Adsense is not a get rich quick scheme. If you’re coming from the ‘make money online’ mindset and believe you’ll make a lot of money by building a bunch of worthless sites and plastering them with Adsense, I’ll be straight with you, you won’t learn a whole lot from this tutorial.
I try to build sites with value and encourage others to do the same.
It works because that’s the core fundamental of business. A business offers something of value and earns money by bringing that value to others.
Value can mean different things; a site that serves as a resource, writing that’s entertaining to read, tools that people actually use, or a site that’s just plain useful. The point is, your site’s got to have a purpose to it other than just to make you money.
What Is Google Adsense?
Adsense is a legitimate shortcut for many online publishers because it allows them access to hundreds of thousands of online advertisers. If you’re an Adsense publisher, advertisers run their ad on your site and when a visitor clicks on it, you earn money.
Let’s say you’ve got a site that helps people find the best used car for their needs. By partnering with Adsense you may have ads from Toyota and Autotrader show up on your web pages.
This is huge.
You don’t need to call Toyota and tell them how great a deal running an ad on your site will be for them, you just plug in your Adsense code and targeted ads start showing.
The shortcut here is this means a ton of work is now done for you. There’s no need for you to have an advertising department or fancy (and expensive) ad management and tracking software. You can focus on being a publisher and get busy publishing content.
There’s zero selling on your part.
You can make money without selling anything on your site (you get paid when people click on your ads). And you don’t have to sell anyone on the idea of paying to advertise on your site either, Google does all that for you.
But for all this ease of use there’s a price, you have to give up a little more than 30% of your ad revenue to Google. If you can live with that, it’s a pretty good program. And it’s something you can always start with until you grow into your own ad network if you’re that ambitious.
The thing is, I’d estimate 95% of all Adsense publishers make less than the minimum payout threshold (under $100 a month).
Honestly, even that’s probably even a stretch.
On the other hand you’ve got sites that earn millions of dollars a year from the program, like Mashable.com.
And then there are publishers making decent money in lots of markets, some you’ve probably never heard of. I can guarantee you the 2 things people doing well with the program have in common is:
- The right mindset (including that they realize they are running a publishing company) and,
- They are working pretty hard at driving traffic to their site (and hopefully having fun while doing it).
Who is Adsense for?
Adsense may be a good fit for you if you have the online publishing mindset (or can transition your way into it). You earn money for each click visitors make.
In my opinion, the absolute best thing about Adsense is you can earn money without having to sell anything.
How Do You Get Started?
You need to apply to the program first. In order to be accepted, you’ll have to fill out a short form including the URL to your website. Your chances of getting accepted will be higher if you create a professional looking site with at least a few pages of content before you apply.
Once you’re accepted you’ll gain access to a login area where you can copy special code to paste on your web pages.
Putting the Adsense code on your pages is the easy part, building up the traffic to your site is not. And that’s where most Adsense publishers fall flat.
The main thing with Adsense (or most any other type of online business model) is you need traffic to make much of any money.
Earning money with Adsense is really no different than earning money with most any other business model, you have to work at it and run it like a business. And if you’ve got that type of mindset then you already realize businesses make money and that this model is no different.
If you’re interested, I do have a video here that shows you my $100,000 year from the Adsense program.
Adsense Earnings Video
If you watched the earnings video then hopefully you see Adsense can be a pretty lucrative way to earn revenue for your business (it’s not just nickels and dimes). I don’t pretend the earnings I’ve shown you are anywhere near the top of the ceiling, and fully realize there are many companies out there that make what I show in the video look like pocket change. But to someone who’s new to this, my earnings may be a great goal to shoot for.
Several times in the video I refer to my collection of sites running Adsense as a side business. I was actually running 2 different info product businesses at the same time I built and promoted these sites.
So I had a lot going on (which was a mistake and one I don’t plan to repeat), but it shows how you can earn a lot with Adsense.
The main key is being able to drive a lot of traffic to your site (and really, if you figure out how to do that you can earn from just about any online business model).
