So this part might not appeal to you unless your site or network of sites get a lot of traffic. But if you are or were earning over $1500 a month online then it might be worth a shot.
AdSense is very popular, and some really massive sites use it. Two examples are HubPages and the Plenty of Fish dating site. If you’ve heard of neither, well HubPages is one of the most visited sites on the Internet. Plenty of Fish is the World’s biggest dating site.
I have chosen these sites for a reason! Although both still continue to monetise their sites with AdSense, they have also rolled out their own advertising system.
HubPages is an article repository with tens of thousands of authors. Anyone can write for them, and you get 60% of the AdSense earnings that your articles make.
I guess HubPages themselves were worried about an AdSense smack-down, so in 2011 they rolled out their own Ad programme. If you’re a member of HubPages you can opt into this programme, and earn money through HubPages instead of through AdSense.
Plenty of Fish are an interesting story. This site monetised itself through AdSense. Incredibly, the reported monthly earnings of this site were around $300,000 a month.
Now though, if you go onto the site you’ll see that they’ve actually rolled their own advertising platform. You can now actually advertise on Plenty of Fish using their own custom built advertising platform.
These sites are both massive (we’re talking 1 billion page views a month in the case of Plenty of Fish). But being a smaller fry yourself doesn’t stop you rolling your own ad program. In fact that is exactly what I’ve done. The big difference with my own programme is that instead of getting my advertisers to sign up, I’ve had to go out and actively seek affiliate programmes in a range of niches.
I now advertise around 20 offers. My sites show both image ads and text ads, in much the same way as AdSense. But where I’ve been able to innovate is in showing different types of ad. One type that’s working quite well is that I show a custom header at the top of each of my pages of content. They’re links to affiliate offers.
I’ve built an adserver in ASP.NET (C#) and it sits as a subdomain on one of my sites.
It’s basically just a single web page that reads parameters from the querystring, and then serves up appropriate ads for the site in question.
How I put the ads on my sites is to use standard iFrames code. The beauty of this is that the rest of the site loads around the adverts. It’s also really easy to add the ads to any site, regardless of the technology it uses.
So while my ad server is in ASP.NET, it is used to place advertising on Wordpress (PHP) blogs.
My Ad system is fairly basic, and it’s nowhere near as sophisticated as AdSense. But then it only took me two days to write.
The key to showing relevant ads to users are:
The way AdSense works is to parse the entire content of a page to determine which ads to show on that page. My Ad system is a lot simpler. It largely goes on the site’s URL, plus the URL of the page being visited. So on all the pages in the site www.improveyourhealth.info it would show adverts for general health topics (e.g. weight loss, improving fitness) on all the pages. However, if somebody visited a URL like www.improveyourhealth.info/5-ways-to-stop-smoking/ then the adverts for electronic cigarettes would appear much more frequently than the other adverts.
I’ve achieved this by using very simple logic, i.e. if page URL contains “smoking” then prioritise smoking related offers. If you’ve SEO’d up your page URLs then this is probably the only context targeting you’ll need.
The Ad manager contains a random function that shuffles the adverts a bit. It also randomly alternated between image ads and text ads. After a few months of testing I opted to just show image ads, as they were making more money.
The Ad manager code works in real time, and it profiles each page visit to determine the most appropriate ad. I’ve found a whole range of advertisers to cover traffic from all over the World. The highest quality traffic (USA, Canada, UK etc.) gets to see ads that will only pay for visitors from these countries. Other countries get ads that will pay if the user purchases something. The lower value countries still see ads, but I’ve filled the ad inventory with ads for my own sites (including those still with Adsense on).
Stuck for niche ideas? Try writing down everything you've done in the last year, then narrowing down that list to 2-3 things you'd enjoy blogging about. You don't even need to be an expert in these things, but it is useful if you have a desire to learn more about them.