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May started out as my best month ever, and ended as my worse. I had a 2 week drought of nothing but $0.00 or < $0.20 / day, following a week of > $2.00+ / day.
You can't do meaningful statistics on small samples of numbers and it's frusterating me.
Then there is the issue of whether your site is appropriate for monetizing. Joke sites etc. reportedly don't generate much revenue. Similarly, many forums are difficult to monetize.
So which is it? Could the problem be your niche or the amount of traffic you are trying to monetize?
At < $10/day, the sample sets are so small that statistical noise predominates. Meaningful testing (over a reasonable time period) is next to impossible.
It's often been said that it's easier to move from $10/day to $100/day than from $1/day to $10/day. I think it's because, at $10/day and beyond, the noise factor diminishes, and real cause and effect become clearer.
It's a science-based website. It's been online for 5 years, but only with Google ads for 4 months. I average about 200 page impressions/day.
I get the impression that people who click often click multiple ads. Perhaps they know that it makes me money, or perhaps they're just click-happy people. So less important than page impressions is how many click-happy people visit my site. And that number is way below the statistical noise.
You can't do meaningful statistics on small samples of numbers
Even low-traffic sites have enough numbers if you wait long enough. Load all your past daily stats into a spreadsheet. Calculate the moving average. Start with a window of 1 week. Keep expanding the window until you see a relatively smooth curve. Then you have trends you can look at.
If you had ten times the traffic, you still wouldn't look at a 30-second decline in income and get upset. Since you have low traffic, you can't pay attention to numbers averaged over one hour or even one day. But you probably can pay attention to numbers averaged over some number of weeks. It's just a matter of scale relative to your traffic volume.
This is an example of people taking the numbers handed to them even when they're not appropriate for your use. You can make your own stats that are appropriate -- you don't just have to take the analysis that Google hands you.
When you have that little traffic, you should be spending your time expanding your content, not twiddle-tweaking AdSense page placement and the like.
I tend to agree with you. You should emphasize content creation and traffic building, but don't neglect ad tweaking entirely.
When I first deployed Adsense, my "ad placements and the like" were so poor, my CTRs, EPCs, and eCPMs were so bad that I would have had to increase my then (not minuscule) traffic levels over a hundredfold to earn decent money.
I chanced upon one golden tweak that raised my CTRs and revenues by 5X. Great! Now I "only" had to increase my traffic levels by 20X in order to earn decent money--not nearly so impossible a task.
That golden tweak motivated me to continue. After that, content creation and traffic building no longer seemed so pointless.