Reasons to Look at Alternatives to Google Adsense
In my last post, Reasons to Keep Running Google Adsense Ads, I looked at some good reasons to keep running Google Adsense ads, or to consider using them on your blog or eCommerce website. Here I will take a look at some of the other marketing options available, examine some of the less desirable effects of the Adsense program, and make some conclusions about the points made from these two articles. This is not a bash Adsense article, obviously I use them myself, but what all business owners should do, look at as many options as they can and decided which one fits the best according to their business needs. On a side note, I have an upcoming set of articles that examines both sides of Google Adwords too, so stay tuned.
Marketing is Not One Size Fits All
All you have to do it run a search for Adsense and you will see so many different responses for and against using these type of ads, and it might be hard to tell what really works. I think the real answer to that questions is what works for you may not work for me and vice-versa. Each site is so different, has different goals and objectives, but sooner or later, if your store or site keeps growing you will need to look at some online marketing, either to buy some ads (which would be Google Adwords) or to sell them (Adsense), but the growing opportunities available with smaller companies continues to grow each day.
More and more businesses are becoming very specialized. It is important for these niche markets businesses to look at different options that will benefit your company, not just right now, but options that will enhance what will be your long term marketing plan. In the same manner that eCommerce shopping companies have become a collection of niche markets, so are the options available in the online marketing field itself. Look for companies that specialize in your niche market or are at least familiar with your companies specific needs.
Adsense is a great one size fits all ad program, and you can even get very specific with their affiliate ads but there are so many other good online marketing companies today that it is only prudent to not limit your business to one particular company or ad program.
You are Advertising for Your Competition
I generally write from the perspective of the company or store site selling a product, so talking about Adsense is really the opposite of what companies should look at when they are trying to sell a product, right? After all, you are selling your products, not someone else's, so looking at selling ads on your site might be counterproductive. For this example I think Blog About Crafts put it best on a recent post called, Adsense Kills Business, where she talks about the difference between running a business and a hobby. Treat your business like a hobby and that is what it is, treat your hobby like a business and chances are, you are in business. You do generally have to act and look like a professional to be a professional.
There is a big difference from a personal site like Blog About Crafts and a professional services or product selling site
Look at the screen shot below. I grabbed the header from the online store page that sells crystals and beads. At the top, the ad shown will take people away from the store you are looking at and at bare minimum will show other options to your own store or site. The Adsense links at the top are taken right off the content of the store selling the same products. Now sometimes this is what you want to do. You might be networking between several different companies and some reciprocal links may be called for, but Adsense is not a reciprocal link program.
Does it Add Value to Your Company
Marketing should not only add value to the company you are advertising for, but it should also add value to your company. This may sound strange but there has to be an exchange of value for it to be worth doing. This is the whole concept of business and what you are doing by selling your products or services. Someone else finds a value in what you are selling and gives you something of value in exchange.
This is going to be different depending on what your company goals ultimately are for your business. Usually the value added to your company is going to be money paid to you for advertising. If your main market is to sell advertising to pay for the production and maintenance of your site (much like Google itself), then it may very well add value to your site, but you still need to look at how much value it adds.
Adsense may pay, eventually (see previous article), but I haven't found returns that would be considered great by any means, at least not something that could be called "revenue" to me. The value exchange should be as close to equal as possible. I.e. a highly valued area of your site should produce an expected return, so be sure that you have some way to measure if you are giving a whole lot more to your advertiser than you are receiving in return. This doesn't have to be exact, but it shouldn't be totally unequal. Many times I think the Adsense program has been so successful for Google because they get so much coverage on so many sites with very little payment in return.
One key to this is testing. There is a good article on Blogging Experiment, How to Find AdSense Alternatives for Your Site, lists several alternative companies and options, but also makes a good point when he says testing is a very important part of finding good alternatives. Many companies offer a 30 day trial if it is a paid monthly service, others will give you some kind of credit that should give you an idea of how well it will work. One problem with this is it might not be a long enough period of time to see an actual return if you ran it continuously.
Don't Keep All Your Marketing Eggs in One Basket
This is a simple point but one worth mentioning. You can continue to develop your site or store, increase your traffic, sales, subscriptions, and use just one marketing company but if something ever happens you have to just start over again. If you build up high enough revenues (a good thing, yes), but with only one company, if and when that revenue is ever lost your company will suffer much more so than if you spread the marketing revenue around to a few different sources.
You can do a quick search and find many examples of people that have been banned from using Google's Adsense program for one reason or another. From my experience on eBay, it seems to work the same way with Google, once you are gone, you are gone, no questions or appeal needed, and it doesn't always seem to be that hard to do.
SEO Refugee wrote a rather nerve racking article, Get ANY Adsense Account Banned, which explained in some detail how easy it is to get an account banned. After reading that you really hope the competition people who might not care all that much for your company doesn't get a hold of that information. Granted it does require the other party to really do some work, but some don't care how the get rid of the competition, just that they do. This unethical practice is terrible to say the very least, but I have to assume it exists and Google should have something in place to prevent this type of fraud from happening.
Complexity and Unknowns
This is not referring to the complexity of implementing the program, I actually stated the opposite on my previous post, but the complexity that is Google and the unknown that goes along with their programs and services. As with any company of Google's size it is very hard to know what their internal checks and balances are and how they effect their own customers. Google, for good reason, keeps their proprietary data and development information very secret so it is hard to know what might effect your marketing campaign and what might not.
One issue that has come up recently is the paid link topic and how or if Google will penalize a site for using paid links. Google has actually provided some good information about this topic lately, see my article, Matt Cutts Updates Googleâ€™s nofollow Use, and it has been very helpful, but it has taken a while to get to that point of knowing what to do and what not to do. From Google's perspective it is about stopping spam, not necessarily paid links, but if use paid links as part of your marketing campaign you should know what effect it might have on your Google indexing and your marketing campaign.
It isn't really what you know, but what you don't. The issues that Google faces are not going to be the same as your company, and they are going to do what is in the best interest of their company, just like everyone in business. Google is in business to make a profit, not to make sure your company has enough ad revenue. Once identified, those interests may be contrary to your business efforts. They may not be, but the point is you don't know. Good business practice says to minimizing the risks as much as possible, and that is very fluid, sometimes you don't know what those will be from one moment to the other.
Affiliates Can Offer a Good Value
Google Adsense is one of these, yes, but there are many different affiliate companies (Commission Junction being of the biggest) and there are some very good programs to look at, even with smaller company's websites. Many companies now offer their own affiliate program where you can earn a return or you can pay others to be affiliates for you to send traffic to your site. This post won't be detailed enough to get into all the different platforms that affiliates offer but they are very extensive.
A new project I found this weekend looks to be very promising, called the Rubicon Project, it allows you to control all your different affiliate programs in one place. They are just in Beta testing right now but the feedback so far has been very positive, according to one of the founders of the project. I will post a full review of their company in an upcoming post and go into more detail about affiliate programs in that article.
Marketing your products or services takes a lot of work, research, testing, and perseverance. There are many online options available for just about any niche market company or blog, look around, do your homework, see what else might fit your business needs in addition to Google Adsense (or Adwords for that matter). Remember that results won't happen overnight, but using alternative ad companies will minimize your risk and should continue to add value to your company.
Try to use a balanced and well planned out approach. Re-read your marketing plans and goals and see if what you are doing will meet those goals. Online marketing, no matter who you use or what method you employ, should offer at least an equal return for your exchange of time, money, or space on your website. If not, you might want to look for another option. If you want to keep running the same ads for no return, that is fine too, just let me know, I would love to place an ad on your site for free... any takers?