5.26 Becoming an AdSense Publisher

Google's AdSense has revolutionized Internet advertising, and many sites are benefiting from its simple features. Setup is straightforward.

1. First you need a decent site: informative and professional-looking, with 20+ pages and over 50 visitors a day.
2. You then go to AdSense and provide Google with brief details of your site, and to whom the revenue check should be sent.
3. Google appraise the site, and — all being well — email you back in a few days with acceptance and your Username and Password.
4. You access the AdSense site, make your choice of ad format, and the code needed is automatically generated for you on the page. You can set various aspects of the ads — color of background, typeface, box around, etc. (and also specify which sites you want blacklisted from advertising on your site, of which more later).
5. You copy the code with your browser, open your web pages in your usual HTML editor, and paste the code where you want the adverts to appear.
6. Upload the new pages and you're done. You can be earning a few minutes from receiving your acceptance email.

Google also provide a revenue page where you watch your earnings steadily accumulate, and an AdSense viewer, since you cannot click on your site ads to see where they come from (you'll get yourself banned). The process is pretty intuitive, and Google provide an abundance of notes and suggestions.

Typical Results

How much do you typically earn? Google prohibits publication of results, but these sorts of figures are bandied about (all monthly):

Site 1

Site 2

Site 3

Site 4

Site 5

Site 6

Page Impressions







Click-through Rate







Earnings: Total







Earning per

Click (cents)







Are they typical?

Not exactly. AdSense publishers fall into two categories:

1. Decent, run-of-the-mill sites that simply place AdSense Ads on their pages. Anecdotal evidence suggest these earn some $100 to $300/month for some 10,000 to 50,000 page impressions/month.
2. Sites specially designed for AdSense. We look at business models later, but AdSense professionals use some mix of tens to hundreds of quickly-created sites, each earning around $50/month, often with one or more topnotch sites, well-placed and earning $3000 or more each month.

Approaches are quite different, but we continue with what is common to all AdSense users, the AdSense online report, which you can access once you sign up. The relevant section looks like this:


Page impressions


Page CTR

Page eCPM


September 8, 2005






September 9, 2005






September 10, 2005






Pages that do not generate click-throughs do not earn anything — and Google probably penalize low click-through sites (i.e. with CT rates consistently below 0.5%) by sending them poorer-paying Ads.
You'll also note, looking at September 9th results, that Page CTR is 8/248=0.0323 or 3.2%. But what is eCPM? Google call this the Effective Cost per 1000 impressions. For each page showing their ad on your site Google effectively charged advertisers $9.15/1000, i.e. 0.915 cents.

Costs per click is another measure, in this case $2.27/8 or 28.4 cents. In fact, because Google only pay you half (pundits reckon 40- 60%) of the revenue, the AdWord advertisers were being charged 56.8 cents per click.

Why have eCPM at all, since it doesn't bear on your earnings? Because it facilitates Google's 'average cost-per-click', allowing AdWord users to set a limit to their monthly market spend. Google adjusts click-through by sending adverts through to a variety of sites, those with high CTRs and those that don't perform so well — which means they are continually monitoring performance.

Your AdSense revenue depends on three things:

1. Traffic to your site.
2. Percentage of visitors clicking on the Google ads, which requires ads relevant to page content and site claims.
3. How much Google pays you for each click-through, which in turn depends on what advertisers are charged under AdWords.

Your aim is to increase all three. Professionals in fact run a campaign with 6 phases:

1. Finding high-paying keywords that will integrate into a decently informative site.
2. Prevent low-paying adverts being posted by Google on their site.
3. Improving CTRs by selecting the best ad styles, and placing them strategically on their pages.
4. Ensuring their site meets all Google requirements.
5. Getting the site noticed/listed quickly by the search engines.
6. Boosting traffic to the site.

None of this is brain surgery, but some elements need working on.

Multiple Sites

You may want to put AdSense ads on more than one site. Do you have sign up with Google for each site?

No. You can add as many sites as you wish once accepted by Google. In fact — very important — you should not sign up again. An individual possessing more than one AdSense account infringes the regulations, and Google will terminate the agreement.

