Is Monetizing a Blog Selling Out?

Despite the recent celebration of my six month blogiversary, I still feel like I’m continually learning the ropes of blogging and slowly building relationships with the talented bloggers in this amazing community.

Initially, I was very hesitant to monetize Cashville Skyline. After all, the primary goals have always been to improve my writing, learn more about digital marketing, and hold myself accountable on my journey to financial independence.

Google Adsense

When I learned how easy Google Adsense is, it was hard to resist not giving it a try. In spite of my curiosity, I was concerned about the ads being obtrusive to readers.

At the end of April I reluctantly added a few ads to the sidebar and footer, but they have only earned about $21 so far. Because of their placement, they are rarely clicked on, so I’m heavily relying on impressions.

I know that I could probably generate three times the revenue by placing ads within my content, but I’m very nervous about turning readers away. I’ve seen bloggers do it tastefully, but I’ve also been an annoyed reader, trying to navigate through a minefield of ads.

Clearly, I still have a lot to learn about Google Adsense and what type, size, and placement of ads are most effective. I’m wading into these waters slowly.

Affiliate Programs

I started receiving inquiries to push products via Cashville Skyline almost immediately. I couldn’t believe the volume of emails I was receiving for books, apps, and services when I barely had any readers!

Initially I was flattered by the inquiries, but I quickly realized these people were just looking for free promotion.

I was recently approached by an affiliate who works with financial products. He mentioned a specific credit card that I’m already using to hack travel rewards. With the end to my traveling gig rapidly approaching, I’ve been exploring other ways to travel inexpensively.

How do I feel about affiliate links? Honestly, they’ve never bothered me as long as the blogger is transparent and genuine.

I told the representative that I wasn’t interested in mentioning any products that I haven’t personally used and enjoyed. I am willing to tastefully mention a product that I’m already using and like, but I’m still feeling hesitant.

But honestly, since I’ve recently quit my job, am I really in a position to be turning down opportunities to make money?

Conclusion

With FinCon rapidly approaching, it feels unavoidable not to be inspired by other bloggers who are making legit side income from their blogs.

These bloggers open, honest, and spend endless hours producing amazing content for the rest of us to enjoy.

Why shouldn’t they be compensated for their hard work?

As personal finance bloggers, are we foolish not to carefully consider opportunities to generate additional streams of revenue?

SHAMELESS PLUG: I am available for hire! If you like what I do and are looking for an extra hand in writing, social media strategy, etc., let’s talk!

Readers: Is monetizing a blog selling out? What turns you off as a reader? Any advice at achieving a tasteful balance?

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Discussions — 53 Responses

  • Lauren August 6, 2014 on 7:18 am

    I don’t think it’s selling out. I have Adsense ads on my blog, and I recently started adding one inside of the posts. It takes a lot of passion and effort to keep a blog going, so if a blogger can make a little money from that, I feel like, why not?

    I do think it’s bad form to constantly shill products that are not useful to your readers or things that you would not even use, as I see many lifestyle and mom blogs do. When it’s a blatant money grab, it’s insulting to readers. I think most pf bloggers do it right, though πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Lauren August 15, 2014 on 9:29 am

      Agreed, Lauren! I’m very rarely turned off by what I see from other pf bloggers.

      Reply
  • Kipp August 6, 2014 on 7:35 am

    Hey Addison,

    I am the same way on ads that you are. I feel that having them on the side and footer provides a little monetization while not effecting the quality of the article at all.

    Now regarding the affiliates, if you actually use the product that is great, there is no reason in my mind to actually make money on a link that you would probably share regardless if you think their is good value. I believe you just have to disclose that it is an affiliate link (and you may legally be required to for an affiliate link). But yea, I wouldn’t go on to promote something I don’t or wouldn’t use.

    Best of luck to you!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kipp August 15, 2014 on 9:35 am

      Thanks for commenting, Kipp. I’m still somewhat undecided on the whole thing, but it’s great to hear from others who share similar views.

      Reply
  • Roadmap2Retire August 6, 2014 on 8:16 am

    I think you are spot on, Cashville. It is not selling out putting some ads on your blog. Maybe not you and I, but a lot of bloggers do this as a career and depend on it for income. The readers need to understand that the bloggers time is not worthless and needs to be appropriately compensated…and if the readers arent going to pay to read your content, then they will have to deal with seeing some ads next to your content.

    Having said that, I also think that bloggers should not sell out and become a cheap marketing campaign for the companies. I receive a lot of emails about writing and promoting their products which have nothing to do with my blog and I have to turn them down. I usually just go on a case-by-case basis. If that content doesnt hold value to me and/or my readers, then I do not publish it.