I know people who watch this video wonder how many sites it took to get this type of money with Adsense. 90% of that income was coming from between 5-6 sites. I showed you statistics for about a year and a half and the number of Adsense earning sites changed during that time (some were sold and others were newly created) which is why I can’t give you a set number.
No matter the number, it was too many for me to handle and do the best job with. Because of that it’s not how I do things now.
If you’d like my advice, the ideal number of websites to have is one. That is after 12 years of running an online business and after (in my opinion) wrongly following the advice of so many people who say you need multiple sites for multiple streams of income.
The thing is, you don’t need more than one site to have multiple streams of income.
You can (and should) diversify where your traffic comes from and you can have more than one way of earning revenue for your single site. If you do that it’s diversified. That way you can concentrate all your efforts on building up that one site (and your brand) which is what I suggest doing.
That was my biggest lesson from my side-project.
It’s easier to focus your energy on promoting one site and one brand (at the very least focus on one market). Otherwise you’ll spread yourself thin.
Things I Did Right
If you want to make money with Adsense it’s going to be easier for you if you pick a market where there are lots of advertisers.
So that’s something I did pretty well. I was making about as much if not more from Adsense as I was with affiliate/CPA offers in my markets on the same sites.
But if you want to earn specifically with Adsense you really need advertisers using the Google Adwords program.
One thing with Adsense is even if there aren’t targeted ads for your market, you can still earn well with the program. That’s because Adsense will show ads related to your visitors past searches if there are no targeted ads in your market.
That means if your visitor has searched for web hosting on Google in the past (which is a pretty high paying market) and you have a site on basket weaving (which probably doesn’t have a whole lot or any ads running for it) then you can still make money.
If Google can see that your visitor has been searching for web hosting they’ll display web hosting ads when that visitor’s on your site.
So you can still do well with Adsense even without being in a great market for the program. The downside is your click through rate won’t be nearly as high. But if there’s a market out there you really love it can be worth it.
Fraser Cain who runs UniverseToday.com is an example of this. He’s doing very well with Adsense, (5-figures a month as far as I know) and I would expect that he gets a pretty low CTR (due to un-targeted ads), but makes up for it with a high volume of traffic.
He’s got so much traffic he does fantastic with the program.
But like I mentioned earlier, traffic is generally the hard part. It’s difficult to keep increasing your traffic so that’s why I’d rather go for a market with higher payouts and more ad inventory.
Good ad payouts with good volume is crucial if you want to get to a higher income with less traffic.
There are a ton of markets that meet this criteria. I’ll show you quickly how you can figure this out in the video below.
Adsense Keyword Analysis Video
If you watched the video above you now have a plan to check for higher paying Adsense markets.
If you’re having trouble coming up with market ideas I have a whole list of niche markets for you here.
Each of these markets aren’t necessarily good for running Adsense, but you can use the process I outlined in the video above to figure out if they are.
Is There Traffic?
Before you settle in on a market, you need to make sure it has traffic you can tap into.
You can figure this out by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool or another keyword tool. Type in your main keyword and see how many keyphrases there are along with what the search volume is like (if there’s only a few searches per keyphrase then that might not be enough). You want to make sure there’s decent search volume. If not try another market or broaden your market.
It’s up to you and your business goals as to how much search volume you need or want.
This goes along with how broad or narrow you should go for your market.
This is entirely up to you. Personally, I’d rather build a site covering a bigger topic (like skin care) than a smaller one (a site covering one specific type of wrinkle cream only). You’ve got more options for content and probably more options for traffic (including the potential to get a lot more traffic to your site).
There’s also a middle ground too, where you’re only covering ‘sun damage’ or ‘wrinkle prevention’.
It’s highly advised you don’t go after just one keyphrase, but many.
Sites built around a single keyphrase including a domain name with that exact keyphrase in it are called exact match domains (EMDs). You’ll be better off not building your site as an EMD because Google intentionally lowers EMD rankings in the search engine results pages. It’s not a good strategy if you want to build a solid, longer-term business.
Plus picking a substantial topic over just covering a keyphrase helps makes you look more credible.
It’s also easier to get traffic to your site if you approach it that way.
You’re going to need to figure out what makes the most sense for you.
