Adsense Kills Business

It’s so very tempting; selling advertising or using programs like Adsense, TextLinkAds, or any of the many others to boost revenue. Sure those pennies, nickels, and dimes add up over time and may even bring in a somewhat sustainable income. If you work at promoting your website and getting a nice bit of traffic, you might even get to the point where you are getting a check from these programs every month. But at what cost?

I know what you are thinking – Blog About Crafts has Adsense advertising, what is she talking about here? There is a big difference from a personal site like Blog About Crafts and a professional services or product selling site. On one it is almost expected to find advertising; on the other it can prove fatal for business.

If you visit my professional writing website, you will not find any outside advertising on that site. Sure, some of the articles on that site get a nice bit of traffic and could bring in a few dollars here and there if I was to put or sell advertising on them but I will never do so.

Stop and think about why you created your business website in the first place. Wasn’t it to sell your product or service? Why then would you promote your competition on your own site?

Think about the tradeoffs here.

Say you are lucky enough to have enough traffic and clicks to generate $2 a day/$60 a month from your site. How does that $2 compare to the revenue you would have gotten if your site visitors remained on your site and bought your product or service? How high does that click-based revenue have to be before you break even to what your lost sale would have earned you? $5 a day? $10? or how about $30?

I can tell you that in my case the monthly click revenue I earn from my other sites doesn’t even come close to the earning potential from a single writing client. Factor in the potential for future business from that customer and anyone they may refer to me and that $60 in monthly earnings has suddenly become very expensive for my business.

Is that $60 worth showing your potential customers that you are only interested in making money from them regardless of how you do so? Think about what ads can do to your professional image – they say that you are not confident that you can make enough money from your own products and services and want to ensure some level of income from the ads. Are you starting to see how much this $60 could be costing you in terms of your professional image and true income potential?

Keep in mind, I am not referring to advertising that comes in the form of referrals. It makes great sense for a company to refer their clients to a complimentary business. In the long run it might even clinch the sale. Someone looking to buy a home is most likely going to require a mortgage, so it makes perfect sense for a Realtor to have advertising for the local bank. It makes just as much sense for a dog breeder to recommend a vet, a particular brand of dog food, or even someone who makes custom collars and leashes.

It just makes no sense from a business perspective to give your prospective customers an invitation to leave your site and spend their real money (as opposed to a few pennies per click) with your competition. Why kill your own business while promoting your competition?

Any professional website that has Adsense or other advertising is quite unlikely to earn my business. They are inviting me to check out the competition and quietly telling me they don’t believe they can sustain their business on their own offerings. If they don’t believe in their product or service, why should I? Quite sad really.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

Join Michele on Wednesdays & Saturdays on Blog About Crafts where she talks about doing business on the web from a small business perspective with a focus on helping professional artists and crafts people.

Follow Up 10/14/07 6:14 PM: Wow, what a firestorm this post has started. I’ve read all the comments both here and on Digg (related Digg page) and appreciate all the time taken by folks to share their ideas. I had hoped it would bring a bit of traffic to my little piece of the web, but never did I expect all this! Being on the front page of Digg was not something I had even considered might happen.

To those who seem to think this entire article was stupid as no one would carelessly put advertising on their services site – when doing competitor research for a client in the web design business a large number of the sites I visited had ads all over their pages. A few had one or two on each page, others had advertising for Adsense and other programs all over the page. On one it was difficult to even distinguish between their content and their ads.

It was clear on a number of the sites by their ad placement that they were really hoping folks would click on the ads and go away rather than actually hire them to design a website.

Yes, this blog has Adsense on it.
Like I said in the piece, this blog is not selling a product or service and is simply my ideas on business, the web, and selling on the Internet. Why shouldn’t I put advertising on it as a content site?

My intention was not to bash any of the affiliate, CPM, CPA or other monetization programs. I realize that my headline is a bit sensational, but it was meant to grab attention, not bash Adsense. My primary point is not that these programs are harmful because they promote the competition; my point is that the revenue one gains from them may be severely harming your more profitable core business.

The money figures I used were for example only and do not represent what I earn on this and my other sites.

