As a consultant for online advertising I not only help a lot of websites to grow their revenue, but also learn a lot about how different topics, text types, page structures and traffic sources perform in terms of ad revenue.

There are some types of websites that are not struggling with AdSense because of a bad setup or bad management, but mostly because their topic and visitors are just not good to make serious money.

Even though I like to help everyone, I learned that I have to decline some requests for ad reviews from such websites in order to avoid frustration on both ends.

I have picked 3 types of websites that I regularly see to fail when it comes to generating income with AdSense.

Let me first give you a background about the metrics that matter most for a healthy AdSense account before going into details about the types of pages that are just hard to make money with.

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AdSense key metrics

Even though there are different bid types with AdSense, cost per click (cpc) is still the largest one. With cpc a publisher like you earns money if a users clicks on an ad.

Once you understand the key metrics of AdSense you will also see why the page types I mention below are low performers by nature.

CTR

Since you earn on a click basis your visitors must be willing to click on an ad. This behavior is measured in click-through-rate (ctr).

Why should a user click on an ad? Beside accidental clicks, the ad might promises a solution to his problem.

CPC

Your income also depends on click prices. Those are roughly defined by the competition of advertisers on your website.

An advertiser often wants to sell something. The higher the price of his product or service and the higher the probability that a visitor from your site is going to perform the action on the advertiser website, the more he is willing to invest and the higher your income will be.

RPM

To compare websites with a different amount of traffic, ctr and cpc, income performance is often measured in return-per-mile (rpm), which is the income it generates per 1000 page impressions. It is also often referenced as cost-per-mile (cpm).

Websites that fail

The following list of website types with low AdSense potential is neither final nor is the fate of such a site inevitable. You might run a project in these areas successfully for various reasons, but if you are new to online advertising then I would advise against choosing one of these topics.

1. News sites

Before I started to help other publishers to generate more income from ads, I didn’t imagine how many news sites there are out there. I am not talking about the online version of a printed newspapers, but pages who publish any kind of news without a background in journalism.

Most consulting requests I receive are actually from such news sites and so far I only accepted very few of them. This is mainly because I want to spare both of us the disappointment, especially when I am confident that there is no potential in the first place.

Why are news sites not working well with AdSense?

Why are people visiting a news sites? What is their problem? In which mood are they?

Who is a person that comes to a news site and reads an article about an accident on the highway, the latest Oscar winners and funny Super Bowl commercials?

What is the problem you solved for this visitor and how much would he or she spend on it to be solved?

This is the question that advertisers are asking themselves and you should too! The more likely that someone would spend money for something you help him solve, the more likely that there is an ad he clicks on. This not only applies to news sites.

You might have caught up on it, but just to be clear. The problem many news sites suffer from is a lack of focus.

AdSense is easy to implement, but the rules of advertising still apply. If you can’t sell ads to someone directly than it is also hard to monetize your site with AdSense.

The solution: focus

The problems that news sites have can’t always be solved, but there are some suggestions I can give you to at least try to turn around the wheel.

Most news sites have many categories they update, but I bet that only very few of them really drive traffic, engage visitors and generate ad revenue.

Identify these categories and focus on them. Cut the others off. You already lost money on them, why to lose more?

The same can be applied to content types. Maybe visitors (and Google search) only really like your features, local stories, or image galleries. Identify your strengths and cut off the weaknesses.

Final question: when did you last read about a newspaper that successfully transferred its printed version to online by just using display advertisement for monetization?

2. Monetizing a hobby

This is something I can talk about from 6-years of experience. After playing a game of Scrabble with very bad letters, I started a website where one could simply enter his letters and see which words can be build with them.

www.word-grabber.com started out of fun. I was playing around with dictionaries and databases back then anyway and it was a good way to apply my knowledge in a public way.

Starting this site out of compassion and interest was totally legitimate. I didn’t intent to monetize it and it was just a hobby – something that I did and invest time in without expecting to get any monetary return.

I was lucky. Due to constant updates, articles and a larger target group than expected, the site has millions of page impressions per month today. However, the rpm is very low and will probably stay at a low level due to the following reasons.

