Monday, May 15, 2017

How and why I monetized my blog

When I started blogging nine years ago, I did so without the intent to make money.  Really, was anyone bringing in an income from blogging back then?  I mostly followed blogs written by moms and dads of multiples, along with those written by grieving parents.  Whether it be as a parent of a baby taken by stillbirth or a mom of triplets, I felt connected to others and a sense of community.  I still have all of those blogs in my reader and, unfortunately, only a handful of them are still active today.

In my world, way back when, sponsoring other bloggers or reviewing an item in exchange for a freebie were the main ways to bring in income.  And then there were all the "c/o" items for the fashion bloggers.  I never monetized my blog because I had a job, a very full time job, and I never wanted the stress of running a blog for money.  If I became overloaded with work or sick, I didn't want the pressure of having to blog because "sponsors" or others were expecting me to.

Companies have reached out to me on a fairly consistent basis requesting freebies.  It's usually played off how my mentioning XYZ would really benefit my readers.  Last year, during an incredibly busy time, I had a woman emailing nonstop asking that I write about some type of insurance.  When I didn't respond, she shot off one final email stating how she didn't think I was even a real person.  That's right; I am not real.  Thanks for pointing it out.

Recently, I've had companies email me letting me know about a campaign they are having and how they would like me to blog about my top five vacation destinations (for example.)  What's in it for me?  Well, they'll be sharing some of their favorite blog posts on their own social media.  I've taken to responding back requesting an advertising fee, which is never in their budget.  Aw, that's too bad.  It doesn't look like your post is in my time budget.

Back in the fall, I received an email from a company who works on campaigns with bloggers.  The email talked about "stylish" moms and wanted to know if I was interested in opportunities.  Sure, why not.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to check it out.  Stylish moms somehow turned into a store which sells baby items and if I agreed to include the name of the store in a blog post (on any topic), I would receive a fee of $X.  It sounded easy enough to me, so I agreed.  But then that somehow turned into a post on a specific baby product.  I needed to include a certain term in the title of my blog post, so not a post about anything.  I needed to have a certain number of photos, including original, of said baby product and links to a certain number of sites discussing said baby product.

I realize my blog is being added to blacklists right now.

I politely emailed the woman back telling her that I couldn't do it.  The whole experience left a really sour taste in my mouth.  Also, my kids are in the fourth grade.  I am so far beyond baby monitors, teething rings and breast pumps.  How can people not figure this out?

I'm a blogger, but I also read many blogs and I know what I don't mind when it comes to monetization.  Constant "sponsored" posts are a turnoff.  There are other annoyances but I don't want this to turn into a tirade.  Travel blogging has the least offensive type of advertising, in my opinion.  For the most part, I don't mind people making money off of blogs.  I follow a Disney/photography blogger who is an Amazon affiliate.  When I purchased my camera and new lens a few years ago, I used his link to Amazon to give him the fee money.  I did this because he had provided information which pushed me to finally make the purchase and I felt he deserved the fee for doing so.  Blogging now is a lot different than it was back in the day.  Blogging used to be what social media is today.  You posted a few photos with a little story.  Now, there's so much more time involved.

Shortly after what I like to refer to as The Baby Product Incident, I found an email in my inbox from Google AdSense telling me that because I was using Google's blogging platform, I had been approved to become an AdSense user.  I thought it over and then signed up.  In my opinion, ads on a sidebar are passive and harmless.  As a blog reader, they don't bother me and so I figured they wouldn't bother you either.

At the end of last year, I joined the Amazon Associates program.  Rich and I make many of our purchases from Amazon, including all of my photography gear, and I was frequently linking to Amazon so I figured it wouldn't hurt to sign up.  If you make a purchase on Amazon after clicking on any of my links to Amazon, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  I do not see any of your personal information.  I can view how many clicks came from my blog and what items were purchased, but not by user.  Items purchased are listed because it's used to calculated my commission.  Just like ads, I've always felt that affiliate links, when used appropriately, are harmless.

When I left work last year and use of my time changed, I realized blogging took up a good chunk of time.  It's difficult nowadays to find a blog with fairly regular postings that doesn't have some sort of income component, so I didn't feel bad about monetizing.  That all being said, I'm not getting rich here.  Last month's revenue wasn't even enough to pay the monthly tuition for one dance class for one of the girls.  I've decided to give it a year and see how it goes.  I sincerely want to thank those of you who have supported me in this and by support, I mean you haven't become annoyed with the ads and affiliate links.  

