Show me the money!

How to generate revenue

At this point you've got a live website consisting of several pages of great content. You've tweaked all the pages so that they follow the basic rules of SEO. You've promoted the site with the major search engines and directories and with a whole bunch of minor ones, just in case.

So far, you've spent some money (not a whole lot, you have to admit) but you don't see how you can earn any with what you've got. If you used everything I've covered so far and you actually use it to sell something, good for you!

But normally, all we've done up to now is learn how to give stuff away for free.

What you have to do now is sell advertising. You will put ads in your pages. Whenever a visitor to your page clicks on an ad, you get paid.

There are several of those advertising schemes that pay you to display their ads. We'll look at the one from Google. It's called AdSense.

How Google AdSense works

The Google program has two sides to it: AdWords from the advertiser's side and AdSense from the publisher's side. You, as a website owner, are a publisher.

Let's say that XYZ Company sells a software product that works with Visual Basic. XYZ contracts with Google to buy advertising for its software in the form of AdWords. Ads for XYZ software will be displayed on all kinds of pages that have something to do with Visual Basic. That's called contextual advertising because the Google robot chooses the ads to display based on the context (or content, if you will) of the page.

The way AdWords works is that every time a visitor clicks on an ad that sends him to the XYZ software website, XYZ pays Google a certain amount of money. How much money? That's complicated. It depends on the popularity of the keyword the ad is for, on how many other advertisers there are, etc.

On the other side, the publisher is the website that displayed the ad that was clicked. So, Google gives the publisher a percentage of the money it collected from the advertiser (a commission). How big a %? Nobody knows. It's calculated based on a complex formula. Anyway, it doesn't really matter. You take what Google pays you and there's no way you can negotiate the commission. In fact, Google is renting advertising space on your pages and pays you every time someone actually uses the advertising.

If you can manage to get thousands of visitors to your website and they look at thousands of ads, chances are they'll click on several hundreds of them. The number of ads clicked compared to the number of pages containing ads that were displayed is called the click-through-rate or CTR. Let's say, for example, that the visitors click an ad on 5% of the pages viewed. That would represent a CTR of 5%. If you displayed 10,000 pages, that's 500 clicks. At $0.25 each, that is $125 in your pocket.

Take a look at a typical content page from my website: Visual Basic tutorial.

At several places on the page you'll see blocks of ads with a heading 'Ads by Goooogle'. They'll look something like this:

That is what you'll be doing before long.

Get started with AdSense

Once your website is live, all you have to do is sign-up with Google.

Go to the bottom of the homepage and click on the big AdSense button.

The application process is really simple. In a day or two you'll receive a confirmation message with your password that you can then use to login as an existing customer.

Now that you're signed-up, you may want to take the AdSense tour from Google or read the tutorials on setting-up your pages.


It's a fairly lengthy document and you have to abide by it all but there are a few basic rules that you must be aware of:

  • don't try to get other people to generate clicks on your ads;

  • don't modify the code supplied by Google in any way;

  • don't display other contextual ads on the same pages as Google's (Yahoo, for example).

Creating your ads

You may have seen this before but, in case you really don't know how to start, here's a short primer.

After you login, go to the AdSense Setup tab at the top of the page.

Pick AdSense for content, then Ad unit with the default for Text and image ads. Then you must specify the format and color of the ad. To begin, I suggest you pick the 336 X 280 Large Rectangle as a format. For the color, read the tips below and create a palette that matches your page.

Now, Google will generate the Javascript for your ad. It will look something like this:

You simply copy the code and paste it into your page where you want the ad to appear.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make the ads blend in as if they are part of your content; you don't want loud ads that intrude on your content. In fact, the ads shouldn't look like ads!

  • Place your ads above the fold for maximum eye attention. That means in the top half of the screen, before you have to scroll down. Try to place your ads in the top half and to the left.

  • When they're on the right they are simply ignored because people have learned that stuff in a column on the right is just advertising and they tune it out.

  • Wide ads are better than tall ones. The most effective ad is the 336 X 280 large rectangle.

  • Avoid the 728 X 90 Leaderboard because it look too much like the banner ads that people have grown to hate.

  • Put as many ad units on a page as you can. Google allows 3 ad units, 1 ad links unit and 2 search boxes on any one page of your site. Use as many of those as is reasonable, considering the size and the content of your page.

  • You can manage the colors of the ads by customizing the color palette that you use. Here's an example of a color palette that works:

  • The Background should match the page so that the ads blend in. If you don't know how the colors are identified, you need a tool to pick the color of your background so that you'll be able to apply it to the palette.
    I use a free tool that's called Color Cop.
    You can download it for free and install it in seconds. It really is very useful whenever you see a color that you like but don't know what it's called or what its number is.

  • The Border should be invisible (make it the same color as the background) so that it is not as obvious that this is an ad.

  • You get paid when a visitor clicks on the Title. It as been proven that the best color for the Title is blue. That is probably because it make the ad look like a normal link.

  • The Text should look like the normal content - normally black.

  • You are not allowed to hide the advertiser's URL by making it the same color as the background. But you don't want it to be too obvious because you don't want people to write it down and then go directly to the site - you want them to click on the Title, which is where your money comes from. The best solution is to make the URL the same color as the Text.

In this short document there is no way I can cover everything you need to know to make AdSense work at its most effective level for you.

You will have to experiment and test all kinds of combinations of placement, format, color and style to find the ones that generate the greatest revenue for your situation.

  • You should also study the subject and look at what the experts have to say. There are hundreds of free ebooks on the subject and a few good ones you may have to buy.