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How do people make so much money?

Even with high rankings, I don't make all that much

     
6:29 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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My most successful AdSense site places on the first page of SERPs for all 4 major engines, and has done so for over a year. This is for a search on my target keyword, which is the brand name of a prescription drug. In November I was up to the number 3 slot on Google, which is about as well as I will ever do with this site. My AdSense revenue from this site in November was $500. I figure that's as much as this site will make. In the future my site will probably return to a 6 or 7 position, and revenue will fall to $250/month.

I'm not complaining, because I appreciate the money and I know many publishers make less. But I wonder about publishers who make more and do AdSense full time. How do they do it? I don't come close to making enough money to quit my day job. Do these superpublishers have multiple sites, each earning $500/month? (I have other sites but the total earnings for them is under $500/month combined.) Or do they have sites with a broader appeal than my pharmaceutical information site and do these broader sites make huge money? I figured I would tackle a niche, and have been successful within that niche, but it's really not all that much money. Maybe pursuing a niche is not a good idea.

6:53 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I quit my day job earlier this year. Although I wouldn't consider myself a superpublisher (whatever that might be), I can offer a bit of advice. You didn't say what your CPM was so we have no way of telling whether $500 is good or bad based on your traffic :-)

I run a number of sites and have come to realize that a few of the small ones will never grow simply because the market is not there. It's a small niche and that's all there is to it. What do I do? Build another site. There comes a point when you have too many sites though, I'm there now. You may want to consider starting another site if as you say it will never grow much larger. Or, look at other ways to monetize it...

Edit: I reread your post. Two of my larger sites that make pretty good money have a broader appeal. The smaller ones are niche areas and are pretty much "stuck". Yeah, perhaps try a site with a broader appeal.

[edited by: Swanny007 at 6:55 pm (utc) on Dec. 1, 2007]

7:01 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It's all about the traffic. Personally I use the shotgun approach to SEO - lots of pages, lots of content, generate lots of deep links, and rank high for millions of long-tail searches. Ranking in the top 10 for one specific search term is another way to go, but it's an unforgiving battle and even if you win you can't necessarily grow that success into something bigger.
7:59 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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CTR/Clicks
Ranking well is good, but not so good if the traffic isn't all that high. So out of 500 visitors a day you might get twenty clicks (assuming a 4% CTR). A 1,000 visitors = 40 clicks.

Who is bidding?
So who are the bidders? Are they manufacturers or affiliates? Quite possibly it's affiliates. What do you estimate is the profit margin of affiliates? This is going to play a supporting role in determining how much clicks pay.

General profit margin
Some products have thin profit margins, so you're going to find less satisfying payouts. Check it out on CJ. The worst scenario is low traffic coupled with low profit margins.

Competition
High competition is good. Really high competition is better. :) As an affiliate, I like new niches or underserved niches.

Keyword Trends
You can go to Google Trends and see how some markets didn't really exist a few years ago, but as certain keyword phrases gained awareness in the minds of consumers you can see the upward trend. Some phrases have downward trends as consumers move on to new products or fads. Anticipating keywords is a good niche to play, and that includes slang and names of products or services.

I'm not an affiliate expert, there are others here who know a lot more than I do. However, I do dabble in it and it's a positive learning experience that can help you better understand the AdSense side of it.

[edited by: martinibuster at 8:02 pm (utc) on Dec. 1, 2007]

8:00 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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>>There comes a point when you have too many sites though, I'm there now.

How does that work? Time for an employee or forget about them for the time being and pull whatever maintenance resources were required Never know what will be worth something to someone later on.

(And I'm talking about sites not domains)

9:25 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Western, I put my effort where it will get the best return (my larger sites). The small sites are essentially there just for fun/hobby, although I do run AdSense on them. So I don't do any long-term planning or put too much effort into them. Focus on what's making me money now, and what has potential.
10:33 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I think we're saying the same thing. Martinibuster summed some of it up:

you can go to Google Trends and see how some markets didn't really exist a few years ago, but as certain keyword phrases gained awareness in the minds of consumers you can see the upward trend. Some phrases have downward trends as consumers move on to new products or fads. Anticipating keywords is a good niche to play, and that includes slang and names of products or services.

I've thought it rewarding to see a hobby/fun site take off ( relatively :) without trying at it.

[edited by: Western at 10:34 pm (utc) on Dec. 1, 2007]

10:46 pm on Dec 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I've thought it rewarding to see a hobby/fun site take off...

It's satisfying to be in tune with the cultural zeitgeist and be rewarded for it at the same time. :)

3:34 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I wonder if your topic isn't part of the problem. If I were an advertiser, I'd be very picky about where my ads for prescription drugs were being displayed on the content network (that is, if I used the content network at all), because I'd know that there are a zillion people trying to make a killing with AdSense sites about prescription drugs, mesothelioma, debt consolidation, credit cards, and other alleged "money" topics. Also--and maybe just as important--Google AdWords has a policy [adwords.google.com] about prescription-drug advertising that limits where ads can be displayed, which means that a site with traffic outside the U.S. may have a lot of "waste circulation."
5:35 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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killing with AdSense sites about prescription drugs, mesothelioma, debt consolidation, credit cards, and other alleged "money" topics

Rather meaningless if this is true:

My most successful AdSense site places on the first page of SERPs for all 4 major engines, and has done so for over a year. This is for a search on my target keyword, which is the brand name of a prescription drug.
6:46 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It isn't meaningless, for the reason that I mentioned. (Most advertisers aren't stupid, especially after they've been stung a few times.)
2:53 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Yes., me and my wife make a 6-figure income from AdSense but we have been doing it for over 6 years now and it has taken a lot of effort with close to 2 million visitors each month and with a dozen websites. It has not been easy and it is still a lot of work. The message here is that it is hard work but you can do it. Focus on good content that makes life easy for visitors; they will come back and refer their friends. Useful content generates natural linking too and that improves search engine ranking. Simple, honest way to make money but it takes patience and hard work. I do not know of a get-rich-quick way.