Data Strategy

September 8, 2007

AdSense versus just begging your users for money

Filed under: Advertising, Personalization — chucklam @ 4:46 pm

Last December I built a little web site for fun called The site is a simple way of automatically generating HTML/CSS code for creating rounded corners on a web page design. In addition to being a fun project, I also used the site as an opportunity to learn about several advertising/monetization schemes.

The site gets between 400 to 900 pageviews per day, with an average of 740 and a grand total of 205,000 to date. (As far as monetization is concerned, the site is really just a one-page site.) I have various monetization schemes on the page including Google AdSense, Amazon Omakase, some affiliate marketing run by Commission Junction, and just plain begging for a $5 “fee.” (I ran into trouble with the Google Checkout police when I called it a “contribution,” but that’s another story.) The affiliate marketing is chosen by me so it’s highly relevant, but it’s gotten no revenue at all in the last 10 months 😦 The Amazon Omakase program is Amazon’s contextual advertising/referral program. You can think of it as AdSense with “behavioral targeting” but only promotes products on Amazon and you get paid by referrals instead of clicks. Personally I’m impressed with how well targeted the Amazon ads are, but they’re quite poor in terms of monetization. People don’t seem to be clicking on them much and so far I’ve only had one who ended up purchasing something. I don’t know why such well targeted ads can do so poorly. My hope is that it’s just specific to my site’s audience. Maybe they already got their web design book or whatever they need from Amazon and have no need to purchase more…

The surprising thing is that AdSense has so far only made a few more dollars than begging. Begging has gotten me $120 in the last 10 months, and the users have to scroll all the way down the web page and read the details to even know that I’m begging for $5. A straightforward calculation would say that I’ll lose half my revenue if I take out all the ads, but my sense is that a lot more users will feel more comfortable paying the $5 “fee” when they don’t see any ads on the page. Will that completely compensate for the lost of AdSense revenue? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not, but I do feel that users’ contribution is a better “quality” income than advertising revenue. In fact, I think AdSense advertising is so bad on my site that I’m surprised anyone has clicked on them at all, even though somehow there were 1500 clicks. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, the financial impact is so little that it’s not worth strategizing over.

Anyways, that’s one data point from me. Anyone else want to share their experience?



  1. How AdSense can be improved with NLP

    I have this web site that I’ve been using for the last 10 months to study web advertising and monetization. I was surprised to find that begging users for money is as effective as AdSense. Partly it’s because users were mor…

    Trackback by Data Strategy — September 10, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  2. […] that I’ve been using for the last 10 months to study web advertising and monetization. I was surprised to find that begging users for money is as effective as AdSense. Partly it’s because users were more willing to send money than I had expected. Partly […]

    Pingback by How AdSense can be improved with NLP « Data Strategy — September 10, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  3. Hi there,

    It is nice of you to share your adsense story. I also use adsense on my blog. Although I don’t earn a lot, most of the money comes from TextLinkAds. I find it much more interesting than Adsense, since nobody needs to click on the ads.

    Comment by Sandro — October 9, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  4. I’m just curious to know, how many of your site visitors were from North America? I think people outside of North America are less likely to buy from Amazon simply because it’s expensive to ship in small quantities and more troublesome on average than just visiting the local book store.

    Comment by Asian Bimbo — December 17, 2007 @ 8:17 am

  5. I am partially in the same boat: my website is a business portal and direcotry for Russian speaking businesses (mostly in the USA).
    I added adSense and Amazon afilliate to my site some time ago and the “income” barely pays for the server. I’m in process of redoing the site, and I won’t even bother with Amazon (no revenue at all). Will likely keep Google and will ask for donations, I guess 🙂

    Comment by eYarmarka — January 19, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

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