blogging
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Blogging and the Honest Truth About Running Ads

The topic of ads is one I always find interesting. There seems to be a fair bit of negative stigma attached sites that run ads, and that’s what I wanted to discuss today. I wanted to clear the air on the subject and explain it from the perspective of the blogger, or website owner.

Thor from Creative Twilight is back with more insight on hobby blogging. To check out more tips on improving your blog, check out the page here.

I tend to use blog and website interchangeably when writing. For the sake of discussion, I mean no difference between them.

Bad Ad Setups

Ever been to a site that ran like eight different ads all over their site, plus one that floats at the bottom, and often a pop-up when you leave, or a pop-under as you’re visiting?

Hell yes you have; we all have.

Those sites are often so slowed down by the amount of ads they are delivering that you give up on reading what you went there for, and you just bail out to never return. Sometimes it’s on a website you enjoy, despite the metric-ton of ads, so you install an ad blocker. That way you can visit the site and not get bombarded with ads.

Ads

Some websites feel like this.

While, as you’ll see below, I’m a proponent of running ads on a site, there’s a line that many sites cross in their pursuit of monetization. It’s the old adage of “If one is good, two is better!”, but multiplied by 5 or 6.

If done well, ads should be integrated into the site such that they do not interrupt the user’s experience. A slow loading site because of too many ads is indeed interrupting the user experience. Ultimately these sites are hurting themselves because they are missing out on traffic as people leave the site in frustration.

Suffice to say that a lot of sites don’t do ads well.

Good Ad Setups

As I said above, a good setup with ads will be a relatively seamless thing. The ads should blend in, while still being noticeable – a contradiction I know! You should be able to read the article you came for without being disturbed by ads.

There are a lot of principles on good ad setups, but since that’s not the goal of this article, we’ll leave it at that.

Why Blogs Run Ads

This is where the misconception comes in with ads. While some people run blogs with the sole intention of making money, of getting rich – or at least making a living, that’s not why most of us do it. So, why run the ads then? Let me explain.

Since you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you’re a hobbyist and/or gamer, so am I. I had started my blog Creative Twilight as a way to promote commission painting I was doing at the time. I eventually burned out on commission painting, but I kept the site and began blogging about Warhammer 40K. Eight years later, here I am, still blogging about 40K.

Over the years I have had to pay for my blog. At first, I was hosting in a shared environment, which was affordable, but not great when your site starts getting more traffic. I had to upgrade to a VPS (virtual private server) so that I could run Creative Twilight, and the other sites I have. Eventually, I had to upgrade the VPS package too as the traffic kept on coming, and I had to keep the site working optimally.

Expenses

The reality of running a website.

I’m not mentioning that for the technicalities, but because – as you’d have expected, the hosting of my blog is not free. Every month I pay for the VPS I have to run my sites. I also have to register my domain name (URL) every year. Occasionally, I will run ads on Facebook. Facebook is a fickle beast. They really do force you to spend money to get any true value from them. The thing is, it’s often worth it if you can afford it.

So, I have expenses to run my blog, as I’m sure Joe does as well for this great blog you’re reading this article on. Long story short, I run ads to try to cover my expenses.

Time, Energy, and Value

There is another part to this though, the reason blogs will run ads, and one seldom mentioned.

If you have never blogged, then you may not be aware of the amount of time that can go into an article. One article can be hours and hours of work. If the article is a tutorial, then I can easily spend 6-10+ hours working on the article and taking pictures. I will later spend hours more promoting the article and trying to draw traffic to it.

A great article should have value to anyone who reads it. Many of us try to create resources and guides for the readers. We, the bloggers, are trying to create value in what we write. Not everything we do is a masterpiece, but now and then we will create something we’re very proud of.

Success

Having a successful blog is hard work.

