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Comments March 11, 2010

Google Forums and Increasing Adsense Revenues

Filed under: Advertising, Board Management — Dave Rathbun @ 11:24 am CommentsComments (1) 

I posted a question on Google’s support forums a few months ago (since they don’t seem to offer email support of any kind anymore). While waiting for a response, I have spent some time reading and at times responding to some of the questions there. One of the questions that I saw posted most frequently can be paraphrased as “How can I make more money” or something along those lines. I realize that many board owners probably aren’t using Adsense, but if you are, I thought I would post a few summary tips on this subject.

You can earn more money by:

  • Generating more traffic
  • Generating more clicks
  • Getting higher-paying advertisements

I’ll talk about each of these at a high-level in this post.

Adsense Recap

Adsense is the front-end of the Adwords advertising program. If someone wants to advertise their site(s) they can open an Adwords account and bid on certain keywords. (They can also target specific sites, but I’ll talk more about that later.) Google Adsense program participants are assigned a unique publisher ID and given a bit of javascript to place on their site. When a page is rendered, the javascript sends the content to Google who quickly scans it to identify keywords, then matches keyword advertisers with the content. The return value is a string of HTML that contains various advertising links.

And this all happens really, really, fast. :)

As a publisher, I can only control certain things. I cannot control what advertisers bid on my keywords, nor can I select ads from specific advertisers for my site. So how can I control my income?

Simply put, I can’t. But there are a few things I can do to try to improve my earnings.

Generating More Traffic

There are plenty of topics on phpbb.com about generating more traffic. I won’t try to cover that here since this topic is about advertising. Instead I want to talk about the impact of increased traffic on advertising revenue.

The first thing a new Adsense publisher has to know is that most ads in the program are paid by click (CPC) and not by impression (CPM). This is certainly in favor of the advertisers which makes it easy to understand why most opt for this configuration. Because of that, it might not be immediately obvious why generating more traffic could generate more income. It comes down to statistics.

Because of the Google Terms of Service (TOS) I can’t share what my click statistics are. So for this post I will make up some numbers. Suppose that I see over the past few months that I get 1 clicks for every 10,000 page views. Suppose that I have also noticed that ratio seems consistent as traffic goes up. It stands to reason that if I can project 5 clicks for 50,000 page views then I can get 50 clicks for 500,000 page views. If each click is worth $1 then it’s easy to see how my income goes up as clicks go up.

From what I have read (and experienced) there are several typical ways to increase earnings from this program. You can try to generate more traffic. You can try to generate more clicks. And you can try to generate higher-paying clicks. There are plenty of suggestions on this forum or the Adsense blog on how to do these things, but I’ll offer a high-level overview. One of your challenges (as I see it) is that the number of sites dealing with games / onling gaming is HUGE and therefore you’re up against a lot of competition.

To generate more traffic you need to get more people to come to your sites. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Whether you do this via advertising, search engine optimization, or some other means of promoting your site is up to you. You also need to make sure that you do what you can to retain your existing visitors while gathering new traffic or you simply end up churning (keeping the same amount of traffic but from different users). From a marketing perspective, most folks will tell you it costs less to keep an existing customer than to get a new one, so try not to go after new traffic at the expense of existing traffic.

Getting More Clicks

There are lots of illegal ways to generate more clicks :) but also legal ways. Try different ad placements or different color schemes for your existing ads. It works best if you set up different channels so you can track what techniques are successful. And don’t stick with the new style just because something is successful for a short period of time. You need to continue to monitor the relative performance of your different placements and colors. Sometimes a change in style will generate short-term spike in user interest but fall back to the same or even lower levels afterwards. I experienced that myself. I did something as simple as changing the color of the border. Ad clicks initially spiked, but a few months later they dropped. And they continued to drop even below the level of activity that I had before! Ultimately went back to my original style of ads and activity picked back up again.

Getting Paid More Per Click

Finally, generating higher-paying clicks. As mentioned above, Adsense is the front end for the Adwords program. Adwords allows advertisers to bid on various keywords. Because it’s a bid process (meaning Google doesn’t set prices) the advertisers are in control. If you have sites already set up, your content is set, and the keywords related to that content are likewise set. In other words, your rate of return for clicks based on your content are set by the Adwords bidders, and there’s really nothing you can do to alter that. There are some folks that will suggest that your site needs to be about topic X, Y, or Z in order to generate big returns on clicks, but to be honest unless you have expertise or interest in those topics it’s hard to get interested in building a site around those areas. At least it is for me. I would stick with your current sites unless you have other interests and then you can consider branching out to new areas.

There is an option provided by Google where you can tag certain content areas on your site and ignore others. For example, if you have a discussion board (forum) or blog, you would want to tag your content and ignore the template text (like menus and so on). That way your keyword density goes up and you might get better ads. But you really can’t determine how much those ads pay.

Once your site gets big enough it may draw the attention of specific advertisers. If you can do that, it really helps. Those advertisers will bid on your site, specifically, rather than content-driven keywords. Some of those ads will be paid on an impression (page view) basis rather than clicks. I always like it when this happens, because my site does millions of page views on a monthly basis. You can find out if this is happening by going to the advanced report tab if your adsense account. Choose Adsense for Content, then down near the bottom of the parameters you will see an option to “Show data by…”. When you select Individual Ad you will get an additional checkbox that allows you to break out income by contextual or placement.

Contextual ads are there because of keywords. Placement ads are there because the advertiser told Google to specifically target your site. Placement ads might be paid per click, but they may also be paid per page views. From what I have read, you can’t expect this to happen unless your site content is highly unique or you have enough traffic. So we’re back to generating more board traffic at this point. I don’t have any specific knowledge, but 500-700 impressions a day probably isn’t going to get you any placement ads. I first started noticing this because I had days with revenues and no clicks, so I looked into it further. That was back when I was generating 10-15K impressions a day, and I do more than that now.

Summary

So, to summarize:

If you can increase traffic then one would expect your clicks and therefore your income to increase.
If you can generate more clicks from existing traffic, your income should also increase.
You could try different content to see if the clicks pay out at a higher rate, but then you’re starting over with a brand new site.

But it’s really hard to generate more income per click on existing content because that’s controlled by the Adwords bidders.

Finally, you have to be aware of the fact that Google does not publish their algorithms for determining ads that are displayed on your site, nor do they publish how much money they retain for each click on your site. Either or both of these things could change and have a dramatic impact on your earnings from the program. There really isn’t much that you can do in this area, other than be sure not to rely on Google adsense income for your house payment. :)

What I have seen over the years is my traffic is going up every year. That is a success for me on the first point. My clicks as a percentage of page impressions have actually gone down, so you could say I have failed on the second point. However, even here there are things outside of my control that I believe are affecting my click rates. It could be blamed on the increased use of Firefox which has several adblockers built in, or on increased “ad blindness” due to the fact that Google ads are everywhere now.

In short there is no magic button that you can press to increase your earnings from this program. You can coast along with what you have now, or you can try to make improvements in some of these areas.

1 Comment

  1. Just think of how much money Goooooogle is saving by not having to pay people to answer emails or the telephones.

    Comment by dog cow — March 12, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

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