Competitive Filter? Perhaps I should have discussed this in my article. Many folks I’ve spoken to on a number of webmaster forums report great frustration with the 200 block limit. There are so many terms used when discussing web technology that generate total mismatches from Adsense. One of my articles on changing the way text appears on the page is indexed in the SERPs properly yet gets ads for baby changing tables. Get a few of those going on a site and that competitive filter quickly maxes out and ceases to be useful.

Follow-up 10/17: This article has led to such a great exchange of ideas! One of those ideas has led to another article on a similar vein. Please take a moment and check out: Content, The King of Missed Opportunities

A few suggestions for further reading...

51 Responses to Adsense Kills Business

I agree with you. It like going in McDonalds and see a burger king ad 🙂

When you have a site that offer a service or a product it is at least stupid to put any kind of advertising.

In fact I advice all my ecommerce clients not to put any outbound link to their sites.

Comment by Nick on

Don’t make this common Adsense mistake and ruin your business. When the clicks just aren’t worth the costs – how to protect yourself.

Comment by SiteVoter Link Community on

Very well put michelle, on my personal blog (website link below) I have stopped putting adsense ads from the first month … realizing the potential customers that I might be losing … mind you the site is not really a business site but a web development blog …

Comment by GiorgosK on

I have a number of websites with adsense and they do make decent money each month, but nothing compared to my affiliate sites. My affiliate sites can make thousands each month.

I agree with you, if I had a site with a product or service I would not put adsense on it. For information sites, however, it’s nice to make money for your content. I would recommend a good affiliate program.

Comment by Adam on

But if visitors are not shown competing product ads, what is the harm? I go Burger King and see an ad for Duracell, I should be fine.
I completely disagree with you.

Comment by Suzanna on

It would be dumb for most sites that are selling a product/service to put adsense or any other kind of ad anywhere but on a “thanks for ordering” page. It will distract your visitors from buying your product/service.

However if you have a content site, ads work just fine as long as they are not too distracting. (and sometimes even if they are)

Comment by joe on

You have no clue what you are talking about. Web based ads do work and you article only talks about your puny site and not real facts. You have not clue.

Comment by Really? on

Find out what Social News Sites are discussing this post over at

Comment by Metagg on

It’s absolutely a legitimate concern. In response to Su…since it’s Google’s goal to have relevant ads, this OUGHT TO be a concern for most folks.

However, most blogs are of such low value…and so many sites have little reason to exist OTHER THAN making money from AdSense, only some folks will benefit from this advice. An amazing number of blogs & sites are in the business of “frustration clicks”. They have nothing of value to add (the content they do have is stolen, scraped or borrowed), so they are just hoping to get people clicking as they leave the site.

Comment by Chuck on

It’s ironic this blog has an “Ads By Google” running down the right side.

Comment by Wayne Harrison on

I enjoy having my competitors promote their substandard crappy products on my site. Bottom line is that they are lining my pockets _and_ educating my current and potential customers about just how bad the alternatives are. The good competitors are ad-blocked. It’s my impression that most companies do this.

Comment by John Smith on

wow, that was one hell of a reading that i have since long time back. ur right my dear.


Comment by Eliena Andrews on

Ummm… You can just block competitor’s ads if you don’t want them.

Comment by tj on

The whole premise of your argument is that using Adsense will bring up ads to your competition and that, somehow, visitors will notice this. I highly doubt it. What’s the Adsense clickthrough rate? I think it’s around 3%, but it may be as high as 6%. I’m guessing the vast majority of people that don’t click through have simply trained themselves over multiple exposures to ignore text ads, since they blend in and are so easy to simply ignore.

A bit of research into this area would have been a welcome addition to the article, because without any research, your claim goes unproven. The math you use makes sense, but it really only becomes significant in a low-volume business where you need every last client to sign up for you.

Comment by Graham on

I wonder why he has Adsense on his pages then.

Comment by Ashish on

I agree with the premise of your argument but demur on using it as a blanket. Promoting a commercial site not quite so black and white. The name of the game is traffic. Most sites rely heavily upon search engine traffic. Thus, links play a large roll in generating search engine traffic. Internal links are valuable in the same way external links are. Thus, it is beneficial to create relevant content within your site whose purpose is not to make a sale or even promote your product / service but, rather, generate links or merely act as a link. My web site has two portions to it (professionals services RFP system and legal forms). The RFP system is basically free. The legal forms is where the money is at. However, the RFP system generates substantial traffic–$900 per month from google adsense. No ads on legal forms pages. I turn around and use most of that money buying clicks for my legal forms. The idea is put advertising on your non-revenue content. It will work for some and not for others.

