Welcome to the first Blogging Case Study section on monetisation. Yes, it’s finally time to look at the number of ways people can make money from their blogs. The three things we’re going to look at in this first section are:

  • Selling advertising
  • Using Google Adsense
  • Utilising Infolinks

It’s commonly believed that placing ads on your blog is the best way to make money. It is also commonly believed that the more ads you put on your blog, the more money you will make.

In certain circumstances selling ad space on your blog and placing ads in strategic locations can be very rewarding, but most of the time you are better off monetizing your blog in other ways. Let me explain why.

When you monetize your blog by selling ad space, you will receive a monthly fee for displaying the publisher’s ad on an agreed section of your blog. When your visitor clicks on that ad, he gets taken off the page on your blog. This means that you are sending visitors away from your blog, and potentially losing out on having them read your best articles that would convince them to become a regular reader or subscriber to your updates.

You should weigh out the amount you receive for monthly ads against the amount of your visitors clicking on that ad. If the amount of clicks on that ad are very high, then it might be better to promote an affiliate product or your own product where you stand the chance to make much more than you would from selling the space to other publishers.

The graphic to your right is just an example of 125×125 ads in the sidebar of a blog. Most blogs place too many ads on their site in my opinion, which gives a spammy and low-value impression to the visitor. Bigger sites get away with having lots of ads because they have a large audience and high traffic levels. As a smaller blog you want to grow you audience and authority, and the best way to do this is by building trust, not by pushing products you don’t even use yourself.

Just think about when you visit a site and there are a dozen banners and flashing ads all over the page, do you feel like you want to stick around on that site very long?

Selling ads on your blog is not always a bad thing, of course. If you can find people willing to pay $50 or $100 a month for ad space you can make a nice $300-$600 a month from ads alone. You’ll have to test what works for you but four or six 125×125 ads seems to be acceptable. If you choose to sell adspace on your blog, I highly recommend a WordPress plugin called OIO Publisher which automates the entire process of selling and placing ads on your blog.

Remember that you can also put your own affiliate ads or your own products in these 125×125 ad spaces in your sidebar. We’ve already covered Andrea’s experience with monetising via ads on the case study page, so make sure you check that out.

Hint: Promote products and ads that are relevant to your blog and that you know will add value to your readers. This is good for building trust and it’s good for your conscience knowing that you’re helping people.

Making Money with Google Adsense

Google Adsense is a popular way of displaying ads on your blog and getting paid for every person that clicks on those ads. However, Adsense is not as profitable as it used to be and it has an obvious downside. The downside is that every visitor who clicks on your ad gets taken away from your blog (likely to not return) and you get paid anywhere from a cent to a few dollars per click. Usually only a few cents. This means that you are possibly trading a few cents for a loyal subscriber who may end up sharing your content and buying your products for years to come.

One benefit of Google Adsense is that you can customize the ads to blend in with the rest of your site and the text around where you place them. At times though these ads appear unethical because they often mislead visitors into thinking that the ads are part of your blog, and thus they click on the ads (making you more money).

I recommend that you experiment with placing ads in various, subtle locations and do so sparingly. There’s really no need in covering your site in Adsense, unless you don’t care about building an audience.

In the example below, the Adsense ads are customized so they look like they are part of the site, especially the top nav bar. This site ranks high for its keyword which is a free converter tool download. This means that many people who want the tool will mistakenly click on the Adsense thinking they are downloading the tool, and in turn make the site owner a good amount of money.

I have personally used Adsense on blogs – where I don’t care about building a readership – to generate over $200 per day in revenue. During that time, here are a few things I learned…

1. Standing Out Gets Fewer Clicks

If you’ve ever saw the “Congratulations! You’re the 1,000,000th visitor to our website” banners, the ads for the game Evony with beautiful women all over them or even the face of Darren Rowse (Problogger) on Chitika ads, you may think that standing out gets you the most clicks. In image or flash ads it probably does, but that’s not the case with Adsense.

Anything that stands out gets a visitors attention and from there one of two things will happen. The first thing they may do is unconsciously ignore the ad due to the “blindness” many of us have developed to banners online. The second possibility is that the user will pay more attention to the ad consciously and decide whether or not it offers something interesting to them.

While this second option will get some clicks and earn you some revenue, I’ve found that ads get a much higher CTR (Click-through rate) when they look like they are part of your website. The site I purchased used a dark grey background on all ads even though the rest of the site was white. Changing the background colour alone increased the CTR from around 2% to a solid 3.5%.

