In this post Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Warren:
I started a blog about Professional Lifestyle a little over a month ago. It already has gotten 16,000 visits, has almost 100 subscribers and has a google page rank of 4 (somehow). Should I put up advertisements at this early stage?
Ah, the ever controversial question of when should one start to monetize his blog. If you ask 100 bloggers what they think about it, I am sure you will get 101 different answers.
Instead of trying to come up with a definitive answer, or a fixed number of months that you should wait for before bringing up some ads, let’s just evaluate the Pros and Cons of monetizing a blog early in the game as opposed to waiting a longer period.
Before getting on with the arguments, though, we need to define what is early and what is not, right? I would say that an early monetization strategy is one that inserts ads on the blog from day 1, up to 6 months of its existence. That is, if you plan to insert ads after 5 months, that would still be considered an early monetization strategy for the sake of our discussion. Anything over than 6 months will be considered a long term monetization plan.
Pros of Monetizing Early
1. Your readers will know what to expect
If you bring ads early in the game, all the readers will know that apart from the joy of writing, you also expect to earn some money along the way.
2. Might contribute to the credibility
If you manage to get some respected companies as sponsors, or if your banner ads look really professional, the credibility of your blog might increase. All the major portals and mainstream websites have ads around, so a first time visitor might even think that your blog is more established that what it really is after seeing the ads.
3. Increased motivation
Different people get motivated by different factors, but you can’t deny that getting some money for expressing your ideas and sharing your knowledge on the Web is pretty exciting. Sitting in front of your computer day after day with the need of coming up with quality content might become a burden for some people, and the money factor might help them to stay consistent and engaged with the blog.
Cons of Monetizing Early
1. Some readers will get annoyed
Whether you like it or not, most Internet surfers hate ads. Sometimes they will bear with the annoyance: if the content is really good, and if they have been visiting a site for a long time. Guess what, with a new blog you probably don’t have that many loyal readers, so the ads could actually make you lose potential ones. Even if your content is top notch, some first time visitors will not give you the benefit of the doubt. As soon as they see the ads jammed around they will go somewhere else.
2. Might hinder your success with social media
Users of social media sites like Digg or StumbleUpon can sniffle a “let me load this with ads to make some bucks” websites from miles away. If you are planning to use social media to promote your website on the early stages, the presence of ads, especially too much of them, might hinder this strategy.
3. More difficult to find your voice
Blogs are all about conversations. Many people read blogs, as opposed to traditional mainstream media, because they want to see the facts from a different angle, with some clear opinions mixed once in a while. That is, they want to see the voice of the author of the blog. Defining your own voice is particularly important on the first few months, and bring advertisements might work against this objective. Some people, for example, might conclude (wrongly or not) that because you are running ads right from the start, your goal is mainly to make money, and that you will write whatever you need to in order to achieve this goal.
Pros of Monetizing in the Long Term
1. Focus on growing the blog exclusively
As soon as you bring sponsors or AdSense on your blog, you will start spending time and energy tweaking the ads, thinking about how to increase your earnings, managing the advertisers and so on. If you decide to go ad free for the first few months, on the other hand, you will be able to focus exclusively on the content of the blog and on its promotion.
2. More time to figure what monetization method will work better
If you start playing with advertising and sponsors after 6 months or so, you will be in a better position to evaluate which monetization methods will work, and which are not suitable for your audience or content type. Bloggers that start with ads early in the game, on the other hand, constantly switch between AdSense, CPM ads, direct sponsors and what not, mainly because they don’t know their audience well enough.
3. More monetization options
Apart from having more time to understand your audience, a long term plan will also open the doors to more and better monetization options. With a new blog that has small to average traffic levels, for instance, it would be difficult to find direct sponsors or to get accepted inside high paying ad networks.
Cons of of Monetizing in the Long Term
1. Some readers might react down the road
If you start your blog without ads and keep it that way for a long time, some readers might think that they finally found a pure soul that does not to want to get corrupted by the bloody moolah. Guess what, once the ads start popping in they might consider that you sold out, and some criticism will appear (Robert Scoble knows a thing or two about this…).
2. Money left on the table
If you decide to go without ads in the beginning, and after a while your traffic starts to grow consistently, you will inevitably wonder how much money you are leaving on the table.
3. Design problems down the road
Bloggers that start using ads from the beginning will probably design their blog or choose a template that is suitable for their monetization strategy. Bloggers that use a long term monetization strategy, on the other hand, might find down the road that their layout is not really compatible with ads. As a result they will either be forced to redesign or be limited in the monetization options.
Over to the readers
When do you think a blogger should start monetizing his blog? Is there a rule of thumb for all blogs, or it must be evaluated on a case by case basis?
Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips, and he is currently running a Blogging Idol contest. If you want to compete with fellow bloggers to increase your RSS count, check it out.