How to Do 500 Times Better than AdSense

image of U.S. penny coin

Right around a year ago now, I made my first cent online. It was literally a cent — $0.01 — and it showed up in my Google AdSense account after a certain number of people had viewed an ad for dog food or a shiatsu massager or whatever on my old humor blog.

That first cent was exciting, because it proved that you really could make money online in the way it seemed that everyone said you could — by creating sites populated with ads, and then sitting back and letting the earnings pile up. Then, if the gurus were to be believed, it was only a matter of time before I would be living in Hawaii, while bikini girls used the Mona Lisa to wax my Lamborghini.

So I read a ton about how to use AdSense, took a few courses, and built a bunch of little search-engine-optimized niche websites. I worked and worked and built and built, and eventually I amassed a couple dozen of these little moneymakers.

Slowly, visitors began to come to my sites, click on the expensive Google ads for lawyers and insurance, and make me some money. Then, reasonably content with my Google army, I put those sites on “set it and forget it” mode (like a Ronco Rotisserie) and started something new.

A different way to do it

Specifically, in April of last year, I started the Johnny B. Truant biz. The business model basically consisted of trying to write funny blog posts and generally just hanging out online, and then parlaying that good will into its logical succession, which is, of course, technology services.

I worked very hard, but it didn’t feel like work — especially compared to what I had been doing on the niche sites. It felt like being an amiable jackass in the right places, and meeting people, and kind of screwing around. Eventually it also started to feel like building a business, but that happened slowly and by degrees.

Nine months passed, with both venues making me money in their own unique way.

At the end of 2009, I recorded my second five-figure month in the JBT technology biz, after building between eighty and a hundred blogs for clients in December.

And at around the same time, I got my first ever AdSense check from Google. It was for $111.

The best way to “make money online” is probably not what you think.

Spend a few minutes Googling around for ways to make money online. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

If you didn’t do that search just now, it’s probably because you’ve tried it before and already knew what you would find. Almost every site, course, and guru out there will tell you that to make money online, you should sign up for AdSense (or maybe for a large advertiser’s affiliate program), rustle up some long-tail keywords, and start gaming Google traffic.

I’m not going to tell you that doesn’t work . . . but I am going to tell you that it didn’t work for me, and that it’s unlikely to work for you if you’re even one iota like me.

Here’s why I don’t like the AdSense strategy as a business model:

  1. It’s not a business model. Any time you can talk about “monetization,” you’re probably not talking about a real business because “monetizing” a business is redundant. “Monetizing” is slapping a moneymaker on top of something that doesn’t naturally produce income. The way that 99.99% of people dive into AdSense, they’re simply putting something out there and waiting for the dollars to roll in. There is no real planning, no accounting forecasts, no intention down the road to improve workflow or expand offerings or enlarge the sales funnel, no exploiting the best abilities of yourself and partners to create benefit for others.
  2. It doesn’t add value. Technicalities aside, there is no real product or service in the way most AdSense “make money online” campaigns are run. There is simply arbitrage. You’re not increasing widget sales; you’re trying to make sure more of the existing sales will occur through your ads. I learned my lesson trying to play the stock market (and failing) and then investing in real estate (and failing at an epic level): Sustainable incomes come from using your talents to create value for others, not from gambling and playing the numbers.
  3. It contradicts the way the Net is supposed to work. Yes, yes, I know . . . some people blog in a heartfelt manner about cabinetry and run cabinetry ads, and visitors click them to buy cabinets and the site owner makes money. But most AdSense strategies are all about gaming the system. When I was creating insurance niche sites, I couldn’t have cared less about insurance. I was simply trying to draw traffic away from the legit insurance sites so that people would click on my ads instead of finding an insurance company a different way. That’s not the way that the Web is supposed to work . . . which is to efficiently connect the searcher and what she’s searching for.
  4. It’s anonymous. Few “make money online” strategies will tell you to blog under your own name, include your own picture, and make a big deal about being the guy or gal who created this site. In fact, I spent a lot of my time trying to obscure who I was. Many courses even tell you to use hosting that will generate random, non-sequential IP addresses for each site, so that even Google won’t know that one person owns them all. Anonymity conflicts directly with what I consider to be the most important reasons for my success, which are honesty, authenticity, trust-building, and transparency.

You can do better, no matter who you are

I worked really, really, really hard on those AdSense sites. I worked 15-hour days; I wrote keyword-laced post after keyword-laced post; I entered them in article directories and put them through social media bulk submitters; I launched site after site, tweaked, customized, and researched.

And by doing that, I made $111 in a year.

Maybe I didn’t work hard enough. Maybe I used the wrong system. Maybe, if someone else had done it, they might have done it twice as well. And maybe that same person would have done it for three times as long as I did, building sites for the whole year instead of only doing it for four months.

So yeah, maybe that super-ambitious person might have made $888.

Now, stop and think about that for a second.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that they could start a business today, being themselves, playing to their own strengths, and creating value for others, and not make more than $888 in a year should . . . well, those people should really just stop reading about business right now.

Am I saying that you can’t use AdSense to make money online? No. Am I saying that every “system” for striking it rich on the Net — like creating anonymous niche sites that use AdWords ads to draw traffic to affiliate products — is an impossible scam? No.

I’m just saying that the average person is probably going to have better luck building a real business. Meaning:

  • One that you can stand behind publicly.
  • One that’s based on helping others in exchange for pay.
  • One that benefits from being a real, authentic person.
  • One that matches your best abilities to the needs of others.

This Third Tribe thing? This new internet era of being real and honest and open in business and marketing rather than relying on tricks, games, yellow-highlighted text, and the hard sell? It’s real, folks. And at least for me, using that approach turned my Google earnings into an afterthought.

If the “Third Tribe” style of doing business appeals to you, subscribe to the free Copyblogger newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. We’re within a few days of announcing a brand-new tribe for online entrepreneurs. And our newsletter subscribers will be the very first to learn about it.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is an amiable jackass who may or may not have invented Post-It Notes. You can hire him to tell you how to do better than AdSense, or, failing that, you should at least follow him on Twitter because sometimes he tweets about zombies.

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Comments

  1. Hey Johnny,

    Wow. Enlightening point about AdSense not adding value.

    I knew all about how little you get per click.

    - And how you’d need bucketloads of traffic to get any money from ad clicks.
    - And how you can’t stand behind each ad since it’s randomly generated.
    - And how it clutters up the page and takes away from the reader’s experience.
    - And how they’re not “cool,” so you’d need to go anonymous if you have more than one site about niches you don’t care about.

    But the value thing. Hm.

    I think that cuts to the core of why AdSense (alone, at least) isn’t a viable business model. You’re bringing very little, if any, value to the reader.

    And business is all about delivering value and charging for it.

    The more and higher-quality value you deliver, the more you can make.

    You delivered a LOT more value with your technology services and by being yourself, so you made much more money.

    Thanks for the enlightening reminder of why AdSense isn’t much of a business model,
    Oleg

  2. The problem with adsense has nothing to do with its ability to make money. I made a bunch with it.

    The real problem is that you have no control over your earnings. Sure, you can increase your traffic, but you can’t set the rates of your own ad inventory.

    Then, there’s always the issue that the ad network is the middle man taking a cut of your profit. That’s money you’re leaving on the table for no reason other than laziness.

  3. So I’ve despised Adsense for as long as I possibly could.

    Then my blog moved to a social network platform and thought it would be worth the test to prove my adsense-hate wrong.

    Up to now it’s been a complete waste of time. Last weeks conversion rate was a whopping 0.14%. 2 clicks for the week.

    I bet I can play with positioning a little, colors etc, but even if I push the ctr right up, I’d rather be promoting affiliate products, using more banners and focus on my own advertising.

    That’s just me! :)

  4. Great write, Johnny!

    It isn’t just AdSense, I think, but niche sites in general. That total anonymity is LAME. I was just like you. I built a product about a year back and for the most part I tried to stay entirely hidden from it. It was an e-book for $27.

    Well, the product wasn’t really selling at $27 and I wasn’t really proud of it, so six months later I sanded it down and added a new coat of paint. I also raised the price to $47. I put more personality into it as well. Even at $20 more per download, it was selling at four to five times the rate of the original.

    I was just starting to get a whiff of the third tribe.

    We’ve recently revamped it again. Now I fully understand the third tribe, which has helped me to truly shape the product into something I’m proud of. It’s now $97, selling well and offers something unique and helpful to families.

