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Should Bloggers Forget Adsense?

Jim at Reve News has learned the lesson that most bloggers writing about making money from blogs has learned – Adsense doesn’t pay well on these types of blogs.

‘On ReveNews that is. Let this be a lesson to the other publishers out there. Never try to run Adsense on a site that is read by people who are Adsense experts, let alone a site read by affiliate marketers. Geez, talk about a pathetic click rate. I haven’t seen something fail so badly since Gigli.

Putting Adsense into our content was an experiment by me to see if it could work for us, even though I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t, I had to find out. I’ve learned my lesson and have removed 98% of all the Google ads off of the sit’

If you want to make big money via Adsense I’d pick another topic – readers of such blogs are remarkably blind to Adsense ads and the ads themselves are notoriously poorly paying.

Jim also gives a case study of a ‘typical blogger using adsense’ in his post where he shows how little the average blogger will earn using Adsense. His figures talk hypothetically of a blogger with 1000 impressions per day, with a 10% CTR and a 2 cents per click payment earning $730 per year.

Nothing wrong with the maths – the only problem is that there is such variation between blogs on almost every element of the equation. CTR can vary widely – but 10% is probably an over estimation looking at most of my blogs. 2 cents per click is an estimate that varies widely also (it’s probably an under estimate looking at my blogs).

For example – I’ve got a few blogs that hit the 1000 impressions per day mark.

One earns an average of $15 per day, another earns an average of $5 per day and another earns an average of $2 per day. Each are niche blogs – none will probably ever be massive.

Jim concludes his post by writing:

‘Forget Adsense, Bloggers are better served creating custom partnerships or sponsorships with advertisers. In arrangements of this nature, a blog with niche-specific content, that is straddled with low traffic, has the opportunity to earn much more by converting less.’

Jim is right that the average blogger’s Adsense earnings will never be massive – but I would differ from his argument slightly on a number of points also:

1. The average blogger won’t earn big money from custom partnerships or sponsorships with advertisers either. As someone who has worked hard at developing relationships with sponsors I’ve found that many of them are not willing to talk to anyone with a site doing only 1000 impressions per day. I also know how much work it can be to get these sorts of deals. It can take along time and a lot of effort to both get the deal and to maintain the relationships. In comparison to adding a little Adsense code to a template (and then forgetting about it) I’m wondering about the rate of return on effort.

Of course there are systems like blogads (that Jim mentions in his post) but these won’t earn big dollars either for the average blogger. For instance if you take a look at what bloggers are charging for ads over at blogads for their blogs that are averaging 7000 impressions per week – the average ad is around $25 per week ($3.5) per day. Of course some of the blogs at around that traffic level have more than 1 ad, (some have up to 4) but other have no ads at all.

I’d love Jim to prove me wrong, but I fail to see how relatively small blogs will ever earn much from sponsorships. I do see the advantages of some of the ways people are working together as networks to attract advertisers – but even so, on a ‘per impression basis’ I doubt that their earnings will be large.

2. Even if sponsorships and partnerships do earn more (and I’ve no doubt in some cases they will) I’d argue that there is no reason to ‘forget Adsense’ – rather bloggers would be better served to keep earning their few dollars per day from it in addition to developing custom relationships with sponsors and partners.

I guess what it comes down to is the fact that if your blog is doing 1000 impressions per day that you’ll never become rich – no matter what revenue stream you may choose to run on it. Your only real option to significantly increase your earnings at this level of blogging is to find ways to increase your traffic or add new blogs to what you do.

Interested in other’s thoughts.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Andy Merrett says:

    Though I’m still experimenting and working these things out, I’d say that blog-related technical niches are likely going to be more difficult to convert Adsense revenue.

    My best performing sites are those which are not blog related at all. For example, one on piano/keyboard/synth news could do quite well as its traffic increases, as it’s technical in a different way. Most of its readers come via search engines, and don’t ‘tune out’ from Google ads.

    Another is about the Apple operating system – again, technical but not necessarily read by people who understand and thus ignore advertising models.

    Other general and niche sites again are starting to show this trend.

    Many of my blogs are also about technical things but hopefully written in such a way as to be non-technical. Without wanting to stereotype, I probably attract a less net-savvy audience – someone who can type in the model of a Yamaha synthesiser into Google, find a review or link on my site, and then click on a Google ad. Not wanting to put these people down, but they’re probably more receptive as they’ve not learnt to ‘blinker out’ content that those of us who actually publish on the web have.

    I’d still say Adsense is a very viable solution and potentially quite scalable, though fluctuations must be borne in mind.

  2. JimKukral says:

    Hey Darren. I left this comment on my blog after your comments, reposting here for the conversation sake.

    ****

    It’s simple. It can be done by using the affiliate model, and by selecting the right offer (high-paying, high converting) and placing it in the right niche…all can be done with a simple line of code as well and can be done in minutes if you just know where to look.

