Google Blogoscoped

Friday, September 23, 2005

Joe, Blogging for Cash

Joseph* does research at a major university in California. He has 7 years of research experience in the Biochemistry/ Molecular Biology field. Joe’s new to blogspace and the web in general, but already found ways to make money online – by blogging about specific Google AdSense-friendly keywords. While some might call this search engine spam, Joe begs to differ.

You maintain a variety of blogs. How many, and what are their purposes?

I currently maintain (or try to maintain) about 28 blogs and one website. About 6 of the blogs are personal. While they do contain AdSense they are not necessarily driven toward revenue generation. 2 of the other blogs are just about fun stuff; things I find funny or interesting. They also contain AdSense but again are not necessarily revenue driven.

The other 16 or so blogs are driven by high paying keywords in order to maximize AdSense revenue. I picked topics that I have a genuine interest in so that I would not get bored out of my mind.

In other words, vasectomy reversal is a high paying keyword but I have no interest in blogging about that. I picked high paying keywords in things that interest me so that I could at the very least try to provide some valuable content. My topics range from Google AdSense, anti spam exchange, Forex trading, oscilloscopes, to search engine optimization and computer viruses. I also have a few real estate investment based blogs. I have also made up a few of what I consider my own topics to see how they do. For example, I recently started a “most searched” blog where I write about the most searched, most downloaded, and most popular things on the internet.

The last 5 blogs I have are internet gambling based with no AdSense clients. Instead I signed up as affiliate with for example I have a sports betting blog, poker blog, bingo blog, and 2 general internet gambling blogs. These have made me no money. I am very pessimistic about the possibilities of my gambling blogs. It is very competitive out there for one. Second, it seems to be getting super saturated as everyone is becoming an affiliate with all sorts of gambling outfits.

The competition is also very fierce; you go up against professionals who know how to build great sites.

I have had 856 banner clicks on my sports betting blog and not one sign-up... pretty discouraging.

Why would you run a blog as opposed to a “traditional” homepage?

In the beginning I knew very little about websites, HTML, or how to make a web page. A friend of mine introduced me to [Google’s] Blogger and immediately I was intrigued. At first I had no intention of trying to make money; I was just doing it for fun.

As time went on I learned some HTML, learned how to make/ post graphics, photohost, customize the CSS code etc. which made it even more interesting to me.

I also saw the AdSense invite on Blogger’s page. Initially I was making no money at all. At this time (April ’05) I had about 3 blogs with OK traffic (maybe 50 hits a day). I would sometimes get a few clicks each day on ads but they would only pay a few cents each.

It was not until July of ’05 that I even figured out that different ads and different keywords pay more or less per click. I soon began learning about SEO, AdSense optimization, and how to build traffic.

I continue to use Blogger instead of a regular website mainly because it is free. Secondly, I am used to the CSS code. While I do have one domain name and have one website hosted for free, I am not ready to buy domain names or pay for web hosting until I am sure I can make money at this.

What is the main audience visiting your web site? Where does your traffic come from?

I cannot tell you where my main audience comes from for every specific blog I have. For my personal blogs I have used BlogExplosion to increase traffic so I can say for 3 of my blogs about 50% of the traffic came from BlogExplosion.

Another one of my blogs is currently pulling up number 2 on an MSN search. This is the one that is making me the most money right now. It gets over 100 hits a day and at least 75% of it is coming from MSN searches.

What is the main audience visiting my blogs? I think for my keyword blogs it is either consumers looking for a specific item and also just random blog surfers. For a couple of my more popular blogs (low revenue generation unfortunately) they seem to be getting a following. I have a lot of repeat viewers.

Would you consider any of your blogs a “splog”, that is, a spam blog?

Many people say my blogs are splogs but I do not consider any of my blogs to be spam blogs. Yes, many of my blogs are based on high paying key words. And yes, many are on topics that people may not find interesting like 1031 TIC investing.

