January 27, 2009

Adsense Case Study

$100 per day from Adsense after 3 months from 1 blog

That's the challenge Steve Crooks set himself in the linked thread at www.warriorforum.com right at the end of December. He's obviously experienced in building this sort of site, so there's lots to learn for newbies. However, the thread itself has grown quite unwieldy, so I thought I'd extract out some the best bits and summarize them here. This should also serve to explain why I have the corresponding blog 100buckschallenge.com that Steve set up for this challenge on my blogroll.

You'll recall that Adsense is Google's PPC advertising program (otherwise see this post). Typical Adsense earnings are $20/month, so how is Steve going to go about raising that figure to $100/day!? There are three components to the equation:
  1. 2000 unique visitors per day
  2. 10% of whom click an ad (i.e., 10% click-through-rate or CTR)
  3. $0.50 per click paid by Adsense.
These are not unreasonable goals, but the 2000 uniques per day is challenging to achieve from free search engine traffic in just 3 months. However, even if it took you 6 or 12 months to build such a site, a steady $3000/month thereafter with only maintenance level SEO (search engine optimization) is certainly a worth pursuing.

So what's the first step? Finding a niche that can support that level of interest, i.e., some substantial multiple of 2000 searches per day on Google, and that has low enough competition so that a new site has a chance of capturing those 2000 visitors. What sort of multiple are we talking about? Well that depends on your search engine results page (SERP) ranking. The figures break down like this:
  • SERP 1, position 1: 45% of all clicks
  • SERP 1, position 2: 12% of all clicks
  • SERP 1, position 3: 8% of all clicks
  • SERP 1, positions 4-10: 6% dropping to 3% of all clicks
  • SERP 2, as a whole: less than 5% of all clicks
  • SERP 3+: you might as well be invisible
So if competition is low enough for you to achieve SERP 1, position 1 with a brand new site in 3 months then the niche only needs 4500 searches per day or 135,000 searches per month. If you can't claw your way above the middle of SERP 1, then you'll need a niche with a search volume closer to 40,000 searches per day or 1.2 million searches per month.

The second step is finding a niche where Adwords advertisers are paying some substantial multiple of $0.50 per click (you only get a percentage of what advertisers pay, and it is practically a state secret what percentage you get). You're looking for good support at the $2 per click level.

Steve chose the European Cruises for the following reasons (quoting from his post):
1. It has a CPC of $6.51 associated with it.
2. It has approximately 6600 searches per month.
3. The search volume is reasonably consistent through the year.
4. The competition is 181,000 in google.
5. I can create content for this niche.
You might notice something amiss there given our search volume requirement calculations above. 6600 searches per month isn't going to provide Steve with 2000 uniques per day. And indeed he was later called on this in the thread. Steve admitted that he'd miscalculated. The solution? Instead of 70 articles (of 500-700 words each) on the blog, the new target is 300 targeting a galaxy of keyphrases around "European Cruises." 300 is a lot of articles. Steve is now budgeting $300 to outsource some of the content creation.

Right here is one of the problems for newbies. You're not going to invest hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours in a scheme that you're not sure is going to work. That's what makes this case study so interesting. No matter what he achieves, it will give a good idea of what someone who is reasonably competent can actually achieve, and from there, plans can be made.

Okay, on to some of the details. There's some discussion over how important the domain name is. The general consensus is to go for a .com, even though the namespace is crowed. You want your keywords (e.g., european and cruises) in the domain name. In the proper order is preferred. If you can't get your keyphrase, try adding small words (e.g., myeuropeancruises.com, europeancruisesforyou.com). Use Wordpress. Use a fairly bland theme (in the end, you want the ads to stand out). Use the All in One SEO Pack plug-in for Wordpress. Do use article categories. Don't put the ads up until your traffic is reasonable (e.g., 100 uniques per day). When you do, place the ads in banners above and below each post and on the sidebar.

Now it's time to write the articles. You should think of each article as a traffic attractor. Each article will target a specific subset of the keyphrase galaxy. Ideally, each article will become SERP 1, position 1 for at least one of its target keyphrase subset, but of course your success will vary depending on your competitors. The nice thing about a 300 article site is that you are sure to achieve this for some articles, but it is also important to keep up the average traffic per article. You're hoping at least a few go viral (e.g., front page of digg.com, permanent link from a mainstream media site), not for the traffic surge, but for the residual. It is crucial to spend time on the keyphrase research. You are not the first to write about this, so check existing forums on the topic, Yahoo answers (what do clueless people ask about your topic?), and article directories for ideas.