    Yes, I’m embarrassed about some of the SEO, AdSense style content in the archives, but I’m also proud of the growth the site has made and see it as a testimony to how far I’ve come.

    A large part of that is because of the Third Tribe philosophy.

  5. Nice one Johnny.
    I am however saddened at the yellow highlight comment! I love yellow highlights and just got. Into that…

  6. Fantastic. I love it when Copyblogger pops up with a post that crystallizes something that bothers me about the make money online side of internet marketing and helps me realize that the approach that I’m trying to put time and effort in, despite distractions, is the right one for me.

    I think there’s a middle ground, too, where those real businesses look very similar to niche marketing systems. It just depends on where you find the place you can add value. I’m trying out a couple in addition to my copywriting biz and will see what happens.

  7. It’s liberating to read this post. What I mean is that not every attempt to make money online by using AdSense will make you a millionaire. I am surprised, though, that after so much work you made only 111 USD after one year. Nice post, Johnny.

  8. I have gone as far as to remove all adsense ads from my blog. Frankly, it just cheesed things up too much while I’m trying to project a professional appearance. I’m still working on that part, but the first step was ditching adsense.

  9. Adsense can work, if you have the right kind of content and the right amount of traffic. But how to do both of thos things is beyond me and Im not certain I want to work hard on something I don’t believe in.

    Sure I can write about whateveryone else is writing about in my niche but does that make me unique? no I dont’ think so, and it sure as hell won’t draw that much traffic that I can quit my day job. If I come up with an idea that I can be passionate about and make enough money online then hell perhaps I would quite my day job and do it, perhaps, but I doubt I would ever make enough with just adsense.

  10. It’s nice to hear a refreshing view when what I mostly read is about people making thousands on adsense when there I am getting pennies.

    I did read up on all the ‘tricks’ but in the end I’ve just gone back to writing about what I want to write about and if I do get some money out of it then so be it, but I won’t be working so hard to to become an adsense millionaire.

  11. Hey nice post! I started with google adsense too. But i dropped it for better ways of monetization like creating your own digital product or building email lists.

    Creating an authority blog like copyblogger is hard but the pay off is big.

    Great post!

  12. It took me a while to figure this out. I still think I will do alright with my blog though, in adsense earnings.

  13. Good post Johnny. You seem to have a real “everyman” story that people can appreciate. I’ve gone through the same trials and tribulations myself and like you, have concluded the hard way that selling yourself, selling your OWN products, and actually CARING about your customers is the only way to go.

    There will be fly-by-night ways to make a quick buck until the end of time, which are a requirement of humanity. Meanwhile, those of us that know the real way to build a business keep grinding away in the background.

    Good luck with your continued success.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  14. Johnny, when’s your screenplay coming out? You have a real gift for intelligent comedic writing, which is an extremely rare commodity. Keep ‘em comin’!

  15. I think the key point in this post is “I worked very hard, but it didn’t feel like work.” When you’re offering your true, authentic self you attract others doing the same — and a life without b.s. is much more fun *and* financially rewarding.

  16. Thanks for the advice you gave. I had been thinking how to make money without having to use third-party calculation is sometimes deceiving.

  17. You are the best. I usually unsubscribe from everything. But I just subscribed to your other Smart Newsletter. You are an example that what you teach works.

  18. @Gary, this encapsulates it for me: “But how to do both of those things is beyond me and Im not certain I want to work hard on something I don’t believe in.”

    My hat is off to those who make some decent money with AdSense, but I also sense that if you build some other ways to bring money in, you could radically increase your income.

    But it does depend a lot on the topic. The closer you are to solving some actual problem for readers, the easier it is to build a business around it. Celebrity gossip, entertainment, and humor sites have less opportunity to do that. (Derek, you did celebrity stuff, do I remember that right?)

  19. I like this, mostly because it confirms my suspicions that the Adsense route wouldn’t really appeal to me, even though everyone was talking about it and I thought that’s what I “should” be doing.

    I was never comfortable with the random ad idea, especially as I didn’t like sites that used random ads, so I’m guessing, even if i’d got round to readin all those articles on adsense I’d bookmarked, it probably still wouldn’t have been for me.

    Good stuff!

  20. Hello Johnny!
    I completely agree with you that focusing on AdSense leads to loss of energy and time!
    Imagine how much should be traffic for specific site in order to earn 1000 $ a month using AdSense!?
    That is very unreal and it draws away visitor’s attention from website content!

  21. @Sonia I did a lot of entertainment stuff. Celebrity Gossip was the biggest site, at its height pushing like 3-4 million uniques per month. I had a few other sites that were doing around 500,000 uniques per month too (fashion, humor, and maxim-style photos).

    Adsense was still never the best monetization tactic for me either. Since a majority of those sites are getting people to click, a company like Vibrant Media did me best because the ads were more intrusive, so they received more clicks.

  22. just yesterday i was posting on a forum about how i felt adsense is the WORST way to make money online.

    you are right there are so many better available options now

  23. Johnny…
    As always – awesome – and the first zombie reference of the day.

    Interestingly, there’s one other way I like to use Adsense for a couple of sites I run – and that’s as a way to cover costs for “sandboxes”. I have a couple of content sites that I use as “laboratories” to just try out new, weird technology or services that I might not want to try on clients. It’s fun, and there’s no risk to client business doing it. In that the site is real and gets some “traffic” also allows me the “real-world” test. I’m getting about $100 (like you I set my “send me a check limit” at $100) about once every five months… covers hosting costs, some image costs – and pays for a pizza….

    And, let me also say – I’m a proud client of the Johnny B Truant Blog Setup Service (or the JBTBSS as I like to call it) and it’s just an awesome, fun and interesting interaction every time we have a project together.

    ~rr

  24. I ran into the exact same thing, Johnny! Except that I wasn’t making 5-figure monthly incomes through my site. But it took me a good year before I surpassed the $100 mark.

    Building Adsense sites is like playing poker for a living. You add no value to the world and it’s a zero-sum game.

  25. These are the thoughts and principles I’ve been trying to clarify. Thank you for this great posting.

  26. I would say “great post” if it delivered concrete solutions like the title of the posts suggests it.
    So really, how to do 500 times better than AdSense? By not having AdSense at all?

  27. @Derek, thanks for the insights! Very neat to hear from someone who actually managed to pull this stuff off.

  28. @Sebastien, the concrete solution is here:

    I’m just saying that the average person is probably going to have better luck building a real business. Meaning:

    One that you can stand behind publicly.
    One that’s based on helping others in exchange for pay.
    One that benefits from being a real, authentic person.
    One that matches your best abilities to the needs of others.

    If you want a solution that can be explained in its entirety in one blog post, you’re limiting yourself in a way that may not serve your goals.

  29. Wow, I read all of the comments up to this point with my fingers crossed, just waiting for the first AdSense advocate to start screaming at me. It didn’t happen. I’m shocked.

    The thing is, I guess I’m not actually anti-AdSense. I DO still have a few of those AdSense sites, and the domain names just came up for renewal… and I renewed some of them. Why? Because a domain name costs $9 a year or so, and the site makes maybe $20. And it does grow with time, too… I now seem to be on pace to make $200-250 a year from AdSense, despite not having touched those sites in 8 months or so.

    But now, it’s like Robert Rose said… it’s not much, and I wouldn’t do it again, but it is a nice little bonus every once in a while.

    Basically, what it boils down to is this: Can I make money with AdSense? Yes. And if I really, really worked it, maybe I could get to making $1000 or more a month.

    But I can put in a fraction of that time and make $10k a month, and have a hell of a lot more fun doing it.

  30. Once again, I find a very refreshing opinion about internet earning strategy- and absolutely no hype- when I get sent to those heavily hyped squeeze pages I instinctively know that what’s being sold is hype and not quality.

    It’s nice to know that the evergreen quality of adding value to the customer is as relevant today as it’s always been, in fact, with the internet full of “get rich quick” schemes, value may be MORE relevant than ever!

  31. #5 Google can pull the whole thing out from under you any time they want!

  32. @Jerry, that is an excellent, excellent point.

  33. People who want to make money online, should not believe the google’s serps as it offers results based on its algorithm not by peoples like. They should visit the bloggers and internet marketers website to learn how can make money.

    Next is, when they find a system which yields at least some earnings, they should try to automate and go for next method to learn. Continuous learning will increase your online income.

