Things I’ve learned about Google AdSense and AdWords …

For those of you not paying attention (and, I gather, it’s most of you, not because you don’t pay attention, but because this blog’s content is so awesome you are overwhelmed), there are banner and text ads floating somewhere in the sidebars and occasionally in the entries of this fine weblog. Those ads come courtesy of Google’s AdSense, which pays you revenue based on click-thrus on "relevant" ads you place on your website.

I have AdSense ads running on a few of my web ventures, including VEGASinsight, my personal site ( and, obviously, this blog. Those ads are delivered through Google’s AdWords program, which is basically the flipside of AdSense: You pay X amount of dollars per month to X amount of ad impressions on AdSense network websites (such as, um, this one). So, if for example, you place an ad using AdWords targeting the keywords "Las Vegas," chances are your ad, based on the content in my blog or website, will show up.

I am also an AdWords user, though for financial reasons, I have temporarily suspended the service. It works pretty well though: In addition to popping up in high-profile places such as MySpace, the ads also show up as results when someone does a Google search for, say, "Downtown Las Vegas" or "Las Vegas indie rock." You get the idea. Using AdWords probably increased my VEGASinsight traffic by about double, but my return on the ads just didn’t justify the cost.

AdSense tracks ad performance through "channels" — which allows me to tell which placements, color schemes, etc. work more effectively. Sadly, I did not really catch on to the full power of channels until the last few months, so the first nine months or so of ad revenue do me no good in regard to figuring out which ad placements on which sites worked best.

Bear in mind, I haven’t received a dime from Google yet, because AdSense doesn’t pay out until you’ve reached $100 in revenue, and after nearly a year, I’ve only hit about $65. And I was, for a few months, putting out $30 each month for AdWords. Do the math. Not that the goal of these websites is to make a profit. But there are operating costs–hosting, registration, mailing lists, etc.–and at the least, I’d like to cover those so I can keep a resource such as VEGASinsight up and running.

The best thing I have determined after studying my AdSense reports is that the service’s "referral" ads–which allow you to pick and choose specific products and services to advertise on your sites–have not earned me one thin dime. Now, while having them up on the websites isn’t taking away anything from the other ads, they’re not helping. So I might spend my next designated web updating period killing all the referral ads. I’m not sure how smart that is, but basic math tells me that 100 percent of zero is zero, so there you go.

If you’d like a humorous take on these services and the "free stuff" offer I received from Google, check out this video:

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