I’ve invited Keith Cooper of Northlight Images as my guest blogger this week; he’s an experienced AdSense advertiser, but his real job is as a successful commercial photographer.

So, you’ve got a site or blog which people visit. How about just putting a few adverts on that site and watch the cash just roll in?

A lot of people notice the Google AdSense ads on other peoples’ sites and wonder how the scheme could work for them?

Well, Google make it pretty easy to sign up for the AdSense program and get the code to place on your site. They offer help in setting up the code, and as someone who avoids web code wherever possible, I found initial ad placement simple and pretty risk free. Any competent web designer should be able to add web code to your pages very easily.

You can go through some simple wizards and quickly get a small chunk of code that goes in your page. When the page is viewed, Google serves up adverts based on what their AdSense web crawler thinks your page is about. The nice thing is that you don’t have to set anything or deal with advertisers, Google just puts the money into your account.

If it’s that simple then why don’t more people do it?

First of all you have to get Google to accept your web site. They don’t like sites with very few pages or ones associated with any less reputable parts of the web. They like to see a site with reasonable traffic levels, so 2-3 visitors a day isn’t going to cut it… They also like original content.

None of those hurdles should be too high if you’ve got a reasonable site, so you place your ads and start checking your AdSense reports to see how well you are doing.

This is the place where a lot of people stop, and feel quite happy to make a few dollars a week, and maybe cover their hosting costs (a reasonable first target)

Even more money

Look carefully at the range of ad sizes that you see from Google. The ads come in a variety of shapes and sizes which fit on your page in different ways (depending on what’s already there)

Different ad sizes work better on different pages, and what’s more, the same ad blocks work better on different parts of the page.

Google offer quite a lot of resources to help you here. The picture below (from Google) shows the relative effectiveness of ads on different parts of the page (darker colours better)

People are bombarded with adverts and you are looking to counter ‘ad blindness’ where people just don’t even see your ads.

You need to experiment with different ad placements and see how they perform. This is where the comprehensive reports that Google supplies will be of great help.

By making use of ‘channels’ you can monitor individual ad block performance (or ‘ad units’ as Google calls them). You are looking for the click through rate (CTR). Don’t be disappointed when you see rates less than 1% – most visitors don’t click on adverts.

The amount of money you will get depends on the number of clicks you get and what Google happens to be paying at the time. The rate varies considerably by page, since ads are placed through a bidding process, by advertisers using the Adwords scheme.

Remember too that the content on some pages just won’t get many people clicking on ads.

My own best results come from my reviews of photographic and colour management equipment. These are pages people will often look at when actively looking to buy a product. CTRs on my own site vary between 0.3% and over 10% for some very specific information pages. Some of the specialist pages also tend to get better paying ads. Google doesn’t like you to discuss details of it’s payments and stats, but it’s well known that some (not that many) advertisers will pay several dollars a click.

Still more money

Let’s say you’ve got a successful site with lots of visitors and are making a modest sum in revenue (maybe enough to buy a modest second hand car each year).

You’ve experimented with ad placement and your figures have been creeping up.

You’ve been adding new content to your site to bring in more visitors and their ad clicks.

What’s left to do?

Well here’s a coding tip that recently increased my daily revenue by over 20%

You’ll remember from the picture above that ads in different places on a page get different click through rates? On my site this typically varies on any one page from 0.2% to 3%. It so happens that Google puts it’s best performing (and paying) adverts in the place specified by the piece of ad code (javascript) that appear first in the code for your page.

Looking at the code for my page I saw that the best paying ads were going into an ad unit with a 0.3% CTR. A few relatively basic coding changes kept my successful ad layout and put the best paying ads into the 3% CTR ad unit. I’ve been looking at the stats for about a month and it seems that the overall earnings of the site are some 25% up. As with all statistical analysis it pays to work with larger sets of data so I’ll reserve judgement of the actual figures for a few months.

One other area I’m looking at is geo-targeting of adverts. I’m a UK professional photographer and one of the purposes of the Northlight Images web site is to get me new commercial photography work. Since I’ve put considerable effort into optimising the pages to be found by people looking for a photographer, I get a lot of visitors from overseas. Google targets the adverts, so that what you see visiting my site varies depending on where you are coming from.

Why not put adverts on the commercial pages? Well mainly, I’ve no intention of advertising other UK photographers. However I’ve been working on a simple system that enables me to provide Google ads to overseas visitors and content of my choosing to UK visitors (say an image of mine, that occupies the ad space)

It’s till experimental but potentially allows me to utilise the success of my SEO activities for advertising revenue, without potentially affecting my main business.

I’m a commercial photographer… not a web developer!

Article ©2008 Keith Cooper, Northlight Images Tel +44 116 291 9092


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