    Once they found a good system and started to live full time online, immediately have to start some evergreen real online business. Because the system which makes money in no way can’t be business. It should be a system yields money for current time but no guarantee in future.

  34. Ugh… Jerry, you’re right on. During my AdSense research, I remember reading a story like that, where a guy’s income changed dramatically because of some little quirk in Google.

    Also, another guy had like a thousand blogs on Blogger, and Blogger ditched them all. He was making five figures a month, and then he was making zero.

  35. I’ve been fiddling around with AdSense idea for quite a while and finally decided to cut it out, which I did. Now my question is: if Google content network – that’s what AdSense program is – is the largest advertising platform in the world, may be there is something I don’t know yet? Or even worse – don’t understand.

  36. The internet has created more opportunities than ever for individuals and business alike to earn money from spamming, scamming, etc. It’s quite unfortunate that it seems to be the only way people think they can earn some revenue on the web.

  37. Thanks for the insight. It just confirms what I thought; what ever I do with my blog, social medias etc, make sure I lead the peson back to my brick and motor store. After all that is where I do what I do best. It’s great to learn, see and understand the impact as long as I focus on the bottom line that matters most; the one on my P/L statement.

  38. TheGeorgiaYankee :

    Excellent post. Especially the emphasis on creating value as opposed to gaming the system.

    There needs to be more thought put into that, though, because when you look at past business models (newspapers, magazines, etc.), much of their operating revenue was generated by advertising – even when the advertising didn’t produce any results.

    AdSense’s payouts are based on utilization, and so it stands to reason that the website or blog with few visitors won’t generate as much revenue as a highly popular site.

    On the other hand, I perfectly agree with you about the silly little niche sites whose only purpose is to try to skim off some of the web traffic and hopefully get some advertising revenue.

  39. You said that in adsense marketing there is nothing have like real planning, accounting forecast. But i believe; in adsense the things you have mentioned above are essential. And absent of these may cause the ultimate failure that u r.

    Who the people click on the blog where there is no unique and good content? A people reads the blog who is well enough in content and worthy and if adsense is used here…..i am sure the blog owner will be succeed.

    Anonymous? No need to be…..it depends on ones.

  40. @Alla, I think the main point about the Google ad network is that it’s intensely profitable for Google. There are most certainly ways to use it as a business tool, but making it your *only* source of revenue isn’t wise. Especially, as folks have pointed out, because Google has a reputation for being capricious. They change a line in their algorithm and your business can simply disappear.

  41. Your best point is that Adsense is not a business model. It is simply not your business. It’s Google’s business.
    I know that if I want my own business, Adsense is not going to work. A business is going to have customers. If I am going to rely on Google to send people to me so I can send them somewhere else with Adsense, I’m not gaining any customers in the long run. They really don’t have any reason to come back to me again. They found what they needed elsewhere. I want to build a business.

  42. Wow. I don’t know where to start. Okay, so you aren’t comfortable with Adsense itself and the way it works. Okay. Fine. A valid opinion. However, the idea that you can’t make a lot of money with it is simply wrong. I know people who make insane amounts of money using it. I’m sorry the writer of this post didn’t have more luck with it, but, really, does that qualify him as an expert in adsense? Would you go to Tiger Woods for advice about marriage?

  43. I considered Adsense, but thankfully went with affiliate banners instead. There’s so much to learn! Once you feel like you have a good site going, with good products, if you don’t have the traffic coming to your site, then you’re still not making money.

    Traffic, content, product, “personality,” and the list goes on! Again, there’s so much to learn! Thanks everyone at Copyblogger for helping me learn bit by bit!

  44. Go Johnny! Ruling the roost, baby… :)

  45. Johnny… Boy I can relate to this post… Our affiliate and product income kill over AdSense… We decided to use Adsense for the first time with our Exploring Uruguay site we started up back in May when we moved here…

    We are at $99.61 in our AdSense account as of right now. Only $.39 to go… After about a week of having AdSense I realized we were a long way off from having a ShoeMoney check…

    Don’t get me wrong, what ShoeMoney did was amazing… But, it’s not a viable business model for most. I think that picture of him with his AdSense check gives a little too much hope to most people.

  46. I have several niche websites that earn nicely from AdSense–about 500 dollars a month. The sites also bring in a decent amount from Amazon’s affiliate program.

    I agree that it’s not a business model, but I don’t agree that niche sites don’t add value. Many people create niche websites based not just on earning potential but on knowledge and interest in the subject. A niche website that doesn’t add value doesn’t earn money.

    It doesn’t have to contradict the way the net works, either. As I said, a niche website that doesn’t add value doesn’t earn money. Most people who create niche websites work hard to make them informative so that people will stick around long enough to click ads.

    And honestly, not everyone is suited for selling themselves on the internet. I prefer the anonymity of niche websites because I’m a quiet, introspective person. I don’t like being obligated to network–I’m a natural-born lurker–which is why I don’t blog.

    I approach creating niche websites the same way I approach freelance work for private clients. The subject may not necessarily thrill me, but I will research the hell out of it and then write the best article I can. With niche websites, the client is the person searching for information on Google.

  47. Another great post that seems to be exactly what I need to read right now. How do you keep doing that? Here I am looking at AdSense for my blogs and here you are writing about it. I am trying hard to be a part of the “Third Tribe”, writing about things I love, so this was great for me. My first blog is rough as I have no idea how to do an e-book or subscriptions but luckily my second blog is a concept that will work with those types of things.

    Thanks for the info, as always.

  48. Johnny, Really really great article. I emailed this link to a lot of people. People get distracted by the thought of “easy money”. Any ethical business requires some hard work over time..and a plan…and some control.

    I do make a living with adsense/affiliates, (without slaving 15 hours a day), but it took a few years to learn the complete cycle. Most people honestly are not patient enough.

  49. This was the most relevant part of the post for me “It contradicts the way the Net is supposed to work.”

    Just the other day I went to Google looking for car insurance went to one site that was masquerading as another and ended up getting 13 insurance agents emailing me and calling me!

    I was pissed and none of those folks got my business!

    When I decide to set up my site I came across some very good advice, build the site, write great content and you can monetize later. Well I did the first two and wrote an ebook which has been selling since my first week on blogging.

    I am going the product route and left adverting off the site altogether, it looks cleaner and my readers are only focusing on what I sell!

    When I first started out it was a daunting prospect to try to have that type of traffic but once I realized I could convert say 10% of my readers to buyers for a 39.99 product with great margins and if I had 15,000 readers a month life got really exciting!

    Great post Johnny

  50. Nice one, Johnny. Always liked you. Always will. So will my 9700 Twitter chums. Thank you for telling it like it was. And is. With regards and respect, P. :)

  51. @Carl X: Yeah, I think you could ask Tiger for marriage advice. He now knows exactly what NOT to do. Same for Johnny. He’s not touting himself as an AdSense expert, he’s merely articulating his personal experience with it.

    His point isn’t that AdSense is worthless, it’s that AdSense meant a lot of running around the track, writing copy he couldn’t feel proud of, while doing nothing to grow himself as a person or connect to an audience in any genuine way.

    That’s the opposite of the Third Tribe.

  52. What an odd post. Apparently the writer (Johnny?) truly HASN’T understood using Adsense, and has very little clue about ways to put up quality websites designed to draw quality traffic.

    There are very viable ways to create websites of value AND do well with Adsense. It might take a bit more work and time and some serious guidance that most folks aren’t interested in doing.

    And perhaps I simply need to read the article through again more carefully, but I saw nothing of value fulfilled concerning the article title “How to Do 500 Times Better Than Adsense.” Something of a clever, even “cutsy” title — but I guess I missed the part where you actually tell or at least suggest what that “how to” might be?

    Again, perhaps I just didn’t read it carefully enough and missed something obvious. I tend, frankly, to lose patience with the old “add value to the Internet” whine that most people make when they are unable or unwilling to do the work necessary.

    Just my 2-cents, as the old adage goes.

  53. @Carl X and other AdSense proponents,

    Yeah, Sean Platt just said what I was going to say. I’m not saying and never would say that AdSense doesn’t work as a profit generator. I’m saying that it didn’t work FOR ME, and I’d wager it wouldn’t work well for most people like me.

    I could work it and work it and work it and maybe get up to making some really good money doing AdSense stuff. But I can make much more much faster by building a more traditional business.

