February 4, 2009

Why are my Adsense earnings so low?

Sandy has just started working with Adsense, and she's quickly noticed a couple of things:
  1. Her Adsense earnings are really low
  2. The Adsense ads link to bizarre pseudo search engines
What is going on?

Well first of all Sandy, don't give up on Adsense yet. In all honesty it isn't going to be bring in the big bucks for quite a while yet, but it really is one of the best programs out there, so you're well advised to take good care of that account.

To see what is going on, let's take a look at the situation from Google's point of view. Google earns its (billions of dollars in) revenue from advertisers, so it wants to take good care of them. Whenever an advertiser pays Google for a click-through, Google wants to be sure that they are delivering a viewer who is honestly interested in the advertiser's product or service - it's up to the advertiser to take it from there. In the ideal scenario, an Adsense ad attracts one of Sandy's long time loyal readers, and they click on the ad. Loyal readers together with perhaps more casual readers interested in the topic of Sandy's blog are thought of as "natural" traffic.

There is also unnatural traffic. As you can imagine, Google is concerned about traffic, bought to a particular place with the express purpose of clicking on the ad. Things like "click exchanges" (you click my ads, I'll click yours) and robot traffic (in which another computer simulates a human browsing your blog and clicking your ads) are outright fraud: "click fraud." But the line between natural and unnatural traffic is not a sharp, and this creates a problem for Google. Traffic from "paid to click" (PTC) sites is probably towards the unnatural end of the spectrum. Where does Entrecard traffic fall?

Entrecard is a topic all on its own but, depending on how someone chooses to participate, the traffic pattern can look a lot like PTC traffic. In particular, it can have a high "bounce rate." If someone clicks through to your site, looks for nothing else but your Entrecard widget, clicks to drop their card and, woosh, clicks on to the next site, that's a bounce. You didn't convince them to stop and read. Google is quite suspicious of such traffic and, to prevent their advertisers being harmed by torrents of non-buying customers, they "Smart Price" the Adsense account. That is, they severly limit the amount per click you, the publisher, can earn. When they do this, Google is telling you in no uncertain terms that they suspect you of buying cheap traffic from somewhere just to boost your Adsense earnings.

It isn't really personal. Google's traffic pattern analysis algorithms do this automatically. But, you should take steps to amend the situation. Adsense has been tightening its policies lately, and you don't want to be at the top of their "to be reviewed" list. In Sandy's case ...

Sandy, you should remove the Adsense boxes until you've dealt with the drop and run traffic. Does that mean you have to stop using Entrecard? Not at all. But it does mean that you can't include blogs with Adsense on them in the nightly drop-and-run free for all. (Note that if one blog is Smart Priced, then your entire Adsense account is Smart Priced until the situation is dealt with). Entrecard can also be used in a very gentle, natural way. You might even want to sign up with a second email address to pursue the more leisurely style of socialization that Entrecard facilitates. Obviously this isn't going to get you 6,000 uniques per month, but honestly, if it gets you 60 new loyal readers, you've done really well. Word of mouth really is the best advertising. Once you're back to 20-50 "natural" unique visitors per day, put the Adsense back up. Then you'll be delivering the kind of click-throughs that keep Google and its adverisers happy. (Not to mention that your earnings per click will increase 10 fold :)

What about the bizarre pseudo search engines? Actually, these guys are being a little bit naughty. Talk about an internet grey area. Since Sandy had been Smart Priced. Her clicks-throughs are very inexpensive. However, other ad networks are still paying premium prices for the click-throughs for those same Smart Priced keyphrases (e..g, "crocheted mittens" and "learn to knit"). Shopping.com, for example, is buying Sandy's click-throughs and presenting viewers with a very bland web site that encourages them to ... well ... keep clicking. In effect, they are buying cheap clicks from Google and selling them at a higher price to a competitor network. This is known as PPC Arbitrage, and is at least frowned upon by all major ad networks. Both Google and Yahoo have declared it to be a violation of their terms of service (to sell them cheap clicks, not necessarily to buy their cheap clicks), so it is definitely not a newbie friendly area. Tread carefully if you want to be earning those Adsense dollars a couple of years from now.

Sandy, when you're ready to put Adsense back up, drop me a line and we'll go searching for some suitable keyphrases for your blogs with high per click earnings. Get ready though, we'll be writing up a dozen or so 400-500 word articles about those keyphrases and asking all the net to link to them :)


  1. Wow..........and I'm honored you saw all my questions and understood my frustations.
    It's late in my time zone, and I've had a few glasses of wine...so I'll re-read this in the am with coffee as my beverage of choice and I'll no doubt have other questions for you.Thanks and HUgs

  2. Will optimze ad revenue for hugs :)

  3. This was a ton of info! I am off to read more...

  4. Good info,
    Its better to concentrate more on good content and later think about showing adsense.

  5. Wow - this is of great help! Only $90 until I reach my Adsense payout!!!!

  6. @♥georgie♥ - Hope there was something useful there for you :)

    @Priyanka - Thanks. Yes, showing Adsense early is not only kind of pointless, but exposes your account to CTR anomalies that could draw the ire of Google's fraud detection team. Much better to play it safe.

