Journey from hobby website to microbusiness

Ugly vs Beautiful Site - tough choice!

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Inspite of getting 150 to 200 visitors, my site was making close to nothing from advertising for the first couple of years. I did not want any ads to be "in the face" of the visitor, so I had just one ad vertically along the side. Click through rates were less than 1%. Google provides a heat map showing where ads can be placed and I ignored it, because the best ads seemed to disturb the flow of content.

My site did not recover its costs for the first 3 years. Lack of revenue over time meant that it was time to experiment and one day I decided to follow the heat map and change the locations of ads. The very next day, the click through rates jumped up 3 times and revenue went up too. It was unbelievable. I could have done that ages back but I didn't - a big wasted opportunity.

Of course the site did not look as clean as it did before. It is a choice between revenue and looks. After experimenting a bit more, I decided on an ad layout similar to that used on this site. It is a balance between the 2 choices. I could choose a more "aggressive" layout but I do not like that personally, so I have left it as it is now. I also tried other advertising platforms such as Chitika but eventually discontinued it as ads were adding a lot of clutter to the site.

I am sure not many people like to see ads, it is similar to ad breaks on TV shows. However, for a webmaster, lack of revenue would mean lack of incentive for further site development. I have heard of many websites whose business model is based on ads alone. For that reason, I do not use software like adblock on my computers - I think it is a bit harsh on those site developers trying to make a living through their online work.

Next: First Cheque!