  54. Also, there’s no repeat business with AdSense. You can’t have a lifetime relationship with a one time click.

  55. @Gary, what I took away from the post is that if you’re going to create a site that would create enough value and traffic to benefit from Adsense, there are usually other much more profitable ways to build a business around that site. Even if you stick with an advertising model, there are more lucrative ways to do that, as Derek talked about above.

  56. A well written ad for ‘adsense’ here might have just bucked the trend for you Jonnhy ;)

  57. Adsense won’t ad value to a blog or site you are just trying to make money from period. If you spent that year actually blogging about something you have passion for you might have made more than $111.

    Most of us that do actually blog about a niche subject and have passion for it do quite well through adsense. Those that think they will make thousands a month creating hundreds of crap sites won’t get far. The set it and forget it method has never worked and never will.

    So how did you do 500 times better than adsense?

  58. Thanks for the article, Johnny. It’s very reassuring to know that I can still make the kind of money I want without having to add someone else’s ads.

  59. So apparently there’s some confusion over the title of this post and what exactly I mean. Here’s what I mean:

    In my first 9 months trying to make money online, I made $111 from AdSense.

    In the same 9 months, I made around 500x that amount from my “third tribe” business.

    I had a guy email me asking how I could take his substantial AdSense earnings and multiply them by 500. Yeah, that’s not exactly what I meant.

    If the title of this post is screwing you up, don’t go to my blog. I write far more confusing and obtuse headlines for my own posts and it’ll make many heads explode.

  60. Indeed. It’s better than AdSense, not better withAdSense.

    Although my guess is that most sites with enough traffic to do well with AdSense would be well served to find other revenue sources, as Derek mentioned above in a comment.

  61. Great post. The Adsense advocates get so snarky if anyone even suggests that it’s not the only or even the best way to generate a return. It’s not to say you can’t make money with Adsense (a lot even), but I have some similar concerns and I really applaud the post. Food for thought there, definitely.

  62. I think this is total rubbish, that is not much money to make, ring up some advertisers as gary vaynerchuk sugests get them to sponsor your content.

    Also before you bother with this do some detailed research on the product is it fad or genuine and sustainable trends. What words are people using most.

    Do that you will make more than 111. I guarante it.

  63. Some really good points here Johnny and I enjoy the sense of humor. However, I’d like to point out that although I agree with the core message you are trying to convey, it is possible to build an authentic business like you describe and still make good money with Google Adsense.

    In all of my sites and blogs I build as you say:

    One that I can stand behind publicly.
    One that’s based on helping others in exchange for pay.
    One that benefits from being a real, authentic person.
    One that matches my best abilities to the needs of others

    Plus, I make a good 4 figure income every month from Google Adsense.

    Google Adsense is one of a variety of different streams of income that I take in, along side of books written by me, consultations provided by me, and products I recommend. All of these are wrapped in a blanket of useful and high quality content for the visitors and results in a profitable and enjoyable business that truly helps others. There’s no tricks and games going on.

    My business is real, open and honest and I have a small tribe. Using Adsense doesn’t automatically imply otherwise.

    Not only that, I would add that each of my sites and blogs are built with passion and pride. I thoroughly love the time I spend on them and display who I am proudly. It doesn’t feel like work.

    Google Adsense can be a successful addition to a business plan. It shouldn’t be “the” business plan, but it can be a smart “piece” of the business plan. Leaving it out of the equation, leaves a lot of potential money on the table. No entrepreneur wants to do that.

  64. Great discussion, lots of good points. Cynthia, thanks for your post.

    Adsense is good for folks who care more about their topic than they do about money. Not everybody is focused on making 500 times more.

    I think Adsense presents an interesting challenge, for some. Ok, yea, chances are we could make more by other methods, but then we’d have to shift focus from our topic to those methods.

    Can we have our cake and eat it too, a complete focus on our topic and a good income too?

    Maybe. How much do we love our topic?

    Do we love it so much we’d cover it for free? Do we love it so much that we can sustain working on our site relentlessly over a period of time? Do we lover our topic enough that we’re willing to deliberately work on building that love?

    If we love our topic enough, there’s a chance to make a living at it, without having to think about business, thanks to Adsense.

    If income is our primary goal, Johnny’s post merits some careful thought.

  65. I think it may be worth pointing out that the message of this post was NOT intended to be “AdSense sucks.” So for those of you who have had luck with AdSense, awesome job. Seriously; I’m happy it’s worked for you.

    My point was that it didn’t work FOR ME. And it DIDN’T work for me. At all.

    The reason, I think, that so many commenters and Retweeters on Twitter are running with the “AdSense sucks” angle about this post is because they ran into what I mentioned at the outset. They wanted to make money online. AdSense was “obviously” the way to do that, based on what “everyone” says. They tried it. And they failed hard, like I did.

    AdSense isn’t really presented as “A way to make money online.” For a newbie looking to make his first buck, AdSense instruction is so ubiquitous that it appears to be THE way to make money online.

    That’s what I have the problem with. Not with AdSense itself, but with the way so many gurus hawk it as being “what you do to become filthy rich off of the internet.”

    So yeah, you can do AdSense. More power to you if you want to, and if you’re able.

    But so many people miss that they can also IGNORE it and be fine. Or, they can ignore it and put their efforts elsewhere (in their areas of strength) and do far, far better. And, I’d argue that if you got all of the people in a room who have ever tried AdSense at all and ask who’s made a good living off of it, a rather small percentage of the hands would go up. AdSense millionaires (or $100k-ers) are the exception, not the rule.

    You look around for online business advice, and there’s no shortage of info out there on how to use AdSense – fast, easy, and start raking in the dough TODAY.

    But info on how you might be able to do better if you’re an average, non-SEO-tips-and-tricks businessperson? If you’re a connecter? If you’re more right-brained than left-brained? Not so much.

    It’s like alpaca farming. Can you make money raising alpacas? Yes. Is it a good business for the right people? Yes. Is it wrong, immoral, or dirty? No.

    But should every person who starts a business jump on the train and start raising alpacas? Should just about every instructor that comes up when a person searches for info on how to make money in business be an alpaca guru? No.

    Try a Google search for “make money online.” I swear, sometimes I think it’s a revelation to neophytes that there even IS another way.

  66. Adsense is good for folks who care more about their topic than they do about money.

    Sorry man, but that’s completely wrong. People who use AdSense usually care more about money then they care about *work.* As has been pointed out here multiple times in the comments, any site that gets enough traffic to make money from AdSense could make more with other strategies. But those strategies take more work (you know, like a real business).

    AdSense, however, is sold as the instant cure to riches. Real advertising-based businesess *sell* ad inventory via commissioned reps. Google promises you the magic bullet that avoids that typical reality.

    The *topic* for AdSense sites, on the other hand, is chosen not because the author cares, but because it supports a high click price. That’s why you’ll find tons of mesothelioma AdSense sites – not because they care or have a stricken relative, but because plaintiff’s personal injury firms will pay $13 a click.

    And no one who truly cares about their content would litter them with ugly AdSense ads. The only reason to do it is money. Doing it for free makes more sense than doing it for $111 a year and being seen as someone who sells out the reader-experience for that little cash.

    You really need to educate yourself more in the ways of the online world my friend. Day after day people share their personal experiences and knowledge here, and day after day you disagree, based on ???

    And honestly, I don’t think you read the post. Johnny moved away from AdSense because he *does* care.

  67. @Phil – Totally respect your opinion and your willingness to see both sides. Thanks for the discussion.

    However, I’m going to disagree with you on one thing… I think that for most of the people who try AdSense, making money is the primary motivator. I’m talking about the green recruit, the guy new to the game.

    I know there are people who blog about X and love X and figure they can add some ads to make some extra money and don’t care if they really make much, but I think those people are in the minority.

    I’ve heard far more people say, “I tried AdSense and it didn’t work at all.” They’re not happy for the tiny bit they got; they’re mad that it didn’t “work” better.

  68. Damn Clark beat me to it.

  69. great article. i have made a lot of money! total $2.58.
    Think it is a bit of a false promise to be honest.
    quickest way to make money is by blogging how to make money on adsense i am sure….

  70. @Cynthia, thanks for your perspective on using it as one tool in a larger business. That makes sense. We could quibble about whether or not there are better advertisers in your space (and I have no idea if there are or there aren’t), but that would be missing the main point — that you’ve created something of value for real people, and for your site AdSense plays a part in that.