I guess I feel what separates me from typical spam blogs is that for one nothing I do is automated. Secondly, I try to provide useful content albeit it may be for a small niche of people such as PC Oscilloscope users. Thirdly, I try to keep my content fresh by updating my blogs at least a few times a week if not daily. I don’t repeat the same information over and over then just change the date to make it look fresh. I cull the internet for the latest news, information, and articles on particular topics and post it. I also, while not always, do write original content for many of my blogs.

Can you list the URLs of the blogs you’re maintaining?

Sure, I will list most of them except those that are still a work-in-progress or are very personal.

Real estate related:

Computer related:

Health related:

Gambling related:


Google introduced a feature to flag keywords as spam. Are you afraid your blogs may fall prey to this feature?

Not any more. At first I was concerned when I saw the feature because there seems to be a huge backlash against keyword blogs on the internet. But after reading Google’s FAQ on the flagging I am not worried about.

Sure some people might find search engine optimization or Google AdSense objectionable content but if you read what Google said it sounds like there is room for broad interpretation of the standard. I personally feel that objectionable content would be for example a blog that promotes racism or hate crimes or features snuff films.

I do not consider mesothelioma to be “objectionable” but that is just my opinion.

What are some of your strategies to get more people to visit your blogs?

The three rules I was taught initially is content, content, and content. But beyond that I do link exchange and ping my blogs when they are updated. I also submitted my blogs to several RSS [aggregators]. In addition each blog is linked up to each other.

Link exchange is tricky. I am sure many of you are aware that there are a lot of cheaters out there who will pull your link after the exchange is verified. Initially I linked with anyone and everyone. It took me a while to figure out that I should only link with other sites that have related content to my site.

Beyond that is probably the standard stuff: I submitted my blogs to search engines, directories, and did my best to SEO them.

I also tell friends and family about blogs that may be relevant to them. In other words, a family member recently was having some computer virus problems and I suggested they check out my Virus blog. A friend of mine recently was looking to invest some money he saved. He had not heard of 1031 TIC investing before so I pointed him to my blog.

Do you buy links on other sites to increase the Google ranking of your blogs?

No, I have not bought links to any site. The only advertising I have done so far is through BlogExplosion. They will not allow my keyword blogs so it really does me no good. I just have a few personal blogs registered with BlogExplosion.

Do you take any other “SEO” measurements to optimize Google rankings?

I didn’t take any specific measures to increase my “Google ranking” per se. I think it is important that I point out that I am very green when it comes to the internet. What I did do is make sure my blogs were meta tag friendly, had decent keywords (not too many), and relevant but not too many links on the first page. I do have two PR5 blogs now (not listed above) and one PR3 blog (Sports Betting).

First off, Google ranking seems to take about 3 months. I don’t expect any of my new blogs to be ranked for another 2 months (since I started keyword blogs in July 2005). Second, the rules of the game seem to always be in flux. Basically I try to make sure my first page has fewer than 30 links on it, that the first page has high ranking links on it, that my keywords are not overboard, and that I have relevant content to the topic of the particular blog on the site.

Do you care at all about what PageRank your blogs have?

PageRank is a weird thing. Like I said I am not that tech savvy (yet) so I do not fully understand completely how Google ranks pages. I do have two PR5 sites and one PR3 site. And I have to say in my experience it did nothing as far as increasing my traffic or revenue from AdSense.

The one thing it does is get people to link exchange with you. A lot of people out there won’t exchange links with you unless you have a PR2 or higher. This gets frustrating especially when making a new site as it takes up to three months just to get ranked in the first place.

Do I care about it? Sure it would be nice to have a decent PageRank. But I have a blog right now with no page rank and it is making me the most money.

I care more about where and how I pull up in a search. They say content is king. I try to make my sites content driven so that if someone is searching for a specific thing and my blog is specific for it, they will find my blog. I have noticed lately (the older some blogs get) that I get hits from searches that initially I would not expect to get hits from.

