7 Lessons From the Blogging Trenches: Cracking $200 per Month in Adsense

Back at the end of Oct 2007, I admitted my long-term efforts to reach $100/mth in AdSense revenue on all of my blogs collectively. Embarrassing but true. Since then, I reached about $160 in Nov and just over $200 in Dec. However, January isn’t shaping up too well, and I’m not surprised – especially after Xmas. (Note: this doesn’t include revenue from other ad sources. My total take is still only about $475/mth, minus my partners’ shares.)

I’ll still be past $150/mth (AdSense) in January, I think, but not all of these earnings belong to me, since I’m partnered on some of the sites. So AdSense still hasn’t worked for me. However, now that I have a bit more time to devote to sites that I own/ co-own, I do see that a scientific approach works for certain niches. Here’s what I’ve learned since cracking $100/mth in AdSense (including emphasizing what I’d learned in October):

  1. Traffic. It takes a great deal of traffic to earn a living with just AdSense. And then some. And traffic is seasonal, as well as affected by holidays. Even important TV or sporting events will affect traffic.
  2. Low CTR. Many popular niches have very low ad CTR (ClickThrough Rates). I long ago gave up regularly updating any of my “how to blog” blogs. Instead, I casually add new content when I have it, and might occasionally get a dollar here and there. But my focus is down to about four niches instead of the dozen-plus that divided my efforts and earned me nothing.
  3. Diversify topics. If you are banking on just AdSense, consider diversifying with a few sites covering topics you’re interested in. But honestly, don’t fool yourself into believing you can maintain more than two active blogs on your own, especially if you are covering non-overlapping topics. I’ve given up that effort, but I do add new content once in a while to my mostly dormant older sites. The difference now is that I do it when I feel like it, not because I have to. And the net result is better quality articles.
  4. Supplement ads. Depending on your niche, throw in some CPM (Cost per Mille) ads to capitalize on traffic. Not all niches have suitable ad networks, but if you luck out, it can make the difference between giving up and sticking it out a bit longer. CPM ads are really useful if you plan to write and promote “resource bait”, which might bring surges of traffic that earns you at least $3-5 per thousand (per Mille) pageviews.
  5. Paid reviews. Personally, I don’t like doing these. They sometimes appear on my sites, but I often get a friend to do the review and pay them the full amount. But if you have a suitable niche and don’t mind, these can earn you some extra income. The problem for me is that they take extra writing time on top of what you already write.
  6. Diversify income sources. I still don’t believe MOST bloggers will earn a living with just AdSense. I’ve previously discussed many ways for alternate income (such as freelancing), and for using blogging as a means to promote your other income sources. This includes promoting your services and products. (For example, I hope to use blogging to promote my movies, once I finish film school. In the meantime, I’ll keep building my personal brand, as well as start promoting my future film studio name. I no longer plan to make a living from just blogging. It’s not satisfying enough for me.)
  7. Take a scientific approach. In the right niche, you can often count on a consistent average daily CTR for ads. Say it’s 2%. Work backwards. The daily CPC (Cost per Click) will fluctuate, and is affected by seasonal changes, but make a rough, conservative guess.

    Maybe you want to earn $1000/mth. And maybe you’re averaging $0.20 per click. That requires 5,000 clicks per month, or an average of 167 clicks per day. (Just consider that weekends are usually slower for most niches – something I’ve tested in about 15-20 niches.)

    If you’re averaging 2% CTR, then you need about 8,350 PV (pageviews) per day. If you are using social media sites and can figure out how to get at least 100 PV for each post you promote, then you’d need 83 posts/ day. Not a winning approach. This is where you need to put the most effort: efficient ways to promote your posts, even after the search engines finally index your new site. This is why you need to make lots of “social” friends.

    On the other hand, if you can pull 500 PV per post by using five or six social media sites, then you only have to do 15 posts/day. Not long ones, but you’ll still want to write at least 100 words/post, to escape “thin content” search engine penalties. Put some effort into maximizing  the effect of your blog posts.

Obviously, this 15 posts/day approach is not suitable for all niches. In some niches, readers simply won’t appreciate it. But the general principles I’ve mentioned still apply. Your niche might just have a rough scientific formula, though 3-5 quality posts per day might be all you need – especially if it has a high ad CTR, or at least provided you make the effort to promote on social media sites.

And when the search engines finally kick in and send traffic in the many thousands of pageviews per day, that’s when the revenue COULD go exponential. Provided you’ve done everything else right, and added a reasonable mix of CPC (e.g., AdSense) and CPM or CPA ads.

Building a successful blog is like playing a game of golf: there are dozens of factors you have to apply in sync. Here are a few:

  1. Adding timely content of at least 100+ words, if your site is newsy.
  2. Adding quality content that satisfies your readers and induces them to help you promote.
  3. Promoting your own content or hiring someone to do it for you.
  4. Having the most optimal layout of content, navigation, and advertising.
  5. Being consistent.

There are other factors, but these are the ones that come foremost to mind. You just have to find the rhythm that’s right for you and your topic.

14 thoughts on “7 Lessons From the Blogging Trenches: Cracking $200 per Month in Adsense

  1. This is a very useful post. I’ve been blogging for over a year and have just made $20 in AdSense ads. I don’t have a ton of traffic, nor should I given the content of my blog, so I’m not surprised. In fact, I’m quite thrilled with $20 I wouldn’t have otherwise. Still, it would be nice to see greater returns. I wonder if I can ever make a better profit w/ AdSense. I don’t expect to ever replace my income, but it would be nice to supplement a few hundred dollars a month.


