Ads on your blog: Are they for you?

This issue frequently gets batted about without settling anything. Ads are tacky. Ads pay the bills. Does having them compromise your integrity? If you leave them off, are you missing an opportunity? There will never be one right answer to this question, because there isn’t one motivation for blogging shared by all bloggers.

Recently Susan Harris brought this question out in the open on Garden Rant, sparking heated debate without arriving at consensus. Read A Post about Pay-Per-Post to see how bloggers in the gardening community are wrestling with this issue.

I’ve struggled with this issue myself at Cold Climate Gardening. My blog started out as a way to find and connect with other gardeners, and putting ads on my website seemed as incongruous as inviting a friend in for a cup of coffee and then charging for it. And let’s face it: displaying ads will always involve a compromise with aesthetics. The only question is to what degree you are willing to compromise. Ads were not for me.

But the more seriously I took my blog writing and the more time and effort I put into getting everything right, the more my blog felt like a magazine. I was no longer chatting over the fence with a fellow gardener. I was writer, editor, and publisher rolled into one. I was blogging in a professional manner, and professionals get paid.

Furthermore, between rising gas prices and rising food prices, the gardening line in the household budget got cut. Here I was, a garden blogger, and I couldn’t afford to buy plants, tools, mulch–you name it.

I needed monetary compensation from blogging, and ads are one way for me to achieve that. I’m not making a living from blogging; I’m not even earning minimum wage, but if I see a plant I want, I can buy it. (Well, within reason.) And all my website costs are covered as well.

I also picked up some freelance writing assignments, thanks to my professional attitude. An editor from a major gardening magazine came across my blog and offered me the chance to do book reviews. I’ve worked with that editor on several more assignments, and gotten brave enough to query other editors, resulting in other work.

I still don’t like ads. I’m still figuring out what kind of ads, from which middle men, are right for me and my website. And I want to make sure my fellow gardeners always feel comfortable enough to stop by for a virtual cup of coffee and a good chat–without feeling like they’re being charged for it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I think you have a good attitude about ads, and how you’ve put them on your garden blog doesn’t distract me from reading the posts. Perhaps you’ve found that balance that everyone is looking for? Or maybe others would come along and say you’ve left “money on the table” because you could sell more? Regardless, I think what you wrote about being a “professional” about your blog is a good guiding principle. A professional is careful about who they associate it and chooses who and how they do business, so at the end of the day, they can sleep well knowing they have their integrity intact and didn’t “sell out” to the highest bidder.

    Good luck with this new endeavor of blog coaching!

  • Kathy, I LOVE this site – it’s a great service and good for you. And on this topic, I’m glad you mentioned the loss of aesthetic value caused by ads because that’s a huge factor, IMHO. After all, gardening is largely an aesthetic enterprise and I’m the kind of gardening blog reader who avoids unattractive sites altogether. And you’re right – the more ads, the less attractive. Not to mention the less professional-looking (beyond a minimal number of ads, again IMHO.) YOUR blog still looking very professional, so enjoy your plant-money!

  • Thanks for setting up this site. I found my way here from The Other Side of NY and have already learned a thing or two. I tried ads on my page, Google as a matter of fact, but they too often put ads for PeTA next to my farming articles, so eventually I ditched them. I would love to find a way to make a little money blogging though, even though I mostly do it for my own enjoyment

  • Kathy Purdy

    threecollie, there is a way to block unwanted ads from being published in Google’s Adsense program. They call it the Competitive Ad filter:
    https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=9875&topic=134

    But check through the Get Paid? section of the GWA handout. You might find an ad program that is a better fit for you. I am still trying to figure out what kind of ads work best for me on my other site.

  • I think a well placed ad is not at all offsetting to the blog or its readers.