Weaning Myself from Adsense

Yes, you read the title correctly. A self-described Adsense junkie has decided to seek help. Step 1: Admitting you have a problem.

For me, that problem was having a sizable portion of my income come from one company. The problem was the constant worry of a click attack and getting booted without warning. The problem was no good backup plan to monetize (YPN? could make up maybe 20%). And the problem was not understanding the details of how and why I get paid how much I get paid (smart pricing).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I looooove Adsense. It’s by far the best way to monetize content on many niche topics. But, looking back, I should never have invested so much in business models that have the above problems.

The other option

Now, I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture. I’ll give it to you straight. Affiliate marketing is hard. And most blogs do not lend themselves to be monetized well with affiliate ads.

From my own tests in the past, I knew about these challenges in monetizing blogs with affiliate links. Affiliate links just didn’t fit most of my sites.

So I started from square one. What type of site would work well with affiliate monetization? The answer (and I’m not saying it’s the only answer, but it’s the answer I found) is to build sites around the buying cycle.


1) A blog about trends in VoIP, including security issues, industry news, regulatory news, etc.

2) A blog about VoIP products for consumers, including reviews of the latest VoIP wireless phones, headsets, routers, etc.

#1 is a dream for Adsensing. I get ads for VoIP, which pay well, and who cares if they ever convert? But if I put up affiliate links, the revenue is terrible. I don’t see conversions. Most of my visitors are enthusiasts or geeks who want news. They aren’t shopping.

At any given time, the vast majority (98%?) of people on the Web aren’t shopping for something. And getting a conversion out of those people is extremely hard, since you have to get them over the first step (“what is this product? do I even want it?”).

Now, if you can get a lot of traffic from the 2% — the shoppers — your job is easy; they know what it is; they know they want it; so show them their options, and let the merchant take care of the rest.

Newfound confidence

So let’s revisit the problems I had with Adsense:

1. having a sizable portion of my income come from one company.
2. the constant worry of a click attack and getting booted without warning.
3. no good backup plan to monetize
4. not understanding the details of how and why I get paid how much I get paid

With affiliate marketing, I get:

1. income coming from many different merchants
2. no worry about click fraud — no conversion, no revenue
3. plenty of backup plans (I won’t bother in a market if I can’t find multiple affiliate programs)
4. I understand how each and every affiliate relationship works. It’s spelled out in the contract terms and the payout is predictable.

Yes, it feels pretty sweet.

But it’s not for everyone. If you can’t (or don’t feel like) creating content that’s geared towards the buying cycle, you’re going to find it much harder to get conversions. And if you have an established, respected blog, the thought of starting a new one in ‘the buying cycle’ might make you tired just thinking about it. But if this stuff is feeding your family (or yourself), my advice to you is to get on it, and pronto!

p.s. Sorry I didn’t give more concrete examples of sites/niches, I normally like giving examples… I just didn’t want to reveal my niches 😉 But if you want some examples of blogs geared towards ‘the buying cycle’, you can check out Manolo’s Shoe Blog or Digital Photography Blog.

p.p.s. the alternate title for this blog entry was: “Affiliate dollars… they just taste sweeter”

7 thoughts on “Weaning Myself from Adsense

  1. I’ve had a blog dealing with many different issues (books, music, web development, movies, online businesses, personal stuff) during more than two years.

    I’ve made some money with Adsense and some money with affiliate marketing but I’ve started refocusiong recently. Now I’ll have different blogs for each topic. I’ll be writing the same amount of posts, but now each one will go to the corresponding topical blog.

    Some of these blogs will be better suited for Adsense and others for affiliate links.

    Andy, your article is right on the point, thanks for sharing. I hope to come back in some months and let you know my results.

  2. I have a site that hits that topic and recently added a blog – been blending the Adsense in with the affiliate info and it has been working well. 😉

  3. this might give you an idea, it’s not for your blog platform but I am sure you will be able to find a plugin or knock something together

  4. Affiliate marketing is really hard. For instance, I have four vendors I like to use for one blog. But one is in CJ, one is in LinkShare, and two have proprietary affiliate systems. So for each product I review I have to go to each one and find the product page, paste it into their “linkmaker” and get the code and tracking gif and post it into the entry. Seriously, it is a half-hour project just adding the affiliate links, and formatting them.

    The problem is compounded with time.

    For instance, this week I got an email from Apple telling me that some of my Apple links through Linkshare will expire and not be valid anymore.


    Yes, because I have those links scattered through multiple blogs in multiple entries. Apple tells me that – instead of just redirecting the links to Apple Store homepage – these links will be inactive and I WON’T GET CREDIT FOR ANYONE WHO CLICKS THROUGH AND BUYS.

    After all that work, it is quite disheartening when they make it so difficult.

    So do I just make all product links go to the homepage of Apple Store instead of individual products? That way – after some time – if a link goes inactive, I will AT LEAST get tracked for sales on clickthrus?

    As an aside, I plan on removing most – if not all – Adsense from several of my blogs and focusing on affiliate marketing again.

    So any tools to make this job easier are definitely something I am interested in.



  5. I too have the same reservations about Adsense although I haven’t implemented it in my long awaited blog. Although I admire the ‘efficiency’ of the Adsense system, to an extent, I have problems with certain aspects of it.

    My blog is in a competitive field (old world websites as opposed to blogs) and when keying into Google certain search terms I am both amazed and angry at some of the results showing up as sponsored links. Results that sometimes have a vague relevance to my search terms.

    My problem is, I don’t want these ads served on my blog as they will offer no value to my readers (assuming they pay any attention to them in the first place)

    The blog I’m planning to launch has a long term goal to deliver a premium web application, which is where the main monetization will hopefully be derived from. Adsense is not part of my biz plan. I do intend to dabble with it as an experiment but I sure as shit won’t be relying on it as a main source of revenue – that would be very dangerous. I worry about click attacks. I worry about being penalised in some way that is beyond my control.

    For any serious business relying on income from ad revenue needs to be in total control of their inventory and I don’t see Adsense allowing that control.

    Right now I’m looking at Adbrite, as it offers better control although perhaps not as effective as Adsense, for obvious reasons.

    I also have plans for affiliate income but again, i’m not relying on it. Contextual ads and affiliate schemes are just 2 of many income streams I’m planning and neither of them are important measures of my blog’s success. The delivery and effectiveness of my blog’s application is my paramount concern here.

  6. Great analysis Andy. I think you nailed a very important distinction between blogs that best benefit from ads and blogs that sell.

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