If you’re planning on starting a business this is all part of the decision making process.
Adsense Market Research Summary:
- You’ll have far less chance of making a wrong turn if you check the Adsense potential and make sure there are other ways of earning (if you’re going to take the time to create a great site you want to make sure there are lots of ways to earn money from it).
- Use a keyword tool and make sure people are really searching in this market. Hopefully there are potentially 1000’s of different keyphrases you could target, at the very least 100’s.
And you don’t have to limit yourself to getting traffic only through the search engines. There are many other ways of getting traffic to your site.
If you’re using a good content marketing strategy you can get high rankings, visitor referrals, build a list, and get links from people passing your content around.
Being good at content marketing means you can either write or outsource the creation of content that is interesting and valuable to your market. The type of content visitors will value and share and that will help you build a following who will help you pass your content around as well as interact with your site.
Social media is also a possibility. If you’d like to drive traffic through social media methods it’d be worth it to take a look at Twitter and see if there are already Twitter profiles set up in your market. See how many followers these profiles have and what type of stuff they tweet about.
Follow their lead and improve on what they’re already doing.
Look on Facebook, Pinterest, Google +, Linkedin, and any other popular social media platforms. Check to see if there are already profiles in your market (if there are it’s a good thing and evidence that it could work for you too).
Video marketing is another way to get traffic.
Check on YouTube and see if there are any videos in your market. Do people have YouTube channels set up with lots of videos?
Do they have lots of subscribers to their channel? How many views are the existing videos getting? If it looks like they’re doing well then that’s an indication you can do well with video marketing too. And that’s another way for you to get traffic.
So right there, we’ve touched on SEO, content marketing for links and sharing, social media, and video marketing. You don’t have to be good at everything, just try to master one of these traffic generation methods to start with and go from there.
Build a List of Subscribers
If you go broad enough with your market and your web site you can also create a newsletter for it. Broad enough doesn’t mean you need to cover every topic your market would be interested in, but enough so that it’s got some substance to it.
Just targeting a keyphrase or a few of them is probably not enough, moving away from that into an actual topic like ‘preventing wrinkles’, ‘sun damage’, or ‘clear skin’ is. Or you can go really broad and pick ‘skin care’. Again, you’ll have to figure out this decision based on your business goals.
Any of the suggestions above could work well for building a list of subscribers. The main take away is this doesn’t always work as well if you go too narrow with your topic and drill down to just a keyword.
For example, if a visitor’s interested in skin care they may sign up to a newsletter on skin care. And there’s a ton of interesting stuff you could send them to keep them coming back to your site.
The same goes for preventing wrinkles, you could have lots of content for your subscriber which means you could have people on your list getting your content for years.
If you go too narrow then your newsletter might not sound very appealing. Does anyone really want to sign up to a newsletter where they’re giving away information on just one type of wrinkle cream? Probably not. Even if they did, you’d run out of things to tell them pretty quickly and it won’t help you out with traffic much.
Being able to capture emails is a great way to stay in touch with your readers. It’s basically your own personal traffic stream because when you add new content to your site (or even if you talk about the old content) you can send visitors back to your site where they may interact with the ads there.
And you don’t have to stop at an email newsletter, you can start building a list through Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other social platforms. Even YouTube has a way to allow people to subscribe to your channel. This way you can notify all your subscribers (no matter where they come from; email, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc …) and get a stream of traffic back to your site on demand.
With Adsense (like any business model), the more traffic coming back to your site, the higher your earnings potential will be.
So the more traffic you can get, the better.
If you build a useful site with valuable content and you promote that content, you’ll be able to get traffic from all over.
The first rule of Adsense is reading the Google terms of service. No tutorial (not even this one) is a substitute for reading their rules. Breaking their terms of service can actually get you banned from the program.
Along with banning you, they can keep your last check. It’s important it to review their terms anytime you have questions (and when they update it). Here’s a link to their official TOS.
The 3 main rules I’ve got for you here are:
- Never click on your own ads.
- Don’t send paid traffic to pages with your ads on them.
- Don’t put images next to the ads where you’re trying to entice people to click on them (like a guy pointing at an ad) or try any other funny stuff with ad placement.
