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Dead or Alive – The AdSense Wars

Dead or Alive – The AdSense Wars

eGonzo Weekly by Martin Neumann

This week saw a very public battle (it’s still going on, I think) over the current state of AdSense.

AdSense is Dead … AdSense is Alive.

They wrote books about it (well eBooks – here for the dead part and here for the alive part).

We’ve had thousands of passionate words written, hundreds of comments and conversations, forum posts go into melt down and bloggers abuzz with this. There’s even an mp3 commentary (mp3 file).

So what in God’s name is it: Is AdSense dead or is it Alive?

I spent some time last night trawling a decent amount of forums, blogs and Google’s blog search – Technorati kind a sucks – to try to come to a conclusion – all I got was a damn fine headache.

For you see, just as much as there are haters of AdSense out there there are just as many lovers of it. One can get easily confused.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of AdSense. By putting too much power into the hands of writers (aka bloggers) into advertising selection can lead to only one thing: greed. To feed that greed one must get lots and lots and lots of eyeballs. You do that by producing quantity. Are you getting where I’m heading – the old quality over quantity argument.

That’s why in traditional (old) media there is a clear line (well most of the times) between editorial and advertising. They’re different departments. Writers write – Ad reps hawk around for advertisers. But these are new times we are living in. We are all publisher, writer and advertising rep all rolled into one. We’re all run our own one-man mini media empires.

And oh yes, I have and do, dabble in AdSense – heck, a hundred dollar check here and there is a cool thing to recieve. I’ve even caught myself at times thinking crazy dreams of $10 grand plus AdSense checks.

But now I read (in “AdSense is Dead”) that smart pricing has effectively killed off decent AdSense earnings for content sites (ie: blogs). But the guru’s who are pushing information products on AdSense have not been letting this fact on and keep on selling the dream. Shame on you if that is so.

I’m no expert on AdSense but if that’s true – that there is one bid for AdWords placements on search returns and another (much smaller) for placement on the content network – then I’m not surprised.

As I more and more dabble with AdWords I’ve come to the conclusion that for me the ONLY value I get is when my ads are placed on search returns on the Google site – and not on any content site (ie blog). It’s sad, but that’s the facts of doing business – unfortunately I think many bloggers forget that real businesses – many small ones – put their hard earned money into AdWords with the goal of getting qualified visitors. Bloggers that simply plaster their AdSense ads all over the place just to get that extra click potential are turning AdWords users off.

But back to this week’s “Dead or Alive” soap opera.

At first, I thought this was all a well-planned game plan by both sides to generate buzz – and buzz it has generated – and heck, it may just be, as nothing would surprise me in the internet marketing game.

But the real winner has been the author of “AdSense is Dead”. By going after the AdSense guru’s he’s played them all for a joke and reached a critical mass in quick time … 30,000+ subscribers can’t be wrong.

So what does one do when reading up on AdSense because it seems that every second piece I read in this debate there appears to be a conflict of interest – how many posts have I read and then a short note at the end: “btw, a small disclaimer, I personally know … blah, blah.” or “here’s my super-dooper-amazing, get-rich-yesteday product…”

A cynical, jaded audience might be thinking “who the hell do I believe … because it’s all a bit funny … I think I’ll take each side with a grain of salt”. And so you should, becuase the author of “The Death” piece is obviously selling something, not now … but soon – you can mark my words on that. And the AdSense guru’s, headed by Joel Comm, are protecting their turf.

So are the arguments in “The Death” piece somewhat diminished becuase just as Joel Comm is holding the fort for the AdSense is Alive club so is this guy who will be selling something contarary to AdSense – smart marketing gimmick? Yes! Conflicted? Yes!

But at the end of the day, AdSense is not dead, but it ain’t what it used to be. Competition in the blogosphere and smarter AdWords users have made it harder to earn a decent check from AdSense. I’ve asked a few prominent AdSense users who privately say that this is so. That they have seen a gradual decline in earnings coming in from AdSense.

