Latest Update: Added a link to AdSense’s own Optimization Tips to the Resources section.
If you’ve got a web site of your own for sharing your creative stuff (or other reasons), even if it’s just a blog using
If you’re thinking of setting up a site just to make money, it’s probably not going to work, but if you have a site, and want to get a little income from it, you might be able to do it.
What Can You Expect?
Not a lot, honestly. PigPog is a reasonably successful site, with (at the time of writing) around two thousand visits a day, and serving over 500,000 pages a month, and it doesn’t make enough for us to live on. With Sam’s income, though, it adds just enough that I’ve been able to stay out of work for quite some time now, and although we’re just scraping by at the moment, it keeps growing slowly.
If that’s all you’re going to get out of it, it’s certainly not worth upsetting any visitors for – so you need to implement any ads you’re going to add in a respectful way. Upsetting your regular visitors is a fast way to lose traffic, which will hurt you in the long run.
What Do We Use?
We’ve only actually used three advertising schemes, so we can’t really comment on any others. We have used…
AdSense– mainly text, with ads relevant to your site’s content automatically displayed. Chitika‘s eMiniMalls – interactive tabbed ads, responding to keywords you supply in the code. Amazon Associates– US and UK – link to books, get commission for any sales.
All of these have worked for us to the extent that we’re still using them.
The best part about AdSense is that they give you the code, you copy it to your site, and they look after making sure the ads displayed are relevant to the contents of the page. Google actually ‘read’ the page automatically, and assign ads based on what you’re writing about at the time.
Google are quite secretive about what sort of percentages they pay, but the payments seem reasonable. The amount you get each time a visitor clicks on an ad will vary quite a lot, depending on various factors.
- Some subjects are worth more than others – talking about mortgages will make for more valuable clicks than talking about pens and pencils, but if we started talking finance here, people would soon twig that we weren’t really interested in it ourselves, and we’d lose readership fast.
- Conversion rates from your site – if lots of your readers click on ads, but don’t actually go on to buy anything from the advertiser’s site, Google will start to mark you down for it, and pay you less – they have to charge the advertisers less for clicks that don’t make them anything.
That said, we make more from Google AdSense than anything else, so we’re happy.
Ads that are blended with your site’s colour scheme work much better. Something as simple as removing the border (changing it to the background colour) can make for a big increase in click-through rates.
If you want to sign up for AdSense, and you use this link…
…we’ll get a bonus when you earn your first $100, and we’ll be very grateful.
Two people have actually done this so far, and one of them reached their $100, which was a very nice bonus for us one month – thanks, Ricky!
Chitika are relatively new, but they’re generating quite a bit of buzz.
- Their ads are very interactive – they have tabs, which change as your visitors mouse-over them. They can attract a bit more attention because of this.
- Fairly high payments per click – although it varies a lot depending on what you’re advertising with them.
- Openness – they’re being a bit more up-front about how things are being done than Google, which some people find important.
Our experience is mixed, but we’re keeping them on. They’re not making us quite as much as AdSense does, but it’s not far off, and the amount per click is usually higher. The number of clicks, though, is usually lower.
After a bit of testing, we weren’t making much by having Chitika ads on every page, so removed them for a while. After a rest, we put them back, but only on the ‘Finder’ pages (the pages linked you get to from those green links we put in every so often – like
When we first tried Chitika, we slotted them in places where we didn’t want AdSense ads, which didn’t really give them a fair trial. The result was that we made hardly anything from them. If you’re going to give them a go, give them a fair try – put them in a decent spot for a while to try out.
- Chitika’s ads still look their best on a white background, so if you can give them a white background, it’s probably best to do so. You can change the colour of link text to match your site – PigPog uses a slightly lighter shade of blue than the default, so this is the only thing we’ve changed.
- They move on mouse-over – so if possible, put them somewhere your visitors are likely to scroll their mouse past – a banner across the screen works well for us. As the user scrolls, their mouse touches a tab, the tab changes, and their eyes are drawn to the change.
- If you have AdSense, you can’t use Chitika ads in ‘contextual’ mode, so you have to pass them keywords. If you can do it, try passing them the title of the currant article.
If you fancy giving Chitika a try, you can use this link to find out more and sign up…
…and we’ll get a percentage of what you make for the first year – it comes out of their cut, not yours, so it doesn’t cost you, and it makes us love you. Even more than we already to, if that’s possible.
We’ve never made much from Amazon, but if you’re sometimes going to link to products they sell anyway, you might as well get a little cut whilst doing it. If you deal with a lot of products they sell, you could stand to make quite a bit out of it…
You only make anything from ads if your users click on them – they’ll only click on them if they see them. People are getting good and not seeing ads at all. See the problem?
You will earn a lot more from ads that your users’ eyes will settle on for a moment, than from ads they ignore. A banner at the top of the page is easily ignored. Skyscraper style ads on the sides can be useful if people glance at them when looking for your site’s navigation.
The most effective ads we’ve used, though, are those that interrupt the flow of reading. You need to be careful with this, though, as it’s easy to make the content too difficult to read, and people won’t bother. A square ad floating to the left where your content begins is good. Combine the same thing with navigation on one side, and more ads on the other, though, and you might just overload people.
At the time of writing, we only have ads on actual content pages – not on navigation pages. The front page has no ads, and general section pages have no ads. People can navigate around the site without being bothered by ads, and only hit ads when they get to some real content to read. This appears to work pretty well. We get less ads shown, but hardly any drop in clicks. People who arrive through a Google search will probably arrive straight at a content page, so they get ads.
- We save time for our server – it’s not serving as many chunks of ad code.
- We save time for the advertisers – Google and Chitika don’t waste time sending ads that would hardly ever get a click.
- We save time for the users – their browsers aren’t held up waiting to get ads to display whilst they’re trying to get to the content they want to read.
Wins all round.
We also output less ads when users are logged in – people who come back regularly are less likely to click ads anyway, so we might as well bother them less.
If you have a reasonable amount of traffic, adding some advertising can certainly be worth doing, but don’t over-do it and lose your readers.
- AdSense’s own Optimization Tips – they should know best. Quite a good selection of tips and tricks.
- How to Make Money From Your Blog from Steve Pavlina. Steve writes mainly about personal development, but he’s making over $200 a day now from his blog, so he’s well worth listening to. The post is over 7000 words, though, so set aside a bit of time for it.
- ProBlogger is a good blog for keeping you up to date with anything related to blogging for money.
- ProBlogger on ‘How Bloggers Make Money’ – a nice article on ways to bring in money – not just through advertising.
- Google’s Heat Map – a map of where the best places are to put ads. Left good, right bad. In the content better.