Google, in fact, allows you to monitor results from different sites through up to 200 channels. Matters are fully explained on the AdSense site, which also generates the code you need to produce specific reports sometimes, but in outline Google say:

1. Use URL Channels to track your performance without modifying your ad code. By entering a full or partial URL, you can begin tracking the performance of your pages. You can enter a top-level domain name to track all of the pages on that domain, or you can enter a partial URL to track all of the pages below a certain directory. Entering a full URL (i.e. http://www..../page.html) will track the performance of that particular page.
2. Custom Channels allow you to track performance based on your specified criteria. By pasting channel-specific ad code into your pages, you can track a variety of metrics across a range of URLs. Use custom channels to track the performance of different ad formats, for example, or to compare different page topics to one another.

Two points. Google employ human researchers, which means that:

1. If you sign up with one site but then add inappropriate sites under the same account, you stand the risk of being caught out and your contract terminated (usually with loss of uncollected earnings to date, which are returned to Google Advertisers).
2. If you insist of breaking the rules by having multiple accounts then you must use different people/companies, addresses and hosting companies. It's not difficult to discover who is who on the Internet.


Can Google AdSense harm your site? Yes. Two things can happen.

1. Your site looks cheap, and customers lose faith in what you're selling. If you're doing as well as you claim with your product or services, why would you need AdSense?
2. Though only a few percent click on the ads, that few percent may well be those predisposed to buy something and leave your site.

Experiment. Consider placing AdSense a) on sites specially designed for them, not your flagship site, and/or b) integrate them boldly into the page design.

Staying Undetected

One important matter before we continue: staying undetected. If you spend the odd hour researching the pay-per-click search engines, no one is going to mind. But if you conduct concentrated research — as you'll have to, particularly with some keyword search software — then you'll make a nuisance of yourself and get banned. It's understandable. Ppc advertisers pay for sales, not research, and if you spent the whole day in your local retail outlet just noting the prices you'd also find the manager stepping forward. You need to remain anonymous, which is achieved through a proxy server. There exist various free services, but since these are somewhat limiting, you may wish to purchase a commercial service/software for extended bouts of work.

Finding High-Paying Ads

If you're taking AdSense seriously (rather than just placing ads on existing pages) you have three tasks:

1. Selecting keywords of high-paying Google AdWords where you can succeed against the competition.
2. Integrating those keywords into a coherent website.
3. Writing content-rich and search-engine-friendly pages for these keywords.

Keyword Prices

Here is the range of keywords and prices for Google AdWords in late 2005, as estimated by Country Keywords.

Google Ad Price

Number of Keywords

$50.00 +


$20.00 +


$10.00 +


$5.00 +


$3.00 +


$1.00 +


$0.50 +


$0.25 +


$0.15 +


$0.10 +


Free services are fine if you just want to tweak the earning potential of an existing site. But if you want to really improve matters and/or look for new AdSense opportunities, then you'll need commercial Keyword Research Software. Only a few of these programs are helpful for AdSense, and you'll want to appraise the software/service on specific features, notably the following:

1. Proxy server setting for live research: can you research anonymously?
2. Size of keyword database: the larger the better.
3. Currency of database: static list or live results?
4. Keywords taken from Google AdWords or other ppc search engines?
5. Levels of searching: can you drill down to find obscure but high-quality keywords?
6. Data-handling: can you export results easily for further analysis?
7. Competing sites and/or competition measure included?
8. Search volume or keyword popularity shown?
9. Extra features.

Coherent Website

So: you've found high-paying Google AdWords, which will generate good revenues when these ads are posted on your site. What next?

Two approaches.

1. Many, probably the majority of AdSense 'professionals' (often college kids hoping to supplement their income), find keyword niches and create one to ten new sites every day, getting them quickly listed but not expecting more than a modest $100/month from each site. Neither site nor content has much finesse, but the totals can be impressive. Or were: these 'thin' sites, with content scraped from other sites or Wikipedia etc. material simply rewritten, are now being penalized by Google. They are still possible, but the content has to be better researched and written up.
2. You create coherent sites grouped around an integrated set of keywords, firstly because such sites are preferred by Google, and secondly because this is often the best or only way of getting a decent ranking on the natural search engines.

You can't therefore build a site mixing timeshare with pension advice just because both provide high-paying ads — unless perhaps it's a local business site — but you can select an associated set of such keywords and craft a site around them. Commercial software allows you to find just the keywords you need.

