I’ve been part of the Google AdSense program for years now, and am still amazed by the criticism and hostility that bloggers have towards this method of monetizing your blog traffic. This morning, as part of a bigger discussion behind the scenes here at BBC about monetizing your weblog, we were considering Michael Arrington’s critical comments regarding the Federated Media network, of which his popular TechCrunch blog is a member. More to the point, however, we were also reading the rebuttal on ChasNote, a blog run by one of the Federated Media team.
In that posting, Chas (Charles? Did I mention that I really dislike blogs that don’t indicate their author’s name?) quotes Michael as saying “I consider the 40% I pay FM Publishing, my agent, way too high. But they are still a young service and Iâ€™m sticking with them” then responds with: “Outsourcing 80% of your cost structure in exchange for 40% of the revenue may not be such an unfair deal in the end.”
I’m still not sure about those numbers for the blogosphere, but we need to read just a bit further to find the snippet I found most interesting…
Chas cites Mike D., who apparently wrote on TechCrunch that “AdSense tends to make people believe that the entire advertising world is just a question of building up traffic and then letting the ads pour in automatically, but the reality is that a good sell through rate at a good CPM requires a dedicated sales staff, whether itâ€™s internal or external.”
Ah, finally, you have enough background to join the discussion and see why my title refers to AdSense!
Let me start by quoting my own comment on this matter that I left at ChasNote:
“I continue to be fascinated by the gap between what people say about AdSense and my own experience with the program. I certainly donâ€™t find that I need a dedicated ad sales person to figure out how to monetize my blog through the Google AdSense program, and with approx 5% click-thru rate and an effective CPM across the last 30 days of approx. $9.00, it works fine for me and can work well for other bloggers too, better than itâ€™s probably working now.
“The key to any advertising is to recognize whether you have a unique proposition, however. TechCrunch is so darn popular because Mike and his team do have a unique angle on things so itâ€™s always engaging and interesting reading. Thatâ€™s something that can be leveraged by ad sales and monetized differently to, say, a “lots of links to gizmodo and boing boing” Blogger.com blog that someone does hoping to see a trickle of traffic and some ads.
“As long as Federated Media focuses on these blogs with unique profiles, it will indeed continue to raise the value of the real estate itâ€™s representing on each site, and if you donâ€™t think that 60% of something big is worth more than 100% of something small, Mike, you needed to have the experiences I’ve had in the startup world, where we learned pretty quickly that 100% of wishing definitely does not outperform even 10% of something big.
“Further, my understanding is that blogs that are part of the Federated Media network retain the right to sell their own ads, use AdSense, Omakase, Overture, whatever, in addition to the FM blocks being sold by their sales team, so if the % is a problem, why not just have less FM ads and delve into selling your own advertising blocks anyway?”
More about AdSense
The more I’ve thought about this discussion, though, the more I want to share some basic truths about the Google AdSense program that are directly related to whether you, fellow blogger, are seeing enough revenue each month to buy a can of Coke or pay your mortgage:
1. Hiding your ad blocks will never be an effective strategy for earning money.
2. Failing to give Google enough breadcrumbs to ascertain your page topic defeats the targeting part of the AdSense ad targeting tool.
I constantly talk with bloggers who are astonished by how much I earn through Google AdSense, and even the folks at some very large media networks can’t believe anyone sees CPM’s of greater than $1 for AdSense.
Why? Because just about every blogger I’ve seen who uses AdSense seems to have a love/hate relationship with advertising. They don’t really want to have advertising and so they set themselves up for failure from the get-go by having the ad block in the right navigational column four pages from the “top of the fold”, by using a color scheme that makes it glaringly obvious that the block is advertising and thereby teaching visitors to ignore it, by joining dozens of graphical ad networks and serving up visual overload instead of targeted advertising, or similar.
Worse, I have found that contextual targeting requires at least 200-250 words on a given topic to work. The more the ads are related to the blog entry topic, the more likely they are to be clicked and earn you a few pennies a click, right? As a result, I hope you can immediately see how the all-too-common “resource locator” postings like “Cool article in the NYT. Check it out: [link]” are anathema! That doesn’t make them bad blog postings, of course, but does mean that they’ll adversely impact your ability to monetize your traffic.
I was watching the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup again last night and was really struck by how the major advertisers had ads that were either about or related to soccer: they knew that context matching increases ad effectiveness. Google knows it and has built its empire on the ability to match ads to content too. Trust me, if you aren’t getting relevant ads on your pages after they’ve been around for a few hours, it’s Google’s way of saying your postings are too darn short.
So here’s the gauntlet I’ll throw down: let’s pick a blog or two that are part of the AdSense program and publicly redesign it to be more AdSense friendly. I will bet a copy of my book Growing Your Business with Google to each of the blog owners that we can measureably and significantly incresae their ad revenue by simply following the basic ideas presented here.
Really, AdSense doesn’t suck for bloggers. Bloggers who want to enjoy the benefits of a successful AdSense presence just need to rethink their design and blogging efforts, just a bit.
By the way, if you haven’t yet gotten started with AdSense, why not learn more here: Getting Started with Google AdSense?