Adsense: Why Bloggers Don’t Get It


In doing the research for my series of Adsense articles, two common ideas kept getting repeated:

  • My Adsense ads are horrible, they only pay out (insert low dollar figure here)
  • My Adsense CTR is horrible, I only get a (insert extremely low CTR here)

To be fair these comments weren’t coming just from bloggers, but bloggers did make up an overwhelmingly large percentage. I think this stems from a misconception on the part of the bloggers that they are entitled to high payout and CTR. I’d like to spend a little time to share my feelings on this subject. In the early days a blog may just have been an online diary or journal, but like the days of the Nehru jackets, they are gone. What a blog is now is Chronologically Structured Content Management System, as opposed to the classic web hierarchical structured implementation. Let’s be clear, you can still use a blog as your online diary or journal, but nowdays it’s just as likely to be used as a commercial blog. Yes, I did just say commercial blog, and no the earth didn’t open under my feet and swallow me whole for saying it. Let’s take some time to look at a your typical blog.

You may post about commercial related subjects like your job, what you like to buy, or even your hobbies. However these posts are all about your life, they are no more commercially viable or attractive than say Aunt Millie’s Holiday Newsletter. Yes we all have an Aunt Millie in our family, every year she sends out a finely crafted newsletter in a coordinating envelope she ordered from paperdirect.com telling us all about her family. We learn how hard her husband works, how many activities her kids are in and how good they are at them. We also read the details of how her scrapbooking business hasn’t taken off yet, but she promises to spend more time on it right after New Years. So if you were a business owner would you want to advertise anywhere on Aunt Millie’s Newsletter? Then why would a business want to pay you top dollar to advertise on your blog? What’s that, you say your blog gets (insert a high number here) of readers per day, surely that has to be worth something? Well did you know Aunt Millie sends out over 800 copies of her holiday newsletter to 17 countries, on 4 continents? Now before you get all fired up about it, understand that I don’t have a problem with you having a personal blog or sharing it with the public. However your expectation that it has value outside of your family/friends/community, is a serious misconception.

So what exactly is a commercially viable blog? Don’t think of it as publishing a blog, think of it as publishing an online magazine. You need to start out with good content or articles about a small area or niche topic. You will need lots of content, and unless you are well known, don’t expect much to happen until you’ve written at least 100 and more likely over 200 articles. Yes you will have to devote some time and effort to publicizing and marketing it as well. Once you’ve got a significant focused reader base, that’s the time to slowly ad in the advertising. Now here’s the one that causes lots of people to freak out. BE PREPARED TO GIVE UP SOME PRIME SCREEN REAL ESTATE, IN THE CENTER, ABOVE THE FOLD, TO ADVERTISING. If you’ve worked with print media at all you will know the middle of the right hand page is the most desirable spot inside of a magazine (excluding the cover pages). I’ve sat through meetings where people have said ” … you know we need more right hand pages …”. If you want people to click on your ads, you will need put them where they can see them, above the fold in the center of the screen, in a prominent location. Yes I can almost here the keys typing for the flame comments and emails now. Before you hit that send button though, ask yourself this, are you building a space sough after by advertisers, or are you working on Aunt Millie’s Newsletter? No I don’t think your pages should be filled with ads, in fact quite the opposite, there should always be more content than advertising, ALWAYS!

Next thing, lose the fancy graphics and eye-candy from your template. Yes I know you may have paid for a fancy template, maybe you had your niece who’s a graphic artist design something for you, or you really like the way that spinning flaming platypus looks in your page header. Here’s the thing, it’s detracting from your content. Graphics should be simple, understated, and support the content, not overpower or compete with it. Now before some art student wearing a beret, corduroy jacket with elbow patches, and smoking a pipe or French cigarette, writes and calls me a Philistine, stop and think. Are you designing a commercially attractive and viable space, or are you designing an intricate macrame border for Aunt Millie’s Newsletter? Remember keep it simple and to the point.

Yes I know you feel like I just ripped off the band-aid, and now it hurts. Sorry but someone had to do it. I know some of you are still out there reading saying ‘but can’t I still have this … do we have to get rid of this … I really like that …’. Well I’m not your second grade teacher who’s going to tell you everything’s all right, that you don’t have to change a thing, and put a scooby-doo sticker on your shirt to make you feel better. If you want a blog that makes you more money than you spend at Starbucks every Tuesday, you will need to get serious about what you’re doing.

If none of this sounds incredibly fun, and really sounds pretty close to actual work, here’s the way I see it, getting an Adsense check for $5 is fun, getting an Adsense check for $500 or $5000 is work.

Disclaimers:
I don’t actually have an Aunt Millie, she’s a fictional character. But like you, I do have relatives who send out holiday newsletters.

Yes I know the minimum Adsense payment is $100, so you never could get a $5 check, but I was just making a point, mmkay?

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