I’ve always liked Adsense. For a webmaster it is a really easy way of generating a little bit of income, and in some circumstances providing additional value to the visitor in terms of related links, retailers etc. However, just recently I’ve started to worry about it, to the point where I removed it completely. I’ll explain why…
I have a site that does well in terms of visitors, and affiliate commissions. It doesn’t make loads, but enough to justify it’s existence, and certainly enough to realise that when commissions stop, there is very probably a problem with the site.
This one particular day I was trying to silo my sidebar by removing some irrelevant links and unimportant information, and as a result ended up with a huge bit of white space instead. I had read about the Google Ad Network and having third party advertisers competing for space on my site, and in turn earning more from clicks, so I decided to opt into it, and change the small ad unit that was already there to a massive 600px high skyscraper unit. Easy win I thought. However, almost to the day, my affiliate commissions drastically reduced – to absolutely zilcho on most days.
Comparing performance before and after
In order to try and ascertain what was going on, I downloaded all the statistics, from all the networks, including Adsense, and put them into a spreadsheet. So this was each networks conversion rates and clicks, as well as the sites total visitors, day by day, for the whole two month period. I also then plotted them on a graph to make it easier to read.
The results backed up what I thought with a massive drop in affiliate sales and clicks and a slight increase in Adsense clicks. My Adsense revenue did increase during this time, but only by around 25% – nowhere near enough to justify the other loss of income. This was mostly down to the increase in the number of clicks as well rather than any additional income from each click, so I didn’t get the improvement in income I was expecting. The networks were clearly not competing to advertise on my site!
The story the figures told was clear – so I reduced the size of the Adsense box to see if it made any difference, and so far it has helped. It is difficult to tell at the moment because the time I introduced the big unit was during a busy sales period, and when I got rid of it was in a quiet sales period, but things have certainly improved so far.
Conclusions, and lessons…
Firstly, don’t introduce anything that could possibly compete with other sales methods during a busy period. I thought I was improving one income stream, when in fact I was only making a small difference to this one whilst damaging the other to a great degree.
Secondly, the big Adsense units are now bought by the big retailers you could be advertising on your site – and with very clever adverts and tracking capabilities. For example, I was looking at outdoor coats online one evening, saw a few I liked but didn’t buy. I then browsed onto my website and saw an advert for one of the companies I had just been to, showing me the coats I had just been looking at! Waaaay too clever! The same thing happened for retailers that I was advertising – affiliate link on one side of the page – massive skyscraper advert on the other side showing exactly the same product. Which one are you going to click?!
My advice for affiliates is to be very thoughtful where you place Adsense units. Ideally they will only be on pages where there is no other monetisation potential, or at the very least, small units so they don’t take too much attention away from the main action of the page.