The Adsense Ante-Up is a Dear Blogger series on how to make more money with Adsense which launched in December, 2013. This is the 3rd post in the series.
Now that I’ve been reaping the benefits of a successful Adsense case study for a few months, I figured I’d write this post explaining exactly what happened.
The study basically went off the radar mid-2014. Numbers dropped. Numbers soared. My Adsense account was a total mess for a while and it’s probably a stretch to even call this a case study.
However through it all I’m confident you can use the strategies in this post to tailor your blog to cash at least 1 paycheck per month as an Adsense publisher, and in much less time than it took me.
Note: I’ve got a screenshot below of my $100+ months, but the main point is to get you to $100, $200, $1000 dollar months etc. So fill us in. Share you success stories or roadblocks in the comments!
Case-err-study: a quick background
My reasoning for launching the Ante-up was simple. I knew of a few big names (still) making ridiculous money (thousands per month) from Adsense. I knew several readers from our community were close to making a living from Adsense.
I wanted to see if we could make that kinda money too.
An obvious by product of success would be simply making more money, but I hoped the collected pool of us making checks from Google would be the truly spectacular part.
Starting my efforts, I decided to put one large 336×280 pixel ad unit on honestcollege.com, our sister site geared towards a college audience, and see if this worked. After reading all your comments I also added one 468×60 pixel ad unit in the middle of each post.
There’s some devil in the details though so I’ll go over that, before explaining exactly what worked the best.
How I placed the ads
Ad placement got a little tricky, because instead of just copy-pasting ad code in posts, I made up my mind to edit my single.php file in a couple places, and in places I wasn’t quite comfortable editing yet (Note: messing up your single.php file, or equivalent, can mess up every post). After some help from the Theme Junkie forum I got the ads up and running.
Immediately clicks started increasing.
The confusing round 2 update
About three months in I published an update post. The round 2 update wasn’t ever quite complete though, and that’s one major reason I’m writing this. We had noticeable improvements in clicks on these two ads units on honestcollege.com, but they only brought earnings up to about $60/month. As you might know, Google sets the minimum payment threshold for Adsense at $100 estimated earnings.
So while I did get 1-2 paychecks over the course of about 7 months our goal was not close to met…yet.
As 2014 progressed we faced a couple major setbacks which basically made me unable to update folks on our Ante-up progress (seriously apologies). I was unable because sheer lack of progress 🙁
The most notable setbacks included me leaving a content job for the government and then there was when all my sites were hacked. I received several emails asking for strategies on how to places ads on blogs to maximize conversions, and was able to answer a chunk of them on YouTube. Sadly, the strategy side of things was lacking.
Things progressed pretty uneventfully until a fateful Skype I had with Lorraine Reguly around mid August.
Things are brightening up
Don’t they always in blogging, with enough time and patience?
Lorraine had started placing ads around her relatively new WordPress blog, Wording Well, and was seeing awesome results. I can’t remember exact numbers, but her dollar count was rising steadily. So what was her strategy? Ya know, sometimes when you are stuck you just need someone to help you see a problem not from what you can’t do, but what you can do. The main strategy we concluded would be making sure our most popular posts had ads on them.
This included Dear Blogger posts, something I vowed never to do on day 1. More on this at the end.
How I reached $100 per month and how you can too
Now I’d like to get into the meat and potatoes of the post and explain what I started doing in the fourth quarter of 2014 to finally reach the Ante-up goal of 1 paycheck per month.
I’ll filter the below into what mattered in order to increase Adsense earnings and what didn’t matter.
I’ll also put what helped me the most first, but remember that strategies on your blog may vary.
Using this retrospection will I hope help you take quick bullets away and use these strategies on your own blogs.
For me, these were the important factors
Optimize Ad location (which posts, and popular posts)
Making sure my most popular posts, like my list of places to blog, had attractive looking ads was the single most important factor in earning more with Adsense. These posts bring in highly relevant ads and lots of clicks as new visitors enter through Google each day and find the adverts appealing.
Optimize Ad location (in specific blog locations, like your sidebar)
Making sure you have an ad in the top left corner of each blog post is a pretty big deal. This ad is above the fold so it gets views often even when it doesn’t get clicks. However, it becomes relevant due to surrounding keywords in your title and headlines so it often does get the click. Further, having an ad here lets you not need to choose or purchase a top-of-the-post image, something many bloggers find a headache these days.
Track performance on the Adsense app
Google only lets publishers (like myself) display earnings publicly in blog posts like this one I’m writing. However, you can download the app to track every useful stat in real time from your iPhone. I particularly find the number of clicks and the cost-per-click to be the most useful stats, but it’s got it all, and even lets you see which ad units are pulling the most weight.
Plus it’s just another mindless distraction when you’re out with pals 🙂
Maintain a regular content schedule
Posting regular content is immensely important to increase the amount of cash your bring in from Adsense over time. Yes, you can rely on posts that do extremely well in Google to get X amount of dollars, but your blog as a whole will perform better if you are publishing often and getting Google’s attention. For example, your ad in the sidebar or the header performs for views on any post. There are countless positive results for maintaining a healthy posting schedule.
Always publish Google friendly blog posts
Speaking of getting Google’s attention, you should spend a few minutes before or after writing a post to make sure the right keywords are in the right places. This is the kind of best practice that will put you in the thousands of dollars several years from now, or keep you way under. Daniel and Erin are two bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with before who craft really beautiful posts for Google’s eyes and the average reader, and believe me when I say it adds up.
Just pull up the free Keyword Tool from adwords and see if you can’t predict what people are looking for in Google.
These factors didn’t matter, or hurt my performance
There we also several worser strategies I tried which were either neutral or negative so I’ll mention those here for you so you don’t fall into the same potholes.
Firstly, creating different ad units for each post was neutral for me because it didn’t earn more than just hard-coding one ad unit into my single.php file. It was actually negative because there become too many ads to keep track off. Placing more than 1 ad in a post was negative – it annoyed and confused loyal readers – and it become even more negative when ads were competing with images.
Above all, I realized that just following Google’s guidelines and using simple strategies is enough. Google really don’t mind pay you and I hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars over time, as long as we’re providing a good content experience for everyone involved.
Finally closing a case study that took 1 year to complete is certainly a good feeling. And speaking of good feelings, earning a paycheck is one you’ll want to.
Working day in and day out on your blog means you deserve to earn money from ads, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to make a few hundred (or…more?) once your traffic gets going.
So, tell me. Are you earning through Adsense? What do you think you could be doing better at? If you could increase just one factor in your overall Adsense performace, what would that be?
I’d love to hear from you in this comments area and make a big finale to the Ante-Up series. Adsense isn’t going anywhere, and this can create a lasting resource for bloggers over time. Who knows, maybe one of us will be taking the next ridiculous Adsense photo? 🙂