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Like most web distributions of everything, there's a power law effect for people going after AdSense income. In other words, a few people (and you can bet they post to let us know who they are!) are going to make the lion's share of the money, some larger number of people are going to make OK money, and a whole lot of us are going to make, well, not really very good money at all.
Of course, the whole lynchpin of the winner-take-all society is the way that our insane belief that we'll be one of the lucky few helps us keep plugging away for a pittance. The large number of ghetto kids who are certain they're going to be NBA stars have a lot in common with AdSense slave-workers who are convinced they're going to be the next Markus-like Millionaire.
But let's run some numbers anyway, even though everyone who thinks the numbers couldn't apply to them will keep thinking that way. It won't change anyone's behavior, but maybe seeing some numbers that actually match your own experience (as opposed to making you ashamed of your own experience) might be a pleasant change.
There's a million ways to skin the AdSense cat, but certainly the straight-shooter, white-hat, Build Good Content and Good Advertisers Will Come approach is used by a whole lot of new AdSensers. Practically speaking, if you're just now embarking on a black-hat, get-rich-quick scheme, then you're so far behind the old-timers (and Google) that the odds against you are even crueller anyway.
So here's the scenario: You're going to make your AdSense gold by building good content and getting ads, and over time the dollars will just keep mounting up.
Of course, AdSense income varies very widely by topic and by what SmartPricing thinks of you this week. But still, I think it's possible to arrive at some plausible guesses for some average income.
One oft-quoted guesstimate claims that people in the AdSense content business make roughly $10/page per year. But I'm going to say a more realistic estimate is $5/page per year. That's probably better than you're going to make off a joke-of-the-day type of content, but probably plausible for anyone who does a modest amount of investigation about where likely good income topics lie.
I know, if you're a newbie you're thinking "oh, I'm pretty sure I can beat $10/page per year". I know, you're special, but remember that this set of numbers is aimed at what's going to happen to most newbie AdSensers, not really smart people like you, to whom the odds do not apply.
Also keep in mind that a number of things conspire against the new AdSenser. If you got few pages, it's harder to get natural inbound links. It's harder to get PR and harder to rank highly for popular terms. Think of AdSense like one of those online games where you have to spend the first part of the game being a toady and doing a grunt work to get enough gold/skills/whatever to actually have any fun (and to avoid being wiped out by the first opponent you look at funny).
So yes, however improbably low you think it, let's go with $5/page per year.
Next, of course, is how fast can you write pages? As always, there's a trade-off here. Two sentences per page is going to let you crank a lot out quickly -- but lower the odds that they'll actually do you any good. And, if you just write crap, you greatly lower the odds you'll get any of those "natural", one-way, inbound links from authority sites.
Google is not magic, but if you think they have not managed to achieve at least a rough correlation between rankings and actual website quality/usefulness, then why are you investing time in this business anyway?
Also, you ain't gonna live off the income from your initial 10-page AdSense site, so you've probably got to spend some time elsewhere making a living. You probably can't work 10-hour days on nothing but creating content. And, many people have actual families or other frivolous pursuits that keep them from working 7-day weeks. And remember, we're looking for numbers that describe what's going to happen to most newbie AdSensers who embark on this expedition.
I want to go with a number of 2 hours per page, and 4 hours per day. And I'll assume you work on this project 5 days per week, and 50 weeks per year.
Now comes the fun part. You plug away at this AdSense thing for a year, and where do you think you (the imaginary "average" AdSenser) will be?
Well, after a year, you've got 50 weeks * 5 days/week * 2 pages/day = 500 pages. Wow! Let's hope you picked a topic that you could actually write that much about! (What was the most number of pages you ever wrote for a term paper? Hmmmmmm...)
Now how much yearly income will your website make you at that point? Well, 500 pages * 5 dollars/page/year = $2500/year = $208/month.
Is it Worth It?
Let's suppose after that year of work, your website will produce as estimated for a while. Of course, you don't really make that $2500 in year 1, because your page count was slowly growing from zero during the first year. And some people are going to find that their website earnings on a "frozen" site go up, while many will find them going down sooner or later, due to competition or algorithm changes.
But to make the math easy, let's assume (conservatively I think), that your total earnings (even in the face of Google algorithm changes) from this website will be at least 3 * $2500 = $7500 -- even if you do no other work on it after the end of year one. One of the paybacks for doing true-blue, white-hat, decent content development should be that you're less likely to get "wiped out" completely by a Google algorithm change, though I would not expect the website to earn it's peak forever with no changes.