Remember, these aren’t all the rules and they may change at any time so please read the Adsense terms of service.
Once you get traffic to a site in a market where Adsense is a good fit the only other piece of the puzzle is ad placement.
Currently you can place as many as 3 ad units, along with 3 link units, plus 2 search boxes on each page of your site (please see the Adsense TOS for current policies). I don’t suggest putting that many ad units on any page of your site, at least not just Adsense ads.
Personally, I wouldn’t worry about the link units at all. I’d completely skip them. Even if you find a good placement that converts well for you they provide a poor user experience. The thing with the ad units is they look like navigation links.
In fact, that’s often how site owners blend them in. When a visitor clicks on one of these link units disguised as navigation they’re taken off your page so it creates a confusing experience. Most sites don’t use them.
The search boxes are more worthwhile, especially if your site doesn’t already have a search box (or even if it does you can remove it and replace it with the Adsense box).
You can customize the search box to display results from your site or across the web. I’d set it for your site only to keep visitors on your site.
Once a visitor types a keyword into the search box and clicks ‘go’ the search results page is where the Adsense ads are found.
You can customize how this page looks. It takes a little work to set up so it’s your decision if you want to implement this or not.
It’s usually not a real big money maker, but has more value than the link units.
The biggest potential you have with Adsense ads are the content units or what people typically call the ‘ad units’.
For every ad unit on your site you can choose from 3 different ad types; text, image, or video. And you can choose the exact size (from standard sizes within the program).
Let’s talk about ad type first.
A text ad looks like this:
These usually perform really well. But as you can see, they are pretty ugly.
You can customize the colors, so you can change the blue links to whatever color you want. Making them the same color as other links on your site will usually get you a higher click through rate (CTR). You can also change the color of the text and the green URL. But even with these changes they are still fairly ugly ads, but realize that they convert really well.
An image ad looks like this:
These ads look a lot nicer, but if you don’t earn as much money with them it’s not worth it to use them. You’ll have to test this for your market.
From speaking with Adsense representatives they always recommend selecting ‘Text & image/rich media ads’ for every ad you run through the program. That means Adsense will figure out which type of ad is going to be best for your site. If a text ad is higher paying and has a better chance of being clicked on then a text ad will be shown. If an image ad will get you a higher payout and click thru rate than that will be shown.
I know a lot of people like setting all the ads to ‘text ads only’, but it goes against their recommendations (although you can still do it). This is one of those things you need to test. Personally, if you’re starting out just pick the ‘Text & image/rich media ads’ settings and let it run for a while, then change it to ‘Text only’ and see if your earnings increase.
Again, you need a lot of traffic to figure out ad optimization so if you’re not getting a whole lot of visitors to your site you should really spend your time on getting that traffic first before you mess with the ads. You can’t test anything without traffic.
Video ads look like this:
Video ads will rotate in the mix if you select ‘Text & image/rich media ads’.
You cannot get only video ads to show on your site. The only other ad type option is for ‘Image/rich media ads’. You can select that if you really don’t want the text ads showing up on your site. You may make less money with this selection, but you’ll need to test it for your market as well as decide if it fits in better with your goals.
Recommendation: Set each ad you run to ‘Text ads only’ or ‘Text & image/rich media ads’ and leave it that way until you have enough traffic to get a good test (I’d want a minimum of 200 clicks).
While Adsense offers a ton of different ad sizes, there are only 4 popular ad sizes.
These are bigger ads and they are more standard ad sizes which means for most markets they have a larger ad inventory from the advertisers. Remember, the advertisers come from Adwords which is set up like an auction. The more advertisers competing to get their ads shown, the more likely you’ll have higher ad prices (which results in higher payouts for you).
Two of the top performing ad sizes are the 300 x 250 medium rectangle and the 336 x 280 large rectangle. They’re both shown below:
Of all the ads, these are the 2 that you’ll likely earn the most money from. I would suggest trying to fit these ads within your page layout.
Either of these ads work especially well if you can incorporate them into your articles (if you have text-based content on your site).
A lot of Adsense publishers will have a headline, then the ad block with the text wrapped around it like below.
