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Why AdSense Might NOT be Best for Your Blog

AdsenseYesterday I published a list of reasons why AdSense is an advertising network worth considering if you want to make money blogging.

Today, in the interest of balance and fairness, I wanted to share the flipside and point out a few reasons why AdSense might not be best for your blog.

Hopefully somewhere between these two posts will be enough information for a blogger to make an informed decision. My personal opinion is that AdSense can be a great income stream for bloggers – but not on every blog. As always – it’s about testing different income streams on different blogs and going with works best.

Here’s some reasons why AdSense might not be the best money maker for your blog:

1. Sharing Revenue

Lets start with the bleeding obvious, AdSense takes a cut of any revenue that Advertisers pay to have their ad appear on your blog. There have been lots of educated (and not so educated) guesses at what percentage of ad revenue that AdSense keeps for themselves – but whatever it is you are not getting everything. Of course this isn’t unique to AdSense (almost all ad networks take a cut) but compared to selling advertising directly to advertisers yourself you’re losing money (of course for what they bring you this might be worthwhile).

2. Lack of Control Over Ads Appearing

One of the problems that using AdSense can bring with it is that you lose some control over what appears on your blog. Because AdSense draws ads from many thousands of advertisers and because these ads are targeted to readers of your blog differently in different parts of the world you can be largely unaware of what ads are appearing on your blog at any given time. Ads could be appearing on your blog for anyone from your competitors, to ads for dubious products or services or even for products and services that are quite the opposite of what you would recommend on your blog. While AdSense allows you to ‘filter’ advertisers by adding certain URLs that you want blacklisted – this is only ever going to help you blacklist advertisers that you can see in your part of the world.

3. Underselling to Advertisers

I was chatting to one advertiser recently who told me that he was able to run ads using AdSense on a particular site for 20% of the CPM cost than they were willing to sell ads for if he went directly to the advertiser. AdSense do their best to maximize the amount that you earn per click – but there is no way for you to have any input as to what your ads might be worth. As a result AdSense might sell your ads at a CPM of a dollar or two – but you might be able to sell the same ad unit for significantly more if you went directly to advertisers (this will vary from topic to topic).

4. Cheapen Your Site

I’ve chatted to some mid to upper level advertisers who have refused to advertise on a blog that has AdSense ads on it. The reason that they gave was that it cheapened the look of the site and they didn’t want to be associated with it. I don’t know how widespread this is – but it’s an argument that I’ve heard numerous times.

5. Not good for Political, Religious sites

AdSense is fairly good at working out what topic you are writing about and then serving up relevant ads to it (thus increasing your CTR). However some topics are more difficult to serve relevant ads for than others – particularly topics where there might be two opposing views. For example you might have a political blog and argue strongly for one political view point but use a few keywords in your post that trigger an ad for a completely opposing point of view. The same is true for other topics – like religion.

6. Distractions from Clicks on other Objectives

While AdSense can definitely be the primary way of monetizing a blog – it can also be a distraction from other income streams. The more options that you give a reader to click something on your blog the less they will click on any one thing. For example this can be a problem for blogger’s whose primary objective is to make money from affiliate programs – adding AdSense can distract readers from your affiliate links and decrease the chance of them converting. Similarly if you’re wanting to sell yourself as a consultant – when you add AdSense as a way of supplementing your income you could be sending traffic to other sites – some of which may be your competitors. It should be said that this isn’t just a problem with AdSense – any ad network added to a site can act as a distraction and send people away from your primary objectives.

7. Minimum Payout a Problem for Small Bloggers

As some pointed out in yesterdays post on why AdSense is good – a problem that some small bloggers face is that the minimum amount that you have to earn before being paid ($100 USD) is a big ask when you’re just starting out. Many small bloggers who earn just a few cents a day can take years to hit this mark. While it’s nice that AdSense accepts these publishers with little traffic (some ad networks don’t) the reality is that some bloggers give up before hitting this mark. I wonder how much money AdSense makes out of this.

Let me emphasize again – this is not a definitive list or one that should persuade a new blogger one way or the other on whether they should use AdSense. My personal opinion is that it’s worth testing numerous money making options for blogs to see what works best – including AdSense.