One thing that may interest many: how much money do you make from your blogs?

Initially I made just a couple dollars a month. It was not until July 2005 that I even realized that A) certain keywords pay more than others B) that certain ads pay more than others.

I really cannot give you an accurate picture of what I make from blogs because I am relatively new at this. I started in March 2005. What I can tell you is that for the months of March, April, May, and June I made at most a few dollars month. In July after I started building high paying keyword based blogs I made around $30. In the month of August now I am well over $120. I have in my opinion seen a dramatic improvement in my AdSense revenue in as little as two months.

A screenshot from Joe’s Google AdSense account; he made $395.90 so far in September.

And what are the topics that pay best?

Unfortunately, I cannot say exactly which blogs/ads are paying the best. As you are probably aware, AdSense does not track for the user which ads were clicked and when. I do have free adstats on many of my blogs so I can give you a rough idea of where I think most of the revenue is coming from: Real Estate. My Real Estate blogs seem to get better traffic and higher click-throughs than my other blogs.

What do you think of graphical banner ads vs text links? Which do you think works better these days?

I really like the graphical banners and I do think they are more effective. But I still like having both on my sites.

From my experience it seems graphical banners work better but there are still a large proportion of internet users out there that are turned off by graphical adds. Some people are going as far as to block AdSense ads. Because of this I still like link ads and the traditional ad formats that blend with the site.

In the future though I think we will be moving more toward graphical banners and eventually video ads.

As the older generation internet purists die out I feel the internet will become more and more commercial with the end result being similar to the way TV is.

Would you say your content adds value to the web?

Yes I would but initially I can understand why many people would disagree with me. It takes time for me as an individual to make decent graphics and put together decent content. So in the beginning I can see why people might think my blogs suck but as time goes on and the blog matures I would think that most people would see they had decent content.

One of the main problems I see going on right now is that many people are immediately turning their noses up to any sort of high paying keyword blog or website without even evaluating the content. Yes it is true mesothelioma is a well-known high paying keyword. Most people as soon as they see mesothelioma think “humpf, another boring keyword site – such BS”. But other people, especially those who have family and friends affected by mesothlioma and asbestos find valuable resources.

Some people might look at my PC Oscilloscopes blog and immediately think “what a bunch of crap”. But what if you were a researcher or a technician who needed to buy a PC Oscilloscope? Would you not like all the resources and best links in one location? That is my goal. I try to provide a sort of one stop place to shop for consumers who are interested in specific things. We all search Google and we all look at the top 10 links. Many of my blogs not only contain already the top 10 links for a particular subject but also articles, resources, information, and more links to relevant sites.

When you say you don’t consider your blogs spam blogs, where do you draw the line?

I am just like everyone else; I random surf blogger to see what type of blogs are out there. When I come across for example an AT&T Wireless blog that says nothing but AT&T wireless over and over with Google AdSense or when the last 50 posts have been the exact same post, I consider that spam.

But say for example I come across a unicycle blog where it is obvious the person running it has AdSense to generate revenue but all the links are unicycle related, perhaps there are pictures, new content related to unicycles, and unicycle articles on how to ride a unicycle then I don’t consider that spam. If someone takes the time and effort to put together some decent content with some personal touch, I don’t consider it spam. What I consider spam are the obvious blogs that say nothing but “viagra” over and over or “click here for cheap Viagra” and that’s it; nothing else.

I know many people disagree with me. They think any blog or website about any type of high paying keyword is spam. I just think people need to ask themselves a few questions; we are all consumers, right? As consumers each day there are things we need. Our needs are not the same as the next person. So while many of you who may read this article may be technologically savvy and not need someone to explain to you what SEO is or how to do it, others do. I know because I was one of those people. I had no idea what SEO was or how to do it. What’s worse is everyone was trying to get me to buy their SEO secrets. So when I started my SEO blog I genuinely felt I was providing a decent service; In one place you can find the necessary tools and resources to help you understand SEO.

