Monday, April 18, 2011

Genealogy Blogging: For Fun of Profit?

There's a Genea-opportunities discussion being hosted this week over at

Today's topic is "Genealogy Blogging: For Fun or Profit?" Should genealogy blogs have advertising or affiliate links? What constitutes a commercial blog versus an individual genealogy blog. Is there a balance that can and should be maintained?

Before this discussion was launched, I had no idea folks had an issue with affiliate links on genealogy blogs. They are the norm elsewhere. I've yet to see any evidence of negative reaction anywhere in regard to this blog, but others have said they experienced it.

Are we in it for fun or for profit? Why must it be one or the other? If my purposes for blogging were captured in a pie chart, "fun" would have the biggest piece, but marketing, research, networking, socializing, finding new cousins would be pieces as well. This blog does not earn me an income, but I use it as a channel to market my services and network.

Those margins to the sides of this blog post? That's real estate my friends. You can build on it what you will. Me? I've chosen to monetize a portion of that space with some affiliate links. I'm pretty transparent about this and have said as much in my disclosures page. I do not make much, but it's still positive income and it doesn't alter my purpose for blogging.

Commercial versus individual genealogy blog: I've been approached by others who want me to put their article(s) on my blog, but these usually smell like spam or are just way off topic. I don't get paid for my blog posts. I don't expect this to change in the future, but I've also learned to never say never. I read the work of several respected bloggers who have clearly-stated sponsored posts. The concept is not foreign in mainstream blogging.

Can and should a balance be maintained? For me, the answer is yes but each blogger's definition of balance is going to be different.

My interpretation of "for profit" might differ from yours. As the genealogy field stands right now, I don't believe you can make big bucks with your genealogy blog. It's a small niche and the numbers just aren't there. If you can make it work, more power to you. My affiliate links are there 24/7. I don't have to maintain or promote them with the exception of a routine check every now and then. This is my balance.

My take-away is this: I have distinct reasons for blogging, but while I'm doing those, why can't I make a little money as well?


  1. Amy, I'm not opposed to affiliate links. I'm opposed to blogs that have too many of them. All I can say is thank goodness for an RSS reader for blog reading. There are a few very good blogs, written by well respected bloggers whose have so much crap on their blog that I can't take the time for everything to load so I can get to the article. I've actually stopped reading some blogs because of this. So in that respect, the affiliate links are detrimental. And if I read the blog in my RSS reader, I don't even see the affiliate link.

    Before September 11, 2001 I was actively engaged in internet marketing via affiliate links. It was excellent part-time income and I thought I would move in that direction as part of "early retirement." So I am well aware of the amount of time required to effectively maintain links and a web presence to the point of earning a significant amount of money.

    After the terrorist attacks, people stopped buying online for quite some time afterwards. My sales commissions plummeted to the point that it was no longer worth the effort.

    This time around, with my blogs, I've opted to maintain only one affiliation on my blog and that is with - my first and, over time (about 15 years now), the most consistent income producer. I don't have a permanent link that is on every page, but I will sprinkle an affiliate link into the text of a blog post, if appropriate. Even that doesn't happen very often.

    Personally, I'm in a position of "been there, done that" in terms of affiliate programs. At this point, I don't need the income they produce and I feel that my time is better spent doing the part I love - research, writing and speaking.

    I don't have a problem with other bloggers using affiliate links to generate income, but if the ads prevent the page from loading quickly, I'm not coming back.

    P.S. I'm not referring to YOUR blog!

  2. Amy you can make money and you should if you want to. It's YOUR blog, it's your real estate, do with it what you want is my motto. You blog because you love it. Making a bit of $ from something you love does not make you evil.

    My blog was sponsored for 18 months a few years back. That was sweet but unexpected! Did that sponsorship time make my blog any less worth reading? Nope, you either read and like my blog or you don't, being sponsored didn't affect my writing.

