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Checking Out Contextual Alternatives
Adsense has been the best contextual ad solution for my niche sites. I looked at the other contextual solutions and they just don't have advertisers that would work well on my niche sites so I am keeping Adsense. I also played around with placement and ad size and confirmed that all of my hard work a year ago picking the right placement and ad size was correct. In hindsight I don't think I would recommend to others to play around with it. Because if you did it right the first time it is likely still the right match.
I love affiliate programs. A well matched affiliate program can bring in high conversions and pay way better than any contextual ad. The key is to get the right affiliate program. A year ago I couldn't find the right match. There was a company that would have been a perfect match but as much as I begged them they refused to start an affiliate program.
I just logged into CJ and guess what? The company that I was begging to start an affiliate program just joined CJ. I added their banner ad and two others to the site. I waited a few days and checked back and found one of the affiliate programs was generating no money. I'm not saying it is a bad program but it is a bad match for me. Time to get rid of it and keep looking for a better affiliate match that will make me money.
Start Selling Stuff
Yes, affiliate programs are nice but you can also start selling your own stuff. Write an ebook, provide a consulting/answering service, create branded products. If you want to get crazy start buying wholesale products and sell them for retail prices (that is too much work for me).
My personal favorite is writing an ebook or should I say hiring someone to create my ebook. This provides easy income every month. You can even transform the ebook into a real book using sites like lulu. Don't be lazy. Start thinking what you could sell and look at the competition to see what they sell. Be careful just because your competition is doing it does not guarantee it is a profitable idea.
Private Ad Deals
One of my niche sites is a buyers guide and it has reviews of companies. Guess what? Time to contact each of these companies and ask them if they would like to advertise on my site. Don't expect to have people throw money at you. You will need to contact them and prove why it is smart for them to spend their money.
Also do not be an amateur. If you want real ad money you need to portray yourself as a real advertising channel. This means you should provide usage stats verified by a third party. Also conduct a survey on your visitors so you can tell prospective advertisers even more detailed information. It can also help to offer long term discounts.
Before people start freaking out, I am not talking about turning your site into a paid link farm. I am talking about real advertisers that will be well received by your audience because they offer related products/services.
Personally I offered the companies listed on my site a CPM banner deal plus I added a free contact form to their company profile so users could more easily contact them.
Extra Traffic Never Hurts
Adsense is earning me less money but my adsense check hasn't decreased. Want to know my secret? I am boosting my traffic levels every month. It hurts to see the eCPM drop but don't just sit there and watch it fall. Instead get demotivated by doubling your traffic and have your Adsense income stay the same (it sucks but it is better than losing money).
Go out there and increase your traffic and I mean quality traffic to your site. 99% of the time only quality traffic will lead to money. We all know how to boost traffic but we hate to do it. You need to add more content, get more links, partner with related forums and online communities, launch new sites, buy out competing sites and so much more.
Adsense is producing a lot less bang than it has in the past. Who knows if this is because Google is keeping more money, advertisers are spending less, the "recession", smart pricing or whatever else. It doesn't mean your site has to produce less money. It just means that it is a good idea to diversify your revenue streams and maximize the profit.
[edited by: eljefe3 at 2:57 pm (utc) on Feb. 24, 2008]
Just, I don't agree with this assertion:
Adsense is producing a lot less bang than it has in the past.
That's true for some and not for others.
After spending long, grueling 3 hour work days...
Well, nothing is "stable" in the internet world, but you get my point.
Of course traffic is king the rules all of us, but that is another topic/discussion. We are working hard to build-up our mailing lists and communities to help diversify our dependencies on search, etc.
Just start! Join a few general affiliate programs that offer everything under the sun. Once you find a few programs that seem to work ok, move on and try to partner directly with those types of programs to cut out the middleman.
to select the affiliate programs that my audience will best respond to i use a bit of trial and error. before i join an affiliate program i add their ad to my site and give them a few days of free traffic. this lets me find out if my web audience is interested or not. it costs me a few days of free advertising but saves me alot of hassle by not applying to affiliate programs that my audience won't even respond to. it also helps protect my reputation with affiliate managers (which helps when i negotiate special deals) since this method makes sure i only join programs that i can generate traffic for.
ps this does not guarantee that the traffic will convert
Checking Out Contextual Alternatives
I just want to add that I agree that there are no contextual alternatives to Google in USA. However there maybe alternatives if a large part of your audience are not from US of A.
For me the just-barely-tolerable point is where Amazon.com performs on my site. If a program doesn't show signs of being able to do at least that well, then I drop it -- it's just not work my while to keep a few derisory links up so that I can get a $25 check every now and again. OTOH, if it does better than Amazon, I run with it.
For me the just-barely-tolerable point is where Amazon.com performs on my site.
If I used that as my criterion, nearly any affiliate program would do! Amazon has always been a complete bust on my site--even when I featured its links prominently back in 2001 or 2002. I guess this confirms that every site is different, and experience is the best (if not always the kindest) teacher.
Private Ad Deals
I overhauled one site to suit this:
Adsense = £500-£800 per month
Private Advertisers = £6000 per month
That's some difference, and this is in an industry where PPC spend is £10-£30 per click on Google.
I have actually left Adsense for most of my sites, the only place Adsense is doing better than affiliate banners is on my tech sites where Merchants pay a measly 1%-2% commission on sales.
One way to get a private recurring ad deal I can think of is adding a paypal button "buy a prominent listing" to a section of your site.
Depends on what kinds of advertisers you're trying to reach. You aren't going to get the big corporate display advertisers with a PayPal button.