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Political Blogs and AdSense

Tom Watson has an interesting post titled Blogging Snow Job where he talks of his decision to pull out of AdSense and BlogAds – stating that ‘advertising does not work for the average blogger, even the above-average blogger.’

It’s an interesting post and one worth reading.

I don’t know Tom Watson or his blog, I don’t know what kind of traffic he gets (he gets a lot of comments so there must be some level of traffic) and can’t comment upon his ad positioning/design (as he’s taken it off) – but I would respond to his post briefly by remarking that in my experience political and general topic blogs (which I’m suspecting Tom’s blog is looking at his front page) do not traditionally do well out of AdSense. The reasons for this are numerous and include

Advertisers are not willing to pay big dollars for Political Ads on AdSense

AdSense struggles to provide relevant ads for political topics as it doesn’t know which side of politics you’re writing

I’ve found from personal experience that this is similar for blogs about spirituality and faith and other less tangible topics. Once again AdSense struggles with relevancy which will always lead to a low click through rate and quite a bit of frustration for bloggers both as a result of the low income but also the ads which at times can be completely opposite in topic to their content.

AdSense tends to work at it’s best when a blogger targets a narrower niche topic, especially when that topic has some sort of product or service associated with it.

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. “AdSense tends to work at it’s best when a blogger targets a narrower niche topic, especially when that topic has some sort of product or service associated with it.”

    It couldn’t be said any clearer.

  2. Peppone says:

    I agree, I manage an italian political (communist) web site and blog with little traffic. The website is named after “Palmiro Togliatti”, the Italian Communist leader that led the Italian Communist Party from 1927 to 1964. What is interesting is that the advertsing Adsense display on this website is often related to conservative news magazines! The click-throug rate is very low and I suspect that the peoples that clicks do this to generate cost for the political adversaries!

  3. Chris Albon says:

    You run a communist website with Adsense on it? Am I the only one seeing the irony?

  4. Aaron says:

    You run a communist website with Adsense on it? Am I the only one seeing the irony?
    Not at all… :-)

  5. Cary says:

    The blogging world is FULL of irony

    ;D

  6. I can verify your comments re “spiritual” blogs, Darren. I ran Adsense on a Christian blog of mine. Not only did Google have trouble with the topics (understandable), but much of what they ran was extremely counter to the biblical views of the blog.

    I took the Adsense off, even though it was producing some cash.

  7. Chris says:

    I have a political blog that also displays Adsense. It makes very little money. I keep the Adsense ads on the site because any money is better than no money, but I suspect no one will become a pro-blogger based on only one “idea blog.”

    My other blog, which is niche entertainment oriented, makes significantly more money using Chitika and displaying relevant magazine ads as a banner and electronics on the comments page.

    I assume that politically minded people are usually more interested in the content and less interested in the ads, whereas the casual reader of an entertainment blog is more likely to click on an ad for something that catches their fancy.

    Also, the entertainment blog gets significantly more traffic than the idea blog. The political blogging world is relatively saturated with the same types of ideas, but there are always openings for niche entertainment sites.

  8. Tom W. says:

    Thanks for carrying on the discussion. I don’t have a problem with AdSense or BogAds not working, that’s fine. I’m a media veteran myself – had no big expectations, was just experimenting. My general point was about the false “gold rush” of blogging that’s becoming pervasive. It’s a hobby for most, a nice outlet, a self-promotional tool for the day job.

  9. pcunix says:

    You can always get some idea of traffic from Alexa: http://www.alexa.com/data/details/?url=tomwatson.typepad.com

    It’s not always right – somebody can have a lousy Alexa rating and get a lot of traffic,
    and vice versa. If you combine it with Google PR and Netcraft’s rating, you have a pretty good idea. Summary: it’s not an unknown blog, but it isn’t very active.

    But aside from that, it’s also true that blogs like that get less search engine traffic, and those are the folks most likely to click on ads – not your regular readers.

    But he’s certainly wrong to generalize that there’s no money in blogging advertising. There is, though most of it goes to sites with much more traffic and to sites that are easier to provide valuable ads to.

    As I said in a comment at his site, I think too many new bloggers get unreasonable expectations. It’s like musicians: there are stars and superstars, but most can’t even give away their cd’s. It’s part talent, part very hard work and part luck and you need two of those at the least.

  10. Tom W. says:

    Hmmm. I disagree with the rock star analogy – it’s a bad one. Many rock stars in terms of talent, drive, and audience are hanging out tip jars on their blogs and begging. Now, narrow topicality – yeah, that’s right.

  11. AK says:

    The consensus seems to be that Adsense is not the way to go for what Chris calls “idea” blogs – but what about other revenue sources? Have experienced bloggers in this market had any luck with MiniMalls, affiliate links, etc?

  12. Darren Rowse says:

    Tom – thanks for stopping by.

