Adsense Experiment Ended

Quite some time ago, I’d added Adsense to this blog as an experiment, to see how well Adsense worked on an Internet Marketing type blog. I’d intended the experiment to run for just a few months, but then one thing led to another, and it’s been over a year.

I’m now officially ending the Adsense experiment, and will report the results. I’m limited in what I can report by the Adsense TOC, but here are some general results.

Click Through Rate

The Internet Marketing crowd is very ad resistant, at least when it comes to Adsense ads. Click through rate (CTR) was very poor, well under what I’d consider to be worthwhile. As a comparison, my best performing Neglected Niche Site (instructions for creating those will be in my upcoming free ebook) had a CTR 10 times that of this blog.


The earnings per ad for Internet Marketing related ads isn’t bad, but the poor CTR makes it not really worth the real estate on the blog to show the ads. Total earnings over the same time frame put this blog at about half of what my best performing Neglected Niche Site earned.

Total earnings certainly more than paid for the effort of adding Adsense to the blog, but wasn’t really enough to justify keeping it, in my opinion.

Other Options

Better options for advertising on an IM related blog would be specific IM products. For me, though, I would only do that for products I’ve tried and could honestly recommend…and frankly, there really aren’t all that many of them that I consider to be worthwhile.

So, if you’re looking to create a blog to make money, I’ll repeat my usual advice: don’t create a blog about making money. Create a blog on another topic you enjoy, and you’ll see much better CTR on your ads, and probably better affiliate sales, too.

Which PPC Keyword To Use?

So you’re thinking about using PPC to drive some traffic to your blog pages, or to a mini-site you’ve created.

Which keywords to you choose?

There are two aspects to that question. One is what keywords will get you good placement for low cost (e.g. low competition keywords). I’ve written about that before. Another aspect is what keywords Google thinks your page is about.

We can use Google’s keyword tool to get some insight into that last part of the question, and a start on good keywords to check for the first part.

Go to the tool and you’ll see the initial opening screen, something like this:

This is what I’ve shown before, to do keyword research on possible keywords to determine competition. This time, though, we want to click the radio button labeled “Website Content” (circled in red above).

This allows us to type in the URL of a web page instead of a keyword. Google then goes out to that web page and examines it to figure out what keywords it’s about, and then shows you the statistics for those and related keywords.

This is most beneficial when done on specific landing pages, as a start to identifying good keywords to target for PPC. If you find that the keywords you thought you were targeting don’t come up, then you might need to look at your on-page SEO a bit more closely.

Using the keyword tool in this way is a nice shortcut for identifying secondary keywords to bid on when using PPC to drive traffic to a mini-site. I’m sure you’ve already identified your primary keyword using other means, but secondary keywords can often have lower competition and drive a significant amount of new traffic to your site.

What Makes A Winning Adwords Campaign?

For a while now, I’ve been experimenting with Google Adwords.

I’ve always thought that the PPC model, paying for clicks and converting those clicks into higher margin sales, was a good one. But I’d never before invested the time to figure it out. Well, a few months after I started, and I feel like I have a good handle on the Adwords side of the equation. Sure, there’s still more to be done there to improve the click through rate of my ads, but I’m getting low priced clicks.

And still losing money.

So for anyone else who wants to get into Adwords, I figured I’d share what I’ve discovered about creating a winning Adwords campaign. Some of this is still to be done for me, but this is what it takes.

Target Low Competition, Low Traffic Keywords

You’ll see some people who argue this point, and with good cause. After all, if you make $1,000 off a sale, you can afford to bid high on clicks. I’m writing this with the assumption that you’re like me, and not selling products with huge price tags.

Shoot for keywords with low to average traffic. Most people go for the higher traffic keywords, and that’s where the bidding wars are found. Stick with lower traffic keywords, and if you do everything else right you’ll get clicks for low cost.

Your ideal keyword will only have a few other ads already on it. This allows you to place well at your minimum bid.