What would you add to today or yesterday’s list of reasons to use and not use AdSense on blogs?

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. I disagree that you have no control on which ads appear on your blog. You do have SOME control – the competitive ad filter.

    Once I found out that my CTR was very high, I had many clicks but not much income. I checked the stats for each individual ad and saw that some of them are site-based (thus paid per impression, not per click). The advertiser gave some low CPM, but very good ad — it’s CTR was above 50%! I removed the ad, because I didn’t want to loose money because someone tried to be smart. ;)

  2. BW says:

    Thanks for giving the flip side to Adsense.

    I’m using Adsense on my sites and some days are better than others :o)

    Any thoughts on how one should go about trying to make a switch to selling advertising directly to advertisers?

    Cheers

  3. My blog still has the bubble wrap on it so I hate the minimum payout nonsense.

    I’ve racked up enough money from the new blog, combined with some I made on an old blog thats not around anymore that I want to access now–but I have to wait for 10 or 15 more dollars to come in.

  4. mandrill says:

    I’ve had Adsense on my blog pretty much since I started almost 3 years ago and haven’t had a single payout. I have been debating whether to continue to let it take up valuable screen real estate, this post has decided me. Thanks Darren.

  5. Hyder says:

    I’ve had some good success with Adsense, while nothing to write home about with direct ad sales. Might have something to do with traffic levels, even though it is pretty good in my view.

    Maybe I need to take them off and look for direct ad sales instead? The thing is it might take me longer to get direct advertisers as there is no ‘good’ central place to look for them.

  6. redwall_hp says:

    I use AdSense, and it’s currently my main source of income. I think AdBrite.com has potential, but theres a lack of advertisers and an overload of spam sites in the directory. I made over $50 over two months with AdBrite, then the advertiser went away and I haven’t had another on any of my sites since (this was last year). Adbrite needs to do something about the spam sites, and they need to attract new advertisers.

    I’m currently making $3-15 a month off AdSense, and I’d like to have another reliable option. Text-Link-Ads is too risky, with the Google Police penalizing sites right and left. :D

  7. I agree with your comments about AdSense possibly not being profitable for small bloggers. And apply that to a small religious blog, I suspect that, unless one is very skilled in the psychology of how to best position ads, there will be little profit.

    Our blog has a small Amazon ad (poorly placed, I agree) which in the past two months has yielded a whopping total of seventy-two cents!

  8. Darren, great post. Points 4 and 6 are the ones that worry me the most, although I do use Adsense.

    It’s worth pointing out that the topic of your blog makes a BIG difference. My blog attracts technically minded readers, who are famous for being Adsense blind. Also, the clicks don’t earn much (most are 5 or 6 cents, although I did get 21 cents once!). On the other hand, a knitting blog may make money because the readers are more likely to be open to purchasing knitting supplies. Some niches (home loan, debt services etc) have high paying clicks.

    My point is that Adsense doesn’t work well for all topics – so that’s another thing to consider when deciding whether to use Adsense or not.

  9. Aaron says:

    Regarding number seven. The minimum payout is very annoying. I used ads for a while on my website as it was growing, but I decided I personally didn’t want them anymore, so I took them off. Now I have just under the minimum payout sitting in my account, and it has been waiting to be “bumped” over 100 for about a year and a half now.

    It is very irritating.

  10. @ Mandrill

    Not one??!!

    Hmmm.

  11. Alex Bogak says:

    Great post!!

    I’ve been using an AdSense for a little more than 2 years, and wasn’t paid yet.

    But I noticed a considerate bump up in money flow as my blogs are being developed.

    So I still have hopes for AdSense.

  12. Hi Darren,

    Good posts as ever. I use adsense on my site and whilst the earnings aren’t massive (due to a small but growing number of visitors!) the CTR is good.

    Another disadvantage is that it slows down the loading time of the web page. I can see a noticeable difference when I try to load my pages with or without the adverts.

  13. Tom says:

    You know, I’ve seen Adsense run on some religious oriented sites. I thought the ads seemed appropriate: Christian products on Christian websites, yoga and meditation on Buddhist sites. I see Darren’s point, but I think it might be worth a shot. I would think that you would want to evaluate the success based upon 3 things: complaints from readers, revenue, and traffic. If complaints are low, revenue decent, and traffic doesn’t take a hit, why not?