Many of us have sites we frequent, and articles we have saved for reference. Whatever it is that draws you to a particular site, or article deserves to be rewarded, right? Between the time, energy, and hopefully value, of the articles that bloggers create, getting some recompense is not unwarranted. Basically, getting paid for your time.

I can’t speak for everyone else who blogs, but I know that I enjoy being rewarded for my efforts. In my case, and the case of many, those small financial gains we may get through ads are just being pumped right back into the site to cover expenses anyway.

We’re not getting rich, that’s for sure. However, it does help keep us around to continue creating the content you enjoy consuming.

Ad Blockers

Now, we dive into the meat of the matter, ad blockers.

Hopefully, I have helped you understand why some of us run ads on our blogs, and those reasons sound rational to you. See, people who run ad blockers are hurting smaller sites like mine, or Joe’s (though he doesn’t run ads) where we’re trying to cover expenses. I get if you’re visiting some big and nasty site that optimizes ad abuse. However, consider adding exceptions to your blockers for the smaller sites you enjoy. That $1 a day a blogger makes on ads can honestly be the difference between their site being there one day, and gone the next.

Ad Blockers

In Conclusion

I get that ads can be annoying, I really do. Try to understand where the blogger is coming from who is running the ads though. I can honestly say that I would rather not run ads on my blog, but I have little choice in the matter. I’ve tried other monetization strategies, and so far none have come close to matching what ads do.

Joe is working on a book, which is an awesome way to monetize a site without running ads. Maybe someday I’ll find a similar technique.

Until then, I, and many others will run ads on our site in hopes of covering expenses, and maybe put a few dollars in our pockets for our hard work. Hopefully, you understand and don’t think poorly of us for doing so.

Editor’s note: thank you Thor for being so honest and open here about running ads on your site! While Thor mentioned that I am currently exploring other options to pay for the work I do here, the expenses of running a site can add up. I hadn’t thought about unblocking sites that I want to support, such as fellow hobby bloggers, and I hope you can do the same. Putting up with an add here and there (and Thor’s site does fall into the well done side) is free for you, and helps the blogger keep the lights on.

If you have any thoughts or input on running ads on your site, or others, leave a comment below.

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I began playing Warhammer 40K in 2006, and have been an avid player and hobbyist since then. I have also been blogging about 40K for almost as long as I’ve been playing it, having started Creative Twilight in 2009.

I currently play Chaos Space Marines and Khorne Daemonkin, though I do also own Orks, Necrons and Space Marines. Blood Bowl is another favorite of mine, though I rarely get to play it. I’m really looking forward to the re-release of Blood Bowl too!

  • Can I ask what problems arise if a blog gets a lot of traffic in a shared environment? (I assume a shared environment is Blogger or Word Press?).
    Obviously my little blog doesn’t get a great deal of traffic so I was interested in what kind of problems would make a person consider paying for a blog.

    • Blogger would indeed be a shared environment where you are one of hundreds of people, if not thousands, on a given server. WordPress would be the same if you’re using WordPress.com instead of a self-install that’s hosted, like I do.

      What would prompt the move to a paid environment would be speed and resources. Shared environments are slow, as a host packs as many people on a server as they can. When you pay you can get more resources (CPU, RAM, disk space, etc), and that translates into a faster site. That’s the long and short of it.

      • Ah, I think I understand (I’m no tech-marine when it comes to how all this works).
        If it isn’t a problem until I hit 100’s of viewers trying to read my blog, I don’t think it will ever be an issue for me 😉
        Thanks for enlightening me.

        • I didn’t upgrade until I had to. Eventually my site stopped working because I had too much traffic, and the server couldn’t handle it. So, I had no choice. I had to upgrade or have a site that refused to work.

          • Yikes, so if a blog gets too much traffic it can actually be detrimental?
            Every day is a school day!

          • Indeed. More traffic than your site can handle can shut you down.

          • Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me. I now understand why blogs could need adverts.

          • Gladly!

