Lately we’ve been receiving emails – and questions in the Forum – from travel writers who are confused about how to monetize their travel blog. They’re just a little fuzzy on the whole concept of advertising, or perhaps just leery of it, and a few even confuse the concept of displaying ads on their travel blog with paying to advertise to bring traffic to their site.
Hopefully this post will clear up some confusion, help you make some decisions, and get your travel blog on the path to earning you some income.
First, I think it’s important to clearly identify the types of advertising and some terminology. There are two primary models of online advertising:
- Per Click (aka “CPC”) – The best example is Google’s AdSense. If you are displaying Google Ads on your site, you get paid each time someone clicks on an Ad;
- Per Action (aka “CPA”) – If you display an Affiliate Ad on your site, and someone clicks on that Ad, you don’t get paid unless they then “do something”, such as purchase a product, open a new account, or sign up for something – that is the “action”. If they complete the “action”, then you get paid;
There is one other – albeit rare – model, which is Per Impression (aka “CPM”). This is an old business model that is rarely used anymore, but basically refers to getting paid based on how many times an Ad is displayed (page views), regardless of clicks or actions. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Forbes is starting a “Luxury Blog Network” using the CPM model, but have not seen anything in writing yet. I’ll keep you posted!
If you are displaying ads on your site, and earning income for clicks and/or actions, then you are the “Affiliate“. If you are the one producing the ads for someone else to display, and paying them for clicks or actions, then you are the “Advertiser“.
This article will deal strictly with the Affiliate side of advertising. We’ll do a follow up article next week on the Advertiser side of advertising, in case anyone is interested in how and why you would want to pay to bring traffic to your travel blog.
There are hundreds — maybe thousands — of Affilate Programs out there that you can join, dominated by the “Big Three”:
- Google Affiliate Network  (formerly called DoubleClicks Performics, the third largest affiliate network at the time of Google’s purchase)
- Commission Junction , and
- LinkShare 
These three are “aggregators” for thousands of advertisers who are either too small to run their own affiliate program or just don’t want the hassle of managing one – the aggregators keep track of all clicks and actions, and coordinate payments from the advertisers to the affiliates. It is free to join as an Affiliate, and I recommend that you join all three to find the best selection of relevant advertisers for your travel blog.
In that last sentence, the most important word is “relevant“.
If you want your affiliate ads to perform effectively for you, you absolutely MUST keep them relevant to why someone is at your travel blog. Is your site about traveling with a dog? Then you may choose to display an ad for a pet carrier, and maybe one for a pet-friendly hotel chain. Are they interested in learning more about traveling with kids? Find an ad for children’s audio books or maybe educational games.
The important thing is to know why someone is on your site — what their interest is — and give them an Ad for something related that they will find equally interesting, and therefore more likely to entice them to click (and hopefully make a purchase).
Avoid this Mistake!
The biggest mistake we see when we look at some travel blogs, is that they go a little TOO heavy with the advertising — particularly with the Google AdSense. While I do think you should include some where it fits appropriately, I see sites where it is done obnoxiously – at the top and middle (and sometimes bottom) of every post, making it difficult to easily read the content, or sometimes disguised as “navigation” that seems designed to “trick” a site visitor into clicking on an ad. I generally leave these sites as soon as I land on them, and many others do the same. Don’t drive away your visitors with poor placement of ads.
I hope this helps make things a little clearer. If you have questions, post them in the Forum and we’ll do our best to answer quickly!
Does advertising on your Travel Blog work for you? Share your experience!