Should You Monetize Your Blog?
The following article is going to talk about the conclusions my testing came to and some outlines / tips in case some of you do decide to add monetizing features to your blog. I'll talk about Google AdSense first, which seems more for large scale operations, followed up by Amazon Associates which actually impressed me.
I was going to give a detailed walk through like I created for my domain tutorial, but after discovering the fruitlessness of this endeavor, decided against it. Neither of the following options was difficult to set up, but I came to the conclusion that to make any useful profits would require either an insane number of readers or giant obtrusive ads that will foul up your blog.
So I enabled ads on my blog and RSS feed for a week, you may have noticed. I had intended to leave them on for longer, to get a larger test case, but after a week the results were less than glamorous. I don't usually get into actual stats, and while mine have been down lately from the lack of posting / flooding (I've had to tear down my hobby area like 5 times now in the last month and a half, arg!) I think I've generated enough test data to make some determinations about Google monetizing options.
As you can see here, 1300 views without a single click netted me a whole 4 cents. Would you make more money if people clicked on the ads? Yes, but I'm not exactly expecting people visiting my blog to click on the type of ads I was seeing. Only every once in a while was there anything even remotely geek related, let alone geared towards miniatures. Some of them were locally targeted, but still not enticing enough for me to click.
This means that from a passive angle, monetizing isn't going to get you anywhere without a SIGNIFICANT number of hits. By my rough estimate, I'd say about half a million hits a month to make a little pocket change. ($15-20)
In other words, if you want to make some money from ads, they need to stand out so that people will click them. Seeing how useless many of the ads Google chose to display on my blog were, made me come to the conclusion that I don't want to put my readers through an ad-fest. (And if there wasn't a single click in over 1300 hits, I'm pretty sure my readers agreed that the ads they were seeing didn't interest them)
You can configure ads from the "Monetize" tab in Blogger. Non blogger sites can use Google Adsense to generate HTML for their pages as well. Either way lets you spend the time to setup an Adsense account, which gives you ad widgets so you can change sizing, positioning, colouring and font, as well as tag it to the end of your RSS posts.
The other monetizing option is Amazon Associates. This is still somewhat intriguing to me. Aside from adding their deal of the day to your blog (which is just like any other ad and even less likely to be relevant to your audience) you can insert links to products on Amazon for people to buy. If they do, you get a cut. (It doesn't raise the price of the product, Amazon just gives you a finders fee.) In theory this would mean all Amazon prices are inflated, but I've found them to be quite reasonable.
The amount Amazon will pay you is based on how much people buy from links on your site, tallied at the end of each month. 1-6 items to get a 4% cut, 7-30 items for a 6% cut, and so on up to 3131 items and up for an 8.5% cut. The difference with Amazon is that while they keep track of how many people click on your links, the only way you make any money is if they buy those products.
This to me is a much more reasonable option for monetizing because you can insert products here and there that are relevant to the article you insert them in. It's not about cluttering your blog with ads that nobody cares about, it's about honestly suggesting things that you think your readers should buy. Let me give you an example:
In my Airbrushing articles, I'll talk about of number of products that are handy to have with an airbrush. Rather that forcing you to do a bunch of tracking down of items, I can insert links as I talk about each that send readers to a single site they can find them at for reasonable prices. (Playing with it, I actually found their prices often cheaper than what I can get things for in store.)
Google has partnered with them so you can actually have a widget on your blogging window. From here you can search for specific products and insert larger image banners or just links to their page on Amazon. If someone buys them after finding it on your site, you get credit. (And there's a little "-" minus sign if you want to hide the Amazon widget)
(This has disappeared in Google's new layout)
Even after disabling Google AdSense, I'm inclined to use Amazon Associate links now and then, just so people don't have to hunt around the eBay and the rest of the internet if you already know somewhere they can find things. Why not send them directly to a reputable worldwide reseller with excellent prices when you can?
Setting Amazon up for Blogger was pretty easy. The only stumble I had was Blogger wouldn't automatically connect to the Amazon account I setup through it. I had to end up going to Amazon, setting up an Associate Account, then entering that account ID in my Amazon profile under Blogger's monetize tab.
This associate ID can be used across multiple sites. It's your Associate ID. You can use the same one across multiple blogs OR authors from a collaborative blog can insert links using their own ID.
For non-Blogger users, Amazon has a search page when you first login to Associates that lets you find products and generate HTML code to put on your site.