Does AdSense Make Sense?

The following guest post was written by Kristine Shreve.

I recently saw an article in USA Today about the wonders of Adsense and how senior citizens, and others, were using it to make tons of money. The article was brought to my attention by someone who knew that we were looking for ways to generate additional revenue from one of our websites. He thought AdSense might be the perfect fit for our needs.

At first, I scoffed. AdSense, to me, has always been about tacky text ads that look low rent. The people who use AdSense, I would say to my colleagues in a regrettably superior tone, are people who are too lazy to do the real work of finding advertisers. Granted, I hadn’t looked at the AdSense program in a while, but I did read marketing blogs and visited marketing forums. In those places, AdSense is not universally beloved. Sure, some people, according to USA Today at least, were extolling the wonders of AdSense, but even the article praising the program admitted that for every person who made a hundred thousand dollars there were probably several hundred, if not several thousand, who were making just a few dollars a month.

Still, to be honest, I had to acknowledge I hadn’t looked at AdSense for a while. In the interest of fairness, I thought I ought to at least go look at the program, so I did. One of the first things I found was that what I think of as the traditional AdSense advertisement, a text ad with the words “Ads by Google” underneath, was not the only sort of AdSense ad there was. There are now many more options for the look of AdSense ads. You can now have image ads, video ads and referral ads, all of which look like normal banner type ads, and which would blend well with almost any site. Suddenly, the advertising method I’d scorned as being “low rent” wasn’t looking so low rent after all.

For me, rightly or wrongly, the perception of an advertising method matters almost as much as the effectiveness of that method. Ultimately, advertising is about making money, no one disputes that, but I’ve always been of the opinion that how people perceive the method you use to advertise is as important as the effectiveness of the advertisement. Given that thought process, I always try to examine every potential advertising method from every angle. How will potential customers think of our company if we use a particular advertising method? What does that marketing community say about this method? What other companies, competitors or not, use this method, and would I want to be lumped in a group with those companies? If the answers to those questions were positive, I generally elected to use that advertising method.

The main question that I have now is whether my method of evaluating advertising venues is the right one. Do other people’s perception of the advertising methods I use really matter? Is it possible that only those who are involved in marketing or monetizing web sites even think about these things? In the end, doesn’t the advertising revenue matter more than the method used to generate the revenue, provided that method is an honest one? Could I be neglecting a viable money making method because of a personal prejudice? If I am, what is a better way to make a choice about the advertising methods I use?

To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what I think about AdSense. I suppose, regardless of whether the ad is a text ad or an image or video ad, it is still, after all, an AdSense ad. Despite that fact, after seeing the different ad options available, I’m probably more willing to give this advertising method a try. I still won’t be putting up the text ads, but I may give a few of the image, video or referral ads a spin, just to see what happens.

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14 comments

  1. Thanks for the post Kristine. AdSense doesn’t bother me if done well. Sometimes it can be too in your face, but if the ads are integrated with the rest of the design they don’t bother me. I see them as one way to monetize a site. For some sites AdSense probably doesn’t make much sense, but for others it can be a good money earner.

    There are people who will see the ads as somewhat cheesy and may not link so readily or subscribe to a blog running AdSense so there are concerns to be considered. As a general rule the ads don’t bother.

    Thanks again for the post.

  2. David I agree that AdSense isn’t always low rent, but it is how many will see the ads. It certainly depends a lot on who’s viewing the ads and how well they’ve been integrated into your design. One thing we all forget at times is most of us who are in the know about things like AdSense are ahead of the curve. The majority don’t necessarily even realize they’re ads and so don’t seem them as low rent, high rent, or any kind of rent in between. The majority see a few links on the page is all.

    One thing to take into consideration with AdSense is that those in the know will see the ads for ads. Some of those people may not link to your site because of the ads so having them there might be a concern. But, again, it depends on the viewer, the topic of your site, how tech savvy they are in seeing the ads as ads.