Writing the Pages

Someone of course has to write the pages, and that someone is either you or writers you engage through odesk and the like. Google insist on good content, and you'll only get return visitors if the material is attractive. Better chose something that interests you, or where you have firsthand knowledge. That is even more the case if you run a blog, which is a handy way of getting a new site listed quickly.

Whatever you do, you have to get traffic, which means attaining a high ranking in the natural search engines for popular keywords. Only a few percent of visitors look at sites outside the first 10, and sites outside the top 100 are rarely looked at. You'll probably get more traffic from a top 5 ranking on an unpopular keyword than a top 50 ranking with a popular keyword. It's a question of balancing popularity and value against competition, but keyword software will give you the handle on this.

Blocking Low-Paying Ads

But even though the top bids will be high for these keywords, there will also be advertisers paying much less, and their ads will be sent to your site from time to time, just so monthly marketing budgets are met. In fact, Google will send these ads much of the time, unless you block them. And since these lower bids can cut your revenue considerably, by a half or more, it pays to implement this step.

The key is the URL filtering feature that Google allows you to use to avoid showing competitor ads on your site. It looks like this:

Your Competitive Ad Filters

Examples:example.comblock all ads across all subdomains
 sports.example.comblock only ads across the 'sports' subdomain
 sports.example.com/widgetsblock all ads below a specific directory
 sports.example.com/index.htmlblock all ads for a specific page

You can list up to 200 URLS with this facility. Once an URL appears on this list, Google won't send you ads from that source. Use keyword research programs to find these Scrooges.

Note that it can take up to 24 hours for the filter to take effect. Also remember to:

1. Enter the URL without the www., i.e. as competitor.com and not www.competitor.com.
2. Block your own site if you use Google AdWords.
3. Block googlestore.com, which doesn't pay you.

Selecting & Arranging the Ads

Google decide what ads they will post to your pages, but you can choose their format and where they will appear on each page. Google are keen on large ads displayed prominently, but studies suggest:

1. Text ads perform better than pictorial banner ads: viewers have got tired of banners and tend to ignore them.
2. Box ads perform a little better than link units, perhaps some 25% better.
3. Vertical skyscraper ads generally perform better than lateral leaderboards, but not better than button or box units as large units stick out and look additional to the page.
4. Best results are obtained by integrating the ads into the page text — i.e. use the Google setup tools to produce ads that follow your color scheme and typeface. Do not use a border to the ads, and set the background to melt into the page background.

Positioning the Ads

Google recommends placing their ads as its heat map' indicates:
They say:
'The colors fade from dark orange (strongest performance) to light yellow (weakest performance). All other things being equal, ad placements above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold. Ads placed near rich content and navigational aids usually do well because users are focused on those areas of a page.
While this heat map is useful as a positioning guideline, we strongly recommend putting your users first when deciding on ad placement. Think about their behavior on different pages, and what will be most useful and visible to them. You'll find that the most optimal ad position isn't always what you expect on certain pages.
For example, on pages where users are typically focused on reading an article, ads placed directly below the end of the editorial content tend to perform very well.'

Acceptable Site

Google make their aims very clear:

'AdSense delivers relevant text and image ads that are precisely targeted to your site and your site content. And when you add a Google search box to your site, AdSense delivers relevant text ads that are targeted to the Google search results pages generated by your visitors' search request.'


'With Google's extensive advertiser base, we have ads for all categories of businesses — and for practically all types of content, no matter how broad or specialized. And since Google provides the ads, you have no advertiser relationships to maintain. The AdSense program represents advertisers ranging from large global brands to small and local companies. Ads are also targeted by geography, so global businesses can display local advertising with no additional effort. And you can use AdSense in many languages.'

Relevance is the key to Google. The more relevant and tightly-focused information your site delivers on some market sector, the more Google will like you, rewarding your higher CTR with more revenues. To be accepted at all, your site needs to:

1. Receive over 50 and preferably over 100 unique visitors/day.
2. Contain 20+ pages of original (not recycled) content.
3. Be free of profanity, pornography, gambling and socially undesirable traits.
4. Be free of 'excessive' advertising (i.e. not be largely composed of affiliate links)
5. Not be both an affiliate and have affiliates (can be one or the other, but not both)
6. Be free of sales pitches for specific products on pages showing AdSense ads (which may conflict with ads Google will send).
7. Be professional-looking: easy to navigate, no broken links.
8. Include a 'contact us' (email or telephone) at the foot of each page.


