Recently, I asked for some feedback on the site, as well as opinions on MMO bloggers monetizing their blogs.
First, I run advertisements in three forms on this blog currently: in-line text ads, search traffic only ads, and referral links. The first two are powered by Chitika and pay per click. The referral links are to Amazon.com and pay a percentage of any purchases made via that link.
What do you need the money for?
The biggest question that people ask me is what I do with the money I earn. The blog is free to host on Google's Blogger, so there are no web costs (outside of an annual $10 domain registration fee). And it's pretty obvious I don't make my living doing this.
I use the money to pay for some of my gaming. When my blog was more popular (my traffic is down 50%+ this year), I made enough for a monthly subscription to an MMO. Recently, I have used it to micro-transact in games like Battlefield Heroes and Domain of Heroes.
However, since I've not played a subscription game in a while, I have pocketed a good amount of the money made (actually its sitting in my Paypal account). My most recent game purchases have been covered by bonuses I've gotten from work.
The Amazon.com referral links pay out via Amazon gift certificates. When I earn enough for my first gift certificate there, I will purchase more games, books, and movies to write about on this blog.
For the most part, the money earned here can be viewed as an investment back into the blog. However, it still leaves me sitting on a pile of cash that I haven't spent and I am going to work out a percentage to donate to Child's Play (my favorite charity). Going forward, charity will have a lot to do with the money made here after my minimal new web costs are covered (I am bringing some new stuff online in the near future).
Surprisingly, most people that left feedback were fine with bloggers monetizing their blogs as long as it wasn't intrusive or contradicting(for example, gold seller ads when I am against gold selling). Chitika has been good about running legit advertisements, but they rarely match search ads to anything my readers would be interested in.
The Amazon.com referral links are more targeted. If I talk about a game, I will usually link to the games page on Amazon. If I review a book or movie, I will also link to Amazon. Or when Amazon runs deals like $3 in FREE MP3s, I will link to the promotional page and collect referrals as people cash in the free codes. This is hit or miss, but is the least intrusive of all advertising and the most honest.
With the feedback gathered, I think I am going to move towards straight Amazon.com referral-based advertising and be more open about my links. Along with the charitable giving, I am hoping this honesty will spur some purchases!
Lastly, I am going to take down the in-line text ads, as well as the search based ads from Chitika on the main page. I'm always open to advertising opportunities, so some form of automated advertising may return in the future.