Online Business in Spain – Getting Rich from Google Ads

This post continues our series about running an online business in Spain.

How do you make money from blogging? That is something that most fledgling bloggers ask themselves sooner rather than later. For plenty of ideas, just head over to problogger.net. Darren Rose, the guy who runs that site, bought his house on the back of Adsense payments, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The Google Ads story here at Notesfromspain.com is a little different. Up until yesterday I had a vertical strip of Google ads down the left-hand column of all the blog and forum pages. Want to know how much they earned me this March, a fairly typical month?

More than 50 but less than 100 US dollars (Google’s Terms of Service forbid me from being precise). That’s for a grand total of 183,000 page views, and 25,801 Absolute Unique Visitors for the same month. Seems a pretty poor return for quite a lot of traffic.

Of course I could have been far more aggressive about the placement of the ads, putting them right under, around, and in the middle of blog posts etc, but I find that kind of practice insulting to readers, and in any case, I doubt it would have done more than double that figure.

So, I’ve decided to take the Google Ads off all of my sites. I’ll be throwing away just over 1,000 dollars a year, but the real issue here is not the small amount that Google can offer me as direct income from this blog, but the indirect benefits that this blog can bring me.

For example, the Notes from Spain blog and podcasts (the latter will be back soon by the way) led to work with Lonely Planet and Fodors. Notes from Spain originally led to, and still leads a lot of people to, Notes in Spanish, where we make 99% of our living. A few clicks from here to our new (and extremely good, if I say so myself) Real Spanish Phrase Book and Audio Guide, will be worth a lot more than a few clicks on other people’s ads.

So this particular blog and the accompanying podcasts can bring huge benefits, but they are side benefits (side benefits that have completely changed my life). They are, I think, a result of the fact that I love producing this content, that I love writing and podcasting about Spain. I don’t want to make money directly from these pages, I just want to write and broadcast, and afterwards to see what happens to come along as a result, to see if it makes people curious about our Spanish content, or want to read my book. Google Ads have no place in that equation.

Marketing Guru Seth Godin sums up the whole blogging-for-money thing very well in a recent post on his blog:

The best bloggers make money, but mostly as a side effect, not as a direct result of setting out to use a blog to make a profit. It’s just too long a ramp up time, too frustrating and too uncertain to be the best path to make a living.

Conclusion? Don’t rely on Adsense to make your fortunes online, but do keep blogging. You never know where it might lead!

Top Seth Godin Tip: Want to know more about the future of online marketing and communities, and how they might help you make money online? Read Seth’s Meatball Sundae. He’s a clever bloke!

27 thoughts on “Online Business in Spain – Getting Rich from Google Ads

  1. Justin

    Adsense income is highly dependent on where you place the ads. I have them on my site but I don’t like them at all. We’re currently working on ways to get around using adsense. I don’t like the fact that I have such little control over who advertises on my site and I find them very intrusive.

    Saying that, they produce enough revenue for us to run the office and pay salaries so can’t complain too much really.

    A friend of mine has an information website and he makes around 10,000 dollars a month with it using Adsense so you can’t really rule it out as a revenue stream.

  2. frank

    I must admit I could not not view a lot of sites without using Mozilla Firefox and adblock plus, I find it invaluable. Just as a lot of sites insist on adding flashing scrolling adverts(not this one, I hasten to add), so I insist in combating them. A well known photo site I visit, I could not view without adblock, as long as they insist in installing these annoying adverts, I’m quite happy to pas them by, thanks to adblock. 😉

  3. Mick

    Good for you. This kind of advertising really puts me off and detracts from the quality feel of a site. I am sure your attitude will bring far better rewards in the long-term.

  4. BrianA

    I’m not against ads per se. I occasionally clicked on some of the small ads displayed here if they happened to look interesting. The annoying ones are those that play music, flash continuously or pop up over the page you’re trying to view. Generally I leave such sites immediately so they would seem to be self defeating. The Google ads also seem to slow down page loading at times.

  5. Ben Post author

    @Justin, you are right, of course you can’t rule out Adsense completely, but I think it takes a long time and huge visitor numbers to start really making good money from them.

  6. Jonk

    There seems to be certain niches where Adsense is the only way.

    Also the number of visitors affects things. Currently I have a website going at 15k visitors and around $20-40 Adsense a month. It’s gone from 1500 to 15000 visitors/mo in 3 months so I’m hoping to get it into the 6 figure range by the end of the year, and then sell text links.

