Can You Really Make A Living With Adsense?

By: Daniel Imbellino
Dec 11, 2015

Let's face it, it's every bloggers dream to make a living from their writing adventures, and throughout the years many bloggers have graphic showing a stack of 100 dollar bills turned to Google's advertising product for publishers Adsense, in hopes of making this dream a reality. While I won't discount that it's still very possible to make a living by blogging with the use of ads, it's not as cut and dry as the articles across the web make it out to be. For one, there's a number of modern day problems that are currently hampering the ability of bloggers to monetize on their writing efforts (which I will touch on shortly), and the fact of the matter is, blogging for a living is actually a long term goal, rather than a short term strategy.

For starters, yes, you can definitely make a living with Adsense, but the sad part is that it will take years of your blogging efforts in order to do so. To make it work, you'll need at the very least a couple thousand high quality articles. And, where things really get tricky is the fact that search engines like Google aren't going to rank everything you publish, but rather a small fraction of your overall content. This is why you need so much content to begin with.

One way to combat the ranking problem is to produce content that will gather attention and approval of the worlds' social media audiences. If you look around this blog, the first thing you will notice is the mass number of shares according to our social networking buttons. Not all those articles rank, but because we make an effort to put a lot of emphasis on quality, the content continues to get shared, even years later. While you will need a moderate level of traffic organically, you're going to need even more traffic from social sources if you want to stay profitable over the long term.

The point here, don't put all your reliance on organic search engines to deliver all your traffic!

The Modern Day Implications:

Unlike a decade ago when publishers averaged $10.00 to $20.00 for a thousand visitors, today bloggers and publishers across the web are lucky to rake in a but a small fraction of that, more closer to $3.00 or $4.00 for a thousand visitors; and often much less. The use of Ad blockers is squarely to blame for this phenomenon of shrinking revenues that now plagues even the publishing elite, and the use of these applications is only expected to rise over time.

For instance, at present, the amount of visitors to this very site who block our ads number 2 out of every 5 visitors for the previous year. Definitely a cause for concern. A year from now, that number could reach 3 out of 5, a serious cause for concern!

This is what you're going to be facing with any attempt to monetize with platform's such as Adsense. This is why I put such a strong emphasis on social traffic over organic traffic sources. You're going to need a tremendous load of traffic!

Another thing to take into consideration is server costs. As your traffic increases, your server costs will rise as well. The cause for concern here is that with the world turning to ad blocking programs in mass, it's definitely a possibility for the server costs to outweigh a publishers revenues. One way to combat this issue is to get your ads in the right place, which I will touch on in just a moment here.

Another modern day problem bloggers and publishers face in terms of earning revenue has to do with the worlds' current economic state. Economies have been shrinking at the consumer level for more than a decade, and because of this major companies have been scaling back on their marketing efforts in order to stay in tune with declining revenues. Simply put, the cost of advertising has been plummeting for years, and the cost per click for the typical Ad has declined as a result.

Your Niche Matters:

The type of subject your blog entails can and will affect your traffic levels and overall advertising revenues as well. Some subjects, such as those surrounding video games are going to have higher levels of organic searches and interest levels across social platforms than will other subjects, such as cooking or lesser sought niche subjects, like sky diving. The more popular your subject matter, the more likely you are to obtain the higher traffic levels you need.

However, more traffic doesn't always mean more revenue. While I noted video games are a high traffic subject for publishers to focus on, they're also one of the lowest paying in terms of platforms like Adsense. Other subjects like those surrounding information technology as a whole are likely to produce better revenues.

To help publishers define what subjects pay, and which don't, it may help to make use of Google's Adwords Keyword Planner. Typing in a set of keywords will not only return an average cost per click for those specific keywords, but Google will also present relevant search terms, along with their average cost per click as well.

Another thing you need to know about Adsense is Google's Smart Pricing initiatives. To put Smart Pricing in a nut shell, the more likely an ad is to convert to the intended actions of the advertisers, the more likely you are to get paid. For instance, an advertisers intended actions could be downloading an e-book or PDF file, signing up for an email newsletter, simply playing a game online, or purchasing a product or service.

