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My Adsense mis-adventure – Struggling to break 3 dollars a month – Part I

I thought I would fess up today and share the progress or lack of it made on the Google Adsense project in the first three months.

If you have been following me around you know that around early February I decided to build a printing press for printing US dollars (or the money machine as Jay put it a few days ago). The sequence of events that led to this decision to print US dollars were covered in my Google Adsense Adventure – The beginning post. The first goal posts for the project were simple and we stayed on track for the first 60 days barely managing with under four hours of sleep every night. So when we booked our first dollar of adsense revenues in our first month, my pride knew no bounds. When we touched 2.67 US dollars in the second month (a 267% monthly revenue growth milestone), my projection predicted becoming a dollar millionaire in under 12 months as long as I could sustain the monthly growth figures. The first two updates, Google Adsense project update – one, Google Adsense project update – two indicated that we were well on our way to hit that milestone and I would soon stop returning all of your phone calls as I chilled with my new found wealth.

In addition to the hundreds of cents hitting my google account every fourth day, there were some great days. Like the day when we broke to search rank one on Google blog search, Google blog search – search rank number one, or the day technorati ranked us with a score of 400 plus score within 72 hours of being listed. Or when oilinsights made it to alltop. While the google blog search rank one was a simple example of link baiting, making a post immediately after an event linked to a key word, the technorati and all top wins were reflection of how much content we had generated around key words linked to crude oil, oil prices and understanding the oil market.

Which brings me to even more lessons learnt from this entire exercise.

Lesson One – Paying or clicking customers

Ultimately making money from Adsense boils down to one simple fact. You need to find customers who are looking for the information you are sharing and are in a mode to click through on other related links on your site, in search for that information. Ideally these are people who will not shy away from spending the money that needs to be spent when they find what they are looking for. Which means that the information that they need is generally not common place

The starting point for blogging and adsense experiment was a day on Google trends trying to locate what was hot. That hot list generated two items close to my personal and professional interests. Starting up and Oil. Three months later it is evident that readers searching for oil, are in search and spend mode, while readers planning on starting up are in read and read more mode. While there is nothing wrong with that, the end result is that about 90% of the 6.78 dollars of my adsense revenue comes from two blogs. Crude Oil Insights and Learning Finance. The remaining 10% is spread evenly across all of our other online properties. The 90% that came had an average click revenue of 30 cents per click with a low of 8 cents and a high of 1.29 dollars per click.

Lesson Two – First world traffic – from a cent to a dollar per click

You can’t live off traffic from the developing world or just adsense revenues. You need first world traffic and other alternate advertising mediums so that you can earn a bit more than a few cents per add that Adsense pays you for your traffic. Developing first world traffic then requires that a topic you chose has first world interests, not just desipedia following.

Lesson Three – Identifying your core key words from oil to peak oil

If this was a blog and a post about Adsense my key word list would include Adsense, Monetizing traffic, increasing traffic, directory submissions, backlinks, trackbacks, ping lists, anchor text, SEO and SEM which are the all things that I had to do or I am in the process of doing to build more traffic to the blog. But since my focus is on oil, the key word list is oil, peak oil, oil prices, oil price outlook, oil forecast, oil demand, historical oil prices, WTI, NYMEX, Arab Light and Brent. The list list of links that you see in this paragraphs are an instance of linking anchor text to key word to your core pages.

Lesson Four – Directory submissions and Ping lists – is patience a virtue?

While there are many virtues of directory submissions, I have tried both paid and un-paid editions and from a visitors point of view, there hasn’t been any significant change in traffic patterns within the first four-six weeks. Spiders, bots and crawlers have certainly increased, but humanoid traffic is still unexciting. But then I have to be patient because most un-paid submissions have a 3 – 6 month lag time associated with them. I was sneaky in that I used one paid service for a single property and then used their submission list to handle submissions for the other 8 properties using one dedicated team member for a couple of days.

Lesson Five – Twitter and Facebook

The following on both Twitter and Facebook helps as long as you are religious in cross posting across all channels. If you are not, they are both another pretty channel.

Lesson Six – The cashflow issue – don’t look now

I have three core domains that in total cost me about 36 dollars a month in hosting charges and fees. I know there are cheaper options available but there is a logic to my madness. So technically speaking just to break past the hosting fees, I need to generate about 400 hundred dollars a year in adsense and related revenues. My total tally for the first three months of operations is 53 US dollars. 46 dollars in content sales and 6.7 dollars in adsense revenues. And the expense side right now does not include the content generation expense that gets subsidized by our core business.

Lesson Seven – Building traffic one user at a time

My teaching gigs on the side help. Both at SP Jain as well as through the training workshops that I run as part of our risk management practice add individual readers to the blog and create the spikes you will get to see when I profile the portfolio of sites we have been running as part of our Google Adsense adventure.

That is all for now. More later.

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