Comment by Joe on

“Any professional website that has Adsense or other advertising is quite unlikely to earn my business. They are inviting me to check out the competition and quietly telling me they don’t believe they can sustain their business on their own offerings. If they don’t believe in their product or service, why should I? Quite sad really.”

This is a very pessimistic point of view. Another way to look at it is that the company believes so strongly in their product or service that they don’t have a problem with their customers checking out the competition. Perhaps you’ve never heard of car insurance companies that provide free quotes from their competition, or the brick and mortar stores that invite you to shop around? I see and hear these types of ads from businesses all the time. To me your point of view says that businesses should be afraid of their competition and pretend that they don’t have any. Businesses who think like that are telling me that “they don’t believe in their product or service, why should I?”

Comment by Jesse on

I like your thoughts, and I agree. But the flip side is that you CAN get advertising on your site that offers value to your visitor. For example, if you sell digital cameras – and only digital cameras, it makes sense to allow a CPC campaign for a graphic editing program like photoshop, because odds are people using digital cameras will need some type of image editing software. Obviously, the important thing with advertising is to pick your ads carefully. But if its done right, and you are adding value for your visitors, you will end up with better loyalty and better “stickyness” on your site.

Comment by Brandon on

Point there… however I have Adsense on my blog, its not my professional income site – so its ok.

Comment by Gunnar Andreassen on

Total linkbait subject!

Comment by Josh on

I agree with you, but for the wrong reasons. Adding Adsense makes a web site look unprofessional. It implies that the owner is relying on the ads for income, rather than the product they are selling. It doesn’t matter if the ads point to competitors or not.

Comment by pn on

Obviously you don’t know the details in setting up an AdSense account. You can pick and choose what ads to present on your page. You can filter out ads that you don’t want on your site…which would presumably be your competition.

There is no harm in advertising compatible products with yours. To use the Burger King analogy that was suggested earlier, it’s the same as seeing Coke ads at the counter (and practically everywhere else). This in no way deters consumers from eating at BurgerKing. In fact, it might strengthen the loyalty of both brands — as long as both are credible.

Comment by Mike on

Editor’s Note: This was a post where the author very creatively drew the word – SLEEPY.

Will delete the artwork, but am leaving the post out of respect for the effort.

Comment by deptaro on

Wow great I doubt that will be kept but amazing that you got away with it.

Comment by Psychotic Ape on

I finally found someone who thinks like me. I just got started with my consumer website and blog in mid September 2007 and have decided I will never use Adsense.

Why would a Consumer website that claims to help consumers avoid scams advertise othe companies that are obvious scams themselves?

Don’t these other websites view the advertisments that Adsense sends them? Reputation before money is my feeling on this subject.

Comment by Max Powers on

I disagree with your argument. Adsense provides plenty of options to filter out undesirable advertisers, so if your competition is taking up your block, you can simply remove them.

I can’t think of a single site I’ve been to, blog, store, video site, etc where the presence of Google Adsense ads has caused me to leave the site. I’ve come across some with pop ups or interstitials but never adsense.

Comment by Dave on

Anyone that complains about web ads is an idiot. I haven’t seen ONE SINGLE ad on ANY page in probably 3 years.

Comment by Delmore on

This entire document was well written but the entire coin is not turned.

Have you ever looked at the adsense statistics? Pending they are not faked (and we will assume they are not), it clearly shows that the mass majority of people are blind to advertising after a few years of surfing the web. Personally I dont even see the ads anymore, when others were pointing out the google addons on this blog I never even noticed them. Most graphical bars and ads, I dont even glance at them, I totally ignore them. Well, guess what? 94% of the net population is just like me.

A big misconception you are making is that ‘some’ people will have a possible ‘beef’ about their being ads on your page. Lets face it, 94% of those people wont even aknowledge their existence. I can roll off a zillion major massive companies that do have ads on their main corporate websites, and the end result?

Helps spread. That’s adsense’s entire attack vector; spreading of ads to spread knowledge of others.

