Ads Vs Sales

A few months back, some weirdo sent me a long, angry email ranting about how much he hates me.

Being stereotypically Jewish, my first thought was:

“I should put advertisements on the ‘Contact’ page. That guy’s hate mail would have easily earned at least one-tenth of a cent.”

This idea got me very excited, and I rushed out join a few different ad networks in order to play with them and see what would happen.

Here are my observations.

Making Money Off Website Ads: Pros And Cons

Many websites cannot make money by selling a product or service. Their audience isn’t looking to spend money or buy something new. Instead, visitors are killing time and looking for ways to amuse themselves.

Think about the following sites:

  • Imgur
  • Twitter

You’ve probably visited all of these sites, but have you bought anything from them.

It’s unlikely.

Instead, these sites make their money by selling ad space. Every person visiting their site nets them a small amount of money (usually a fraction of a cent).

Let’s look at the pros and cons of how this system really works.


  • No need for high-quality content.

Ad based revenue is all about getting people to your site. And, since you’re not selling a product or service, your content is almost an afterthought.

Most sites that sell advertising rely on intriguing headlines to draw in readers.

(Grabber Headlines From The Daily Mail)

If you look at the “big guns” in this industry (BuzzFeed, Daily Mail, Business Insider, etc) you’ll see lots of excellent headlines backed up with ho-hum content.

  • You make money off everyone.

Traditional sale is tough. To make money you must:

  1. Extensively research your product and its market.
  2. Attract qualified leads who are likely to buy from you.
  3. Give an excellent (and persuasive) presentation convincing people to buy from you.
  4. Deal with last minute resistance and counter buyer objections.

Honestly, this is a lot of work and very frustrating at times.

With ads you don’t have this problem.

Anyone visiting your site earns you at least some money. It doesn’t matter if your views are coming from patent attorneys in Manhattan or yokels from rural Kansas.

Additionally, *why* readers show up doesn’t matter either.

You can intentionally upset a whole demographic of people, watch them flood your site in outrage (to leave angry comments), and still turn a profit.

  • Good for “un-possible sales markets”

People who want to look at funny pictures of dogs or argue in the comment section of a blog aren’t looking to buy anything.

If you built a site about celebrity gossip or current events, you’d have a dickens of a time making money through traditional sales or affiliate marketing. No one reading about Kim Kardashian is going to click a link and buy something off Flexoffers once they’ve finished the article.

With ads you’re at least making something from an otherwise unprofitable audience.


Now that we’ve talked about what’s good with advertising, let’s look at the downsides.

  • Low pay.

Most ad networks pay very little. Unless you’re using super intrusive ads for shady subject-matter (like sex-cam shows or online gambling), you won’t make much.

And slapping Google AdSense onto a generic fitness site will earn you next to nothing.

  • Requires huge amounts of traffic.

This ties in with the point about low pay.

Ad networks require a lot of traffic before they become profitable. As in thousands of visitors each day.

Below is a screenshot of what I earn through one of the more aggressive networks. And as you’ll notice, it takes at least 200+ visitors just to earn $1 per day.

Making $100 a day would require over 25,000 daily visitors.

Unless you’re doing millions of pageviews a year, and have no way of selling a product or service (think entertainment sites like TMZ), you’ll make a lot more from traditional sales.

Ads Vs Selling: Which Is Better?

Selling is tough and it gets frustrating from time to time. You deal with lots of rejection, and occasionally stupid people unleash all their pent up anger on you. Because of this, it’s easy to fall into a “grass is always greener on the otherside” type mentality.

You look at a site cranking out sh*t-teir articles on celebrity scandals, and think they have it easy.

In reality, these sites need huge amounts of traffic to stay in business, and many of them operate on razor thin profit margins.

Selling doesn’t require lots of traffic, and your returns are huge. An SEO niche site might cost $50 a year to operate (hosting and domain name), while everything else is pure profit. And even low-ticket sales items (eBooks, Amazon Affiliate links) still generate more profit than most hyper-aggressive ad networks.

Unless you’re racking up hundreds of thousands of pageviews a month, stick to selling.

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