So, you made $7500 and all you invested was 50 * 7 * 4 = 1400 hours. That's right, you made $5.35/hour.
Sorry, you grossed $5.35/hour. You'll probably need to be paying taxes (and some Social Security in the U.S.) on that. But still, you had the pleasure of being your own boss, eh?
Disagree with my assumptions? Of course you do! But if you're an AdSense newbie, you should at least look at the numbers and then see whether your own estimates are panning out as you go.
After a couple of months of AdSense work, do you have more or less than the 80 pages of content I'm assuming the average AdSenser will have?
After a couple of months of AdSense work, are you making more or less than the $.14/page per day I've assumed here?
After a couple of months of AdSense work, do you have more or less than the 160 hours of invested time I guesstimated for this model?
Am I anywhere close in my estimation of what will happen to the average AdSenser? I don't know, but I suspect this flimsy model is a lot closer to reality than you'll get by reading posts by people who are on the sweet end of the power-law curve. People at the much more heavily populated end of the curve (that's the part that looks an awful lot like a flat line) rarely post their earnings experience.
Sometimes I wonder if those unrealistic expectations don't lead to more cases of outright fraud, as people decide that must be what "everyone else" is doing, since "everyone else" seems to be striking it rich with AdSense.
Am I telling people not to try to make AdSense? No. But I'm telling people to not do AdSense instead of getting an education, to not quit their job to do AdSense, to not forego relationships to work more on AdSense. And if you're here to tell me that you did all those things and you're now the NBA star equivalent of AdSense, well, just remember that one bad injury can take you out of the game forever.
This might sound like an AA meeting thingy.
I have a very successful business outside of Adsense, but I am obsessed with making Adsense pennies from my hobby site.
Honestly, I am to the point that I am considering just whacking Adsense off the site. I have worked on it for four years and it has just under 1000 pages.
I built the site because I enjoyed it, but now I feel that it's worth is somehow verified by how much $ it can produce.
Sick, it is Adsense creep.
I look at the Ads displayed and often they are not even closely related to with the content.
I am tired of filtering for nothing, more of the same just appears.
Step one done.
I guess an OP like this makes a handy alternative benchmark to a post explaining how to earn a zillion in a month (or three) but I'd argue that the numbers mentioned above (which makes flipping burgers sound more attractive) are very low and perhaps indicative of a site not well suited to adsense -- Adsense isn't for all sites!
Produce well-written, interesting and helpful content which real human beings need or want and the traffic and income should follow.
Most, though not all of my income is from AdSense. I work very part time on a niche content site that went over 200 pages sometime last year. It's been around 10+ years. Fewer than 50,000 visitors per month.
But I'm making $500/month. More than that, actually, but let's use that number. It's a nice round one. So $6,000 a year. That's $30/page/year. Only it's better than that, because AdSense is on fewer than half of my pages. So at least $50/page. And I work, at most, five hours a week on the site.
Maybe not a typical experience. Definitely not a newbie experience. But a possible experience.
One oft-quoted guesstimate claims that people in the AdSense content business make roughly $10/page per year. But I'm going to say a more realistic estimate is $5/page per year.
That is probably way too low a figure for people who hang out at places like WebmasterWorld and have half way decent content.
Maybe not a typical experience. Definitely not a newbie experience. But a possible experience.
Hunderdown, that's exactly the point.
What can be considered an average / median experience?
I think Ronburk is not far off. His "Adsense secrets revealed" guide to newbies is far more realistic than Markus' one. As you put it, Markus had a "possible experience" but it's not the experience the average newbie should expect to have.
Sure, if you start from Ronburk's data, but if you succeed in having a 2x ePCM, a 10x traffic, a particular skill that will give you the chance to have content with less work, the game can be played in a very different way.
So, let me add a chapter to Ronburk's thesis.
Get out from the average
Ronburk's hypothesis is a good guesstimate of what will happen if you do everything the average way.
It can be done different, sure. You just need to be a not-in-the-average person with some not-in-the-average ideas.
Make an Excel with the following values
hours per page: 2
number of pages: 500
pageviews per page per year: 1000
years considered: 3
Do the maths, and you should have values similar to Ronburk's.
