About 10 years ago, the top bloggers relied on Adsense as the main income source for their blogs. Then slowly many bloggers moved towards affiliate marketing and a few became very rich through selling their own products.
Today when you search around for blog monetization, most bloggers would talk about either affiliate or selling your own products (example ebook, online courses and application).
There are also equally a high number of people who do not make it on affiliate sales, complaining of either high number of clicks but no conversion or no clicks at all.
Personally, I have found Adsense performed much better for me than affiliate.
Advantages of using Adsense to monetize your blog:
1. Advantages of geo-targetting
Displaying ads according to the geographical location of your audiences is very important, especially if you have a mixed variety of visitors from many different countries.
That means that a visitor from Singapore would see a different ad being displayed compared to a visitor from US or Canada… unless it is the type of program like hosting or software that can be brought and downloaded at any parts of the world. This is the advantage that using Adsense can give you.
If you are using affiliate, often you can target only visitors from a certain countries. Else, you would need to geo-target your ads manually yourself either by programming on your own or purchase apps that can help you to show ads according to the country.
For example, for an affiliate like Amazon.com, it is useful if a huge majority of your visitors are from US. However, due to its high shipping cost (at least USD20), it does not make sense to serve these ads to customers from outside of US… because most likely they would not buy the products. You would need to show them the items from Amazon UK if your visitors are from UK.
However if your visitors are mainly from US and you are operating a great content niche blog, you may earn more from promoting products from Amazon.
If you are using affiliate links as internal links within your post content, you would not be able to geo-target these links.
2. You get paid regardless of whether visitors make a purchase or not
Adsense mainly pay by clicks (PPC). That means you would get paid when visitors click on an ad.
Having said that, please ensure you are clear of the Adsense policy and do not place your ads that may violate their policies (such as misleading visitors to click on the ad which would be considered as click fraud).
For affiliate, the visitor need to visit the site and make a purchase within the specified cookie period before you can get paid. For Amazon, it is within 24 hours. For most other affiliate, it is mostly 30 days.
3. It is ‘set and forget’ mode
Using Adsense to monetize is very much on a ‘set and forget’ mode. I only need to work on installing the codes to make it appear as how I want it.
Most of the time, I would then be able to move on to write my content or optimize my blog or promote some articles via social media.
I know, you would say that for affiliate, it is pretty much the same, also via ‘set and forget’ mode. There are many affiliate sales such as diet programs, ebooks, software and apps that you can set for one time basis, create and sales funnel and then forget about it. You may work on them if these programs are within your niche.
However, if you are promoting specific products to complement your article, you would always need to check if the links still exists. I find that including specific products, for example when I wrote about acu cupping (traditional health treatment), I’ve included affiliate links to Amazon page which sells books and accups to US visitors. These links get very high number of clicks because the product is very targeted. But I would need to go back to check the links from time to time.
Also, in order for your affiliate links to be more effective, it is better if you can feature seasonal banners or ad hoc offers that puts you at an advantage. For example, you search out Christmas offers and serve these affiliate ads to your visitors. But this will mean that you would also need to monitor and remember to take the ads down once the offer has expired so that you do not risk having your blog looking outdated.
Whereas if I use Adsense, perhaps it is not able to display the exact ad that I want, but I need not check if the links are working.
4. You do not need to go all out to promote and sell products that you do not believe in
If your readers buy from an affiliate link that you promote, it is often because they trust your review. Affiliate links are best if you are promoting a company or a product that your believe in.
That is why if you are promoting affiliate sales, it has to be with a product that you truly believe in or have tried and works for you. For example if you randomly pick a diet program which does not work or had some adverse side effects, it would affect your reputation and credibility….. because you would have written a review and promote it to your readers who bought it because they trusted you.
I know, for Adsense you cannot control the ads that are appearing. All sorts of ads would appear on our blog but the ads are clearly marked as ads and hence the readers would often be aware they are ads before clicking on them.
In certain pages if it is not appropriate for the ads to appear, you may choose to disable them. For example, once I saw an ad on products offered from another faith being displayed in a post that I wrote about Buddhism. What I did was that I disabled the ad within the content of the page.
