My Monthly Adsense Report: January 2012

Google-Adsense 2

Image by @FerramentasBlog

Welcome to my very first monthly Adsense earnings report!

In this post I’m going to share with you exactly how much money each of my websites made last month in Adsense revenue, along with the lessons I learned and my plans for next month to grow my income.

Now, you’re probably wondering why someone would want to expose themselves, with their naked bits flashing everywhere, by revealing publicly how much money they’re making.

Good wondering! I have a few reasons for discussing my Adsense earnings – in detail – on this blog:

  • I can share what I’m learning publicly. This will hopefully allow other people to learn along with me. One of the great joys of running a blog is the interaction with like-minded people – people who share a similar mindset and goals.

What about competition? Well, I’m not going to reveal the URLs of my sites, so direct competition shouldn’t be an issue. And I believe there’s so much opportunity in building and monetizing niche sites that I’m not too worried about getting muscled out of my niches by other IMers.

  • Writing allows me to learn more. To be honest, the way I’ve tallied my monthly earnings up til now has consisted of a quick glance at my Adsense and Clickbank accounts. Not exactly rigorous analysis! I expect that writing these earnings posts will force me to dig deeper into WHY my revenue is happening, instead of just WHAT is happening. Understanding “why” is critical to good decision-making.
  • Public commitment leads to action. As Robert Cialdini outlines in his book on the principles of persuasion, when a person makes a public commitment, they’re more likely to take action to fulfil that commitment – because they don’t want to be seen as inconsistent. That’s why I’ve publicly stated my Adsense goal ($10k per month in Adsense earnings), and why I’m reporting on progress here on the blog.

So let’s get into the details…

Adsense Earnings for January 2012

In January I made $1,038.66 in Adsense revenue.

Although I’m pretty happy with that, it’s well below what I was making last year when my sites were earning up to $2,500 in Adsense, before my traffic nosedived from Google’s Panda update.

Here’s a table showing the breakdown in Adsense earnings per site:

A few observations on this breakdown:

  • A few sites made up the bulk of my earnings. It would be nice to have a portfolio of sites that are earning according to a bell curve (in other words, a few sites that are home runs, a few that are losers, and the rest making moderate income), but I have one site that’s making good money ($591.59), another that’s decent ($239.33), and a whole lot of others that are just “okay”.

The result is a distribution of income that’s way out of whack:

There are a couple of things I can do to increase my overall earnings, and I talk about those in the last section of this post.

  • Clickthrough rate varied widely from site to site. Unfortunately, I can’t show you the exact CTR (because that goes against Google’s terms of service for the Adsense program). But I can tell you that a couple of websites with high traffic had CTRs that were a fraction of my top two earning sites.

So the problem with some of my low earning sites is not the amount of traffic or the cost-per-click. It was the clickthrough rate on the ads.

My goal in coming months will be to try to increase that CTR, while still providing a good user experience for my sites’ visitors (i.e. without making them look “spammy”).  

  • Some sites didn’t make any money at all. Lest you think I’m a super Adsense genius, I want to point out that 22 of my sites didn’t make any Adsense revenue at all last month! You don’t see them in the table above because I didn’t include them there.

Why didn’t I include those sites in the table? Because none of those sites received over 100 pageviews in the past month. In other words: they had hardly any traffic! So those sites are duds because they’re not getting traffic. With more visits I KNOW the clicks would start happening.

Here’s the lesson from this point: if you’re just starting out, don’t worry about conversions (i.e. clicks on ads, or affiliate sales) first. Worry about getting more traffic!

If you only have a few visitors straggling onto your site each day, you should take that as encouragement (because it’s better than zero visitors), but focus your mind on what you need to do to get more visitors to your site. Or, if you’ve done backlinking and other SEO techniques on a site for months and still aren’t seeing visitors, consider shelving that site and starting a new one. But this time, make sure to do good keyword research, because that’s your biggest obstacle to launching a site that gets ranked in the search engines quickly.

Analyzing the results from last month has been a great learning experience, and has influenced what I’ll be doing in February to increase my Adsense earnings.

Plans to Increase My Adsense Earnings in February

Here’s what I plan to do to try to increase my Adsense earnings this month:

  • Regularly add content to my “money” sites. This might seem obvious, but I’ve noticed that when Google likes a site, it tends to index new content quickly and rank it highly.

An example: on my largest health site I regularly post small (100-200 word) summaries of new medical research that I don’t even do keyword research for, and those small snippets of content regularly get traffic, because Google has ranked them for long-tail keywords. It’s not a huge amount of traffic, mind you, but it all adds up.

So this month I plan to start regularly adding new, original articles to my top money sites.

  • Launch 13 new niche sites. I’ve already done the keyword research using Long Tail Pro to launch these sites, many of which are in the “cholesterol” niche.

