Fellow edupreneur Sylvia Guinan asked if using Adsense to monetize personal blogs or websites in education actually makes sense. As the answer is a bit more complex I decided to put my answer in a blog post.
There are basically two schools of monetizing educational content. One says that you should rather focus on selling your own stuff on your website(s) blog instead of giving up valuable screen real estate to other vendors. This is also tied to the notion that you should try to keep each visitor on your site as long as possible instead of giving him/her a quick possibility to exit and likely having them buy stuff at a competitors site.
That said, most edupreneurs don’t have much to sell but their online or offline lessons. I know few who go through the trouble of creating downloadable or even physical content that visitors might want to purchase.
Hence, the second school of thought says any money is good money. If you are not going to convince the visitor to buy a lesson with you, you might as well profit and earn some cents through a click on a banner ad.
To me, both options are valid, and as I am in the position of maintaining several blogs and websites I basically use different approaches at the same time.
Different blog, different audience, different approach
Long time readers of KW will remember that even this blog used to have Adsense on it until I decided against it. You can read my post about it in the archives. On the other hand, my Deutsch Happen project is heavily monetized by Google Adsense, so is my latest blog Fair Languages. EDUKWEST has advertisements on it but no Adsense. So let’s break it down for the individual cases.
KW is my personal blog and I don’t feel that ads match this approach. In this case I could also wear branded clothing like sports professionals and insert advertisements in my daily conversations, just like Wayne and Garth.
It just does not feel right thus I decided against it. These days, I don’t even promote my own services heavily on this blog which may change again but I have not made up my mind about it yet.
Deutsch Happen started in 2008 as a side project of my online teaching. On the one hand, I wanted to build my personal brand as German teacher, on the other hand, I used the videos as additional resource for my students in between live lessons. Similar to Salman Khan I saw a rising interest in my videos, so I thought monetizing them might be a nice additional source of revenue. As we all know, Sal never monetized his videos but he also had some cash in the bank from his Wall Street days.
Deutsch Happen monetizes its content in two ways, Adsense on the website and Adsense displayed in the video lessons. The revenue isn’t great but also somewhat an excuse for me to keep on going with the project. Video production is time and cost intensive and doing it completely for free does not fit my hefty schedule anymore.
Fair Languages is a resource site for language learners. Hence, leading our readers to new and interesting language learning products is part of the experience. This can be done via links in reviews or, of course, advertisement on the blog. One way is to generate money is to sell ad spaces to interested companies in the language learning space. Moreover, we display Adsense in the spaces that are not booked.
EDUKWEST is a premium brand as it is very production heavy. It implies that I only accept premium advertisers that match the brand and who are willing to pay a premium price to reach the EDUKWEST audience. Which brings us to the pros and cons of Adsense.
Pros and Cons of Adsense
The pro is of course that it is pretty much “set it and forget it” or “passive income” as they used to call it back in the days. As soon as you are accepted to the Adsense program it is pretty easy to embed the code and get things rolling.
The con is that you don’t have much influence about what people will see in the ad space(s) on your site. It might be related but it could also be Asian dating sites, how to lose belly fat or cheap pharmaceuticals. There are possibilities to go under the hood of Adsense and block certain sites but I think that this is work that does not pay off.
Sylvia also asked if ads interfere with the site and its content. Again, it depends. If you take a look at Fair Languages I think we found a nice way to integrate the ads. As the site is pretty heavy on photos, the ads fit in nicely without disturbing the user’s experience on the site. I suppose, most people don’t even (actively) see them.
Deutsch Happen is much more “in your face” but the site also dates back four years now and does not run on WordPress. Redesigning the site would not make much sense and also potentially screw up our search ranking, so we leave it as it is.
Is it worth the effort?
The above brings us to the biggest problem of Adsense in education. Quite frankly, it does not pay much. Adsense is based on the content it is embedded into and advertising rates in education are pretty low. If you have a blog about insurances you can make up to $50 a click, in education you are lucky to get $1 once in a while. Most clicks are worth between $0.01 and $0.05.
If you take the old rule of thumb that among 100 visitors one of them will click on an ad you can easily predict what your blog or website might generate based on your monthly visitors. I hope you are tracking it! Also keep in mind that Google pays out your earnings based on a €75 / $100 threshold per month. As a result it might take you some months until you get something in your bank account.
Bottom line: I think it is worth to experiment with Adsense. You can’t really break anything and it will get you a better feeling of what your brand is worth. Another positive side effect is that marketers who see that you are monetizing your blog with Adsense may contact you and offer some direct advertising as well. I usually got offers for $80 to $100 for a text link on my blog.