  • A well written and thought about piece, thanks for that Thor. I am always envious of people who can write insightful articles such as this.

    I have run ads on my blog for a couple of years, hopefully they are small and out of the way. But I wouldn’t dream of even being able to earn $1 a day!

    • Thank you. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do this article or not, but I’m glad I put it out there in the end.

      My daily rate is slowly increasing. It’s tough running ads. There’s a whole science to it, and a lot of research goes into placing them on a site well. You really can’t just slap an ad on a site and expect much from it if you didn’t do some research. That’s what most bloggers do, just put a few ads up without much thought, then they get discouraged and stop using them.

  • I hate ads because everywhere I go I am bombarded by people trying to sell me things. Even our hobby has been invaded by the money makers. Our capitalist society has gone to crazy lengths to make money. Religious holidays are now nothing but marketing opportunities for companies to sell stuff, mothers & Father’s Day and valentine don’t mean a thing unless you buy your loved one a present! Even children are subjected to this manic sales drive. Blogs (and the hobby) are a refuge of kinds from this relentless bombardment that invades our every space, An opportunity to lose oneself in a creative environment, reading about others who enjoy a similar passion.

    I get that you need to pay for the upkeep of the blog, and that is a fair enough reason, but I disagree that we deserve to be paid for writing content for them. We do this for the love of it, and to share what we do with other like minded people. Writing good content is hard, and I for one appreciate all the work and thought that bloggers like yourself put into your articles. I never think that someone deserves to be paid for writing about something they love, and it is not something that has ever crossed my mind until now. Doesn’t it then become a job of sorts. The danger is that the pursuit of money overrides everything else (unfortunately a very human trait) Blogs that have lost this love are very obvious, they have pretty much mutated into money driven click bait garbage.

    I don’t use ad block, I just choose not to frequent those sites that bombard me with adverts. You site has done it tastefully and has a thankfully very small amount of adverts, but I do still find it intrusive and slightly jarring to my enjoyment of what you are sharing. I am very much in the minority here I imagine though.

    Your article is very well written, and I have enjoyed reading it, it just so happens I have a different opinion on a few things that I wanted to put into words 🙂

    • Seeking payment for blogging would indeed move it from a hobby to a job, strictly speaking. I feel that it’s more fluid than that though. I mean, most of us write because we love it – first and foremost. Second to that is getting recognition. I mean, we don’t write, or post pictures in hopes that nobody says anything. We want comments, we want to create a discussion, we seek some sort of praise and recognition, whether consciously or otherwise. I’m not saying we’re vain, but I’m pretty sure we all perk up when someone leaves a comment on something you worked hard on.

      I see financial reward in the same way – it’s a perk, or a reward for a job well done. See, I’d also love to make a living at blogging. It’s my dream job that I know I will never realistically accomplish. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying, and part of that trying means financial compensation to make a living.

      I think the view on this subject is definitely regional. I’m in the US, which you probably recall, and you’re in the UK. From what I understand, you folks in the UK hate site ads. Those of us in the US I feel are more impartial, or indifferent towards them.

      Different opinions are more than welcomed. I love a good discussion between opposing sides that can do so civilly. It’s in those instances that you can learn something new.

      • Siph Horridus

        Think you got me there, I’m a Brit and hate ads!

        • I should do a poll some day on that: who hates ads and where are you from. I bet it would be overwhelmingly Brits that hate ads.

      • Yes recognition is a large part of blogging that is true. I had not considered the monetary side being a part of that. The fact it is tied to adverts is the real sticking point for me though! Have you considered something like Patreon and the such instead? Not sure how feasible that is though, as clicking an ad costs people nothing, whereas giving like that is a regular commitment.

        Yes I think it is very definately a regional thing. We don’t have half the number of adverts on things you do over in the U.S, although we are catching up at a rapid pace (much to my frustration).

