Google’s AdSense program is one of the most popular methods for monetizing a website, mostly because it is so easy. Just about anyone with a website can use AdSense. Google does have terms and conditions, but there are not a lot of minimum requirements like you might have to meet in order to join another ad network. Even low-traffic websites and blogs can use AdSense.
If you are not familiar with AdSense, it works differently than if you were selling ads directly or through a network. You determine what size ad you want to display and whether you want it to display text ads only, image and rich media ads only, or both. Google will then provide you with the code and you’ll place that code into your pages or templates where you want the ad unit to appear. Ads will be displayed and you’ll earn a commission whenever a visitor clicks on the ad. The ads that are shown are purchased through AdWords, which is the other half of Google’s advertising program (it is called “AdWords” for advertisers who are buying ads and “AdSense” for publishers who display the ads on their site). The specific ads that are shown on your blog will be determined by the content of the specific post or page and by the amount that advertisers are willing to pay per click.
Pros of AdSense
Easy to Get Started
As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the main reasons that AdSense is so popular is because it is easy for most bloggers and website owners. Selling ads directly on your site can require time and effort, especially if your blog is relatively new or if your traffic is not very high. Instead of spending a few hours trying to find someone who will be willing to pay for an ad on your site, you could setup AdSense in just a few minutes.
With a low-traffic blog you probably won’t make very much money with AdSense until you can increase that traffic, but at least you can start making something, even if it is just enough to cover your hosting costs.
Monetizing a blog with AdSense will not require much time or effort from you going forward. Once you have the ad units set up you can leave them in place and they’ll continue to earn money. You will want to test some different ad sizes and locations, but once you have things optimized you won’t have to dedicate time to managing AdSense.
Compare that with selling ads directly to advertisers, which will require you to be in contact with advertisers, collect payment, put new ads on the blog, take old ads down, and find new advertisers when you have a spot to fill.
You Don’t Have to Worry About Filling Ad Spots
With the approach of selling ads directly you’ll need to be able to keep ad spots filled. If you’re not able to find advertisers, you obviously won’t make any money with this approach. However, with AdSense you won’t have to worry about finding new advertisers or replacing advertisers when they cancel. Instead, you can focus on getting visitors to your site and optimizing the AdSense units for the highest income possible.
This can be a really important factor, especially for newer blogs or those that don’t have huge amounts of traffic. Google will take care of supplying the advertisers for the program, so you can focus on running your blog.
Consistent Payment Schedule
Google pays AdSense publishers once per month as long as the account balance meets or exceeds the payment threshold, which is currently $100 (for details please see this page). I’ve been using AdSense for several years and I’ve always received the payments promptly with no issues.
Not all affiliate networks and ad networks have a great track record for making payments on time, so while this consistent payment from Google may seem like a minor issue, it should actually provide some comfort to you as a publisher.
You can check your balance and see some basic stats at any time by logging in to your AdSense account. For more detailed information you can integrate AdSense with your Google Analytics account, assuming you are using Google Analytics on your blog. I highly recommend taking the steps to integrate AdSense and Analytics because it will give you data about which posts and pages are earning the most money, and which ones aren’t earning much. You can use this data to help determine what topics you may want to cover in the future on your blog.
Decent Income Potential
It’s hard to say how much you can earn with AdSense because it varies so much from one site to the next. Obviously, the amount that you earn will be impacted by how much traffic you have, but it will also vary depending on how many AdSense units you are using, what sizes you are using, and where the ads are located on your blog. On top of that, the amount that you make per click depends on how much the advertiser is willing to pay. For example, highly competitive industries like insurance may bring as much as $10 or more per click. Other industries where there isn’t much demand or competition from advertisers may only earn $0.10 per click, or less. The amounts will also vary from one page to the next and from one ad unit to the next. On one of my blogs I had some pages that make a few dollars per click, and I had some pages that make an average of only $0.10 per click.
With that being said, there is potential to make a significant amount of money from AdSense. Some publishers with high-traffic sites, well-optimized ad units, and a topic that brings high prices per click can make very significant amounts of money with AdSense. In general, AdSense is not considered the most lucrative monetization method, but when the different factors come together just right it can be a big money maker.