    @Rumpleteazer - You're welcome! Nice blog - added to blogroll.

  7. whew! google adsense is not really that pocketfull income..heheh! just wait for more days blogging Sandy for you to gain more adsense clicks and income..pew!


  8. Hey, great post! thanks for the info. I was really re-thinking the whole EC thing because of the amount of empty clicks (the ones who just pop in for the drop) and the amount of time it takes to visit all those blogs. I'm in it for quality posts, so I guess I'm going to slow down on dropping. Interesting post though, and I gained a lot from it.

  9. @Gagay - when you're linking to your blog from a dofollow blog like this one, you should use words that describe the blog - words that people might use when searching, like this: cute girls who like capri. Otherwise, people will only find your blog when they search for gagay :)

    @Lin - Thanks Lin. The high bounce rate can hurt your serp rankings, but there is a trade-off. Really low traffic hurts your serp rankings as well. I think you've struck a nice balance by putting your Entrecard well "beneath the fold." This will discourage most repeat drive-by-droppers, while still bringing you some Entrecard traffic.

  10. That was really great, I like it. I'm new in Adsense too. and my earning is still low only 1 to 5 $ perday. and I get only 1000 to 2000 visitors perday. I join EC 3 weeks ago but for my blog only get max 5 visitor from it. may be I need to study more of it.

  11. Thanks Celeb. Well now, $5/day puts you over the $100/month mark. Not bad at all. With 10 blogs earning the same, you could have $1000/month in passive income. Not at all out of reach.

    To get more visitors from EC, just drop your card on other blogs. Entrecarders are a social lot :)

  12. This seems like solid advice. I'm emailing it to myself so I can concentrate on it while I'm not also online trying to have a chat with HP about my printer.

  13. Thanks feefifoto, hope it helps you out. Love the personalized merchandise site, by the way. Is it working out for you?

  14. When I started using adsense it took 18 months to make my first $100.00 with 5 sites. Now I can make that in about 3 to 5 months with one site.

    Not as great as some people, but with time and experience you begin to learn what works and what doesn't. It's all about being willing to experiment, and keeping track of the results.

    One thing I found was using entrecard did absolutely nothing for my site. When I added it to my site the bounce rate jumped from about 65% to 98%. Sure I got more traffic but no one was interested in doing anything other than spamming their cards.

  15. Thank you so much for the informative post. I am building my site and this was info I did not know. I will follow your advice and visit your site for helpful advice.

  16. At first I was afraid to put Google adsense in my site. I'm not sure why, maybe because a lot of the things about adsense is unfamiliar territory and I did not want to get banned.

    Later on after reading and researching more about the topic I finally did put it and it works. I guess I what I'm trying to say is that we all need to familiarize our self with how it works and we'll get better results just like you pointed out here.

  17. Hello,
    My adsense income has droped alittle but I think its lke that every year after Christmas for about 3 months.


  18. Great advice! AdSense is a bit of a mystery when it comes to the inner workings of it's formulas, but mostly it seems high traffic is the best solution.

    There's a lot of talk about ad placement, ad types, content forcing certain kinds of high-paying ads, etc but in the end it's the sheer amount of clicks that will make the most difference :)

    Love your blog. I'll keep it subscribed :-)

  19. Thanks for the compliment, Zack. Actually, the site is starting to fill its niche a little, and some of that is thanks to the publicity I've generated by hanging out on the blogosphere.

  20. Hey Zack, thanks for your replies to my queries in EC forum. Will try to focus more on keywords.


  21. Put adsense ads to PPC is more effective too.
    Revenue could be high enough. However you need more cost..

    I drop you..

  22. @KPS - Adsense definitely takes time to start earning. I think part of that is that Google uses site age as one of the ranking parameters. Not that an old site alone will do anything for you, but a 12 month old site that's been updated once a week gets a nice rankings boost. You can get temporary boosts with good SEO for younger sites, but usually the boosts aren't stable - you lose ranking quickly. It's a good strategy for Google, because site age is one factor that is very hard to fake.

    @Marlene - You're very welcome Marlene. It is much easier to reach our goals if we work together.

    @KD - You were wise to be cautious. Google must work to protect the interests of its advertisers, but sometimes they are a little zealous. As you say, knowledge is our ally.

    @Stevepmd - Thanks Steve, that's an interesting observation. I wonder if other's have experienced the same dip? Traffic patterns can be very niche dependent.