Write Good Ads

There’s a lot of help out there for this. I can’t claim to have figured it out myself, but I am getting clicks, so I’m not totally hopeless at it, either. Mention the pain that your ideal customer is feeling, and how your product can avoid that pain. If they identify with that, they’ll click.

Write Good Landing Pages

The key to getting low minimum bids in Adwords is to target one landing page to one keyword. Optimize that page the exact same way you would as if you were trying to attract search engine traffic for that keyword.

You’ll regularly end up with minimum bids in Adwords of $0.05 and $0.10.

Write Good Copy

The landing pages themselves must do the job of preselling the product. The entire job of the landing page is to get a visitor interested enough to click through to the product page and buy.

This is the part I’m terrible at. I write well for blog posts and articles, but not for preselling. Paying for traffic doesn’t do you any good if you can’t convert that traffic into sales!

My action item for the next month is to go through the Make Your Words Sell book (a free download over at SBI!), and it’s companion, Make Your Content PreSell (also a free download), and see if I can’t beef up the landing pages I’ve created.

I’ll report back here sometime during the summer with updated results.

Using WordPress To Create Mini-Sites

When you’re planning on doing an Adwords campaign to sell affiliate products, you need a mini-site to boost your quality score (for more info, see my post on Adwords quality scores).

But how do you make a mini-site?

Search around for information, and you’ll see some software programs that are supposed to create the sites for you, and some graphics, and some templates. Unfortunately, a lot of the templates are nothing more than single page sales letter templates, not mini-sites. A mini-site is a small collection of pages hooked together with navigation links, not just a single page.

The software programs sound better, after all you fill out the information, click a button, and the mini-site is made for you. How much easier could it be? What the sales letters for those programs typically leave out is that it’s up to you to provide the graphics for the site. So if you’re doing a mini-site about dog grooming, you need to provide relevant graphics of dogs looking like they’ve just been to a spa.

And even if you do that, you still have to upload the files to your hosting account via FTP, insert Google Analytics code for tracking, etc.

Personally, I find it much easier to just create my mini-sites with WordPress.

Sure, WordPress is a terrific overkill for managing such a small web site, but if you’re already using WordPress for your blog then you have a base of experience to draw from to slap up a small web site quickly.

Here are the steps I go through to use WordPress in this way.

Install WordPress

If you haven’t done this before, do a Google search for help. I’m assuming you’re probably already running a WordPress blog, and can manage this step. Install using a different database than you use for your regular blog.

Install Sticky Menu Plugin

The sticky menu plugin is a terrific plugin that lets you specify exactly what should be in a listing of links. Many WordPress themes default to the main navigation links showing all the pages in your site. You often don’t want all the pages to show, so the sticky menu plugin lets you control this.

Install Google Analyticator

The Google Analyticator plugin takes care of adding your Google Analytics tracking code to all the pages on the site. I recommend not tracking admin visits.

Install Google XML Sitemaps Plugin

The Google XML Sitemaps plugin creates a sitemap.xml file in the format expected by Google and Yahoo. This makes your site seem more professional, and will help to get the content indexed.

Install Psychic Search Plugin

I’ve mentioned the Psychic Search plugin before. It lets you know what people are using the search box on your site to look for, and not finding. That may indicate new pages you should create.

Install A Contact Form Plugin

There are a few good ones of these. Lately I like to use the secure form mailer plugin. A contact form is important for your mini-site to improve your Adwords quality score.

Install a Caching Plugin

I use WP-Super Cache. A caching plugin will help reduce server load, and you’ll hardly ever be changing the site, so it can benefit from caching quite a bit.

Create A Landing Page For Each Keyword

Create a content filled landing page for each Adwords keyword you want to target. The content must be unique, and helpful. Do not try to sell a product! Provide useful information that will start to condition the visitor to want the product when they finally click through to the sales page.

