One of the top questions I get asked by readers who are new to blogging is, “Should I display ads on my pages and posts that contain affiliate links?”
It’s a good question. Especially if you’re monetizing a niche site for the first time, and you don’t have previous experiences to help you make the right call. As with all good questions, everyone has a firm opinion on the topic, yet there’s no single and definitive answer.
In general, there are two schools of thought on the topic. One says that showing display ads on pages with affiliate links can hurt your affiliate earnings. According to the other, it won’t—and it will only lead to higher revenue per mille (RPM).
So what I’m going to do with this post is walk you through the key arguments of both sides of the table, with the goal of help you decide for yourself.
Keep on reading if that sounds like what you came here to find out.
School of thought no. 1
The first school of thought says that, if you display ads on review, round-up, or this-vs-that posts, the ads will distract some of your readers from taking the action that you want them to take—click on one of your affiliate links.
At first glance, this seems logical and is generally hard to argue with. Ads not only take up space on your screen, but draw your readers’ attention. When you consider that, thanks to apps like TikTok and Snapchat, most people have the attention span of a drugged hamster, you can understand where bloggers who say this are coming from.
School of thought no. 2
On the other hand, the second school of thought says that putting ads on pages and posts that contain affiliate links won’t hurt your earnings. On the contrary, it will simply help you monetize the visits that won’t convert to affiliate clicks (and, if you’ve attracted readers with solid buyer’s intent, purchases) in the first place.
Think about it: how high could the click-through rate (CTR) on your links possibly be? And, even if you get a higher than average number of people to click on the links, only a small percentage of them will buy something, landing you a commission.
So who’s right?
In my experience, and I’ve owned a fair share of niche sites and blogs over the years, showing ads on pages and posts that contain affiliate links will boost your overall earnings; not hurt them.
But the exact answer for you and your website depends on a lot of factors, including:
- The CTR on affiliate links on your site and page in question (that is, what % of your readers click on the links, images, buttons, boxes, or comparison tables?)
- The average cart value and the average commission you get from the customers you’re referring to the merchant and products you’re promoting to them
- The RPM on display ads, and how it compares to the metrics above
In other words, if you’re making big money promoting expensive products that earn you a big commission every single time someone buys a product or subscribes to a service, maybe, from a user experience standpoint, it just isn’t worth showing ads to them.
Suppose you’re reviewing expensive software that costs $50/month and earns you a 25% lifetime commission. Would you want to dilute your readers’ attention on your content?
But if you’re promoting lower-priced items, for example “Best Books on X,” and you get a 4.5% commission from each sale… How much money are you really losing out on if someone doesn’t but a book or two, but sees a few ads?
So this is my rough rule-of-thumb approach for deciding whether or not to turn all ads—or specific ad units—on a page in question. The best way to come up with one of your own is to get a steady flow of traffic and then measure, measure, measure.
Avoid these two mistakes in all cases
If you have a high-traffic niche site, but you haven’t enabled any ads on it whatsoever, you’re throwing a lot of money out the window. The moment you put ads on it, you’re guaranteed to see a significant earnings boost (and you get more money to reinvest in it!).
If you’re monetizing your website or blog with AdSense, you’re not getting a good RPM. Consider applying to, in no particular order, AdThrive, Ezoic, or Mediavine. One site that I had experimented with made approximately $2 per thousand pageviews with AdSense and, after 12-14 weeks on Ezoic, got up to $20. That’s a tenfold increase…
What’s your take on the topic? Share it in the comments below!