The basic steps to making money with your site are:
- Put advertising on your site (easy)
- Get lots of people to come to your site and click those ads, or buy the products (hard!)
Advertising Programs That I Used:
I started with Google Adsense
The biggest, easiest to use advertising program out there is Google Adsense. Adsense is great because it’s easy to use, performs well, and has the potential to make a lot of money. Many website owners make over $100,000 a year with Adsense alone! Of course, many make very little or nothing.
I signed up for an Adsense account when I opened my blogger.com account – I think it’s easier this way because Google is less strict about checking Blogger accounts. You can sign up directly at Google, but if you do, you will have to submit your website address to them which they will check before opening your account. When the Adsense team reviews your website they want to ensure that you have a quality site that ads value to the Internet with real content made for real human beings. The Adsense team frowns upon websites that are simply “spam” with no real content or value. This type of website is commonly referred to as “MFA” (Made for Adsense).
I studied the Adsense rules VERY CAREFULLY:
When you sign up for Adsense be sure to read the Terms of Service (TOS) and Policies VERY CAREFULLY and be sure you understand them. The Policies and TOS outline the rules of Adsense. If you break these rules, Google will boot you out of the program, keep any money you have accumulated, and NEVER let you back in, no matter how hard you try or how clever you think you are. I think it is very important to set aside 15 minutes of your life and really read thru the rules.
Some of the main rules are:
- NEVER click on your own ads!
- NEVER tell, ask, insinuate or even think about asking someone to click on your ads
- Do not draw unusual attention to the ads on your pages (placing images next to your ads constitutes ‘unusual attention’)
- Do not use any ‘traffic generating’ services, or ‘click generating’ systems
- Do not put ads on pages with adult content or content about gambling
- Do not put ads on the same pages with other contextual based advertising systems that “look and feel” like Adsense ads.
I did not try to outsmart Google
Google is like Santa Clause.. It knows what you do, it knows where you go, it knows if you’ve been bad or good, and it probably knows what you ate for dinner last night. Trying to outsmart, trick, or rip-off Google will not work – no matter how smart you think you are. Follow the rules and you’ll be fine. If you don’t, you will be doomed to join the legions of dishonest webmasters that have been banned for life from the Adsense program – don’t screw up a good thing just to try and make a few extra dollars.
Making the most of Adsense:
I blended my Adsense ads with my site:
I made the colors of my Adsense ads match perfectly with the colors on my site. Google calls this ‘blending’. I also tried ‘contrasting’ colors on ads in my forum area – making all the ads in this area bright red or other contrasting colors, and making them really stand out against the rest of the page. This ended up not performing very well and I reverted back to ‘blended’ ads. Be careful not to confuse the term ‘blending’ with “disguising” – Disguising ads or adlinks as menu items or navigational links violates the Adsense terms of service.
I used words in the page URLs that would help pull the ads I wanted:
If I was creating a page about formatting Windows XP, I would do a few Google searches to see what kind of Adsense ads were out there for Formatting, Windows XP, etc. When I found a good combination of words that seemed to have lots of ads that I wanted, I would use those words as the URL on my new page. Usually this ended up being something like “how-to-format-windows” or “formating-XP”, but not always. The use of meta tags on my pages also helped get good ads. I have found that using words in page-URLs will also get better search results for those particular words/phrases.
I have also used “section targeting” on many pages. By placing the section-targeting tags around certain sections of your page text you can tell Adsense to ignore or place more emphasis on these areas for purposes of choosing what advertisements to display.
To add section targeting to your page use these tags in your HTML:
Content that you want indexed for ads here...
Content that you DO NOT want indexed for ads here…
Note that it is best to add these tags when you first create the page/content. When adding the tags to an existing page it may take days before you begin to see changes in the Adsense ads that appear.
Why do I care about what ads are display on my site?:
It is important that the ads showing on your site are relevant to the particular page they are being displayed on. For example: If you have a website or page about skydiving, you probably want ads to show that relate to skydiving equipment, etc. You probably do not want ads for “low cost caskets” or puppy-dog food. The Adsense system is very good at displaying properly targeted ads and this is partially why Adsense has been so successful, but it is important to check your pages and look at the type of ads being displayed. If you see ‘off target’ ads you may need to use the methods mentioned above.
