I make a living off Adsense. It is not a huge living, but a really comfortable one and that is actually intentional, but more on that later. I read alot on here about different people's opinions about how to succeed (or not) with AdSense and sometimes I agree and sometimes I do not. But I thought I would post about how I make it work. As they say with all those diet products that they advertise on Adsense - "results may vary". What works for me may not work for others, but I think getting different perspectives is a good way to figure out what will work for you.
#1 Confession - I love what I do, and that makes it great
I have several websites, but I make the lion's share of my income from one site. I have tried and had moderate success making money off things I could not care less about but thought the niche was profitable. But they just don't work as well as my main site, which is my passion. I strive and enjoy making my main site awesome. For the other sites, I have a "to-do" chore list to make them passable.
I truly believe that reflects in the income from Adsense. I think visitors can tell when things are genuine and are more likely to stick around and come back, which makes them a more desirable ad target. I think advertisers see a site that is loved and will be more likely to float money that way (though I doubt they would define it that way - but that is essentially what they want).
#2 Confession - I got Pandalized and it took me a month to realize it
Not because I am stupid, but because I simply did not notice the drop in search traffic. Actually, this is the second time I have been Pandalized (Trust me, I noticed the first time). I know what caused it (I got lazy blocking thin pages) and I fixed it eventually and I am confident that traffic will come back (because this has happened before). But the fact is that I lost 60% of my Google traffic and failed to notice... for awhile.
Why is that? Well, because I spent the last year building up traffic from other sources, mostly social sites. My niche is highly cyclical and when I got hit with the latest Panda issue was just when things were on the upswing. The social media work I had put in over the previous year mostly made up for the significant loss in Google traffic.
And my income never took a hit. Despite the search traffic drop, earnings remained steady. It was not till I did my monthly review of Analytics that I noticed the traffic from Google was gone. (Bonus tip - monthly in-depth reviews of your Analytics is a great idea - weekly cursory reviews are good too)
#3 Confession - I love my visitors more than I love Adsense - and Adsense loves me for it
I only have ads above the fold on my LEAST visited pages. Everywhere else, there are no ads above the fold. When I make design changes, I always keep my visitor in mind. And that means when I create content, when I display content and when I consider user interface. When I make a significant change, I do user testing (super cheap - costs like $30 per trained, demographically accurate tester - if you are not doing it, you are missing out) and adjust to make them happy. I place my ads in logical exit locations - and big hint - the top of your page should not be a logical exit location.
And despite not being pushy with my ads, Adsense advisors have told me repeatedly that my RPM is VERY healthy and I am policy compliant. Plus, before anyone says it, I am not in a lucrative niche.
Test, test, test for a better user experience is a mantra I always follow. The money will follow after that.
#4 Confession - I don't do traditional SEO
Don't take this the wrong way. I do SEO. I just don't do "traditional" SEO. I do not link build (and have not for a good 7 years). I do not worry or care about how I rank for any one keyword. As a matter of fact I doubt you could find me in the top 1,000 for my niche's main keyword, despite the fact that I am probably in the top 10 most trafficked sites in my niche (or I am really close).
I do pay attention to what the search engines representatives and pundits say. Annnnd I don't often take what they say at face value. I believe in my own ability to decipher in my niche what is the business goal of the search engines (hint - it has to do with my visitors) and I translate that to an SEO strategy. It works really well.
#5 Confession - Adsense is a golden goose and you should not kill it
I meet WAY TOO MANY people who think that Adsense is some kind of magical golden goose. And they take, take, take from it until it dries up and then they wonder what the heck happened.
When I made the decision to live off Adsense, my hubby and I figured out what kind of life we wanted and we have stuck to that. I live in a small house in a working class neighborhood. My car is 8 years old (though it is a convertible) and I shop at the thrift store for clothes. But, my hubby is a stay-at-home dad, I cook gourmet meals nearly every night and when amazing travel or experience opportunities present themselves, we have the money to do it. I set my daily standard of living bar pretty low and, when the money is there, we take advantage by enhancing our lives in other ways.
This doesn't happen because that is all the money the site makes. I have a self imposed salary. I know how much it takes to maintain my lifestyle and, beyond that, the money from Adsense goes back into the website. Whether that be in the form of developers, designers, writers, hosting or contractors for other work on the site, the money gets put back in.
This also insulates my family. If income were to catastrophically drop, I can let every contractor go and we can do without the family extras. We keep the house and the cars - though my hubby may have to get a job. Important thing is, the kids won't notice much. Because while Adsense is a golden goose, I don't try to get more from it than I need.
I have met publishers who take home $100K from Adsense but refuse to put more than $500 back into their site design or pay more than $50 a month for hosting. Attitudes like that are how you kill the golden goose.
Again, I just want to state again that this is just what works for me. It may not work for you. But I think it helps to know what works for different people.