Following this example, you’ll have your headline and the copy wrap around the ad (it can either be a text ad or an image ad).
You’ll likely have higher CTR if you position the ad to the left and wrap the copy around it on the right (like shown in the image above).
These ads work really well. One thing you do need to watch out for is putting too many ads near the top of your web page (above the fold).
One ad should be fine, especially if you’re wrapping your copy around it. If you start pushing all your content down too far (because you’re filling most of the above the fold space with ads) then you may rank lower in the search engines.
If you don’t want your ad within the copy you can put it in the sidebar. These rectangular ads fit well in your sidebar too, but you can probably count on a lower CTR (and lower earnings) than if you place the ad within your content.
I don’t suggest having an ad at the top of the sidebar plus one at the top of the copy (even if the copy wraps around it). That’s probably pushing the above-the-fold SEO rule a little too far.
Another good place to put the ads is at the end of your content. Rectangular ads work well there also. People need to go somewhere after they’re done reading your content so putting a targeted ad at the end of it will usually result in clicks.
This looks nice and probably does alright as far as CTR.
Putting an ad next to your related articles like shown in the image above will take some design work and probably coding knowledge if you’re using a content management system like WordPress so you don’t have to start out with that type of ad layout if you can’t get it to work easily.
Just put the ad block at the end for now and pay for help when you’re earning if that suits your business budget better.
The other top performing ads are the 728 x 90 and the 160 x 600 ad units. Again they usually perform well because there are often more advertisers bidding on these ads within a market. That means more competition for the ads which drives the prices up. You get paid by the click so that’s the main thing to consider with Adsense.
The typical location for the big horizontal ad (the 728 x 90 ad unit) is at the top of a web page. It’s usually placed next to the logo (across the rest of the web page) or below it. From my experience, you will not get as many clicks on this ad as you will a rectangle, especially one placed within your article.
But here’s a nice implementation of this ad:
Here they’ve got an image ad, but you can set it up to show ‘Text & image/rich media ads’.
Engineering.com also has a 300 x 250 rectangle near the top of their sidebar and then another 300 x 250 rectangle at the bottom of their sidebar. The top rectangle along with the 728 x 90 ad (in a slightly different location on this page) is shown in the screenshot below:
So those are their 3 ad units.
You can do the same thing or put the rectangles within your content (which will probably result in a higher CTR).
The last ad I want to cover is the 160 x 600 ad.
These are a long vertical ads usually placed in the sidebar. The thing with this ad is the sidebar is a great place to put an opt-in form, other ads, or links to other pages on your site. Plus the sidebar is usually wider than 160 pixels.
So it’s kind of a waste to fill your sidebar with this really long ad unit that’s too narrow to fit across the typical sidebar (sidebars on a 2-column layout are usually 250 to 350 pixels wide). If you can place this ad within your content with the text wrapped around it that would probably convert fairly well, but I’d rather put other things in my sidebar than fill it with the 160 x 600 ad.
The rest of the Adsense ad blocks can work depending on the layout of your site, but they don’t normally have as many advertisers bidding on them. That means lower ad payouts for you. I’ve never had as much success with any of them, but you can definitely try them out on your site if you’d like.
Here’s an example I’ll walk you through if you’re starting out and just want a quick and easy ad placement tutorial.
You may get advice from people who say to leave off the ads altogether and only add them once you’ve got more traffic and more links from other sites.
This is actually a ‘bait and switch’ tactic. As you can see, it’s got a real negative connotation to it. That’s because people don’t generally like this. If you’ve built up a useful site without ads for a long while, then plaster your site with them later on when it becomes popular, you’ll hear about it from repeat visitors.
You might be able to get some great links from popular sites if you leave the ads off, but really, if you have worthwhile stuff on your site, people are going to link to it whether you’ve got ads on it or not. Plus getting links is a long-term process. You can’t usually get all the links you’re going to need when you first launch your site.
For those reasons, I think it’s better to put some ads on your site right from the beginning. That way you can also see that you’re earning money (even if the amount is small at first). It’s nice to see that you’re headed in the right direction, that people are clicking on your ads, and it helps you build momentum. So while I talk about putting fewer ads on a site at first, I do suggest putting some on it even when you first launch your site.
