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Does Your Blog Look Like NASCAR?

In this post, Jack Gamble from Babeled talks about ad placement and the risk of overdoing it.

nascarAre you responsible for a website that has so many ads that it looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. should be driving it in circles at high speed with a strange aversion to right turns?

That is because your advertisements are out of control.

Like all things in life, with advertising you need to know when to stop. If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it’s arriving at a blog and being bombarded by a mess of Goggle Adsense, pop-ups, and 125×125 banner ads. All of these are ways to bring in some cash for your hard work, but at what point does it become counterproductive?

Here’s a hint: if I need to scroll down to get to your content because you have nothing but ads above the fold, then I am never coming back to your site. I will not click your ads. I will not subscribe to your feed. I will not download your e-book. I will not tell my friends about you. Are you getting the point? Too much advertising on your blog is simply insulting to your readers.

You need to come up with some simple guidelines for your ad campaign and stick to your guns. I’m not going to tell you that this ad is good and that one is bad. But I will tell you that there is certainly a point where the next ad you put up will cost you money.

Try testing yourself. Click on any post in your blog and scroll down to an arbitrary point in the post. Now take stock in what you see. What percentage of the screen is dedicated to advertisement? If the number is too high, then you’re readers are not happy (if you have any left).

So what percent of space should you dedicate to displaying ads?

Let’s look at the other popular media outlets our there. In television for example, the average 1 hour show has about 44 minutes of programming and 16 minutes of commercials. That is an ad/content ratio of just over 26%.

Print magazines are far worse. The average magazine has an ad/content ratio on the order of 40%! This doesn’t exactly demonstrate a devotion to reader satisfaction. Could this be part of the reason that print magazine circulation has fallen more than 10% since 2008?

So what can we take away from these numbers? For starters, you need to get your ratio down as low as possible. Certainly the 40% magazine standard is a failing number, and in my opinion, the 26% TV figure is not much better.

All the ads in the world won’t do you any good if there is nobody there to see them. If your blog has been sitting idle with no growth in earnings, subscribers, or traffic then try removing some of the ads. You will find that a user friendly site with solid content and a few small ads will consistently outperform a confusing cluster of banners.

So unless your blog has a world class pit crew and can do more than 200 miles per hour, you better do something about your ad/content ratio. My challenge to you is get your ratio down to 20% or less. Your readers (and your revenue) will thank you.

Image: aarmono

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I completely agree. I can’t stand blogs with tons of ads. Since starting my blog in July I’ve always made sure to maintain a clean look.

  2. Nibras Bawa says:

    Problem is not many bloggers know the basics of advertising. Well.. one needn’t be an Ad professional, but the basics should be clear. Don’t clutter !

    Irony is i’ve seen many cluttered blogs by so-called “simple life” and “simplicity” gurus. I’d like to think your blog is also a reflection of your state of mind. A f**ked up mind often results in a cluttered blog. On the other hand, a clear, calm and result oriented person is likely to have a clean blog that works.

    Also one need not monetize solely on Ads. You can be creative and earn using subtle, indirect ways. Google is a case in point. I simply adore their Max 28 word count on their home page. It just worked for them. I’d advocate learning a Google lesson, that is you can be clean and yet cash rich !

    Thank you Jack Gamble and Darren Rowse. Sorry i’m unable to link as i don’t have a blog yet.

  3. Jim Gray says:

    i feel the same way…i’m convinced that less may be more on some accounts.

  4. Rita says:

    A funny post. A good way to use humor to make a point.

    I’m just starting to advertise on my blog and the ratio idea is a good way to keep advertising under control.

    Rita Blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  5. I’ve been thinking about this a little more since reading it.

    Here’s the catch–a rectangle ad above the content tends to be the “money spot.” So I’m not sure I would advise everyone against putting an adsense widget there.

    But I’ll agree with the overall point of the post–too many ads tend to keep any of them from getting clicked. They are overwhelming and end up turning off readers.

  6. David Walker says:

    Hear Hear Jack, and you hit the nail right on its bloated, misshapen head. I have been turned off many sites and have never gone back again. I get the feeling the blogger is trying to sell me something every inch I look and it’s not a good feeling since I wasn’t buying to begin with. I also feel cheated out of whatever I wanted from the site as it somehow feels like it has a price tag attached. O ye moolah-seeking scribes; subtlety rules.

  7. Ryan says:

    None. I don’t actively advertise on my blog. I include a logo for my primary online venture, that’s about it.

    Blogs with multiple ads turn me off. Blogs plastered with ads get the X out automatically, no matter how informative the content. I understand why most would want to monetize their blogs but I’m of the school that if I want something I’ll search for it on my own.

