AdSense CPC Variations

Assuming you already have quality content and some decent traffic, one of the easiest ways to make money writing online is to add AdSense advertising to your websites.

There are a lot of websites and resources out there that explain the basics of how AdSense works. First, you sign up with Google. Then, you add some code to your website. Finally, you profit. Or something like that.

AdSense Quirks

What is harder to find is information about the many quirks of AdSense. For example, if you load your own website, you won’t see the same ads that new visitors to your website see. Google uses cookies to track users (including you on your own website) and tailors the ads to both content and your browsing history. That is why sometimes a ad will seem to follow you all over the internet displaying items you recently viewed. In order to get a truer idea of what visitors to your site might be seeing, make sure to use Privacy Mode or Google Incognito Mode to cover your cookie tracks.

One of the most maddening quirks of AdSense is the variability in how much money you earn. Some things end up making sense over time. For example, your website may earn more money on weekdays and less on weekends, or vice versa. But some things just don’t ever seem to make much sense.

Your Google AdSense reports offer a lot of information about your ads. Click the Performance Reports tab to get detailed information. A graph at the top charts your earnings. A click or two and you can also chart your PageViews and clicks over time as well. Beneath that, a chart lays out even more data.

Where you’ll find one of the most puzzling AdSense quirks is in the CPC column. CPC stands for cost per click and it represents the average amount each click paid on a given day when a visitor clicked on an ad. It’s no surprise that not all ads pay the same amount. However, over a large enough pool of traffic, you’ll find that your CPC tends to stay around a certain amount, with some moderate variation.

quirks in adsense graphicFor example, a website might have a CPC of $1.11 one day, and $1.18 the next, and so on. What gets really weird is that one day, your CPC will be $0.71. There will be nothing really obvious in your analytics or in the AdSense reports to say why. I’ve found that these anomalies occur on different days of the week, different days of the month, multiple time per month, or not at all. There really seems to be no rhyme or reason for it.

What other AdSense quirks do you see? How have you tried to figure out what is going on?

SEO and Traffic Tools

I make over a $1,000 per month blogging on various websites. Technically, I make over $1,000 per month from AdSense and not blogging, but it’s the blogs that bring in the AdSense money, so I suppose it is all relative.

The point is that there is an amazing array of SEO tools and traffic analysis tools and so on our there. I’d like to try some of them out, and since I do make some decent cash from my writing, one might think that I would be willing to shell out $50 or so to try some of them out. And, frankly, I would except they all seem to cost $50 PER MONTH or worse.

Now, I’m all for spending money to make money, and all that, but I can’t help but wonder how much those tools are really worth. After all, I can check my rankings anytime I want for free by running the actually Google searches manually. Of course, that’s the rub, “manually.”

Still, $50 per month is $600 per year. That isn’t cheap, and that is for just ONE tool. What if I liked the rank tracker from one tool, the link checker from another tool and some sort of SEO checkup thing from another tool? That might be $150 per month, or over 10 percent of my income.

My only conclusion can be that either there are a lot of people out there making a lot more money with their websites than me, or that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t spending their money very wisely. I guess the question is how much actual value does the average website publisher make from those tools? After all, I’m already making $1K without them. Would I double my earnings? Triple?

Think about it this way. If I was able to generate a more realistic 10 percent improvement on my income that would be $100 per month, of which $50 per month would go to the cost of the tool. I’m not sure that works out for our heroes.

Speaking of which, I recently dropped $50 to upgrade to the Pro IMAuotmator. I’ll write about it soon.


What are your thoughts about SEO tools, search ranking monitoring tools, and link tools? Any you can’t live without? Any that are very worth it from a pure additional income standpoint?

Third-Party Ad Networks Data in AdSense

For most of 2010, I wondered whether or not to allow third-party ad networks in Google AdSense on my websites. I decided to carefully ad the different ad networks a couple at a time and then determine whether or not they seemed to have an adverse effect on my AdSense earnings. That was a tricky proposition since the traffic to my websites fluctuates based on numerous factors, including having fairly substantial drops on weekends and holidays.

Finally, in May of this year, I enabled all third-party ad networks for AdSense and since disaster never struck, I just went with it.

AdSense Performance Metrics

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but Google recently added an “Ad networks” report to the Performance Reports section of the Google AdSense online tool for webmasters and publishers. The results show that it may all have been much to do about nothing.

According to my Performance Reports, Google AdWords network serves the overwhelming majority of ads across all of my websites including my freelance writing blog and personal finance blog.

The November report shows that 92.6 percent of all the Ad requests served on my websites were filled by Google AdWords. The second biggest ad network serving ads for my sites was Adnetik US, which accounted for just 2.8 percent of all ads. In third place is the Google: Invite Media ad network followed by Rocket Fuel, both with about 0.5 percent of ad requests. A partial report for the first 12 days of December shows approximately the same thing.

In other words, despite enabling all of the Google approved third-party ad networks out there, less than 8 percent of all my ads were served by ANY third-party ad network. Furthermore, no single non-Google ad-network accounts for even 1 percent of ads, so adding and removing those networks onesie-twosie really is not a good use of my time.