For me, word-grabber isn’t a hobby anymore, because placing ads on a site makes it a commercial site, even when there is very little income generated. For my visitors word games are still a hobby though.

Compared to news sites word-grabber has a clear focus on word games and people interested in them. It also engages users and most of them come back..

Even though the site solves problems, the solutions are not worth money to the users and therefore to advertisers. Beside word games, the visitors are as diverse as potential buyers and there is no product with higher value related to word games.

My own experience shows it, hobby websites can only monetize if they solve problems that people spend money on. You already know that word games like Scrabble or crosswords aren’t such hobbies. Here are some examples where this could work:

  • traveling
  • hunting
  • pets (we like to take care of them, right?)

In general, hobbies where people need to buy either expensive equipment or purchase something regularly can monetize really well with AdSense.

This list can be incredibly long.

Bottom line: if your hobby site doesn’t monetize well, but you do it as a hobby anyway then you should not waste your time and nerves for a few dollars from AdSense and rather remove them from your site for good.

3. Non-English Sites

I was forced to close the comments on some of my articles because they were flooded with the question why the commenters sites don’t monetize well.

Most of these comments linked to sites with non-English content and I hope I can answer their questions with this article now, because it is almost the same to everyone.

I also run a couple of German sites myself and also helped out European clients a lot, so I know first hand about differences between the ad performance based on location and language.

Even though there are countries and topics where non-English content outperforms similar English pages, the potential of English site is in average much higher.

This is due to the fact that the market for online advertisement is very well developed in English speaking countries. With the US, Canada, UK and Australia it is also a large one with developed countries and high GDPs.

However, just translating your content might not do the trick. You would still need a large enough audience that is actually interested in your topics. If your site’s topic is local then a translation into English might only limit your current target group more.

You should also consider that location is important too. Many advertisers limit their budget to a specific geo location. I have seen this on a website with high traffic from English speaking countries including Nigeria. The traffic from Nigeria or India was very large, but the rpm was just a fraction of the developed countries.

If you are running a site in your mother language that is not English and your AdSense income from it is lower than an English site would have, you might still be happy with the generated revenue, because your costs of living might be smaller too.

However, my rates are the same and I completely understand if you can’t afford my reviews. I still hope that I can be of help with my articles on webgilde.com.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t run a site with one of the topics mentioned then you might have taken something out of this article.

First, you know how important it is to think about why people would spend money to advertise on your website. AdSense is just the logistics, but you are still selling your site to advertisers that want to sell something to your visitors.

Second, I have seen pages succeed in any of these fields and understanding why is a key question for them.

For most of them it is just a large amount of traffic that compensates the low rpms. They normally needed many years to reach this point.

Few of them have a special ingredient that they are not even aware of. I have seen such pages lose a lot of their performance when they made larger updates to their layout, ad setup, or user experience.

For someone who is new to online advertisement I would strongly recommend to check his idea against the key point in this article to see if it has a performance. Choosing the wrong approach will cost you tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid time or unused potential. This is me speaking from my own experience again.

Let me know if you need help.

The Author

Comments

  1. marc

    Hi Thomas,
    interesting article. Another thing to consider in adsense sites is if the viewers have the possibility and authority to buy something. Most viewers could buy something for themselves, but once you target B2B, it becomes more complicated. On the other hand B2B ads often have a higher CPC.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Thank you, Marc, for your valuable comment! You are completely right about it.

  2. Rick T

    Thanks for the post. Question about news sites. What if a news site posts an article about something very specific such as “State of retirees in America” couldn’t this be a suitable ad for mutual fund investors? Or an article about “Obesity Rates” for organic/healthy food companies?

    What I really want to know: Does your whole site have to have one common theme for adsense to be most optimal? or can each page have its own unique theme/resulting in different pages having different ads?

    Thanks for your help!

    Best,
    Rick

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi Rick, I am happy that my article raises such good questions. AdSense can be flexible on a single page basis. A page with a high demand topic might still do great on a news site.
      Thomas

  3. Goibibo Customer Care

    What you think about using adsense on single page websites can we use them or their is some term and conditions in adsense that says we can’t use it on single page websites.