Sometime last year Google allowed you to change the font and size of the text in the ads you display. I used the medium-sized Verdana option and tweaked the font on my site with CSS to look exactly the same. This took the CTR to over 4%. In other words, these two very simply changes instantly doubled the income the site was making.

2. Become a Resource, Not a Destination

With any ads you put on your site, you have to remember that they’re going to take people away from your website. If you’re trying to build a popular blog that has regular on-site readers, it’s probably not a good idea to fill every spare pixel with ads. Having ads in-content is going to get far more clicks than an ad in the lower right hand corner of your site, but you’re also going to “lose” a lot more visitors.

In my experience, sites that make the most money with Adsense are ones that receive traffic from search engines and give users a taste of what they’re looking for, but not everything. If you provide a site visitor with exactly what they’re looking for then there’s absolutely no need for them to click on an ad and go somewhere else.

With other tweaks I’m going to mention I took the site up to an 8% CTR but didn’t go higher than that, though I could have, because I still want to provide genuine value to the visitors in some form. If you want people to stick around on your site and give them everything they need, then Adsense is probably not the best monetisation strategy for you.

I want ViperChill to become one of the top marketing blogs in the world and to do that I need to write better articles (at least in my opinion) than any other blogger in this industry. I regularly link out to other websites and will continue to do so, but I also want to be the “go to source” for the types of topics that I cover here.

If I were to put Adsense all over the site then I could make some money but at the cost of growing slower and compromising my own values. To make the most money with Adsense you need to create a resource which makes the user want to keep moving forward to find more information on the topic, rather than have everything they need on your site.

Steve Pavlina is an example of an exception to this rule by becoming a destination on the subject of personal development and making over $1,000 per day with Adsense. He did remove the ads from his site at some point last year but even when he put Adsense on the site, the traffic did not drop like many people would have expected.

3. Traffic & Niche Play a Huge Role in Earnings

With Adsense you will either earn money by people clicking on your ads or having your ads display on a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) basis. In order to get the most clicks or the most impressions, you need to get a lot of traffic.

There are some niches like car insurance, mesothelioma news or credit card reviews that will earn you a lot of money per click. In these industries I’ve seen people report as much as $5 per click on a regular basis. That’s huge. However, getting a lot of traffic in these industries is not as easy.

On the other hand, in the niche I’m in, I’ll often get no more than $0.20 per click, because advertisers aren’t willing to pay that much to receive the traffic. Visitors who are looking for credit cards or car insurance can end up spending a lot of money so advertisers are willing to pay well to get targeted traffic in these industries.

To earn money with Adsense, you can think of traffic and your niche as like a see saw. You can have a lot of traffic that just generates a small amount of money per click, or you can tilt the other way and have less traffic but get paid a lot per click. In order to make $100 a day on a Myspace layouts site, for example, then you’re going to need a lot of traffic because the Adsense clicks from that audience are not going to pay out as much.

To make $100 in the car insurance niche you could probably do so with 1/10th of the traffic, because the clicks pay so much more money. Traffic is important, but it’s not everything. Either way, you’re going to need quite a lot of it, no matter what your niche is, in order to make a substantial Adsense income on a daily basis.

4. Large Rectangles & Horizontal Link Units Work Best

For years I’ve always heard that large rectangles are the best performing Adsense ad and I have to say that my own experience aligns with this perfectly. I’ve tested lots of different ad formats and not one gets as high a click through rate as this.

Of course, it’s also important to look at your site design and see where ads fit in best rather than following this advice blindly. It may be the case that you run a site where a large rectangle would not perform well as it would stand out too much from what you already have in place. In these cases, my second best performing ad type, horizontal link units, may work best.

When you set-up an Adsense ad you do have the option to say whether you want only text ads to show, image ads to show, or a mix of both. I’ve consistently found that text ads work best and I think this is simply because image ads look far more like ads. A lot of people unconsciously ignore them like I mentioned earlier.

Large rectangles for me work best when aligned in the top left hand corner of your content. This makes the ad look more like part of the site and this is where a visitors eye goes first so they’re more likely to click on it. The horizontal link units get more clicks when they either act as a second navigation bar or they’re in the middle of content where users are actually looking for links to something else.

An example of the latter could be a Rapidshare search engine, a blog that offers MP3 links, a free PDF resource, or anything that offers users downloads in some form. Note that my site is not in any of these industries (which I think are generally quite dirty) but does leave users looking for links in some form.