    @Netpreneur - Thanks Stuart, I appreciate the complement. You're right of course. People say "content is king," but honestly, we labor to create high quality content in order to attract high volumes of targeted traffic. This is true of almost all media. Sometimes, the satisfaction of creating quality content can be its own reward but, as all too many have learned of late, such satisfaction does not pay the rent.

    @feefifoto - It's well deserved feefi, I honestly think that the next big trend in manufacturing is towards personalization. Already I can upload a CAD file of a widget to a site in China and have the widget on my desk in 14 days. It's practically llke pressing print. The obvious next step is increasingly personalized orders. Once it gets started, you'll have to offer the option or be prepared to give up on high margin sales. My hat's off to you for having the foresight to be at the front of the line on this.

    @CK - You're welcome CK. I hope to offer a few services at the Entrecard marketplace that can help out with this.

    @bandisusi - Unfortunately, what you said was mostly lost in translation, but I have returned the drop. Good luck to you!

  23. Zack,
    I came to your site through Entrecard and I really find this point interesting.

    If not all traffic are equivalent in the eyes of the advertisers, is there any tool that you recommend for analysis this trend? With some key words paying a higher payout versus others, how do you distinguish the drop in adsense revenue is a result of unnatural traffic vs. bad keyword (Not to say that is the case with Sandy, but just in a more general broader sense)


  24. Hi! You have nice content here. Care to exchange links? Kindly add my blog then let me know so I can add you aswell.

    Earn Pera Online

  25. I'm not sure if I was one of those who were smart priced back then when I was creating a lot of demo sites for some templates I was reviewing. When I removed those pseudo-blogs, my eCPM increased though I'm still earning very low daily adsense income, at least for now I am already hopeful of future success. Thank you for this post.

  26. @plin - payouts for keywords do vary as advertisers place and remove bids. The best free tools for monitoring current bid prices are provided by Google (just sign-up for Adwords). You also might want to play around with http://www.keywordspy.com/ I've been thinking about writing up a post on this topic, but to be honest it is kind of technical. I'll put together a pdf at some point. Anyway, the thing is that if you are interested in Adsense revenue, you are almost certainly creating content targeted to high paying keywords. You should have a very good idea of what each click is worth. Although Google is cagey about their payment algorithm (as you can imagine), you are typically paid between 25% and 50% of the advertiser bid on a particular keyword ... unless you are "Smart Priced" and then you get pennies on the dollar. If you've ever had success with Adsense, then Smart Pricing is fairly unmistakable - especially since every site linked to your Adsense account will be Smart Priced at the same time. For single sites, it can be harder to distinguish Smart Pricing from seasonal lows.

    @EJ - Thanks!

    @TWG - You're welcome. Yes, adding your Adsense publisher code to Wordpress templates seems like a good idea (who knows how lazy some people will be). Unfortunately, you can't be this careless with your Adsense account - who knows what sort of content people will associate with your publisher code, or what sort of traffic they will send at it. At the very least set google_adtest = "on" for any sites that aren't "in production" (then the ads display without advertisers paying or you getting paid for clicks).

  27. I think it's mainly because of the global recession we are experiencing that's dragging our adsense earnings down.

  28. @Megryansmom - Thanks, I hope it helps you out :)

    @Mike Gomez - advertising budgets are definitely down, and advertisers are the ones who fund Adsense. Still, Google posts revenue in the billions, so advertisers are still spending money. And internet advertising is still a bargain compared to traditional media. Advertising dollars are always shifting though, so for new projects, you should consider carefully where you think advertising dollars will go over the next 6-12 months.

  29. Good info. I earn $1 in a week through adsense.
    Now calculate how much time it will take to reach $100 ? wew.

    Lets see what happens in future.

  30. Great advice! I never actually thought of the possibility of my AdSense account being damaged by Entrecard traffic. I am not a very high dropper and tend to only drop to what's in my inbox for the most part anyway, so thankfully I don't really have to worry about it much. Good luck to Sandy!

  31. @Mr. Assistant - my understanding is that the key is to add more articles targeting "long tail" keywords. Every page can be an earner, although obviously some will be better than others. Write unique, targetted content, build some quality backlinks, and then wait for the well targeted traffic to roll in. And I'm afraid there is a wait factor with Google. One of my sites basically did nothing until it hit 3 months of age, now G is happily sending traffic for some really nice keywords. Keep at it!

    @Liza - You do have to be careful. The Adsense people are constantly tightening the reins.

  32. I think I've read this post for more than 5 times already. A quiet reader here but then decided to try actively participating.

    I'm trying to lie low with Entrecard and focus more on raw traffic. The bounce rate on my blog has increased ever since I joined and that's not really helping at all. I'm giving it a month to evaluate if there would be any changes. Traffic has now declined but nevertheless, I'm still glad that I get visited via search engines and direct traffic.

    I saw your reply to gagay and thought that maybe I could apply what you said. I hope it works. :)

    Do keep on posting. I've noticed you haven't posted much this month.



Words have power. Speak and be heard.