1. Click on the links (use the special Google viewing tool, and then type the URL into your browser toolbar if you must see who these advertisers are).
2. Modify the Google code after it has been generated for you.
3. Display Google ads on webpages with MP3, video, newsgroup and image results.
4. Display Google on a site requiring user to download a dialer to view the site.
5. Exceed the number of ads Google allows for each page: 3 ad units, 1 Google search box and 1 link box.
6. Place ads on no-content pages (e.g. welcome, thank you for your purchase, site map pages).
7. Place Google ads on pages that open in a new browser window.
8. Construct pages specifically for Google ads (e.g. describing ad services).
9. Construct pages essentially of affiliate links (unfair to Google advertisers).
10. Place other ads (e.g. Kanoodle) on same page as Google ads.
11. Get friends to click on the ads: Google has sophisticated equipment to detect such irregularities: suspension will follow.
12. Employ software to generate clicks: Google will find out and suspend your site.
13. Add pages not relevant to your site simply to get more or better-paying traffic: it won't work.
14. Use cloaking devices to generate multiple virtual pages: Google is waging war on such practices.
15. Use pop-ups, pop-unders or exit windows that interfere with site navigation.
16. Use excessive, irrelevant or repetitive keywords in the content or coding of pages.
17. Offer incentives to induce viewers to click on ads, either material or persuasive text (support us, click here for. . . etc.).
18. Label ads other than 'sponsored links" or advertisements'.
19. Promote tobacco, prescriptive drugs, alcohol or designer replicates.


1. Remember Google's aims: quality information and services. Professionalism shows, and Google will note it.
2. Accidents happen, or you may fall victim to illegal activities by competitors. If Google send you a warning email, always reply promptly and courteously, explaining the situation as fully as you understand it. You need Google far more than they need you.
3. Avoid hosting with companies that permit what Google disapproves of (adult sites, political rants, etc.) Check with their terms of service, and with hosting directories.
4. Do not link to sites that Google dislikes (as above).
5. Don't be too clever. Continual site tweaking, adding rel="nofollow", cloaking, etc. — none of these will do you any good.

Getting Traffic

Traffic is the final key to good AdSense revenues, not only volume but the right sort of visitors. You can use the pay-per-click search engines if you are acting as an affiliate or selling your own products or services, but make sure that AdSense ads do not interfere with the selling process.

In general, you can't use arbitrage, i.e. purchase Google AdWords to generate AdSense revenues. Google pay AdSense publishers only half of their AdWord revenue, and a CTR of 10% is very good: you pay $2 a click and get back 0.5 x 0.1 x $2, i.e. 10 cents.

You can experiment with the alternative pay-per-click search engines, but the same consideration usually applies. Their bid rates can be much lower, but not sufficiently so. And visitors sent by these ppc search engines are not always determined shoppers, ready to part with their money or click on further adverts.

Two strategies are worth considering, however:

1. You can get visitors to your pages with tightly-focused but poorly-paying keywords that have little competition, and then expect some visitors to stray over to other pages in your site. You'll need to lead them through with enticing copy, however, as most visitors look briefly at a page and then click on to another site: and if you fall in love with Latin folklore customs, you may want to think about buying a property in Mexico through USA-based companies that know the ropes . . .

2. Google treats sites as coherent entities. That means a site with a good proportion of its pages ranking well against reasonable competition will have its remaining pages boosted in the Google rankings, even when those pages individually face phenomenal competition. You can therefore 'float' your better-paying pages with less competitive pages of low-paying ads, providing always that the two associate naturally.

AdSense-Friendly Pages

You'll optimize your pages as you would for the natural search engines generally, paying special attention to Google's preferences. It may also help to:

1. Chunk your text into sections introduced by <H1> or <H2> headers: these headers should contain the keywords you're targeting.
2. Ensure targeted keywords appear in page title, description and meta tags.
3. Place keyword(s) near the start and end of the page text.
4. Internally link your page to others with related keywords on your site.
5. Externally link via keywords (i.e. the keyword is the link, rather than 'click here').
6. Help Google recognize relevant text by bracketing with <!-- google_ad_start --> relevant text <- - google_ad_end - - >
7. Get Google to ignore text by using: <!-- google_ad_start(weight=ignore) -->relevant text <- - google_ad_end - - > Changes can take to 2 weeks to appear.