Making a landing page for each keyword allows you to get the best quality score possible for that keyword in Adwords.

Miscellaneous Pages

Include an About page and a Privacy Policy to boost your Adwords quality score, and a Disclosure page (if required by the affiliate program). For example any Clickbank related product requires a disclosure page.

Install A Niche Appropriate Theme

One of the great things about WordPress is that there are tons of free themes available, for a wide variety of niches. Pick one that fits your niche and install it, and your site automatically looks good.

I recommend not putting Adsense or other ads on the site. This will boost your quality score, and helps to keep from losing visitors to competing affiliates. Also, don’t bother with plugins that deal with posts, because you won’t have any posts on this blog.

Using WordPress to create your mini-site can take a frustrating process and make it into an hour’s worth or work or less.

Landing Pages Bridge The Gap

I talked a bit about the Adwords quality score yesterday, and the importance of landing pages.

Let’s expand on landing pages today, because they’re important for more than just boosting your Adwords quality score. Basically, what’s good for your quality score is good for your campaign.

So what’s the purpose of a landing page outside of quality score issues?

Think about marketing a particular product through an affiliate link. You aren’t the only one marketing that product, and the chances are good that all the best keywords already have players with money to toss around. Breaking into those keywords would be expensive. So we target long-tail keywords. How do we come up with the long-tail keywords to target?

We brainstorm unique reasons why someone might want to buy the product.

Let me use the product from the first advertising exercise over at The Advisory Panel as an example. The product was the Liar Card, a calling card that can tell you if the person you’re talking to on the phone is lying. Advisory Panel members brainstormed that people might want to use this if they don’t trust their car mechanic, if they think their spouse is lying to them, if they think their children are lying to them, etc. There are lots of reasons why someone might want to use this card.

But, if you send someone who doesn’t trust their mechanic to the Liar Card landing page, you’re relying on that person to put two and two together and realize they can use the card to double check what their mechanic is saying. Most people won’t do that.

A landing page is your opportunity to get between your Adwords ad and the product sales page, and explain how your visitor’s need and the product match up. A landing page for people who don’t trust their mechanic would walk them through the process of getting a Liar Card, calling their mechanic, and would suggest specific questions to ask the mechanic. Take as much independent thought out of the process as possible, and you’ll have higher conversions.

So while a nicely targeted landing page will increase your Adwords quality score and make it cheaper to get clicks, the real purpose is to bridge the gap between the problem your visitor has and the solution you’re offering.

Making Adwords Quality Score Work For You

Smack in the middle
Creative Commons License
photo credit: ogimogi

I haven’t made nearly the progress I had planned to make going through the Adwords training. What I have gone through, though, shows me that I understood more than I thought I did about how it all works. I’m still missing the trial and error practice that goes into getting good at it, but that’ll come in time.

One of the things that I realized I already know lately is something I see a lot of people on forums ignoring, and that’s the importance of the Adwords quality score.

The quality score for an ad is used to calculate the amount you’ll pay per click for a given ad position (or even if your ad will appear at all). The lower your quality score, the more you’ll have to pay to have your ad even show, let alone be in a high position. Gone are the days when it was a simple bidding war to get the top position. Now, the top position may be paying less than you are for position 10, depending on the quality scores of the ads.

So how is the quality score for an ad calculated?

Google uses some historical data for the keywords you’re targeting. That’s the same for everyone. They’ll also use the overall click through rate (CTR) of all your past campaigns (this is what bites me all the time, since I started using Adwords without knowing what I was doing, so my average CTR is very low).

Also important is the relevance of your ad text and keyword to the search query the user typed in. For example, if your ad is targeting the keyword “blue shoes”, and the ad text is relevant to buying blue shoes, and someone types in “Elvis blue suede shoes”, your ad isn’t particularly relevant. So it’ll show in a lower rank for that search query than if someone had typed in “buy blue shoes”.

