One piece of advice I see repeated over and over is for new blogs to forgo displaying ads until they've become established. To be honest, it's never made any sense to me.
On Yaro Starak's blog today, Mark Riddix wrote:
5. Don't Make This Mistake
One of the first things that new bloggers do is try to sell information, products, or software the minute that they create their new blog. Their sites provide little to no information and are solely created to sell a product. Their new ebook or product quickly flops and they often find themselves discouraged and unwilling to engage in any more product sales. That is simply because they took the wrong approach.
I am a big believer in the fact that new blogs should not try to sell any product initially. Site owners would be better off creating fantastic content that will fill up their blog's pages.
Mark does make a valid point: if you're going to get discouraged and give up because you didn't make any sales from your brand new blog, then sure, spend some time doing things to increase you're odds of success first.
And he makes another valid point: if trying to sell is going to distract you from creating quality content, then sure, you need to keep your focus where it belongs.
And he makes a third good point: advertising your own product on a nearly-empty blog could be problematic, because when you're selling your own product, you need to establish your credibility. But if you're advertising someone else's product, that's much less important, if it matters at all.
Focus on Content First?
But what about the argument that putting ads on a new blog is going to make it look like it's all about the ads, and not the content?
I don't think so.
First of all, when you arrive at someone's blog, what's the first thing you look at? The content you came to read. If you're not completely banner blind, you'll also see the ads on the page.
At that point, do you have the first clue how many pages of content the blog contains? No. You've seen the page you landed on and that's it. So what if it's the only article on the entire blog and it already has AdSense on it?
If it's a question of the ad to content ratio, any website is going to look cluttered and spammy if the ad to content ratio is too high, regardless of how many pages of content it contains.
Focus on Getting Subscribers First?
Another argument I see is that you should build up your readership before starting to advertise. Supposedly, if your blog displays ads, you're going to get less subscribers.
I suppose if that's really true, there may be some sense in it. But how much of a difference does it make?
First of all, people who are offended by advertising are going to be offended when you start advertising, whether they're already subscribed or not. If they're going to leave when you start advertising anyway, then what are you losing by advertising in the beginning?
In fact, they may be even more offended when they discover that (in their minds) you've sold out. Internet marketing history is riddled with stories of websites that took a big hit when they added advertising to what was once a completely ad-free site.
Second, if advertising it going to turn away would-be subscribers, isn't it going to lose just as many subscribers for an established blog as for a new one? So why is having ads on a new blog worse than on an established blog?
And third, ads aren't going to turn everyone away. If you wait to start advertising, you're losing the opportunity to make money from your early visitors.
How Long Should You Wait?
I don't deny that there is at least a little bit of sense to the idea of holding off on advertising (weak though it may be). So if you decide to wait, how long should you wait?
If your concern is that people will read the article they first landed on, look for more articles, not see very many, and decide that you're advertising too much for a new blogger, then how many articles do you need to not look too green?
The vast majority of your visitors aren't going to look around your site after reading the article that brought them there, so for them, one article is enough.
Of those who do look further (and those who land on your homepage instead of an article page), the vast majority aren't going to look beyond your homepage. So as long as you've got enough to make your homepage look full -- maybe 8 to 10 -- you should be good to go.
If you post regularly, it won't take you more than 2 weeks go get that many articles. Do you really think that displaying ads for two weeks while you're short on content is going to scuttle your blog? I doubt it.
The Strongest Argument
The strongest argument I can think of for holding off on advertising is that it may help you get more subscribers by getting your blog linked to by people who wouldn't have shared a link to a blog with ads. It has nothing to do with how old your blog is or how much content it has on it -- just how fast you initially grow.
Think of it this way. Hypothetically speaking, let's say your blog without ads would get shared enough to double your subscriber base every week. If you've got 1 subscriber today, you'll have two next week, 4 two weeks after that, 8 the next week, etc. At this rate, it would take you about 6 1/2 weeks to get to 100 subscribers.
Now let's say that with ads, your blog gets shared and subscribed to less, so it takes a week and a half to double your subscriber base. Now it will take about 10 weeks to get to 100.
Obviously the faster growth is nice. But let's say you get to 100 subscribers, start advertising, and 15 people get offended and unsubscribe. We'll, you're still at 85 people in 6 1/2 weeks, which is more than you'd have with ads.
Of course, once you've started advertising, the ads will affect your growth rate the same as they would have if you'd advertised in the beginning. So it's just a trade off between sales you might have made while building your subscriber base, and more sales later to a potentially larger subscriber base.
Of course, my numbers here are entirely hypothetical. Whether and how much ads might affect your subscriber base growth, I don't know.
I say advertise.
What I recommend not doing, whether your your blog is new or old, is:
- Burying your content in too many ads.
- Pitching products in too many of your posts, unless your posts also contain information that's valuable without buying the product.
- Advertising your own products on a blog with too little content to establish your credibility.