5. Be In the Content, Or Hide It

The reason I have never made that much money on Adsense over the years (until now) is because I like to build destination sites that I’m really proud of, rather than fleeting resources which don’t offer much to site visitors. I’ve found a good mix of the two lately (I’ve just purchased another site expected to make $350 per day consistently) so have learned a lot.

By being in the content I simply mean blending text ads with text such as having horizontal link units in the middle of the content or having a vertical banner down the right hand side of an article. This tends to work very well and it’s an approach that a lot of Adsense publishers use.

Another option, however, is to ‘hide’ your content so it looks like the Adsense ads are exactly what the user is looking for. I only came across this idea by browsing popular sites on Flippa and found that if you have no relevant content above the fold (before the user has to scroll down the page) then your Adsense ads are going to receive a lot of clicks.

This does border on being unethical but I’m all for helping you guys make more money online so I will say now that this works. It’s completely up to you whether you would want to implement such a strategy on your own website.

6. My Final Adsense Tips

I thought I would end this article with some small tips on making more money with Adsense that didn’t really need their own section but can be useful to know:

  • Use Adsense for feeds to make more money if you’re a blogger
  • You can use a maximum of 3 Adsense for content ads per page, 3 link units, and 2 search boxes
  • Putting images near ads will get them a lot more clicks but be careful not to put them too close and violate the Adsense TOS.
  • Don’t click on your own ads. Google aren’t stupid.
  • Horizontal Adsense banners in the footer of a site can work very well as if people have gotten to the bottom of your site, they’re generally looking for more information on something
  • Disclaimer: Please read the Adsense TOS before implementing anything you read here.

To me, building a site that makes most of its money with Adsense is simply a site to make money. There are many tools out there which are useful at times (Youtube converters, proxies so I can check search results in another country, etc) which monetise their sites via Adsense and still offer genuine value to users.

Most of the time, the sites that make money via Adsense have generally been built to simply make money via Adsense. In many cases I find that valuable sites which make money via Adsense can make a lot more money if you find a relevant affiliate offer to promote – which was the case with the site I purchased.

Generating an Income with Infolinks

In the same way that people pay to advertize their banners on your site, people also pay to have their link embedded in your articles.

Relying on blogging income from inline ad networks like Infolinks or text link sellers like Inlinks and Text Link Brokers is only a strategy I would recommend for blogs that don’t offer much value. In line text ads are probably one of the most annoying things online (picture below) and they would probably turn away most of the audience who comes to your site to read your content.

Before I talk more about this, I do want to say that Google look down on sites selling text links. I’m almost certain they’ve never said they will ban your site or lower your rankings, but your PR may drop and if links are clearly sold the “weight” they pass will be removed.

Example of Infolinks

I have a very old and deserted blog that I haven’t updated for two years which still makes around $250 per month thanks to Inlinks. The reason it makes this money is because the pages on the site have a high pagerank. Advertisers simply enter words that they want to buy anchor text links on and they are shown a snippet of text around that word and the pagerank of your page.

They do not get to see the actual domain until they purchase the link, which helps protect you from companies like Google finding out if you’re selling links. The whole system is automated – you simply install a WordPress plugin – and you can make a good recurring monthly income if you have a lot of pages with good pagerank.

Another way to sell text links on your site is to offer in-content, review, or sidebar links on Webmaster forums. This is similar to the suggestion I had for getting more advertising sales, but this time for selling links. A large forum like Digitalpoint, for example, has a whole forum dedicated to helping people buy and sell links.

The above is a screenshot of Text Link Ads where you can sign up (free) to automate the process of selling text links on your blog.

Usually it’s just an anchor-text link placed in the content of your older articles, but sometimes you are requested to make a minor change to add the text link. I personally have people contact me sometimes offering $80-$100 per year to include a link in an older article of mine.

Since I wrote two articles per week (around 100 a year), I have a lot of articles in the archives, and selling links in them is a great way to monetize old content. Since most of these older archived articles don’t get a lot of traffic, placing links in them to other sites is not going to offend my readers.

You could create an ‘Advertise’ page on your blog listing the available options advertisers would have with you, and then list text link ads as an option for the publisher. Another option to automate the process is a website previously mentioned, called Text Link Ads.

They allow you to create an account, list your blog and have advertisers find you and offer bids to place text links on our site. Often these links bring in a few dollars a month, but when you have hundreds of articles then you can make a nice amount from text links every month.