May 11, 2020

An ugly truth about blog monetization

So I resumed my blog after an absence of five years. I noticed some changes in the blogging landscape. For some of us who started blogging more than a decade ago, it was more to do with expressing ourselves, writing our observation on just about anything, or chronicling our day to day experience. However, blogging nowadays is driven by marketing of information on a particular subject or niche. Blogging sites are full of advice to focus on a niche or lose an audience. But while I'm not ready to do that yet here (I talk about a range of topics that I like from film to books, travel to shopping, current events to cultural anthropology), I'm quick to adapt a few changes. I learned that Google Adsense has been disabled in this blog for inactivity. It was easy to monetize your blog through Adsense then. There was virtually no requirement except to open a blog and post regularly. Due to stiff competition today, Adsense has set some new requirements focusing on number of traffic and quality of the blog. I'm not sure when my Adsense will be approved or activated again, so while waiting I searched for alternatives to monetize my blog

A week ago I found a seemingly attractive alternative in Adsterra. I read some good reviews and sent my application. I got accepted in an instant. So I copied the scripts and HTML codes to my blog's HTML template and added the ad codes to my gadgets (the equivalent of widgets for Wordpress users). The ads were displaying well and when I checked my Adsterra publisher dashboard two days later, my blog started to get monetized. It was a good start. I added two other blogs to my Adsterra registration. But yesterday morning all my blogs started acting strange. They were being redirected to gambling and porn sites. My first instinct was to Google the problem and most of the advice centered on malware. I'm using a MacBook so at first I couldn't believe that I was having this problem. There was a long-held belief that Apple products were immune to virus and malware. But upon checking, Macs do get infected by virus and malware and they have even outpaced PCs. Since I didn't have anti-virus installed in my MacBook, I purchased BitDefender online. It scanned my system for more than an hour only to find out that my MacBook was clean. So what's the problem?

There are two things common in my blog. All of them are hosted by Blogger, but since it is owned by Google it has a robust security system. The next thing that all my blogs share in common is Adsterra. So I checked Google again for similar issues with Adsterra and was shocked at what I found out. There have been complaints of blogs and websites using Adsterra that were getting redirected to other links or what is called malvertising campaign. The problem lies with the scripts that you embed in your blog. So I removed the Adsterra scripts from my blogs. It remedied the problem. I browsed my blogs using my MacBook and my Android phone, and they were working fine. No more porn and casino sites. Still unconvinced I asked my partner to check my blogs using his phone. There were no more problems. 

My comeback came with a hard lesson with the risk I got myself into with finding alternatives to monetize my blogs. I guess that while good reviews provide promising options to consider, others that raise the red flag also deserves (more serious) attention. 

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