A few months ago I started showing ads on my blog and the results were exactly as I expected — ads on tech blogs just don’t work!
This site receives a little over 1k sessions and 1.5k hits a month, so hardly a large audience, but not insignificant either. Subpages get far more hits than the homepage, which makes sense considering that my intended writing style is one of solving a problem with minimal fluff.
In short: people come with a problem, the problem is solved, they don’t need the site any more.
Some people visit multiple pages, but analytics tells me that the most common pages are those which solve a specific problem (e.g. changing database prefixes, converting disparate data types, light-weight relational database systems, etc.) and the subject of such pages would indicate that the types of people who visit this site are technical, analytical and good with Google!
Why don’t ads work?!
Technical people have no trouble discerning content from advertising — an image with someone too good-looking to be wearing a headset in a call centre is probably an ad, whereas a screenshot with a short caption is probably content.
This is a combination of two things: firstly, we’ve developed Right-Rail Blindness, which means that we’re good at identifying non-content elements. Secondly, our actions (particularly those concerning money) are less based on emotion than a more general audience.
Are we so different?
Yes and no. We don’t want an iPod because it’s a well-designed product and we don’t start with why; we want an MP3 player that has a high capacity and good audio quality because we start with “what”, then we start caring about “how” — “why” hardly comes into it.
Do you believe you should be able to carry your entire music collection in your pocket? Perhaps. Will that belief garner loyalty towards a specific brand? Unlikely.
When it comes to consumer goods outside our area of expertise, sure, we’re a bit more sensitive to advertising. A front-end designer is more likely to own a Mac not just because they like pretty things but because they’re not so fussed about hardware specifications. Conversely, a DBA is more likely to run Windows or Linux not because they do “real work” but because it fits into the ecosystem in which they work.
Do I think I’m special?
Certainly not. Smartphone hardware and OSs aren’t my area so loyalty to Android is certainly founded in shared beliefs of freedom and playfulness. Conversely, I bought a Das Keyboard because IMO it’s just the best mechanical keyboard. I don’t have any beliefs about keyboards, it’s just sturdy and feels good to type on but my next keyboard could be anything.
In short, we differ from a general market in the areas that matter to us in exactly the same way a professional photographer isn’t persuaded to buy a point-and-shoot any more than a painter would be persuaded to buy a trendy-looking easel from Ikea.
Ranting aside, the primary reason ads don’t work on technical people is obvious: we use adblock.
I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I’m fairly certain the vast majority of visitors use adblock and don’t even see my ads.
What about donations?
Back to my story: donations don’t work either!
I was quite disappointed by this, considering I rank quite well for a few niche topics. I’d assumed someone would throw a few dollars my way, but alas.
“Blogging” in itself isn’t something you can make money with unless you’re also doing something else, such as affiliate marketing. I’m certainly not making any money blogging anyway, but I’m ok with that.
I like having my own little corner of the internet and if only a handful of people find something I write useful, that’s enough for me.