    When you’re exploring a niche that lends itself to the creation of products or even just the affiliate sale of products, no doubt that it kills Adsense!

    I was reading the blog of this Indian dude who has anglicised his name to Jim Karter. He’s one of those content producing freaks and he has something like 200 websites going with a $40k+ monthly income from Adsense, Kontera and other such like programs.

    He was talking on his blog the other day about how someone offered him a large some for a website that wasn’t earning much money with the Adsense ads on it. Instead of selling, he went off investigating other sites in the niche and found they were running affiliate programs to the same product. He tried the same thing and voila, the income on that specific site went through the roof. Imagine the potential if he went through and did that on all his sites.

    Certain blogging gurus talk about how it’s much better to keep people hanging around your site and getting stuck onto your content rather than being paid 20c, 40c to have someone leave after all the effort of bringing them in! This seems to me a pretty good philosophy.

  7. Ben Post author

    @jonk – be very carefull with text links, the big G can wipe you out if they work out you are selling them. I had to take them off this site last year even though they were a very profitable source of income, because my page rank dropped from 5 to 3 as a result of these links. I took them off, told G that I had done so, and my page rank went back up again. Just search Matt Cutts blog for more of the subject. They can do your site a lot more harm than good in the long run.

  8. Justin

    Yeah jonk, DON’T sell links! It’s just not worth it. You will get penalised. Find other ways to monetise your site.

    The important thing to note with ads on websites is that many websites offer free services as the sites are supported by advertising.

    For example, if we didn’t have ads on our site we wouldn’t be able to invest the money to keep developing it. It’s a bit of a catch-22 unless you can get a backer to give you loads of money!

    Adsense has enabled many people, including myself, to work for themselves and be able to support the growth of websites which may never have had the resources to come to fruition.

    Two years ago we nearly killed off our site as we couldn’t earn any money from it. That was until we found out about Adsense.

    I am a bit of a fan of the program although I am looking to remove the ads from my main sites as I find them instrusive.

    At the end of the day it’s not for everyone….but Ben is right, you need a lot of traffic to make it work, and that’s the really hard part!

  9. SeePortugal

    I don’t know. I really like this blog, in fact I kick myself for not doing something similar 3 years ago when I moved to Portugal. I am also a writer, and the way you are able to find readers for your book is genius, on top of all your success from outside recruiting from travel sources.

    But I think that this is a bad post, despite the conversation it has started, and my respect for you as I said. I think that if you had made more money from Adsense, you would not only keep it on, but perhaps would played around with placement…etc. I don’t mean to offend you, but you are obviously a smart guy, your marketing ideas with your other sites and your books are like I said, genius. This post comes off slightly bitter that you have so much traffic but never made money with Adsense.

    Who can answer that. I so far am making more then you hinted you made, with less then one hundred, or around that many uniques per day. It makes no sense to me, but then again I am really pushing for clicks. That said, I believe that I am offering something those who click, since they are based on the content I produce. If someone is going to Lisbon, I’m glad I can tell them where to eat, and they can be directed someplace else to find a cheap hotel.

    A long comment, but in short, monetizing a website is a strange game and every blog is different. I really like your blog, but this post irks me. But hey, you are still one of my online role models so cheers.

  10. Ben Post author

    @seeportugal – I’m not bitter at all! I’m totally fine with not making big money out of adsense. And I’m very happy for people that do. I have no problem with advertising as an income model, advertising pays the salaries of an awful lot of creative people that I admire and respect. I thought the post would be interesting for a few people, I’m sorry if you are irked!

  11. Ben Post author

    Update, I realised that this post had an Amazon affiliate link in it which is similar in many ways to google ads, and similarly provides me personally with very little income (I know a lot of people make a very respectable living from affiliate links though, which is fine be me!) I’ve taken it out, though there are still a few affiliate links scattered around this blog from past posts.

  12. SeePortugal

    Listen, the post is interesting, for me and for other people. Maybe I just didn’t understand what you meant to say. And I certainly did not mean to offend you, in fact I tried to emphasize that I respect your blog, your writing, and your success (exclamation point).

    Obrigado

  13. Michelle

    Ben, have to agree with you. I just took AdSense off my 3 blogs as in a little over 4 months I’d made a total of $7. Quite a lot of page views but AdSense hardly pays anything for those. It’s not worth making my blog look ugly for it, IMO 🙂

    Keep up the good work on your podcasts. I just downloaded one on Bangkok from Lonely Planet to use for my EFL Corporate job in Bangkok.

