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April 12, 2012 in Marketing

AdSense: How to balance conflicting interests

It’s a tricky balancing act being an AdSense publisher because once you start seeing your earnings increase, there’s a natural desire to shift your attention to your revenue. The problem with focusing on your revenue is that you’re taking attention away from producing the most useful content for your readers. And without readers, you have no audience to run ads for in the first place.

I know, because it’s a challenge I face as an AdSense publisher too. I run a popular tech support site called Ask Dave Taylor and my focus since 2003 has been on answering tech questions in a simple, free, and easily obtainable manner. I had over 18 million visitors to the site last year — but it’s also a business, not a hobby, so maximizing my per-visitor revenue is important.

I’m sure you’ve heard that “it’s all about content,” and that the best sites have high quality content that’s regularly updated and provide a value to their customers. That’s still true, and it’s important to have your primary focus be the experience you offer to your reader.

But there’s that tension. It’s the lure of the dark side, in Star Wars terminology. What is the perfect middle ground along the content/revenue continuum?

Here’s how I try to balance things…

The first place I stop every week is Google Analytics. The data gives me food for thought, like how many visitors are using mobile devices. This helped me decide how much money to invest in a mobile-friendly version of the site (and when it made sense for me to add AdSense for Mobile Content to my advertising mix). Analytics also shows the most popular pages on my site, which offers great insight into what my readers visit most frequently. Since I categorize all my content, it helps me understand if tutorials about the Sony PSP are garnering more traffic than those about the Apple iPod, for example.

Hook Analytics to AdSense (and yes, I have an article about how to do that on my site) and you can also produce a report of your most profitable pages, a cross-correlation between traffic and AdSense revenue. You’ll gain a reliable way to figure out if that blog entry you wrote three months ago is actually now generating 11% of your overall site revenue.

But there’s the ugly head of profiteering rearing up again.

Let’s look at this a different way. There’s a name for a restaurateur who focuses exclusively on per-customer revenue and keeps raising prices: out of business. On the other hand, a restaurant that doesn’t pay attention to what items are popular, what daily specials get people excited, and the fluctuations in supply cost runs the risk of ending up with a menu that’s completely out of touch with customer desires and they too go out of business.

I spend the majority of my time and attention on producing the best possible content and use my desire to maximize revenue as a secondary goal, something for me to keep in mind as I proceed. It doesn’t launch my ship, but it helps me build it most efficiently.

If you’re a long-time AdSense publisher, you’ve hopefully also found that sweet spot between being completely content driven and ignoring the business side of your publishing business. If not, here’s a suggestion based on my years of participation: Once a month, really dig into your AdSense reports to understand what categories, what topics and what pages on your site are performing well. Set a goal of producing more of the same in the following 30 days, then put revenue out of your mind and focus completely on what you can contribute to your customer community. Rinse, wash, repeat.


Posted by Raina Rathi, Strategic Partner Manager, AdSense

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