I was actually hoping that my VA (virtual assistant) would get this done earlier in January, but I’ve just started implementing a process for launching niche sites in batches (including step-by-step checklists with video walkthroughs), and we’re still working out the bugs.

And in doing the keyword research for these new sites I made a MAJOR mistake that I won’t be repeating – I only researched the primary keyword for each site, not the primary AND secondary keywords!

What that means is I only have one low-competition keyword for each site, even though I need to launch each site with at least 4 articles on it.

Lesson learned for next month: find at least 4 low-competition keywords for each new site!

  • Test out the “eHow.com” web page layout. One of the things I love most about owning websites is the opportunity to run experiments, and then quickly see the results. Over the coming months I’m going to be testing out different page layouts on my Adsense sites, by changing where the ad blocks are placed on my sites’ pages.

Once I have enough pageviews from one experiment, I’m going to change the layout so the ads are placed in different positions on the page – and see how that affects the clickthrough rate.

The idea behind this experiment is to (a) test the layouts of popular sites that rely heavily on advertising revenue (under the assumption that they must know what they’re doing) and (b) test layouts that are proven winners according to experts, e.g. the Adsense layouts in the Ultimate Heatmap.

This month, I’m testing the ad placement used on eHow.com. Here’s a sample page from eHow.com to show you what I’m talking about (note the three ad blocks that I’ve put a red border around. That’s the placement layout I’ll be testing this month):

  • Ignore the sites that will take a lot of work. Like a lot of other people in this business, I’ve been guilty of committing one of the “cardinal sins” of internet marketing newbies: continuing to pour effort into a site that just won’t rank. I won’t be doing that with the sites in my portfolio that are duds.

What do I mean by “duds”? Sites that target keywords that are just too hard to rank for. Despite being the self-proclaimed “Keywords Blogger”, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always nail the best keywords, and sometimes make dumb mistakes (like the point above about not finding good secondary keywords for new niche sites. D’oh!)

Wrapping Up  

It’s commonly understood among internet marketers that you can’t make a good income from Adsense. To that I say: poppycock! Just look at sites like eHow, Huffington Post, and Livestrong. The revenue model for those (and many more “brand” sites) is based largely on advertising revenue.

January 2012 marks the first month of my Adsense Challenge. In the next twelve months I’m going to be launching new niche sites, trying to get them ranked high in the search engines, analyzing the results of tests, and learning from mistakes. And I’ll be posting what I’m learning right here on the blog.

What questions do YOU have about earning a living from Adsense?   

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for sharing. I made $676 from my Adsense sites in January and like you I have a couple of great performers, a couple of ok ones, and then some stinkers.

    With the duds do you think it’s worth doing anything with them or will you just let the domains expire? It seems a shame I suppose it’s good to have a clear-out and not have to pay for the renewals.

    • Moe says

      Hi Adem,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

      One thing I’m considering doing with the duds is packaging them up with 1-2 good sites and selling them on Flippa. So in one auction I might sell a package of 6-8 sites: one site has good rankings and earnings, another 1-2 sites are earning a few bucks, and the rest aren’t earning anything and need work. That’s a strategy recommended by the guys over at AdsenseFlippers, and they seem to do pretty well by it.

      I’ll probably give that a try in month or two.

      Moe

  2. says

    Great post!

    You mentioned the cardinal sin of putting too much effort into a site that won’t rank. What is the test for not ranking? Hitting a certain # in Google within a specific amount of time?
    It seems that a site could get hundreds of page views and still not have a respectable Google ranking. What is your criterion?

    Randy

    • Moe says

      Hi Randy – great questions.

      I don’t have a “hard and fast” rule for determining if a site’s a dud (and would love to hear other people’s criteria), but generally if I can’t get a site on the first page of Google after three months of linkbuilding, I’ll stop the linkbuilding and just leave that site alone. Then I’ll keep an eye on the site for a few months and see if there’s any movement.

      Regarding pageviews, if a site is getting hundreds of pageviews a month, it must be ranking well (i.e. be on the first page of Google) for at least one keyword. Some of my sites rank for hundreds of keywords, and the low-ranking keywords – for example, the ones that are on page 5 – get no traffic whatsoever. It’s only keywords on the first page of Google, or at worst the second page, that get any clicks.

      Moe

  3. says

    Hey Moe,

    I think that is a great idea to model after some of the bigger sites that rely on ad revenue for income. I’m sure they do a lot of testing to determine which ad zones on their sites generates the best CTRs for their ads.

    Also would like to know your back linking strategy for your niche sites. I know everyone’s link building strategy is different. But would be cool to know the sites or services you use to help build your rank up in the SERPs.

