When Ads are Good for Bloggers But Bad For Dogs

“Wow, you mean I can write about dogs and get paid for it? Where do I sign up?”

That’s probably what a lot of bloggers think when they find out about ad networks. After all, who wouldn’t want to recover some of their blogging costs?

Dog on the couch covered in money.

What no one said, ever. I’m going to become a dog blogger so I can make lots of money.

But what if those ads that appear on your website harm dogs? Won’t they ultimately harm the blogger too?

Ad Networks For From Dummies

I’m certainly no tech expert. And if you aren’t either, here’s how ad networks work from this dummy to you.

A blogger signs a contract with a company who solicits ads. The blogger puts some code on her site and ads selected by the network appear in the sidebar or overhead (where ads get the most attention).

Google AdSense is the biggest network and it uses contextual ads. That means that the ads change based on keywords you use on your blog.

When someone clicks an ad, the blogger gets a small payment. And that’s good. The blogs I read are smart and funny and take a lot of effort. I love knowing that someone is getting at least a little bit of pay for a lot of hard work.

But sometimes the ads are bad for dogs. And ultimately, they’re bad for the bloggers too.

Let me explain.

Honey the Golden Retriever considers the wobble board.

If you want me to stand on that wobbly thing, you’re going to have to pay me a lot more money.


When Ads Are Bad For Dogs

I first noticed it over a year ago. Blogs I admired featured ads for internet puppy sales.

The bloggers had installed Google AdSense contextual ads on their blogs. So if they wrote about puppies, ads for puppies popped up in their sidebar.

And let’s be clear about this. Puppies being sold online by the thousands are not coming from hobby breeders who plan matings to decrease genetic health problems and raise the resulting litters in their living room until they find the perfect home for every pup.

These are puppy mill dogs.

When I talked to one blogger about it, she didn’t realize puppy ads were appearing on her site.

Google does give a blogger the option of blocking certain ads. But if you block ads for miniature schnauzer puppies, ads for dachshunds replace them. Get rid of ads for poodle puppies and you’ll start seeing ads for shih tzu puppies. Well, you get the idea.

I’ve seen other ads on pet sites for electric underground fences. That’s probably because not every dog person agrees with me that electric fences are a shocking solution to keeping your dog home. But I find it disconcerting (to put it mildly) to see an ad for a fence system that shocks your dog if he passes the boundary appearing with an article advocating for better treatment of animals.

As happy as I am to see bloggers making money, I don’t think it’s worth supporting businesses that harm dogs. And I don’t think it’s worth damaging our reputations as advocates for animals.

After all, if it appears on our site, people (rightly or wrongly) think we’re behind it.

Blogs That Are Good For Dogs and Their People

If you agree with me, what can you do?

Tell bloggers (gently) when you see objectionable ads on their site.

Don’t assume a blogger knows what ads are appearing on her site. They change frequently and many of us don’t look at the front end of our blogs very often.

Send a mild email along the lines of “I know how much you care about the welfare of animals. I thought you might want to know that your ad network is showing ________.” A passionate raw feeder, for example, would probably want to know his blog is promoting Purina Dog Chow.

If a blogger doesn’t care about what ads appear, you’ll have to decide if that matters to you.

We all compromise.

I know that nearly all consumer goods are produced in unsafe factories by low-wage workers, seafood is dangerously overfished, and that a good percentage of my taxes are supporting wars all over the world. But not every choice I make supports my knowledge and my values.

I’d be a hypocrite to insist that everyone else make morally consistent and righteous choices every moment.

And yet, sometimes, I draw a hard line and won’t compromise. Maybe it’s hypocritical. But it’s also human.

Support bloggers who choose not to use ads

Pet bloggers tend to lag behind other bloggers in finding ways to make money from their sites. Ads are easy to set up and so most people start there first. But some are exploring other ways to cover the costs of blogging.

If a blogger you love features sponsored content (they get paid to publish it), read and interact with their articles. Maggie of OhMyDog uses fees from sponsored content on her site to cover the adoption fees for pit bulls. Cool, huh?

Some of us link to books and products we recommend on Amazon and get a small commission if you buy something–even if it’s not the item we originally recommended. So the next time you’re buying on Amazon, start at your favorite pet blog.

If you’re a blogger who uses ads, manage them actively.

The BlogPaws ad network asks up front what ads you support and which you’d never consider for your site. You also get to opt out of a campaign before it goes live on your site.

Now that’s doing it right.

But even Google AdSense gives you control if you take it. And now, you can even block Google AdSense ads similar to others you’ve already rejected. That’s the answer to the puppy ad problem I noted above.

