Getting started with Google AdSense and Google Analytics

If you have a website, you might think “Hey, can’t I make some money by adding advertisements?” and also “how do I know how many visitors I have?” – because after all, the advertisements are based on page views and ad clicks. So, where do you start?

Well, the Google products is one way to go. Google AdSense is where you can set up an account and get the HTML code to insert ads onto your website or mobile app. Google Analytics is where you can go get all sorts of details about the visitors of your site.

Let me start off by saying that I’m definitely no expert on any of this. Secondly, let me say that I am pretty anti-advertising in-general and I am violently opposed to “sneaky” advertising. With that said, you might notice that ads are back on THIS site. They probably won’t stay, but I wanted to gather some information and figure out what’s really going on. Let me share what I’ve learned so far…

What is Google AdSense:
This is arguably the most popular way to inject advertisements on a webpage or in a mobile application. You go to http://adsense.google.com/ and set up your profile. Next, you set up a new “ad unit” under “My ads”:

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and you will see some options:

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and when you click “Save and get code”, it gives you the HTML to add to your site:

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You just paste that entire block onto a web page where you want to see the ad, and you should see an advertisement placed there. For me, it took a couple of hours before I started seeing ads.

If you have a Content Management System (CMS), for example, this very blog site runs WordPress. For WordPress, I use this plug-in called “Ad Injection” which works well. It has some settings where I can say how many ads per page, and it injects them automatically.

Making money with AdSense:
The magic question is how much money can you make with this sort of setup? Well unfortunately, this is where you start to see how much of a carnival game this really is! First, some terms:

  • Impressions: One impression is when an ad was successfully retrieved and shown on your site.
  • CTR: Click Through Rate is the number of ad clicks, divided by the number of impressions (or page views) you’ve received.
  • RPM: Revenue Per Thousand impressions is how much money you will be paid per 1,000 impressions. A $.02 RPM means that if you show 1,000 ads on your site, you will make $.02, total.

Once you have your ads up for at least a week, you’ll then want to go back into the AdSense portal and see some statistics. As an example, here is a report for this site you are visiting right now, from last week:

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So, at this rate, I’d make $4-5 dollars per month on AdSense advertising. That’s not fantastic, but if needed to pay for a $5/month hosting plan, at least it would pay for that!

OK, so let’s look a little closer at these numbers. As you can see – it’s nonsense; gibberish. On Tuesday, someone clicked on an ad and that increased the earnings by 5x! On Thursday and Friday, there were clicks but they were negligible. Also notice that the RPM rates are all over the charts. Sunday the RPM is $.09 and Tuesday it’s $3.76? Why, you ask? I have no idea.

Now, as far as the Page views and Impressions – are those correct? Well, it gets those from Google Analytics, let’s look at that next.

What is Google Analytics?
The other half of this equation is understanding what kind of traffic you have going to your website. For that, one way you can get a handle on this is to have Google Analytics monitor your site.

On the Google side, log into: https://www.google.com/analytics and set up a profile. For your website, if you have a CMS like WordPress, you can use a plug-in for that. For this website, I use “Google Analytics”.

Once that is wired-up, and again, once you have maybe a weeks worth of data, you’ll want to go into that dashboard and start looking at reports. For this website, for the same time period as above, here’s what it shows:

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this is where things start to fall apart. AdSense said there were 851 page views during that time, for example – where Google Analytics (the source from which AdSense gets it’s data) says there 202 page views. But wait, it gets worse! I had a couple different WordPress plug-ins also show statistics on that website. Those consistently show 300-400 sessions per day and from 600-900 page views per DAY. By the way, one of those plug-ins was causing my site to crash about once per week. I never did discover which one, so I just uninstalled them all.

Anyhow – back to the discrepancies! So in real life, I’d see 700 page views per DAY, AdSense says there there are 851 for the WEEK, and Analytics says there are 202 for the week.

My conclusions? This whole thing is pretty much a carnival scam. There doesn’t seem to be anything legitimate about it!

These numbers aren’t just a little off – they are off by thousands of page views per week! Unless or until someone puts together a class action lawsuit, you can either take whatever Google will give you, or look for another vendor.

That’s the tricky part, most every other competitor is blacklisted where almost all of their ads are blocked. So again, I come back to my statement about I really, really dislike advertising. By the way, to avoid sneaky advertising on this site, I wrapped the adds in a container and mark it with “advertisement”. Here is the code that if you’d like to do something similar:

<span class="label label-info" style="margin-bottom:2px">Advertisement</span>

Bottom line:
As discussed, I am impressed with neither the Google Analytics piece (it’s not very accurate) nor Google AdSense (it’s wildly inaccurate, in Google’s favor). I will be the first to admit, maybe there is some piece I am missing? If so – please leave a comment below. However, as an IT pro and just a Google “customer”- if there was something that I should know or am missing, it should be more obvious.

What can you take away from this? Well, I was looking for this EVERYWHERE and didn’t find it – so let me tell you: here are some approximate numbers of how much money you could make with AdSense:

850 page views results in $1.19 of earnings. So, if you wanted to make $1,000/week, you’d need around 850,000 page views per week – which using “Google math” (as I’ll call it), is probably 1-2+ million ACTUAL page views per week.

But again, the CTR and RPM’s vary wildly and unpredictably, so this estimate could be all by several hundred thousand. Perhaps the best way is to spend the afternoon and get your site set up for Analytics and AdSense and see what kind of numbers you get.

If nothing else, hopefully this gives you a quick overview of how Google AdSense and Google Analytics work.

Posted in Cloud Computing, Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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