Make Your Web Site Pay: Google AdSense

September 17, 2007

By Richard Morochove

If you run a popular, information-rich Web site or blog, you can earn money from the growing online advertising market. You don’t even need to approach advertisers. Simply run pay-per-click ads provided by search engines such as Google and Yahoo on your Web site. You’ll earn money every time a visitor clicks on an ad.

If you use the Google search engine, you’ve probably noticed the text ads that run along the right-hand side and sometimes across the top of your search results. These are placed by advertisers who participate in the Google AdWords pay-per-click program. Google AdSense lets you earn a share of that money by running those ads on your site. There’s no guarantee that you’ll actually attract clicks and get paid, but it costs nothing to sign up and try it out.

PPC vs. Affiliate Marketing

AdSense is a pay-per-click service, not an affiliate marketing network. While both PPC ads and affiliate marketing networks allow you to earn money from your Web site, there are some significant differences in how they work.

Affiliates typically earn money only when a visitor referred from their site purchases the advertiser’s product. (I discussed affiliate marketing in an August column.) But Web publishers can earn money from PPC ads when a visitor simply clicks on an ad. No purchase is necessary.

To maximize affiliate earnings, you must carefully match the interests of your site’s visitors with the products and services that you advertise. That can be relatively easy if you manage a tightly focused site. But if your site discusses different topics on different pages, it can be time-consuming to find the most appropriate products to advertise for each topic.

AdSense automates that content-product matching process. Google crawls your site to examine your pages, using content analysis technology to find appropriate ads. The technology is similar to that used by Google’s search engine. Most of the time, the process works well and serves up relevant ads.

AdSense Basics

To use AdSense, you start by signing up for an account at no cost. You then insert Google-supplied advertising code into your Web pages.

AdSense supports a number of ad formats that should suit virtually any page layout in your Web site or blog. You can adjust the color of the text and background, if you like. In addition, you can run up to three ad units per page.

Initially, you may see public service announcements displayed on your site. These PSAs earn no click-through money. Google says that in most cases relevant ads will display within 72 hours.

AdSense Limitations

The automatic ad matching process doesn’t always work as smoothly as one would like. When I first put AdSense on one site a couple of years ago, the ads it served were rather generic. This resulted in a low click-through rate and poor earnings. I decided to position the ads closer to the site content. Almost immediately, I noticed that the ads changed, becoming more relevant, and my earnings soared.

Google won’t accept every Web site. It won’t, for example, place ads on sites with pornographic, gambling, and other controversial content.

Earning Money From AdSense

The amount of money that you earn from AdSense depends upon several factors, including the number of visitors to your Web site or blog and the nature of your content. Some content is more popular with advertisers, who will pay more for ad clicks. Google doesn’t disclose how it splits the money it earns from advertisers with the publishers on AdSense. Google accumulates your monthly earnings and pays out after the balance exceeds $100.

I’m generally pleased with my earnings from AdSense. However, I know other Web publishers who don’t believe it was worth the effort needed to enter the ad code. You risk only the investment of your time, however, so I recommend trying out AdSense to see if it earns money for you.

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Salesforce.com’s New Small-Business Service

July 17, 2007

By Richard Morochove

If your e-commerce site is an important source of new customer leads, a new Salesforce.com service could be just what your business needs to streamline the work of turning a new lead into a new customer.

Salesforce Group Edition is the successor to the company’s Team Edition customer relationship management service. The major enhancement in this Web-based CRM service is its tight integration with the Google AdWords pay-per-click advertising service.

Salesforce Group Edition’s integration with Google AdWords is the best I’ve seen. It makes it easy to determine which search engine advertising keywords deliver the most new customers and added revenues to your business. However, you’ll need to modify your Web site to take advantage of this feature.

Complete Google AdWords Integration

I’ve looked at AdWords before. A PPC advertising service such as AdWords can drive more visitors to your Web site. You write text ads that are displayed next to results for specific terms, or keywords, that people enter in search engines. You pay for each visitor who clicks on your ad and is then redirected to your Web site.

It’s always been possible to track the trail of PPC ad clicks, from the initial visit to your site to the sales lead and ultimate customer sale. This information is generally collected in several places: your Google AdWords account, your Web server logs, and a CRM app.

The elegance of Salesforce Group Edition lies in the way it seamlessly integrates the data from all these sources in one place, making it easier to view and analyze the results of your PPC ads. You can readily determine which keywords bring you the biggest bang for your advertising buck. Lead source information is updated every 15 minutes, so you can track results almost as they happen.

Tracking Leads From Other Sources

Unfortunately, Salesforce Group Edition isn’t integrated as deeply with other PPC ad services, such as Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter.

You can use Salesforce Group Edition to track leads from these other PPC services, but the reports aren’t as complete. Furthermore, you can also use the service to track leads generated by sources other than PPC, such as telephone inquiries, e-mail, trade shows, and referrals from other Web sites.

Google AdWords Integration Requirements

To make full use of the AdWords integration, you’ll need to add a new Web-to-Lead inquiry form to your site to collect information from visitors, such as name and contact details. In addition, you’ll need to add a bit of JavaScript tracking code to each Web page on your site.

Salesforce Group Edition generates the code for both new elements, so you can copy and paste it into your Web editing application.

You must also enter your Google AdWords Customer ID and password in Salesforce Group Edition to link it to the CRM service. If you do not have an AdWords account, you can create one from within the service.

Is Salesforce Group Edition Right for You?

Salesforce.com is considered the leader in online CRM services. If you don’t require sophisticated lead tracking or Google AdWords integration, you may find a simple online CRM service such as Highrise better suited for your business needs.

Salesforce Group Edition targets small businesses, and lacks some features available in the company’s more expensive offerings for larger businesses.

Also, unlike NetSuite, which offers a complete end-to-end online business management service, Salesforce Group Edition concentrates on CRM. You must enter the amount of the sale manually, since it doesn’t automatically generate a sales invoice, for example. However, extra-cost add-on services available in Salesforce AppExchange enable integration with third-party accounting apps that do include invoicing, such as Intuit QuickBooks.

Salesforce Group Edition costs $600 per year for five users. A free 7-day trial is available, and you may be eligible for a $50 AdWords credit if you establish a new Google AdWords account (conditions apply). Normal Google AdWords advertising charges apply.

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