Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates

Monetize your blog: Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates

Last updated on Mar 6, 2017

I introduced ads over a year ago, with the goal to monetize my blog. It’s time to analyze what works and what doesn’t. In this article, I’ll compare Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates and tell you which ad category has worked better for me.

If well placed and curated, ads are a useful tool, but more often than not, they are just a necessary evil. I don’t blog for a living and don’t rely on income from my blogging activity to feed my family. I enjoy blogging and love to write about issues and solutions that also affect or may help others. To do it well, blogging requires a substantial commitment of time. I have tried hard to make sure that my blogging doesn’t compete with “family time.” Additionally, there is a financial commitment for ongoing costs (server hosting, subscriptions, software, plugins, etc.) as well as technology that I’d like to review. My goal is for ads on my blog to pay for blogging and all the associated costs. So far, that has worked pretty well through the combination of Google AdSense and Amazon Associates.

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is arguably one of the most successful and simplest affiliate programs available to bloggers. You can join for free, but it requires approval from Amazon. Once approved, you have a couple of different advertising options, including the ones I use on my blog. Any Amazon Associates ad links to a page or particular product on Amazon.com, and you only get paid when someone buys a product or service from Amazon, within 24 hours of having clicked on the affiliate ad or link. It’s important to understand that clicks alone don’t get you paid and customers don’t pay more (or less) if they end up on Amazon.com because of your ad or link.

Amazon pays between 4-10% of the product revenue you generate, based on the number of orders that have shipped during a given month and other factors. I use the following Amazon Associates ad types on my blog:

Product Links

Every time I write about a product that is available through Amazon, and that I would buy on Amazon, I add a link to the product with my affiliate code included. I usually use short links, but fully expanded a link to Apple’s AirPods on Amazon would look something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Apple-Airpods-Wireless-Bluetooth-Headset/dp/B01MQWUXZS/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1486294775&sr=8-1&keywords=airpods&linkCode=ll1&tag=michkumm-20&linkId=226c88a6ffd5dc0c94dd17c79ae1b239. The last part of the link (in bold) identifies my affiliate account and the link I generated. The advantage of this type of ad is that it is highly specific to the product or service I’m writing about and so I consider this a useful ad. Even better, it doesn’t require JavaScript or extra CSS, and thus it doesn’t impact the performance of my blog.

Banner Links

Banner links are generic and, in my opinion, fall into the “necessary evil” category. I can certainly pick what types of a banner to show, and to some extent decide on what page or post to show what kind of banner, but I’m certainly casting a wider net with them. On my blog, I show Amazon banner ads in the sidebar and inline on blog posts. From a blog performance perspective, Amazon offers those banners as JavaScript or iFrames. I chose iFrames because they don’t negatively impact the load time of my blog as much as JavaScript-based banners do.

Native Shopping Ads

Native Shopping Ads are an effective way of showing products that are relevant to the content of the page they are displayed on. For example, when I write about Apple products, the code that comes with the Native Shopping Ads scans the page for keywords and other links to Amazon and based on that, displays relevant products. The downside of that useful capability is that Native Shopping Ads are render-blocking because the contained JavaScript has to execute before the page can load fully. That’s a trade-off you to make when you use this type of ads.

Product Links vs. Banner Links vs. Native Shopping Ads

Below is a screenshot of my link performance from last year. You can clearly see, that I generated most revenue with product links, followed by Native Shopping Ads. I have to say, however, that I started tweaking how I display those ads towards the very end of last year. For example, I’m now showing Native Shopping Ads much sooner, rather than presenting them at the end of a blog article. It’s too early to tell, but I think I will see improved effectiveness of Native Shopping Ads going forward.

Monetize your blog: Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates
Amazon Associates: Linked performance 2016
Monetize your blog: Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates
Amazon Associates: Link performance January 2017

 

Google AdSense

Google AdSense falls into the “necessary evil” category because its ads are often generic and based on your interest rather than the contents of the blog article they are shown on. Nevertheless, they do produce revenue and the more page views I have; the more visitors click on those ads and the more revenue I earn.

Here is my 2016 report, and as you can see, my AdSense revenue steadily increased over the last couple of months as I tweaked the ad placement and more visitors came to my blog. What I like about Google AdSense is, that the ads are fully responsive and the ad code is not render-blocking, unlike Amazon’s Native Shopping Ads. From a revenue perspective, Google pays everytime someone clicks on one of the ads, but the revenue per click is often only a few cents. The problem with AdSense is that the ads are very generic and thus visitors are less likely to click. In December 2016, I had the highest AdSense click rate with 310 clicks.

Monetize your blog: Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates
Google AdSense revenue from 2016

 

Google AdSense vs. Amazon Associates

From an income perspective, Amazon Associates has been working out better for me so far. But I realize that I don’t have enough data yet to draw a conclusion. So there is room for experimentation. My gut feeling is that I’ll do better with a combination of Google AdSense and Amazon Associates. Both have different revenue models, one pays per click, the other one per order. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to spread the risk, instead of putting all eggs in one basket. As AMP pages (see my blog post on WordPress performance) gain in popularity, so will Google AdSense, as it is one of the few supported ad platforms. I’ll most likely keep both ad platforms. Plus, I’ll certainly continue experimenting with ad placement. My goal is to strike a balance between usability for my visitors and the requirement to generate sufficient income to pay for my expenses.

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Conclusion: Monetize your blog

As I have said at the beginning of the article, I wish I didn’t have to make use of ads. But if done well, blogging requires ongoing investment in technology and infrastructure. I love doing it and will continue doing it as time permits, and the better I can show proof that it pays for itself, the more likely is my wife to approve the countless hours I invest in research, testing, reviewing and writing. So if you enjoy my writing, find tidbits of information that are useful for you or that solve an problem that you haven’t found a solution for anywhere else, please use my referral link when you order something from Amazon, bookmark it, if it helps (CTRL + D on PC or COMMAND + D on a Mac) and click on those nasty ads if they show something useful. I would certainly appreciate it!

Michael Kummer

🇦🇹 Austrian 📜 Blogger 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Father of a princess and a preemie 🥑 Fan of Paleo lifestyle 💻 Technologist ✈️ Frequent flyer 📱Amateur photographer