    Please help i am currently working on a single page website (kind of a webapp) and i need to be confirm if i can use adsense on it.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      AdSense prefers websites with deep content and user value. I don’t know your site, but this might be an issue with the program policies.

        1. Thomas Maier Article Author

          AdSense makes it pretty clear that you need to inform your users about cookies and tracking when you use them, so without taking a look you’d definitely need a privacy policy.

          1. Thomas Maier Article Author

            You still need a privacy policy in many countries which generally states which data you are storing and how. If you don’t store any data, then this is your statement 🙂
            Btw., Google Analytics or AdSense also handle data from visitors on your site and it is your responsibility to inform your visitors about it.

  4. Satu Jam

    I run news site with non-english language, combo fail then. Thank you for this knowledge. I have try english site but never get rank on Google, so sad (I think it is because I have bad grammar in English, just like you see right now, haha). So I decide to growth my non-English language.

    And hurray! I get lots of traffics but low in earning 🙁

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Thank you for sharing your experiences! A lot of traffic might compensate for a low rpm and I wish you good luck with it.

  5. konda

    Hi,

    Thanks for the post. I really don’t agree with the “non English sites performs worse” phrase. There are countries where living costs are much higher than in English speaking countries for example in Scandinavia like Finland, Norway or Sweden. I have about 100 sites in Scandinavian countries and also in the UK and I can say that for example from Finland I have been able to get much more higher incomes and CPC than from UK. Of course, all depends of the niche and the amount of competition. But to say that non-English sites performs worse, i don’t get the point? Of course to get same amount of traffic from smaller country is harder but it is good to remember that in the UK there is much more competition. From a smaller country you can find less competition from highly paid niche. But of course, there are maybe 90% of non-English speaking countries which may perform worse. Little experience from Russia and not even trying anymore.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi konda. Thanks for pointing that out! I completely agree that there are countries in Western Europe where you can have a better ad performance for Non-English content. I was probably generalizing looking at the large languages to make a point for the majority of visitors here on the blog – the 90% you mentioned.
      Thanks again
      Thomas

    2. Tracy

      In my case, my non-English site definitely performs A LOT worse when it comes to ads.
      I have an English blog that I started to translate because I live in Spain. I just started with a new ad network and they offered to monetize both.
      Well, my English blog has an RPM of over $5, but my Spanish one? Less than $1
      So, with half the traffic of my English blog, my Spanish one earns less than a tenth of my English one!
      On the other hand, I have done nothing to promote my Spanish one and the traffic has grown pretty quickly. So, I’m guessing it has to do with the fact that there is also less competition in the Spanish market and Google sends more readers my way.
      I can only hope that my hard work now will eventually pay off once Spanish companies start to realize the benefits of these sorts of ads, bringing the revenue up- and by that point, I’ll have established myself as an expert of sorts in my niche.

      1. Thomas Maier Article Author

        Thank you for sharing your experience and confirming my point.

  6. Elhouzz Blog

    I run english site with global niche with 60 posts, but there is no traffic , maybe because I was newly built the site

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      There are a lot of strategies to get more traffic. Try to get better with one or two of them and you will succeed over time.

    2. Berita Hari Ini

      i have running website non-english.. some of my friends have website too non-english.. but they have monitize adsense from there.. 1000-4000 dollars a month..

      1. Thomas Maier Article Author

        Of course non-English sites can monetize too. It depends on local prices and the size of course.

  7. Moises Chirinos

    About the non-english sites, my site is spanish base, and I believe is more about the target location and the add types than the Non-english content itself, I’m starting as a publisher and in the four months of the website (kind of religious, magic, astrology) I’ve see it grow as well as the revenue, But I noticed some things, for example UE Traffic always boost the revenue, Spain and UK traffic do it as well , and for Latin America (I’m Venezuelan, 40% of the Ads are about politics and whatever is the problem in my country when localized) revenue is pretty low (and each Latin American country has it’s own prices as well but is minimum the differences) in comparison with those develop countries.
    So I started to improved the content and target people in those places as well.

