8 May 2009

Writing for Adsense Revenue: Miracles do Happen!

There has been a lot of recent chat on Xomba about writing online and how to earn a decent amount from Adsense advertising. This shows, firstly, that there are a lot of new members, and secondly, that the advice from older members should be more accurate as they themselves gain in experience. There are, however, a few points that I don't feel have been aired enough.

Do you feel lucky?

There are times when one article will earn hundreds of dollars in just one day. There have even been articles that have made thousands! These are rare, but they do happen. Luck plays a big role in this. But like many other things in life, you need to work at being lucky. I wrote a similar thing about getting a book in print - luck plays a huge part but so does working to generate your own luck. Some things you cannot control and some things you can - concentrate your efforts on those things you can control and prepare to be lucky. This isn't to denigrate those writers who've earned big, but I'm sure they were both very happy and very surprised when an article went viral. They couldn't predict what would happen but they saw the opportunity and worked towards being successful.

Most lotteries like to advertise the obvious fact that if you don't play you can't win. the other obvious fact that they don't advertise is that most people lose. Writing online is similar in that if you don't write you won't earn, that your jackpot is also largely out of your hands, but the difference is that you can actually win something every day.

One of the things that attracted me to Xomba was that I made some money on the very first day - if memory doesn't delude me was 27 cents! - but was more than I was seeing on some other sites. I also found Xomba by accident as a link from a Google search. So, I figured, these people have done their SEO and they know how to place adverts, and they have a layout that encourages interaction and further reading. Not many other writing websites have all of those elements together.

Mix and Max

I must say, I haven't hit a jackpot as yet, however, I have recently had some success with one article generating a few hundred dollars over a couple of week. Firstly, to show what I mean about luck, the same piece was posted in three places - only one of them grew, the other two went to sleep. Why? I think because the audiences are different. We can't control what happens to our writing - who posts a link where - but we can work at analysing what works where. The other thing is that this article isn't even an article: it's a simple bookmark! Again, work at what works and prune the rest.

Writing original content takes time and skill. Whatever you're interested in, try to mix your output in order to maximize it. I've written in my On Writing Online blog that the joys of revenue sharing bookmarking sites is that you can be making money before you've even finished writing your article, just by bookmarking your sources. Don't worry, the chances of anybody following the same trail and duplicating your original article are minuscule. If you can write one or two good articles a day and bookmark maybe half a dozen sites then that's probably a decent day's work.

Drop those dead donkeys

Use your Adsense account data and Google Analytics to see what is working and what isn't. Different writing websites will develop their own communities and styles and what is popular on one site may not be on another. There are only about a dozen revenue sharing writing websites at the moment so worth trying 2 or 3 at the start and maybe drop one that isn't working and try one new one on the list. Use the revenue sharing bookmarking sites to promote your own articles as well as your other bookmarks. Use some of the popular social bookmarking websites to promote your own writing - mix in some of your other bookmarks so you don't get flagged for spamming (you often won't know it, but you will be!).

On the subject of pruning what doesn't work, if you decide to stop writing for a website don't delete your account. Those articles will still be listed and could still be earning. There is one website where I stopped submitting work as it didn't seem worth the time. I'd login once a month just to see if anything was moving and to my surprise found that my earnings were slowly increasing to the point where it was worth putting some effort into it again. Some long tails are longer than others.

Waiting for Lady Luck may not seem much of a strategy but as you can see, I'm not advocating sitting back and waiting for the finger of fate to stab you in the ribs! All your work is slowly but surely loading the dice in your favour. The point I'm trying to make is that the social web is a complex system and that trying to push it doesn't always work - sure, if you already have an army of followers it's easier but if you're reading this then I'd guess you're not at that stage. A better analogy is to scatter your seeds across the social web and, miraculously, some of them will grow and you will reap the harvest. I don't think there are any magic beans waiting to be found.

Wag that long tail

Most sites will also tell you that this is a long-tailed game: the more you write the greater the probability of having some articles do very well while others provide a steady income. What nobody tells you is how long the tail is! I suspect some people just get tired of seeing a few cents here and there and get disheartened. I had to stop writing last December because of travel and having to sort out certain things. I was expecting income from articles already published to trail off, and it did. But what was more worrying was that as I started writing again it just wasn't picking up. Was I doing something wrong?

Well, looking back and looking at the trend the income was actually growing again and steadily. (There was also the issue of advertising revenues across the net falling so this didn't help.) I was just looking at it too closely and on a daily basis there can be huge variations. Download your Adsense data into a spreadsheet and calculate something like a 50-day average; that will give you a good idea of progress. Going from an average of $2 a day to $3 a day doesn't sound like a recipe for giving up the day job as yet, but that's a 50% increase. Another 50% increase did actually take it to $4.50 per day, on average, for the following month, and that means getting paid every month.

So how long has that taken? Well, I'd say if you can hit that within 6 months then you're doing well - perhaps other writers have done better, only they can say. It also depends how much time you're willing to spend not just on the writing but also marketing and analysis. If you hit on a jackpot then these numbers will get blown away and you can start thinking about how to turn this into a decent income - or splashing it all on some object of desire!

Being lucky takes work. Be prepared for it.

Key points

Success = Work + Luck

Write about what you enjoy

Mix your output - articles plus bookmarks

Analyse what works where

Prune what isn't working

Spread yourself on the social web

Look at your long-term income growth

Enjoy the challenge!


  1. Great post. Btw, do you have a contact e-mail on this blog?

  2. Hi, thanks for the reminder! Have added a Contact page to the top right main menu.


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