All said and done, if you do your market research, properly setup your adverts so they can be easily ignored by those who dont read them and such, the end result is not customer disloyalty for ‘selling out’, but instead the occasional clickthrough.

adsense wont work on every site granted due to their flawed business model for it, but for the great majority of both information and marketing sites it can help IF USED PROPERLY (and so few people seem to bother). You seriously think someone thinks to themselves ‘He had to put ads on here to make money off of them, etc.’ comon, get a grip. The average internet user has an IQ of 100, and probably would be as easily distracted if you put a picture of a hot chick beside it. Smart companies realize the flaws you pointed out, so instead they manipulate and work around them to maximize their efficiency without making the site look like it is full of ads.

Comment by RN on

I agree with you that Adsense ads aren’t worth it.

I had experimented with them in my blog and noticed that most of the ads were about blogs! How useless.

If you’re going to have advertising on your site, it should be complementary to your user’s experience. Think of a magazine you like to read, perhaps a hobby magazine. You probably find yourself reading the ads because they are targeted, typically, to your area of interest.

If you’re going to have ads, make sure they add to a visitor’s experience, rather than their being an annoyance.

The key to targeting ads to your visitors is to know the profile of your site’s visitors.

Comment by Alain Saffel on

Great article… but i doubt that getting a lot of traffic is ever a bad thing…

Comment by Alexander on

I love for people to check out my competition. Then it’s easy for them to recognize the superior quality when they see my work. If you use Adsense, just generate a quality product and you can laugh all the way to the bank.

Comment by Jeff on

Did you even READ the post? Say, maybe paragraphs 2 and 3?

Comment by Gregg on

Actually, Suzanna, you completely agree with her. AdSense looks at the content of the page it is going on to determine relevant ads. So, if you are selling a teddy bear on your page and you have AdSense, the ads are going to be about teddy bears. So, McDonalds putting Adsense on their website would lead to Burger King ads on their site.

Comment by Gregg on

A good read indeed, it echoes what I’ve always maintained as a firm business ethos, never advertise competition it might just be stronger than your own product. Adsense isn’t smart enough to be so selective as to avoid direct competition advertising yet, if it does then the benefit may well be felt from using it in tandem with your site, but only then.

Until that time your words that adsense can effectively kill business are pretty much true.

Comment by Kev on

Correct me if I am wrong, but businesses who use their website as an means of media would not place adsense as they earn from their client and their website is just another mean of media to explain the company.

Comment by Chew Jek Hui on

Too many ads makes the site look unprofessional. Period. I don’t care if you have an info site or a product/service. I personally sell a service so don’t use adsense on the home page but will place them on some inside pages. I tend to agree that a few ads aren’t a concern and you can filter out competitors or choose who you want to advertise with the new CPA system.

Comment by on

Another option is simply to manage your own advertising. It takes a little more effort, but at least you have full editorial control.

Comment by Charlotte Web Developer on

I love the confidence when someone says that, the trouble is that sometimes this may be construed as a false positive and people sadly can often go for the cheaper product as opposed to the quality one. I should know I own a quality product and often find myself fighting an uphill battle against inferior products simply because people are so easily misled.

Comment by Kev on

Interesting concept, don’t put ads on your core selling area, but do put them on your supporting article pages. The sites that led to this article had them all over their sites, even on the homepage. Had they only had them on their general information and helpful hints section I probably would not have even thought twice about it.

This could be a good option for many who have numerous quality articles on their services or product site to help pay for their own advertising of their core product or service as you are doing.

Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Admin on

Great point about inviting your prospect to check out the competition. The only problem with your example is that those companies challenge the prospect to investigate the competition as an incentive to confirm that they are offering a superior product.

Since Google’s TOS prohibits drawing attention to their ads, a company would not be able to make that same challenge when using Adsense.

That ‘check out my competition’ marketing ploy works well, but only when done on purpose and the hope is that you will return.

How many of us after following an online advertisement actually ever return to the site where the ad appeared? Your example doesn’t really relate to what is being discussed here but thanks for some good conversation.

Comment by Admin on

You are exactly right. That was the original point of my post. It would appear I might have focussed too heavily on the competitor aspect and people are only seeing that as my point.

To me, having Adsense, Yahoo! Ads, TextLinkAds, or Amazon on a site that sells a product or service makes the site look unprofessional – period. The fact that the ads are so frequently for the competition only makes this even more foolish on the part of the site owner.

