What Google Never Told You About Making Money With AdSense.
In January 2005 I published an ebook called AdSense Secrets: What Google
Never Told You About Making Money with AdSense. The book explained
everything I’d discovered over the previous months while testing and
experimenting with Google’s AdSense system.
It contained all the strategies, ideas, methods and approaches that I was using on
my websites to generate five-figure checks every month from Google.
The book was just 66 pages long — but as soon as it hit the Web, it sold like
hotcakes. Internet publishers couldn’t download it fast enough. They wanted to
know what AdSense could do for them.
The success of that first edition took me by surprise. I was stunned at the rate at
which people snapped it up.
In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Google had launched
AdSense in June 2003, eighteen months before the ebook came out. Until then,
Google had been known mainly as a search engine that produced better results
than AltaVista and was easier to use than Yahoo (which shows how long ago
2003 was!). It was running ads on its search results, which seemed to be doing
well, but no one was sure what effect its contextual advertising program would
have or whether it would be beneficial to anyone.
There was a lot of suspicion — and for good reason. It hadn’t been long since
the Internet bubble had burst, shattering dreams of dotcom fortunes and wiping
out millions of dollars of venture capital. After being told that buying a domain
and picking up users would build an asset that could be sold for enough cash to
buy a house in Cancun — heck, to buy half of South America — Internet
companies suddenly discovered they didn’t have enough money to meet payroll.
I was just a small publisher when the crash happened, but I wasn’t the only one
wondering what to do next.
So when a company produced a product that promised it would change the Web, turn websites into cash cows, and allow people to give away content and still
earn money, it was hardly surprising that it met with a touch of cynicism.
We’d heard it before.
Critics wondered whether Google would be able to parse pages well enough to
serve ads that users found helpful.
Experts questioned whether Google would be able to pick up enough inventory
to fill all of the slots that would become available on the Web if anyone could
place ads on their pages that easily.
And writers noted that contextual ads were all well and good, but it was user
behavior that mattered more. A site about literature, for example, might serve
ads for first editions but if it’s used by readers who have come from music sites,
it might be smarter to serve ads for study guides and student loans. Google
wasn’t tracking that data. (They do now!)
My first experiments with AdSense suggested that the critics were right.
AdSense was a waste of time.
My Experiments with AdSense
I signed up with AdSense in June 2003, as soon as it became available, serving
AdSense off just a few of the pages on my early websites.
By the end of my first day with AdSense, I’d delivered several thousand
AdSense impressions and earned the princely sum of… $3.00. I didn’t exactly
burn down the house.
I didn’t see a great deal of potential based on that figure, but I figured it couldn’t
hurt to place the AdSense code on more pages. Over the next couple of months, I
increased my impressions 25-fold.
But my earnings didn’t go up 25-fold. The ads were on my site and people were
seeing them, but no one was clicking them. And because of the way that Google
was paying for the ads — on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis rather than the old
cost-per-mille basis that paid a set amount for every thousand impressions
whether users clicked them or not — those ads weren’t making money. My
clickthrough ratios were so bad I needed thousands of visitors to net just $30 per