Make Your Web Site Pay: Google AdSense

If you run a popular, information-rich Web site or blog, you can earn money from the growing online advertising market. You don't even need to approach advertisers. Simply run pay-per-click ads provided by search engines such as Google and Yahoo on your Web site. You'll earn money every time a visitor clicks on an ad.

If you use the Google search engine, you've probably noticed the text ads that run along the right-hand side and sometimes across the top of your search results. These are placed by advertisers who participate in the Google AdWords pay-per-click program. Google AdSense lets you earn a share of that money by running those ads on your site. There's no guarantee that you'll actually attract clicks and get paid, but it costs nothing to sign up and try it out.

PPC vs. Affiliate Marketing

AdSense is a pay-per-click service, not an affiliate marketing network. While both PPC ads and affiliate marketing networks allow you to earn money from your Web site, there are some significant differences in how they work.

Affiliates typically earn money only when a visitor referred from their site purchases the advertiser's product. (I discussed affiliate marketing in an August column.) But Web publishers can earn money from PPC ads when a visitor simply clicks on an ad. No purchase is necessary.

To maximize affiliate earnings, you must carefully match the interests of your site's visitors with the products and services that you advertise. That can be relatively easy if you manage a tightly focused site. But if your site discusses different topics on different pages, it can be time-consuming to find the most appropriate products to advertise for each topic.

AdSense automates that content-product matching process. Google crawls your site to examine your pages, using content analysis technology to find appropriate ads. The technology is similar to that used by Google's search engine. Most of the time, the process works well and serves up relevant ads.

AdSense Basics

To use AdSense, you start by signing up for an account at no cost. You then insert Google-supplied advertising code into your Web pages.

AdSense supports a number of ad formats that should suit virtually any page layout in your Web site or blog. You can adjust the color of the text and background, if you like. In addition, you can run up to three ad units per page.

Initially, you may see public service announcements displayed on your site. These PSAs earn no click-through money. Google says that in most cases relevant ads will display within 72 hours.

AdSense Limitations

The automatic ad matching process doesn't always work as smoothly as one would like. When I first put AdSense on one site a couple of years ago, the ads it served were rather generic. This resulted in a low click-through rate and poor earnings. I decided to position the ads closer to the site content. Almost immediately, I noticed that the ads changed, becoming more relevant, and my earnings soared.

Google won't accept every Web site. It won't, for example, place ads on sites with pornographic, gambling, and other controversial content.

Earning Money From AdSense

The amount of money that you earn from AdSense depends upon several factors, including the number of visitors to your Web site or blog and the nature of your content. Some content is more popular with advertisers, who will pay more for ad clicks. Google doesn't disclose how it splits the money it earns from advertisers with the publishers on AdSense. Google accumulates your monthly earnings and pays out after the balance exceeds $100.

I'm generally pleased with my earnings from AdSense. However, I know other Web publishers who don't believe it was worth the effort needed to enter the ad code. You risk only the investment of your time, however, so I recommend trying out AdSense to see if it earns money for you.

Richard Morochove is an IT consultant and writer. Send him questions about using technology in your small to mid-sized business via e-mail. PC World may edit your query and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. Sign up to have the Business Solutions newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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