I'll be honest, my readership here has dropped over the years.  I did see an increase last year when I began to post more but then after monetizing, it's been dropping.  Maybe the end is closer than I realize.

26 comments:

mel brouard said...

I didn't even notice the ads! I guess I am so used to seeing them in other blogs I read. please keep blogging!

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mean the end of your blog. It is fun light hearted reading. You aren't fake or negative. Thanks for adding a little more real to the world!

Sarah G said...

I never would have "met" you because I live in SoDak...and not to be a total creeper, but it's been so fun to watch the girls grow up. I admire your photography skills and wish I could sew apparel. (Can't sew in a straight line on my quilts, besides trying to sew a dress).

I'm sure the time will come when the girls won't want their adventures posted online, but until that time, I really enjoy your blog and hope you continue to do so. I am completely captivated with the cottage!

Susie said...

I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog. I completely agree with you on what you said is annoying and not on blogs. I don't mind any monetising as long as it is the person's genuine views and life, but when it's obviously fake it is so annoying.

I am based in the UK so am not sure your Amazon links work for me but I will try :)

Stephanie J. said...

Honestly, I like that your blog was one of the few that I follow that isn't covered in ads (like not the side) or has sponsored posts. I HATE sponsored posts, they feel so forced. The Amazon linking is the least intrusive to the reader except when people say "I love THIS" or "THIS changed my life" but don't say what it is so you are forced to click on it in order to figure out what they are talking about. That feels manipulative. I love the variety of your posts and even though most are not relevant to my own life, I like sneaking a peek at other lives.

Mere said...

I have enjoyed your blog over the years. I am currently a CPA and working at a corp job but I enjoy blogging on the side, I like that you have a similar background. I started following you way back when to understand spina bifida as a close friend was pregnant and since then I've just enjoyed your posts about the girls and photography. I hope you keep it up. You would be missed.

Meredith
https://meredithgadoury.com

BreezieGirl said...

I love your blog and have for years and I have no issue with sidebar ads or affiliate links. As you've said from your own reading, they're pretty passive. I don't even mind sponsored posts where it feels natural.

I found myself laughing and nodding along regarding some of the emails you've received. I had a company contact me about how I was a great fit for their men's razor campaign based on my Instagram. I doubt they ever looked at my IG.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah, I've been following your blog for a while and really enjoy the complete mix of posts, as well as all the pictures. Just wanted to let you know that the affiliate links don't bother me at all, in fact they can be really useful like when you review books. Hope you do keep up the blog - but thanks for all the time you've given it so far.

Nancy G. said...

Sarah, I've been reading your blog probably pretty much since it started. I'm not sure how I arrived at it, but it was probably recommended to me by my online mommy group. I love reading your posts because they seem so real and honest, not staged like some of them do. I don't mind the ad thing at all - I'm used to it on blogs. I know that when you talk about a product, it's because you use said product. I don't mind that at all. Keep writing - I'll keep reading!

Sarah said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the feedback and positive comments!!. I get insecure sometimes and need to throw it out there.

Anonymous said...

I really hope you don't decide to shutter the blog! I really enjoy it and I check it every day. I also really appreciate your upfront honesty about the monetizing - I really don't mind it on any blog, but when a blog becomes mostly sponsored or c/o posts, I just am not interested anymore. I like to read about people's lives, not advertisement after advertisement. I think Amazon links and sidebar ads are just fine. People need to make money.

Keep it up! -Liz_hawksworth

JEN said...

I like reading your blog. Your book recommendations are good, I also just starting running two years ago. Plus the cottage story I enjoy! Renovations can be very interesting.

Teej said...

Your blog is the first blog I check daily. Then Swistle. :)

I am surprised that you have seen a decrease in readership since monetizing. What you have done is so mild compared to many of the other blogs. The Amazon links and sidebar ads don't bother me a bit. I just wish you were making more than half a dance class worth of money a month! It inspires me to click on one of your Amazon links before buying something from Amazon. We don't usually buy books (hello, library), but we buy a lot of other stuff from there.

Keep on keeping on! (if you feel like it, of course)

Anonymous said...

Please don't stop blogging Sarah! I just ignore the ads.

Kim

Erika said...

Like the others, I absolutely love your blog and think that your sidebar ads and Amazon links are incredibly appropriate and unobtrusive. If you convince me to read a book (which you have!), why shouldn't you get $.03 from Amazon for your trouble? Haha. A few years ago when I signed up for AdSense and Amazon affiliates for my own blog and realized how extremely minuscule the profits there actually are, I started making a point to "reward" (hahaha) my favorite other small (non-annoying with their ads) blog friends by randomly clicking on sidebar links or going through one of their Amazon links if I needed to buy something. Why not? It costs me nothing and earns them maybe a nickel, so...everyone wins, right? Ha! Keep writing and we'll keep reading! :)

Debbie said...