    For example lest say i got 5000 impressions in the morning , all of them in Latin America, I would get for example 2$, but then I get 500 impressions in US and the revenue boost from 2$ to 7$ .
    As well I noticed that when Alexa rank improves the next week the revenue improve as well.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi Moises, thank you for your comment. With Spanish sites, this would also be my suggestion. I noticed on my own sites that Spanish traffic from the US and Spain is worth much more and can also be targeted with specific content.

  8. Jesse

    Hi! Thanks for your posts.. Wanted to add my own experience here- as a caution to anyone trying to build a website purely for monetization.

    My adsense account was suspended about 9 years ago, and every google account associated with it has been completely blocked from accessing any part of adsense. I’ve contacted google several times regarding the issue with no resolution.

    The reason for the suspension? The tiny amount of content on the site was completely surrounded by banners that were all earning per impression… For two months, I pulled in about $20 a day just from posting the link on craigslist two or three times a day.

    And then they pulled the plug.

    Cheers!

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi Jesse, that is really a great story to share and hopefully useful to everyone looking for a quick buck with AdSense.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      The types of site good for AdSense are the ones which attract visitors who need a solution for their problem and are willing to pay for it. I have seen this working on many different topics as soon as this rule applied.

  9. anotherorion

    I think using our hobby for our blog niche is great, we wil have enough resource to be written, and we can share our experience to others people. Our experience will makes our articles unique, focus and lovable

  10. Lee

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience, Thomas. While most of the article wasn’t particularly relevant to me, I did take away a few key insights. Wishing you much success!

  11. Zen

    I dont think so. There are many news sites which can get a lot of money with adsense.

  12. Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)

    I don’t really like No #3 which is visiting Non-English sites. The world is so connected via the internet and the general language we all understand is English. So it would be best for bloggers to write in English.
    By the way, may i ask why some people blog in their native language?
    P.S: What is your thought about using adsense on Tech blogs?

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      I write in German when I want to reach a German audience, but most people who don’t write in English are probably not comfortable enough using English. AdSense only really works on Tech blogs when people are visiting the site when searching for information before buying a product.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi Ajay, I have no specific experience with monetising sites in Hindi, but there is plenty of information here on this blog about ad optimization and strategies.

  13. ruangtanya

    hai Thomas,

    i get small ctr and i ‘ve registered in sulvo. but it’s still reviewed. can you help me?

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi, there is not much I can do about Sulvo’s review process, sorry.

  14. Marvin Doob

    Thanks Thomas,
    Now I am using ads optimal instead of google adsense. Can you tell me some other alternatives that I can use?

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi Marvin, I am not suggesting so many ad networks anymore, but if you beat the traffic limit then Sulvo is really stable.

  15. gaurav kumar

    hi, very nice post.
    Can you please also tell that hoe to get approved by google adsense.
    My site has original content but not getting approved by adsense.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi gaurav, sorry, but getting approved by AdSense is not a topic answered easily. Maybe you received some feedback from them you can work with.

  16. Moss Mushi

    This article has really assists me. I think we were on a wrong approach thinking we can generate revenue with news traffic. Obviously we need to provide a service like business listing.

  17. Warsidi

    Hi Thomas,

    I agree that non-English sites isn’t good for AdSense. My own experience has told me that in my country the CPC is probable the worst 🙂 That’s why now I start to switch my site’s language to English. Regarding the news sites, it sounds right too, except for the celeb news/gossips perhaps. Many thanks for the insights.

  18. Mohammad Bilal

    I have couple of sites which are going well with adsense but the site without proper niche is not getting enough money from adsense.
    Thanks for sharing Thomas for such a nice post.

  19. HARSH TIWARI

    Great Article and an eye opener for a few.
    Thanks Thomas
    Would you please review my work and offer advice whether or not it is a meaningful one
    Will be grateful!

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Hi Harsh, while I don’t do reviews in a comment, I would say that even though are more or less a niche news site, I am missing some profile to be convinced to come back. Your site does look like a large news portal, but that makes it hard to distinguish from other sites and I don’t see any social trust on it. If you have enough traffic though, some topics might at least show some specific and higher paid ads.