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Sunday, November 10, 2013

What do you think of ads and affiliate links on blogs?

In case you were wondering, I don’t make a bunch of money from affiliate links.  In fact, the bundle sales that I’ve promoted over the past 2 weeks have netted me exactly $0.  I’m not in danger of paying any actual taxes on any of my affiliate earnings once I deduct my very meager expenses.
This blog is not a money-maker and that’s fine, because making money is not the reason I blog.
But I’m not going to lie to you…it would be really sweet if I could earn some money for my family doing something that I want to do.  It seems that there are blogs everywhere that are in fact earning at least some money. 
My ramble on why I'm backing away from affiliate sales.
Why not cash in a little on my labor of love?
The thing is, money earned on blogs is different from money earned doing “conventional” jobs.  Money from affiliate links, for instance, is more like the commission that a salesman earns when he sells you a new car than it is like the money that companies pay magazines or newspapers to advertise their wares.
I don’t get paid unless you actually buy something no matter how hard I promote the product or how many hours I spend writing posts or FB updates or tweeting.
It’s really, really hard to earn a buck that way.  And I’m not good at selling stuff anyway. 
Part of that’s because given how tight things are, I’m really reluctant to suggest that anyone buy anything unless they really need it…and let’s face it, most of us don’t need half of what we already have.
So, I admit it.  I got sucked into the numbers game. 
But as much as I’ve raised my numbers (pageviews, engagement, blah blah blah), that hasn’t translated into a real, countable return.
Digression:  In fact, I get more and more emails from companies wanting me to promote them for free.  When I point out that I’d be happy to promote them if they pay me for my time…they seem to think I should be ecstatic that they are giving me the free gift of promoting them.  Sarcastic smile
Playing the numbers game has cost me.  I’ve gotten obsessive.  It’s really hard not to check my stats every day.  It’s really, really hard to not be on the computer composing or poking around, or tweeting, or whatever.
I’m constantly writing down little blogging notes, starting post drafts and what not---it may not look that way from the outside, since I’m not a 1-3x a day blogger, but trust me, it takes me a good bit of time to bang out just one of my missives (20 minutes doesn’t get me far, unfortunately).
I am truly thankful with one of my babblings speaks to someone and they find comfort, encouragement, or practical help from it.
But that happens whether I write a few times a week when I happen to be inspired or bust my buns cranking out content everyday, posting hourly updates on FB, and so on.
At the end of the day, I may have helped some people, but I haven’t helped the people nearest and dearest to me:  my family.  In fact, I’ve taken something away from them.
So there’s that.  That right there is the reason I won’t ever be a professional blogger.  The financial return would have to really be awesome to counteract the cost. 
I suppose it might be some day if I really worked hard over a long period (and I am motivated to work hard), but even if the eventual pay off were great (and there are no guarantees), I simply cannot justify the upfront cost. 
It’s too high.  My kids will not be kids forever.  I don’t want them to remember me as always being in front of the computer or always being their teacher. 
Educating them is already a full-time job.  If I add another job to that, when do I get to just be Mama? 
They need a Mama right now.
I’ve seen people post on this topic saying things like:  well, if I worked a regular job outside of the house, they wouldn’t see me during the day at all.  At least they have me with them.  Right?
I don’t disagree with that viewpoint.  There are all kinds of legitimate reasons for working from home, even if it means you can’t give your kids the attention you want to.  Life isn’t perfect.
And money is tight.  It’s more than tight---it’s expensive to feed growing kids nutritional food and to keep their feet shod.
I just feel that in my particular situation this way of earning money requires too much outlay in time and energy for too small a return---those who are better at it will certainly do better and I applaud them.
I’m just not temperamentally suited for it, I guess.
There’s the personal aspect and then there’s the philosophical aspect.
I hate being surrounded by commercialism every day.  I hate being encouraged to always buy something else.
I hate pop-ups.  I hate commercials. 
I don’t want to surround you with ads. 
This is my home on the web, and just as I wouldn’t post ads on my physical home to try to entice my visitors to buy something, I don’t want to do that to you.