Please don't stop now. I feel like I've watched these girls for so long, I would miss them! I realize there will come that time, just not yet. As always the trips to Disney and the photography tips remain my favorite topics. There are most likely many out here like me that just don't comment. Hang in there.

cs said...

I did not notice the ads and I wouldn't want to see your blog come to an end. It's my favorite one.

Farah said...

I agree with the other commenters. Please don't stop blogging! I've been reading since the beginning, and have enjoyed following along with your family, and watching the girls grow up. I read all of your posts, I just don't always comment. I need to get better about that!

Tamika Davenport said...

Im a mommy of twin girls and I have followed your blog for a while now. I thoroughly enjoy your blogs. They have been such an inspiration. Im a 35 year old African American mom from Chicago and I say all that to say that our lives I are fairly different. But last year I took my twins to Disney for the first time and your Disney blogs were so instrumental in my planning. Im also planning a road trip with them this summer to the east coast...also inspired by your blogs and beautiful photography. I hope I don't sound like a stalker because im totally not but I just wanted to let you know that the experiences you share with your family inspire me to make memories with my own. I just purchased birthday gifts for my daugthers from amazon today and im totally bummed that I didn't see this post ahead of time. But in the future i'm happy to give you commission on my future purchases. I hope you keep inspiring if its in your heart.

Unknown said...

I have clicked on your link to dresses and bought some for my daughter (I think it was from Children's Place) And if you get money from that, then great! I didn't notice the side ads either :)

- Cindi

Annie said...

Hi Sarah,
I'm a childless 20-something and probably not part of your core demographic. I stumbled across your blog about a year ago, linked from another triplet blog, and enjoyed some of the old posts quite a lot. I've especially stayed for Anna's reports, trying to better understand the childhood experiences of a friend of mine who has a shunt.
For a little real talk from someone who read the first ~3 years of your blog and most of the last year, but little in between: your voice has changed pretty substantially, or at least it has in my perception. I get the sense that the early blogging was done for you, when you were on the train away from your girls but wanteing to be thinking about them and talking about them. I'm not sure who you're blogging for now, but I'm not sure it's for you anymore. You talk a lot more about keeping up with the Joneses, about how you do or don't measure up to other bloggers/Instagrammers/moms. You seem a lot more concerned about how you are perceived, and are doing a lot more blogging about blogging. Maybe that's what you want, maybe it's not, but any which way it's a slightly different type of blog that is going to attract a slightly different readership.
My two cents, for what they're worth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah!

I just wanted to agree with everyone else and say I have enjoyed reading your blog for many years! The Amazon links don't bother me and you have always disclosed this at the bottom of your post. What I can't stand are sponsored posts when bloggers go on and on about some stupid product that has changed their lives and then it's never mentioned again and next week it's some new life changing product. Yuck!
I hope you continue blogging. Your blog is one of my favorites!

carrie said...

I'm a fellow triplet mama, as well as photographer, and truly enjoy your blog! I hope you keep going! You'll have such an amazing account of your girls' lives someday to look back on! Love from PA!

Amanda said...

I've been following since the girls were itty bitty, and, like all the others commenting, I hope you don't give it up! You're so real and likeable in your writing. I try to check the blog at least once a week (two small kids, busy busy). Honestly, I expect all blogs to be monetized these days. And why not? They're jobs of a sort. Those that are slavish to sponsored content are huge turn-offs, sell-outs. I don't see you as that at all! I've got no problem clicking on sponsored links, if I like the person. I will not, however, ever click a blind link. You know, the 'Click {here} to find out what I love/wear/eat/pretend to like so you give me money] people.

Sorry for the story, but to sum up, thanks for just being you.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading here for years and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your blog. I had a rough time for a while and your blog was a familiar place to go to when I needed a break. I don't have triplets but I enjoy running and your musings on life. When I read your posts it almost feels like I'm connecting with an old friend (which seems weird because we've never met).

Lisa H. said...

I was away on vacation (at the Aulani--see comment on your other post!) and am just catching up now. I never noticed the ads, either. I hope you don't stop blogging. I've been keeping up with your blog for more time now than I'd like to admit considering you're a complete stranger. I like reading about what you do, your sewing projects and watching your adorable girls grow up. I started reading before we even considered kids and now I have a 3.5 year old! :)