Update January 26, 2008:
In a month, I have made no money with Commission Junction, about $5 with Google Ads and $10 with Amazon Associates.
Update April 1, 2008:
I made no money with Commission Junction at all so I have removed the ads. I made about $12 total with Google Ads and $26 with Amazon Associates. I am removing everything but Amazon Associates.
Over the years I have tried to help people get started blogging. Probably the number one reason to blog is that you learn a lot about yourself, much like journaling or reading a vocational discernment book like What Color Is Your Parachute? I started out blogging about theology, current events, sports, and church leadership and later realized that I am most passionate about church leadership.
Here is my latest experimentation in the blogosphere. This week I have put up some ads. I thought I would share with you, my faithful reader, what I have learned. What I can't tell you is how much I'll make since I just put them up.
Three reasons to put ads up on your blog or website.
1. Almost all publishers and media use ads. Almost every TV program, radio program, magazine and newspaper exist because of ads. Using ads does not mean that you are compromising your integrity to sell ads. The other financial options are to solicit donations like a Christian radio station or PBS or exist through subscriptions such as Consumer Reports. Many bloggers also write books and thus hope that internet traffic will improve their book sales - many of the most well known church leadership blogs do this.
2. This is a reasonable way to sustain content production. Google's revenue is almost exclusively from internet ads. Did I mention I have a 2 year old and 3 month old and am a full-time doctoral student? There is money to be made. I don't click on internet ads. You don't click on internet ads. But clearly someone does. Am I contributing to someone's excess spending by putting ads up on my site? Does it bother Christianity Today or Christian Century writers that they have ads? Aren't ads a way to defray the costs very broadly to help the content provider (writers) make a living? I'm happy to hear reasonable arguments in the comments against all advertising and marketing. I'll listen to them with interest.
3. You can try to market honestly. People can choose not to click on the ads. It is wrong to deceptively market something. It is wrong to market bad things. But links that take the person where they have chosen to go seem appropriate. In other words, I think there are people who are interested in blogging with TypePad. It is an excellent way to go. I have provided a nice big link on the right side of the page. If they end up going with TypePad, I get a commission. That seems pretty straightforward. I tell you below how you can choose what ads are put on your site which helps you market with more integrity.
Here is the information behind my ads and how I put them up and what I get paid.
1. TypePad. I have blogged using TypePad for 2 1/2 years now. I have the "Plus" level. It is very reliable and easy to use. I have to say I love it. I used to be on the Google-owned Blogger. One of the problems with Blogger is that you cannot upload Word documents or pdf documents. More recently some of my friends have chosen WordPress.com which is also free and allows you to upload files. It is free but you only have 50 MB worth of space which can go quickly. (For 5 GB of free storage try XDrive. Omnidrive provides 1 GB. You could link to files on XDrive or Omnidrive from your Blogger, Wordpress.com and TypePad account). I required all of my students last year at Taylor University in one course to develop a WordPress.com blog. See my post:Why to Try Blogging and How to Start and my other posts in my Blogging category about blogging. Most of the people on My List of the 70 Best Church Leadership Blogs use TypePad. Like I said, it is very easy to use and I explain below how it easy to integrate ads.
If you have TypePad and want to put up an ad, go to TypePad's home page and click on "Join the TypePad Affiliate Program." That takes you to sign up with Commission Junction Here is the commission: if people sign up for TypePad from the link: "$30 per subscriber (14 days from initial free trial) and $100 one-time bonus for 10 or more subscribers."
2. Lenovo ThinkPad. I also signed up on Commission Junction to advertise ThinkPad notebooks since I have a new T61. It is a great laptop. I ordered the specifications that Duke University Computer Store recommended. Here are the specs I ended up with.
Here is the commission: "start earning 3% commission on sales of all ThinkPad notebooks, ThinkCentre desktops and options and accessories sold through the program."
3. Amazon.com. I signed up with Amazon Associates. Thus, the book links are linked to my Amazon Associates account. If someone buys something anywhere on Amazon.com after being directed there by one of my links, "You earn a referral rate of 4% on items shipped by Amazon or third-party sellers." If you have TypePad, once you have a free Amazon Associates account, it is very easy to set up under "Profile." Then you just do your book list on TypeLists. The Amazon Associates site also has many other ways to put links on your blog to Amazon.
