At the beginning of the year, on my travels through translation blogs in search of good articles to choose as the Posts of the Day, I noticed that more and more bloggers were showing ads. This got me thinking about whether I should try monetising my own blog. Before going ahead with such a radical change, however, I decided to gauge opinion with a survey, and learn more about the pros and cons of showing ads on translation blogs.
My survey received 100 responses and comprised three questions, all with an option to skip and to comment.
A large percentage of survey respondents clearly don’t want to see ads when they visit blogs. Almost half the comments on this question highlighted that their tolerance of ads would depend on how intrusive and relevant they are. A few pointed out that they block ads anyway (using AdBlock or Ad-Aware), so it would make absolutely no difference to them. Only four comments were in any way supportive (“Do not mind”, “Why not?”) and mentioned that the income from the ads would “compensate the writer for his/her time”, “help bloggers … supplement their income” and that there was “nothing wrong with translators making extra money that way”. However, one respondent felt that monetising blogs went against the spirit of “sharing and discussing topics with one’s network” and wouldn’t want to turn “professional connections and friends into potential sales targets”.
Despite the fact that over fifty per cent of respondents believe that ads should not be shown on blogs, only 13.64 per cent stated that they would stop reading blogs displaying them. The vast majority of the comments again highlighted that the response to this question depended on where ads are placed on the page and their content, with five of the 18 specifically mentioning that pop-ups put them off reading some pages (“pop-ups are definitely a no-no”). In short, ads must not be “annoying”, “irritating” or “rubbish”. However, a couple said that they would still read the post if the “subject matter had caught [their] attention”.
The idea of whether showing ads damages your integrity was again brought up. For one respondent “ads may compromise the image of an ‘independent language professional’, and hence affect the blogger’s authority”. Another stated that adverts on blogs “would certainly change my view of their objectivity/interests/moral fibre”.
The responses to the third and final question rather surprised me as I was expecting the No percentage to be far greater. As you can see, over fifty per cent believe that bloggers should receive financial compensation from adverts. Perhaps this would not have been as high if fewer people had skipped this question.
The comments demonstrated some support for blog monetisation:
If they write well, they take time to do this. No reason then that they should not be compensated for it.
Well, if they invest time expanding their audience and searching sponsors etc., then it is a form of business…so obviously yes.
Why not if their blogs add value? Or…as long as the financial compensation can be given voluntarily if the value is not clearly specified / obvious to everyone.
Depends on the type of ad – if they were too off-putting, I’d stop reading the blog but I don’t have a problem with the principle of bloggers making a few bob off advertising.
But perhaps the reason why the Yes percentage is so high for this question can be found in these comments:
I can totally see why somebody would want financial compensation for the time spent in running a blog. At the same time, I also feel that any website loaded with ads makes it look ‘cheap’ (for the lack of a better word) and makes me want to spend less time on that site.
In some ways it seems silly not to take the opportunity to get money from ads, but I just don’t like the idea. I think it makes the blog look cheap (just my opinion). However in the end it’s your actual content that counts.
On the one hand, receiving some form of payment for the time spent blogging is perceived as a totally natural course of action, yet on the other it jars and can put people off. A couple of the respondents mentioned that the time spent blogging builds your brand and should just be viewed as part of your marketing efforts and “factored into your hourly rate (along with other ‘expenses’)”.
Once the survey was up and running and I started to receive some responses, it became clear to me that I really needed to see the other side of the story and hear from colleagues who were already showing ads on their blogs. This second survey was not nearly as popular or as enlightening as the first, however, and for a good reason. It turns out that many colleagues using WordPress have not realised that the platform shows ads for you automatically unless you purchase the no ads upgrade, which at the time of writing costs £25 per year. Given that I use Blogger*, which only shows ads if you opt in, I was unaware that the majority of the translation blogs I had spotted adverts on were displaying them because they hadn’t opted out.
But one colleague was able to shed some light on the issue of whether monetising blogs is a worthwhile exercise for translators. Emma Goldsmith decided to run ads on her WordPress blog Signs & Symptoms of Translation as an experiment for just over a month and has kindly agreed to let me share the outcome in this post.
Emma’s blog is very popular and receives around 12,000 page views per month, yet she estimates that her earnings from ads would only amount to one dollar per thousand if she was using the default WordAds option. The Extra WordAds option would no doubt result in higher earnings, but Emma removed that almost as soon as she tried it because she wasn’t happy with the result.
Yet Emma’s main beef with the ads was their placement and content: “I’m more concerned about the intrusive nature of the ads and their lack of context (they are completely irrelevant to my blog contents). I don’t want half-dressed women advertising anything on my translation blog.”
In conclusion, and on a personal level, although I agree with the majority (75%) of the respondents in the second survey who think that readers should use ad blockers if they are bothered by seeing adverts, I have decided that they have no place on this work-related blog. I am, however, considering starting another couple of blogs (if I ever find the time!) that would have nothing to do with translation and would probably have a more wide-ranging appeal. If I do start writing them, I’ll probably monetise them at the earliest opportunity. But the jury’s still out.
Many thanks to everyone that took part in this survey and especially to Emma Goldsmith for the extra info and screenshots.
If you are interested in this topic, I recommend you read 13 Reasons Why Blog Ads Are a Silly Monetization Strategy (And What to do Instead) by Sarah Peterson (Boost Blog Traffic).
*This post was first published on 12/03/2015 on my previous blog on Blogger. As you can see, I have now moved to WordPress. You shouldn’t see any adverts on my site because I have paid for them not to appear. Please let me know if you do see any so I can rectify the situation.