Honey the Golden Retriever smiles.

All I have to do is smile, right? And people will send us money?

Passive income is a myth. It always takes effort to make money. So if you feature ads on your site, put the time in and do it right.

Doing Well While Doing Good

For me, making money is fraught with danger. That’s why I’ve worked for nonprofits my entire adult life. And even then, I’ve faced ethical compromises and conflicts of interest.

But I have a strong entrepreneurial urge.

Deep down, I believe it’s possible to be financially successfully (although my idea of financial success looks like poverty to many people) while supporting our highest values.

But ethics come first—at Something Wagging and at my first home buyer’s blog, Hands on Home Buyer.

I don’t want my money-making efforts to harm dogs here. Or home buyers at my other blog. It’s not worth it to do something good for the blogger but bad for anyone else.

Your Turn: What do you think about the ways bloggers make money (or don’t) from their pet blogs? If you’re a blogger, what affects your thinking about covering your expenses?

photo credit: yomanimus via photopin cc

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  1. Great post as always…an interesting conundrum for sure. I struggle with it just as you do and hate seeing non-contextual ads or ads for products that I disapprove of. I think your suggestions are great and as you said it comes down to your own preferences. You can choose not to support a certain blog if you feel strongly enough. And finally, that smiley picture of Honey is just priceless!

  2. I absolutely would want someone to tell me if an offensive ad showed up on my site. It was my understanding when I signed up for Google AdSense that I could block anything I didn’t want. I’m not aware anything bad has showed up yet, but it does concern me. I’m not sure AdSense is going to be a money maker anyway. I need to find other ways. I am trying to be particular when considering any sort of sponsorship too. I don’t want to get rich blogging, I just want to make a little extra income so I can justify the time I put into it. I have to put off doing some things like paying to have a nice logo designed because I just can’t justify spending the money at this point.
    If I have to get another part time job, then the blog is going to be what suffers. My hubby is hanging in with me for now, but his patience may run out.

  3. Another great post! Well, I’ve never turned on any ads because I didn’t like what I saw popping up on other blogs. From what I’ve heard (but I don’t know for sure), those ads pay very, very little, so that tiny income isn’t worth it to me. Since I’m not really much of a writer, my blog is just short blips about my dogs. No one is going to pay me to write!
    Basically my blog doesn’t cost me anything other than time and a few voluntary giveaways. I consider my pay to come in the form of comments and repeat visitors!

  4. Being a reporter in real life, I have a complicated relationship with advertising. I think advertising and corporations have too much say in the media in general. But, advertising was what paid my bills when I worked at a for-profit newspaper. I work at a nonprofit newspaper now and like that we lack advertising, but we simply don’t have the revenue stream to make me full time.

    I think all of your suggestions are really great. It’s definitely a tough decision for many, I’m sure. I know many bloggers that only take advertising from companies that they connect with on an ideological level. Personally, I trust those bloggers more than those that just take advertising from anyone that will cut them a check.

  5. Good topic Pamela! I used Google Adsense when I first started blogging, but I removed it when I saw questionable ads showing up. The ads are tied to what the user has recently searched on, so the ads I see may not be the ads you see. But I was seeing ads for internet puppy sales, which I absolutely do not support! I do belong to BlogPaws Ad network and so far I’ve been fine with the ads I’ve seen. But if any of my readers sees a questionable ad, I would like them to contact me so I can have it removed.

  6. Intriguing. I realized some of my Adsense ads were not good so I blocked them. But you’re right. It will just replaced by another one I don’t care for. And what I see when I look at my page may not be the same ad you see. I will seriously reconsider Google Adsense. Thanks! :)

  7. I’m not a big fan of ads but I do have BlogPaws and Pets360 Ads on my sidebar. I should hope there is nothing bad for dogs on these ads. It is something we just started playing around with to see how it works and if it really is even worth having. We definitely don’t want an entire sidebar of ads, though. If anyone ever sees something for puppy mills or electric fencing I would hope they would tell me as I would like to know and would get rid of those ads immediately!

  8. This is such a fantastic post, Pamela! Though I don’t use an ad service on my blog and don’t plan to, just for this reason, I didn’t think to tell others what might be appearing on their sites. You’ve made me realize that they may not be “sell-outs,” but just unaware. Thanks for enlightening me! I would certainly want to know if there was something advertised on my blog that was in conflict with my philosophies and blog focus.