4. Google AdSense. Sign up at Google AdSense. Then you can put Google Ads on your site. The difference here is that you are getting paid for the number of times the ads are viewed and the number of times they are clicked, not on commission. "The program is free, and combines pay-per-click and pay-per-impression advertising - meaning you get paid for valid clicks on the ads on your site or search results pages as well as impressions on your content pages." I also put a link to Google AdSense which pays me if some of you sign up for AdSense and end up making money through it. Also I put a Google search on the left side of the page that allows you to search my site for posts you are interested in. It also includes some ads that I get credit for if you click on them.
Google ads are linked automatically to the site so that I have little choice what gets put there. This is a bit scary. (I have put my ads to the far bottom right for this reason). One good thing though is that under Google AdSense, you can go to AdSense Setup and then go to Competitive Ad Filter and screen out ads you do not want shown. I have done this once already after seeing an ad that I was embarrassed to see.
Final advice about ads:
1. Some of this takes a little bit of computer know-how. Basically though, on these sites (Commission Junction, Amazon, Google AdSense), you just click on the ads you want to show on your site, then they produce the html for the ad. You just copy and paste this into your website and it works automatically. In TypePad, you just put that html into a "Notes" TypeList. I did this for all of the ads.
2. Continue to make it easy for people to find your content. If it is difficult to read your blog because of your ads, people won't want to come back to your site. Try not to make it too busy. The more ads you put in prominent positions, the more hits you will probably get. But in the end, if people find your site off-putting, they won't come back. Realize that most people are not as technologically savvy as you are and not as familiar with your site. They will find your site confusing.
3. I think it would be great if more Christian organizations utilized internet advertising so that we could advertise them on our blogs. For example, I would be happy to find on Google AdSense or Commission Junction organizations I already support like Taylor University, Regent College, Duke Divinity School, and World Vision so that I could promote organizations that I already support and also get a tiny cut. Wouldn't that be win-win? I know some would say that I should advertise those things without any compensation but wouldn't it be more fun to work together? Wouldn't it be cool to have World Vision ads on all of our blogs but also to get a little compensation ourselves? Or am I wrongheaded about that? If you disagree, why don't you have advertisements already for World Vision on your site? :-)
4. I realize this is new territory for those of you who are pastors and professors and there may be implications for the institutions who employ you. What will my church think? Some of you are using your blogs as tools for communication from pastor to congregation (though it seems to me most of the pastor blogs are writing for other pastors). Should I be making personal money off a church communication tool? But in reality I think this is a similar situation to making money off books that pastors write. All of these are issues you should discuss one on one with elders and superiors who are familiar with the medium of blogging and writing books and are able to give you good advice. I wouldn't bring this up in the middle of an elders meeting without having some good discussion with some people behind the scenes first. It could get needlessly ugly just because of misunderstanding. A search online for blogging guidelines or policies for pastors will turn up some useful resources. They will probably want to talk with you about how much time you are blogging / writing a book / articles "on church time." It would not be good to have someone blogging all day and not ministering to their congregation. This is also related to the issue of outside speaking engagements. If you are doing tons of youth retreats and getting paid for them and neglecting your youth group, that wouldn't be good. Then again, some of that outside speaking / writing / blogging is appropriate and good and life-giving I think. For those of you who are professors, the same rules likely apply though you may have to have in big letters: "this is a personal blog and the opinions don't reflect those of the university though I do want to be respectful and you are welcome to let me know if you are concerned about anything I've written!" In all these situations, it may be appropriate to share a portion of what you have earned from speaking / blogging / writing (your "moonlighting" money) with your main employer. These could be dicey issues but I think they are certainly negotiable. Get outside advice and input from other pastors / professors who write, speak, and blog and they will be able to share with you good advice. I hope these institutions will generally be glad that their pastors and professors which they don't pay all that well can find ways to make a few extra bucks. No one is going to get rich doing any of this.
See also Adam Cleaveland's post about putting ads on his POMOMUSINGS blog for the first time this week. He has a huge readership.
Leadership Journal's Out of Ur blog is another example to consider.
Secular marketing expert Seth Godin says today that the key to internet traffic is producing good content. No short cuts.