AdSense Business Models

Many AdSense professionals prefer to create a large number of separate sites targeting similar market niches. Individually, the sites don't make much, but each $1-$5/day/site mounts up to an appreciable monthly income. The approach is some variation of:

1. Research the market to find a profitable niche.
2. Create a large keyword list for the niche in question.
3. Research to find the optimal 5, 10. . . associated keywords.
4. Create a site with custom templates/computer-generated software: each page corresponds to an optimal keyword.
5. Add a relevant trade link section for reciprocal listing.
6. Submit to Google, generally with a Google sitemap.
7. Use blog and ping techniques to get site listed rapidly.
8. Add new content to the site daily.
9. Repeat 3 to 7 to create new sites. Use cheap .info domains and reseller hosting, but use several hosting companies.
10. Link sites on a non-reciprocal basis.
11. Use various promotional techniques (including press releases) to boost traffic.
12. An additional — but risky — approach is to create 'virtual pages' on the fly using cloaking techniques.
13. As noted above, this approach is much more difficult now that Google demand original and authoritative content.

What Works and What Doesn't

Many of the AdSense business models that netted their authors six-figure incomes no longer do so, though the now out-of-date ebooks and software continue to sell. The current state of play seems to be as follows:

1. Java Redirects: redirects from many sites that boosted traffic on your main earning site. Detected and banned.
2. Link Exchanges and Link Farms. Ineffective: Google looks for good non-reciprocal links.
3. Virtual page generation by server software. Detected and banned.
4. Proper page generation but automatically with software. Being detected and ignored.
5. Splogs. Content scraped from other sites followed by automatic blog and ping. Being detected and ignored.
6. Overuse of keywords in page content, links and alt tags is being penalized, as is the creation of backlinking sites generated solely to improve rankings.

Additional Suggestions

Companies need to experiment and monitor results. Ecommerce Digest's findings for its own sites over the November 2005 - January 2007 period were:

1. Google analyzes each site as a whole and decides (through unknown algorithms) what the site should earn based on number of pages, ranking, market sector and how the Ads actually perform on your site. Earnings will therefore fluctuate far more than page impressions or click-through rates. Google is balancing its books.
2. Despite claims to the contrary, Google does not always send appropriate Ads. 'Bad days' can see unattractive Ads sent that are not relevant to your page, or even to your site. Google is dumping on you to meet Advertisers' monthly budgets.
3. Site upgrades (new pages, new structures, new designs) bring a day or two of adjustment as Google reevaluates your site. Trends in eCPM, CTR and earnings are broken as new trends settle into place.

4. Google evaluates your site (in fact all your sites: see below) every couple of weeks or so. Trends then settle into their previous form if there have been no major site changes.
5. Google slightly adjusts the earnings on a day to day basis. Just as Google allows advertisers to agree a monthly marketing spend, so they will send you high earnings for a day or two followed by low earnings immediately afterwards. Google are not 'playing games with you' so much as matching AdWords and AdSense requirements.
6. Doubling the number of site pages will not necessarily double the earnings: the new pages have to fit in with Google's idea of relevance and be good earners in themselves (see 'smart pricing' below), but adding pages to one site may boost earnings on a second site if that second site has pages similar (but not identical) to the pages in the first site — even though those first site pages do not receive many click-throughs. Again some overall site earning concept seems to operate, as though Google is continually checking your overall page offerings.

7. High-paying keywords are important, and a few pages with these may earn more that the rest of the site put together.
8. High-paying keywords need to be used site-wide. If, for example, to support the affiliate program for golf equipment you add a large section on making affiliate programs pay, Google will not regard that section as belonging to the lucrative affiliate market sector, but simply as part of your golfing site.
9. High-paying keywords can be smuggled in as 'practical' keywords (see above), but gains are not as claimed by keyword services.