    @C, you’d think so, but no. There are thousands of such blogs out there trying, and very few offer enough value to attract any actual attention.

  71. In my own experience, i found that offer the service will make much more money if compare to the adsense system. But yeah — adsense still work for some others bloggers in which they create decent money trough it.

  72. Reading this entire post was worth this one sentence:

    “while bikini girls used the Mona Lisa to wax my Lamborghini.”

  73. As a newbie who is finally “jumping into the waters” of online blogging. I have read plenty about the Adsense methods, as well as independent blogging, as discussed here. It is my hope and belief that real people who are not afraid to show their faces and skills online, will bring a fresh breeze of sensibility to doing business online. I am excited about the possibility of helping others and getting paid…

  74. Overall a very good article. I still believe if approached the right way you can make more than an adequate amount of money with Adsense, but you do raise many good points that I cannot disagree with. One thing I cannot stand is when people bang out sites just for the sake of populating the web with nothing but junk one page sites that are never maintained, really have no purpose and took like 5 or 10 minutes to produce. If someone is genuine and passionate about what they are trying to sell/promote/advertise/discuss it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to end results.

  75. What a refreshing post! I am so tired of all the Network Marketers that write about Network Marketing and how to do Network Marketing… and how they make millions. How they make these millions is never really clear, though usually it is all about generating traffic to your site.
    The actual income though is via the dubious “affiliations” and Google Adsense.

    I haven’t put Adsense on my site yet as I felt there should be more traffic to it before I do that. Your post makes me think twice about it though.
    In the end there are so many other business opportunities out there, so maybe writing a blog should just be about having fun – and one can do something else to make money?

  76. Thanks for this Jonny! I am a fairly newbie blogger and still finding my way with it all … it is good to hear about your experiences. I had kinda got the same impression from running some google ads on my site originally and from feedback from other bloggers, so really great to have your real life examples too. I know the advice you gave about treating your site as a real business is where I need to focus.

  77. Although none can argue about the benefits of having a business model rather than blogs depending on Adsense, but adsense is not as bad as you have pictured, one of my students spent 2 hours per day for 2 months and he has got 100$ check this month. 100$ is not a big money for professionals, but for students and hobbyist blogger it is not as bad.

  78. I have three blogs including my personal blog, and I write 4 or 5 posts a week, in total .. and adsense is doing “ok” for me, I am not putting much effort in to it but I hit $100 every three months !

  79. @dinu: But isn’t that the point. You have three blogs that you keep updated on regular basis and still you only receive 400 USD a year. One can only imagine what sort of popularity you would have to have in order to receive any meaningful income.
    Having said that, if this is only your hobby, receiving 400 USD a year isn’t too bad :)

  80. Awesome post! It reminds me of my first few launches of websites that I thought would be instant success. I wasn’t sure if the servers were going to be able to handle the traffic. It didn’t happen – got less hits than Vanilla Ice (I’m not sure if he had more than 2 hits and can only remember “ice, ice, baby”).

    Now as I’ve taken a ton of courses which teach about the “set it then forget it model” I know its not worth the time. People try to fool google with their content – which is often inauthentic as you rightly pointed out, you have no passion for insurance. You got to love what you do and write about on the web otherwise if you are just in it for the money you will end up making a few crappy dollars through adsence and are better off working for McDonalds.

    Great post!

  81. Jonny, great post. I’ve not fallen into the trap but have been tempted. In the end, it’s as you say, you either have a real business or you don’t.

    BTW: I’ve been working with Chris Johnson, who also has had some interesting real estate experiences and would be glad to introduce you to each other. Nothing in it for me, just think you two might hit it off.

  82. Haha, Steve, I already know you. I launched your blog just recently… via Chris Johnson!

  83. You’re right, of course, in that you didn’t make nearly as much money from Adsense as you expected because you followed some guru’s advice and created niche sites that you had no interest in. Yep, that’s definitely not the way to go about it. And everyone who follows that route will have a hard time as well. Some may be able to make it work, but the majority will end up like you.

    However!!! That is only reflective of the way you went about it, and not what is the reality for a lot of people. A lot of people create outstanding sites, with quality content, and those sites reflect the owner’s personality and passion for the subject. Many of those sites make thousands and thousands of dollars each and every month from Adsense.

    Should everyone diversify? Of course. Never depend upon any one model of monetization (and I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you on the use of that word – there’s nothing wrong with it). If your business sells widgets that you manufacture, that is your monetization method. In any case, while Adsense isn’t always the best choice for revenue from a site, sometimes it actually is.

    The best case for Adsense that I’ve come across – both with my own sites and with those of my clients and friends – is that of an information site, but one that the owner puts passion and love and caring into. Most of those sites use diverse methods of bringing in revenue – selling one’s own products, earning commissions from selling other products, and selling ad space (which might be a mix of direct sales, network ads, and adsense ads).

    Reality checks are good. People need to understand that what the gurus say, and what reality is, is very often vastly different. So your post – for that reason – is a good one. But reality works both ways. The reality is – lots of people make TONS of money from Adsense. So, while everyone needs to be smart about their online businesses, no one should immediately rule out any method of generating revenue just because it didn’t work for Tom, Joe, or Harry.

    Just keepin’ it real. :)

  84. @Donna, yer awesome, thanks. :) I’ll still use the word “monetization” myself, although I admit that I never thought of Clay’s point before Johnny linked to it, that you don’t “monetize” a business. Like you, I think diversity works best. For many sites, I think it’s probably wiser to use the real estate you’d devote to AdSense for a more profitable ad that you have more control over. But it would be pretty dopey of us to propose our own “one size fits all” cookie cutter solution.

  85. An interesting perspective. I tend to agree with the comment @dazzlindonna “That is only reflective of the way you went about it” and there are about a many ways as there are people. Some PEOPLE add value and some don’t. Some people make one thing work–some people another.

  86. I love the raw honesty of this article.

    Everyone wants to play pretend as if they’re these “real deal” online entrepreneurs when in reality is takes an obscene amount of work combined with passion, ambition and drive to really experience true to life results in the form of profit.

    Get rich quick schemes are just that-schemes. And they really play on the fact that they tell people what they want to hear: easy, no pain, painless, no time, little money, or even more ridiculous statements like you can do it in your sleep or while watching TV…

    I’ve seen them all…

    GT

  87. Great Honesty! Someone thats willing to tell the truth about online marketing as a whole. When you be yourself and have/represent real honest to goodness products, services, and information, people tend to, “Know, Like, and Trust You!” ~John Jantsch~

    Go figure :-)

    Eric

  88. Bringing us back to earth Johnny!
    I really need to spend this to about a dozen people I know who are scratching their heads about Adsense.
    Affiliate vs Adsense … affiliate all the way!

  89. @Brian I’m sorry, but it’s a pretty one-sided view to assume that most people who use Adsense care more about money than they do work or that their topic is chosen for click value. That may be true some of the time, but that is not true all the time.

    Every niche that I cover is chosen for one reason and one reason only – passion. They are all topics that I care deeply about and I have expertise in the field. I couldn’t invest time and energy in a blog or site that I don’t feel passionate about. It would be pointless.

    Adsense wasn’t even thought about when I chose my niches. I was completely unaware Adsense existed at the time. My businesses were built primarily around my ebooks and consultations, based on the expertise and knowledge I have to share. I added Adsense to the mix several years later after my sites were already bringing in traffic just for an extra stream of income, and it was a good choice. It compliments my income quite well.

    As I said, my business is a “real” business and there are many other “real” businesses out there that use Adsense as well. To say a business that uses Adsense isn’t a “real” business, is again, a very one-sided, unfair and not very accurate label. I work very hard at my job, ten hours a day, 7 days a week, writing blog posts, web pages, ebooks, print books, providing consultations, marketing, social networking etc.,etc., None of that time is spent on Adsense. Adsense income is completely passive. It brings in a great deal of money that I don’t have to work on while I work hard on the other aspects of my business. Why should I throw away tens of thousands of dollars that is in addition to my other income? Nobody would. It would be foolish.

    Yes, the Adsense gurus do market Adsense as a get rich quick scheme and a magic bullet, which we all know doesn’t really exist. Building a profitable business takes time, commitment and passion. Many of the gurus are only out for the money. There is a great deal of dishonesty and bull going on in that niche, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who uses Adsense is a dishonest, money hungry marketer who doesn’t care about their job.