Now, play a game. Try and change any of those amounts, see the difference it would make. Ask yourself what you can do to have a similar value.
And no, don't change the $5 eCPM to another value. That's a factor out of your control. Actually, you CAN change it to get some motivation, but only if you enter "dream mode" and don't save the Excel :-)
You will soon see what's needed to make Adsense a profitable game: show that Ronburk was wrong, be better at it than the average guy.
Probably, you will find that the best way to do that is to capitalize on something you alredy have.
That's why a very good suggestion that is often given to newbies asking for profitable niches is "write about something you know and like. That means: capitalize on your passion / hobby, and turn the $3.53 per hour of work into a $3.53 per hour of playing. That already sounds better.
But that's just a suggestion for you only if you don't have any other advantage. Read this forum, and when you see someone explain how he did it try and understand what was his/her advantage.
I will exemplify here some cases I read on this forum
JH: a professional niche journalist that had a lot of old articles in a rather well-paying niche. He probably has an eCPM better than the $5, but that's not the point (remember, you can't play with that number). His advantage was having a good deal of contents to start from (cut the 2 hours per page), and probably very good writing attitude (again cut the 2 hours per page)
SL: the owner of a hobby site for a hobby, started selling plans for the ones doing the same hobby. After some time she turned out being the authority site for the hobby. So, if I understand well, she first capitalized on her passion (so yes, I guess at the beginning she got the $3 per hour we were speaking about), and later, when she found herself with a LOT of good traffic, she just capitalized on that.
Markus: read the thread, but he certainly capitalized on his extreme technical skills that gave him an advantage in a lot of other points, plus he found a way of having contents written by the users. Multiply that for zilions of pages, zilions of pageviews, and you get to a LOT of money. Maybe not $10.000 a day, someone will say, but even if it where "only" $1.000 a day that's something the average adsenser likes.
Hunderdown: (see above) said "It's been around 10+ years". That's a TREASURE to capitalize on. Have a good, a decent content site that has been around for 10 years, and you will have the key to cuccess!
Myself: I realized I had 20.000 pages of good content sitting unused on my desk. I decided to put them online for free.
I capitalized on my know-how (as a publisher and a programmer) and I was able to draft a site around that contents with maybe 1-2 months of work on my side and a few hundred dollars of paid labour.
After two years from starting the site, I am going on $600 per month, with 1-4 hour per month of maintenance work.
So, in my case, for example, the "$ per year per page" is lower then Ronburk's data, but my "hours per page" is FAR FAR lower then Ronburk's. That's what made the thing profitable.
Sure, those are not "2 hour per page" pages.
And no, I didn't write them myself, those pages were (and still are) freely available for anyone who wanted to use them.
BUT I was the first to use them, my site is now an authority site in that niche, so it will take more that "the average adsenser" to take the niche away from me.
Also, what I did in a couple of months would probably take around a year to "the average adsenser"
My suggestion is: read the forum, enjoy the experience, try to understand how others are are doing, and try to exploit what is "extra-ordinary" (i.e. better than average) in you.
[edited by: frox at 7:23 am (utc) on Mar. 28, 2006]
for someone with an existing, and respected, content site, those numbers are too low
I guess that my site(s) bring in around $60 or $70 per page per year on average...BUT...my sites have been around for 6 years. I spent thousands of unpaid hours researching and writing unique content as well as improving my search engines rankings because I had a gut feeling - no, a certainty - that once we got past the late 90s advertising bubble burst these sites would pay me good money one day (I thought of direct advertising as of course AdSense didn't exist then).
I should add that my site(s) are authority sites on a subject I love.
So good money it is but certainly no get rich quick scheme.
And ronburk, thanks for a great post! I think that you are very close to the mark with your averages.
I do love all the suppositions in the article BTW - really messes with the mind and makes it hard to comment against what is said. I just love how that works.
"Like most web distributions of everything, there's a power law effect for people going after AdSense income. In other words, a few people (and you can bet they post to let us know who they are!) are going to make the lion's share of the money, some larger number of people are going to make OK money, and a whole lot of us are going to make, well, not really very good money at all."
The law of distributions also states that the distribution of power (or whatever) is consistently changing hands (especially in a capitalistic society). This is of course natural in business AS WELL AS IN A JOB and LIFE in GENERAL. Many times the once powerful become weak and the weak become powerful. - A message of hope and this occurs every single day.
