Options for adding Advertising to a Blog

Recently I was saying I want to do some redesign and cleanup on Comparative Geeks. A major reason why is that we are considering doing this sort of work is because we are thinking about taking our now year-old blog and making it more our own. Registering a real, paid domain. Adding advertising to make a little money from the blog – maybe enough to cover the domain cost? Or how about all the various media that we consume to talk about on the blog?

So I am going to consider some of the things we are going through in our consideration process, for moving towards making a little money with the blog. There are other, major considerations – such as, blogging consistently, and having content, and readers, and commenters. Building a community, and delivering consistently. I’d like to think we at least have the solid start to this. I talked about a lot of what we’ve done with community building recently as well.

So I have done some research, and it’s told me that I likely don’t have good answers for you. So instead, I have links and my thoughts, on adding advertising to a blog.

Advertising with WordPress

So first, and maybe just because they advertise it so much when I log in to WordPress, I was considering WordPress, and their WordAds service. WordAds is new and interesting, it seems, so there was a lot of talk about it. First, there is a great ten list about WordAds from WordPress: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/wordads/ So while I could link to a lot of other pages – especially the various parts of the WordAds site – they’ve already done so in this post. It’s a good starting place for considering this option.

I’ll give you a minute to read that.

Alright, so the content being family-friendly… I think that’s a check, and if we tossed in a couple of curse words, I feel that a quick search of the blog could help squash those in no time. You have to pay to have the domain, but ComparativeGeeks.com sounds good to me. I worry about losing some of the connectivity to the rest of the world of WordPress, but I think with them hosting it still on WordPress.com that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

And as I have read many people point out, these sorts of ads already show up on a WordPress blog – but it’s WordPress making the money on it, not you. So just the domain mapping and redirect is $18 a year… so could it make the $18?

That, to me, was the bigger question than “would they accept us?” If they didn’t, that just means either we know we’d be making nothing… or it’s time to explore other options. However, is it worth the simple $18 cost of hosting the domain?

Let’s look at a few impressions.

This one seems like they were in with some of the earlier ads – it seems like now all the ads are YouTube videos. They also had some theme concerns, so that is something to think about – would we need a redesign? Or to pay for a theme?

So this blogger had even lesser earnings, and raised another good – and less-publicized – point. You have to earn $100 before they will pay you anything. So at $5 a month, that’s 20 months before you see a dime. And in the end, it’s still only 1000 dimes.

This one was fascinating, because it was on the forums. There was the obligatory guy trying to get the real figure or formula out of them, and the employee who of course cannot do so. When you get past that, there are some strong points about how bloggers have seen more income from other types of advertising.

Because of the type of advertising, this makes sense. WordAds is based on impressions – the number of people who see the ad. This means it’ll do better and better the more views you have – making things like good (and lots of) content, good searchability, and community really important. Thus why I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot lately! But advertising by impression does pay out less than the alternatives, because there’s no real proof it’s doing anything.

A couple of alternatives are advertising based on click-throughs – such as Google’s AdSense – and affiliate programs, where someone has to not only click through, but has to buy something! So I turned to these to consider.

Advertising with Google

So I found a few important information pages for AdSense.

To use AdSense with our blog, we would have to host it ourselves through WordPress.org, and would have to export/import it over there, likely fix a ton of links since I like to link back to our own content, and then there’s the cost of the hosting, themes, etc. Much of this is in theory free, but has a cost.

Then, you have to submit the blog to Google for their approval – and if we got shut down, well, that was a lot of work for nothing. So there are strong risk factors with this route as well, and it would require a certain amount of conviction on our part to go this way. And while I still feel like we are “family friendly” as they require, and while I do believe we do have “unique and original content” (much of that definition is really just that you shouldn’t copy and paste the web… no plagiarism for you!), what about the copyright question?

Because while our blog is free and earning us nothing, our use of photos and such from around the web – which we include links to in the captions – should fall under Fair Use. I did some reading on this, too:

Some of the problem is with using the whole of a single image. In some ways, my screenshots of comic parts are less of an issue, because they are part of the whole; however, I’ve been bad about labeling these, although it’s clear in context. This makes it clear why things like memes have proliferated: they’re transformative. They’re clearly fair use.

So when I talked about going through the blog and cleaning up the metadata, I said there were other reasons to troll through the blog. And the other reasons are to look through and see how solid it is for copyright; to clean up any missing links or descriptors. Because this would need to be in really good shape before presenting it to either WordAds or AdSense.

But even so, once you’re making money on it… would our use go from Fair Use to infringement? There’s no easy answers.

Advertising with Amazon

However, not to be discouraged: what about the affiliate programs?