But to earn money blogging and not, I’d have to do that.  It would be just business.  Why does business always seem to amount to buying something?
If I could find a great sponsor who was interested in supporting worthwhile content for its own sake, with periodic “thank you”s and shout outs, of course…but, alas, “patrons” don’t seem to exist anymore.
I feel that blogging in general is following a particular trend that I’m not fond of.
I miss the days when every blog was different and bore the obvious stamp of its owner.  I even miss dark backgrounds with light fonts, because even though they were hard to read, they showed someone was doing their own thing.
The magazine-like slickness is attractive and inviting.  But is it just me or are they all starting to look the same…down to the same above the header ad?
Are blogs too heavily influenced by commercialism?
Again, I’m not pointing fingers here.  It’s understandable that people would try to earn money from home doing something that they want to do anyway. 
I don’t know that the problem is with the bloggers.  What they are doing seems to be a product of the environment.
They have learned that to earn $, they need to do X, Y, and Z.  Over and over again.  Even keeping the traffic you’ve got is hard work.  Take a week vacation and the numbers drop.  And to keep selling product over and over again, you need a brand new traffic stream coming in.  It’s not as though they are selling toilet paper.  Or cheese.
I feel that trying to earn money inhibits me.
It directly affects the types of things I talk about.  It affects the types of things I post (I’m more likely to post “popular” content rather than what’s on my heart).
Like it or not, motivation affects behavior.
My truly original content is not linked to money at all.
Perhaps the real problem is bloggers know that the content they are providing is undervalued, because it is “free” and as a society we don’t seem to truly value things without a price tag.
Perhaps if they can’t get paid directly for their content, which they are already spending a lot of time on, and they can get paid for ads…
But I’m not advocating that blog readers should pay to read my content.  I think the wealth of free information available on the web is a beautiful thing.
Maybe we all just need rich patrons.  Winking smile
The long and short of it is…I won’t be adding any ads or new affiliate programs and I may drop the ones I’m a part of already. 
There are just a few in my sidebar and I don’t go out of my way to push them.  I won’t be signing up for any NEW bundle deals.  The discount for My Memories Suite is nice and I’ll probably keep that one just because YOU get something too if you buy it.
I’m going to focus on content and personal value rather than merchandising other people’s stuff.  I may do an occasional review if it speaks to me (I do have a few good ones coming up shortly that are, ahem, overdue, ahem).
I’ve even started a new blogger group on Facebook for bloggers who want to work on getting back to the heart of their blogs.
It’s a private group for any blogger, whether you monetize or not.  We just don’t talk about monetization, SEO, pageviews, or any of that stuff.  Our goal is to build community and to support quality content from the heart.  If you blog and you’re interested, send me an email (see my contact page) or message me on FB.
How do you feel about things like ads and affiliate links on blogs?

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  1. Fantastic post, my heart is reflected in your words. Going against the trend is hard, going against the "experts" is hard. I prefer to read heart for my valuable time as a homeschooler. Tara.

  2. I think this is a smart decision and that you will be happier for doing this.

    I have stayed away from affiliates and ads and I still have plenty of traffic and tons of things to review. (So much that I have what I call my "Santa Shelves" where I put things up that I have reviewed for friends to take home and give to their families)

    One of my favorite parts of doing this is hosting giveaways so that I can share things with readers.

    My blog is not the most attractive and my photos are plain but I don't have a lot of pressure and I feel like I have found the right balance. I hope you do, too!

  3. Thank you, ladies.

    I agree, Tara. If I go to a blog that has nothing but things to sell me, I don't stop there for long.

    That sounds great, Catherine. I'd love to follow in your footsteps. ;)

  4. I don't really mind blogs with links and ads and what not. And I have generated some income from those things on my blog in the past. Not a ton, but enough to make a dent in a grocery bill. Blogvertise has been the best for me.

    Follow your heart, but don't take on more than you can manage. Try it on your terms. Stay true to yourself.


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