    I’m sure there are many copywriters that engage in some unethical, dishonest marketing practices, does that mean that all copywriters are unethical or dishonest? Of course not. It is ridiculous to lump all Adsense users into one category.

    We all know copywriters make top dollar, probably more than any of us commenters are making here, so we could turn this around and say that all copywriters only choose the career of copywriting for the money and they don’t really care about their job. That, of course, would be a ridiculous statement as well.

    Adsense ads aren’t any uglier than other advertising formats and everyone who has a business is in business to make money. If Johnny had made a nice profit when he used Google Adsense on his blogs, he would have a completely different view on this issue and we would be having a very different conversation in this post. He stopped using it because he wasn’t making any money.

    We are all here to make money and there is no shame in that. None of us can say that income doesn’t influence our decisions, that is how a business operates. So if someone makes a nice profit with Google Adsense and does so ethically, then it is a smart business move to continue to do so. If you don’t make a profit, then it is a smart business move to stop. It is not the usage of Google Adsense or any other form of advertising that is unethical, it is the way that one goes about it.

    Yes, all the points Johnny and Brian make are true to some degree, but they do not apply to everyone across the board. Whether Adsense is used or not is not a determining factor for what defines a legitimate business.

  90. Very interesting. I haven’t used Google AdSense for several years, well, I haven’t used it since I got banned. Still don’t know why though.

    I was hoping to read a post like this, because I’ve always thought that because I wasn’t using AdSense, that was the reason why I wasn’t earning the real money from my blogging efforts.

    I’m still looking for the “real” way to monetize my blog, although I’m earning from affiliate marketing.

  91. Great stuff Johnny. I like the way you argue about the content website approach and how it refutes your and my ideal business…

    …based on providing value to people’s lives and getting paid for it as you do it.

    Keep up

  92. Thanks again Johnny, you are truly inspirational!

  93. if one was to compare traffic to earning ratio of different ways of making money online on a blog or a website ,Google adsense and other forms of third party advertising will rank very low. This is because they only pay you a token sum of what they receive and it takes a lot of traffic on your blog or website to make a decent sum and it is also the easiest thing to do.Just copy and paste html codes…
    In fact Google absense may even be taking up space on your website or blog.space that could bring you in more cash if you talk directly with advertisers . This may take time and work but will sure earn more than Google adsense.
    one can still have google adsense on their blog but should not fully depend on it to make large sums online.There are a few exceptions to this.
    business is about buying and selling solutions to problems.This is the same online and offline.
    but as always ,there may be a few exceptions.

  94. Thanks for your post. Makes me reconsider the time I’m spending building valueless internet garbage.

  95. Great article! Very informative!

  96. Thank you for this great posting. You are an example that what you teach works.

  97. Cynthia, you make very good points. Let me just clarify something.

    I’m not a copywriter. I’m a new media entrepreneur.

    If I put AdSense on this blog, I might make $5,000 a month ($60,000 a year… not bad).

    Instead, Copyblogger is the hub of an enterprise with nearly $3 million in revenue in 2009, and that will be dwarfed this year unless things somehow go very badly.

    I think Johnny finds this path more attractive. And less compromising at the same time. A very big win-win.

    The flip-side of that is this: if I used Adsense on Copyblogger way back, it would never be what it is today, so it would never make that $60,000, and would certainly never drive that $3 million.

    Everyone needs to consider whether selling yourself short for small change is smart. There is no one right answer, but make sure you’re making an educated decision.

  98. Thanks Johnny. Nice write up indeed.

    Keep writing

    Cheers

  99. I agree with your opinion, Adsense is not the only and the best to make money online.. there are a lot other thing there that can help us making money more than adsense used to be

  100. Johnny B,

    I love the sentiment you express with “Sustainable incomes come from using your talents to create value for others, not from gambling and playing the numbers. ”

    If only it were true.

    The banking industry gets bailed out by the taxpayers when their zero sum game produces some big losers.

    The internet offers our best approximation of perfect competition.

  101. If the title of this post is screwing you up, don’t go to my blog. I write far more confusing and obtuse headlines for my own posts and it’ll make many heads explode.

    I loved that! Funny kid you, Johnny :)

  102. I like this. And it’s true, you can probably make some kind of decent amount of money after a period of time using Adsense but why not provide help for someone and earn money that way?

    Go through all the trouble of ideas on how to make money online and actually put up a website or blog, why not actually make it personal, spend some time with getting to know people and then earn money a better way?

    That’s what I’d recommend someone do.

    Good article.

    Re-Tweeting now. :)

  103. This is a really timely post, as I’ve come to the decision very recently to give up the MFA-style niche blogging that I spent the better part of 2009 working on. No matter the monetary promises from the best of the best “gurus” out there, I just could not summon up the interest to write about money-making topics that I had no interest in. As a result, I outsourced nearly all of my writing, which meant that the money I made on AdSense each month went straight to writers – not to mention monthly fees for “make money online” courses, link building services, etc.

    You certainly can make money with AdSense niche sites, but it’s just not the right path for everyone. I get much more satisfaction and enjoyment writing a single post for my personal blog – even if it takes an hour or two – versus launching an entire niche blog with pre-written content. I’m a firm believer that doing what you truly enjoy ultimately leads to the better reward!

  104. I think there is a growing discontent within the masses of noobs, newbies of whatever the “cool people” label us. Many of us are tired of being treated like sheep and getting sheared by those who prey on our lack of knowledge. Many of us are wising up and reining in our insecurities. My sincere hope is that the well is going to dry up for those that trade on our noob status. Many of us just want to use our talents to provide something valuable that will allow is to make a living . If we concentrate on providing value for others, our needs will follow. I’d sure like to hang out with more Third Tribe types and less bottom feeders.

  105. I made six figures from Adsense last year (and the year before), so I’m biased in saying it’s a valid way to make money online. I’m a writer and an introvert, and I love that I can focus on blogging and promoting my sites without having to worry about the customer service aspect that comes with selling a product or even selling advertising independently.

    If I had a niche I was extremely passionate about and wanted to build a brand around, it might be different, but I like the flexibility I have with my current blogs. I can research and write about whichever of my niches strikes my fancy that day. Of course, I don’t build crappy sites that could only make money from Adsense either. That’d be pretty short-sighted. If you build a good site, there are countless ways to make money with it. It’s more about choosing one that meshes with your goals and your personality than saying one way is better than another.

  106. Lindsay, I love your site and have been subscribed to it for over a year now, so I can absolutely vouch that you know what you’re talking about. I think my main frustration comes from eBooks, courses, teachers, etc who recommend that their students focus on money-making niches only, versus niches that they have a genuine interest in. As such, my 15 or so sites are in topics that I absolutely couldn’t care less about, which makes me have a complete lack of motivation to update them.

    I’ve decided instead to focus on 3 or so sites in niches that I have a true interest and excitement about – that way, I’ll get satisfaction out of the writing, and the monetary gains will be icing on the cake.

  107. It’s somehow refreshing to see a very well respected blogger I always follow to not get the adsense thing going. That’s exactly what is happening to me this year, but that is because I’m on the rear end of giving up all my blogs because I don’t feel like writing anymore.

    I just can’t understand why you only made 111 Dollars in a year. It’s funny. I never thought someone like you to earn that little from Adsense. I used to make 300 USD for three months in succession in 2009, but it really requires “some work” that I’m not willing to stand for anymore :p

  108. I have to admit that this post is finally making me think of finding new strategies for making money online. My Adsense money isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not livable income, and it never will be because I’m not about to create hundreds of websites just to get there.

  109. I’ve allows had a fundamental problem with driving traffic away from my site.

    You do so much to get traffic then have a system that drives them to unknown lands for a nickle.

  110. I’m new to this, thanks for the information Johnny and Lisa.

  111. Just came here from the Third Tribe website. I’m a member, and after reading this, I felt happy that I joined.

    I’ve been trying to make money not only by putting adsense on the the many websites that I have, which basically means that I have to do the things that I don’t really like. I was in for the bucks, and as far as adsense is concerned, I didn’t get anything. I did some affiliate marketing and I didn’t really like it since I force myself to write and market about things that I don’t buy or use. The sad part is, after doing whatever the ‘eBook’ and ‘videos’ told me, I didn’t get anything from it. I come to realize that this is not working and I need to get something that I really like doing, while having some nice bucks coming in to my paypal account.

    I haven’t started anything from The Third Tribe, but I get my hands on it as soon as possible. Moreover, I just started my blog December last year, so I’m hoping to gain something from it before the mid of this year, maybe a few bucks to pay the domain and hosting.