    There were NO conditions attached to sponsorship, other than a small ad for the company sponsoring me. But no list of what I could or could not write. I wouldn't have accepted the sponsorship if there were.

    So Amy, do your thing because you're right - there is no need for ads/affiliate links to be any kind of issue with anyone.

  3. Susan, do you see a lot of over-affiliation (there I go making up terms again) in genealogy blogs? Or are you talking about blogs in general?

    As a visitor to other blogs, I don't see much because I use Google Reader.

    I agree with you that most affiliation programs aren't worth the effort. I have had success with Amazon when I tailor the products to the market. I don't do Google ads because I can't control the content.

  4. Amy - I barely read my local newspaper online much these days because of the affiliate ads. So I would say my comment relates to genealogy blogs, other blogs, and most commercial web sites. A little bit of advertising is fine, a lot - nope. Heck, I have a DVR from the cable company so I can record a show, time-shift my viewing so I can fast forward through the ads. I figure that I'm paying the cable company for the benefit of not having to watch ads. Even with that, I still am tormented by the woman with the red lipsticks who advertises some insurance. ACK!

    I'll probably jump in on some of Thomas' other topics this week, too.

    Nearly 40 years ago one of my public relations mentors said to me (regarding volunteerism): Never give away what you do for a living. I learned the hard way. Once someone knows you can do a newsletter, all these organizations want you to do their newsletter (for free).

  5. Although I've been a genealogist for years and a blog read for years, I actually never knew the two co-existed until last year. I think because of that, I'm so used to seeing the ads and affiliates on "regular" blogs that it would surprise me if they weren't on the genealogy blogs. I try to shop them, too, as if I'm buying something, why not make a blogging friend's life just a little more fun?

  6. Wow! I never realized that it was a debate! I mean as long as you're transparent if you receive any financial gain/benefits I don't think it's a big deal. If someone doesn't want to read amblog because of affiliate links them that's their choice. I can see where too Manu adds would be a detractor, but we're all part of the big kids club and need to make those decisions for ourselves. I have been enlightened! :)

  7. Are we talking only about affiliate ads (i.e. those that run unpaid, but where the blogger gets a percentage of the sale if someone buys)? Are are we also lumping in display ads (ones where the blogger gets paid based on the number of page views) and pay-per-click ads (where the blogger gets paid based on the number of clicks, regardless of whether the person actually buys something)?

    I'm surprised to hear that people are having trouble with affiliate ads loading. In my experience, it's usually the pay-per-clicks (like Google's ads) that load slowly.

    I actually have the most trouble loading pages with a bunch of badges that aren't ads. Those tend to load slower because they're hosted by services that run slower (ad services have a vested interest in ensuring that ads load quickly; the places that host various blog awards, groups of friends, etc. do not). There are a few blogs that I never click through to because there are so many badges that they take forever to load.

  8. Amy, well said. I think it's up to each of us to evaluate what it is we hope to get out of the blogging and genealogy experience and go from there. If other's don't like the way we do things.......well then there are plenty of fish in the sea that will likely fit their pallet ;-) I don't understand why some people have suddenly turned this into an issue.

    I currently don't have a lot of ads, for no other reason than that I don't want to take the time to check on them or maintain them right now. I barely have the time to write. But there was a time when I did have the ads and I never made enough to make it worth my time.

    Do what works for you. That's the way we all should see it. Personaly I just ignore the ads. I visit the blogs to read the aritcles and really nothing more.

  9. For the benefit of those who have a slow dial-up Internet connection, I am in the process of (1) removing some badges from my blogs, and (2) changing Google ads to text-only instead of images. Ads displayed on my blogs tend to be less relevant than those on my main Web site, where I can use contextual Google ads and tweak the HTML code to control which part of the page the ad server reads when it is deciding what ads would match the page content. I earn next to nothing from ads on my blogs, but those on my Web site bring in enough to pay my Web hosting bills.