Also the natural business cycle can skew this so-called "fact". Startups (depending on many variables) probably will start as one of the masses at the bottom until begins to find ways to establish exponential (rapid) growth. Where this growth will pull them into the higher income brackets and business maturity.
Exponential growth occurs when you leverage time, money, and energy and stacking that leverage over and over. If a person makes $500 per month on adsense revenue they can leverage their time - other peoples time - their income or other peoples income. They also can leverage their energy and other people's energy. The goal of leverage is to create GROWTH.
Those who are on the bottom who remain on the bottom do not know how to leverage these forces. Those who create content over and over making a pittance at first are actually leveraging. Each time they create a page of useful content they create another way to generate revenue while increasing the scope of the website. It is another entry point into the website. Another page to be linked to. Another page that grasps visitor interest. More opportunity to get people to tell friends about your site. More opportunity to leverage visitors and create visitor interaction (content creation interaction).
You see...you stated:
"and over time the dollars will just keep mounting up"
But later you froze the site's growth and leverage after a year to make your point. Typically you keep leveraging until you hit a point of diminishing returns where you or anyone can leverage a NEW site.
You simply did 3 * $2500 = $7500 But since you "froze the growth you immediately put the site in a potential decline stage in the business cycle, again, to make your point. If you created another 500 page the second year you would make $2500 the first year and $5000 the second and so on. RIGHT? Hmmm think about leverage for a moment and how the effects of which can compound this. You can still work the same amount of time with the same amount of energy creating the same amount of content while leveraging you assets and other people's assets at the same time. (this is the internet where you can write something to SPEED UP PROCESSES decreasing your time and energy spent working and so you can spend more time and energy leveraging)
You also mention 1 person the owner creating all of the content. This is just leveraging YOUR time. This is a poor man's thinking. Like a person who wants more money so they get another job and work harder. It is a trap. You also did this to make your point. Creating greater income for yourself can also be achieved simply by leveraging OTHER people's time, energy, and money. This can be an angel investor, hiring a writer, or even find ways your visitors or other webmasters and niche groupies create content for you.
1,5 million pages, about 0,04$ per page/year. Still, it's a good number. At least for the entertainment category, which as many of you know is very hard to monetize efficiently. Took months of work and testing even to get ctr up to 2% :)
I think it's often a case of look at your assets (no smart comments) - what are you good at? What do you know that others would like to know? I don't know if the majority of Adsense punters are web developers - but if that's the case, then the only thing that holds you back is your imagination, as far as I see it. Yeah, sure, if you knock out another 'how-to-do-css' blog, don't expect the $ to come rolling in, but the internet is a really big place, with lots of money-making potential.
I go with the, 'if I knock out x pages a day/month' it's going to take ages, and probably not be worth it. Unless you're in a job that requires you to sit on your rear-end and do nothing, with something else paying... However, from what people have posted, and, if you think about it, what seems fairly obvious, the sites that do well are the dynamic ones, where the content is new, relevant and interesting. I'm not sure that works for forums, but I bet sites like the Register could make a pretty sum with AdSense. The mind-trap is to think - but they're really big, and I'm only me... All the big sites started out small, and all ideas evolve over time.
I agree with 'don't give up your job for AdSense' - but maybe take some of your regular income, and invest it in decent content feeds, or pay a student to write some editorial content.
Like with any investment, do your research. Read SEO sites - good ones, not the 'I can give you a thousand links in a day' ones. Optimise your site, with the user in mind; steer clear of black-hat techniques. Think - would I want to visit this site? Get others opinions on it. I disagree with the 'beg-for-links' philosophy; instead, make your content good enough that people link to you without you asking. The links you'll get from link-exchanges, or farms will never be great - and may disappear without notice.
AdSense will never be easy; like any job in the real world, you get paid in relation to value. Don't expect to knock out some poor quality site, and get paid megabucks for it. If you're not prepared to put in some serious hard work, a good bit of research, and then some more hard work, then don't bother. But if you are, it's worth it.
It all has to fall apart eventually. The current state of things is little more than a disaster. The internet is ever increasingly becoming filled with more and more and more and more and more garbage. Not just spam websites who scrape good content from decent websites but even blogs with all their useless drivel filling unending pages of nothing.
I find it hilarious that adsense has created an army of people pumping out hundreds of mostly useless pages a week just so they have more real estate to drop ppc ads onto as if their current earnings/results are exempt from the most basic principles of supply and demand.