The meat of the quality score, and what you have the most control over, is how relevant your destination page is to the keyword and ad text you’re using. This is really what kills most people.

Let’s say that you link to a merchant page listing all the shoes they sell, and you bid on the keyword “new work shoes”, thinking that anyone typing that in is prime for buying a nice pair of new shoes. But the merchant’s shoe page doesn’t have the term “work shoes” anywhere, so it isn’t particularly relevant for the keyword or the ad text. So you’ll have to bid higher to get your ad to show and rank well.

This is the reason that linking to merchant sites directly isn’t such a great idea. Instead, link to a landing page that you create that is highly relevant to the keyword and ad text you are using. That way your bids will be lower.

Single page landing pages are not enough, though. Google looks for the quality of the site itself, not just the landing page. You’ll need to create a full mini-site, complete with privacy policy, contact form, navigation menus, etc. That will boost the quality score for your ads, too, further lowering your cost per click and raising your ad rank. Basically, create a mini-site the same way you would a regular web site, and optimize it for your ad keywords in the same way that you would optimize it for those keywords in SEO terms.

So with all this extra work, how do you make the quality score work for you? Well, if you put in the extra work, all of a sudden you can bid less to maintain your ad’s rank, which means more profit for you.

As I experiment with mini-sites, I’ll report on the results and include any tips I come up with for optimizing them.

How Much Can You Afford To Pay Per Click?

The first advertising exercise finished over at The Advisory Panel, and as a result I discovered that some of the PPC basics I took for granted weren’t very clear to everyone. So I figured it was time for a post about them.

When you’re paying per click for your advertising, you have to make sure that you can show a profit after paying for the clicks. So there are some calculations you can do up front to give you a good idea how much you can pay per click. Let’s look first at a statistic that most merchants give you.

EPC is the average earnings per hundred clicks. This is the dollar amount you can expect to make when you send one hundred people to the merchant’s page. This is usually reported by the merchant as an average across all the traffic they’re sent. You may also get it reported for your specifically after you have enough traffic being sent.

Keep in mind that since the merchant’s EPC is an average over all their traffic, you might be able to do better than that if you’re sending well-targeted traffic to them. You might also do worse, if the traffic you send isn’t very targeted.

So, let’s say that we know the EPC for a particular product is $54.07 (this is the actual EPC for a particular product you can market through Commission Junction). So what do this number tell us? Well, nothing exactly, but we can use it to come to some first guesses about what we can afford to pay per click.

If we think we’ll make $54.07 per hundred visitors, that means our income per visitor is $0.54. Remember that each visitor is a click we had to pay for, so we have to pay less than $0.54 to make any profit.

Now, you cannot rely totally on merchant’s EPC figures. Those include a wide variety of traffic, and no doubt include some traffic sent by marketing superstars. But as a rough guess for planning out a PPC campaign, you can use EPC to come up with an initial keyword bid.

Given the numbers above, we could look at various targeted keywords and decide if they could be profitable, based on whether we could get our ad at position 3 or 4 for under $0.54. Ideally we’d be far enough under that we make a decent profit.

This is most definitely not the entire story! You also have to track your own results, and adjust based on what you’re actually earning once you start getting enough traffic. Traffic must be well targeted, or you’ll be wasting money.

But it gives you a rough idea of how to evaluate keywords to see if you might be able to earn from them.

Using URL Channels In Google Adsense

In Google’s Adsense, you can use channels to separate out the stats for different sources of ad clicks.

This is useful, for example, if you have two different niche sites and you want to know how much each makes. Without using different channels, the stats for each site would be lumped together.

Up until fairly recently, I’ve been using custom channels, where you’re given a bit of custom code to put in your web page. I understood how to use custom channels, and just stuck with them.

Another sort of channel you can use is a URL channel. With a URL channel, you put the standard Adsense code on multiple pages in a site, and then Adsense itself splits out any stats that come from the given URL. Useful if you have a lot of pages on a given site, and don’t care which page specifically gets the clicks.