Unblock Third-Party AdSense Networks

As it turns out, I was blocking 163 AdSense ad networks because I did not enable new ad networks to be permitted automatically on my websites as they were approved. Based on the statistics outlined above, I have changed to allow all third-party ad networks and to automatically allow all of the new ones as they come online as well.

With the new Performance Reports “Ad networks” option, I should be able to see hard data about whether any 3rd-party ad network is showing up enough to have any effect, and if so, whether that effect is good or bad.

Ironically, Google was rather secretive and guarded with information regarding the third-party ad networks when it rolled out the program originally leaving many writers, such as myself, worried about how their inclusion in our AdSense enabled websites would affect our advertising income. Many, just like me, chose to be overly cautious despite Google’s numerous statements, both official and unofficial, that the new third-party AdSense networks would have a minimal, beneficial effect on our AdSense income. Now, with more, instead of less, disclosure, Google is getting what it wanted from web publishers like me with full implementation of the new ad networks.

They could have saved themselves, and me, a lot of hassle by being more open up front.

Skimlinks Scam or Great Program?

A long time ago, like a year ago, I ran across some folks in a forum who warned me that Skimlinks is a scam and that I should stay away. Over time, I’ve come to depend on that forum less and, in fact, have come to trust others who are have success in a similar manner to mine, that is, that they make money writing online by producing quality content on an ongoing basis rather than using all manner of techniques to earn money without having to write so much.

Recently, a comment reference Skimlinks and using the company to get around being kicked out of Amazon’s affiliate program by California. As it turns out, California and Amazon cut a deal and California affiliates are back in. Sadly, those of us Colorado Amazon associates are still out.

What Is Skimlinks?

Skimlinks is a company that allows web publishers and writers to generate affiliate links automatically without signing up for a bunch of different programs. Basically, the company itself goes out and signs up affiliate relationships with merchants and online shopping websites. Us publishers use the company’s relationships to send affiliate links to those retailers instead of setting up our own.

Of course, the company keeps a cut of the revenue generated. Skim links keeps 25 percent of each commission generated. The publisher earns 75 percent of the commission. According to the company, a lot of website owners will come out ahead anyway by using the company. The higher volume of traffic Skimlinks offers allows the company to negotiate a higher commission percentage from the merchant. The idea is that if they get an eight percent commission where you would get a five percent commission, then you will make more money off each sale even if they keep 25 percent.

This is all according to the company’s materials. I have no first hand knowledge yet.

How Does Skimlinks Work?

Skimlinks works like Google AdSense by inserting a piece of JavaScript code on your website. Unlike AdSense the Skimlinks code doesn’t generate an ad, rather it monitors clicks on links to stores and other online retailers. If the click can be monetized, that is if Skimlinks has an affiliate relationship with where the link goes, then they redirect that click (silently) through Skimlinks to add the necessary code and make it an affiliate click. If a commission is generated, they split it 25 / 75 with the website owner.

An example, makes it easier to understand.

Suppose you really like makeup from Sephora and recommend it on your website. Without Skimlinks, you would sign up for Sephora’s affiliate program, and then manually link to Sephora products from your website. Sephora would pay you directly and you get 100 percent of your commissions. With Skimlinks, you don’t need to sign up for Sephora’s affiliate program. You link directly to the product on Sephora’s website without any sort of affiliate code, just a regular link. When someone clicks that link, the Skimlinks JavaScript intercepts the outgoing link, adds the Skimlink company affiliate code (and presumably some sort of tracking that identifies where the link came from) before sending the user on. If a commission is generated, Skimlinks keeps 25 percent and you get the rest.

This make Skimlinks a good way to get around Amazon Associate bans in your state. For example, I live in Colorado and my legislature decided to tax Amazon, so Amazon said, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” (They probably even used a Cartman voice.) So, all of my Amazon affiliate links are worthless and generate no money for me. However, if I use Skimlinks, it is their affiliate code and not mine that shows up on Amazon’s system and since they are not kicked out of the Amazon associates program, a commission is generated and I get 75 percent of it.

Is Skimlinks Worth It?

The webmaster who recommended Skimlinks did so with some reservations. Like me, he had heard negative things before but has had no trouble with them personally.

Apparently one of the common complaints was that Skimlinks had a high payout threshold. I don’t know what it used to be, but it’s $10 now. If you can’t generate $10 worth of commissions, the money sits in an account until it adds up to $10. If it takes you a long time to generate that much, your websites probably need to focus on building instead of monetizing. In the meantime, I wouldn’t complain too much that someone owes me $4.35, but if that sort of thing bothers you, look elsewhere.

Also, if you are willing and able to manage your own affiliate relationships directly, you’ll get more control, better reporting, and maybe higher payouts. If, like me, you spend enough time just writing websites and don’t have more time to do anything beyond using Google AdSense to make money, then Skimlinks might be a good alternative to signing up for a bunch of affiliate programs.

I went ahead and signed up for Skimlinks. It took one day for my site to be approved. I am added some others today, we’ll see how long that takes.

If you want to try Skimlinks too, use this referal link: Skimlinks

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