Hitting $100/mth in AdSense: 7 Things I’ve Learned

Today is a milestone day for me, and it’ll surprise some people. AdSense gave me a nice treat for Hallowe’en – but it doesn’t make up for the trick of my pagerank dropping on several sites I spent good money buying and/or building. At any rate, I finally cracked $100 in Adsense earnings in a single month, for the first time since I started using the ad network around April 2005. That’s a very long time, and has allowed me to reflect upon it. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Focus. Stick to building one site at a time and reach a modest amount of success before starting another site.
  2. Build traffic. You need a lot of traffic to monetize through AdSense, especially in competitive niches and obscure niches.
  3. Fine tune. Don’t run AdSense on sites that are giving you low ad CTR (Clickthrough Rate). Try it out, but if after a couple of months the CTR is low, stop using it until you determine why.
  4. Refine. Make sure to blend ads into your blog/ site theme. Don’t hide your ads but don’t make them stick out like a sore thumb in terms of colors and borders.
  5. Refine some more. Try the rectangular and square AdSense formats. These apparently have higher CTR, though I didn’t keep track of any AdSense channels to prove it.
  6. Improve quality. Write quality content that you can promote with social media, and keep it up or you’ll lose readership. This will give you the traffic you absolutely need to monetize CPC advertising. If you have older posts you’re embarrassed to have, don’t delete them. Instead, when you can’t think of what to write, browse your archives and see if you can write a better version of a bad post.
  7. Choose the right niche. Consider that some niches simply don’t monetize well with any sort of PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising. One such is the “how to blog” niche. You’re better off running appropriate affiliate offers. It helps considerably if you some how introduce discussions of gadgets or software no matter what your niche. Any niche that has higher priced items tends to also have higher CPC (Cost per Click) ads.

But I don’t consider this by any means a success. That $100+ isn’t for a single site, it’s for about 50 sites. What’s more, it includes sites that I’m partnered on, and have paid bloggers – who will eventually share in the revenues.

My problogging goal is to build up to at least US$3000/mth in ad revenue by making sure less of my sites suck. I get paid in US dollars, and the Canadian dollar’s current exchange rate is cost me several hundred dollars per month. The film school I want to enter in 2009 costs Cdn$5,000/term [updated] and lasts for six terms over two years. Because I refuse to ever get in debt again, I have to come up with my own cash. And since I only work online at present, freelancing, consulting and ad revenue are my only income sources.

My approach will be to continue the way I’ve be going: maintain freelance revenue and increase ad revenue by putting more effort into my own sites. It’ll be quite some time, if ever, before I earn money making movies.

What are your pro blogging goals, and how do you plan to use your earnings? Will you use them to support a career change or some other dream that you have?

34 thoughts on “Hitting $100/mth in AdSense: 7 Things I’ve Learned

  1. Making money with adsense is a lot of work, its sometimes just a numbers game. The days of setting up a site and the visitors come is way gone. The key is to build up a lot of traffic, the more the better. In the right niches you can get by with less traffic but it is still a lot of work!

  2. $100 a month can be done with little difficulty, but getting from there to $500 or more is more of a challenge.

    It’s nice to see someone making money for a good purpose (film school!)

  3. Nice post and good luck! Of all the startups/websites that use Google Adsense as their main revenue model (according to Bizak.com) their earnings per visitor (EPV) is just $0.06. That’s not what they earn per click but rather based on the number of visitors they have. In order to make $1,000/month they need over 16,000 monthly visitors – not an easy feat. Better to monetize with services ($1.67 EPV) and/or subscriptions ($1.02 EPV).

    Even with these poor earnings 22% of startups/websites rely on Adsense as their main revenue source. 17% services and 8% subscriptions. Source: Bizak.com

  4. Hello,
    Are there any holy souls??
    Please help me. I am new at blogging. please teach me hot to earn through them.
    It would be great for me.
    I will be highly grateful to you if you help me.

    If you use yahoo messenger please add me

    [email protected]

    This will cost you nothing but i can earn.So i am seeking for help. Please dont curse me if i hurt anyone or if this post of mine is an abuse to this blog.


  5. Amy: I can’t claim to be working on all 50 actively. I was very active on them in 2006, but I kept getting a lot of freelance work. Hence probably why my own blogs suck.

    GeeksAreSexy: I had one how-to site that did reasonably well in traffic and comments (relative to my other sites), but the CTR was puny. But maybe the theme was not ideal.

    Now I should point out that even though I don’t earn much from my own sites, I’m pretty sure that (some of) the blogging I’ve done freelance has earned the owners money. However, it isn’t to determine that for sites that without tracking which pages ads were clicked on.

    But now that I’ve learned a few things about AdSense and what niche content converts or not, I think I’ll be able to move up fairly fast (and thus share the rev with my biz partners and hired bloggers).

