About two months ago I received an email from a representative of Interest.com (owned by bankrate.com). They made an offer to pay me a fixed monthly amount for the exclusive rights to advertise on my blog. At first the idea rubbed me the wrong way. I sounded too much like I was selling out to them. Like they would effectively own my blog, something which is very personal to me. I was also concerned that they would attempt to influence content, or prevent me from criticizing certain companies, which may be advertisers or other affiliates of Interest.com.
The offer was pretty generous. Several fold the amount that I was making from Google Ads and the other advertising that I had on the site. The terms of the contract were not restrictive. In short, It was tempting. Ultimately, as I gave it more thought, I realized that I was not only not selling out, but quite the opposite, I am removing all potential conflicts from my writing. Let me give you an example.
As most of you know, no website can control which Google Ads appear on their site. It is based on the content, and is generally effective at placing content appropriate ads. In fact, I always looked with interest at what ads would appear after I put up a new post. Of course, I never clicked on them. Nor did I encourage anyone else to. I was not interested in violating the terms of the Google Ads agreements.
I find that the potential conflict that is built into the Google Ads method is due to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques, which are designed to maximize your chances of people finding you via a Google search, and thus finding their way to your ads. It also teaches you to write about, or use certain terminology that will increase your chances of having higher paying ads placed on your site.
So, where is the conflict? Well, frustrated that many of my ads were the very generic, "start your own blog!" type of ads that no one clicks on, and barely pays you if they do, I did some reading about blog monetization. One of the recommendations I read was to remove the word "blog" from your site as much as possible. The reason? It causes those generic type of ads. Well, I went back to my blog and found that the word "blog" was all over the place. It was in posts, the sidebar, my header... all over the place. Well, I spent a few hours deleting the word everywhere I could find it and replacing it with another word, or changing the structure of the sentence. This may be a minor example, because frankly, who cares if I use the word blog, website or none of the above. But the fact that I changed content in any way in order to increase my earnings is the definition of a conflict of interest.
Not once did I write a post that I did not believe. But did I write posts about investing or real estate knowing that it would likely lead to higher paying ads? Sure. Would I have anyway? Probably. Not definitely. To be honest, I'm not even sure. I did, however, sometimes hold back from writing posts that were critical to a company or service due to Google Ads. Not because I was concerned about turning off a potential advertiser (they don't actually see my blog), but because I didn't want ads for that company or service (like payday loans) to appear on my blog. And yes, I could have blocked them, but you cannot block categories, only domains.
So, in all I'm pretty happy with this arrangement. I have long been a fan of Bankrate.com, so I trust that the content and advice on Interest.com will likewise be sound. At no time will I worry about what ads will appear on my blog, or how many people will click on it.
In short, nothing will change here. I'll still write about the Real Estate Bubble, Investor Psychology, saving for my wedding, trips to Vegas, and college football. I hope you'll still be reading.
Oh, and if you disagree. If you feel that this arrangement is somehow selling out or creating a conflict of interest, please share. By the way, fellow PF bloggers who have also signed on with Interest.com are some of our favorites, Mapgirl, Make Love not Debt, and Nevblog.