    AdSense isn’t automatically ‘low rent,’ but there is an audience who will see them that way. If that audience is important to you then it’s something to consider. If that audience isn’t important to you then having the ads probably isn’t a big deal.

  3. I have to admit, I keep re-evaluating contextual advertising for my own sites. I completely agree that a lot of my hesitation is how my visitors (and potential clients) will perceive me if the ads are low quality. By extension, there’s also the financial aspect: one client could bring in thousands of dollars, but AdSense might only net me a few hundred dollars per year, even with decent traffic. I’m not morally opposed to the idea, but I don’t think the math works out for most of us in the blogosphere.

  4. You could be correct of course, but then again it might mostly be the bloggers who would see it like that. Again, anything can be abused.

    However, I totally agree that if you are in the “one sale makes my day” set then you probably don’t want anything that might distract your customers from the path to conversion.

  5. @Pete – I share your thoughts. One of the thoughts that crosses my mind on a lead generation site that displays AdSense is if the business behind the site has such good services why do they need the few dollars AdSense might deliver? The ads might make someone question how well the business is doing fairly or not.

    I did use AdSense here shortly after launching the blog and still have the ads on older posts. In part because I’m too lazy to remove them and in part out of curiosity and a way to understand the system better.

    @David – I think you’re touching on one of the main ideas about AdSense in it depends on the audience for your site. A tech savvy audience will recognize the ads as ads and so the ads may raise some of the questions that have been mentioned here. A non tech savvy audience probably won’t raise those questions.

    I agree with you that contextual advertising isn’t automatically a bad thing. It truly depends on your audience, your topic, how much you’re earning. It’s good to be aware of the potential concerns, though.

  6. I would have to agree that contextual advertising isn’t a bad thing. Used properly, and designed attractively, it can be a useful tool.

    My concern was not so much about the usefulness of AdSense as it was about the perception of AdSense. In some quarters it is, or was, considered to be an advertising method used by people who aren’t so much concerned with content as they are with getting people to come to their site and click ads. I’m also not overly fond of the straight text design that I’ve always considered the “traditional” AdSense ad.

    Once I went and investigated, I discovered the image ads. These are much more attractive, and would, I think, fit better into more upscale sites.

    Whether we like it or not, how others perceive our sites matters. If the majority of people who come to your site think that AdSense is generally used by people who aren’t serious businesspeople, then it will hurt the perception of your business. That’s where my hesitation came from, and why I was hesitant to use AdSense. When I investigated further, I discovered there were other options than the AdSense ads with which I was familiar. We’re still probably going to give the image ads a try on one of our sites. I’ll let everyone know how it turns out.

  7. Excellent post. Adsense, for me, is an excellent concept which, if used properly, can contribute to the effectiveness of a website. Of course there are other tools, similar to adsense, which can provide a more “attractive” presentation on a page. Image ads could be one of them.

    Adsense is surely a quick and painless way to getting ads on your site, but finding advertisers (targeted advertisers) may be a dilemma today, but it does have its own rewards.

  8. Good points Paul. I agree if you use it well AdSense can add value to a site. If the ads are relevant they can be just what someone is looking for. They’re definitely easy to set up, but they are only one way to monetize a site.

  9. Steven, aside from Adsense, what service can you suggest to monetize blogs, etc? Are there other excellent contextual advertising solutions out there aside from Adsense. I have seen Chikita or is that what it’s called.

  10. I think they should increase our share, but however I am still good with 68% share unless there is some other competitor with such big inventory and simple to get in.

  11. How about they give us 100% :)

    Seems like what they give out is pretty fair. After all on our end it’s not a lot of work to add the code and Google pretty much supplies everything else.

  12. If I am creating a personal website to practice (x)html/css design, and I want to start monetizing:

    Should I start right away with adsense/other forms of advertisement?

    Should I wait until I have some site traffic/regular users and followers?

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