Google Adsense: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

My Little Angel

Google's Adsense program allows webmasters of any level to earn revenue from their websites. This is done by placing a piece of javascript code (currently the only option) on your web page that will show advertisements of various editable sizes and should your users click on those adverts you will be paid a portion of the revenue. The ways to maximise site revenue seems to have given way to an "Adsense Fever" and general thinking has switched from "Build Site then Get Advertisers" to "Get Adsense Account then Build Site".
Firstly a quick preview on the ins and outs of a Google Adsense Account. What is Adsense? It is management centre for webmasters who want to display text and image adverts on their website that are automatically geared to showing advertisers relevant to the content of that site or individual page. Adsense advertising takes two forms: banners and search. Each banner comes in various regular sizes that you would expect and can display either text adverts, images or videos and can be colour customised to better integrate into your own design, font choice is fixed though. Adsense for search takes two variations in itself, you can place a search box on a page that either redirects to the Google country specific search engine of your choice or it can redirect to a bespoke results page on your own site showing Googles results. These results pages will have advertisers on them also. Each type of integration use a piece of script (currently javascript, no php yet) that you place in the location you want to show the ads/results. You make money whenever a user clicks on one of these adverts. These earnings are dictated by how much the advertiser has paid to be listed in the banner or searches and by what percent of the revenue you are allocated (this percentage is not openly discussed by big G). Each click is monitored through tracking systems that attempt to eliminate fraudulent clicks and the results can be seen in the reports section of accounts. See the terms of service (TOS) for more details on fraud. This tracker will let you see your click through rates (CTR) which is the percentage of people who have viewed your ads and clicked on one of them. You will also see how much you have earned per day and can create separate "channels" which allow you to track the performance of individual websites or even pages. But what is adsense to the website user? Well, here:

Not exactly pretty are they ... but with hundreds of thousands of sites now using adsense for revenue people are getting used to seeing this form of advert. To find out if using Adsense makes sense for your website before opening an account there is a preview tool available. This is a download that adds a feature to your right click functions whereby you can click on any page and get a preview of what types of ad would be shown. It uses the words and other content available to determine what would be relevant and you can decide if such text would be something that your users would actually click on in the first place. Help is always available through their help database or through the contact forms available in the management centre. There is also adsense's blog that keeps people up to date with the current changes and new features. †

Who wants to be a millionaire? Most people heading for the Adsense website these days have generally already had their head filled with promises of being a "millionaire overnight" or even just the phrase "steady income" will be enough to make some salivate at dreams of leaving their boring jobs to be self employed. Unfortunately many quit their jobs way too early and are sorely disappointed when "overnight" success turns into work 10x harder than their old desk job and the amazing "adsense income" doesn't even pay for the electricity your computer is using. It still amazes me that people believe there are secrets to be bought on the web. Any secret worth anything will always remain a secret ... eh, Nixon? Building an empire from a $9.99 ebook may sound possible when you read the gold whisperings of the salesmen but think about it just for a few seconds ... there we go, that clicking sound! Even Jade Goody's Autobiography retails at 16.95 (about $30) and it tells you nothing of any importance.

After the tips and tutorials have let you feeling confused and alone, next we have the Adsense Ready web sites or the "business in a box" purporting themselves as the saviours of the newbie webmaster. These template driven software packages allow you to enter huge lists of keywords and at the click of a button a site of up to 1000 to 100,000 pages is instantly created and uploaded to the web.* Again, let us take those few seconds to just think about that ... got it yet? Let us take the small estimate of only 10 such software companies who sell only one software package a day = after one year there will be 3,650,000 to 365,000,000 auto-generated pages vying for position in the search engine rankings. Of course, there are probably about 100+ such software companies out there and they most likely sell more than one copy a day but my calculator doesn't go that high. Templates for disaster more than anything. Most of these auto generate business models will rely on adsense arbitrage which is the process of paying low amounts on Adwords (e.g. 0.05 per click) for keywords that land on pages where the adverts shown are worth 1.00+ per click. Sounds simple but again, take into account that you are jockeying for position against many other people attempting the same thing and you'll find yourself earning an average of 1p on turnaround. Take the high value keyword "mortgage" - currently there are 163 adwords advertisers bidding to show in the results. At 5p your ad will be shown on results page 14 and will never be shown on a content page. There are easier ways. You have to remember that it's not just you vs. the search engine. It's you vs. a hundred thousand other webmasters. You think you're the only one to ever think of targeting misspellings? Here, try this: morgage, mortage, mortgae - search for those keywords and you'll see that there are already 100+ advertisers. Misspellings have been overrun and they are pretty low volume phrases. There are no back doors to making money with any program, (see our google adsense keyword research tips for more info).

