Did I ruffle any ad-loving feathers?

Here’s the thing: ads aren’t bad. Monetizing your blog with ads is not wrong. They’re just not for everyone. And if you feel like they’re not for you either, you have our full support in proceeding with your blog going the ad-free route.

Let’s chat about this money-making without ads thing. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts …


Want to learn much, much more about how to make money with your blog? You’re invited to join The Blog Class, an online class that will teach you everything you ought to know about blogging.