I used Adsense channels to see which types of ads worked best
After the site was several months old and traffic was over 1,000 or so visitors per day I started looking at which ads perform well by using Adsense “Channels”. Using channels you can easily track which pages are performing well, and even which ads on particular pages do well.
Adsense has two types of channels: URL channels and Custom Channels. To create your channels, log into your Adsense account and go to the Adsense Setup tab, then click Channels sub-tab.
- URL Channels: a url channel is simply the address of a webpage that contains an Adsense ad. By adding a URL channel you can see how many impressions that page received as well as the total number of Ads that were clicked.
- Custom Channels: You assign custom channels to a particular ad. This allows you to individually track impressions and clicks on a particular ad, even if there are multiple ads on each page (assuming you use different channels for each ad on that page).
After collecting data for a month or two, I’ve found that 336×280 format ads at the upper left of each page works best on GrownUpGeek.com. 728×90 ‘leaderboards’ further down the page also do well. How well ads perform on your particular site will depend on many things. The key is to track the performance of your ads to optimize them for your site. Remember though, focus on traffic and content first, optimization second – the best optimized ads on the internet don’t mean squat if nobody’s coming to see them..
I focused my attention on where the money was – Adsense REFERRALS:
I don’t want to sound greedy, but I realized very quickly that most AdSense clicks only pay a few cents each – to increase my earnings I knew I would need thousands of clicks, and to get thousands of clicks I would need many thousands of visitors – which takes a long time to build. But Adsense has a few “pay per action” methods, or referrals, that pay $1-$2 each! These referrals, mainly for Firefox with the GoogleToolbar and the “Google Pack” pay up to $1 or $2 each time someone downloads and installs one of these free pieces of software. The first few months I had my website 50%-70% of my earnings were from Firefox referrals. More recently about 20%-30% comes from referrals, which is still a significant amount.
I integrated the referrals into my content:
To get the most out of my Adsense referrals, I made a few pages explaining how wonderful these free software programs are, and all the reasons they are worth using. Because my site is technology focused many of my visitors were interested in these products. Even if your site does not have a technology theme remember that the person viewing your site is still using the internet and has a computer – Referrals like the free Firefox web-browser or GooglePack may still interest your visitors.
I made Firefox “ads”:
On the pages that I use to endorse the Firefox referrals, I place the referral button in a square with a different color background from the rest of the page. I also put a quote from the page in the square – this essentially makes an ad-box for the referral. Below is an example of what it looks like on one of my pages:
This method for endorsing referrals works so well that Google made GrownUpGeek.com one of their Adsense Case Studies for success.
In the past there was confusion about endorsing referrals due to how the Adsense Terms Of Service (TOS) was worded. Particularly, there was confusion over the wording “..do not draw attention to Adsense ads”, and “..referrals should be treated the same as Adsense for Content ads..”. Google has now clarified their position on directly telling/asking your visitors to download the products you recommend. See this page for more information: Clarification on Referral endorsement.
I don’t think blending, referral “ad-boxes”, etc, were the most important thing
I don’t think the key to our success had much to do with ‘blending’, ad-placement and optimization, etc. Our click-rate is nothing special, and on many pages the CTR is very low. Focusing on the $1 and $2 referrals was important, but the most important factor was the amount of traffic I was getting from all the other things I did – all of these things I’ve described required a substantial investment of my time and effort. As I’ve already stated, if your plan is to get rich by barfing a website on the internet and slapping some advertisements on it, you should probably re-think your business plan. If your name is Parris Hilton or Simon Cowell, this might work, but if not, creating a successful website will take time, effort and work.
Getting rich quick with Adsense:
If you’ve already been searching for information and making money with a website or with Adsense you have probably seen many people selling “systems” or eBooks that promise to make you thousands of dollars per month or more. I have not tried any of these systems or ebooks with “secrets to get rich”, but I can tell you that I have read countless accounts of new webmasters being banned from the Adsense program for trying some of these “systems”, and just as many complaining that spending $99 (or more) for these schemes went to waste.
My only words of warning: Buyer beware – Adsense is not a get-rich-quick-scheme.