  9. This is great advice! I’m thinking of joining the BlogPaws ad thing, but I’m just not too sure yet. I kind of like having complete control over my entire page :)

  10. What an excellent – and timely – post. I think you and I had this conversation at BlogPaws, which is ultimately what inspired me to link sponsored posts to sponsoring adoptable pit bulls. And thank you, truly, for the shout out. I had gotten to a point with the blog where I realized that I couldn’t keep it up without generating income to cover the costs. Sponsored content was my first foray into generating revenue, though now I also am a member of the BlogPaws ad network. Who knows where I’ll go from here, but I feel like I’m getting close to covering my costs, which was my ultimate goal! And I would hope someone would notify me if something were objectionable because, you’re right, you might not know right away! I’d rather maintain integrity than make a few bucks!

  11. I think I really could be making money with my blog but I won’t just put up an ad for the sake of making money. I want my readers to trust me and to know if a product or ad for a product appears on my blog, it’s because I believe in it.

    I’m hoping ultimately it will help me in the long run, because it will attract quality sponsors. I’m looking for sponsors, not ads.

    I wasn’t entirely sure on the Blog Paws thing, I guess I’ll have to look into it.

  12. Great post Pamela! I actually don’t mind ads and think learning how to generate a bit of money to cover the cost of blogging is a great thing! How to do it and actually earn some money is something I haven’t quite figured out yet.
    I have used Passionfruit Ads to moderate sidebar buttons/ads – which I did get one sale from, but then it fizzled out. I really don’t care for Adsense and text ads, and it seems that every pet blogger has the same BlogPaws ad on their site – so why would I want to put the same ad on my site that everyone else has? Product reviews seem like a hot ticket item to charge for, but every dog blogger does them for free, so that might not work. I have never earned anything from affiliate links…
    Maybe one day I will figure it all out.

  13. This was a very enlightening article! I see those amazon ads on blogs but had not idea that by clicking there to shop, even if not for that item paid the blogger. I shop on Amazon ALL THE TIME. I will do that from now on.

  14. I have the “Pet Breeding” category blocked on my Adsense. Before I learned to block that, I noticed an ad on my blog to buy baby turtles or something. The category is really broad, so I don’t need to worry about new breeds popping up or anything. I certainly would like to know if anyone ever notices an ad on my blog that they don’t care for.

    I like the Pet Blogger ad network so far. It certainly seems far more productive than anything else I’ve ever tried in the past.

    Sponsored posts are nice, but most companies want follow links only so it’s hard to actually get them to sponsor a post with a nofollow link. It’s too risky to do sponsored posts with follow links for me, so I won’t do it.

    I love blogging and think it’s so fun, but I also like some of the opportunities I come across. I am in a low income family and it’s nice to think I can supplement our funds just a little here and there from home.

  15. Since I have a free blog via blogger, and I do my own graphics I don’t really have any blogging expenses to defray, so I’ve never considered running ads. Even if it was costing me something, I don’t think I’d do the ads, just cuz I’m a terrible control freak. (Sponsors would be something I would consider, but random ads wouldn’t be for me.) I can totally understand, though, that some folks like to have them on their sites to help supplement their income/defray some costs. To be honest, I’ve trained my eyes to zero in on the center “meat” of the page. Unless someone’s got some kind of annoying flashing ad on their site, I rarely notice any of the ads/sponsors.

  16. I’ve held off on the ad networks because of the Google ads that are used to backfill. The Google ads also use information from where the reader has been to determine what ads they show- https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/9713?hl=en-

    I can’t monitor my site 24/7 and there are many readers who don’t understand how those ads work and could get upset over what appears. So I wait until there is a time I can have complete control.

  17. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says:

    Things that bother me about Google Adsense and other AD providers– I’m often at computer sites. Computers are probably my #2-inanimate-object love–right behind books. A lot of time, our firewall shuts out some of the blog pages I want to read–including pet blogs–just because I’ve been reading tech blogs.

    Those so-called companies with malware that shuts your computer down unless you buy it to clean up your viruses it found–there won’t be any on here–or some of the trojans from infamous hackers in other countries, that want to steal all of your personal info, are detected. When THAT happens, I either have to use Clean-up and get rid of all of my history (requires closing browsers; logging off; then signing back into everything), or just wait until I’ve had enough history of other searches to make those AD providers detect something else that’s not computer related. I’ve told several people in Twitter at times that their page is throwing out a malware ad, and it wasn’t letting me read it.

    Now, my husband does work at home some of the time, so there’s a network firewall that I’m not supposed to shut off for any reason. I understand why I’m not supposed to, so I don’t. His work comes first before anyone’s play. I like eating and having a roof over our head, and the dogs do as well. So, a lot of time I won’t get to read a blog that I wanted to read. I MIGHT decide I want to read it badly enough to sign back into everything (We’re talking an average of 24 tabs open between both Chrome and Mozilla and 9 sites signed into.), but usually I won’t. So, there’s a good chance I don’t get to read a post.

