There’s a wide spectrum of blogs on the Internet.
Some write for their own personal amusement.
Others monetize, at which point it becomes prudent to include certain keywords for search-engine optimization.
And, finally, there are splogs, which don’t offer great content at all, and deliberately scam people.
If you’re in the middle of that spectrum, a blogger trying to make a buck, you should know the ropes, including how monetization works and what ads make sense for you.
There’s reason to get into the business, too. One blogger, Lisa Parmley, who NerdWallet interviewed for this article, said she makes $100,000 a year via Google’s AdSense network.
The basics: Google AdSense, AdWords, CTR and CPC
AdSense, Google’s advertising network, works in conjunction with AdWords: through the latter program, advertisers bid on keywords, and the highest bidders earn placement on Google’s AdSense network, including your blog.
To place ads effectively, Google’s bots read your content and then match that content with the appropriate advertisements; it compares keywords in your posts to the keywords that bloggers bid on over AdWords. Include “expensive” keywords—when appropriate, that is—and you’ll attract expensive advertisements.
The exact science of this income scheme is based on your CTR—your click-through-rate—and CPC—your cost-per-click. The former statistic tracks how often your readers click on your advertisements, while the latter is the cost to the advertiser—the amount you earn per click. The formulae are as follows:
CTR = AdSense clicks / Blog page views
CPC = Estimated earnings / AdSense clicks
Higher CTR and CPC mean higher earnings.
Are interest-based ads worth it?
To monetize effectively, you need to make quite a few decisions: the ads’ placement on your page, how many ads, and, perhaps most critically, whether you want simply content-based ads or interest-based ads, too.
Interest-based ads can be good for some blogs: if your content is general or doesn’t fit any category neatly, then those ads may be wise. These ads are customized for each reader, based on their search history.
When consumers navigate the Web via the Google AdSense network, which includes, of course, Google as well as YouTube and the company’s subsidiaries, the network tracks your searches so it can better advertise to you. If you, the reader, are not a fan of “Big Brother” at your shoulder, you can opt out by editing your preferences in Google’s AdSense Manager. You can also edit the demographic information it collects.
For bloggers, you should know that Google bots’ data analysis isn’t perfect: from my history on their Adsense network, Google has inferred that I am a 25-34 year-old female, when I am in fact a 22-year-old male fresh out of college—I guess I’m just more comfortable with my feminine side than most.
I suspect that Google prioritizes a reader’s recent searches because, when I looked at my own demographic information, it listed categories from recent research—pest control and gardening—but hardly what I search for most—Radiohead’s tour dates and alternative music news.
It’s clear that interest-based ads aren’t completely reliable. Still, it may be worth your time to track your earnings with and without interest-based ads, and then go from there.
Photo Credit: kawanet
For the purists: how to balance monetization with quality control
Diehard, old-school journalists were initially slow to adapt to SEO (search engine optimization) and the new monetization scheme for writing. Headline writing, for instance, changed quite a bit with SEO. In the old days, for newspapers, writers would craft headlines that were simply creative and clever, often with the help of alliteration or wordplay.
A Google bot, however, doesn’t have a soul—it doesn’t understand humor. So, the question for purists is: How do I write well and still make money via AdSense?
While it’s true that SEO and clever headlines initially weren’t always compatible, that’s changed for the better. Now, writers can opt to write both a headline—what appears in the article itself—and a page title—what appears in a Google search.
When you draft that page title, plug it into Google and examine the results. If those pages are similar to your own content, then you’re ready to publish: your blog is SEO-optimized. You therefore stand a chance of increasing your page views, possibly also your CTR—if consumers find the ads relevant and interesting—and, hopefully, your revenue, too.
You’re no longer at the mercy of an unfeeling Google bot. They still have a say about SEO, but, in the end, it’s your readers that will determine if your blog will appear at the top of search results—readers determine, essentially, if your blog is good quality.
Google, too, has a stake in quality control.
“They don’t want thin articles with bad grammar showing up high,” said Lisa Parmley, founder of BusinessBolts.com, which offers online business training, tips, and tools to help them grow their small business.
“They have gotten better at keeping low quality content from appearing at the top of the search engines. It’s in their best interest to keep searchers who use them happy. Searchers aren’t happy if they land on a page with an article that is poorly written or just full of fluff.”
If before you were wary of artificial intelligence’s weight in this business, know that Google’s AdSense network is becoming more sensitive by the day. The rule for good content these days: power to the people.
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