        Agreed on that! I have learnt something new already, and although you have not changed my overall opinion on ads, it has given me more of an insight and understanding into why they are on sites like yours 🙂

        • I have not tried Patreon on Creative Twilight. I do use it on Command Center, my army builder, but that hasn’t been overly effective. Considering with Command Center I’m providing a service, Patreon should (in theory) be an effective strategy, but it’s not. So, because of that I haven’t tried it with Creative Twilight since that’s just a blog, and thus who really wants to donate monthly? There is no harm in trying it of course.

          Still, I would LOVE to monetize in some other way than ads. I also use eBay for affiliate sales on my blog; it’s in the sidebar. That hasn’t been all that great either. I’ve tried other affiliate networks as well, but sadly Google Adsense has proven the most effective means. If I could get away from ads I would. That’s why I mentioned Joe’s book venture; it’s a great alternative.

        • Ads I think are more likely to get small amounts of money in than a Patreon. I have one on on Stepping Between Games, but I don’t get that many comments let alone payments 😉

          Won’t stop me though 😀

          • If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s experiment. Keep trying, and eventually something pans out.

    • Siph Horridus

      I’m with you NafNaf, hate ads, love blogs but will vote with feet, if a sites ads stop me enjoying the experience, I will not return and delete from Blogroll (BOLS – looking at you and Pop Up Ads!)

      Won’t judge why people add ads, but out of principle I will not monetise mine but I am lucky enough to not feel I have to.

      • BoLS is a perfect example of a site that is hurting itself with ads. I also don’t go there any more. Part of it is the ads; the other part is how that site has gone downhill in terms of quality.

        • My first thought was that you visited BOLS, got frustrated and then decided to be proactive and write up something to combat the evils of that site’s implementation. It’s a shame what that site has become…But I digress.

          Great read; next up: site optimization to get even more out of those ads and supporting content (or is that backwards?). 🙂

          • lol, nah. BoLS has been a trainwreck for a good long while. I was more defending those who use ads well than attacking the sites who do it poorly.

            If there’s interest then I would gladly cover site optimization. It’s something I’m continually doing on my sites…like daily it seems.

  • Thanks for writing this Thor and for the awesome discussion that is already happening here.
    I think beyond the debate on if some ads are ok, it is also interesting to see the debate on where does a hobby become a ‘job.’
    A hobby bloggers that is just wanting to log their progress and share their efforts with the world works great on the free services. While they probably won’t get enough traffic to make ads worth it, it is truly a hobby for them.
    Others, like myself and Thor, decide for various reasons to utilize paid services like improved hosting, which often drives the desire/need for some amount of income to offset the costs. This could quickly spiral out of control and cause the blogger to lose their whole reason for blogging about a hobby to begin with.
    I hope to find a balance between earning some side income to fund trips to conventions, and still keeping this as a fun, hobby-focused blog. Part of why I like being involved in the community is knowing that if I start to drift, one of you will do a virtual slap on the head to straighten me back out 🙂

    • Remembering why you’re blogging is key, and for more than just running ads. It’s a great point though. I run ads, I’ve said why I do it, but I also still love blogging and despite the ads – it’s still a hobby to me. Therefore I don’t dump 8 ads on the site, I don’t use pop-ups, or pop-unders, etc.

      No doubt I could make more money utilizing sleazy ad approaches, but it would come at the cost of a loyal readership. Since this is still a hobby to me – it’s not worth it. Striking that balance, as you said, is key.

  • Grenn Dal

    My site doesn’t get the traffic needed for me to not run it on an free site (blogger) I have their one ad window but I don’t get any money from that ad. I think you have to make $10 a month to see a check and I am lucky to get $.05. A few ads on a page don’t bother me but when you get the bell of lost souls or Faiet it is a bit much

    • Actually, you need to make $100 (accumulation) before they cut you a check. It’s not easy, and it really does require a lot of traffic to work, which is why site’s like Faiet run so many. I like what he posts, but yeah, those ads are too much.