    I understand needing to make money, but how much good is it doing if some of us rarely get to see the page because of it?

  18. OMG… I just typed a ridiculously long comment and accidentally deleted it all. I think I might cry. I had it all selected so that I could copy it to the clipboard – I’ve learned to do this because of having comments eaten so many times… I copy my comment, hit submit, then if it doesn’t go through for some reason, I can just paste and try again. Well, I had selected it all, then I accidentally hit the L key, and that one keystroke undid everything… my whole comment was overwritten by L. Just L. *cries*
    I’ll try again. I have to. Even though I already spent too much time on the first comment. Anyway… here it is again, or something close to what it was.
    This is a great post. I have struggled with this issue quite a bit myself. I do have a lot of ads on my blog, but they were/are there in hopes of making a little money for rescue. I don’t want people to be turned off by all the ads, because they are there for a good cause, but I don’t really know where to indicate that.
    My ads are:
    – Some BlogPaws ads, which I’m not totally happy with because many of the ads are for products I don’t use and wouldn’t necessarily recommend. I do wish they’d partner with some better advertisers. The FAQ for the ad network is not accurate, specifically the third Q/A. I have never received any notification for what ads will be showing on my site, nor any opportunity to opt out of any I don’t approve of. The ad code was placed, the ads began showing, I haven’t heard from them since. I have only been participating for one month, kind of as a test to see if it was worth it. I haven’t received a payment yet, so that is yet to be determined. If I decide to continue with the program, I will be contacting them to see about having certain ads removed from my rotation.
    – One block of Google AdSense, which I actively block ads for. Like others have mentioned, I do not see the same ads my readers see, so I can only hope they would tell me if they saw something offensive (like an ad for puppy sales when my site CLEARLY supports rescue/adoption). No matter, I may remove it anyway. To make money with AdSense, people actually have to click on the ads, which they don’t. So, no cents from AdSense.
    – Some affiliate banners – These were chosen and placed by me, so I approve of the content. People actually have to make a purchase through an affiliate link/banner for me to make any money, which hasn’t happened yet. Wait. Let me check my affiliate accounts just to make sure I’m being honest. Well, I’ll be dithered! I had my first sale yesterday. I’m RICH! Haha, right. My commission was a few bucks. And like Halley’s Comet, another affiliate sale may not happen for another seventy-five years.
    – Some random images to support stuff/people I like – they are technically ads, I suppose, but they have no income potential.
    So, all in all, I haven’t really made any money so far. So no worries for anyone who thinks I’m trying to strike it rich with all those ads. I just hoped to make some money for rescue, and right now, I’m not even covering my expenses. So yeah, I’m paying to blog, not the other way around. I’m not giving up, though. I hope to make the blog even more rescue/advocacy focused, and I’d like to completely revamp the aesthetics of the blog, but I certainly can’t justify paying anyone else to create a header or logo for me. If the theme/format changes, I’ll be the one to do it. As far as the ads, those will be changing, but I’ll always have some. I’d love to have sponsored ads for products I actually use/would recommend, but I don’t think my traffic numbers are high enough to seek out sponsorship. As it is, I’ll always have some affiliate ads, even if I end up dropping AdSense and BlogPaws Ad Network. I actually really want to keep BlogPaws, but I’d love to see them partnering with some companies whose products I like.

  19. Great post! I’m so glad I saw a link to this post via Twitter, because I have been going back and forth for the longest time as to whether or not I should put ads on my blog. Supplementing my income always sounds like a great idea, but I have seen not-so-favorable ads on fellow pet bloggers’ sites (most likely due to ad networks) , and I always change my mind about the idea of ads. Making money was not the reason why I started my blog, and I always envision that ads being placed alongside my sidebar dedication to my first dog, Hopper, would look unclassy (in my opinion). Your post is excellent food for thought…thanks again!

  20. This is such a great post. I blocked adds from breeders; when I did a search for how to do this, I learned that it’s not possible. A fellow blogger showed me how to do it. Now I’m with the BlogPaws network so I feel more comfortable with the ads that are on my site. I can’t wait until my second blog is eligible to join the network.

    What I count on is other bloggers and my readers emailing me to tell me what they see. It’s really nice to work together, because many of the networks don’t seem to make it easy for us.



  1. […] Twitter, I stumbled upon a link to a great post by Pamela of Something Wagging This Way Comes.  In her post titled When Ads are Good for Bloggers But Bad For Dogs, Pamela describes a pattern […]