Should You Place Advertisements on Your Website?Now that you have set up a website for you and your business, you may be wondering if it is a good idea to place advertisements on your website, either to offset the hosting and maintenance costs or to profit from your content. Almost any website that is self-hosted can add web advertisements, but the real question is if you should add them – advertisements can be cumbersome, inappropriate and even ineffective in generating revenue.

An Introduction To Web-Based Display Advertising

Website banner ads were first introduced in the early 1990s, about the same time that the Internet became a mainstream phenomenon. Although the technology powering display advertisements on the web has greatly evolved since that time, the fundamentals of the practice have remained unchanged. Simply put, a website that displays an advertisement, most commonly in the form of either text or visual media, can gain revenue for hosting the ad based on how many visitors to the website are exposed to the ad itself. The website can gain further revenue based on “click-throughs”, or when visitors to the website choose to click on the ad and are funneled through to the advertiser’s web page. The more viewers a website is able to attract, the more revenue it can generate through advertisements.

Differences With Hosting

Websites and web-based services that are self-hosted are generally free to implement advertisements as they so choose – as long as you are paying your web host to host your content, they generally do not object to advertisements and advertising campaigns that are legal and adhere to generally-accepted Internet advertising best practices. However, the same is not true of companies that host other websites, blogs, and services for free; these providers usually monetize user-generated content through their own advertisements in exchange for providing free hosting.

Who Should Display Advertisements?

Generally speaking, if you are a for-profit entity that is providing valuable, unique content to your website visitors free of charge, it is appropriate for you to place advertisements on your site. Examples of for-profit entities on the web that rely on advertising revenue include media outlets, artists and multimedia companies, bloggers and other independent writers and journalists that provide data and content.

Advertisements And Memberships

For many websites, advertising may be perceived as opportunistic and inappropriate. If you are a for-profit entity that produces unique content and generates revenue in other ways, such as charging your visitors a fee or a subscription in order to access content or by soliciting donations, your paying customers and patrons may become unhappy with seeing advertisements along with “paid” content. Non-profit organizations normally don’t display advertisements, although acknowledging corporate donors is usually acceptable.

Small Business With Ads

Finally, it is considered unacceptable by many to place advertisements on websites that don’t host unique and notable content – if your website is a basic small business website that exists to promote your products or services, placing third-party advertisements on your website can be a huge turn-off to your customers and prospective customers who are visiting your site to seek more information about your business. Although third-party advertisements are unacceptable under these circumstances, advertising your own products and services, or third-party products and services that you are authorized to sell or distribute, with display ads on your website is perfectly acceptable.

The Primary Drawback Of Web-Based Display Advertising

For many for-profit entities that produce unique content, web-based display advertising can be perceived to be an easy and lucrative way to monetize said content. However, many vastly overestimate the earning potential of advertisements on their website. Each unique website visitor represents only fractions of a cent in advertising revenue, so for many smaller, less popular websites and blogs, advertisements will not generate a significant revenue stream. For some bloggers, journalists and media companies, producing “click bait”, or controversial and even misleading headlines and content, eventually becomes a necessity to attract new visitors and boost revenue; this reliance on “style over substance” content can lead to compromised standards and a damaged online reputation. For some websites that can’t sufficiently generate advertising revenue, alternative forms of revenue and donations, including online “tip jars”, retail wish lists, and branded merchandise, may be more profitable and acceptable.