Google Adsense: There’s mad money to be made online!

Google Adsense: There’s mad money to be made online!

Whether you are marketing yourself, your business or someone else’s business online, I can guarantee you that at some point either you or someone you work for is going to look at your efforts and the countless hours you spend online and say “SHOW… ME… THE… MONEY!” When this eventually happens, your ability to monetize or justify your work by showing a ROI will likely determine whether your efforts will be considered successful or a colossal waste of time. With that said, I am at a point where I need to start showing myself the money for my efforts and I figured it might make for a few good blog posts as well. I am also hoping that if I do have any flawed logic here, one of my readers might be able to point it out to me or may bring up a point that I have not thought of yet.

A little background.

In 1997, I started my online journey by providing search engine optimization (SEO) services for clients all over the world, all of whom found me online (SEO was a little easier way back when!). I also set up several other websites and included Google’s AdSense on one of them. On Friday, July 11, 2003, less than one month after AdSense launched, I got my first taste of “money for nothing” when I earned $2.17 from clicks on the ads on my site. I was excited at first and spent my spare time (which wasn’t much considering I had 3 young kids and a full time job) improving my site in an attempt to make more money. Unfortunately, it didn’t make as much as I had hoped and I eventually put it aside. Over the years, I worked for several companies ranging from start-up to large corporations, and started my own web development company in 2007. I checked in on my site and added a few more over the years, and the checks, although small, continuously rolled in.
I don’t want to be kicking myself 10 (more) years from now!
I have decided that it is time I got serious about making money online. It has taken me 10 years, during which time Google AdSense celebrated its 10 year anniversary, to come back to the realization I made in 2003, which was, “There’s mad money to be made online and how much I can make is really up to me.”
Methods to monetize.

My goal is to monetize several of my existing websites and my blog (“web properties”) as well as my social media profiles (“social sites”) using three distinct methods:

  1. Google AdSense and other CPC/CPA Ads
  2. Affiliate and Referral Programs
  3. Influence Marketing Campaigns
My plan is to tweak my existing and/or set-up additional web properties as needed for method #1; to research and test various programs until I find the right ones to promote for method #2; and to continue growing my fan base on my social sites to improve my acceptance rates for method #3. Regarding method #3, I am starting to find out that I am “not quite there yet,” especially as brands do not yet seem to put a lot of weight on Google +, which is where I focus a majority of my efforts. On the other hand, I may be way ahead of the curve when they finally catch up. Because I am just getting started with methods #2 and #3, I will focus this post on method #1. I haven’t played around too much with other CPC/CPA Ads (cost per click/cost per action), so will save my findings for a future post – and in fact, may just skip them altogether as I doubt any are better than Google AdSense.

Pick the low hanging fruit first.
Because there is only so much time and yet there are seemingly so many “opportunities,” I want to target in rather quickly on the ones that I believe have the potential to provide the highest ROI and focus on them. I also want to develop a testable theory by making a few hypothesis based on some existing data as well as on some assumptions I feel that I can make based on experience. Since I am already familiar with and am already making some money with Google AdSense, and since I believe there is room for improvement, it makes the most sense to start there.

Analyzing the data.
Note: It is against Google AdSense’s TOS to reveal actual click through rates (CTR) or details regarding property performance, so I am going to err on the side of caution and adjust my numbers. Disclosing gross payments is allowed, so I have included those numbers. 

Fact: It took me close to a million page views to earn approximately $6,500. This was achieved over a 10 year period with only one website running ads during the first 4 or 5 years.

Fact: Approximately half of this amount was earned the first 8 years and the remainder was earned in the past 2 years. It took twice as many page views (now across 20+ properties, although the majority was on about 1/3 of them) to earn the same amount, likely due to lower advertiser rates, something that is out of my control.

Fact: Over the past 3 months, I have been averaging around $250 per month. Of the higher earning properties, higher page views didn’t always correlate with an increase in clicks. This is something that I believe can be played with by changing ad positions, styles, etc. Also, some of these properties are seasonal, so looking at just the past 3 months may need to be adjusted.

Based on the information I gathered and looking at property stats in Google Analytics andGoogle Webmaster Tools, I believe I can determine which sites could possibly be improved and what the outcome might look like if I were able to achieve a higher CTR for a particular site.

Current Income: $250/mo
Initial Goal: Double Current Income

Property: A (seasonal)
Earnings: $355 (average $120/mo)
This site is my best performer but looking at several years worth of stats, I can see that page views are likely to dramatically drop this month (Sept) and won’t pick up again until Feb.
Action Item: Revisit this site in January to determine additional action.

Property: B
Earnings: $24 ($8/mo)
I have made several attempts to improve the performance of the ads on this site without much luck. The site has great potential in my opinion and an extremely low bounce rate. The number of page views and CPC (cost per click) are similar to Property A, so in theory getting the CTR up to the same level should result in an increase of earnings of approximately $100/mo.
Action Item: Reposition ads on pages with highest page views. Also need to make that page more “sticky” as time spent per page is rather low.
Potential Increase: $100/mo

Property: C
Earnings: $96 ($32/mo)
At 1/3 of the page views and clicks, this site has the same potential as Property A. Although the site has increased page views year after year, it is a small town site (population 4,000); therefore, I do not think attempting to triple the page views is really practical. A large portion of the page views are people looking for a particular thing to do (seasonal) for a site that has at least triple the page views if not more, so targeting the related keywords a bit more might make a marginal difference.
Action Item: Spend 1 hour targeting keyword in January to prepare for the next season and see what happens.

Properties: D and E (seasonal)
Earnings: $72.50/$76 (combined average $50/mo)
These sites have a much higher CTR than average, so it makes sense to try to increase the page views. Since they are both so similar in both stats and content, will just go ahead and plan to work on both at same time even though their seasons are slightly different. Initial goal will be to try to triple visits/page views.
Action Item: Add additional pages for search to try to increase visits and page views. 
Potential Increase: $100/mo

Property: F
Earnings: $40 ($30 in past month due to recent changes)
This site is another with extreme potential. The page views used to be much higher but suffered due to some site problems which resulted in a loss of indexed pages.
Action Item: Add additional pages for search to try to increase visits and page views. 
Potential Increase (based on past performance): $100/mo

Properties: G, H, I, J, K, et al
None of the other sites (5 or 6) seem to have much potential, making up the remaining $15 or so per month; however, if each site potentially can earn even $3, if they could be added quickly enough, that would be an additional $30/mo for each 10 sites added.
Action Item: Consider for future.

Additional improvements needed.
Google AdSense now has a “Scorecard” to help you optimize your revenue by showing areas that need improvement. Mine need quite a few, so I will also work on those issues for even more possible improvement.

A good investment.
If all of my data and assumptions are correct, I should be able to meet my initial goal of doubling what I am currently averaging with Google AdSense. While an additional $300 per month may not even seem worth writing this blog post over, much less making changes to the sites, considering that I have had my account for 10 years already, a few adjustments today could add up to $36,000 over the next 10 years – seems like a pretty good investment to me!

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