Written on February 10th, 2005 at 04:02 pm by Darren Rowse

When Money Motivates Blogging

Adsense 4 comments

Michael Buffington writes that he’s just started a new blog on the topic of Asbestos. He’s doing so not because he’s interested in it but largely because it pays good money. This type of blogging is becoming more and more popular as people realize the amount of money that Adsense ads can pay out if you create a quality site on certain topics and can generate good traffic levels. Michael writes:

‘The subject matter, while weighty and all that, is of little importance to me. It’s not that I don’t have opinions on asbestos and asbestos reform, because I do. The whole point of the site is to experiment with an idea. I built a tool that helps me aggregate topical news with the help of Google’s Alert system. So far it works wonderfully.

But there’s a second motive as well. Right now asbestos reform and asbestos related litigation is on fire. Lawyers are paying anywhere from $15-100 per click through on Google ads. The second part of this big experiment is to see if I can capture some of that click through revenue while still providing a somewhat valid service to people who might arrive by search results.’

I suspect that Michael will or has already received some criticism for this approach. I’ve not seen too many bloggers admit up front that they have little or no interest in the topic of their blog as explicitly as he does in his post. A friend just emailed me about it and asked my opinion. Here are a few thoughts:

1. On one level I say - Good luck to him! A good percentage of my friends have little or no passion or even interest in the type of jobs that they do - yet they do them to earn an income. In many ways I see this as no different.

2. $100 clicks rumors - Reality Check on Isle 7 please reality check on isle 7 - Michael writes that clicks on these ads can pay $15 - $100 each. Whilst I’m not doubting that this is possible my experience with Adsense indicates something a little different on a number of levels.

a. For starters even if advertisers paid $100 per click the rumors of these high payments fail to take into account that Google takes a cut of any such income. No one really knows how much it is but its generally accepted that its more than 40%. The maximum that Adwords (the advertisers end of Adsense) allow advertisers to spend on ads is $100 - so lets forget about us getting that big a payout shall we.

b. Many Adsense publishers believe that Google pays different amounts for the same ads on different websites depending upon a number of things including the keywords people come searching for or that trigger the ad (ie you can have the same ad appear on two different sites triggered by two words that pay different amounts). Many also theorize that Google does not pay out big amounts per click unless the site has a proven record of being a reliable, relevant and quality site (possibly determined by page rank). So just starting a site targeting the keywords is probably not enough to automatically get the highest possible pay outs. It has been well documented that most people targeting the key words that Michael is targeting do not get paid anywhere near the amounts he’s referring to. Not speaking from personal experience here (I’ve not targeted these words) I would doubt that a new site on this topic would earn more than $1 - $3 per click. If they were lucky (I’m open to being proved wrong).

3. Michael has picked one of the most crowded areas of the internet to compete in. Since rumors started to circulate about high pay outs for words related to asbestos and Mesthelioma tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people have started websites on those topics. Word Tracker found that on MSN search that there were around 550,000 sites competing for the word asbestos and just under 185,000 for Mesthelioma. As a result unless you either have a lot of luck or are the most amazing Search Engine Optimizer in the world you have very little chance of climbing to the top of the results pages on Search Engines.

4. Michael has picked a segment of the market which in proportion to the number of sites competing has very few people searching for the terms he’s targeting. Yes people are searching for asbestos but its no where near the most searched for term on the internet. Word Tracker estimates that IF you could make it to one of the top 10 positions on MSN Search you could expect 258 visitors to your site for the word asbestos in a 24 hour period and 143 visitors for the term mesothelioma. That would actually be ok numbers - but when combines with the 500,000+ competing sites out there it makes things tough.

Word Tracker’s rating of these keywords are 3.349 for asbestos and 3.062 for mesothelioma. They recommend that words with a score under 10 are a poor keyword choice, between 10-100 is a good keyword choice and 400+ is excellent.

So lets pull some of my guesstimates together - even if this site gets in the top 10 (this will take a fairly long time I suspect - say 6 to 12 months if he works very very hard at optimisation) it will get 250 visits a day. With a click through rate of say 2% they might get 5 clicks per day. At an average of maybe $2 a day its looking at perhaps earning around $10 per day - maybe…after a year’s work. Of course my working out here is a complete guesstimate and could be no where near the mark.

I’m not wanting to rain on Michael’s parade - if he can somehow find a way to generate a lot of traffic and if he can convince the Adsense his site is quality and worth the high payouts then good for him. After all someone has to be in the top 10 on Google - it might as well be him. I guess I’m just wanting to warn people of the hard work and obstacles associated with such a tactic.

Whilst it is possible to make money this way - this is the advice I give friends coming to me with this tactic:
- choose a topic that you have some interest or expertise in. Readers are not that likely to be loyal to a site (and link to it) that simply regurgitates news and shows no real knowledge of the topic.
- choose a topic that people are searching for information for.
- choose a topic that there is relatively few other sites competing on.
- choose a topic with decent paying click through rates. They don’t have to be the very high paying ones though as these are often crowded.

Of course there are exceptions to this advice. For example if the potential audience is small but the click through values are high and there is no competition you can do well. Likewise if the click through values are low but you can generate a lot of traffic you can do well also.

Thats my experience and advice - I expand it more in my Adsense for Bloggers Series. Share your experiences in comments below.

4 Responses to “When Money Motivates Blogging”

  • Excellent post, Darren!

    Though building a profitable weblog is easy, it is definitely not a short term endeavor.. If you don’t choose a topic that you can get excited about, you will not be able to keep it up. My advice to those wanting to start out: look at your hobbies and interests first. Only after you’ve settled on a list of topics that you wouldn’t mind completely dominating your life for the next 18 to 24 months should you look at the potential Adsense revenues.

  • I have to agree with Dane’s comment on this one. I have abandoned a couple of blogs in the past because they became a chore to maintain.

  • Good article, Darren. I was going to write almost the same thing.

    If you read the comments on Buffington’s site, you’ll see your reality check has already reached him:

    And so far, my estimates on click through rates are way off. Like, I was smoking crack off. It’s too early to tell at this point because Google doesn’t give you specific ad stats until three days of data exists, but my guess is that current click through rates are a little over a $1.00.

  • A great many “webmasters” have looked into this approach or dove in to find that there expectations were unrealistic. As Dane Carlson said continuing with the weblog becomes a chore.

    Also marring the search engines with keyword laced filler content stuffed with adsense ads is in poor taste. Especially on this topic. Those prices are driven by law firms fishing for clients, but at least the law firms can provide some value.

    This is a more positive example of high click through blog targeting, as to the content actually being useful to searchers.

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