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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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.