    Her Every Cent Counts: A Quarter Life Crisis and Change

  2. Eran: Thanks for the offer. I think my post is a bit misleading…

    One niche gets about 2% consistently, on average. (So it ranges from 0.89% to 8%, but averages to 2%.) My old craft and cooking blogs on Blogspot, which haven’t been updated in over 1.5 years, get very high CTR on very low traffic.

    But here’s the gist of my problem, which I’d written about at the end of October: I have spent most of my time writing for “clients” and thus spend very little time on my own blogs. However, now I have more time for my blogs and I’m taking advantage of it and chronicling my increasing ad revenues. I’ve been applying tweaks in terms of page layouts, ad link colors, etc., and once I have conclusive evidence, I’ll write about my findings. So yeah, you are definitely right. My CTR has sucked b/c of poorly optimised sites.

    I do have a few newer blogs with partners which get more than 2% consistently (8-10%) but keeping qualified bloggers isn’t easy, and I only have so much time in a week. I’m also gravitating towards spending as little time as possible blogging (less posts, better quality) so that I can focus on rewriting all my short stories into screenplays for film school. I’ve kind of been missing my fiction writing, so I’m shifting a lot of my focus.

  3. Hey Raj,

    Thanks for the article – I enjoyed it, but I was rather gob smacked that you are only getting 2% CTRs on your Adsense!

    That’s damn miserable dude. All of my sites (and my clients) get 10%+, and I’m not doing anything obscenely tricky or Black hat – just following some of Google’s suggestions, along with a few simple tips I have picked up along the way.

    If your blog is like most blogs, it’s not been well optimised for adsense, and that’s why your CTRs suck!

    If you want to send me an email with the URLs of 1 or 2 of your Adsense sites, I’ll be happy to take a look at them and make some suggestions for you that I KNOW will improve your CTR.

    Also, you might enjoy a video I did recently entitled “7 Ways To Make Money With Your Blog”, which ties in quite nicely with this article. It takes a few minutes to load, so be patient.

    The link is here. Enjoy!

    OK Raj, I look forward to hearing back from you. In the meantime, keep up the great work!

    Eran Malloch

  4. thanks for all the advise, I still will blog about what I love but you have given me some good ideas

  5. OK, but the red sign showing you that something (!) is developing in the wrong direction is the eCPM. For me it is the #1 indicator when I do a quick check of my channels.

    My story is that I saw eCPM rise higher and higher after I put like 50 domains into the filter.
    But half a year later I saw my eCPM drop by 50%.
    I deleted all entries in the filter and saw the eCPM rise again.

  6. Markus: everyone assigns their own value to which site metric is most important to them. The eCPM, being “effective”, is defined by traffic, clicks, and CPC (payout). So to say that that CTR is not as important is a half-truth. If your CTR and CPC are both low, so is your eCPM. And eCPM is more likely to vary than CTR in a given niche. So for me, CTR is more important to my calculations.

  7. The CTR is not as important as the eCPM.

    AdSense publishers should always monitor the eCPM. If eCPM goes down then you have to check the ads for bad mass advertizers which will show up high but only produce very low CPC. If you put those into the AdSense filter then eCPM should rise again.

    High CTR has a lot to do with format and position. And of course with using product names instead of pronouns and clean keyword stuffing for certain branches.

  8. What G.A.S. and Ryan said. (They posted as I was typing the above response.) If you can capture anyone who is shopping for something, whether through great how-to articles or reviews, you can probably expect high CTR.

    But consider something. My five dormant old blogspot cooking/ recipe sites get relatively high CTR and CPC. But my more active cooking/ recipe that is on its own domain gets very low CTR. I haven’t figured out why. Content-wise, they’re all very similar.

  9. Pholpher, Chris: Thanks for the compliments. Actually, I was a bit careless and bullet #1 had an incomplete sentence – which I’ve rectified.

    Matt: I haven’t driven a lot of traffic to be absolutely sure, but it appears to me that “craft” sites with photos and how-to tutorials might have a high CTR. For example, I have an old blogspot site that covers the making of jewelry from chainmail and beads. I gave it up b/c it takes too much time to make one piece, but the existing articles still get high CTR on low traffic. Just not sure how to promote it, to test if the CTR holds up. Similarly, when I moved the site to its own domain, it was getting lots of traffic. But then I moved it to a subdomain and traffic is now non-existent.

    My general formula (unproven) is this: A how-to site where following the instructions means having to purchase tangible objects (e.g., chainmail rings, wire, beads, tools, etc.), will have high CTR. This might especially be true if the how-tos can lead to a side business at home.

    That means that if someone is searching for instructions on how to make something, and you do a reasonable job explaining, logic suggests that they may want to try as well. So they’ll be look for where to purchase product. Jewelry ads for AdSense are as often images as they are text ads.

    Just a theory.

    Other possibilities for high CTR are niche technology sites. Again, I haven’t proven this, but from discussing with other bloggers, I’ve concluded that some sub-niche tech or science sites have high CTR. Or at least high CPC. Examples: sound systems or musical instruments, provided you do indepth reviews. Also, say you have a podcasting how-to site and regularly review microphones, etc. I’m speculating a high-CTR.

  10. @mattf: Content that people will be searching for. Write about a service, a product, a “how to” etc. Example: How to clean your LCD screen, how to recover your windows password, How to fix the xbox 360 red ring of death.. Ads on these kind of articles are extremely relevant, leading to a very high CTR.

  11. What I love about your posts is the care and thought you put into them. It would have been so easy to just put in that last section but you take us through your whole thinking. Thankfully there are other ad networks apart from adsense but what you say is right, it is a numbers game, even once you have optimized as best as you can, if you haven’t got the views you won’t get the clicks.

Comments are closed.