So you have built up a following with meaningful traffic to your website. Now you want to earn some money from the site itself. There are lots of business models out there for doing this, but one of the most popular for online publishers is earning from Google AdSense.

AdSense refers to Google ads that are placed on independent websites--like yours. Millions of advertisers place ads through Google (called AdWords). Google then places those ads on its search results and also on independent websites that meet its rules. When those ads appear on independent sites they are called AdSense. Read more on the difference.

As the website owner/publisher, whenever someone clicks on one of your page ads, you can earn 68 percent of what Google realizes from the advertiser. Literally, money just appears in your account. 

I’ve used AdSense on my websites for more than a decade, so I am no newbie. It has gotten more complex during that time, but in the past year or so, Google has been doing a lot to build relationships and make the program friendlier for website publishers. The changes have been pretty dramatic, in my opinion.

Here are some pointers for getting started and for learning more about how to be successful with AdSense.

  • Take the AdSense course! Google has an Optimizing AdSense course that is a useful tool for showing business owners about how to maximize monetization. It’s free and self-guided, so you can take it whenever you have time, from the comfort of your office or even from your living room couch.  
  • Be open to learning. As I mentioned, I’ve used AdSense for more than 10 years, so I assumed I knew all about it. But I took the Optimizing course myself about a year ago, read up on many resources referred to in the course, and spent about three hours one evening just reading--from my sofa. I confess, I learned a lot! Our revenue results since then have improved because of those initial three hours I invested (and a few follow-on hours). Think of your education as investing in your business. 
  • Automation simplifies. All your profit can be eaten up if you have to fiddle for hours changing AdSense ads all the time to improve performance. Luckily, Google’s automation now saves you time. 

For instance, Google now suggests improvements, and will even estimate how much of a revenue increase the suggested change will have. Today when I logged in, I saw a message that said: “Up to 35% ($___) predicted increase in weekly earnings.”  Then it described the specific change that I should make. I wish I could get suggestions as easily as that for the rest of my business! 

  • Consider Targeting. If you wish, you can set up your site to allow advertisers to target specific sections. You can even give information about those sections so that advertisers can see why it would be beneficial for them to advertise there. (Definitely do this if you use targeting.) Often, advertisers are searching for certain placements by keywords, too. The ads from advertisers that are specifically looking for sites like yours are likely to be highly relevant, which may increase click-throughs and, of course, your revenue.
  • Really Use Reports and Performance Tools. It’s easy to get mesmerized by the earnings number, and never look past that dollar figure on your AdSense dashboard. There were months where the earnings number was all I looked at. But if you hope to increase your revenue to the fullest extent possible, what you should be looking at is the data behind the earnings.

Take the time to set up custom channels. This is essential for getting granular information to understand which ad units are working the best. Size, placement on the page, color, pages they appear on, user device used, surrounding content, and other factors are everything when it comes to ad earnings--everything. So you have to be able to measure the impact of things like that. Then, set up customized reports to tell you which ad units and variables perform the best.

  • Experiment. Finally, the best advice I can give is to try different things. Experiment. AdSense now even has a structure for experiments to help you set up and track experiments better. Remember what Einstein said about the definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing but expecting different results.” Don’t act deliberately crazy like that!