    Best wishes
    R2R

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Roadmap2Retire August 15, 2014 on 9:37 am

      Great points, R2R. I think some readers have no idea how many hours bloggers spend. Our time absolutely has a value.

      Reply
  • Natalie @ Financegirl August 6, 2014 on 8:18 am

    I don’t think monetizing is selling out. Even though your blog may be your passion, you still have bills to pay. Isn’t it the dream to be paid for your passion?

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Natalie @ Financegirl August 15, 2014 on 9:37 am

      Amen, Natalie! Being paid for your passion is incredible.

      Reply
  • theFIREstarter August 6, 2014 on 9:04 am

    I don’t think 90%+ of readers give a hoot about google ads on your site, they are probably just mentally filtered out nowadays. It’s not like no one ever saw an advert before! Affiliate stuff is trickier. I’ve found a few things that I use that may pay me to advertise them, but I haven’t really made much money on them because I hidden them away. I don’t want to write “main articles” that are solely about a product because then it just comes across as a promotional / paid for post. The only exception would be cashback credit cards, because I think there is some extra useful information I could write about that, not just a blatant “review” of the product. It’s much harder to become a credit card affiliate over in the UK compared to the US by the sounds of things though!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash theFIREstarter August 15, 2014 on 9:39 am

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing your perspective, theFIREstarter. I don’t know how I’d feel about a post that was solely dedicated to a single product.

      Reply
  • Wade August 6, 2014 on 9:42 am

    If people don’t visit your site because of some ads, then they probably weren’t really interested in your content.

    Pursue your passion, write about and if you can monetize it, I say go for it.

    I have some adsense ads. So far I’m not making much. If it stays like that, I get the message. If it starts an upward trend. Great.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Wade August 15, 2014 on 9:40 am

      Well said, Wade. I read a lot of bloggers that are covered with ads. If the content is spectacular, I barely notice them.

      Reply
  • E.M. August 6, 2014 on 10:57 am

    Blogging is a lot of work, more than most readers/non-bloggers think. After all the time we put into it, I don’t think it’s selling out to gain money from our efforts. I myself haven’t monetized yet, mostly because I’m still trying to figure things out with Google Adsense. I haven’t received many offers on affiliate products, though. I’d only promote what I actually believe in.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash E.M. August 15, 2014 on 9:47 am

      I’m still learning as well, E.M. I’m hoping to spend some of my newfound free time figuring it out πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance August 6, 2014 on 1:17 pm

    I don’t think it’s selling out, Addison. I think a lot of your points are valid, and that it’s a time consuming endeavor and compensation would be nice. That said, I would never plug something I don’t use or believe in. Additionally, once you figure out how to best monetize the blog, would you mind sharing that secret? πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Ryan @ Impersonal Finance August 15, 2014 on 9:51 am

      Hahaha, absolutely! I’ve just passed $24 on Adsense. Time to bust out the celebratory bottle of Two Buck Chuck πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 6, 2014 on 3:53 pm

    I don’t think it’s selling out at all, but I do see where your concern is coming from. Like everything there is a line which would potentially be crossed, but it takes a lot. Most people just see right past the ads unless it’s just blatant in your face stuff. I think you’re good! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 15, 2014 on 9:52 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Tonya. There’s definitely a line between tasteful monetizing and selling out.

      Reply
  • Melanie@Dear Debt August 6, 2014 on 4:38 pm

    Don’t think so! I have not done Google Adsense, because I’m hesitant about shelling things out since I’m in debt. Also, my blog has mostly been used as a portfolio to get work, but makes little to no money itself.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Melanie@Dear Debt August 15, 2014 on 9:54 am

      Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I like hearing your perspective on this. Hopefully my blog will one day serve as a portfolio to get work, as well.

      Reply
  • Dividend Mantra August 6, 2014 on 4:42 pm

    Addison,

    I’ll agree with everyone else. I don’t think monetizing a blog is selling out. I personally spend a great deal of time on my writing, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for to get compensated a bit.

    Now, affiliate marketing is a different ball of wax. I don’t do a lot of it, and the few affiliate partnerships I have are for products and/or services that I’ve personally used and recommend. They don’t produce a lot of income, but I’d never push something I don’t believe in.

    Best of luck finding that careful balance! πŸ™‚

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Dividend Mantra August 15, 2014 on 9:55 am

      Thanks for sharing, Jason. You’ve done a great job tastefully monetizing Dividend Mantra. I don’t know if I’ve ever even noticed the ads or affiliate links.