  112. What is being said here is that a non-traffic oriented way of making money beat a static traffic ploy (SEO ploy) by 500 times. It means most people have to work for a living and an act of arbitrage cannot sustain itself indefinitely.

    In 2000 I opened an online dating site and earned a whopping $25 per month. I then changed the front page into an ad for a member site of the Platinum Exchange Adult network and instantly got $65 per month. A friend then gave me $2000 for the domain name and I was out of the business of collecting small monthly checks for having done something on the web.

    Later I took the idea of “continued revenue for past work” into sales repping. I flew to Las Vegas and spent maybe $800 visiting 2 tradeshows and agreeing to rep real products. Repping without a salary is murderous if you aren’t already earning a lot, but after 3 months work, I did make $9000 in the next two years for work I had done in that 3 months (sales pipeline can be slow which is why you mostly need a salary).

    Later, a good manufacturing company that I had received a salary from, was kind enough to say I’d get a year’s worth of small commissions on certain accounts I had before I left. That resulted in a $5000 check out of the blue.

    So commission for past work is nothing to sneer at, but the author above makes it clear that your main income is going to be from adding significant present value.

  113. Great Post Johnny, and so daring…
    I’m just new in adsense and I’m trying my own way…

    Good luck for all…

  114. Hi johnny, i really like the way you write down your experiences with adsense. Does that mean we newbie will fall into the same pit?? Well..thanks for that beautiful essay!

    Thank you.

  115. THANK GOD!! I put off putting Google AdSense on my blog for the longest time because I wanted a place outside of my SEO freelance writing to “come home to.” A place I could just write and not worry about the money! But, I eventually caved and of course I have not even made one sticking penny. Thanks for this honesty… I think I may take my ads off! Cheers!

  116. I did my first cent in 2000, without adsense. Today, 10 years later I still don’t use adsense, and I am happy about it. I make enough without it.

  117. Wow. It’s awesome to actually see someone -not- following the average crowd and actually, dare I say, going AGAINST it. I’ve used Adsense for years, and have watched my traffic go up and CTR/CPM going straight down. What a joke. Now that it’s hit absolute rock bottom, I’m ready to just drop everything Adsense related. Since it’s been one of my main streams of income for so long, I’ve been scared. But really, it’s time. There’s a lot more money out there that what Adsense gives, and this post is a very real reminder of that!

    Thank you, so much, for this post!

  118. Adsense can be fantastic for certain sites, but my own personal experience is that most of your clicks come from search engine traffic. If your site is based around news aggregators or something similar, your bounce rate will be very high and your CTR very low. Adsense isn’t for everyone, that much is clear.

  119. I guess many people will wnd up ditching Adsense just because of this post.

    I just started blogging and I wont be getting any AdSense dollars because I wont sign up. I didn’t intend to anyway.

  120. Well… technically… Adsense is a business model.

    At least for Google! ;-)

    “There is no real planning, no accounting forecasts, no intention down the road to improve workflow or expand offerings or enlarge the sales funnel, no exploiting the best abilities of yourself and partners to create benefit for others.”

    Dang. Batting .500 – which is completely AWESOME for baseball!

    The first 3 on your list actually take place for the sharks.

    A reclusive buddy of mine is still making about 2 mil a year on this non-business model.

    (Don’t ask me how or what the secret recipe is I get confused every time I’m over at his lab.)

    The guy plans, forecasts and has improved work flow. Has 12 employees. And certainly profit and loss. Well… profit.

    Plus… space overhead, expenses and his team has to monitor metrics like crazy to calculate upcoming domain renewals and cut the losers.

    Of course, the IRS considers this a biz. But if we go by their definition then then entire view of what counts as a business radically changes. :-) i.e. “A business is anything that makes US money.”

    Personally, I hate the model. And definitely agree that it does not add “real value.”

    But I’ve noticed a pattern among us content do-gooders. The arrogance the drives us away from internet marketing and the cool kids can take root as a Third Triber quick.

    Suddenly we’re the only ones doing real business. We’re the only ones who really cares about the market.

    But, dang-it, it sure does make us feel special.

    And maybe we are – just a little bit. :-)

  121. It took me almost 3 years to earn my first adsense check, not that I was trying very hard, but still 3 years is a long time. I still haven’t learned my lesson though since I still have adsense on a few of my sites. The main reason for that is that I want to get the money out that I have made to date.

  122. Man, all I can say is this was disheartening. Just crushed my hopes of adsense fortune in 3 minutes.

  123. What a very practical perspective you spell out here. Aside from skating by and using “slight of hand” to try and make money, you actually pitch how it actually takes real work to make money, despite how “easy money” Adsense and blogging actually looks. To be honest, using Adsense and pumping out hollow little blogger blogs is much akin to those who blindly thought the ‘real estate’ industry is easy money. LOL. Great thoughts Johnny.

  124. One site, PR0, makes 700-800$ / month Adsense alone. Little more on Chikita, and Clickbank. Pwnage.

  125. You’re right. That one counterexample definitely offsets the experiences of thousands of newbies who never make a cent and invalidates my entire argument.

  126. So true. I have a client with over 7,000 site visitors a day and her only revenue is Adsense ads. Granted she makes $1,200 per month, if she had her own product this could easily be ten fold. I’m going to send her a copy of this post.

  127. let me confirm your words by telling you this fact
    my website gets 500,000 hit each month (half a million) and i have adsense on every page and it makes less than 1000 dollars from ad revenues each month

    what i found is that the more interesting your articles are the less likely someone is to escape to somewhere else through an Ad

  128. my friend just told me that his adsense account had been suspended. May be banned due to unforeseen activity which breach the TOS. Hope it will not happen to us…

  129. Thanks for the really insightful article. :D I don’t like the whole under hand approach at making money. I try to offer very truthful and honest articles and if I make money then thats just an added bonus! :D

  130. For me, making money with PPC ads on my site is more about creating a large monthly passive income over a long-term period.

    Slow and steady growth is working for me. So, I’ll be keeping the Adsense ads in place.

  131. I enjoyed reading your information and all the posts here. I have been doing adsense for about a year and it is definately a challenge. Im happy with them but Im always looking for a plan B everyday. I get only about 2100 visitors a day but it’s slowly growing. Take care and much success to you all.

  132. I think that Jonny is very correct. We should not be dependent upon others to help us make money. We have to start and start something today so that in the long run we can be somewhere and help other so that in return we get paid.

    This is how the entire system runs and for most of the people out there too.

    Cheers to Jonny.

  133. Thanks for the advice you gave. I had been thinking how to make money without having to use third-party calculation is sometimes deceiving.

  134. Killer breakdown, Johnny. I especially like the point about monetizing being redundant. It seems so obvious in hindsight, but that phrasing really brought the point home. [Accessing vocabulary files... deleting "monetization" when used in conjunction with "website"]

    I’m making the leap from that older model, too. It’s both a little scary and exhilarating to break all the rules and blaze your own trail. But so worth it.

  135. It is very difficult with what aim a person starts blog. Most of the time it just a click… and you are in this world… now once you are here then ad sense is after you… Other blogger would drain you there in this money making endless goal obscured journey..

    Still there are some exceptions. But what may be the reason if you are making a blog then make it to learn the e-space. To me I found this is a place of good people, who intend to share. That is the reason if I don’t get any answer I give search…I get help from blog site….

    To me earning through blogging should not be someones professions. Sweet should related with earning. A amount from your site can just bring smile… that is all.

    Now If we don’t make it ad sense a source of income then you can enjoy the earning even if it is a cent in a decade. Thumb rule is that your earning should be related with your sweat.

    forgive me if I said something high sounding…

  136. The most important thing in the world is “does it help others”— to be more specific does blog help others… If yes that should bring smile with in yourself… ad sense is nothing to you… If you are my friend in the e space then ad sense in the number 14 player on the side line… The way we place ad sense on the side bar…

    The issue is blog should made to share.. Don’t make it a earning scope. If you can share you would find most of the people are good. That is the reason when all the librarians can’t answer its the e-space where some is waiting something that you need… to me with what intention he is in the e-space… but he is the most wanted person for me…

  137. So true. I have a client with over 7,000 site visitors a day and her only revenue is Adsense ads. Granted she makes $1,200 per month, if she had her own product this could easily be ten fold. I’m going to send her a copy of this post.

