The Shady Side of Design Blog Monetisation

Back to the Blog

Every now and then I like to throw an opinion out there on Facebook or Twitter, and gauge the reaction from my followers.

Sometimes they agree, sometimes they disagree, but it always helps me to achieve some perspective on a particular issue.

A few weeks ago, I sent out this Facebook post:


While I admit the post was a tad melodramatic, I stand by it. In my opinion, Google AdSense has no place on a design blog. It’s spammy, kills the user experience, and just plain annoying, especially when placed smack bang in the middle of a blog post.

The response to my Facebook post above was overwhelmingly positive – 13 Facebook likes is quite high for my humble following. When I tweeted the same message, for the most part the feedback was very positive as well.

Great, so at least I am not alone on this one.

But here’s the thing.

Some of the most followed and trafficked design blogs out there monetise their blogs with AdSense, and it doesn’t seem to effect their readership one bit. They still have thousands, in some cases tens of thousands of subscribers consuming their content.

So while AdSense isn’t really something I approve of, perhaps it doesn’t bother everyone. Fair enough.

There is another aspect of design blog monetisation that I do take particular issue with however. And truthfully, I think you should too.

Text Link Advertising Must Die

Before continuing, let me clearly state that I have nothing against making money from a blog. In fact, given the amount of time and effort it takes to run a successful design blog, I think site owners are damn right entitled to make money off them.

If you are going to monetise a blog however, I think you should choose your methods with some consideration for ethics in mind. Without taking too much of the moral high ground, I think you owe that to your subscribers, and the very industry that pays your bills.

Text link advertising is something  I see too many design bloggers abusing, and in my opinion damaging our industry in the process.

If you are not familiar with text link advertising, it is a SEO-optimised link that a blog owner agrees to place somewhere on their site (usually in the sidebar under a heading like ‘recommended’) in return for payment. The fee can vary from anywhere between $20 to $100 per month, depending on how much traffic the site gets.

For some blogs, text link ads are a very nice little earner, bringing in hundreds, and often thousands of dollars of easy revenue per month. From a purely financial perspective, I understand the temptation to do it.

The main problem with text link advertising however, is that it typically attracts all sorts of spammers from dark corners of the internet pushing low quality products and services. A lot of the links you will find on design blogs are promoting anything from shady design firms to online casinos.

Taking a really quick survey of some very popular design blogs, here are some text link ads that I found; ‘Logo Design Firm’ –> pointing to a cheap logo warehouse, ‘Free Logo Design’ –> linking to a repository of free logos for download, and ‘Online Logo Design’ –> Yet again, pointing to a logo warehouse.

What becomes obvious is that there is little vetting going on here. Some sites see it fit to link out to anyone, as long as they are getting paid. And that’s just plain wrong.

Final Words

If you run a successful design blog and are accepting text link advertisers, I implore you to look at the bigger picture. Every time you link out to another site, you are vouching the content on the other side of that link.

Do you really want to associate that with your brand?

Somebody had to say it. Now it’s time to move forward. Your thoughts?


Image by Freezelight

Back to the Blog