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.
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.