You Have the Control to Tweak and Optimize
As an AdSense publisher you will have control over a number of aspects. For example, you can choose to show only text ads, image (banners) and rich media ads, or both. You can determine what color of text to use for the links and for the ad body. You can set the font and the text size. You can also control the background color, or you can match it to the background of your blog.
Having all of these different options allows you the opportunity to tweak and test the different variables. Make a change to the link color and test it for a week to see the results. Or try giving your ad unit a background color that is different than your blog and check the results. There are a lot of different things you can try and this gives you the potential to increase your earnings by creating ad units that get the most response from your visitors. Each blog’s audience is different and changing these different aspects of the ad unit will allow you to see what works best for your specific audience. You may think that making tweaks to these factors would result in only minor changes in income, but some publishers have been able to double their income through testing.
No Long-Term Commitments
Another important benefit of using AdSense is that you can ad or remove units whenever you want. You can even remove it completely from your blog if you want to try another monetization method. You’re not locked in or committed to any length of time.
Cons of AdSense
You Don’t Earn Anything Unless Visitors Click
While there is potential to earn a lot of money with AdSense, there’s also the potential to earn nothing. Since you only earn money when a visitor clicks on an ad, it’s possible that you could show AdSense units on your site and make very little, or nothing at all.
When AdSense units are displayed on your site the advertiser is getting some exposure to your audience. For all those visitors that see the ad but do not click, you won’t earn anything.
You Have No Control of How Much You Earn Per Click
Probably the most frustrating thing about AdSense, in my opinion, is that you get paid what Google determines you will get paid. When you sell ad space to advertisers directly you will be able to determine what you want to make for the ad. Of course, you’ll need to price it at a level where advertisers agree that it is a fair price, but you will have some say.
With AdSense you can check your account and see how much you are earning per click, but there’s not much you can do about it. If your ad unit is only producing an average of $0.30 per click you don’t have the option to tell Google that you want $0.40 per click. Of course, you can always remove the ad unit, but then you won’t be making anything from it.
The control that you have comes in the form of optimizing your ad units by tweaking and testing, and by targeting industries and keywords that tend to produce higher payouts per click, which is where keyword research can be very useful.
Google Can Shut Down Your Account at Any Time
Google has established policies and terms that must be adhered to if you are an AdSense publisher. If you violate any of their policies or terms your account could be at risk of being terminated. However, Google has been known to shut down accounts with no notice, and in some cases the publisher doesn’t even know why or how they are violating the terms.
In most cases you will be fine if you read and follow the terms, but there have been plenty of cases where publishers feel that their account has been shut down without good reason. They usually don’t give any warning or a chance to change what they don’t like, they’ll just shut it down completely.
If AdSense is a major part of your income strategy and if you’ve worked to get to the point where you are making good money with AdSense, this is obviously something that would be very bad if it happened to you.
You Have to Share the Ad Revenue with Google
As an AdSense publisher you will see how much you are making per click on average, but that is not the full amount that the advertiser is paying. There is no set percentage that Google agrees to pay AdSense publishers so it is hard to know how much of the revenue is being shared with Google.
If you were to sell ads directly to the advertiser you could cut out the middle man and keep all of the revenue for yourself. Sharing revenue isn’t unique to AdSense. It’s a similar situation if you are using any other ad network, but in most cases you have a better idea of what percentage of the revenue you are getting.
Sometimes Hurts the Look of a Blog
Let’s face it, AdSense units can be kind of ugly. The same thing is true with other types of ads, but most publishers and visitors tend to think AdSenses units look worse than other options. Perhaps that is a result of the fact that AdSense is so easy to use, and many small and unprofessional websites use AdSense. As a result, some people tend to see them as a sign of an amateur website or blog.
Tips for Monetizing a Blog with AdSense
If you’ve taken a good look at the pros and cons and you thing that AdSense would be a good monetization method for your blog, here are some tips to maximize that income.
Don’t Rely Exclusively on AdSense
Like most monetization methods, AdSense is best when it is used in combination with other methods. There are a few reasons why I recommend not relying strictly on AdSense. First, since Google has the power to shut down your account at any time you are taking a risk if it’s the only way you are making money from your blog. Even if you don’t intentionally do anything to violate their terms it is possible that your account could still be shut down.
