Marketing, Design, Writing & More

Adding Ads To Your Website Without Looking Terrible

Adding Ads To Your Website Without Looking TerribleThe reality is that ads are not native to the internet, and those that appear to be, are not honest content. I am referring to native advertisements, advertorials, or other names which are really just paid propaganda. Look, I get that running a website costs money but that’s not why the internet was researched and developed. Marketing ruined much of our online experience and after the first check was written we just accepted that ads were normal.

I always tell people that just because you built a website doesn’t mean you automatically deserve compensation. If this is the first blog post you are reading from me then you will notice I don’t have ads. Of course, you may have a completely different view and I respect that.

I am against ads on websites, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get beyond my own prejudice. Websites need to operate and the overwhelming majority goes right towards AdSense or another form of advertising for their site. I get it, and why not right? The money is too desirable if you are a blogger. If you are selling stuff as a business then you should not have ads at all. I suppose you could double dip, but at what cost?

Making your site work with advertising is making sure it takes the backseat and “just happens” to be there for your visitors if they want to support your venture. This means toning down the colors, making sure they are not interrupting your content, and they are non-abusive. Avoid creating native advertising since that type of advertising will destroy your credibility once people realize what is going on. However, for some reason Buzzfeed was able to blossom even though they built their platform on stealing Reddit comments and running native advertisements or A.K.A. sponsored content.

Before jumping into putting ads on your site, I would ask you these questions:

  • Why are you running a website? Is it to make money? To be seen? A passion?
  • How much does it really cost and do you think ads are going to truly benefit your website?
  • Have you thought about other ways to monetize? Donations, merchandise, or even a GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaign.
  • Have you balanced your traffic numbers against expected payouts from ad platforms?
  • Why are you doing what you are doing?

I ask this because I fell for it when I first started. I thought ads were awesome and the way to go, but they weren’t. They made my site ugly and after 6 months of running them and finally making $100 for AdSense to pay me, they banned me for “Click Fraud”. They took advantage of my site and then didn’t even pay. Click Fraud? That was 6 months of some really awful fraud tactics on my part if that was the case. I could have made $100 quicker in many other ways and I did not click on my ads. Lesson learned from 2005 and one I try to tell all the time. I will never use Google Adsense on any of my projects. No loss to them I suppose, but good to remember who gets you paid…advertisers.

The point of that story is that it could happen to you and advertising revenue is dropping as more and more people install things like uBlock Origins and other ad blocking extensions into their browsers. You can’t get away from having your site looking like an ad farm. People now have a way to combat intrusive ads and begging them to support you by disabling it for your site takes a good reason to make them do so. You better have given them value. I don’t disable it until I know it’s something I want to support and it’s rarely on a first visit. It’s kind of like second base on a first date.

Some thoughts on making ads friendly and not detrimental to your goals:

  • Label the ads as ads.
  • Have as few as possible on a page that doesn’t trick the user to click them.
  • No animated, auto-playing, or seizure-inducing banner ads.
  • Don’t make the page more than 5-10% ads.
  • You better have some great content.
  • Don’t beg for ad blockers to be disabled. Earn it.

If you notice that you’re not making any money, you might assume that you don’t have enough ad spots and then add more. Don’t do this. It’s a cyclical process and one that will hurt more than you can imagine. People will never revisit and your bounce rate will be very high. One or two ads in the sidebar would not detract from your website, but you have to work to make sure they are tasteful, match your look and feel and are worth having on your site.

Depending on your numbers, some advertisers won’t touch you until you are large enough. They want to reach as many people as they can for the least amount of money. My biggest goal when I discuss ads on websites is to get creators to think beyond traditional advertising on websites. People are blocking them out at higher rates and there has to be a better way. Even Amazon affiliates are struggling to a degree. The entire concept is changing because people have tools to rid their experience of intrusive advertising.

Just remember that people aren’t only online to shop or click ads. They are there to relax after a hard day of work, looking for information, or any number of other things. You have to go into building your site for the end-user and not thinking that you are going to be a millionaire. The web rarely works in this way and you will do more good with self-restraint than anything else.

If it’s a personal blog, then make it personal and not commercial. You can do that by connecting with your audience and then ask for a little support in other ways. I decided to add a premium supporter membership for this blog as a way to make enough for the server but it’s an afterthought. I built the content for a couple years before making that jump. I also take on freelancing jobs through my portfolio pages too. That is all I do and it’s enough to make me happy to churn out the content that I do.

If you are a business then be a business and sell something, unless you sell ads. Let your products be the frontline. I know many sites are turn-key solutions for adsense, Amazon affiliate programs, or drop selling. I just hope that this post will make you consider your approach in delivering a better user experience and not a compromised one.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. I am always interested in the conversation after I make my case!

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