This is a screenshot from TechCrunch.com (they run Adsense ads):
The 728 x 90 banner is across the top next to their logo. This is a good placement, but personally, I’d leave this ad out until you’re getting more traffic. It just clutters up your site and isn’t usually a real big earner. When you’re starting out you don’t have much traffic anyway so you aren’t going to earn all that much from this ad anyway.
So keep this in mind for later, but leave it out initially.
If you’re going to run a newsletter (and I highly suggest you do), make sure to consider an opt in form on your site near the top.
You can put this above the fold along with an ad unit.
I would suggest putting an opt in form in the sidebar like I’ve done on my Business Bolts site (the one you’re currently on). I know I’m not running Adsense on this site, but your layout doesn’t really need to be drastically different even if you are.
Then put the 300 x 250 ad unit in your content column under your headline with the text wrapped around it.
You can actually stop there if you want to keep it real simple. Or you can include another 300 x 250 ad unit after your content.
That’s a very simple layout to start with.
The main thing is to have one or two rectangular ad units along with an opt in form. If you want to play around with anything,
I’d adjust the placement of the opt in form and possibly ad in more than one of those.
An alternative opt-in form placement is to put that under the headline in your content column like shown in the screenshot below:
Then put your Adsense ad in the sidebar like they’ve done in many of the screenshots I’ve shown you.
I wouldn’t worry about ad optimization until you’ve got a decent amount of traffic coming to your site (at least 10,000 monthly unique visitors). Then you can change it up.
As long as you don’t go too narrow with your market, 10,000 monthly unique visitors should be a possibility for you (but you’ll definitely have to work at it).
If you follow my advice for your layout you’ll start building an email list (and you can include links to your social media profiles to if you want to have some) and you’ll be able to see how your ads perform without really cluttering up your site with too many at first.
If you’ve built a site that focuses on video content or a special tool then you’ll need to adjust this a little, you may not be able to wrap the content around an Adsense unit, but you could include one in the sidebar. The best way to figure this out is to go look at other sites for examples.
Many people believe if you’re earning from Adsense then you can make even more from affiliate offers.
This isn’t always true. It really depends on the market you’re in. If you’ve got a celebrity news site then what are people going to buy?
In reality, it’s going to be a challenge to get visitors to buy anything from a site like that and you’ll likely make more money from a program like Adsense where you get paid by the click.
If you can create products or offer services then building a site around that may be your best bet, but not everyone wants to get into that business model (because you have to create products or fulfill services or handle customer support).
So it may not be about the best business model, but about what works best for you.
I would wait to explore Adsense alternatives until you’re actually bringing in traffic. You’re going to need to test which program performs better for you and you can’t do that without traffic.
In the revenue video I showed earlier, I earned about twice the amount of money I show because in addition to Adsense, I also ran affiliate offers on the same web pages.
You can do the same.
You’ll have to see what the terms of service are for any other programs you’re thinking of running and make sure it’s OK (because not all other advertising is OK to run along-side Adsense ads).
And if you want to substitute Adsense for another program, you can do that too. There are many Adsense alternatives out there, where you get paid by the click.
Here are a few alternatives:
There are many more as these companies seem to come and go every year.
But there’s no point testing out another ad network or swapping Adsense for affiliate offers if you don’t have any traffic.
When you’ve got traffic coming to your site and you want to test out an alternative network, simply swap out your Adsense ads for something else (if you can put the other ad in the same location then that’s the best way to test this).
See which way makes you more money … Adsense or the alternative. You’re going to have to be willing to spend some time playing around with this and you’ll need to be OK potentially losing out on some revenues (because you don’t know if the alternative will bring in any revenue at all).
Wrapping It Up
Those are a few Google Adsense strategies I’ve learned. And those are all things I implement in my business at this point, whether it involves Adsense or not, because they’re good tips when you’re running an online business in general.
I hope you got something out of this and if it’s your goal to earn with Adsense or another model I think you can apply some of what I’ve covered here to your next online venture.