  6. GeeksAreSexy.

    Would you be interested in helping me write some How To articles in a completely unrelated niche? I’ll pay you very well for them.

  7. Dude, $100 per month after 2 years is *horrible*..

    The secret for making money on adsense is to fulfill people’s needs with your content, and for this, “How to” articles are your best bet..

    Think of things that people will universally be searching for, and write about them.

    It works, trust me 😉

  8. Last year I tried to log in and my account was closed .. because nobody bought from me for about 9 months .. I asked them to forward me my $20 or so earnings I had there, but they refused to .. I haven’t been back since and ignore companies that deal with them. What peaves me off even more – is that I have the bookmark link to the statistics and there are still hits today going to these sites that linked through CJ, according to some yahoo statistics.. I’m not going to waste time trying to remember which posts have those links.

    So far .. i’ve been joining a lot of programs at the shareasale site and at least received one payout from them.

  9. Raj, I’m kind of surprised that CJ dropped your account. I’ve never heard of that happening before. Guess ya learn something new every day.

    I don’t tend to be a very focused person either, but I can’t imagine doing 50 blogs all at once. And here I thought I was in over my own head with the few I have. 😉 I honestly admire you just for having 50 blogs. Even if none of them pay, that is quite a feat!!!

  10. Markus: I’ve spent two years analyzing, and obviously this isn’t my area of expertise.

    Dee: Thanks. Yabba dabba doo. I certainly hope so, now that I have a few blogs with regular posting. [It really, really, really makes a difference.]

    Gerard: Ah, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  11. Raj: Yeah, they’re the pop-up ads. And yes, they’re infuriating, but they do have a good rate of return, especially for video ads.

  12. > I have something seriously wrong with my use of AdSense, I guess. But i’m always too busy to look into it.

    You as the guy promoting guest blogging should seriously think about ‘guest analyzing’ your AdSense setup. Seriously!

  13. Please don’t Digg this article. It really isn’t Digg material, and only serves to flag this site.

  14. Gerard: Yeah, I’ve heard intellitext does well, but isn’t that the popup ad, upon mouse hovering over their links? I find those annoying. I guess they’re effective.

    Markus: Good point. CPM means much mmore. I have something seriously wrong with my use of AdSense, I guess. But i’m always too busy to look into it.

    Amy: The $100 is pathetic. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but i want people to know that too many blogs usually isn’t the way. Build a few authority sites (i’m trying to focus). As for aff, I’ve tried but again, I spread myself so thin on my blogs that i have not enough traffic anywhere to support any monetization. I have no consistency of publishing, etc. And that’s the gist of my article: be focused and consistent. Because now the tide is turning. [CJ, by the way, sent me an email saying that because no one ever bought anything through my links, they were dropping my account. So I thought, screw them.]

  15. I can’t believe $100 for 50 blogs? That’s a lot of work. I don’t know what topics you blog about, but have you tried advertising through affiliate programs? I’ve had better luck with affiliate programs than with Adsense for many of my topics. I use CJ.com and ShareaSale.com, also Clickbank and some others. Of course, it would depend on what you blog about, but I can’t imagine 50 blogs for $100.

  16. > Don’t run AdSense on sites that are giving you low ad CTR (Clickthrough Rate).

    A high CTR is nice but the real number which has to be figured out and can be fine tuned by the site admin is the eCPM!!!

    Check your ads and use the blocking filter. Just by blocking some noisy advertisers your eCPM should rise two to four Dollars. Search for AdSense blacklist(s) to find more hints.

    I have a small German 800+ visitors/day site which easily makes between 150 and 300 only from AdSense all by itself (5-10 articles/month).

  17. Well, I’ve seen on my blog an AdSense exponential growth. Still, for my young 3 months old blog, not yet 100$/month. But I’m getting there with big steps.

  18. Raj: My wife and I did something similar with our websites, but we found our focus was off and the whole process of blogging for AdSense dollars became frustrating. The rate of return was piss-poor.

    On the verge of quitting completely, we both decided to focus on the blog that was most successful. I did a redesign and some refinement of ads, and we experimented with different ad programs (though AdSense was still primary earner).

    Fast forward 18 months and we’ve got an industry recognized blog, great web traffic and decent AdSense earnings (>$1,000 per month). However, as I’ve said before, Vibrant Media’s IntelliTXT programme is outperforming AdSense, almost double. And the great thing is, their reports and payments are in Sterling.

  19. Michael: Yeah, that’s what I meant by surprising. People think I make a lot from my 50+ sites. I don’t. Most of my time has been devoted to freelancing, and after 2005, I put very little effort into my sites. The only reason I hit $100 this month was that one of my biz partners managed to push some stumbleupon traffic to a few sites. That made a big difference, as did the fact that I have a few regular writers on those sites.

