One of the more exciting aspects of running a website is when you start to think about monetizing your site. Oh yes, my friends. Today we are going to talk cold hard cash and I know that's got you pumped.
Believe it or not, however, this discussion is about way more than just money. It offers a very insightful look into your business strategy, says a lot about how you run your website and also how you want your audience to interact with the website.
More often than not, the first think you'll think about is making money through advertising. Including advertising on a website used to be pretty darn popular. Almost everyone seemed to sign up for an ad network once they reached a somewhat respectable audience size.
So has that changed? This article explores that question and also examine why websites are trending away from advertising.
Back in the day when the the internet was really getting its footing and online publishers were popping up all over the place, advertising started to stake out a prominent place on websites across all industries. Everyone from bloggers to website administrators were incorporating advertising into their websites and the most common way of doing this was by using display ads.
What the heck is a display ad?
Display ads are the most common form of advertising found on websites. More often than not, they appear in one of the follow spots on a website:
- above the webpage content
- below the webpage content
- beside the webpage content
- within the webpage content
There's no doubt that you interact with display ads nearly every time you go online since they are plastered all over sites to this day.
For example, The Huffington Post uses display ads on their website:
As does the Holy Bible of Fashion, Vogue.
Incorporating advertising on a website through display ads is very popular because it is relatively easy to sign up with an ad network or secure direct advertising if the website has a large audience already. Display ads also have a huge reach online: in fact, Google says that they can reach over 90% of internet users around the world. Massive, right?
So wait, if they have such a big reach and are easy to get up and running, it seems obvious that every website would want to incorporate advertising this way....right?
Well, not quite, and here's why.
Pros of display ads
Like we mentioned above, display ads have a very large reach online which is a plus. From a brand's point of view, they are hugely beneficial since it's an easy way to get coverage of their product/service in front of massive audiences.
Another good thing about display ads is that their designs are fairly customizable. The style and format can be switched up, meaning display ads can be produced as images, videos, gifs, text, and even games.
These factors make it tempting for websites to sign up for advertising.
Cons of display ads
On the other side of the coin, we come to the many drawbacks of display ads.
First of all, the management of the ads themselves is not always easy and often the website doesn't have any control over the ads provided.
Another major point to consider is how infrequently users actually click through the display ads. If you consider that the average display ad click through rate is only 0.17%, it's clear that most users are ignoring the ads because they are either annoying or overexposed.
Ads are often thought of as spammy aspects of a website and users rarely applaud a website for advertising them something of value. This is especially true for websites that use ads that autoplay, make a lot of noise, or force you to close/exit out of them if you want to get back to the website. Personally, these drive me up the wall and I lose a lot of respect for websites that annoy me this way.
Don't forget about ad blockers!
Nowadays, people are practically immune to advertising on websites - they usually skim right over them without clicking through or interacting with the ad. Many people find advertising on websites so annoying or distracting that they even go to lengths to block them all together!
This has lead to a rise in the number of people who have installed ad blocker plugins in their browsers. Once these ad blockers are in place, the person is literally blocking the ad from their pages so even if you have included ads on your website, they won't see them.
Let's think about that for a moment. If you've gone through all steps to put ads up on your site and the majority of your audience has blocked them from displaying, where does that leave you?
How well do ads pay?
Not to be the bearer of bad news but website ads pay peanuts. Even if you plaster ads all across your website, it's very unlikely that you will end up with a substantial amount of money in return. The main reasons for this is that monetization through ads is a very slow process and until your website receives significant amounts of traffic, you won't get any real money via ads.
Let's loop this back into the points above.
Even if you decide to put ads up on your website, most of the time they will be blocked and unless you have a significant amount of traffic reaching your website, you won't receive a decent amount of money from the ads anyway.
Does advertising fall within the overall goals for your website?
We've talked time and time again about the importance of setting goals for your website so that your users have the best possible experience and you can optimize your business through your online presence.
With that in mind, take a few moments to consider whether including advertising on your website helps you reach those goals or not.
For example, if your goal is to grow your audience, does it really make sense to annoy them with loud, repetitive or irrelevant ads?
Even worse to think about is that when you include ads on your site, you are literally directing people away from your website. That's right, you're telling them to go somewhere else and who knows if they will come back!