    Assuming you can get all of those factors right, the possibility for one conversion on a, let’s say payout of $50 (like a credit card signup), is WAY more attractive and plausible than a $.10 Adsense click to a blogger with no traffic.

    So one affiliate conversion = $50
    50 Adsense “conversions”, or clicks at an average of $.20 = $10

    Which is more likely and attractive?

    The problem for bloggers is understanding this paradigm, which is essentially what BlogKits was built to do. It’s an uphill battle as bloggers are not marketers, yet rather just people who like to write.

  3. IO ERROR says:

    I once put channels on my AdSense ads that were seen primarily by other bloggers, other channels for readers of Slashdot, and other channels for those that were seen mostly by the general public. As you can imagine, there was a massive difference in clickthrough rate.

    The bloggers clicked through less than 0.1 percent of the time.

    The /.ers clicked through about 0.5 percent of the time.

    And the general public clicked through much, much more than that.

    I don’t cater to bloggers and /.ers anymore, and my revenues are WAY up. For the blog in question: May 2005 $9.43, June 2005 $82.49

    Still waiting to see what happens in July, but it’s an exciting month so far.

  4. Andy Merrett says:

    One thing that I think has been stated before also is that contextual ads on blogs about blogging are primarily about blogging itself – they don’t always pay much and generally you’re trying to sell things to people that already have the systems in place. Not much scope for conversion.

  5. Having used affiliate programs for years (Solar Flare has been around since about 97 or 98, the revamp into a blog is a recent progression) I can honestly say that I completely disagree with Jim.

    The chances of a $50 affiliate conversion on a non-sales blog or website are far lower than the chances of earning $50 via AdSense on such a website. Both are entirely possible with sufficient visitors and the right design.

    The key detail here I think is the nature of the site. If a site is designed to sell a product then the affiliate approach will do better. Thats exactly why AdSense does badly on internet marketing sites.

    If on the other hand you’re writing a blog and what you’re doing is writing content, not sales pitches, affiliate sales are very hard to make because all the selling is done on the affiliate site itself. The end result is you get nothing for most clickthroughs.

  6. I think Jim’s spot on. The old affiliate method is tried and tested and works if you get it right. I think it needs to be refined a bit for blogs though, especially general blogs, rather than tight niches. Talking of high fees, a few months ago I spotted a business report marketed by Payloadz at $5000. Affilate fee for a single sale : $1000.

  7. Dan Marques says:

    I think there is no hard and fast rule. A professional blogger should be willing to try different things out to find what works best for their site. For instance, a mix of affiliate revenue on purchases, sign ups, blogAds, and Adsense might yield the best solution. I think more attention needs to be paid to experimentation.

    I also agree with Darren that selling a specific campaign to a company is incredibly difficult. The profileAds network has roughly over 250,000 impressions a day and we sell individual campaigns to firms and it is not easy.

  8. PFBlog says:

    Interesting discussion, as a personal finance blogger, I can add some color to Jim’s example. The average credit card signup reward for affiliate is $40, but the conversion rate is miserable at 0.5% at best. That is: $40 per 200 clicks. The average Adsense CPC for personal finance topics is $0.40 to $0.50.

    More importantly, you can use both channel to maximize your income. Adsense usually makes up 40-70% of my advertising income, and I definitely agree with Darren that Adsense is an easier and profitable model.

  9. Teli says:

    I’d like to throw my support to Jim and Dan.

    It’s all in what niche is chosen, the target audience and how savvy they may be when it comes to affiliate links/ad placement, and the revenue streams the blogmaster chooses.

    I would honestly diversify – it’s never a good thing to put all of one’s eggs in one basket (i.e. AdSense) and the only way to truly know what will work for a specific blog is to test it and test thoroughly.

  10. ~Dawn says:

    You spoke earlier of putting specific ads on only frequently searched for posts, I believe. Has this helped any, if anyone has tried this?

    I was thinking of putting it on a few of my posts, but only a few that get around 20-30 searches a day- just wanting some backup data, thanks.

  11. Darren Rowse says:

    Jim, you didn’t mention affiliate programs in your post – but I agree with you that they can pay out with some very good money – I’ve played with many of them myself and made a bit of cash from them over the past year or so. They have earned me about 10% of what I’ve earned from Adsense.

    I maintain that on a site doing 1000 impressions per day that they will have a pretty low conversion rate. The reason for this is that to get the $50 (or whatever the figure) you have to actually cause your reader to make a purchase.

    With Adsense you just have to get a click on the ad.

    I’m thinking of one site in particularly – where I have an affiliate program being promoted that can earn me $100 per sale – the only problem is that despite linking to it in a variety of ways throughout my blog I’m yet to have a sale after 6 months.

    In the mean time Adsense has earned me $500.