    I don’t profess to know the secrets of monetizing blogs. I only have theory. But I only have my online work nowadays, so I had no choice but to stick with it.

    I don’t think changing services would have helped. I tried various ad networks, but I wasn’t blogging on any one site consistently. That’s critical. I had no “focus” blog and still don’t. Freelancing still takes up 120% of my time.

    Sorry, but I’d rather blog than ever work for McDonald’s for $500/mth. It’s a strange comparison. I do earn a modest living from freelance blogging, though.

    So how did you get up to $7K/mth, and how long did it take you?

  20. You just hit $100/month? My first experience with Google’s AdSense was on wowcensus.com which net me at least $7K per month. When I finally sold the site I was at my lowest point, $3.5K per month…

    $100/month isn’t squat – I can’t believe you dedicated more than 2 years of your life to this. I would have moved along to better opportunities after a 3-4 month trial period, there are better programs out there for you it seems.

    If you make anything less than $500/month from your advertising – change services. Whether you need to move to Chikita, TLA, or just sell advertising yourself. Anything less than $500/month isn’t worth your time and you may as well work at McDonald’s part-time.

  21. Hart, that must have been such a hassle, losing your content and having to do a manual fix. Interesting; I don’t use the 728×90 on any of my newest sites – only the really old ones.

    I agree re Adsense pymt. I was just saying the same thing in an email to some biz partners. I can’t pay them their share of the $100+ I made in Oct until later, since Google pays into my bank account, and not until late November. But they will never use PayPal, unfortunately for all of us AdSense publishers.

  22. #6 – Improve Quality … that’s my 2008 resolution with my PetLvr site. Stupid 1800HART upgraded Stupid WordPress awhile back from 1.5.2 version directly to 2.1 in one move, and lost about 1/3 of my archives where the ‘more’ statement was. But, with 2900 posts it’s not as noticeable as you might think. I have the original backup MySQL database to replace the missing content, but it takes time and effort just to load the friggin text file.

    But – with my 40-50 sites .. I think because of that problem, my adsense has been almost 75% of all other sites combined. People expect the rest of the story, and get miffed and click on an ad and leave. Sounds good, but I don’t want the site to be that way.

    I first hit $100 in feb/07 and only missed the mark once, during my server upgrade last August. I think I can do much better though, if I ever get a new template out and seriously give some review of my codes.

    In my adsense account – I have reached the maximum allowed channels. Besides URL channels for each domain, I have 3 sub-channels for each (header, index, and link units). I accidentally deleted a few to get a few new sites going and sometimes I get amounts added in the top row and I don’t know where it came from. And, despite that – it’s still inconclusive what works and what doesn’t work – although, historically for me it seems that simple 728×90 ads above the header works best, and then the link units betwee header and content 2nd place. Starting November I’m going to drastically delete 80% of them and just go with URL’s as the channel and if it’s working, I’ll see a bigger number on one channel.

    My beef is that I wish google would tranfer the funds directly into my paypal account instead of my bank account. It’s nice to cover some automatic withdrawals out of the bank account, but if you need it online, it’s a waste of another 3-4 days transfering it back.

  23. @Randa: Good point. It should get easier. Exponential growth, I hope. Fingers crossed.

    @Kathryn: I am not going to say “I told you so” b/c you have to see for yourself. Very few people are like Darren Rowse and thus cannot monetize a whole bunch of new blogs all at once.

    @Cigar Jack: I’ve always found that Chitika only does “well” on sites that write about products. I stopped tracking any earnings from Chitika many months ago. I don’t think I’ve had a check from them since last fall.

  24. I’m making about $100/month between TLA and Chitika and an additional $100/month from direct sponsors. I’m trying to figure out how to make really bump up Chitika to that $100/month on its own. I guess time is probably my best be. I started in March 2007 and as of last month I’m making just over $60/month on Chitika.

  25. Another good reason to start with one site is it’s easier to stay pumped up even if that site isn’t successful (monetarily) just yet. Multiple sites that seem to be going no where fast just drag me down.

    I should have listened to your advice the FIRST time I heard it, but I’m paying attention now.

  26. But… it’s easier from then on. Congrats on getting there, and I’m sure things will pick up. Great advice to just start with one site and really focus on building it up. Once you spread yourself too thin it’s hard to give any site the attention it needs to build big traffic.

  27. Hello, I’ve been reading your blog (and the others Performancing authors)for several months know, but this is the first time I comment. Let me star by congratulate you on your writing, it’s been interesting and helpful reading all along.
    I do understand you, now that the Euro worth almost 1.5 dollars, 100 barely pays the internet connection, it must be bloglove and a lot of faith.
    One question, wich rectangular adsense format? the up or down?
    Hope you succeed on your plans.

Comments are closed.