There are a lot of different ways that savvy people monetise the web, of which AdSense is only one. For perfect clarity, where we are talking ‘Adsense’ we’re really talking about Adsense for content, contextual ads on the Google Adsense network that that can be utilised on blogs, websites or any other web-based properties that fit within Google’s publishing rules. You place the ads and run them and based on the keywords you’re filling, traffic volumes etc you get a cut of ad revenue (which can be lucrative depending on the size of the property etc).
On the other side of things you have Google AdWords, which is Google’s advertising program. AdWords basically provides a platform for Google advertisers to bid for keywords, and for publishers to gain variable payment for ads that are placed in content. Google has a fairly strong set of policies on AdWords in the same way that they do with Adsense, since neither the publisher or the advertiser have full control of what ads are displayed where. You can view the full set of rules and restrictions here, but suffice to say that they are focused on good user experience, not confusing or misleading the user and on restricting ads from sites that provide pornographic or ‘adult’ content.
A great resource to take a look at to get more of a view on both of these is the Guide to Google Ads.
The Good stuff
One of the best things about AdSense ads is that they follow all of Google’s rules on user experience, which means that they tend to be more unobtrusive, less flashy and (hopefully) more targeted than other banner and display advertising – their contextuality is a big plus as relevance is the main game here – the more relevant the ad the more likely you are to get paid.
Ultimately the Adsense application and signup is pretty easy and focused around pretty well anyone (who fits within those pesky guidelines) being able to take it up – which means that if you have a site with some targeted traffic you can monetise.
Later you might want to consider other ad networks or services and there are a lot out there – AdSense is a pretty good place to start though because there is no need for you to look for direct advertisers, negotiate prices or any of the other things that you need to do where you are monetising at a higher level – you worry about creating good content and growing an audience and leave the rest to Google.
The (less good) stuff
The better less good stuff is that there are a fair few people out there making good money from Google AdSense alone (and likely monetising via other ad streams as well). The less good news is that you really need a good sized audience before you can monetise effectively. There are a bunch of different things that you can do to achieve that, the main one being creating quality content – beyond that SEO, social media, paid advertising and many other channels and techniques can be used to build out and audience – worth reading up on. It’s a balance and you definitely want to make sure that you’re careful in the early days of growing a new property – in the case of advertising it is easy to end up in a situation where advertising fees can be more than you are earning in revenues. Again, focusing on content quality and correct audience identification is key.
There is an application process and Google needs to actually provide approval for your site (and your content) prior to your being able to run ads and start to earn revenues from AdSense. The application process is fairly simple and can be completed at www.google.com/adsense. There is an approval process and it might take a few days or you to be approved as long as you are doing the right things, but it’s free.
If you’re looking to monetise a new content property and you want to generate income from advertising revenues, Adsense can be a great place to start. As you grow there are likely to be better platforms for revenue generation and you’ll need to investigate those further.
Go forth and generate revenue!
If you have thoughts that you’d like to add or want to join the conversation you can do so below.
Simon was the GM and Head of Business at SitePoint, and a mentor at INCUBATE.