“The ‘€œgurus’€? have had an easy time selling stuff to people over the past few years because what they were selling actually worked. It’€™s not as easy anymore and a lot of them just won’€™t stop.” (via)

To put it all into perspective (ie: if you’re a wannabe guru you are playing with people’s lives here … remember that!) a commenter …

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I’€™ve lost thousands upon thousands of dollars and have gone through bankruptcy trying to make money online. Why, because I’€™ve listened to these so-called Guru’€™s and was hypnotized into buying EVERY damn product they put out. For the average Joe like myself its down right difficult to succeed online especially when your’€™re trying to educate yourself and trying to decide who’€™s honest etc. and who is not.

Think about that guru’s…

At the end of the day, surviving purely on AdSense is risky. Google can, and have, changed the rules and they will continually do so. That is not a good foundation to base your business on.

AdSense is not dead but it ain’t healthy.

(Tip of the hat goes to Duncan for sharing all the fun that’s been going on)

* * *

Update: Shame on you, Joel Comm.
This email from him was recieved earlier this week and said effectively if you DON’T release his AdSense is Alive report then your credibility will take a hit…

“Many have been mislead by the AdSense Death reports, and as their friend you should expose them to the TRUTH (this is especially important to help you maintain credibility if you have previously promoted the Death of AdSense)

Wow! Do some of these guru’s think so little of us that we can’t think and decide for ourselves! Some of these so-called “Guru’s” just have no shame.

Martin Neumann blogs at The Blog Columnist

View Comments (14)
  • Mike – I see the craze/fad that was AdSense for the last 18 months beginning to fade, with a swag of others taking their place. AdSense can, and should, be just one part of your overall revenue strategy.

    Text Link Ads is one that has crept up on me. I’ve just started to try it out this month and I’m surprised by how quickly it has built up some revenue.

    Maybe we’re going full circle with all of this – back to affiliate marketing and Cost Per Action (CPA).

    It does make sense to me. An AdSense click is no guarantee for a action that the AdWords buyer desires. Whereas a CPA makes the publisher work that extra harder and because of that an advertiser would be willing to pay much more for leads and clicks that lead to some action.

    But I think the extra work may put many off and we might see less blogs surviving or bothering to start up – AdSense just made everything too easy.

    I also see private sponsorships of blogs a thing of the future too.

  • I think it’s important to note that in the Adsense is dead book, they aren’t saying Adsense is dead dead, just it isn’t what it use to be…ie, this wonderful huge grows on trees money making opportunity (well atleast the After Adsense book, the follow up to Adsense is Dead said this was what they were saying). No one is making the same dollars they were on adsense 12 months ago, full stop, unless they’ve significantly increased traffic on existing sites. Moral of the story: never put all your eggs in one basket :-)

  • Spot on, Duncan – all evidence points to that, all things being equal, AdSense earnings are way down from last year – there’s no denying that – although I’m sure some of the “Guru’s” will find an excuse … maybe you’re not trying hard enough. ;)

    And your moral to all this is always timeless … and always will be.

    Another moral: don’t believe everything the so-called “guru’s” tell you – BTW. how does one become a guru? Is there a official ceremony or do you simply self-appoint yourself. :)

  • “Adsense is Dead” complete with Pirate Ship logo. This is a marketing campaign designed to impress morons. Did it work?

    Of course Adsense isn’t dead. Google’s Adsense revenue in the last quarter was down 2%, but it was due to seasonality.

    Adsense, unfortunately, is still the big winner.

  • >>>By going after the AdSense guru’s he’s played them all for a joke and reached a critical mass in quick time … 30,000+ subscribers can’t be wrong.

    Do you want me to explain how that actually happened, or should you? :)

  • Brian – I’ll let you explain it better but all I can say is that this has been probably the best marketing play of the year – probably even bigger than your viral report. :)

    1. Pick a strong topic (making money)
    2. great headline (all of 4 words – “The Death of AdSense”)
    3. attack the big names (guaranteed instant traffic generator)
    4. and ride this horse all the way.

    Now, this can also be achieved if both sides are in on the act – actually works better that way, but either way will do.

    Also, make it look like you’re flying by the seat of your pants producing “updates” and new reports when in fact it was all probably polished and ready to go weeks ago.

    We’ve all been given a lesson in info product marketing 101.

  • This cracks me up: “30,000+ subscribers can’t be wrong.”

