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Advertising Strategy for Bloggers

© December 2005 Tony Lawrence
December 2005

Before we go very far at all, I'm going to tell you that most Bloggers aren't going to make money from site advertising, whether it's Google's AdSense or anything else. Fact is, most blog sites count themselves very fortunate if they get more than a handful of visitors per day. Unfortunately, you probably need thousands per day.

Of course your results will vary, but generally speaking, the "click through" percentage (people clicking on ads) will be less than 1% of visitors, and while some specific ads do carry higher payloads, most will bring you less than fifty cents in revenue. So, it's simple math: if you have 100 visitors a month, you might not even get one click, and if you do, it might not earn you enough to pay for a cup of coffee.

With optimization, you might get the CTR a little higher, but it should be obvious that it's never going to be very high: this is a volume game and you need volume to make money. Certainly there are exceptions: if your blog focus is in certain subject areas where ads are highly competitive and pay very well, you might get decent income from low volume. But for most blogs, the ads will be low paying so the only path to real money is increased volume. Don't get totally discouraged by that, but it is reality for most sites.

Now, Google would get very upset with me if I told you what my main site earns, but you can probably get a good idea from looking at the site stats and doing a little guesstimating. If you aren't horribly math challenged, you can see that even a fairly active site like this isn't piling up enough income to live on. Not that I'm complaining: what does come in is very welcome. But I'd need five times the volume for this to be anything like a real income (I used to say ten times, but it does keep growing).

Apparently Google has recently loosened up the restrictions a bit and now doesn't mind if folks report income as long as they don't report other statistics. That seems a little odd to me as many sites report gross visitor stats for reasons unrelated to Adsense. Yet if you know the visitor stats and the Adsense income, you have a pretty fair idea what the oh-so-secret click through rate is. So just what is Google protecting and why? I'll play it safe and just keep my income unstated. As I said, it's not too hard to estimate it.

But let's assume that you do have at least some volume (or that you can improve it). There arethings that you can do to improve the rest of the equation: how many click throughs, and how much they are worth.


One factor for better click throughs is getting ads that are relevant to what you are writing about. If you are writing about exotic fish, and Google is displaying ads for trout fishing equipment, your readers are less likely to be interested in the ads (assuming that it was interest in exotic fish that brought them to you in the first place, of course).

It is unfortunately easy for Google or any other ad company to get confused by your text and put up an entirely inappropriate ad. The best way to combat that is by repetition of the keywords you do want them to pick up. Unfortunately, writing for the benefit of your readers and writing for the benefit of search engines and writing for the benefit of the ad placement software are three different goals that may conflict. It is, simply, an art. The more you can repeat the words you need without puzzling or alienating human readers, the more relevant the ads will be.

Very recently, Google has let us use special comment tags to influence what ads will be presented. I hope that they do more with this kind of thing and provide us with ways to give more hints as to what ads would be appropriate for the page.

Blogs aren't the best format

Unfortunately, typical Blogs present several topics on one page. Any one of the topics might attract a useful and relevant ad, but when mashed together as a group, you may get nothing useful at all. That's why splitting articles off to "permalink" pages where the content doesn't compete with other material is important. It should be obvious that it is also important to drive readers to those single pages: some people do this by presenting only a "teaser" on the main blog page; a short paragraph with a "Read More" link that goes to the single page version. Or, you can ignore that problem and depend on search engines to drive visitors to individual pages - but keep in mind that will only work if your site is popular and well-indexed.

How much for that click?

The value of an ad in Google Adsense is set by the advertiser. Google won't tell you what a particular ad pays them, and they sure as heck won't tell you what your share is, but you can rather easily find out how much certain types of ads are worth. The trick to that is to sign up with Google as though you were an advertiser, and use their cost estimating tools to price out specific keywords. What you are looking for here is relative comparisons within whatever you are about to write about. Let's say, for an entirely fictional example, that you find that "raid disk" requires a much higher bid than "raid drives" (hint: you can use Google's keyword suggestion tool to help here). If that's the case, you want to be darn sure that your little piece has the phrases that will attract those high paying ads.

There are also sites that have done this research for you and keep lists of high paying keywords. Understand that I'm not suggesting that your content be driven by the high paying keywords but am saying that if your page is about "xyz", it can be worth your trouble to find out what "xyz" phrase or word of equal meaning carries the most weight in payout. In other words, you don't want to lose ads that match your content well just because you don't use the right keywords in your text.

I actually do Google advertising, but I'm not sure how long Google will let you get away with pretending if you aren't. A new Google Suggest tool can also help you with keywords.

Don't neglect your real goals

I suppose it is possible for someone to get so carried away by the potential for advertising revenue that they neglect the real reason they have a web site or blog to begin with. There are sites that seem to exist for no other reason, but I don't think they will have staying power. You can adjust your writing to make it generate more revenue than it would if you gave it no thought at all, but I don't think it makes sense to set out to write just to attract certain ads - though if the quality was still there, why not? For most of us though, writing for the web has a different primary purpose, and I at least am happier to stay true to that.

It seems now that many people have the dream of being a "professional blogger", which means making enough money through advertising, contributions and product sales to provide a decent income. That goal is certainly in reach for some, but it isn't likely to be easy for most. You are going to need a lot of visitors, and that usually means a lot of interesting and valuable content.

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