  138. I used to sell traffic to adult sites for 12 years and then I had 3 kids. So I decided to try the non adult arena because the adult industry is going down the crapper with paid sites. Anyways, I have tried 25 different affiliate programs and because I don’t have my own product, I have to say that adsense has been a life saver. I have an autistic daughter and I have to work at home. Adsense has paid for her medicine and speech therapy for 15 months in a row. I’ve tried information products but unless you have a huge mailing list… you are just giving away your traffic to other professionals. To me… I am starting to like the “get paid instantly with Paypal” idea but I need a good product to market. Not just the same old “get rich in your sleep” crap :) Anyways, that’s my two cents worth. Much success to everyone that earns it… don’t give up. We don’t need anymore losers in the world :)

  139. This is true. A blog looks incredible without those obstructing advertisements. I use adsense to indicate how much my new sites are doing in generating income – for flipping purposes. But I don’t use it to primarily expect some income lovin. I better write my own ebook and have it for sale. That case, I have my pure income that is pure business.

  140. Don’t become a slave to adsense. Then you become some kind of Google employee but they would never pay you like a true employer would. They don’t know who you are and are not interested in you. Don’t believe that when they send you a cheque that they care about you. They remind me of people who get slaves to work day and night for them and the reward is a little bit more food.. but they never reward you with a juicy steak. They keep making people hope in them but very few ever get rewarded properly. The ones who get rewarded properly become their showcase pieces just like every multi level marketing scam has its stars. I make 50 bucks a day from adsense but if Yahoo paid me more, I would dump google in a second.

  141. i love your site…You’re right. That one counterexample definitely offsets the experiences of thousands of newbies who never make a cent and invalidates my entire argument.

  142. I have one web site about various subjects. I didn’t make pages specifically for AdSense ads, I just have pages about things I’m interested in. If there is a major holiday where people are off work and school for a week, the clicks drop and the $100 minimum to get paid for a month may not be reached, but I usually receive at least $100 bucks a month the rest of the time. Last month was a pretty good one, so I’ll be getting over $200 dollars later this month.

    I make at least $1,000 (that’s one-thousand dollars) a year from Google AdSense. It’s not enough to live on, but many times in the past, it’s helped us make it through to the next month without starving. Best thing is that I make money while I’m sleeping or watching TV or playing video games or taking a shower or whatever. Google AdSense has turned my web site into a 24 hour a day money-making asset.

  143. It is well known that if you have traffic and instead of adsense, you sell directly a product coming from affiliate programs or even your own, your percentage of revenue will be definitely higher.

  144. The problem, as is with the problem with all personality marketing, is this, I don’t want to be famous.

    I don’t want to be even a little famous.

    I don’t want to be famous among a dozen people.

    I don’t want to market my wonderful personality complete with my incredible unique quirks, outlook and brilliant invective a la “there’s only one you”.

    Trouble is, that’s life.

  145. Great article, at the end of the day adsense is another income stream I guess to add to your websites, some pay better than others, most are free to use I believe, so apart from taking up website space they are cost effective !
    There again, what would I know ? I have never made a brass razoo (spelling ?) from any of my websites. My websites are mainly there to offer my advice from years of experience on subjects I am very knowledgeable in. Making money is secondary to me, helping others is way more important. My website luggagesuitcases.net is testament to that, more than 20 years in the airline industry, I can and will pass on excellent advice to others. Focus on service first and foremost. The great Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
    Best regards Steve

  146. Great article! I had the exact same revelation about 6 months ago when I suddenly found myself making way more money building sites for clients and creating a sustainable company that offered real value. I think the era of creating quick niche sites about wood storage sheds to sell wood storage shed affiliate products and targeted PPC ads has got to go! The next web is coming or is already here. Honesty and trustworthiness will get you much further. Thinking long-term will move you forward.

    Thanks for re-assuring my thoughts on this!

    Warm regards,

    Nate.

  147. Interesting article, but it would be more credible if you had actually had success with Adsense. Last month, I made $40 on a niche website that’s only been live for four months. It is not simply a means to a click… it provides valuable information to a small group of Internet searchers and it earns enough for me to keep working on it.

  148. I was with Adsense for 2 years and I was making about $2400 a month. I was really building my business well and suddenly google adsense disabled my account with NO warning and NO exact reason. I appealed the decision 3 times and never heard from anyone. They have no phone number to call and the only people you can talk to are volunteers that don’t make any decisions in a forum. That’s when I realized, if you dont have your own product, it’s not really your business. It’s just your traffic to redirect. That’s it. I have enough traffic to bounce back but they literally stole $2390 from me and my family with no warning. Get your own product and control your own traffic. That’s my real advice from a guy who’s been at this for 14 years. Good luck.

  149. “Sustainable incomes come from using your talents to create value for others, not from gambling and playing the numbers.”

    That is gold, right there.

  150. I actually do quite well with Adsense but I think there’s also a few things people need to understand. In monetizing, in general, you need to diversify – period. I don’t expect or anticipate whatever monies I earn from Adsense or any other CPC/CPM payments. If you are just starting out and expecting Adsense to pay for a coffee, you will die of dehydration and have horrible caffeine withdrawal.

    I encourage people to focus on creating great content, adding value, being different and unique in a crowded niche. And, as others have commented: creating a product that does all of those things as well. This will make people want to – need to – visit your site. Go into this willing to take a lot of risks and you will already have a leg up on most people who are afraid to fail. In my experience, fear stifles creativity and building solid relationships.

  151. Love the post, Johnny!

    Personally, I’d rather promote a product that I truly genuinely cared about, rather than promote random products I never personally tried and can’t honestly recommend. And who knows? By using Adsense, you might be displaying the occasional scam or pyramid scheme on your blog, which can’t possibly help the consumer (and might even hurt your own brand in the long run).

    I must admit, I used to put up ads years ago when I didn’t know any better. Now, my primary focus is creating my own products, services, and promoting other products and services that I’ve tried and personally use. That way, I KNOW that what I’m promoting is valuable to my audience, and I don’t have to feel guilty about recommending readers over to another person’s site because I genuinely care about what I’m promoting.

    Great tips and definitely something to consider.

    Christina

  152. After using adsense for more than 6 months and earning not a good sum i have now decided to go ad-free…. atleast its better not to have any ads rather than having ads just for the sake of it.

  153. Very enlightning article. I was willing to give AdSense a try but it doesn’t seem to allow me to sign up with my blog being on blogspot. Does anybody know of any alternatives?

  154. I have been working for lots of tech sites for a good few years, so decided to launch my own (iphuture.com) – now as I know a lot about getting traffic via social networking strategies I have managed to earn £0.67 from 2,484 page views and just 4 clicks in just 4 days without putting ads in great places. The site is now gaining over 1000 daily page views and there is not a lot of content on there yet – so I presume that once the site starts ranking in google and other search engines, my social networking profiles get more fans / likes and more content is added to the site my site could easily hit 10k page views a day (perhaps 5k consistently) – I would much prefer to work with an advertising company who set me goals and pay per 1000 views etc – as clicks cannot be relied on

  155. This post really got my attention. I think I need to say that a blog or a website should not be monetized on its early days – it will really be frustrating, especially with Adsense cents. My mind was focused on providing quality and helpful articles during my first six months of blogging. After more than 6-months, I got enough traffic to earn me a hundred bucks every month from Adsense.

  156. To be honest, I can make a site in 1 month which will give more than 100 atleast per month (had done already like that) but I seriously don’t like being an agent of sales for other people.

    Our traffic is our asset, we should utilize it

  157. I like adsense, because I consider myself a publisher, however they do muck you around. I have just had my adsense revenue cut by 3/4 and cannot work out why. All my stat’s are good, but income is down. Are there any similar advertising programs out there that work and pay as regularly as adsense?

  158. Adsense is a mystery to most as people tend to spend to much time blogging and not enough time creating new pages, the more pages, the more (indexed pages i should say) and the more money you will make.

    I currently make between $350 and $650 per month with adsense and i’ve only just got started. within a year i estimate this will be 20 to 30 times that. People spend too much time writing blogs with too much information. Adsense is designed to link people with business advertisers. Too much blogging and they’ll miss the ads. Concentrate on the ads not the amount of content. More ads more clicks. Quick hints and tips are great to add to 1 page with adsense. My conversion rate is around 7%.

    Traffic is a must and SEO pages with well written titles and keywords are a must too.