Google AdSense vs Amazon Associates

Over the past month I have created a couple of websites focusing on Amazon Associates as the income generator rather than Google Adsense which I’ve used on my sites so far, and I though I would give you an update on my learnings so far.

Google AdSense

I’ve been using Google AdSense as my main source of revenue since I started buiding niche sites in May 2011 and as you can see from my Income Reports I’ve been doing okay and averaging around google-adsense-8320793£200 ($306) a month with a total income of £1642.32 ($2,559.98) for 2011. Compared to some other internet marketers this isn’t a huge sum but it is certainly something and I think it shows that I can make money from AdSense and can create sites that will get people clicking.

The sites I create often provide a user with information, usually for a service, and visitors will be tempted to find out more from the adverts on my sites. An example could be if I set up a site about ‘dog grooming’, I would explain what it is, how much it costs, etc and then AdSense adverts would also be on the site hopefully featuring dog grooming services near the visitors location. They will click on these links to find out more and I don’t really need to sell the link to that person. They found out enough information from my site and then instead of going back to Google and searching for local dog groomers they will click on the handy links on my site.

What I have noticed is that for an AdSense monetised site to be successful you need to have good traffic as it really is a numbers game. You cannot control what the visitors do once they are on your site and ultimately your revenue depends on the AdSense advertisers for a variety of reasons:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) – Although you will have targeted keywords for your site with a certain average cost-per-click, advertisers budgets do vary and if high payers drop out you will notice this and lower CPC ads will appear on your site. You may still get the same amount of clicks but you will be earning less.
  • Click Through Rate (CTR) – You will have created a site with the aim of giving people enough information for them to want to find out more by clicking AdSense adverts on your site. If the adverts are poorly created by the advertisers or don’t give the visitors a call to action  or motivate them then they may not click them. In the worst case there could be no one advertising dog related products and you get zero clicks.

At the end of the day you have virtually no control over the adverts appearing on your site (emphasis on virtually) as this lies with Google and their advertisers and so I would say that you will need to play the percentages to guarantee an income from Google AdSense. Even if you do have a low CPC and low CTR, a higher volume of visitors will mean a higher income. Of course if you choose the right keywords, have a high CPC and nail your CTR then more visitors will mean great income for you.

Amazon Associates

With Amazon Associates I have had to change my strategy for creating websites as the focus is completely different for promoting physical products. When you create an Amazon affiliate site you need to realise that the visitor is probably in a buying mood and if you can get them onto your site then you will be on your way to making a sale.

With an Amazon Associate site you do not get revenue for people simply clicking links. If you get people to the Amazon site via your site then a cookie will be placed on the visitors browser for 24 hours, and if they buy anything from Amazon in that time, then you will get a basic 5% commission of the cost of that product with the commission percentage rising depending on the amount of products sold e.g if you sell 21 items in a month your commission rate goes up to 5.5%.

When I create this type of site I am not really creating a ‘niche site’ with highly researched information but more usually writing product reviews, product comparisons, etc and inserting links all pointing towards the specific product page on Amazon using a personalised affiliate link. I put these links in text like ‘find out more about this product’ leading the visitor to Amazon and hopefully a sale.

With Amazon you have more control over CPC and CTR, although those are not strictly terms applicable with it, and perhaps we should add ‘coversion rate’ into the mix.

  • CPC – There is no cost per click with Amazon, but if the site visitor is in a buying mood and I am promoting a high-price item of £100 then my CPC could be 5% of that meaning £5 commission. This is certainly higher than most clicks on AdSense, but obviously it will involve 2 clicks from the user, one from my site to Amazon, and then one to ‘buy’.
  • CTR/Conversion Rate– I have found that if I get a visitor to click through to Amazon then my sales conversion on my Affiliate links are at least 10%, meaning 1 in 10 people I send to Amazon will buy something which is pretty good I think and certainly much better than the CTR with AdSense.

My new amazon site has had 112 visits in 3 weeks, and from that I have had 65 affiliate link clicks through to Amazon and have made 9 sales of products totalling £10.66 commission. I’ve not had a huge amount of visitors but I am converting well and the income is much higher than if I had an AdSense site with only 112 visits.

The downside to all this is that SEO is harder for these tyes of sites than a niche Adsense site as you are producing less unique content and there is more competition so you have do work harder to differentiate your site from large shopping sites who are also selling these products. Focus on one type of item for your site and then don’t just stick to reviews, but also include  things like Top 10 lists, which will mean at least 10 affiliate links, and product comparisons e.g Xbox versus PS3 where you can create more content for your site, more keywords, more backlinks, etc which is all good for SEO. Don’t be content with just copying product reviews from Amazon as this will rank you nowhere and don’t waste money on plugins that will promise a fully-populated affiliate site as they will do nothing unless you have original content.

Conclusion – which is best?

I believe there is no right or wrong choice between Google AdSense and Amazon Associates as it all depends on the type of site you are creating. Are you providing information and a service or are you promoting a physical product?

  • Information/Service – Monetise your site using AdSense and as long as you can get enough visitors and have done your research you will earn money. With AdSense you need visitors but do not need to sell to the visitor and so you can put an advert on any page and you will probably get some clicks. More visitors means more revenue though and a poorly researched niche will mean only earning pennies.
  • Physical Product – If you are creating a site promoting a physical product then you will need to rank highly in the SERPS, but you can earn more per visitor depending on the products you are promoting and you will need fewer visitors to make a sale as they are already in the buying mood.

I would also add that keyword research for an affiliate site is easier than for a niche site as you can select a product you want to sell e.g ‘hairdryers’, put it into Google Keywords Tool, and then find out related searches and try and get a domain from that, where as for niche sites you have to come up with the initial topic first which is one of the hardest parts.

The best thing you can do is utilise both AdSense and Amazon and create a variety of different sites so you have a diverse income stream. This revenue is not cast in stone and many people have been affected by only focusing on one method. AdSense users have had their accounts blocked (for a variety of reasons) and US users have had their Amazon Associate accounts blocked due to state tax laws, and in both in both cases income dropped to zero. If you can spread yourself out you may still get hit but these actions, but you can lessen the blow by having other income streams.