      Reply
  • Will August 6, 2014 on 5:33 pm

    I run Adsense but mainly for fun. It’s an experiment and it pays my expenses, so why not?

    I think it’s just fine if people run sponsored posts as well. As long as they work with the blogs normal content. Nothing worse than going to a beloved blog and then seeing a post that looks horrendously out of place – it’s a sponsored post, of course.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Will August 15, 2014 on 9:56 am

      Agreed, Will. I don’t mind affiliate links that work into the normal content easily. I don’t enjoy sponsored posts.

      Reply
  • Kassandra August 6, 2014 on 5:58 pm

    I recently started with Adsense on my site but like you, place them in unobtrusive places. I feel that it’s fine to gain income from a blog, because it takes a lot of effort to maintain one in the first place. However, it’s important to keep your readers in mind and make sure to respect your own values when it comes to ads/affiliate income.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kassandra August 15, 2014 on 10:02 am

      Respecting your own values is key. Thanks for sharing, Kassandra.

      Reply
  • Alicia August 6, 2014 on 6:10 pm

    Up until a week ago, I only had one affiliate link to my bank on my site. Then I added AdSense. I think realistically, as long as things aren’t getting pushed too often, and it’s transparent, I am fine with it. Though, I do hate when every other post is sponsored content – I check out the blog because I want to hear the authors posts… Not a sales pitch.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Alicia August 15, 2014 on 10:03 am

      Agreed, Alicia. I don’t like feeling like I’m constantly being pitched to either. Transparency is important, as well.

      Reply
  • Melissa August 6, 2014 on 8:50 pm

    I don’t mind ads in blogs, as long as they’re not pop ups or as long as you’re not selling a scammy or useless product. I think it’s a great opportunity, if you feel like it’s worth it! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Melissa August 15, 2014 on 10:03 am

      Agreed, Melissa. Popups can definitely be distracting and hinder the reader’s experience.

      Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty August 7, 2014 on 7:23 am

    No, monetizing definitely isn’t selling out! Anyone who would blog for free is insane.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Holly@ClubThrifty August 15, 2014 on 10:04 am

      Hahaha, I guess we’re all a little crazy for doing this at all, right? πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  • Justin @ Root of Good August 7, 2014 on 11:58 am

    I don’t think it is selling out at all. Mainly because I monetize my own blog! πŸ™‚

    I say keep the advertising relevant, tasteful and relatively non-intrusive. Text links to affiliate products and services seem to be one way to advertise, potentially make a buck, and not irritate your reader. It also helps if you have a “code of ethics” and only promote products or services you actually use and like, or at the minimum are reasonably good alternatives.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Justin @ Root of Good August 15, 2014 on 10:07 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Justin. Relevant, tasteful, and relatively non-intrusive is perfect. You’ve done a great job with that at Root of Good.

      Reply
  • Brock @CleverDude August 7, 2014 on 5:18 pm

    No, it’s not selling out at all. The error is with readers that expect to read a blog without any ads. You cannot watch TV without commercials and you cannot listen to the radio without hearing commercials. Well, you can…..if you pay for satellite radio. Monetize, but do it so it doesn’t obstruct the readers’ enjoyment, and by all means do not compromise the integrity of your content.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Brock @CleverDude August 15, 2014 on 10:13 am

      Excellent points, Brock. There’s very little free content available these days. There is some type of advertising attached to almost all forms of media.

      Reply
  • Kurt @ Money Counselor August 7, 2014 on 6:07 pm

    I had the same struggles. We each have to arrive at our own comfort level with using our blogs to make money. And that comfort level evolves over time. I’m very much turned off by the many personal finance blogs–some of them apparently popular–that purport to help people save more and pay off debt while virtually every post is sponsored by some party trying to sell something to the reader. These blogs quickly get deleted from my reader. On the other hand, blogging takes a lot of time, and there’s nothing wrong with reaping some compensation for it. I definitely think getting paid and staying honest with and helping readers are not mutually exclusive. You can do both!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kurt @ Money Counselor August 15, 2014 on 10:12 am

      Great points, Kurt. Getting paid and staying honest are definitely not mutually exclusive. I appreciate the feedback!

      Reply
  • debt debs August 7, 2014 on 8:20 pm

    I shared some of the same concerns you had, but when I found out how much work blogging is, I changed my tune.