    • Moe says

      Hi Samuel – yep, you would think the bigger sites know what they’re doing. But I can tell you that my first week using the eHow.com layout has resulted in lower CTRs! Let’s see what the rest of the month brings…

      Regarding my backlinking strategy, I’m putting together some thoughts for an “off-page SEO” post. Stay tuned for that one!

      Moe

  4. says

    Hi Moe
    You’ve done it again……
    “Now, you’re probably wondering why someone would want to expose themselves, with their naked bits flashing everywhere, by revealing publicly how much money they’re making”
    OMG! and an image of a raincoat man to go with it! – Love your terminology!!! (LOL)
    Read with interest your Adsense test……………………..
    “Some sites didn’t make any money at all
    Lest you think I’m a super Adsense genius, I want to point out that 22 of my sites didn’t make any Adsense revenue at all last month!”…………they had hardly any traffic!
    Doesn’t this confirm that the only real way of making money from Adsense is to have multiple sites, testing, then dropping the non-performing sites like a red-hot potato?
    …………. Assuming of course that you have done your keyword research and optimized your web page for SEO with long-tail keywords as well as main keywords. (LOL)
    Looking forward to your backlinking info next time
    regards
    Graham in UK

    • Moe says

      Graham, I’m glad someone appreciates my bad sense of humour! (That usually involves references to nudity…)

      “Doesn’t this confirm that the only real way of making money from Adsense is to have multiple sites, testing, then dropping the non-performing sites like a red-hot potato?”

      Absolutely. I think you’ve summed up the formula for building a full-time income from Adsense:

      Good keyword research -> Good content -> Proper SEO -> Many websites -> Testing -> Dropping the losers, building on winners

      Moe

    • Moe says

      Very interesting – a dental clinic directory for Romania.

      Mike, I would put Adsense on your site as soon as it’s indexed by Google (but not before, as it might flag your site as a “Made for Adsense” site). If you have pages that are showing up in Google and you’re getting traffic from searches, I’d put the Adsense on now.

      Moe

  5. says

    Moe, I am looking forward to your work because I am doing essentially the same thing, even down to the point of starting outsourcing. I am curious about how you are going to be handling some issues. Like these.
    1) You say elsewhere on your site that you have Thesis and Socrates as themes. You are going to be playing with Adsense ad locations on your themes. I have both those themes. Thesis is extremely robust but probably overkill for a quick-and-dirty Adsense site. Socrates has some prebuilt ad locations but is not unlimited as to where you can put ads, so you may not be able to test everything you like in Ultimate Heatmap. (BTW, Heatmap Theme by Stuart Wider is far more flexible in switching out ad locations). So, using those two themes, how is it that you are going to get the flexibility to test all possible ad locations?
    2) Outsourcing of the themes (cost versus benefit). Even using Philippine outsources, the hard cost of creating an Adsense site is around $100.00. If the site is a $100/mo earner, you make money after the first month, breakeven until then. But if you have a bunch of dud sites, you have spent $100/site and are not receiving that much back, meaning that you are losing money.

    • Moe says

      Hi Jim,

      I’m glad someone else is following the same path. Are you posting about your progress on a blog? If so, please share the URL.

      Answers to your questions:

      1) “So, using those two themes, how is it that you are going to get the flexibility to test all possible ad locations?”

      My VA is manually changing the CSS on Socrates. She’s already changed my sites’ layout so they look like eHow.com, and I’ll be running that layout for the next month to see how it affects CTR.

      Having said that, I’ve heard about Heatmap theme before, and will check it out.

      2) “But if you have a bunch of dud sites, you have spent $100/site and are not receiving that much back, meaning that you are losing money.”

      You’re right that the cost to produce a site is ~$100 per site (it’s probably a little less for me, because I have a pretty efficient system going with my outsourced team. I haven’t determined the exact cost of initial linkbuilding, but hope to nail that down within the next month).

      The key is obviously to minimize the number of dud sites, through good keyword research. This takes time – it’s not realistic to develop an intuitive feel for what a good keyword is without some practice and initial failure. I’m hoping that after a few months of doing this I’ll be able to minimize the amount of dud keywords each month.

      Keep in mind, also, that low-performing sites can be bundled with better performing ones and sold on Flippa for between 10 and 20 months’ earnings.

      Moe

  6. Justin says

    Thanks Moe for the helpful post.

    This kind of case study/tell-all format feels a lot more interesting to read (and reality-based) than a top-10 list (which seems like the most common post format these days).

    Look forward to seeing how your challenge progresses.

  7. David says

    You have so many sites ? My questions is :
    (1) How do you get the ideas for those sites ?
    (2) How do you keep those sites fresh with new and updated articles from time to time?

    Thks and hoping for your reply.

    • Moe says

      Hi David – thanks for your questions. Here are my answers:

      (1) How do you get the ideas for those sites ?

