Getting AdSense Ads for Cheap

In this post I will share how you can gain cheap but massive exposure using strategically managed adwords campaigns.

Now as some of you may know, recently I’ve done some experimenting with buying AdSense ads.

It was inspired none other than John Chow himself and his very own blog advertising experiment. I wanted to try it simply because it was funny to visit another blog and read that “John Chow loves so and so, or his blog at least” in big bold letters in a large square so I wanted to put one on John’s blog. The only problem is I’m not as rich as John so I had to use my head.


Here are the results:

Campaign impressions clicks CTR avg CPM total
I want to be John Chow or make money like him 1524 47 3.10% ¥25 ¥38
Don’t read this blog 177837 72 0.00% ¥25 ¥4,446
I want to be a famous blogger (maybe rich too) 61430 123 0.20% ¥30 ¥1,841
  240791 242      

All the values are in Yen since I’m in Japan but you can roughly divide by 100 (120 to be exact) for the US dollar equivalent. As you can see I got around 240 thousand impressions for roughly $50 dollars and around 240 clicks. John Chow’s blog had the best click through rate and arguably the most value. It was actually around 5% the first day that it ran and slowly declined (people probably got tired of seeing it).

All the campaigns I ran were specifically targeted at high traffic blogs with the first campaign exclusively on Now you can look at the click through rate and see that it’s horrible but I’m actually quite satisfied with the results. This blog isn’t actually selling anything and is still in the process of forming an audience.

Before I go into my strategy and thoughts, let’s take a look at the web statistics:


This blog is quite new so you can see all traffic is driven by the ads. The first big bump was from an article being submitted to Digg. If you’re wondering why all these blogs are submitting to Digg that’s your answer. For a small blog even a story that gets buried can send hundreds of referrals your way (until you get banned or flagged for doing it—better to let readers handle that).

After that I built up traffic by taking out adwords advertisements. Specifically the campaigns above. But as you can see from the cost, at $50 it’s extremely cheap and all of the sites that the ads ran on are some of the most famous blogs.

Get Ads for Cheap

All the ads that I ran were for the minimum bid or close to it per click. I did not bid any keywords but either took out ads by visiting a blog and clicking the “advertise on this blog” link. That’s why it ended up being so cheap.

What some people may not know is that even without the “advertise on this blog” link on a site’s ad unit, you can add a URL directly when you set up a campaign and if Google can verify the site has adsense ads on display you can target that site. I suspect that’s how these shady sites get their ads to display on some of the best of the web.

Why does this work if people are bidding fiercely for competitive keyword ads on these sites? Well, the fact is no matter how much content you have and how popular your site is Google’s adsense can’t always match it with an appropriate ad. That’s when you usually see a public service ad. Smart site owners will specify an alternate ad to run when this happens (as allowed by adsense). However, what’s better than nothing? You guessed it, the minimum bid. Basically by putting in a minimum bid, I get to show my ad during the so-called “downtime” when google can’t find a proper ad. The site owner might get more value from their alternate ad but Google’s algorithm doesn’t know that and doesn’t care. If you have no other ads to show this can be a win-win situation for the site owner and minimum bidder.

Here’s what I learned about creating an effective ad campaign as well as my strategy.

Target your audience

The John Chow campaign worked well because it expressed a common sentiment among readers. People want to make money like him and are reading his blog not only because it’s entertaining but because they want to know the secret of his success.

The John Chow campaign had the best CTR and I suspect that it declined because people saw my ad a couple times and already peeked at my site.

Gain Exposure

The purpose of my campaign was not to sell anything but to gain exposure. Since I’m not selling anything, too many frivolous clicks would only hurt my financial well being! Instead I wanted something that would be displayed many times and be memorable to an extent.

By targeting specific sites and keeping your ad’s word count to a minimum, you increase the chances that your ad will be displayed in a big block in big letters all by itself. As you can see from the very first image it carries a lot of impact. Even if you don’t click the ad, it’ll stay in your memory a bit more and ring a bell the next time you see the name.

I call this the “billboard effect”. When people erect a billboard near the road they’re aiming to get as many people to see it rather than take out an ad on a magazine that is catered to a specific segment of the population.

Of course, like all things there is a downside. When you take out ads for cheap and the sites catch on, they may filter you out to increase their ad revenues and rightly so.

We’ll have to see how my “billboard/exposure theory of advertising” turns out but it’s been a nice jump start to my blog. It usually takes quite a while to get any kind of traffic. In another week or so I’ll know how many readers stick around.

Categories: web