The way Smart Pricing works is like this, Google essentially attempts to follow the users click in order to determine what the user does, in order to determine if the advertisers demands were fulfilled. Sites who's ad clicks fulfill the advertisers intended actions on a larger scale will effectively be paid more; while sites who's ad clicks don't convert for advertisers will likely see lower cost per click revenues.

Placement of Ads:

The overall placement of your Ads can have a huge impact on your revenue. Generally speaking, Adsense for content Ads tend to pay on a cost per measure basis when placed above the fold (the viewable area of the screen as the web page loads), while link based ad units are generally cost per click only. That being said, it's best to have at least two Adsense for content Ads above the fold, in which you'll not only collect revenue on a per click basis, but also based on the impressions of the page itself.

The only thing to keep in mind here is the fact that Adsense for content ads generally take up more space, while link unit ads take up smaller areas of a web page's available real estate.

At current, you can place up to three Adsense for content, along with three link units, and up to two search boxes per a single page. Implementing more Ads on a given webpage increases the competition among advertisers to get a placement, driving prices per click and impression higher. Although, I don't recommend implementing that many ads on a given page.

To get a good idea of ad placement, if you look at the top of the screen, just above the title of the page, you'll see a 468x15 short link unit, and just below the first paragraph you'll notice a 468x60 short Adsense for content banner. Likewise, towards the top right side of the page there's a 120x600 Ad unit as well.

What You Need To Know:

For those planning to implement Adsense on their sites, there's a number of important things you need to know, and a few things you should definitely avoid. For starters, you need a privacy policy with a link available to it from each and every page of your site. Your privacy policy should state your site's current use of cookies, if and what information about your visitors you collect, and offer the ability to opt out of the use of cookies entirely. To offer your users the ability to opt out of your sites cookies, including those of Google's Adsense, you can include a link to the Network Advertising Initiative Opt-Out Page, where users can opt out of the ones they choose. You should also provide links for users to opt out of any other 3rd party cookies as well.

Also, in order to comply with Adsense terms of service, you will need to notify users that your site uses cookies as they enter the site, and from any page! The reason being is due to the European Union's legal requirement to notify users, and Google demands you do so in order to use their Adsense product. An easy way to implement a notification system for your site's visitors is by creating and downloading a script from Cookie Consent. This is the app we use to notify users on this very site. You should include a link to your site's privacy policy from the cookie consent popup.

Now, regarding the use of appropriate traffic sources. Generally, traffic from sources such as organic search engines and social media sites are perfectly fine, but whatever you do, don't buy traffic unless you know where that traffic is coming from, and you have a way to validate those sources of traffic as being real humans. My thought is, it's best to avoid buying traffic outright, but if you really need a boost to get your site seen by a wider audience, then consider the use of Google's Adwords, or paid social media marketing options from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google as well.

Another thing to consider is not discussing your site's ad revenues from Google with anyone other than maybe your personal accountant. Generally speaking, it's against their policies to do so, so it's best to avoid it.

All being said, Adsense is a great product for monetizing your site with, just know it won't happen overnight, and making a blog profitable is no walk in the park. For most, it will take at least a couple of years of consistent blogging before you'll even remotely have the chance to make even a modest living from your efforts. There are sites out there that pull in revenue in the tens of thousands a month from their Adsense based ads alone, but these are typically larger sites who publish often hundreds of thousands, if not millions of articles!

The most important things you need to understand are that, you need an audience for your site, and you need content that will get shared over and over again! Whatever you do, don't do what most bloggers do and simply write and publish new content 7 times a week. When it comes to monetizing on a blog with Adsense, more isn't always better. Your emphasis as a writer should be on entertaining users, solving a problem, or providing some sort of valuable information that will make your content worth reading. One good article can easily perform better than a thousand lousy ones, so focus on quality and things will work out.

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