In the past, did you have certain ideas and then thought “I can’t do that, that’s spam"?

I have had certain ideas of things that I could not do like for example vasectomy reversal but I didn’t consider it spam. I try to pick things that interest me to a certain degree so that I have some passion about it. I do not want to blog about Viagra, vasectomy reversal, or penis enlargement. It just doesn’t interest me and I have no desire to do it. Do I think people that blog about these topics spammers? No, not if they are producing decent content and sites. Obviously there are plenty of people out there who are interested in Viagra, penis enlargement, and vasectomy reversal or else they would not be considered high paying keywords.

The things I cannot bring myself to do is make a site or a blog that is obviously just repeating the same article over and over or the same keyword over and over with no original content. I also cannot bring myself to automate my blogs. I have been approached as I am sure many bloggers have to try out Blogzilla and Ping-Kong, programs that supposedly would allow you to manage hundreds of blogs while giving the appearance of uniqueness to each one. I just can’t do it.

For one, I enjoy blogging. I am new to HTML and CSS. Everyday I learn something new. Everyday I make a new graphic or learn a new trick; I enjoy that. Secondly I enjoy the challenge. I do not think people are stupid. I think people want to see decent sites with decent content and will visit or read any site that has some appeal sort of appeal regardless of the topic. I love the challenge of trying to figure out what drives people to particular sites. I like the hands on experimenting while watching my stats; seeing what colors work and what colors don’t. Seeing what topics people respond to and what topics turn people off. It’s sort of like a psychology experiment. I also like creative process of coming with new ideas either for graphics, colors, design, or content.

Another thing I refuse to do is cloak a site or re-direct. I hate it when I click on a site that I think is about for example the Ford Mustang only to be redirected to a porn site or a Viagra site; I hate that.

I noticed some of the content you post are long quotes taken from news agencies. Don’t you think this raises copyright issues?

I am sure it does raise copyright issues. So does Google planning to scan all books. I am not a lawyer so I cannot opine on when something becomes Public Domain and when it is copyright protected. I suppose anything and everything anyone ever writes is copyright protected unless they revoke that protection or grant freedom of reproduction.

There are a lot of issues surrounding copyright and sooner or later it will have to be addressed. I noticed that news agencies such as Reuters and the AP freely invite the reader to email their article. And yet, I guess it is illegal to post the article on a blog without their consent? This is where I get confused. Does this mean I could email their article to 500,000 people freely but I can’t post it on my blog that maybe gets 100 hits in a day if I am lucky?

I really don’t know much about this so please forgive my ignorance. But Google and Yahoo both have news aggregation services. Do they pay everyone whose articles they pull up for the right to display them? I don’t think they do, they might but it seems to me that most people and businesses would happily like their article to pull up on a Google News or Yahoo News Search.

So why is that not copyright infringement? If I search Google they display pages relevant to my searches including articles. Is Google in violation of copyright law if let’s say I search Hurricane Rita and I see a paragraph of an AP article that has copyright protection: Who is liable? Google? Or the reader? As you can see I do not understand copyright law.

Here is what I think in my mind. I realize many people might think this is just the way I justify my activities but I truly believe this:

I feel I am providing free advertising for the news services and authors whose articles I publish on my blog. I am not selling their work for profit. Much of the time I do not publish the entire article on my blog as it is too long. I publish part of the article and link to the source. If the reader wishes to continue reading she/he will click on the link and go to the source. I always give credit to the author and source. I never claim any article is my own work. And I always link to the source.

Now, it is my opinion that by publishing their article on my blog I may actually be driving traffic to their site. And since you cannot view any major news source these days with seeing some kind of ad, pop-up, or even streaming video commercials they potentially profit off the increase in traffic to their site that my site generated for them through ad revenue.

