I make 80K a year with Adsense – Rand Wilson

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Rand Wilson Adsense

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Ads.  There’re annoying, they’re in your face. You can’t get away from them. So what’s the adage?  If you can’t beat them, join them, right? Or not…

Big thanks to AdSense expert, Rand Wilson for joining us on the “Get on Track, Stay on Track” Podcast to scratch the surface of the online advertising industry. The most important question being “Should I place ads on my website?”

We’ll get to that, keep reading…

Rand launched GrownUpGeek.com in January 2006 and in his first year it grew to approximately 15,000 unique visitors per day. Today, he generates a passive income of nearly $80,000/yr. from placing ads to his websites!

Obviously, I wanted to pick his brain to unlock the ‘secret sauce’ of his success. So I asked him.

And you know what his answer was? “There is NO secret-sauce!” Arghhh!

That’s why I love this guy. He is not some snake oil salesman trying to squeeze $19.95 out of you in exchange for some get rich quick scheme. He’s committed to his readers and shares the inside scoop of this industry with honesty and transparency.

“There’s no short-cut to success. Trial and error is the only way to succeed. Failure is a Stepping Stone to Success: Don’t Shy Away”

Watch “Should I Place Ads on my Website?” on Youtube

Q: What’s the difference between AdSense and AdWords?

A: AdSense and AdWords are “two sides of the same coin”.

Basically, AdSense is an ad-publishing program, and AdWords is an ad-selling program.

With AdSense, your site becomes the money-maker by displaying targeted ads that generate revenue when visitors click thru.

With AdWords, advertisers pay money to have their ads placed in many places like Google search, and individual websites.

Q: How much traffic do I need to be successful with Advertising?

A: It’s a Numbers Game and there are no rules

How important are metrics: Rand laughingly shares how obsessed he was with his metrics at first, “I studied every visitor in detail”. Now he’s much more relaxed. Word of wisdom: “Hitting refresh on your metrics will not earn you more money.” But he admits this close attention to detail was instrumental to defining his target audience.

Today, Rand only concentrates on high-level metrics, such as sudden spurts or dips in traffic; And occasionally keeps Google Analytics live tracker open “just for entertainment”

There is no ‘magic’ formula where X amount of traffic equals Y amount of revenue: The amount you earn depends on many factors including keywords, type of audience, intention of audience, content and goals.

What does it take Rand to generate $80,000 / year? He has several sites that all perform differently. His “bread winner” is GrownUpGeek.com and it takes about 10,000  visitors / day to sustain this income level

Insider Tip: Highly technical websites are not conducive to ads because people generally visit them only to seek information.  On the contrary, less technical websites – such as food or travel based pages – are generally more successful.

Q: What did you do differently that made you successful, when so many others fail? Was it talent or just dumb luck?

A: “I didn’t start my website with the primary goal of making money, but with the objective of helping others!”

He had two main goals: (a) help people (b) minimize out-of-pocket expenses

He focused on building traffic first so he could understand his readers and find out what they were clicking.

He studied his analytics to learn which pages were generating the most interest and customized the content accordingly.   To paraphrase him, when something he threw on the wall stuck, he threw more and watched to see what happened.

“My initial vision for the site was very different from what his readers ‘wanted’. I had to transform the site in a way that gave people what they wanted.” It was this process of monitoring and adapting that helped him succeed. And he continues to use this model with his other sites.

Rand has 5 or 6 other websites that he currently monetizes – and out of the 10-15 that he tried monetizing in the past - only one was “successful”. It’s unfortunate but the same formula that worked so well with his main site failed to produce for the others. It’s like you need a completely new system for every site.

But he continues to search for the next success story. Maybe it’ll be his most recent adventure AdFibs.com

Q: Should I place ads on my website?

A: First off, it’s critical that you understand what the purpose of your website is, and what it’s not. Then ask the question, “Will ads distract from the user experience and lead people away from my main call to action?”

For example, suppose you’re promoting a self published book about “How to monetize social media“, or an information product about strategy development. Placing ads could take away from your main call to action (CTA).  You don’t want to risk the sale of a $17 product in exchange for a 10 cent click.

Secondly, even though it’s easy to set up, wait until your site generates between 400 and 1000 users per day.  This business depends on volume – the higher the traffic, the more you earn. And unless you have significant traffic, you can’t know what’s working and what’s not. You’re just shooting in the dark.

Q: Is AdSense the only option?

A:  No. There are several others including Kontera, InfoLinks, and Commission Junction to name a few. You should try different ones and find the one that best suits your traffic and goals. What works for one doesn’t work for others.

Q: Do you use ads on YouTube?

A: Rand admits that YouTube ads aren’t his favorite because they’re both distracting and annoying. But most importantly, they’re quite useless if you don’t have an extremely high amount of subscribers.

Q: What was the biggest mistake you made and what are some mistakes that you see beginners making?

A: His biggest mistake was the time he changed the website’s layout after building a certain amount of traffic.  He cautioned that restructuring a website that has been active for a while is not a good idea and can have serious repercussions.

The biggest mistake others make is falling for a misguided expectation of getting rich overnight. He couldn’t emphasize enough that slow and steady hard-work is the only way to monetize your business.  Quick schemes are for short-term fads, not long-running websites.

Also be sure to read all the advertising guidelines. This cannot be an after thought. It must be top priority before getting started.

He hopes that his triumphs and failures convince other website owners that while success is possible, it is definitely not easy.  One has to be consistent, dedicated and persistent to have a revenue-generating website.

And lastly, Failure is a Stepping Stone to Success: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Q: Where can I learn more about using AdSense with out buying some marketing information product?

A:  Those wanting to learn more should visit the AdSense Community on Google Plus where which consists of dependable members and publishers who are invested in helping each other succeed.

Did you like this article? Please share it with a friend that has questions about ads and leave a comment to let us know what you think?
And which format do you like best, the video, the blog, or the podcast?

Director of Webination Station Web Strategy Development for Small Businesses, Churches, and Non-Profits. Helping you to define and develop your online strategy.

Jason took my paltry efforts to build a non-profit website and turned it into a dynamic work of art.
Mary BronzichMary Bronzich
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