    Sure they can. Do you think any of those emails might start bouncing? Most of the interest came from SEO forums and the like. I doubt this list will stand the test of time, especially when the hype wears off.

  • Martin, come on:

    1. 50 cents per opt-in subscriber for affiliates
    2. 50 cents per opt-in subscriber for affiliates
    3. 50 cents per opt-in subscriber for affiliates
    4. Immediately recruit new subscribers to recruit new subscribers for…
    5. 50 cents per opt-in subscriber for affiliates

    Still a great marketing plan, but not new (at all), especially in this day and age of organic viral. I don’t have anything against it at all, but spending money does not make one a genius.

    But, best $15k they ever promised to spend (but haven’t yet paid out). :)

  • Brian – I see :) I wasn’t seeing anything into this 50 cent thing or even gave it a thought. Just a gimmick – I hope nobody thought they’d get rich from it… ;)

    As in my previous comment, I focused on what seems to have been a well-executed marketing plan. But now I’m watching if there’s any cynical/jaded backlash. I expect some. How much is the big question.

    Darren – you’re right. 30,000 could easily be only 20,000 or 10,000 or even 1,000 – but still it all depends on what he’s selling, and he’s picked a ripe market: those not happy with AdSense.

    Lots of hype to live up to now.

  • Martin, it’s still a well-executed marketing plan. It’s just not innovative.

    Should be fun to see how it works out. That’s how the rest of us learn. :)

    And yes, the genius here was the market approach… plenty of disgruntled people that were sold the “AdSense Dream” are now ripe for something new.

  • Brian – true, not very innovative, but then if you’ve got a desperate market screaming to be served sometimes innovation can screw things up – he’s just gone straight for the throat with this one.

    And just like you, I’m watching this very closely.

    I’m more interested in the collective blogosphere’s reaction to this technique and any product marketing that will follow. I believe the blogosphere has a very good BS detector so I’m just sitting back and taking it all in.

  • I don’t sell any Adsense info products, but I can say that my Adsense earnings keep going up and up. Last month I earned over $7K from Adsense and only made 13 new blog posts. I also made another $5K from a combo of other ad revenue sources, donations, and affiliate income… so $12K total.

    My ad revenue has been growing faster than my traffic, partly because my Adsense CPMs have gone up considerably this year. Last month they were higher than ever. If Adsense is cracking, I’ve seen no direct evidence of it.

    I suspect what’s happening is that certain segments (like internet marketing perhaps) are undergoing a market correction. There’s so much info-bloat out there now that the high CPC ads may be getting spread thinner and thinner, pushing down revenues for bloggers in those fields. So if you blog about the same topics everyone else is writing about, you create a bigger field for advertisers, which drives down your CPMs. In effect your market becomes a commodity.

    In other segments I think the opposite is happening. The number of people creating quality content doesn’t grow as fast as the ad money pouring in, so there’s more advertiser competition for targeted exposure. Consequently, CPMs go up.

    I wouldn’t say that Adsense is cracking. I just think we’re seeing a natural market adjustment. I suspect it’s negatively affecting those who are most vocal about it, and the more vocal they become, the more info-bloat is created, and the more they hurt themselves by continuing to drive down CPMs in their field.

    Of course, as already mentioned in the original post above, this situation creates a tremendous opportunity for the contrarian. When ships start sinking, somebody’s making a killing as an expert on why ships sink.

    The stable opportunities, however, are still available for those who stay out of the fight and focus on providing real value for their visitors. And the big losers are those who remain paralyzed by indecision on the sidelines.

  • Steve – Thanks for the great insight.

    But for every person like you who earns $7k plus a month there would be tens of thousands earning a fraction of that – and they’re not happy. :)

    My feeling is that too many thought it would be an easy ride and no real thought was made of what happens when new blogs (in their thousands) enter the fray.

    So it all boils down to creating quality content (lots of timeless content I see helps, which I think is your real secret) in a solid niche and not just following the pack – simple advice but very, very true.

    …those who stay out of the fight and focus on providing real value for their visitors.

    Spot on. They’re the true success stories. You don’t hear from them, how much they did or did not earn. They just go ahead and do their job.

    BTW, isn’t it sad that in our current cynical times one must preface a comment with “I don’t sell any …” just so you don’t get shot down as being conflicted.

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