So I benefit because I have relevant content on my blog that people may be looking for. People may come to my site and might click on an ad then I make some money. Also, they may read part of the article, desire to finish reading the article, then go to the source and they might click on one or two of their ads so the publisher makes money.

I realize this is a lengthy answer but I will close with this. Yes, copyright is an issue. It does need to be dealt with. I think we need to decide as a society what we tolerate and what we don’t. Unfortunately it will be the government that legislates rules for the internet.

The easiest solution I see is for publishers to prevent people from copying their articles and images. More and more this is happening where it is becoming very difficult to copy and paste articles. Publishers then who didn’t mind having their articles reproduced would leave this block off their site.

I would like to add that while I publish a lot of news articles from the major wires I also publish articles from free sources such as Go Articles and other E-Zines. These sources are truly wonderful as the authors of the articles want their work to be published freely.

It is my understanding that the articles are clearly copyrighted and that you’d need to license them in order to pass them on. But of course it’s your risk to take.

Some articles the authors say you can freely pass them on like from

It might be the case that all articles are copyrighted and cannot be copy and pasted through out the internet but I fail to see how they can enforce this. Do you realize how many websites copy and paste content from the internet on their websites, in emails, on blogs, etc.? It is massive.

If they want to start enforcing this then I think the publishers should make it so that you cannot copy articles from their site (ESPN for example makes it very difficult) and stop asking people to email their articles to other people.

What would you answer someone accusing you of stealing content from others to make money?

First of all, what ever they had a problem with I would remove from my site immediately.

Second of all as I said before I would use the argument that it is free advertising for them and helping drive traffic to their site.

Third, if my little blog operation by chance takes off and starts making some serious money then I will look more into just purchasing the feeds from AP, Reuters, KnigthRidder, etc. How is that NewsMyWay, Google, and Yahoo can publish all news from all newspapers on their aggregated sites? Do they pay?

Fourth, if they wanted a share of the “profits” then I would try to calculate how many hits came to my site due to their article, how many click-throughs came as a result, and then offer them a percentage of the profits.

How long do you intend to run this business of blogs coupled with AdSense? Where do you see yourself expanding?

First off I have only been blogging since March 2005 and only really started making money after I started making keyword blogs in July 2005. I don’t think I can call it a “business” yet but each day I get closer.

I intend to keep doing what I am doing as long as I have time and see results from my efforts. Right now I am focusing on making the 30 blogs I have currently better before I make more. But eventually I would like to make more.

Where I would like to expand is to a marketplace directory where I can include not only all of my blogs but lots of other people out there who have keyword blogs. I truly think keyword blogs and niche blogs can be beneficial. I would like to create a webstie that featured blogs on very specific things. I am sure something like this already exists but I plan on still doing it. I plan on trying to cater to the consumer. For example, if someone is looking to buy a new Ford Mustang I would like to direct them to a blog and a blogger who blogs all about Ford Mustangs. From there they should be able to find out detailed information, find a dealership, and look at pictures of the car.

What other money-making opportunities do you see online – or tried out yourself?

I am trying to do the gambling affiliate stuff but I have made no money on it. Like I said I am not that internet savvy.

It is actually hard for me to see any other money-making opportunities online right now beyond what I am doing. It seems these days most things are scams. For example look at all the Hurricane Katrina sites that popped up. Now Rita sites are going up everywhere. It seems everyone today is trying to sell you an award winning AdSense Program, top search engine placement, web hosting, top paying key words, their “secrets” to making money, etc.

There are a lot of smart people doing things beyond my capability.

If I had the technical know-how I would make movies and make them available for download online. I think this is the area we will be headed over the next decade. With podcasting and videocasting I think people will be broadcasting all over the internet. I foresee people making full length movies and releasing them on the internet rather than theatres. Especially as computers get faster, software gets cheaper, and the technology gets better.

*Full name shorted to first name only in a later version of this article after a request from Joe.


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