Google's Adsense... Making Web Sites Possible
The Engineering Web
Google's Adsense advertising programs provide the humble web master with a terrific opportunity and encouragement to author web sites not otherwise practical.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Google's AdWords and AdSense programs have revolutionized the way web site creators can monetize their sites. This provides a much welcome revenue stream to otherwise totally voluntary and free sites.
There are still many folks who are happy to fund the hosting fees and labor of their web sites seeing it as a portal for which they can share something with others; These folks are to be commended for their philanthropy.
Many more web masters do not have the resources to fund free sites. Yet they still have a desire to share their knowledge or organize other's data for web browsers' benefit. They have at least these choices:
- Host with a free hosting service and let them show their ads to your viewers,
- Pay a hosting service and eat the cost,
- Charge your users a fee to access your site,
- Pay a hosting service and put some AdSense Ads and other ways to monetize your site
Option 1 is certainly doable, but I have never liked the lack of control over how the hosting company inserts their ads into my page. I also don't think in this day and age there is any reason for someone with a serious web site to not have their own domain name and have their choice of zero ads or ads they get some benefit from.
Option 2 is fine if you have the time, desire and money to afford it.
Option 3 works only for certain special web sites that have information so valuable as to command attention from the most discriminating web visitor. Many tie their subscription fees to a parallel publication like a glossy magazine or other form of periodical.
Option 4 puts all the power in your hands and gives you all the benefit at the price of some ad space on your site.
I tried them all
Since 1994 I have operated a web site called Astronomy Net. It is a free web site with articles, forums, vendor guide and other information primarily targeted at the Amateur Astronomy community. To offset its fairly high hosting costs I have tried:
- Selling banner advertising campaigns - the kind that were so prevalent in the 1990s
- Accepting donations from the visitors
- Selling enhancements to listings in the vendor guide
- Running ads for commission advertisers like Commission Junction
- Placing Google AdSense Ads in various spots on the web pages
I sold a few banner campaigns around Christmas time with good results. I even sold banner campaigns on Ebay a few times to see if the market would set a price; I had some success with this, but at a tremendous cost of time and effort.
Many donations came in from the good folks who liked my site and thought it was worth ten or twenty bucks to keep going.
Selling enhancements to the vendor guide was and still is a flop. I still keep it available because I have a few vendors and manufactures I maintain a special relationship with.
The way I attempted commission based ads was a total flop. I can't quite remember, but I think after more than a year of running hundreds of thousands of banner ads the total advertising haul was something like $32.30... Beyond hopeless.
Being a fan of Google for some time and trying very hard to make Astronomy Net come up on the first page results for the word "astronomy" I decided to try a few Google AdSense ads. What could it hurt right?
Google AdSense beat all others the first month
In just one month Google AdSense took my average monthly income from about $50/month to about $200. Amazing. For the first time my server costs were almost covered. I finally was closing in on not having to fund my servers and internet connection.
I quickly made Google Adsense my primary method of advertising and put it on some other free sites as well. This steadily increased average income to about $250/month.
Then a friend suggested an E-Book from Joel Comm called, I think, "Unlocking AdSense." I paid ~$100 thinking this is a worthwhile risk expense. I read through the book in one evening. I applied the techniques suggested by Joel and...
Doubled my Google AdSense income instantly
That little e-book paid for itself in about two weeks of improved Google AdSense income.
I cannot tell you how thrilling it was to finally be running a profit in my little web business.
I continue to modify Astronomy Net attempting to improve Google AdSense results without getting too ridiculous with ad placement.
Can you have too much Google AdSense?
Well, you have seen the sites that take Google AdSense to the max. The thing you have to remember is Google limits the number of ads and link units each page can have. I think their limits are a good compromise in quantity. The real question is can you have garish looking Google AdSense ads. Sure. If you wish to try Google AdSense ads on your site, you will be well advised to study the many Google tips and tricks out there. Even Google has good tutorials on how to best utilize Google AdSense.
Google puts relevant content on your site
One of the coolest things about Google AdSense is their content detection system. They put ads about the material in your web site. They put only the highest bidding ads on your web site for that particular content. This is capitalism in a pure and simple form. Google sells Google AdWords, you create content, Google places the highest bidding ads on your site related to your content, Google AdWords customers have to bid high to get their ads displayed. Perfect.
Without going into too much detail, here is my list of Dos, Don'ts, etc. to help you make the most of Google AdSense:
- Do try Google AdSense Ads,
- Do try to make their ads blend in with the color scheme of your site,
- Do read every single word of the Google AdSense Terms and Conditions... it is not the usual yadda yadda. If you don't do anything else, do this!!!
- Don't ever Ever EVER click a Google AdSense ad on your web site,
- Experiment with Google AdSense channels... I like the numerical ids rather than the URL based ones as it give me more control over ad tracking and allows me to track different channels on the same web page.
- Use the automatic deposit into your bank account... you get your money much sooner than a check in the mail
- Pay heed to the number and types of ads you can show during a page load. Google won't display any ad beyond the limit, buy you should take great care in not calling for too many ads of a given type.
- When you place "AdSense for Content" ads on your web site ensure the first one or two are above the fold (near the top of your site) so visitors can see them without scrolling down
- Ensure your first one or two "AdSense for Content" ads are set to display text and image ads; Let Google handle which ones to show. An image ad has to beat out three to five text ads to display so doing this ensures only high bidding banners get displayed.
- If you run a third "AdSense for Content" ad consider making it image only and put this one below the fold. Graphic ads seem to provide much less value for you, but do add a "big time" web site look. Plus the below the fold ads don't do all that well anyway so there might not be much to lose by trying image ads.
Monetizing your web site gives you a certain freedom and additional resolve in keeping it up to date and relevant. The whole Google process including Google AdWords, Google AdSense, Google Sitemaps and other Google systems is simply world class and puts power in your hands. The freedom you gain by monetizing your web site allows you to concentrate on editing and adding good content for your visitors. Your visitors are your gold and Google has provided a financial incentive for you to serve them.
Some things requiring caution:
- Critique "get rich quick with AdSense" tutorials carefully. Every one I read (and I read many) boasts about their AdSense earnings and even show you the AdSense or PayPal log reports to prove it. Well, that's great and all, but what they are not showing you is the costs they pay in hosting, Google AdWords and other keyword advertising techniques that helped generate that revenue. Business is still business and Margin is the barometer of success. The question to ask these boastful folks is not how much they brought in as income, but what is the Margin on their income and costs.
- Re-read Google Terms and Conditions and make sure your web site stays up to date with their desires.