WordPress has this to say, as well, about affiliate programs: http://en.support.wordpress.com/affiliate-links/ So we could add this right now to our blog! And better yet, because we’re constantly talking about products we’ve consumed – reviewing them, critiquing them, recommending them – it’s an easy addition to link to Amazon for the page to buy the product. It would not be out of place, or feel forced, and it would just be there if someone felt so inclined.

And the payout, according to Amazon, is actually pretty good. For one thing, they pay based on people buying once they’ve clicked through – but buying anything, not just the item you linked to. Then, it’s a percentage based on what’s bought – a good-sized percentage. And they present the information to you up front, which is better than the other two alternatives.

So if we added affiliates, I would actually consider part of going through and cleaning up the rest of the site… and adding affiliates links where appropriate. After all, there are still people finding older posts through search engines, so there’s some value there. Especially on a few of our most-read posts; there could be some payoff.

This is also some of the lowest risk: not having to pay anything really to get it set up. No hosting fee, no moving the blog around. We could just see how it goes.

Of course, the best sort of advertising plan is to have income coming in through a variety of channels: affiliates, impressions, clicks… and then creating and selling your own content, like art, merch, or books. Some months, one will be better; some months, another. But for now, when we’re considering minimal change to our current lifestyle, and not even really wanting to supplement our income with it, this might just be the right move. Start it out, see if it makes us anything, and see if other options make sense. And, do the cleanup efforts on the blog, so it’s more ready to take a bigger step if we so choose.

What’s your experience with monetizing a blog? Any results numbers you can provide from the above services? Let me know in the comments below!



About CompGeeksDavid
Co-founder, editor, podcaster, web comicer, forum moderator, and writer for Comparative Geeks. Father, husband, geek, nerd, gamer, librarian, Christian, Libertarian, Science Fiction philosopher, and probably a number of other descriptors.

4 Responses to Options for adding Advertising to a Blog

  1. Gene'O says:

    I think it’s great that you’re far enough along to think about monetizing, but I don’t know much about it at this point. Personally, I’d love to own some adspace and use it to pay for a domain, generate a little marketing money for our best posts, and maybe pay some contributors a quarterly dividend. That would make me very happy.

    Fair use is very murky once you go commercial. My understanding is that you can claim fair use for critical work or reviews whether you’re generating ad revenue or not; but once you monetize, you can’t do things like mashups or fanfic without permission. So a comic book cover with proper credit would be ok to go with a review, but something like the alignments of Batman might not be ok.

    That’s all the guidance I can offer on it at this point, and I’m not confident that I understand it well enough to comment at all.


    • I agree, it is murky and confusing and I think I’m going to need to delve deeper, so expect more on copyright to come!

      And I was thinking that things like the “mashups” of something like an alignment grid is transformative – you’re adding new/your own meaning to the works. Much like with a meme – you’ve taken an image, and changed the meaning. But I have no idea if this interpretation would hold up in court! Since there are no easy answers around copyright.


  2. Good luck — that’s cool that you’re taking it to a professional level. The trick is balance: to generate traffic you sometimes have to think in terms of writing about what’s ‘trending’, but not so much that you end up losing your own voice in the process, because in the long run, that’s what’s going to bring people in on a regular basis. On the editorial side I would suggest once you get things set up, get yourself on as many press lists as possible — you might be able to score review copies of things, but at the least you can often get access to official assets from the content producers, so you don’t have to worry as much about clearances, copyrights and such for images.

    I’ll also give a suggestion for a webhost — I use Dreamhost for my DoorMan webcomic, and they’ve been great to work with — I use WP.org with that and I’ve had almost no problems, and we just started our second year. The one time I did need help due to some boneheaded thing I did, their tech support was right on top of it via e-mail to help me fix it, even at 3 AM. We don’t generate the kind of traffic that causes much in the way of problems, but I chose DH based on the recommendation of other webcomics creators, because it’s true, you get what you pay for, and some of the ultra-cheap hosts can’t deal well if you do happen to have something go viral and get a huge amount of attention. You don’t want to have something hit and then have the site go down just when you could benefit. There’s a ton of free themes — we had a very particular need in that we needed to display a comic book sized page at a specific size and resolution and I was eventually able to find something that fit our needs and looks nice. (DH is very reasonable, about $10 a month depending on the plan you want.)


    • Thinking about going professional, and actually being able to pull it off, are two very different things! I don’t think we have the amounts of traffic that people in the posts I linked to have – but we have reached a point where we are getting some very solid and stable views, so it was time to think about it.

      In many ways, you have a much better setup than we do – you have your blogging for interaction, community, and the personal input. Then, you have a real product that you have created, with the blog as part marketing, part Web 2.0 interaction with your audience.

      In many ways, though, this made me feel like I really need to get to writing fiction – to have that other, related product as part of the mix.


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