Once you have articles in hand, about 40% of the battle is over. But now you need to get quality backlinks to each and every article. How to do that? Welcome to the world of SEO. Basically the answer is: however you can. Social bookmarking is all the rage (digg.com, mixx.com, reddit.com, stumbleupon.com, etc, etc). Just be careful you don't only bookmark your own sites or you will be labeled a self promoter (the shame!) and possibly banned. Writing guest posts (with embedded backlinks) for established sites. Links from older sites can help a lot. Link exchange with established sites (find out their email from the whois page and email them with an offer they can't resist). These are some of Steve's suggestions. However SEO is a large topic, and this post is already too long, so I'll go into more detail about getting backlinks in future posts.

Steve's challenge is a long way from over. By day 24, the basic site was up and he was getting about 75 uniques daily. Can he build it to 2000 uniques by day 90? I'll certainly be following along, and I'll let you know if I see anything interesting. If you're eager for more info, you can check out Steve's challenge blog. He's even put up a forum so that you can ask him detailed questions. This is a great opportunity to basically get free coaching in this area, so go ahead and take advantage of it!


  1. This is actually a pretty interesting experiment, and I think I'll follow along as well to see if he can pull it off.
    By the way, this post was pretty informative all in itself! ;)

  2. Thanks for a great post. 2000 unique visitors a day in 90 days is quite the goal. I look forward to finding out if he can do it.

  3. @FD - Thanks FD. These case studies from experienced people are just gold. One criticism has been that relying soley on Adsense is putting all your eggs in one basket. I think this is a valid criticism, but once you have the 2000 uniques per day, you've got a lot of monetization options. Adsense is nice, not because of huge payouts, but because it has a big advertizer pool that will keep the money flowing steadily your way, year after year :)

    @WFHM - You're welcome Laura, thanks for reading. Love your site, by the way.

  4. looks like a lot of work, but getting 100/day is really something.

  5. Good luck to you, i started my own website and through learning SEO i'm getting about 1200-1400 unique visitors a day! good content is key!

  6. @mm - I think outsourcing is key. And once you are confident in your revenue-producing abilities. There's really nothing stopping you scaling things to saturation point ;)

    @youcarz - Hear the man! Content is king!

  7. Wow... how can i make 2000 unique visitor per day..that is good

  8. I'm soooooo lost. I've been blogging awhile, for fun; then got the bug to see if I earn some $. I added adsense, and it doesn't seem like the ads are very good; I'm not getting clicks though I am getting a good number of page impressions. And, I don't really understand what the numbers all mean.

    To try and understand what others see, I clicked on the ad from another computer (I know we're not to click on our own ad), it appears to be almost like a telephone directory type listing, not an actual ad or webpage from the company, then when I clicked on a specific one to see say the yarn sale or the pattern I got a blank white page. What I don't know is if this is happening to others, thus no clicks? Or whether it's my hubby's virus blocker thing zapping it?

    The adsense is on my blogger pages, would you and your brain see what you think?

  9. Long tail search optimization goes hand in hand with great content. If you can get the right balance down people, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank. I picked up everything i know at Seomoz. They send me daily emails and stuff, great unbiased info since there are a a plethora of myths out there!

  10. @Sandy - short story: you've been "Smart Priced" in the Adsense system because of the Entrecard (drop and run) traffic, and those directory websites are buying your cheap clicks to sell to a different ad network at a higher rate (a technique called PPC Arbitrage). Long story and recommendations: see my next post :D

    @youcarz - Thanks youcarz, I appreciate the Seomoz recommendation. I'll check'em out.

  11. That is a brilliant experiment but the end result would be amazing.. Can you imagine if you maintain that for quite a few months? Or even forever? Oh wow!

  12. @webbielady - my understanding is that, once established, Adsense income is quite robust, especially after your site is over 1 year old. You do have to keep getting backlinks, etc, but at anything like the initial rate. So yes, very interesting :)


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