  8. John Paul says:

    Nice Post.. Over the last weeks I have slowly been cutting the ad fat off my blog.

    Looks cleaner and less in the readers face.

  9. work at home says:

    I also guess it that putting so many ads on blog, increase bouncing rate of our blog and its take time to load our blog. I always try to put less ads on my blog so that my blog load fast.

  10. The whole key in advertising is to make enough to support you and running your site. Having less advertisements is usually ideal, charing more for them, but this doesn’t always work. The larger ad format appears to really be catching on, with more sites sporting the larger sizes.

    Cutting down on “unrelated” ads also helps attract more advertisers to your site.

  11. I have always refrained myself from putting too much ads. I just have enough income for the expenses and my blog is growing everyday. That’s enough for me :)

  12. GolfGurl says:

    Agree agree agree. Good post. Good advice. I’m always battling the temptation to add an ad…

  13. Floorsander says:

    I’m a novice in the blog world, but I would warn against getting dogmatic on the subject of advertising vs. content. You might be surprised. Ads don’t turn me away from the many newspapers or magazines I like to read, and they don’t keep me from watching TV shows I enjoy (although I do prefer to record and “scroll down” past the ads most of the time). Unless there’s something totally unique about the blogosphere, good content will probably be able to carry at least the 26% of ad space you defined for TV, assuming positioning and audience alignment is appropriate. It seems to me that, like all other media outlets, with blogs content is king.

  14. ITrush says:

    Above the fold ads is just fine, just make sure you blend it with correct colors of your post content..

  15. On my main page, I have a smaller ad at the top, and two slightly larger ads after the first and last articles on the page. On the pages for individual post pages, I have an ad at the top and one at the bottom.

    I also use the WhoSeesAds plugin to eliminate ads for regular visitors. A normal, check-the-site-a-few-times-a-week visitor will never see ads (other than the first few times they visit).

  16. Joi says:

    Great post – we all need a reminder every now and then. As someone who works online without an offline job to count on, I know firsthand that it’s hard NOT to yield to temptation and throw ads everywhere they’ll be seen.

    When your income completely depends upon it, you get overly zealous sometimes. But as you point out, we only hurt ourselves when we fall for the clicks and whistles.

  17. BloggerDaily says:

    Yep. This is the mistake that I’d done in my early times blogging. Too much ads!

    I realized the mistake and remove the ads, turning it into simple sidebar with minimal ads and amazingly, the visitors and loyal readers were increasing!

  18. Galvahaha says:

    hen I read this post title I was expecting it to be along the lines of “Does your blog go in a circle forever and waste a lot of your fuel?”

    Good post though. I think I’ll try retooling the ads at least. I try not to advertise anything I personally don’t recommend, but there’s always room for improveme

  19. Excellent reminder for all. I try to keep mine sites pretty lean when it comes to ads.

    Anyway, recent studies have found that even on some of the most popular sites, reducing the number of ads have kept revenue equal or the same.

  20. Ms. Freeman says:

    That’s funny! I see so many blogs just tatted up with ads, (mine included somewhat). Which is not a problem if it is working for them then so be it. I was reading elsewhere that a great way to go is “Leak Proof” meaning not posting ads other than for your own products and your readers either buys or exit-no other option. I like that idea if I had something to sell.

  21. I say, Amen, Amen, Amen! Since I started blogging two years ago, I have only encountered maybe a couple of blogs that had too much ads, it turns me off right away. I never came back and was glad to say Adios!

  22. Durkin says:

    In my experience ads are never really a problem until they either start becoming full page or start popping up.

    A number of times I’ve visited sites and read a post only to realise after I had finished reading that the adverts were out of control.

    I agree that there is a limit, and you have to consider your readers when you place ads, but I think its quite difficult to drive away readers with ads if you have good content.

    I personally try to keep mine slick and clean.

  23. Oleg Mokhov says:

    Hey Jack,

    The most effective way to increase reader stickiness is to prioritize the reader’s experience.

    Do readers like ads? Only if it’s something that’s truly useful to them, and it’s not brought up too much. Too much of a good thing is bad, after all – do you want so much chocolate offered that your stomach gets sick?

    By tastefully placing ads–and making sure it’s offering something relevant, remarkable, and valuable (and assuming you believe and would recommend the product yourself)–you not only can earn some income but actually benefit the readers with something useful.

    The less ads, the better. And if the ads are of the highest quality, then that’s the best.

    I feel a great example is Daring Fireball. John Gruber has minimal and tasteful ad placements, and the products advertised are some great stuff, not some random “make money online” trite.

    Nice reminder to prioritize reader experience in order to increase their stickiness – the ads should serve to improve the experience, not the readers serving the ads (and ditching your site shortly thereafter).