      I have a target audience that I focus on (overweight, middle-aged males). That makes it easy to brainstorm ideas/keywords for my sites. Check out this article to learn how to find a target audience: Find Your Audience: How to Identify a Niche Audience to Serve.

      (2) How do you keep those sites fresh with new and updated articles from time to time?

      I look at my Google Analytics once a month, and see what keywords led people to my sites. Then I do competition research to shortlist those keywords (i.e. to choose the keywords with the best combination of low competition and high search volume). Then I give the keywords to my outsourced team. They write the articles and post them on my sites.

      Moe

  8. Ade says

    Hi Moe,

    Good job on your earnings. Its good to see that you DO admit that you have a bunch of sites that didnt ake any money. Many ‘goo-roos’ would gladly talk about only those that made money.

    I am starting on this journey myself, setting up sites that will be monetized with Adsense, with a view to attaining a monthly income and also the chance of flipping them in batches for lump sums. I have studied Spencer @ Niche Pursuits, Justin and Joe @ AdsenseFlippers, and I kinda have the process down.

    I still get stuck getting the initial seed keywords though. I wonder if you have any tips on seed keywords.

    Thanks.

    P.S- Testing out ad layouts similar to those authority sites is a very interesting experiment that I will be following keenly to see the resuts.

    Thanks again.

    Cheers.

  9. says

    Great article, thanks for sharing the details. I see that the 80/20 rule is definitely in effect with your sites’ earnings! My own Adsense sites are the same – a few sites generate most of the revenue.

    BTW I’ve noticed that you always have high quality comments on your posts. So many other blogs have “Hey, cool post.” type of comments just to get a backlink… but you obviously have intelligent readers!

  10. says

    Thanks for sharing yoru online adsense journey. I started working on adsense over a year ago and then started doing amazon affiliate income for awhile until i found something that was working better for me and now I am focusing on that more… Well, I have come full circle and have decided to refocus my efforts on building my adsense back up to a fulltime income. Right now, I average about $80 a month in adsense. I would love to be at least doing $100 a day for starters. I will be following your blog closely.

    Rather than start from scratch, I plan to start back posting content rich articles on a beauty site I have as well as a consumer info site that I have hoping that I will be able to achieve that goal with those sites alone rather that starting a new site from scratch right now.

    • Moe says

      Keep plugging away, Dee. I know it’s hard to see it sometimes, but persistence is the only way to make it in this business.

      And do let us know how you’re doing toward your $100/day goal.

      Moe

  11. says

    Thanks Moe, I will certainly do that. I am going to start today expanding my beauty blog in a health and wellness info site as well. I do know there are some high paying keywords in both the beauty and wellness niche. My domain has a little over a year age on it as well and I have a consumer blog that I have not posted on for along time that do have alot of age and I think I can do well if i put some focused effort in them.

    Thanks again. Just reading your post has renewed my motivation. Right now I am using a direct sales company and doing really well just selling online throught SE marketing at 45% commission. I dont wont all my eggs in one basket so I really want to get my adsense income going to fill the gap to help me reach my online earning goals.

  12. says

    Impressive. $1000 from Adsense is definitely my goal. Do you mind sharing more about your #1? How many articles do you have one it? What is the Exact Monthly Search Volume for your main keyword?

    Definitely, this is a good goal to target, to build a few Authority Adsense sites making couple hundreds a month.

    Way to go and love to catch up with your monthly report this year. Very inspiring and motivating. Thanks!

    • Moe Muise says

      Hi Kent,

      Thanks for leaving a comment! My #1 site has ~100 pages of content on it. But that’s not why it makes good Adsense income. The main reason is that the site targets a bunch of keywords that have low competition but decent search volume. When I say “decent” search volume, I don’t mean a lot – my top keyword maybe gets 1,500 exact-match searches per month. The key is to target a lot of those types of keywords, and keep adding content to your site.

      Good luck in achieving your $1,000 goal!

      Moe

  13. says

    Loved your article, really inspiring. I”m just getting started with Adsense, and I’m planning on doing a couple of niche authority sites and monetizing with Adsense. I have to ask, though, there’s a lot of talk on the marketing forums about G banning Adsense accounts left and right for no reason, etc., and de-indexing… lots of scary stuff. Do you diversify your online income streams? I haven’t looked around at your site much, but I’m assuming you do. Will you monetize your niche Adsense sites another way if something happens with Adsense? I’m curious because all the negativity out there makes me scared to try out this business model without a backup plan. Thanks.

    • Moe Muise says

      Hi Nell,

      Thanks for dropping by! Your comment is timely, as I’ve had others ask this very question. I do recommend diversifying, and will soon be publishing a post on online business models and how my income is diversified across a few models.

      Moe

  14. says

    Thanks for publishing something like this. It really charged me up to do more with the adsense. God bless. Still waiting for a new post on google adsense, progress and experiences.

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