    The other thing I’d say is that with your ‘credit card’ illustration – you’re right that the affiliate programs pay well – but in the same way Adsense can pay well also for those sorts of terms. I know one person who reports making between 15 cents to $4 per click from ‘credit card’ terms. At that rate, and using the method of calculating you used in your case study (10% CTR at 1000 impressions) a blogger could expect to earn anywhere between $15 and $400 per day. Of course the 10% is still a pretty high CTR so I’m not sure the $400 mark is feasible – but I still think it illustrates that Adsense probably is in the ballpark of affiliate programs (taking into account their lower rate of sale/conversion).

    You compare one Affiliate program sale with $10 from Adsense – but I guess I’d ask – how often do you get the affiliate sale? As i say – in my experience the $50 sale doesn’t come along on a daily basis on a site with 1000 daily impressions.

    I guess it depends on a lot of factors – but I’d still maintain (as I said in my post) that it’s not an either/or situation – but that a variety of revenue streams should be tried on each blog (within reason so as not to get into ‘clutter advertising’. I think Adsense and affiliate programs/sponsorship/partnerships/impression based ads etc should all be tried.

  12. Teli says:

    you have to actually cause your reader to make a purchase

    There are also a number of ‘pay per lead’ affiliate programs which don’t necessarily depend on the visitor making a purchase, simply filling out some information.

    I’ve found the per per lead affiliate programs have greater conversion rates, but they vary from niche to niche. I also believe CJ has a search function for finding PPL programs as well.

    Granted, the commission may be less than a hundred dollars per lead, but I have seen some programs offering upwards of $25-$50 per lead (no purchase necessary) – but they are often in the over saturated markets, so if you’re not already established, the chances of getting enough traffic to make it worth while is minimized.

  13. I think Darren’s spot on. With a site that only has 1000 visitors a day, you’re not going to make a fortune on AdSense… or on anything else.

    I have one weblog that is making nearly $50 a month from AdSense now with 700 visitors a day, and should be in the $75 range when it gets to 1000/day. Not a fortune, but I doubt I could beat it with affiliate programs.

    If you were really lucky there might be a well-converting affiliate program that precisely matched your weblog’s topic, but unless you’re creating your site specifically for that, the chance of having very many sales is small.

    AdSense isn’t always the best choice, though–I have one very high traffic site with a general non-tech audience, and AdSense does terribly there. Few clicks and low per-click prices. I make more money on traditional ad networks.

  14. amit agarwal says:

    IMO, any technical blog will get less Adsense clicks because the website audience are again technical who can easily distinguish between ads and content.

    While on the net, I never ever click on GoogleAds because my eyes are too used to recognizing them as ad units.

    But blogads to invite my attention sometimes.

    I redesigned by blog http://labnol.blogspot.com keeping the right sidebar free for displaying blogads. I think blogads can co-exist with Adsense but unfortunately, blogads are not accepting application at this time.

    Another alternative for the sidebar are Google Skyscraper units but they aren’t high paying as their rectangular counterparts.

  15. Ryen says:

    I read Jim and Darren’s post carefully. Interesting posts.
    I think both Jim and Darren are right, however, a few points seems to overlap with different concept.

    My thoughts are;
    Adsense should never be forgotten as an income source. My point, however, is whether to put Adsense as a primary income source or not.
    The answer depends.
    If I just enjoy blogging and consider having a passive income, I would focus on Adsense. Because it’s easy to perform and it works for me as long as my goal is getting decent passive income. And thus I put Adsense as my primary income source.

    However, if I really want to earn money as my living from my blog, I would think Adsense as a secondary income source. I would work more with other affiliate programs (BTW Adsense is a kind of affiliate program by definition.)

    Actually the discussion was about which one works better. In terms of amount of money, the affiliate program will work better. But it’s no secret that most of affiliates don’t earn enough; probably, they may earn money more from Adsense. So I have to say that the affiliate program will work better only when performed properly. Performing an affiliate program is kind of complex. The way to promote an affiiate program must be different from normal blogging.
    Differen income model needs different marketing strategy, right?

  16. An affiliate program needs a lot of preselling. You have to cajole and brief prospects before sending them on the click to the closure site. Blogs are not as good at that as the static, skyscraper pages we’re used to from the affiliate marketers. The way to do it, I suppose, is to seed the message constantly and discreetly in a succession of posts. Sidebars don’t work as well because they don’t contain enough information. As has been said, if page views are modest, it’s hard to see how pay-per-click can be made to pay. The classic long-tail approach of establishing yourself as an expert in a particular niche, then selling high-value affiliated products off the back of that, may be best for low volume blogs.

  17. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say this. Strange thing! I have an adwords blog [http://www.kbcafe.com/adwords/] to track my own learnings about adwords/adsense and I’m getting great numbers.

  18. Kashif says:

    Seconding Darren.. and Amit, it is really not the case that technical people don’t click on the ads. IMHO it depends on the relevancy of the ads. I have clicked a number of times on ads [not on my blog ;)] that are relevant to what I am searching/reading. I think the equation is to get those sort of audience that “clicks” with the content.

  19. Eric Giguere says:

    See my recent article When AdSense Makes No Sense for more discussion about this topic.

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