  14. Abhijeet Mukherjee says:

    Darren..its a proven fact now that contextual advertising is the best when it comes to internet marketing(unless you are big enough to have direct ads)…and love it or hate it..adsense dominates it…other networks like bidvertiser or yahoo panama don’t even come close….and yes ,$100 mark could be a problem but again it has been reiterated by almost all the bloggers including you in the past that making money from blogging is certainly a matter of perseverance

  15. Sangesh says:

    I agree with you and mostly to your point #5. I had almost given up google adsense, until I started my personal blog http://www.sangesh.com.np/blog.

    It was a turning point, after I started my blog site my earnings started to increase to quite some numbers. Then on, I do have quite a faith in google adsense.

    Good luck to other small bloggers as well.

    Cheers.

  16. Ramkarthik says:

    AdSense also have very complicated TOS which allows only few other money making programs to be run in the blog.

    Agree with the reasons you have mentioned.

  17. WFH Pro says:

    One other drawback – no keyword control over the topical content of the ads. I would like to feed adsense keywords vs. them scanning my site and selecting ads automatically

    I think Adsense cheapens the look of the site due to the lack of graphical design put into it. Google likes ultra-simplicity in their product designs, but when you want an aesthetically pleasing blog that you put a lot of design work into, Adsense sticks out as the weak link.

    I would like transparency on payout. With Amazon affiliate sales, you know the product price and your cut. With adsense there is no transparency.

  18. Ben says:

    Well I have just recently in the past two months added adsense to my blog. At first it was really dismal looking at the daily revenues. Sometimes I’d get the big 0 and think this sucks I’ll never get to the pay out.
    But I found this site http://www.inspiredblogger.com/index.php/2007/09/02/30-day-google-adsense-earnings-trend-will-get-you-excited/

    I followed his instructions and made a spread sheet to see the 30 day growth trend. Then I did it for 60 days. Those numbers made me happy because I can actually see that my adsense revenue is actually growing and not in decline.
    I love stats and would be interested in other spread sheet templates out there to monitor adsense stats.

  19. It’s especially a stupid idea if you use your blog to promote your business.

    “Here’s what I offer… but if you look to the right side of the page, you can choose from my competitors…”

  20. Marko Novak says:

    I agree with Jonathan. You shouldn’t put ads on your company’s blog.

  21. simon says:

    i have tried Adsense a few times but find it never seems get much money, and the ads are always odd ones, i get a japanese dating site always but it’s not related to me at all.

    And i agree it makes the site look cheap

  22. Live Crunch says:

    I removed adsense completely, i notice that on beginning of the month you make money like crazy on the end of the month you make less even tho the impressions are same.

  23. Ankur Jain says:

    Hi Darren,

    This is regarding the point no 2 you have mentioned above. this is only ever going to help you blacklist advertisers that you can see in your part of the world.

    I think you have missed this tool from Google which works on IE and which can fairly show you the ads which can be served from any part of the world.

  24. Max Powers says:

    I refuse to use AdSense for reasons such as no control of the ads, the cheapness that it portrays, the way some of the ads seem to blend in with the content and everybody that uses AdSense has the same advertising look.

    For those of you that depend on it and are making good money with it I see no problem and wish you all well.

  25. Brent says:

    It took me almost 2 years to earn my first check. Soon after that I was making the minimum amount within a week or so and quickly growing ever since. It’s been well worth the wait.

  26. James B. says:
  27. Thanks for giving both sides on this issue. The purpose of my blog isn’t to make money, but I do have a couple of ad types on my site (AdSense and BlogHer) figuring it can’t hurt. I’m one of those who makes very little on the ads so far ($25 from BlogHer was my ‘big’ month and I think I’m still at less than $10 total from AdSense) so I struggle with whether or not to keep them. Your posts have given me a lot to think about in order to make a much more informed decision.