    I think you’re right to give a good balanced perspective upon the blogging for money thing. I’m very aware that some bloggers talk blogs up in a get rich quite way – it’s something I work hard to address.

    Not sure if you caught our poll a few month back that showed around half of my readers earn less than $30 per month from AdSense (of course another recent poll showed that half my readers have been blogging less than a year which could partially explain this).

    Of course it also showed that 5% of those using Adsense make over $100,000 each year from AdSense and that 25% are earning over $500 per month from it. So while most don’t make their fortune, an increasing amount are supplementing their income quite nicely from it.

  13. landon says:

    I wonder what Steve Pavlina would say?

    Just kidding. I know what he’d say.

  14. Darren Rowse says:

    The thing about Steve is that while his blog might not be focussed upon a product related topic – his blog as a whole is pretty focused and has some related industries which advertisers are willing to pay money for.

    When I go to his site I see a lot of relevant ads (ie ones focussing upon personal development, productivity etc) so I think that his CTR would be a lot higher than the average political blog.

  15. Adam Graham says:

    My perspective is pretty much the same as Chris’. That little space on top of my blog would earn me nothing left alone. Last month, it earned me nearly $8, up from $5.75 the previous month. I sold a Blog Ad in the sidebar for one week and walked away with a small amount of money. I also got my first blogging job, and will be taking home around $200 a month with the potential to earn more.

    Scirpture says not to despise the day of small things. Look at Blogs like Wizbang can charge $500 a month or more for one ad and don’t tell me that with 14,000 hits a day they’re not earn some Ad Sense revenues. Even if they’re getting getting a Click Thru rate of half a percent, they’re getting some money.

    It takes patience. I believe the old scripture, “Don’t despise the day of small things” applies to blogging.

  16. Tom says:

    We have a political – current events blog, and the click through rate for adsense on 20 thousand page views a day is .1 percent. Not that I am complaining, we do not expect that much to come out of it, but google ads are not the most profitable thing for the pages.

    Where they work is when they are placed on top of the categories break out pages. Google indexes these pages very well, and the google searcher hits them often and will be more inclined to click on the adsense ads.

    Here is an Example

  17. James Joyner says:

    Google’s TOS prevent me from divulging my earnings but it has certainly been worth having AdSense on my site, a political weblog with 20,000 daily uniques and 200,000 plus daily hits. I make substantially more from BlogAds and a little bit from a couple of minor advertisers.

  18. Howard says:

    If you’re blogging about a small niche topics, you’re going to tend to attract traffic and ads that suit the needs of the reader. Thus, you’re going to get higher click-thru-rates and generate more revenue.

  19. Tom Hanna says:

    One political blog and a side blog on the same domain are making enough from adsense to pay the hosting fees for all my blogs, my DSL and phone bill (in a small town where they are overpriced), and still buy lunch a couple times a month. On the other hand, I’m getting 4-600 unique visitors/day. With the same traffic on a couple of business oriented sites, I’d be quitting my day…er, night…job. If you’re going to use Adsense on other sites and you want to blog about politics, you might as well put the Adsense on the political site, too.

    I did find interesting that this was from a liberal political blog when I read recently that liberal blogs made more money than conservative ones.

  20. Adam Graham says:

    James, you can say what the earnings are, just not the Click Rate.

  21. I’ve found the same to be true – I run a political forum. It’s by far the most successful in terms of traffic of my sites, but the least performing as far as advertising clicks go.

  22. Jeff White says:

    I don’t know about the political blogs but I can speak from experience and say that Adsense works great on Christian sites when optimized correctly. I have had Adsense on my site for 4 years. I consistently get above 8% CTR and generate $1,500 per month. I’ve been as high as $3,000 per month.

    I have had issue with some pages. For instance, if a page mentions a ministry that offers counseling to those struggling with homosexuality then the ads usually include gay dating sites and homosexual advocacy groups, the last thing my users would be looking for. But for the most part the ads are very well optimized.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Darren posted an entry today about using Google’s Adsense on political blogs. His observation was that Adsesne, being an advertising tool that tries to determine relevant ads to serve based on the content of the page, is often unsuccessful on political blogs because it has a hard time determining what kind of politics (liberal or conservative) the blog contains and thus can often serve ads that are opposite of the political slant of the blog. While this makes sense (and perhaps why this blog does not perform well with Adsense), what was ironic was a comment made on that entry: [...]

  2. [...] Darren nails it with this statement: AdSense tends to work at it’s best when a blogger targets a narrower niche topic, especially when that topic has some sort of product or service associated with it. document.write(“Add to Del.icio.us”) | Add to Y! MyWeb | Digg it | Add to Slashdot Related PostsAdSense: Note to SelfTip For the Comment SpammersSite Targeting and Niche BloggingI’ve been Scraped and RemixedTechnorati, Lights Are On but is Anybody Home [...]