Second, if AdSense is your only monetization method you are not maximizing your income. There are plenty of other good ways to make money, and almost all of them can coexist with AdSense. The only situation where relying strictly on AdSense would make sense for an authority blog is if you are still working on building the blog and this is only a temporary approach until you establish other sources of income.
Test, Test, Test
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, there are a lot of different details that you can test on your AdSense units. You’ll never know which tweaks can increase your earnings until you test them. If you’re serious about earning money from AdSense, testing is a must.
It may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to test only one change at a time. For example, if you change the link color, text size, and background color at the same time and your eCPM increases, how do you know which change made the difference? Testing factors one at a time will allow you to know exactly what is making the difference and you can continue to test other factors to maximize your results.
For more details on testing, please see these articles:
- How to Split Test (A/B Test) Your AdSense Ads) at ProBlogger
- Split Testing: How to Increase Your AdSense Earnings 94% Overnight at ProBlogger
Use Popular Ad Units
Testing different ad sizes is important, but in general you will get the best results by using the most popular ad sizes that tend to produce very well for most AdSense publishers. These sizes include the 300 x 250 medium rectangle, 336 x 280 large rectangle, 160 x 600 skyscraper, and 728 x 90 leaderboard.
The rectangular units are typically used within post content, such as directly below the post title, at the and of the post, or somewhere in the middle of the post content. The skyscaper is typically used in blog sidebars. The leaderboard is a good fit for headers or for an area above posts.
Try Matching the Colors to Your Blog
The colors of ad text, link text, and background are all things that you are going to want to test. In many cases, using ads that match the styling of your page/post text will produce the best results. When the ads blend with the content you will typically get the best CTRs (click through rates). A word of caution: Google’s terms stipulate that your ad units can’t be deceptive to visitors, leading them to think that the links lead to other pages on your site as opposed to being ads.
Colors are definitely something that you’ll want to test because in some cases it can go against the trend. Some websites and blogs actually do better with AdSense units that use link colors that contrast or stand out from the colors used on the site.
Place AdSense Units in Prominent Positions
One of the most important things you can do to maximize the amount of money that you make with AdSense is to place the units in the right places. The down side to this is that AdSense units in the most prominent locations can sometimes feel intrusive to visitors, such as the location right below the post title. This is something that you’ll have to test and determine if the added income is worth any possible inconvenience to the visitor. From my experience, I haven’t seen key stats like average page views per visit drop simply by adding an AdSense unit in a prominent location.
If your goal and your priority is to make the most money possible with AdSense, you will need to be willing to put the AdSense units in these prominent locations. An ad directly below the post title will drastically out produce the same size ad near the bottom of the sidebar. Location counts.
While you should test different locations, my recommended starting point for maximum earnings would be to use a unit below the post title, another unit between the end of the post and the start of the comments, and another unit either at the top of the sidebar or in the header.
WordPress users who don’t want to touch the code of their theme have a number of different plugins available. The options include the Google AdSense plugin, WP Simple AdSense Insertion, and Google Ads Master.
Focus on Building Traffic from Search Engines
As is the case with making money from selling ads directly, search engine visitors are critical to making money with AdSense. Visitors from search engines will click on AdSense ads at a much higher rate than visitors from most other sources.
Another key to making significant money from AdSense is to publish new posts frequently. The more posts you publish the more opportunities you will have to get page views. If you are able to keep the CPM the same, adding more page views will increase your income.
In the last chapter I recommended publishing at least 5 posts per week if you are using ad sales as your primary monetization method, and I would recommend the same thing with AdSense.
Conclusion on AdSense
AdSense is a popular monetization method and it can be a good choice in the right situation. I don’t recommend it for all blogs, but I’d rather use AdSense than struggle to find advertisers to buy ads directly. If you’ve been trying to sell ads on your own and haven’t had much luck, give AdSense a shot and see how much it can make for you.
- Make Money with Google AdSense Guide from Zac Johnson
- A Blogger’s Guide to Earning More with Google AdSense from John Saddington