Google Adsense tends to be a fairly common recommendation for making money online and to be fair, lots of people make money with. Some people make really, really good money with it. This basically means that you’re making money from ads on your website. Doing so leaves you a ton of flexibility for building your site and your content exactly as you please. With ads placed automatically in your content, you don't need to tailor your words to “sell” anything.
But, this isn’t the only way to make money with a website. In fact, choosing to make money without Google Adsense is often a better plan and more effective, particularly in the long-term.
Many people have been permanently banned from Google Adsense, or simply find it frustrating to work with Google. Others have content that means they are not allowed into the ad network in the first place.
But there are many alternatives to Google Adsense, so even without this popular revenue stream, you'll still be able to make money with your website.
The Challenges Of Google Adsense
There are many networks out there that let you make money by hosting ads but Google Adsense is one of the most well-known. That isn’t a big surprise, as the service comes from Google itself and the company strongly focuses on promoting it. It's also very often the most profitable, which is a big part of it being so popular.
The idea is relatively simple. Essentially, you end up with ad blocks on your site and you earn money for people who click on those ads. You don’t get to control precisely what your visitors see but you do have influence over some factors.
For example, you choose precisely where the ads turn up and their size, while also having some influence on their content. Additionally, the ads will be somewhat based on user behavior, location, and browsing history. As a result, there can be considerable variation in the ads that users see.
The Problem Of Bans
One of the biggest issues with Google Adsense is the company’s history of banning people. In fact, many people been banned from Google Adsense myself, which is very frustrating, since they often don't even tell you why.
In many cases, people seem to get banned for a simple reason like a dropdown menu hovering over an ad causing an accidental click. I know many newbies that have gotten banned for accidentally clicking their ads to “test” them, or for encouraging friends and family to click to help make them money. Anything that ‘poses a risk of generating invalid activity’ could get you banned FOREVER.
This is a particularly concerning problem because it can happen at any time. If you're a newbie, it might not be that big of a problem. You can just monetize your website in another way, and you haven't lost that much time.
Some people get banned when they are making thousands of dollars through Google Adsense. This could mean that you basically lose all of your income overnight and there is little that you can do about it.
So, regardless of how much or how little money you make with Google Adsense, always have a backup. The company is well-known for being unpredictable and, at the end of the day, they won’t be loyal to you.
One great backup is Media.Net. They have been serving as a “safe haven” for Google refugees for the past couple years, and are happy to pick up what Google leaves behind. Of course, they still have content policies, so if you have a website with questionable material on it, be sure to check if you violate their TOS. But if you were mysteriously banned, or just afraid of Adsense, you can give them a try.
If you haven't been banned and just want to do Adsense right the first time, you can try a great service called Ezoic, which helps you test ad positions. They are a Google certified publisher, meaning they are allowed to publish Google ads on your website (among ads from other companies). When I was using Ezoic, I also combined their testing with my Ad Inserter, so I could track all my code positions in one area.
Traffic Versus Income
Even if you can use Google Adsense successfully without getting banned, the program may not be worth it. The problem is that you’re not earning much money at all from the ads.
Essentially, Google pays you a percentage of what the advertiser gives them per click. The precise amount you get varies considerably depending on a range of factors.
But, the end result is that you typically get paid a few cents per click for most ads. At the same time, each click is somebody leaving your site and going to a different one. So, you’re effectively losing visitors as you make money.
Because of this, you need a large amount of traffic to make decent money from ads. Even 1000 visitors per day may yield only a few dollars (I've personally experienced this). At 10,000 visitors per day you could be earning good income, but it also depends on your niche. You may earn a very low $5 CPM or a very high $50 CPM. This depends on the topics of the articles on your website.
But, even then, there could be better ways to make money with that traffic! In particular, you can typically make more money from affiliate marketing than from Google Adsense, regardless of what your traffic is like. A targeted campaign to market a few simple products could get you $3 per day instead of $0.03 per click.
It’s also worth noting that people tend to hate ads. In some cases, they may even be using a browser extension to block ads entirely. Alternatively, they may simply ignore any ads that they see.
You’re Not In Control
As a website owner trying to make money from ads, you’re not working directly for Google. But, in some ways, you might as well be. In particular, you are subject to a range of terms and conditions.
These restrictions favor Google and its customers, rather than you. As I mentioned before, going outside of these terms and conditions can easily get you banned. As a result, you are majorly restricted on your own site and you have to be very careful about any decisions that you do make.
That’s a horrible way to run a business. Freedom and flexibility are some of the most powerful things about working for yourself but you don’t get either of these with Google Adsense.
One major problem is that the ads can work against you. For example, if you’re trying to make money by selling products directly or through affiliate marketing as well, then the ads draw people in a completely different direction. Additionally, you don’t really know what the ads are going to be and some may be a poor fit for your site.
It really depends on the style of your website and monetization method of choice, but the fact remains that you have very little control over which ads appear on your site, and how reliable the income will be coming in.
Making Money Without Google Adsense
There are many alternative ad networks out there you can choose. Most of them are harder to get into (require minimum numbers), or pay very poorly. Chitika is a good example of paying very little! They also have a poor variety of ads available, which means they are often not very targeted and get low clicks.
But if you have decent traffic coming in, a few of these have good reputations. I'm
experimenting with using MediaVine right now. In fact, after two years of testing, I just wrote a post about which display ad networks have made me the most money in the past two years. Here's a list of a bunch of networks you can try (I haven't tried all of them). With companies like Criteo and The Trade Desk going public and specializing in delivering internet ads, I think the years of Google's reign are coming close to an end.
Alternatives Ad Networks And Partners
Aside from just placing display ads on your site, there are many other ways to make money with a website. If you are just starting out and just trying to figure out the best way to make money online, there are many options. Some are better than others.
Affiliate marketing is my weapon of choice. It does require you have a website to earn money, but you can earn a much greater income with lower traffic numbers. Your content has to be more targeted (towards customers and tailored to make sales), but you have to produce less in order to make an income.
The basic premise is that you’re making money by promoting products. You’re not actually selling them directly through ecommerce as most people assume when they hear “online marketing”. Instead, you’re sending people over to a vendor's website where they can make the purchase.
If they buy something, you earn a commission! These can be one-time fees or recurring commissions for subscription services.
Making Your Way In Affiliate Marketing
Some of the earliest steps in affiliate marketing include deciding a topic area, finding relevant products to create and building a website. But, there is one other step that is often overlooked. That step is education!
If you wanted to, you could start affiliate marketing on your own and figure it out as you go along. Many people do and some of them are successful.
But, you’re at a disadvantage if you do this. After all, you’d have to rely on advice and information from the internet and many of the sites out there contradict each other.
What works and what doesn’t also changes over time, so if you rely on a range of websites, you risk following out of date information. That type of advice could easily harm your site instead of helping you make money.
Instead, it’s much better to get the information you need from a single source. That way you end up with a strategy that works well and will be effective in the long-term.
Regardless of your situation or skill level, my #1 recommendation for training can help you get started. This is where I got my start in affiliate marketing and I’ve continued to learn to grow my income.