    Best,
    Oleg

  24. Ron says:

    Same here, I don’t like blogs that has too many ads. It is annoying, specially if it crosses some of the paragraphs.

  25. Absolutely agree with you on this. Seems content often becomes secondary to advertising. I guess it all depends on what you are after. My blog is not an advertising vehicle. I make money from the services I provide and my blog is a vehicle to express my thoughts about business and in turn generate clients, not generate ad revenue. If I need to search for the content when visiting a blog, then I’m gone.

  26. Blog Tips says:

    Nascar? lols. I can even see some blogs that has one content and lots of ads around it.lols

    Anyway thanks for reminding us, putting good content first is a must if you really want your blog to last

  27. Paul Hassing says:

    Nice one, Jack! It is with some amusement and growing dismay that I watch my wife read her fashion magazines.

    She forks out more than a few bucks for each one, then sits in bed going flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip before she reaches the first skerrick of actual content.

    This is not a recipe for prosperity in my book. Good on you for calling it like it is. Best regards, P. :)

  28. Arthur K says:

    Is a tough call. I agree for blogs though that ads should be minimal. Readers want to read text not images. I only include 2 ads on my blog and only recently put them in to see if they would generate any income. I leave the ads to the main site. And even there, its minimal.

    What is frustrating is that once I put google ads into my main site, they started to really work for me. My policy is that I either have an affiliate link or google on a page, not both.

    Keeps the pages clean and makes some money.

  29. free income says:

    Blogs that has many ads on it instead of putting up great contents are only there to earn money not to become helpful to their readers

  30. I was just telling a client yesterday that the sidebars were a little too flooded with information. It’s not just ‘ads’ that create the visual clutter and information overload for readers. Advertising is more effective when it’s highly targeted and eye drawing. Multiple ads stacked together don’t draw the eye as effectively as having just a handful on a page.

    Thankfully, there are fantastic ways to set up ads these days, consider having your banners randomized for example, one page load presents this ad, another page load presents that one. You can run multiple campaigns over the same web real estate and avoid cluttering the visual appeal of your page.

    I think you’ll agree that the advertising on the Nascars aren’t as effective these days as they were when it was just one or two sponsors instead of twenty. When technology advances a little more we’ll have electronic rotating advertising on the side so that each time you look at the car it’ll have a different ad. ;-) Much more effective!

  31. Jason says:

    So, how do you rate the percentages? What counts as “ad space”? If the main is 680px and the side is 120px, then that should be fine right? I mean if the negative space also eats up site layout percentages, That would put mine at roughly 10%…

  32. A blog WITH a community shouldn’t put and Adsense Ads on the main page, but if your blog is a full keyword blog, then you can put it as you like.

  33. Fence says:

    I have used ads in blogs, I don’t currently because just started a new site after selling a few others. I think one needs to be very careful not to appear as though the ads are more important than the content, the content is #1.

    Just my $.02
    Keith

  34. Lori Bjork says:

    Please know my comment is sincerely from a place of respect. So much so that after I read your post, I immediately went to my main blog, californivacation.blogspot.com, to peruse what sort of percentage of content to adverts I broadcast.

    That is until later while I was showering. The shower is where I do most of my “aha” thinking. It occurred to me that this may be how it is for you, but it is not how it is for me.

    For instance, I desired to read your blog post ‘cuz I was interested in how you tied in NASCAR. As I had this desire, it made no difference to me how much advertising the blog included. I wanted to read what you had to say…period. Truth told, for me I feel I have a decent ad filter. I barely notice an ad if that is my desire.

    To extend further, you could have the most awesome blog design with little to no advertising. Yet if I have no desire to read your content, my eyes will never adore it.

    What am I saying? My opinion is pay some attention to your advertising. Yet what consistently pays off is focus on content. Content. Content. Content. When people desire and love your content, you’ll be able to get away with advertising similar to the sort of upchuck look of a NASCAR car with no risk. No one will care. They’ll be too busy anticipating what’s next.

  35. B Becker says:

    The NASCAR racecar example is awesome. It took me twice to figure out what you meant, but the second time was a charm. The car with all of the decals was priceless.

    I agree with many, there is no set ratio. QVC broadcasts only ads, and they are successful. Reiman Publishing has published successful magazines for decades with no ads at all. Different models.

    Most blogs and web sites are advertising supported. With that in mind, we need to understand that advertising on a web site may be a ‘net sum game’. That is, if you have two ads, 50% may be attracted to one ad and 50% to another ad. If you add a third ad, you may discover that the clicks will now be divided between 3 ads, with each getting 33% of the clicks. Many studies have shown there is a point where there is a net sum game. The key is that you may be able to go from one ad position to two or three or more and see overall net advertising income increase. But, if you went from three ad positions to twenty, you may see no increase at all.

