I remember it like it was yesterday…
“Build up a site, throw Google AdSense on it, and collect checks every month!”
The funny thing was, that sort of idea was actually feasible not so long ago. If you had great content and could get people on your site, you actually could make thousands of dollars a month with AdSense alone.
If somebody told me the same thing today, I’d have to wonder what it is they’re going to try and sell me shortly afterwards, because making money from AdSense is not quite as easy as it was just a few years ago. Here are four reasons why building a business around AdSense may be a bad idea, and what I’d do instead if I were starting out today.
1. Traffic Is Harder To Come By These Days
It really goes without saying, but blogging and internet marketing is a lot more competitive than they used to be. There are so many more sites available on any given topic, which means that the majority of them get less visitors on average than they used to. Chances are, there are better marketers out there who will dominate the search engine rankings and get the majority of the traffic.
Here’s the problem. The entire basis of an AdSense site is traffic. Without traffic, nobody will see your ads. If nobody sees your ads, nobody clicks on your ads, and you make no money. The main factor that determines your success with AdSense is the volume of traffic you can send to your pages, and that is getting harder and harder to control.
You do not need a ton of traffic to succeed with blogging, but if your only monetization method is AdSense, than you’re going to have a massive mountain to climb as you desperately try to push your traffic numbers up.
2. Banner Blindness Means Click-Through Rates Are Lower Than Ever
Even if you have a good amount of traffic, that does not mean you’re guaranteed a good number of clicks.
Ads are everywhere these days, and it’s been estimated that 86% of internet users suffer from something called “banner blindness.” This essentially means that they scroll by ads without ever realizing that the ads are even there.
Obviously, if people aren’t seeing your ad than they aren’t going to click on it. Ad click-through rates are at the lowest point ever for this very reason. That’s not good news if you’re relying on AdSense revenue!
The only real solution you have is to make your ads more intrusive, annoying your readers and pushing more and more people to use Adblock.
3. Adblock Makes Things Even Worse
If banner blindness wasn’t bad enough, plugins such as Adblock may hide your advertisements completely.
This article from PageFair says that there are 144 million active Adblock users around the world, and this number is increasing rapidly.
This puts owners of AdSense websites in a very bad position. In order to maintain revenue, they have to put more ads on their site, and make their ads more intrusive. This in turn, causes more people to install Adblock.
Think back to the days of MySpace, which used to be the world’s most popular social network. Ad revenue started to drop, so they cluttered up the website and added more advertisements. People got annoyed. Then Facebook popped up, which was much cleaner and had very few advertisements. The rest is history.
What will happen once the entire internet is using Adblock?
4. AdSense Puts Your Business In Google’s Hands
Entrepreneur.com writer Thomas Smale recently asked me what my number one tip for niche website success was. My answer?
Keep control of your business in your own hands.
The importance of having control over your own business can not be stressed enough. There is absolutely nothing worse than spending countless hours building your business up, only to have the company you’re relying on shut it down with no warning.
This is why you do not use free web hosting services, and why you do not rely on Google to send you traffic. If that disappears, it’s game over.
You run the same risk when you build your business around Google AdSense. The terms and conditions for AdSense are quite strict, and many people find themselves getting banned from the program completely on accident.
You may think you’re following all of the rules, but it’s easy to make mistakes. Google takes their advertising program very seriously, and are quick to ban if they think you’re causing harm to their advertisers.
Unless you’re a serious authority who is making thousands of dollars a month from AdSense already, you are disposable. Google will not hesitate to get rid of you.
Here’s What I’d Do Instead
Rather than putting all of my eggs in one basket, I’d diversify my income streams and build a business that I actually have complete control over.
I am a huge fan of email marketing because I have found that it offers the greatest reward for the least amount of effort.
Using a service like ActiveCampaign, you can retain your visitors by capturing their email, allowing you to grow your following without requiring a huge number of visitors a day. It’s very possible to make a living from email marketing with less than 100 visitors a day to your blog, where as you’d require thousands of daily visitors to make a living from AdSense.
Not to mention, ActiveCampaign’s autoresponder allows you to send out emails automatically, building relationships and promoting products to people on autopilot.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather develop an asset like an email list that will grow over time than work 10x harder for ad revenue that is guaranteed to drop every month as more and more people begin to use Adblock.
Nobody can take an email list away from you. Even if your website gets shut down completely, that email list will always be there.
AdSense Isn’t Worthless, But It’s Not For Every Site
If you’re not using Adblock, you’ve probably noticed that I run AdSense on this site.
Despite this, I actually recently removed AdSense from the majority of my websites.
If you’re serious about building an email list, than you’ve got to determine what you’re willing to trade a visitor away for. AdSense does not pay that well for the majority of niches, and if your goal is to retain visitors, than it does not make sense to send them away from your site for a few pennies.
It is true that people who click away from your site on advertisements probably aren’t that engaged with you or your content anyway, but you’ve really got to test things and figure out whether or not it’s worth putting ads on your site.
For my other websites, I have found that even if every single visitor clicked on an advertisement, I would still make more retaining a percentage of them and marketing to them via email.
I run AdSense on this site because the blogging / make money online market pays several dollars per click, and the trade-off actually is worth it. For most markets, this isn’t the case.
While AdSense can still be a good addition to an established website, it no longer makes sense to build a business solely around Google AdSense.
It’s harder than ever to attract a huge number of daily visitors, and click-through rates are at an all-time low.
It’s fair to say that you probably want to get the most reward from the last amount of effort. If that’s the case, you’ll find much better results promoting products, either your own or as an affiliate. Not only will you make more money, but you do not run the risk of having another company take it all away from you.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear how AdSense is working for you, or what other monetization methods you’re using to profit from your hard work!