But I still used custom channels, because you could do the same thing with them. Then I discovered a situation in which URL channels are the only possibility.

Sites like Hub Pages and Quassia are Adsense sharing sites. They allow you to input your Adsense id, and then they run ads using it so you get paid by Adsense directly.

But neither allows you to enter a custom channel id, so you cannot use custom channels to separate the stats for the sites. You can, however, enter URL channels for each and Adsense will separate out the stats for you.

Entering a URL channel is easy. You click on the link to add a new URL channel, and then enter the domain name of the site (e.g.

After that, the stats are properly separated automatically.

I hope this has been of use to anyone who, like me, wasn’t sure what URL channels were good for. While you can use either URL or custom channels for most things, in this particular situation URL channels are the only solution.

Perry Marshall’s Bobsled Run

Whenever I hear that Perry Marshall (of the Definitive Guide To Adwords fame) is running a coaching workshop, I always start to dream just a bit.

Perry’s workshops have a reputation for helping people to take their PPC efforts to the next level, greatly increasing their profits. Both by reducing their cost per click, and by ensuring a greater conversion rate on their existing traffic. The work is done not only at the Adwords level, but also at the sales page level.

The catch is that the workshops are only for people who already have a substantial online business. You can’t just be starting out, or you won’t be accepted. Your business doesn’t have to be doing well, but you have to have one. If you qualify, the workshop comes with a great guarantee. You’ll recoup the costs of the workshop in either additional sales or in cost savings, by the time the workshop is over. And in a year, you’ll make at least $25,000 more than you would have otherwise.

So, yeah, I tend to salivate a bit when I hear about another one starting out. The problem is, I don’t have an online business, I work the affiliate angle. I also don’t use PPC as part of it, because (as I’ve mentioned before) I’m a PPC moron. When I get to the point of having my own products I sell, you can bet I’ll sign up for the first of Perry’s workshops that I can afford.

If you do have an online business, and are doing PPC as part of that business, take a look at Perry’s latest workshop, the bobsled run.

Becoming A Qualified Google Advertising Professional

Okay, I’ll admit it…I suck at pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

I originally got into Internet Marketing via the Google Cash ebook way back when, and gave Adwords marketing of affiliate products a try. I had about twenty campaigns, and only one of them made any money. I think it made about $5 a month. Sure, if I could have banged out another fifty of those campaigns, I’d have been in good shape, but I never managed another.

In fact, the click through rate of my existing campaigns was so bad, it started affecting new campaigns I’d start, increasing the amount I’d need to bid to rank highly for a keyword.

Yeah, I’m a PPC moron. So what am I doing writing a post about becoming a Qualified Google Advertising Professional?

For anyone who doesn’t know the details, the Qualified Google Advertising Professional certification means that you’ve spent $1,000 in Adwords over a three month period, and passed an exam. To help you succeed at the exam, and at Adwords in general, Google provides quite a bit of training material.

I wanted to see if this training could help even a PPC moron like myself become successful with Adwords. Further, I’m in no position to simply spend $1,000 to get the certification, since we just moved and our old house hasn’t sold (and isn’t likely to until February, because of the holidays).

So I wanted to see if it was possible to not only complete the training and pass the exam if you knew nothing about PPC marketing (or worse, had bad habits to unlearn), but also if it was possible to do on a limited budget. Remember, you have to spend $1,000 on Adwords ads over a three month period…if you make more than that using those ads, you’re not permanently out any money at all.

So, this is a bit of a personal challenge for myself. A sort of “learn Adwords or bust” sort of challenge.

I’m writing this as I have just completed the registration for the program, and viewed the first training video (the “What is Google and what is Adwords” video). I have no idea whether I’ll succeed or fail, but for anyone else who wants to get into PPC but isn’t sure how to begin, I’ll give it my best shot and you can follow my progress as I go.

Wish me luck!