You might also be working towards your goal of being a top influencer in your niche. I love that, dream big! However, before you sign up with an advertising network, take a look at the other people who rule your niche and take note if they include ads on their sites or not. The top dogs in your niche probably aren't selling ad space on their sites - in fact, it's often the beginners or those still getting their footing who have opted for advertising.
Too many ads on your site can send the message that you're an amateur who relies on the often piddly amount of money brought in through ads every month. The more experienced people out there know that ads aren't usually worth it for them, since out-of-scope ads can affect your credibility, annoy your audience and generally won't bring in enough money to be worth the distraction.
Advertising affects website design
Including advertising on your website also means that you will give up a certain element of control over the design of your website. Once you join an ad network, you relinquish editorial control to them. You won't be able to review the ad copy or image so you have to cross your fingers that it fits with your overall website. The ad networks holds the power and to be honest, they don't care if the ads throw off the design of your website - all they're concerned about is the click throughs.
Now you have to incorporate these ads into your site design and layout, and there's a very high risk that it could switch your website from a beautiful design to an ugly one.
Advertising on your website also announces to your audience that whether they like it or not, you prioritize selling a brand or company's products (or services) more than you value a clean and distraction-free design.
Are these companies' products really an integral part of your website? Does this send the right message to your audience?
Advertising display issues
One thing that is often overlooked when websites decide to incorporate advertising is how those ads will affect site load time.
The more ads included on a website, the slower the site load time will be and as a result, this often leads to a higher bounce rate. In fact, most visitors will leave your site if it doesn't load within a few seconds so you don't want anything slowing it down.
How to monetize your website without ads
Good news, my friends. All is not lost!
There are plenty of other ways to monetize your website without relying on advertising.
As a general rule, it's better to sell to your audience directly instead of selling them through ads. If you build or create something that your audience can purchase through you without having to navigate off the site, you've hit the jackpot.
Here are just a few ways you can monetize your website without using ads:
Offer and sell a service
There are plenty of ways you can sell a service through your website. Some of the popular services that work for online businesses are web design and development, consulting, coaching, copywriting, editing, Photoshop or Illustrator projects for hire, etc.
Figure out what you're good at and set up a section on your website so that people can start working with you today.
Create and sell a product
While it might take a bit of time up front, it's almost always worthwhile to create a product to sell to your audience.
Don't know what to create? Infoproducts such as courses, membership sites, ebooks, paid email courses or challenges, etc. are all great ideas. You might also opt to sell a physical product like a book, planner, website theme, clothing, home goods, jewelry, etc.
To find out what type of product to create and sell, be sure to think about your audience and identify what they need. The goal is to fill a gap and get rid of their pain points. It should be a no-brainer for your audience to purchase your product because they'll think "hey, this is exactly what I need!".
Become an affiliate
Becoming an affiliate basically means that you're agreeing to promote and sell someone else's product or service and in return, you will receive a percentage of each sale. Affiliate programs can be extremely lucrative when used correctly, and this applies across all sorts of industries (see here and here for examples of affiliate program successes).
One thing to note about affiliate programs is that if you decide to use them, be sure to do so honestly and transparently. Your users will be ticked off if they find out you haven't been clear with them and that will make them lose trust in you. It should be a given that you are only promoting products or services that you know, use and genuinely recommend.
Deciding if ads are right for you
As you can tell, I do not recommend including advertising on your website. I know that there are so many other ways that you can monetize your website (if that is in fact something you are working towards)!
To recap, here are just a few of the benefits of NOT including ads on your site:
- improved user experience
- better control over your website's design and layout
- hold onto your credibility as an online publisher
- greater opportunities to create, promote and sell your own products/services
- stay focused on your overall website goals
My biggest suggestion would be to move away from website advertising if you currently use them, and instead start creating something to sell or look into other income streams that would be a better (and more profitable!) fit.
You can use your website as a way to monetize your skills and services, or as a platform to sell a neat product. How neat is it that you can sell your own stuff and keep people on your site instead of sending them off to another company?!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on website advertising and whether or not you include ads on your website. Has your opinion on ads changed over time? Do you pay attention to ads or do you block them? Have they been profitable to you? Leave me a note in the comments!
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