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No Ads. No Affiliate Links. Ever.
I’ve written about buying and selling websites quite a lot here as recently, that’s how I’ve been spending most of my time. I browse the online marketplaces regularly not only to find sites I can purchase and improve, but to also get ideas for new websites, traffic sources, and ways to make money.
It has been around three years since I owned a website where the main income source was Google Adsense, but I recently picked up a great site which was pulling in a respectable $50 per day from the service. I’m certainly no Adsense expert, but I instantly saw ways to increase the revenue and tested different strategies over a number of weeks.
Thanks to the changes I’m going to share with you today, I managed to take that site from $50 to over $150 consistently, and even over $200 on good days. I will say now that I no longer use Adsense on the site as I found an affiliate offer which brought in more than $400 on its first day and has performed better than Adsense since.
However, I did learn a lot through my testing and can apply that knowledge to new sites I buy or create in the future, and of course share what I learned with you all here.
If you’ve ever saw the “Congratulations! You’re the 1,000,000th visitor to our website” banners, the ads for the game Evony with beautiful women all over them or even the face of Darren Rowse (Problogger) on Chitika ads, you may think that standing out gets you the most clicks. In image or flash ads it probably does, but that’s not the case with Adsense.
Anything that stands out gets a visitors attention and from there one of two things will happen. The first thing they may do is unconsciously ignore the ad due to the “blindness” many of us have developed to banners online. The second possibility is that the user will pay more attention to the ad consciously and decide whether or not it offers something interesting to them.
While this second option will get some clicks and earn you some revenue, I’ve found that ads get a much higher CTR (Click-through rate) when they look like they are part of your website. The site I purchased used a dark grey background on all ads even though the rest of the site was white. Changing the background colour alone increased the CTR from around 2% to a solid 3.5%.
Sometime last year Google allowed you to change the font and size of the text in the ads you display. I used the medium-sized Verdana option and tweaked the font on my site with CSS to look exactly the same. This took the CTR to over 4%. In other words, these two very simply changes instantly doubled the income the site was making.
With any ads you put on your site, you have to remember that they’re going to take people away from your website. If you’re trying to build a popular blog that has regular on-site readers, it’s probably not a good idea to fill every spare pixel with ads. Having ads in-content is going to get far more clicks than an ad in the lower right hand corner of your site, but you’re also going to “lose” a lot more visitors.
In my experience, sites that make the most money with Adsense are ones that receive traffic from search engines and give users a taste of what they’re looking for, but not everything. If you provide a site visitor with exactly what they’re looking for then there’s absolutely no need for them to click on an ad and go somewhere else.
With other tweaks I’m going to mention I took the site up to an 8% CTR but didn’t go higher than that, though I could have, because I still want to provide genuine value to the visitors in some form. If you want people to stick around on your site and give them everything they need, then Adsense is probably not the best monetisation strategy for you.
I want ViperChill to become one of the top marketing blogs in the world and to do that I need to write better articles (at least in my opinion) than any other blogger in this industry. I regularly link out to other websites and will continue to do so, but I also want to be the “go to source” for the types of topics that I cover here.
If I were to put Adsense all over the site then I could make some money but at the cost of growing slower and compromising my own values. To make the most money with Adsense you need to create a resource which makes the user want to keep moving forward to find more information on the topic, rather than have everything they need on your site.
Steve Pavlina is an example of an exception to this rule by becoming a destination on the subject of personal development and making over $1,000 per day with Adsense. He did remove the ads from his site at some point last year but even when he put Adsense on the site, the traffic did not drop like many people would have expected.
With Adsense you will either earn money by people clicking on your ads or having your ads display on a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) basis. In order to get the most clicks or the most impressions, you need to get a lot of traffic.
There are some niches like car insurance, mesothelioma news or credit card reviews that will earn you a lot of money per click. In these industries I’ve seen people report as much as $5 per click on a regular basis. That’s huge. However, getting a lot of traffic in these industries is not as easy.
On the other hand, in the niche I’m in, I’ll often get no more than $0.20 per click, because advertisers aren’t willing to pay that much to receive the traffic. Visitors who are looking for credit cards or car insurance can end up spending a lot of money so advertisers are willing to pay well to get targeted traffic in these industries.
To earn money with Adsense, you can think of traffic and your niche as like a see saw. You can have a lot of traffic that just generates a small amount of money per click, or you can tilt the other way and have less traffic but get paid a lot per click. In order to make $100 a day on a Myspace layouts site, for example, then you’re going to need a lot of traffic because the Adsense clicks from that audience are not going to pay out as much.
To make $100 in the car insurance niche you could probably do so with 1/10th of the traffic, because the clicks pay so much more money. Traffic is important, but it’s not everything. Either way, you’re going to need quite a lot of it, no matter what your niche is, in order to make a substantial Adsense income on a daily basis.
For years I’ve always heard that large rectangles are the best performing Adsense ad and I have to say that my own experience aligns with this perfectly. I’ve tested lots of different ad formats and not one gets as high a click through rate as this.
Of course, it’s also important to look at your site design and see where ads fit in best rather than following this advice blindly. It may be the case that you run a site where a large rectangle would not perform well as it would stand out too much from what you already have in place. In these cases, my second best performing ad type, horizontal link units, may work best.
When you set-up an Adsense ad you do have the option to say whether you want only text ads to show, image ads to show, or a mix of both. I’ve consistently found that text ads work best and I think this is simply because image ads look far more like ads. A lot of people unconsciously ignore them like I mentioned earlier.
Large rectangles for me work best when aligned in the top left hand corner of your content. This makes the ad look more like part of the site and this is where a visitors eye goes first so they’re more likely to click on it. The horizontal link units get more clicks when they either act as a second navigation bar or they’re in the middle of content where users are actually looking for links to something else.
An example of the latter could be a Rapidshare search engine, a blog that offers MP3 links, a free PDF resource, or anything that offers users downloads in some form. Note that my site is not in any of these industries (which I think are generally quite dirty) but does leave users looking for links in some form.
The reason I have never made that much money on Adsense over the years (until now) is because I like to build destination sites that I’m really proud of, rather than fleeting resources which don’t offer much to site visitors. I’ve found a good mix of the two lately (I’ve just purchased another site expected to make $350 per day consistently) so have learned a lot.
By being in the content I simply mean blending text ads with text such as having horizontal link units in the middle of the content or having a vertical banner down the right hand side of an article. This tends to work very well and it’s an approach that a lot of Adsense publishers use.
Another option, however, is to ‘hide’ your content so it looks like the Adsense ads are exactly what the user is looking for. I only came across this idea by browsing popular sites on Flippa and found that if you have no relevant content above the fold (before the user has to scroll down the page) then your Adsense ads are going to receive a lot of clicks.
This does border on being unethical but I’m all for helping you guys make more money online so I will say now that this works. It’s completely up to you whether you would want to implement such a strategy on your own website.
I thought I would end this article with some small tips on making more money with Adsense that didn’t really need their own section but can be useful to know:
To me, building a site that makes most of its money with Adsense is simply a site to make money. There are many tools out there which are useful at times (Youtube converters, proxies so I can check search results in another country, etc) which monetise their sites via Adsense and still offer genuine value to users.
Most of the time, the sites that make money via Adsense have generally been built to simply make money via Adsense. In many cases I find that valuable sites which make money via Adsense can make a lot more money if you find a relevant affiliate offer to promote – which was the case with the site I purchased.
If you have any tips of your own to share, I would love to read about them in the comments.