A member of my Private Forum recently asked the question “How do you decide whether to use Adsense, affiliate programs or both on a site.” Most of the questions asked by my forum members stay behind closed doors, only for the members, but I thought this one was a great topic for discussion here at the blog.
This is a popular question on blogs and forums and the answers always vary from “Adsense is a waste of good traffic” to “Adsense is GREAT.”
The truth is that there is no definitive answer. You simply have to test it out and see for yourself which is the more profitable monetization model for each of your sites. Each and every site is different and just about every site has different visitor demographics etc.
Here are a few examples of what I mean.
This very blog does much better with highly targeted Affiliate Programs (keep in mind this is just an example. The purpose of this blog isn’t to be a direct money maker) than it does with Adsense. A few months back I did a little testing with Adsense. The blog earned something like $10 in one week with well-positioned Google ads. This week alone the blog has generated several sales to Joel Comm’s Adsense Secrets, which equals much more than the $10 Adsense generated. (ironic huh )
I believe the reason for this is because:
1. The affiliate program is highly targeted to this blog.
2. This blog is targeting other marketers, who also use Adsense (we are accustomed to ignoring adsense ads)
If this blog were not marketing related, I’m sure the adsense adverts would have converted much better, but then again, I would need to test to find out for sure.
However, most of my mini-sites do much better with adsense, while a handful of them do better with affiliate programs and some do well with both adsense and affiliate programs.
The argument is often made that to lose a visitor for pennies through Adsense is to leave money on the table (would have made more if it were an affiliate link.) In some cases this is very true, but in other cases that $0.40 click is more than you would have earned without adsense.
Many markets are full of people who aren’t necessarily buyers (for instance.) They’re looking for quick, relevant information, which makes adsense ideal. They find a site, but it doesn’t have quite what they’re looking for, so they click a Google ad, which has a listing that is more relevant. The advertiser gets the visitor, the publisher get a few cents (sometimes a few dollars) and Google gets their cut… everyone wins.
In this situation if that Google ad were replaced with an affiliate banner or otherwise, no one would have won… the visitor isn’t looking to buy.
On the other hand some markets are full of buyers like weight loss. In most cases a relevant affiliate program is going to outperform google ads, but you should still test it out first.
So, if I haven’t already made it clear enough, it’s all about testing. Test, test then test some more. While you’re testing, remember that not all affiliate offers perform the same. In some cases adsense will perform better than an affiliate offer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean adsense will outperform all affiliate offers.
Be sure to test accurately. Use section targeting to ensure your adsense adverts are 100% targeted and test out a few different affiliate offers before making your decision.
After a few weeks to a month of testing you should know which is better for your site(s.)