So how do you make money with Google Adsense? Well having spent a long time as an adsense publisher, the best trick I've learned is: there are no tricks and there are no secrets. What you have to do is keep adsense earnings as an afterthought. Put this in real world context (an art that is steadily becoming lost), if you were to focus on the sponsors of an event and build an event around them that's a pretty lousy event. However, if you put on a Monster Truck show Ford will pay you a fortune to advertise as they know loads of people will come. Traffic is the only way to a successful AND LONGTERM business model on the internet. Think of the major ad sense players right now - YouTube and Digg earn millions but they were not created for that purpose. These sites were created to develop traffic and then the income came later. You need to develop something that people want to come to (technical term is "sticky web pages") so that you do not rely solely on search engine traffic. You only have to spend a few hours trawling through the webmaster forums to read about the number of businesses that go under just because of a simple algorithm change. It doesn't even have to be an original thought, you can take a larger concept such as Digg and just make it local e.g. Scotland, Texas, Sydney etc. Trust me, you are more likely to get a decent stream of revenue from being the top of a small niche than from throwing a billion pages at a huge industry. Also, with traffic and a niche comes prestige so that even if you do not rank for the best keywords in your niche you will have a strong base of regular visitors that will keep coming back.

Top paying Adsense Keywords are, in essence, a myth. But if you are determined that the only way forward is to work out the best words that make the most money and build a site around them then I do have some advice. The reason I say they are a myth is because although someone might pay out $50 a click for a keyphrase this is not always an indication of what will actually appear on your pages or of how much adsense will pay you. In most cases these "high paying" lists are created using the keyword addition tool from adwords, or one of the many API tools, where the person enters a word and sees what the bids are. But as part of the adwords model, merchants can place a completely different and much lower bid for banner adverts being shown on content pages through Google Ad sense. Then take into consideration the much secreted Smart Pricing feature where content pages that do not convert well are paid a much lower percentage that those that do. We ran a test on this for the word "mortgage" which the bid selection tells us has a high paying bid of 30 per clickthrough. We built a section totally devoted to this word and set it running. The adverts shown were spot on and the advertisers being shown were the same that were ranking top on the actual Goog site. Average money made from adsenses ads for those pages was 0.57 per clickthrough. (Sidenote: we earned an average 1.23 per click with our regular banner advertisements selling mortgage products!) Now that would work out at as 1% of advertiser revenue being the money made with adsense but that is unlikely. What is more likely is that advertisers were paying much lower amounts for content clicks because of the high level of fraud as everyone and their dog was targeting their keywords. There are loads of "top paying adsense keyword" retailers out there:

With that in mind I'd like to bring up the less popular theory of building a decent site that gets lots of traffic and lots of clicking over a spam site that gets less traffic (because of a crowded market) with slightly higher paid clicking. Any successful affiliate, discussion forum and even the Google Adsense website will tell you this. †† Any person looking to make a quick buck by selling you ebooks and out of date keyword lists will tell you differently. Do I add sense to the situation? (Oh come on, surely you've heard worse puns?)

Adsense Alternatives? There are two main reasons that you will be looking for an alternative to Adsense. Either you have been kicked off of the program, or all you get is public service ads and/or really low earnings from each clicker. Well, although popular, adsenses strength lies in it's relevance matching capabilities. If your site deals with several products or subject then chances are your ads will never really match the page's content and therefore hardly anyone will clickthrough and therefore you won't make money with any form of contextual advertising. This is particularly common with blogs and forums. Sometimes having just 2-3 good image banner ads through affiliate networks such as Tradedoubler or AffiliateWindow can results in far higher earnings that you ever could get with the ad matching programming. Plus, good selection of advertisers can add visual value to your page, a cluster of text ads can generally detract from such. We have sites with just contextual ads, some with just affiliates banners and some with both. The tip is to change them each month and check the results until you find what works. What's popular isn't always what's best.

The best keyword choice in the world, however, won't get you ranked well. You need links, and we list some sites that are obviously interested in exchanging links either for rankings or just for traffic:

Business Link Exchange Directory
Finance Link Exchange Directory
Leisure Link Exchange Directory
Technology Link Exchange Directory
Shopping Link Exchange Directory
Entertainment Link Exchange Directory
Home Garden Link Exchange Directory
Travel Link Exchange Directory
Website Link Exchange Directory
Be careful about link exchanges for the purposes of ranking, you can do it wrong. Check out some tutorials on link building:

Link Exchange Directory
Free Business Directory
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* Spam generation products are different to content management products such as Joomla or Wordpress that simply manage your own created content and use a Google Adsence plugin to manage the ads.

† We are under the impression that this is the location of the official adsense blog, please verify that this is still the case before taking on board the information posted there.

†† at time of writing location is Common errors are,, and but luckily they have thought of this and all redirect to the right site. Nice huh?

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