Building a Better Blog: The Content Comes First

When you have a static page, it’s fine to have plenty of ads on it. People visit static pages because there’s some piece of information there that they need. They’ve bookmarked it and will return only when they need that specific piece of information, at which time it is worth it for them to dodge the ads you’ve put up.

A blog, on the other hand, is a living, breathing entity. People become regular readers of blogs and visit them on a continuous regular basis. They’re likely to tell their friends about sites. When they visit the site, they want to see the fresh new content, not dodge ads over and over again.

Many people take ad placement information about static sites and try to apply them to blogs. They plaster ads and various other web gizmos all over the place in an attempt to grab the reader’s attention in any way possible.

What ends up happening, however, is a content overload, leaving the site almost unusable for readers. Take a look at this example, taken from PC Magazine’s news site. This is a site that is taking ads to the extreme, even for a static page. Yet the site is constantly updated, making the site closer to a blog than to a pure static site. The result? You couldn’t pay me to read that website.

Here is the real recipe for maximizing your ad earnings.

Write good content before anything else. Readers don’t come to your site for ads – they come for content. Worry about the content above everything else so that you have people to look at your ads to begin with.

Determine how static your site is. Compare the number of hits your front page, your RSS feed, and the last few days worth of posts get compared to your archives. As your blog ages, the weight will gradually shift to your more static archives, away from your front page, so you can get away with ads that are closer to those for a static site (i.e., more ads above the fold and such). As a young blog without many entrants from Google, heavy ad placements will have a negative effect on your readers and will make it hard for you to build up a long-term healthy base.

In short, minimize your ads early on and, when you build up an archive of good content and Google has assigned you a fairly steady page rank (after about six months of steady blogging or so), you can look at more advertisement placement. When you’re young, the focus should be content above all, so be subtle with the ads early on so you can maximize your readership.

Positive readers attract positive readers – negative readers attract nothing. Examine your own pages and try to think like a reader, ignoring your own ad returns. If you find a page on your site to be cluttered with ads, think about how your reader must feel. If I visit a site where the ads are overwhelming, I don’t like it by default and I have minimal interest in linking to it.

Use only one ad above the fold. This sounds crazy, but it works: include only one ad at the top of the page that’s visible when the window opens, and make it an image ad. This ad will stick out to your readers because it’s the only one and will be much more likely to grab their attention and generate a click than a bunch of ads. This is especially true for young blogs; if you have sites that are very static where most of your readers come in from search engines straight into your archives, you can add more ads.

Blending text ads only works to trick readers. If you’re trying to make text ads look like the rest of your site, you’re just seeking to trick readers that come in from search engines. If someone accidentally clicks on an ad on your site and goes to some crummy offer that they don’t like, they will think negatively about what you’re doing. Many people say “blend” to maximize earnings; I say “don’t blend” unless your site is highly static.

Don’t interrupt cohesive thoughts with ads. If you make it so that a reader has to jump over an ad to continue reading an article you’ve posted, you’re annoying the reader and reducing the positive feelings they’ll have for your site. Ads between pieces of content (between posts) have most of the positives of such “in the body” ads, but eliminate most of the negatives.

The basic rule of thumb is this: don’t annoy your readers, especially early on when you don’t have a lot of readers. Hold off on the heavy ads and you’ll do much better in the long run.

Building a Better Blog is a month-long series at Money360, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, Money Doesn’t Matter, or back to the previous one, Inspire Yourself.

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