  28. Leigh says:

    I think the region you live in can help decide whether AdSense is right for you as well. If your in a nation like the UK where the currency is very strong against the dollar, $100 is equivalent to a couple of hours work in a half decent job. The pound buys roughly the same as the dollar, so in real terms you earn half the money of a US blogger. If you can its probably better to chase direct advertising from your own nation (depending where your traffic comes from)

  29. I think for new bloggers like myself with little traffic, AdSense is probably the only game in town as we are not likely going to get any direct advertiser. Though I haven’t yet put any ads on my blog, I am leaning towards trying AdSense at least initially and then diversify after I start getting some respectable traffic numbers.

    Great post, as usual.

  30. CompuWorld says:

    There you go. People at Google must growling when they read this. While it’s nice that AdSense accepts these publishers with little traffic (some ad networks don’t) the reality is that some bloggers give up before hitting this mark. I wonder how much money AdSense makes out of this.

    A lot is my answer. The way people are creating blogs and using adsense as there first income stream, no doubt there are many of them who leave because they do not touch the 100 bucks mark.

    What AdSense could do is start the paypal support and decrease the minimum payout to $10. That would be a dream announcement which many would love to hear.

    One should not use adsense (in any form) if he is selling ad space in his blog. That way you gain the trust of your readers. Although using a square image ad somewhere below the post won’t be bad either. That way you do not distract the readers thoughts from the ads you selling to adsense ads. Your advertisers happy and you happily get something out of adsense.

    AdSense does some times gives a cheap look to your blog IF it isn’t used properly. With proper placement the professional look can easily be preserved.

    AdSense is great but not the best for all. That is why Google is the best but not God. I will also suggest people to test with adsense and than use it regularly in there blogs..

  31. Elit Alice says:

    “Many small bloggers who earn just a few cents a day can take years to hit this mark.”

    it took me 15 months to get my first 100 USD.
    it took me 3 months to get the second.

    it is definitely not the best way for starting out blogs, but seriously, what is?

  32. Julie says:

    I started out with Adsense on my first blog, but had little luck with it and I felt it cheapened my site. I am one of those who quit before payout and Google got to keep my earnings. I then switched to affiliate marketing and am actually making money now. I will most likely never use Adsense again for the exact reasons Darren states in No. 6.

    Jonathan explained it pretty well in his response.

  33. Ben Evert says:

    I only use Adsense because it is the only one that makes me decent money. And yes, if you are a small blogger it seems like forever before you get your first check. It took me 8 months before I got my first one but now I’m getting checks on a regular basis. It takes time and posts before you can make decent money in a small niche. Hang in there because there is a payoff at the end.

  34. Dennis says:

    you should have mentioned another disadvantage, which is lack of control over the appearance of the ads… you surely can set the BASIC look and feel, yet you cant have the entire control…. and another possible drawback of adsense is its signature in the lower right corner of the ad block..

  35. Kate LaFrnce says:

    Great topic! I added AdSense to my blog just because it seemed like everyone else had it and it couldn’t hurt – hey, I could use a few more $ – but then started seeing competitors’ ads popping up. I attempted the filter but I almost think some of the competitors have a way around it because they still show up from time-to-time. I also have the issue with the ads may fit some of the content but not the true purpose of the blog – which is more like to attract buyers. Sometimes I have to add a post just to get the ads back “on topic”.

    Thanks!

    Kate

  36. DefogMyBlog says:

    I’ve checked on Goggle’s site and see I can temporarily suspend my participation at any time simply by removing any AdSense ad code and search code from my webpages and account will remain accessible to me, if I decide to start using AdSense again in the future. That leaves me feeling in control of the situation and more encouraged to experiment since I’m not locked into a contract for so many months or years.

  37. Bart says:

    I have used Adsense for about 4 months and have made $12.00. I enjoy that I’ve made some money, even while I’m developing my writing voice.

    Mainly, it was the easiest for me to implement at the time since I didn’t know anything about pro-blogging.

    As mentioned above, it’s not the best for blogs starting up, but what is? I’d like to know.

  38. I enjoyed being able to see the good and bad of adsense. Usually sites just show one side of a topic which most of the time is the side they favor, but this doesn’t allow us to make up our own minds on topics. I really liked that aspect.

  39. Despite the reasons you talk about, I think Adsense is the best program so far to monetize a website. I don’t imagine why I would choose another ad network instead of Adsense. Maybe in the future would be different but if anyway you will put ads in your site / blog would be a little rare don’t choose Adsense as first option.

