Me in SHE, on how to make money from blogging

A few weeks ago I did an email interview with SHE magazine on making money from blogging. I spent a bit of time answering questions on the topic, and here’s the article!

OK, so they distilled my predictably long, rambling answers down to two sentences, but that was to be expected, and they DID get my URL right, so I was happy. I’d have been even happier if I’d actually said what was attributed to me, of course, but nope, I didn’t. Well, OK, let’s be fair: I did say something about building readership, so I agree with my tiny little floating head on that one. I don’t think I said it in exactly those words, mind you, but the jist of it was this: concentrate on building readership first, think about making money later.

This is my stock answer any time someone asks me how to make money from blogging, and it’s just common sense, really. I mean, if you have a popular website of any kind (I think people tend to get a little hung up on the buzzword that “blogging” has become: a blog, after all, is just a website that’s arranged in a particular kind of way, although I guess headlines like, “OMG, some people are making money from WEBSITES!” aren’t quite so attention-grabbing, given that people have been making money from websites for as long as websites have existed), you’ll have the opportunity to make some money from it, in the same way that if you have a very popular anything, it could potentially earn something. But the readership has to come first: if your website has no traffic, it won’t make you any money, so  the most important thing any new blogger can do is to concentrate on creating something people will want to read and find ways to get them to do that. Then find ways to get them to KEEP doing it. THEN maybe start to think about making some money out of it.

As for the second part of my quote, however, the “Consider using Google Adsense, ra ra ra!” bit? I didn’t say that, or indeed anything like it. In fact, I’ve just checked the email I sent them, and my actual comment was “you can’t just put Google Adsense onto your site and expect to make decent money from it,” which is actually quite different from what I’ve been quoted as saying. And yes, I did at one point use the word “simple” in relation to Adsense, but it was in response to the question “How did you go about getting Google Adsense adverts?” and as the intern who contacted me seemed to be under the impression that joining the Adsense programme is a bit like trying to break into the Oval office, I replied with:

“Basically, anyone can sign up for Adsense – it’s as simple as registering with the programme and then pasting the code into your site. What’s much more difficult is optimising the adverts to make sure they’re working well for your site, and that involves constantly making changes to the placement of the adverts, the colours and fonts used, making sure Google isn’t showing ads that aren’t really relevant to the site’s readers, etc. It can take a long time to get that right, and then you have to be constantly monitoring and tweaking it to make sure the adverts continue to perform as well as they can. It’s also important to note that Google Adsense isn’t the only form of advertising we run on our sites: we have a few different revenue streams, so we’re not relying on Adsense alone.”

I think that clarification is pretty important (especially as my quote was presented under the heading, “So you want to make money from your blog? British bloggers explain how…” which makes it sound like my advice is to just sign up for Adsense, which definitely isn’t the case), so while I’m always grateful for the publicity, I have to confess I was a little disappointed that they made me sound all, “Well, gosh darn it, just slap some Google Adsense onto your site then laugh all the way to the bank, because it’s THAT SIMPLE!” Actually, it’s really not that simple at all, and while it’s true that we use Adsense on our sites, and it has been successful for us, as I said above, it’s not the only method we use to monetise our sites, and it’s something that took a long time to start working for us: not only did we have to wait until we’d built up a decent amount of traffic (and we’re talking thousands of visitors per day here), it’s something that we’re constantly testing and monitoring – it’s not something you can just stick on your site and then forget about.

In addition to that, I should probably also have pointed out (not that I think it would have made a difference to my allocated two sentences, mind you) that Adsense isn’t a solution on all websites. Because the adverts it runs are contextual, what you make from it depends on the content of your website. A blog like this one, for instance, wouldn’t be likely to make much money from Adsense, not only because it doesn’t have enough traffic, but because the topics I write about here are so random that Adsense wouldn’t know what to display adverts about. On a site like, it’s easy: it shows adverts for shoes, and because the people who visit that site are there because they like shoes, and are interested in buying shoes, that works for us. Here, though? Well, on this post, Adsense would probably display adverts for… itself. And none of you would click on them, because you’re not here to sign up for a contextual advertising programme, are you? (Wait… I see a couple of you stood up and sheepishly left the room there. I am NOT A CONTEXTUAL ADVERTISING PROGRAMME, PEOPLE! Or a shop!)  On the post about childhood fears, meanwhile? I’m guessing it would probably show adverts for those scary, dead-eyed china dolls, since they were mentioned a few times. And obviously, none of you would click on those adverts, because THOSE DOLLS WILL EAT YOUR BRAINS, OMG.

Anyway. I realise the chances of anyone having read the feature in SHE and come straight over here to see what other gems of wisdom I have to impart are slim, to say the least (particularly given that they chose to be the blog my floating head was speaking on behalf of), but just on the off-chance that any of you did read it, I thought I’d just clarify that I didn’t actually advise would-be bloggers to sign up for Adsense: that’s purely the advice of the magazine, who’ve attributed the quote to me. And actually, when I got the questions, I said to Terry, “I’m a bit concerned that they’re just looking for someone to tell them making money from blogging is easy, and that all you have to do is slap Google Adsense on your site.” Because of that, I went to great lengths to explain that no, it’s not quite as easy for that, only for them to simply print the quote they were looking for all along, even although I didn’t actually say it.

Now, back to our regular programming…