In early 2003, I started using Google AdSense. The first day, I made $5 and was ecstatic. Then, in less than 18 months, I was cashing $130,000 checks per month on the same site. Google AdSense is an amazing and innovative product.
For those unfamiliar with the application, it simply displays ads on your site based on the text found on each page. When people click on one of these ads, you receive a percentage of the revenue, rumored to be somewhere around 80 percent. Overall, that's a very low fee for the service provided.
And, there are other positives to running AdSense - it relieves the pressure and headaches associated with trying to sell ad space, collect advertising revenue and manage your own in-house server and software.
But most people stop there. Satisfied with the little taste of success that Google has given them, they never stop to consider the negatives associated with using AdSense.
Editorial Control By far, the biggest downside to AdSense is the lack of editorial control. There are very few options to block advertisements and advertisers you might find inappropriate.
For example, one of my wife's friends in rural Nebraska sells a very rare and expensive breed of dog - Kerry Blue Terriers. As soon as she began running Google AdSense on her website, she started receiving hate mail from her users. They accused her of making money from people who sell fighting dogs. She was very confused. The only ads she ever saw were for dog collars, leashes and typical pet products. Since AdSense allows for geographic and site targeting, some users located in certain cities encountered the offensive ads that she never even saw. Ultimately, this damaged the overall trust she had built with her readers over the course of many years.
One Click and Gone With AdSense, the only way you make money is when people leave your website. In my opinion, this is not a smart plan. You have worked hard to get users to your website and to establish trust with them. Now you are willing to send them to your competition for a few pennies? Also, when a user clicks on an AdSense ad, a new window does not open. That means if a user finds this new advertising page offensive, useless or not what was expected, they'll close the window. That's it - they're gone.
Your Reputation In my experience, Google's general advice is to blend their ads into your site as seamlessly as possible. The major problem that stems from this practice is user confusion. What content is yours and what are Google AdSense ads? Because of this, some users will try to hold you accountable for offers being advertised on your site. I have had people actually file claims against me for offers they signed up for from AdSense advertisers found on my site. You really need to be careful.
What else can I do to make money? There are several alternatives to AdSense depending on the nature of your website.
Subscriptions Forums and content sites can do well with subscriptions, easily set up through PayPal. They are auto-renewing and compounding, creating a hassle-free source of revenue.
Donations For blogs, donations work fairly well. Some people basically beg for a couple of bucks. Others try something more creative like, "Buy me a cup of coffee," redirecting the user to PayPal to send money equivalent to a cup of coffee. These tactics might work for some. However, with blogs I personally think the best way to handle donation-type monetization is with "wish lists." Amazon provides embedded wish lists for webmasters so users can purchase the items you want as a way to say thanks.
Affiliate Revenue Pretty much every major online merchant has an affiliate program. Dell, Google, eBay, Amazon, Target, HP, Dell and the list goes on. And I bet at least one of them sells something relevant to your website. Did you know that by simply linking to their site you get a percentage of what your users spend there?
Direct Ad Sales Direct ad sales are outstanding revenue generators, should your site be big enough to command a direct advertising deal. There are scads of direct ad sales strategies and formats, however. (More then we have space to address in this article.)
Final Thoughts In closing, I want to be clear - I am thankful for Google AdSense. Without it I would have never got my start. And I have a feeling they will help you get started too. But go beyond AdSense. Learn from the ads. Who is advertising? Is it a direct advertiser you can approach? Is it a middleman affiliate?
In the end you will realize, as I did, Google AdSense is just the beginning of your online income. Once you expand your horizons, you can make serious strides toward expanding your bottom line.
Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker started blogging his Internet experiences at Shoemoney.com and then used that blog to spring board new companies like Auctionads. Jeremy continues to launch new startups and also chronicles his adventures on his blog.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.