  40. Skruples.com says:

    I am a new blogger and adsense is the only place that will take me at this point. I am focusing on building my blog because I like what I am doing. I don’t really care about the money right now. With success comes money!

  41. Elizabeth says:

    Once upon a time there were only “small” bloggers… people who write and here was this internet things, so they did it there… Now there are people so furious to make money that blogging doesn’t even mean what “weblogging” once did– to journal online.

    I like this site Darren, but I wonder– can you strive to be a “ProBlogger” without the continuous charge forward to popularity and cash? That’s not just a hypothetical… I am wondering how and if real, small content matters anymore, or if quantity really only matters.

    Elizabeth

  42. Adsense isn’t for sites with people that know their way around the web. Programmers, Designers, SEO experts, etc… all skip over that stuff and NEVER click on something so obvious. I don’t think I have clicked on one in over 2 years…

    But if you just have regular people than I would recommend it over other methods because they don’t know what it is.

  43. Brad V. says:

    I’ve heard number 4 (Adsense cheapens your blog) many times as well. I think there’s some truth to it, as Adsense ads aren’t very eye appealing and they are seen on just about every blog and website out there (okay, not every one, but pretty darn close to it). In other words, they are overused.

    Of course, I should be the last person to talk, as Adsense is the only advertising on I have on my blog right now (but that’s going to change very soon).

    Great 2 posts!

  44. Lightening says:

    I actually started using adsense because I had found some interesting websites on blogs using them. I like the set up and the way the ads match (mostly) the content of the blog. It’s been great for someone like me who has a variety of topics they blog about.

    However, I have removed them at the moment because there is a lot of buzz amongst smaller bloggers of having google pull their account at around the $80-$100 with very little explanation or opportunity for recourse. I think at the very least they should pay out what people have already earnt.

    I can’t help but feel a lack of trust which is why I’ve currently pulled the ads off my blog (and I also moved it so haven’t bothered on the new site). Why should I give them FREE advertising???? It doesn’t seem right.

    Is this a problem you’ve heard much about – google pulling accounts before people earn any money? Some of these people HAVE been advertising for a long time to get their money.

    I’m currently looking into blogher – do you know much about as an option for a smaller blogger?

  45. Mike says:

    I’ve been using adsense on my site for a while now and i find it annoying that google don’t give any idea of what cut they take from showing their ads.

  46. Gerri says:

    I started a blog livingzimbabwe.blogspot.com. I have adsense on it and it has already started turning a little political as you might already guess with the way things are in Zimbabwe. A number of the adds arent relevant at all.

  47. Thanks for your astute article series that helped confirm my decision not to put AdSense on my newly hatched affiliate marketing blog/site for dogs and humans.

    Your comments on link leakage and uncontrollability of content are important parts of my decision. I’ll stick to my plan of link building, article writing, content development and affiliate program growth. I’m sure I’ll do just fine.

    Thanks very much.

  48. I have a couple of points to make.

    First, those of you who have gone for months or years without getting a payout from AdSense should not drop it just yet, but concentrate on building traffic instead. No program is going to perform well if you don’t have any traffic!

    Second, I make money using AdSense on a political site. It’s rather difficult — I have to have ten times the traffic of some other site to make the same amount of money — but it definitely can be done.

  49. Cindy says:

    Thanks for both sides of the coin on Adsense. From what I’ve read I’ve decided to opt for a test run of Adsense (that is once I’ve got my blogging act together). What I’m wondering is how long should the test run? I want to stick with it long enough to for a test run to be valid but I don’t want it cluttering up the screen if it isn’t going to work. Three years seems like a lot of clutter time but then is three months enough exposure to get the real picture?

  50. Gigi Griffis says:

    I wish I would have read this before I signed on with AdSense. I’ve been in the blogosphere for a while, but just recently started a regional blog for Denver, CO. I had never used AdSense on any of my blogs, but decided to give it a shot on this one. Unfortunately, as my hits are still pretty low, the AdSense payout is minimal and I’m running into the problem you described: its going to take me a lot of time to get paid by them at this rate.

    Hopefully as traffic increases so will my clicks, but I wish I would have known their $100 policy from the get-go. I would have waited until the traffic was more significant to give them a shot.