Even the thought of creating one useful interactive page, or god forbid a highly functional flash website, seem ludicrous to this army of ppc #*$!s as it would only add one page to smother with ads. I, for one, can't wait until this silly trend ends and all the get-rich-quick schemers move on to the next big thing and the web can have another moment of sanity like after the last big bubble busted.
Success is great, I know that first hand, but everyone here needs to be careful about making it sound too easy when discussing the rewards, and omitting the years of hard work building up to that success, the long nights, the years without weekend breaks, the nerve wrecking struggle to get ahead and earn visitors, remembering to mention some of that would do the newbs here a service.
Having said that, I think the OP is missing the recurring earnings factor, your same page will generate money for years and years before disappearing in cyber oblivion, and if it is done right the first time and kept fresh with little touches over time that same page will even attract more links and visitors over time and send them to other pages too.
It is like building a house, if it costs you $200k the first year, you can rent it for years and years with little maintenance if the foundations are good.
But its a subject I know a lot about, people are prepared to spend money on it, and I know how to get good CTR.
A file full of content will take 10 hours to write and to get traffic to, and will be split up into an average of six pages. That one hour 40 minutes per page.
Every hour spent brings in $55 every year, until something changes drastically.
[edited by: Alex_Miles at 10:28 am (utc) on Mar. 28, 2006]
As for calculations I tend not to look into them in too much. I'd question about page values as this depends a lot on content (it seems that adsense assumes people run article based sites but many do not, running instead photo based sites for example).
Essentially I'd just use the fact tha,t too make money with adsense, you need a combination of things. Good traffic, good content and a fairly well paying topic area.
You may well find yourself earning a few dollars a day even with solid and established sites (and then you'll find others who seem to do no wrong and make a lot easily) that's the nature of adsense.
She spends $10 a day on making the site.
She will pay her own hosting costs in the near future, $10 per month.
She pays a lot to cash checks, approximately $20 each.
Her costs are approximately $3800 a year.
She estimates she will make $200 this year from Adsense. Perhaps $500-$1000 each year after that. If you are correct and she will only survive 3 years she will never make any money.
as your thread is becoming a ww classic - what do you think about my little "gold-rush" reminder:
Everybody runs to California, Alaska, Australia, leaves his family - to become rich. fast.
In the end some hit it big time (Scrooge Mc Duck), but most spent their humble earnings for food and some drinks.
But who made the real money? Not the diggers, for sure.
For whatever reason, in virtually every area of life a relative handful of people enjoy more success than they'll ever really need, a bunch will barely get by (if they're lucky). Work ethic, work skills, knowlege, experience and planning along with plain dumb luck make things the turn out the way they do.
The good news is that just like with most other areas of life, success with AdSense is open to anyone, virtually anywhere on the planet that Internet access and affordable computers can be found.
You need to hav a good grasp of how to drive traffic to the pages in order to succeed. Increasing page impressions to existing pages for me has had a much bigger effect on income than adding new pages.
The way I do this is by good old-fashioned networking. Get to know your 'competitors' and work with them to increase both of your traffic.
If you are talking about a particular site, then the incremental revenue from an additional page may be a bit easier to predict.
Having said that, I think the main point of ronburk's post is absolutely correct. It's easy to pour a lot of time into building out a site with new content for a pittance of Adsense revenue. If you would be building the site anyway, that's no problem; if you expect to develop a comfortable income from Adsense, though, you'll probably be disappointed.
Just because I am watching a good programme on the television doesn't make me want to go out and purchase the product on the first advert or ring the number on the commercial. Why is the online business so different? (or more accurately why do some people think it is)
-passion or love of my subject...
-what real value does it add & why would someone need/want to visit my site?
-How can I lever my work to multiply the intended effects?
-Adsense isn't simply an easy path to $$$
What you all are talking about from my perspective is business. Business is a game...no matter if it's websites or commercial real estate...some of the details change but the underlying principles remain the same. I look at the commercial building we run and almost all of those principles (spadework, added value, attracting pelple, lots of sweat and sacrafice in order to develop a less time-intensive future stream of income)...they are all the same...
That's exactly what makes it so awesome! (By the way, you too can make less than minimum wage in real estate, just like anything else)...So the question at the end of the day is...do I really want to die on that hill? And if it's something I truly love, how much does it matter?