Wargaming Tradecraft: Should You Monetize Your Blog?

Should You Monetize Your Blog?

I approached this topic with an open mind. I've never been keen about seeing ads on blogs, but sometimes you see some where they blend in nicely. I figured if the ads don't annoy anyone and can be blended into the background, then what's the harm, right? I entered into this experiment not expecting to make a bundle of money - I was more curious whether ad revenue could offset the cost of supplies like paints and brushes from time to time.

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.

Google AdSense

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.




Amazon Associates

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.

7 comments:

  1. You should do a test of project wonderful.

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  2. I used Project Wonderful on the original GAME OVER. Didn't make masses - I think it was something like fifteen of your 'dollars' over a couple of months - but it paid for entry to a local tournament and that was good enough for me. I only stopped after moving to WordPress and opting not to go for self-hosting (since WordPress' hosting doesn't support external code).

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  3. I think your comments about audience relevance are key. The ads must be relevant to the subject the audience are interested in, otherwise it's vergin on interupt advertising and we become very ad-blind if we're not interested.

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  4. @Von: I don't think $15 over two or three months is still enough for me to justify the annoyance of ads to my readers, though I suppose it could be enough to help some people.

    @ZombieAd: If you want to read some interesting stuff on literal ad-blindness, look up Steve Mann, a University of Toronto prof who's probably the world's first cyborg. Among other things, he lives his life through an AR (augmented reality) headset.. one of the things it does is whites out billboards, bussboards, etc..

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  5. I've had an on again off again relationship with ads on my own blog. When I first began gaining some traction in the community I tossed up Google Ads, much like you, expecting to at least offset some costs, for me it was web hosting. For the two months or so I ran them I made about $6 so I gave up on it.

    Just near the end of last month I put them on again seeing as now I get 4x more traffic than I did back then. The results so far have been no more impressive than previously but I'm holding out to get in a full month and see where I'm at. It's very much looking like I'll ditch the ads yet again.

    Morally, I have no issues with ads on blogs. Like you, I prefer to have them blend into the site as well but as noted it doesn't net you much in the way of clicks and in turn cash. Now, you can be more obtrusive with them and maybe generate a few more clicks but I very much doubt it would be enough to warrant the annoying placement of ads to get those few extra clicks.

    Additionally I feel the real problem with any of us getting anywhere with something like Google Ads is we're a niche market. Most click-troughs on ads from something not really targeted like Google Ads (though it's supposed to be content sensitive), is the result of random unsolicited traffic; the odd person who stumbles across your site. When most of your traffic is direct traffic, the followers of your blog, non-targeted ads gets you nowhere.

    I've looked into other options but have really come up short. BoLS runs Blogads which are targeted advertising where people can approach you specifically to advertise on your site. The result of course is much better monetary gains. In looking into it though they recommend your site generate at least 3K visitors a day for it to be worthwhile. I won't get into how it all works but suffice to say blogs like us don't net that traffic.

    Lastly, as this is getting lengthy, the only time I've ever had luck advertising is by doing something on my own like Blogads does. I had installed an open source advertising software where you handle the ads. I set up rates and had people approach me to advertise on the site. This wasn't for my blog though, this was years ago when I created and ran an online gaming league for FPS games.

    The morale of the story, which you really already said but I was just lending experience to, is if you can't target your ads then it's just not worth doing with the niche community we have.

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  6. Very well said Thor :-)

    Glad to hear that others have had a similar experience.. I was just hoping I might be able to buy some paints and a brush or a medium / gel every month

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  7. Cannot stand making my way through a blog that is covered in ads let alone adds not related to the hobby. They clutter the blog up and turn me off wanting to explore the authors work. An example of this would be the Space Wolves blog where their adds are intermingled amongst the various search tools they use. Great blog just annoying to look at all those ads.

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