    On our craft site, http://www.favecrafts.com we added an advertising supported video option. We tested the video with an imperfect A/B split. We saw that the video did not increase our total ad income, rather our income from other banners on the site actually decreased. We repeated the same test on our food site, http://www.recipelion.com and found similar results. I say the A/B test was imperfect because we were also changing site structure at the time and other variables were not constant, except during the test. We plan to repeat the video test again, but intuition says it will decrease other ad revenue.

    Hence, we may have reached our equilibrium on these two sites. Results may vary for reach site. And, if the advertising is very closely associated with the topic, the ability to add ad positions is enhanced.

    Fascinating case study. The exact answers still to be determined.

  36. I have absolutely no adds on my blog. Adds scare people away and distract them. I am selling content. I am offering real help to people and I want them to focus just exactly on that.

    I don’t believe in adds. Maybe that’s an overstatement. But I am not going to put adds of things that I do not believe or do support.

    The only adds you will ever see are going to be other products that I support and trust; it will be recommendations for other websites that I am a fan of; it will be my products that I put in a lot of work to develop that will sell.

    Random adds make people feel alienated and disconnected. Let us reconnect and rethink what we are after: money or helping people?

    Best,

    Tomas

  37. Dean Saliba says:

    I’ve been a victim of this. I used to plaster ads all over the place but I’m learning to cut them down. I still have a few too many but at least it is a start.

  38. There’s nothing more off-putting than a site full of adverts. A few choice relevant ads will keep viewers coming back.

  39. 100% correct. Many new and young bloggers seem to think that the more ads you have the more money you make. Where in fact it is actually not true. The more traffic you have the more money you can make.

    A simple calculation will show, that if your blog has 500 pageviews a month and 5 ads, you could have a total of 30000 ad impressins per year. 500x5x12. Not a lot.
    But if you have just three ads and increase your page views just 10% per month, then you can look at 56000 ad impressions in the first year, and over 175 000 ad impressions by year 2. It increases exponentially.

  40. Zaheer says:

    NASCAR analogy drove the point home! I think your percent number is to the mark but another aspect to consider is the placement. If the ads are out of most visitors way in a sidebar or footer then I don’t think they will look too bad. One or two Adsense block within the post are also OK. The thing I dislike the most is the pop up ads that slides across your screen. I have seen these annoying ads on major publication websites also.

  41. Blogbooze says:

    Well said, It is a talk to the point and I read the article non-stop just like a NASCAR :-) I have only placed 2 Adsense and I don’t think it is too big. Just take a look at it by clicking my name.

    Also I want to know one thing, is image ads working better than text ads?

  42. This was a really great post for me to read. I recently was considering beefing up my advertising to help further balance out the costs vs revenue ratio of my food blog. But, it was always nagging at me the thought of losing sight of my most valuable asset…the content. Now I’m going to focus on other ways to make money. Or even save money.

  43. Look at print media – full pages of only ads. Sometimes full sections. And that the New York Times. I think the challenge is to present ads as content. Then the sky is the limit. And avoid really annoying ones. My two cents. Here are some examples from the travel space –
    http://www.tripcart.com/
    frommers.com
    http://www.tripadvisor.com

  44. emumbert1 says:

    A very well done article. I’ve been in sales and marketing all my adult life, owning radio stations and a paper. The NASCAR analogy is great. I’ll add one about radio. In the early days of FM radio, we loaded up as many commercials as we could reasonably get on the air..three to five bewteen each song. Along came Arbitron and we all discovered that we could generate a much bigger audience with fewer commercials. Once we bit the bullet and cut way down on commercials, we had the number one stations in the area. That meant we could charge more per spot and run fewer spots…make more money and have the best stations!

    Keep the great articles flowing!

  45. film izle says:

    I have been saying this same thing to my partners for YEARS. I will make them read this to see that a professional agrees with me. Thank you for posting this article, it will be useful.

  46. I’ve been trying out lots of different ad/affiliate networks, and now that I’ve figured out what works (and, more importantly, what doesn’t!), I’m ready to chop. Thanks for the reminder that it’s time!

  47. scott says:

    Thanks 4 posting, I found this very interesting and helpful.

    Thanks,
    Scott, CA

    http://linksharedirect.blogspot.com

  48. Thanks for writing about this. There’s a bunch of good tech info on the internet. You’ve got a lot of that info here on your web site. I’m impressed – I try to keep a couple blogs reasonably ongoing, but it’s a struggle sometimes. You’ve done a great job with this one. How do you do it?