Adsense Doesn’t Suck For Blogs. I Think? Right?

I love it when the blogosphere gets worked up and makes generalizations from one piece of data. In this case, that data is Guy Kawasaki’s post about his blog’s performance over the year which includes his Adsense statistics.

The discussion coming out of that post has many people saying that Adsense sucks for blogging, and that blogs and Web 2.0 companies hoping to make big money from it are in trouble.

As with most things in life, it isn’t that simple. Luckily I get to work with web publishers all day, and I have access to a lot of statistics where I can see their results from different ad networks. You can’t just come out and say it doesn’t work for blogging. That just isn’t true.

First, it depends on what your goals are. If Guy Kawasaki’s goal was only to make a few thousand dollars in the year, then Adsense didn’t suck for him. If his goal was to make 50 thousand, then yes it did. The question would then be if his goal was realistic. Adsense, and any advertising for that matter, depends largely on numerous factors that affect how much money you can make from it.

1. Audience

The quality and demographics of your audience can really affect the amount of money you earn. Is your audience valuable to advertisers? Do they react to ads? Do they click? Do they convert? Guy’s audience really is valuable for who they are, but Adsense is only based on the click, and his audience is probably too wise to click much.

2. Site Topics
Ads for products and specific industries pay much more than other products and industries. In Guy’s case, he blogs about numerous subjects and I’m not sure any of them really result in high-paying topics. It’s also harder to get targeted ad buys when your site is somewhat general. Sites that are focused and on a specific topic are often more attractive to advertisers.

3. Traffic Level
I hate generalizations, but most blogs don’t generate enough ad impressions and clicks to make a lot of money from Adsense or other ad networks. If your goals are modest, this is fine. If your goal is to get rich, you’re going to need a lot of traffic, and the blog medium just doesn’t seem built for massive traffic generation. Even the blogs at the top of the Technorati rankings aren’t really getting much traffic compared to a lot of standard web sites out there. I work with sites every day that you’ve never heard of who blow the top blogs out of the water when it comes to unique visitors and ad impressions.

4. Ad placement and ad type
There are a lot of tips and tricks that can be used to double or triple ad revenue depending on the site. Testing various ad locations, colors, sizes, and styles can lead to much better results. It doesn’t sound like Guy was doing any of this, so I’d estimate he could have at least doubled his revenue if he had.

The bottom line though is to branch out to multiple ad sources and revenue streams as Darren Rowse, John Chow, myself, and others have suggested. It’s the best way to grow revenue, and not have all your eggs in one basket.

  • Matthew Hurst

    Firstly, there is a lot of this conversation which is based on more than just a single data point.

    Seconldy, you are correct about what the expectation or intention of the blogger is. So let’s make it simple. Let’s assume that the blogger isn’t primarily trying to generate revenue (that is to say, they are focused on creating a good quality blog and are hoping to make a little money as a side effect). Let’s, then, define sucking as getting less than $5 per month. Ok – you have the data. So with these parameters, how many bloggers does AdSense suck for?

  • Jim Kukral

    Generalizations? I think not really. Guy’s blog is poster-blog (except for the traffic) of the real problem that Adsense has with bloggers… and that is…

    It doesn’t work “outta the box” for low-traffic bloggers without optimization, you know, the 54 million (or more) out of 55 million that Technoratio tracks?

    That’s not a generalization to say that the VAST majority of bloggers will act the same way that Kawasaki did, which was to simply throw an Adsense ad on their site and expect riches because everyone’s been telling them Adsense works that way.

    Remember, just like Guy, most bloggers don’t care about making money, they started their blog to write or for fun. So why would they go out of their way to learn how to optimize an ad? They don’t.

  • Pat McCarthy

    Matthew, the answer is probably a lot, although I make more than $5 a month, so I guess it isn’t sucking for me. It still depends on the traffic level, topic, and other points.

    But, as Jim points out in his comment a lot of bloggers aren’t doing any optimization to try and get better results. Is that Adsense’s fault? Why do people expect it to work “brilliantly” out of the box?

  • Jim Kukral

    I don’t think it’s Adsense’s fault. Although, they could make things easier. I mean, they recently just said “no” to helping conversions by putting images next to their ads, so one could argue they are in fact making it even more difficult to “optimize”.

    Why do people expect it to work? Because that’s just the meme that’s been created over the past few years… that Adsense “just works” for everyone. That is finally starting to change in blogger’s minds I think.

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