Comment by Admin on

Hot topic! I just put adsense on my site. You brought up all the points I thought about before I did this. We sell a niche product – wgs puppies. Web users are savvy, they’ve probably already been to my competitions sites. I will beat them with content every time. If they click on an ad and don’t come back, they were gonna leave anyway. We get 1000 hits for 1 sale. I worked hard on my content, I’d like a little something from these other folks for my work.

Comment by doug on

Trust me, I understand the desire to get something back for your efforts. But, I can’t help but wonder if your conversions would increase without them.

A free bit of advice, assuming you revisit my site; nothing in your menu indicates that you are anything more than an information portal. I bet a lot of your visitors do not enter your site on your homepage. Look at some of your content pages – nowhere does it list you as a breeder and active seller of dogs and with the ads it makes those jaded websurfers probably write you off as another site made for Adsense.

Comment by Michele on

Yes, I came back. This is a great discussion, great content! Even with the adsense ads. I even bookmarked it!

Comment by doug on

Hi, i agree with those who’ve said it depends. i think if you’re selling things on your website, then you might be competing for attention with the ads. But if you’re not selling things, but rather providing content and blogging, Adsense may be helpful. I have a site that i spent quite a bit of time putting together. Without revenue from selling products on the site, the ads help to pay for hosting and my expenses. Hopefully the revenue will grow enough that I can keep building on what’s there, but in the meantime i’m pretty happy about having the option.

Comment by Yee on

You said adsense ruined business and others people should do their own business as not depends their income on Adsense. But you, still have adsense on your site, even you told people that your site wouldn’t sell anything, just a blog. Why don’t you do that? You place this story on Digg, make people dugg, gained traffics and monetize them with adsense. You better remove adsense if you are being honest in what you’ve said. If you hate adsense, why you monetize your site with them? come on, remove and show us some dugg.

Comment by Paul on


I have never said in this article or elsewhere that I “hate Adsense”. Like anything, there’s a time and a place. That’s what this article is all about – there being a time and a place to use Adsense or any of the other affiliate advertising options available to website owners. It’s my opinion that affiliate advertising can be harmful to a business website that sells a particular product or service.

Some agree, some don’t. Some appear to have missed the point completely.

Comment by Admin on

Interesting… I hadn’t thought about the impression that the consumer might have.

I think the risk is valid that you may be trading big bucks for small bucks by placing ads and inviting competitors to advertise, but putting ads also lets you see WHAT competition pops up, you can scope them out and research them to hopefully provide better services and/or products. The payoff is then to the consumer, and IF the website owner steps up his products/services to match their marketing, also then to the website owner with the ads. ”Hiding” who your competition is can partly be considered smart, but there’s a line that you eventually cross and it becomes cowardly. If you have a damn good product or service, why should you fear showing other options? Crappy companies that pop up will make you look better, so it may end up being a plus to advertise.

It will depend on the industry, your relative market position and your ability to grow and manage your company.

Comment by ve1l on

Do you really need to run ads on your site to check out the competition? As a businessperson you should know exactly who your competition is without having to provide them advertising on your own site.

Most of my ‘cold customers’, those who find me via the search engines, are clearly aware of my competition as they have already chosen my listing in the SERPs over the others sites including the ads on the results page by visiting my site. They know and I know that I am far from the only provider out there. I don’t see how anyone can hope to hide the competition when they are so easily found via the search engines.

I just don’t understand the folks who think by putting ads on their site to their competition will ever work in bringing the customer back.

As I’ve mentioned in another comment, that whole ‘check out my competition and come back’ challenge only works when the challenge is issued. It doesn’t work with Adsense and some of the other programs since the TOS expressly prohibits drawing any sort of “attention” to the ads, thereby making it impossible to make the challenge in the first place.

Comment by Admin on

I just advised a client to this effect. I run a small web firm and we redesigned a major financial blog/subscription website which had previously featured an enormous amount of advertising. It was hard to look at. Since taking the new design live, and removing advertising (2 weeks) amount of time, number of pages per visit, and number of signups are all up. Advertising has no place on a services or company website.

Comment by Zach Katkin on

Got you, sure makes sense.

Comment by Suzanna on

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