    I only recently started to monetize my blog since moving to self-hosted at the beginning of July, so I am still learning. I have managed to get Google Adsense on my blog and 1 affiliate ad through CJ. I do have a few questions on advertising in general, so since you are going through this now, if you don’t mind me asking, here goes:
    (1) You say because of their placement, your ads are rarely clicked on so you are relying on impressions. I have all my Google adsense on my sidebar primarily because I also want them to be unobtrusive and because I don’t know how to implement them at the bottom or in the posts, even if I wanted to. Why do you think it is important to place them there as well? Do you have any tips on how to do this?
    (2) Did you use any plugins to do your Google adsense? If so, which ones and why? So far I have just put the code directly in the widgets on my side bar which was fairly easy.
    (3) What affiliate networks are you aware of? As I mentioned above I’m on CJ, and the list of advertisers is long, but not everyone you can think of so I’m sure there are many other popular networks. I’ve been declined by many advertisers in CJ, probably because of blog content and size.
    (4) Have you tried doing any direct advertising contacts yet not based on CPM but duration only? From the reading I’ve done, it seems like this may be the most lucrative, however finding potential advertisers is a lot of work. I’m big on only advertising things I support as well. I think of things I would consider advertising, but not always easy to make the connection/contact to the company. (i.e. Fat Tire Bike Tours Paris and Home Hardware are two that come to mind)

    I decided to put these questions here in case others are interested, but if you prefer to answer in email, I understand.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash debt debs August 15, 2014 on 10:09 am

      Thanks (as always!) for the helpful suggestions and questions! I’ll have to spend a bit more time thinking about this and get back with you.

      Reply
  • Michelle August 7, 2014 on 9:47 pm

    It’s your blog-do what you feel is appropriate for your situation. It’s an ongoing conversation but ultimately it’s up to you!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Michelle August 15, 2014 on 10:08 am

      Absolutely, Michelle. Every blogger has too decide what’s best for them. We all have different goals.

      Reply
  • Chattanooga Cheapster August 8, 2014 on 8:09 am

    I think that part of being a FI blogger is recommending products or services that save or make people money. If you benefit from that it’s a win win. I do think it should be honest and sincere. There is one service that many FI bloggers are affiliated with that concerns me.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Chattanooga Cheapster August 15, 2014 on 10:06 am

      I enjoy reading about helpful products or services, especially if the blogger has had personal experience with them. What concerning service are you referring to Chattanooga Cheapster?

      Reply
  • Kirsten August 9, 2014 on 10:09 am

    I don’t care about ads on blogs at all, but I hesitated to add them to mine, thinking people might not see me as genuinely seeking accountability. But … Every bit of money helps, so I went for Adsense.

    In general, I dislike the sponsored posts. I actually read the ones where the blogger says “I used this and loved it and later on they asked me to write a sponsored post”. Otherwise I feel like it’s just forced.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kirsten August 15, 2014 on 10:00 am

      I don’t like sponsored posts either, Kirsten. An affiliate link that works into the normal content doesn’t bother me at all, though.

      Reply
  • The DQYDJ Weekender, 8/10/2014 - Don't Quit Your Day Job... August 10, 2014 on 11:45 am

    […] Skyline asks if monetizing a blog is selling out.Β  We tend to agree that Adsense isn’t selling out (of course, who are we to talk with our […]

    Reply
  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life August 11, 2014 on 8:08 am

    You make a whole bunch of helpful content and make it accessible for free, I don’t think putting an ad in your sidebar, even in posts, is too much.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life August 15, 2014 on 9:59 am

      Agreed, Stefanie. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Even Steven August 12, 2014 on 9:30 am

    I’m currently writing for free and if you include the money I spend on hosting I’m paying to blog, so to be compensated would be a dream, not selling out.

    I’m only working on my content and getting my story out there, for me making $20/month on google adsense is not as important as being held accountable for my finances.

    I will monetize my blog in the future as for now I’m all blog and no money:)

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Even Steven August 15, 2014 on 9:58 am

      Great post, Even Steven. Technically, I am paying to blog right now as well. It would be great to get compensated for my hosting fees, however, Cashville Skyline has kept me accountable on my finances, helped me become a better writer, and learn more about digital marketing. Those things are invaluable!

      Reply
  • Sticky Business: A busy bee 's work is never done - debt debs August 22, 2014 on 4:54 pm

    […] I’ve just now set up an email account and forwarded to my gmail.Β  Regarding #6 advertising, Cashville Skyline wrote a great post on this and so I proceeded to ask her a bunch of questions because I’m clueless I still have a bunch […]

    Reply
  • Steve September 25, 2014 on 5:29 pm

    Monetizing definitely is not a sell out. But I think the part many bloggers don’t get right is how to effectively monetize.

    Adsense everywhere = bad.

    It can be straight up annoying to see so much Adsense everywhere cluttering design and content.

    Getting monetization correct is the really, really hard part. Still haven’t completely figured it out myself!

    Reply