10. You cannot block advertisers to any appreciable extent with Adsense tools: a site of any size will need several times the 200 allowed under competitive filters.
11. The above apply to some extent to all the sites in your account with Google. If earnings fall in one site on a particular day, they will also tend to do so on other sites of yours, even though in different market sectors. That means you must give some thought to: setting up an appropriate mix of sites, and/or opening a different account with Google — which has to be a different person, different company, different bank account, different server and different domain owner. Using multiple accounts is against the terms of service with Google, of course, so the details really must be different.
12. High-paying keywords may be the single most important factor, but in choosing these you must bear in mind that pages have to receive visitors. Google Advertisers pay high bid prices to get ahead of the competition. Ten dollar plus keywords are those facing millions of competing sites, and there's no point in having them on your site unless the pages concerned beat the competition by:
    a. Being part of a top-ranked site (extensive, good content, deservedly popular)
    b. Benefit from visitor spill over from other pages (often limited)
    c. Attracting visitors by cheaper pay-per-clicks (generally difficult)

13. Average bid price is more important than the highest: i.e. where advertisers are willing to pay handsomely for a 5th or 10th ranking position. You need software to identify those keywords quickly: expected clicks per month, other ppc search engine data, number of Google Ad campaigns running on a keyword.
14. Google continually monitors your site (how they detect click fraud), and may send you better-paying Ads if/when your CTRs improve. Keywords must be used intelligently — site-wide, and worked in as 'practical' keywords.
15. The second essential factor is traffic, the number of pages viewed each day. Remember that blogs will get your site noticed quickly but may not improve ranking or traffic.

16. Software that automatically generates virtual pages will not build a loyal clientèle, and will get you banned when detected.
17. Software that automatically generates 'real' pages from material already on the Internet does not conflict with Google's terms of service but does clutter the Internet with junk. Money is being made this way, but Google is now penalizing the practice.
18. The third essential factor is relevance. Visitors will not click on AdWords unless they find something of interest. You can achieve ranking and traffic with page copy built around popular keywords, but not get decent click-throughs because Google will not send you appropriate ads. In short, you have to be upfront, with Google and your visitors.

19. A fourth essential factor is what Google call 'smart pricing'. If a click from one of your webpages is less likely to turn into an online sale, or other business result for the GoogleAd publisher, Google reduces the amount you earn per click. That reduction affects the earning power of all your sites, as Google treats them as a unit. You need to understand your readership, and experiment by selectively removing AdSense code from the offending pages/sites.
20. Though monitoring results is important, indeed essential, you can only alter what is amenable to change. In practice that means: monitoring visitor behavior as in any other website, visiting the site regularly to see the Ads being displayed. A glance once a day is not sufficient, and tracking software only records the Ads actually clicked on. You want to know what Ads aren't clicked on, so that you can prevent them appearing (by changing page copy, adjusting page layout or through competitor filters).
21. In contrast to AdSense for content, AdSense for search generally gives derisory returns, and seems not worth bothering with.

22. Experiment: it often takes months or years to find what really works.

Additional Software

To supplement the tools provided by Adsense, there are:

1. Google Ads Preview. Free tool lets you see what specific ad types will look like on Google competing services (Yahoo! and Chitika).
2. Google AdSense Calculator Free calculator to predict changes in earnings if you improve your page impressions, click-through rate, or cost-per-click.
3. Google AdSense Preview Tool. Free tool to see what ads Google is serving up for various keywords or web page addresses.
4. QuickSense. Cheap mobile application to track your AdSense earning on your Apple iPhone or iPod Touch.

Alternatives to AdSense

The bulletin boards are full of hard luck stories, of AdSense publishers who've apparently had their accounts terminated through no fault of their own. A few manage to get their accounts reinstated by presenting their server logs, but most remain banned. The only recourse then is to try the many alternatives to AdSense, well advertised but not generally (to judge by bulletin boards) paying so well.


1. Describe the main features of the Google AdSense program.
2. How do you find the high-paying keywords? Realistically?
3. What is an acceptable AdSense site to Google?
4. What constitutes an unacceptable AdSense site to Google?
5. List the important do's and dont's when using Google AdSense.
6. How should companies experiment? Give a few of Ecommerce Digest's findings.
7. List several alternatives to AdSense. Why don't they compete effectively?

Sources and Further Reading

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