  14. Justin

    Ben, I don’t see the point in removing all your affiliate links. There’s nothing wrong with making money and no one is going to hate you for it. You have a great blog here and no one will mind if you actually make some money out of it.

    Have you seen http://www.moneysavingexpert.com? He has a really good way of letting people know which links on his site make him money. That way people can decide for themselves if they want to click a link that’s going to earn him money. He makes it very open and up front and I like it a lot. I’m going to implement a similar policy myself.

  15. Jonk

    Maybe Ben removed the affiliate links because he thought losing the affiliate-link-hater-club wasn’t worth the pittance that Amazon affiliate links bring.

    Seeportugal, if you’re selling products on your own website – the books, the podcast worksheets – it’s much wiser to keep people on your site than be paid 20c by Google to lose them to someone else.

    Don’t be irked by Ben, he’s got a model you could learn so much from.

  16. Ben Post author

    @Jonk – the trouble is that as soon as you tell advertisers that you are going to add the ‘nofollow’ attribute, they cease to be interested in tla’s. Amazingly even when it is explained to them that if they don’t have the nofollow then they will also be exposing their own businesses to potential problems, they still don’t get it.

    As for affiliate links… to be honest even though the books section has lots of them left floating around, I don’t even reach 100 dollars a year from Amazon, so it’s just not worth the hassle of adding them in. Also, of course, it means people will know I’m recommending things I really want to recommend, not just for the potential affiliate hit. But, as I said there are still a few affiliate links floating around here, I just don’t have time now to remove them.

    Finally, again, I have no problem with affiliate programs. Darren ‘problogger.net’ Rose cites them as one of his biggest earners, but I think he has, for example, a photography blog that links heavily to related products on Amazon. You make good money on links like those, not to books!

  17. We Are Never Full

    We’ve hesitated adding google ads to our blog b/c of the ugly factor and I don’t think our traffic is high enough yet. But I have to admit, Ben, I did like that you kind of brought it down to basics about the indirect benefits that Google brought you. Those are the things worth thinking about, in my case at least. Also, thanks for letting us in on a bit of your own ways of making money and some blog hit #’s… I was always curious about those things. Interesting post.

  18. Mrmark

    Well, I’ve got no plans on adding Google ads to my blog – not much point though as I’m only expecting 2.5 visitors per day (early days yet though)! It’s surprising I find that anyone even clicks on those ads – just as well that some do, otherwise a lot of sites would be out-of-pocket. Anyway, I’m glad that you’ve found a model that earns you money Ben without overloading the site with ads. You’ve a great set-up here – long may it continue!

  19. Ben Post author

    @We are never full – my method of making money, if there is one, has been always to see what works and what interests people and to adapt as necessary!

    @Mrmark – thanks! And don’t worry, we started with 2.5 visitors too!

  20. Tom

    Hi Ben,

    I think PageRank is a total distraction now, and doesn’t have much direct bearing at all on your search engine positioning.

    I added Amazon affiliate bookshops to two websites recently. Both websites dropped their PageRank within a week, but when I run Google Analytics on Google’s referrals – my referrals have actually increased during this same period.

    I have read that this is the case in several SEO forums…that websites have even dropped from PR 7 to PR 3 and still increased their Google referrals.

    Nowadays PageRank is merely is a little green bar in a browser plugin that people unwittingly become obsessed with 🙂

  21. Ben Post author

    @Tom, agreed, Page Rank is pointless, and in fact some say Google may be fading it out entirely. But Google have been known not only to wipe people’s page rank out for using text link ads, but to actually take them out of their organic search results entirely. So, I think they are best avoided entirely. Weird that you should be penalised for Amazon affiliate bookshops though…

  22. Jonk

    @ Ben

    Yeh you’re probably right. Hopefully I can figure something out, I’ll think about it more when the time comes.

    @ Tom

    Yeh that’s said quite a bit isn’t it. I have had no change in PR and my Google referrals are exploding as I’m drifting up the rankings. A lot of the sites above me for keywords would have much higher bounce rates because they aren’t 100% relevant.

    @ SeePortgual

    Do you need to be so snarky? I read your comments, and responded to them… I just thought I could add to what Ben said.

  23. Simon

    I have a website about digital TV. The main source of income from that site is as an affiliate for Sky Digital. For each person that is passed from my website and pay for a Sky TV subscription I am paid between £75 and £100.

    You cant make vast sums from books or other cheap items, you may as well go for the bigger priced products.

    People out there make a good living off just promoting other peoples stuff.

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