5. Affiliate would limit you within what you are promoting- hence it is either hit or miss
Unless you can well predict your readers, you may end up promoting products that you think your readers may need but in fact they don’t.
Often, at least to me, it seems to be the case.
Whereas, I have noticed lately that Google seemed to have a good prediction when it comes to displaying ads and would match the ad (if available) based on the user surfing experience. For example, I would be browsing about sofa covers or calendars via a site …..thinking if I should purchase these items. The next day, I would see the exact ads of the products being served at some of the sites I am visiting. I may be likely to click on these ads and buy the items.
6. When you sucked at sales
Previously in my full time job, I work closely with Marketing and product development team. I’ve often gotten the invitation to join their team, which one of the main roles is to increase profit margin and cutting cost.
They feel I am good because I am able to offer a lot of good feedback and ideas for their products or give valid points as why certain ideas they have may be good or detrimental. Reason I could do this was because I am a customer centric person and have worked for years in the service industry, starting from entry level. In fact, I had always made it a point to handle customers to make sure my skills are not rusty.
But it does not mean that I will fare well in sales because I am bad at pitching, which is what affiliate marketers would always need to do. And even worse in terms of convincing a person to buy something that I do not believe in myself.
However, having said that, this article would be biased if I do not mentioned that sometimes, why blogs may not do well with Adsense.
When blogs do not do well with Adsense
1. Some niche or blog topics are just not suited to be monetized with Adsense
I run multiple blogs of different topics. From experience, it is true that some blogs don’t do well on Adsense. Meaning, you can run 2 separate blogs talking about 2 separate subjects with almost the same amount of visitors. One blog will earn reasonably well with Adsense while the other literally earns you nothing.
Articles mentioning about blogging like this one would not do well with Adsense. It will fare better if the blogger, once he has attracted enough traffic and subscribers to either promote his own products or sell useful blogging tools.
2. When traffic to the blog is too low
Bloggers earn the most from Adsense if the traffic is organic and not from social media or subscribers. There must be at least few hundred visitors per day to see some earnings from Adsense.
If you have a blog with very low number of visitors, then you may need to study the traffic (for example from which country) and then test out with some affiliates to see if there are better results. For example, I have two blogs with low traffic- I know I am not going to perform with Adsense hence I have replaced most of the banners with affiliates links with offers from companies that I like and that I feel would benefit my visitors.
There are many tips by other bloggers on how to increase traffic, mostly centered around writing consistent good content, site optimization and SEO.
3. Adsense payment rate is low
I do not even fall under the taxable income bracket if I were to rely solely on Adsense as each click would earn only pennies. You need many many clicks in order to make sufficient living out of Adsense.
In order to get sufficient clicks, you need huge traffic. Often, many who managed to achieve sufficient traffic to be able to make a full time from Adsense would more towards promoting their own products or affiliates which they would probably see much better results.
4. When you are using a blog as your personal branding
There are some who maintain blogs due to personal branding such as public figures, top executives or celebrities. In this case it may not be suited to include Adsense ads because it may display the ad from competitors or ads with conflict in interest.
Sometimes, such bloggers would not include any ads or even if they do, they are selective with the type of advertisers that they associate with.
5. When your visitors mostly have software that can block away ads
If your visitors enabled ad blockers on their browsers, they may not be able to see the Google ads (or even from other popular advertisers). Even though it is now said that these ads had been whitelisted on the blockers, however some users may continue to find ways to block off intrusive ads.
Whereas for sites that uses affiliate links on their posts, it is not possible for such software to block them.
6. If your site is AMP enabled
Should you decide to move your site to AMP which is optimized for quick loading for users who are accessing via mobile, by default your Google ads would no longer appear.
To enable back the Google ads, you would need to invest in paid plugins that enables ad display on AMP pages (there are some free version but they would enable only display before and after posts only).
For many bloggers, including myself, we still rely on Adsense to be able to earn from our blogs.
Personally for me, Adsense has always been my main source of blogging income earning significantly better than affiliates.
The experience is unique for everyone. You would need to be willing to test and experiment in order to know what works best for you.