AdSense or Affiliate Marketing: Go Affiliate (Here’s Why)

Google AdSense is an easy way to monetize a website… but it’s not the only way.

Affiliate marketing pays more than AdSense because you’ll make bigger sales through better, targeted promotions.

In fact, you’ll curse yourself once you’ve realized how much money you’ve left on the table.

AdSense will often pay pennies on the dollar for ad clicks once they’ve taken their cut.

AdSense Cut

Imagine if this were a physical location…

…where you placed ads for competitors sending walk-ins to them versus buying your products or services.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Let’s face it:

It’s time to move beyond Adsense and begin making real money through affiliate product promotions.

This guide covers a process to break the comfort of Adsense to start with affiliate marketing.

Or, combine efforts getting the best of both.

Setting the Affiliate Groundwork: Finding Better Ads and Brands

The first step getting out of the mindset of “Adsense-only” is knowing you’re making a fraction of the true profit.

Your best bet is to go directly to the advertisers and offer them a better deal.

Advertisers pay a premium for Google ad listings. You could offer competitive pricing when you factor Google’s cut.

Brands will want to see your site offering ample site traffic and targeted audiences. Pull this data from the AdSense and Analytics account creating a report of your impressions and clickthrough rates — if you’re showing high clicks then you can bet a brand will show interest.

Where do you find these brands?

Using SpyFu to Find Profitable Opportunities

You reverse engineer what’s shown through Adsense.

One of the handiest tools to scope your competition is Spyfu.

SpyFu Home Page

The process is simple:

1. Visit SpyFu

2. Input a targeted keyword, competitor domain, or URL into the search

3. Examine the stats for the listings and take note of who’s bidding

Yes, it’s really that simple.

Digital Trends SpyFu Results

The above example is our search of the DigitalTrends website — with the example notion our site offers tech.

We click the PPC Research tab and PPC Keywords tab showing what this site targets with paid advertising.

Digital Trends Paid Ad Results

We noticed bids for “Rent Camcorder” — could we find a business offering this service and contact them directly?

SpyFu doesn’t show everything with its free option but it’s enough to get a few, good ideas.

You can also get a list of competitors and what they’re advertising in the Competitors tab.

SpyFu Competitors


Once you have the list of ad competitors — you’ll:

  • Discover new keyword/product opportunities
  • Learn how much they’re willing to pay per click
  • Have a general idea of how often ads are clicked

This puts you in an advantageous position when pitching these brands and businesses.

Instead of earning penny clicks on many keywords you could go back to the advertisers and offer them a flat-rate deal for the month.

Couple your advertising with tracking and you can send regular reports showing the ad’s value — giving you leverage to raise rates as the site grows.

At this point, you’re sourcing direct advertising but hold onto your butts because it’s about to get better …

Break From Penny Clicks: Adding Affiliate Marketing

You didn’t think we’d stop at just earning money through direct advertising, did you?

Businesses may be present on affiliate networks.

Affiliate networks pool brands and businesses offering affiliate programs.


However, you may need to do research and see if there is an affiliate program readily available.

At this point, you can talk to the company and share your intentions.

Your previous publisher work with the business may even convince them to launch an affiliate program.

Swap AdSense for Affiliate Programs

So your next task is this:

1. Get in touch with your previous contact and ask if the business has an affiliate program

2. Ask if they could provide helpful insights and analytics to aid in your promotion

3. Switch out the direct advertising (or Google Adsense blocks) with affiliate promotions

4. Use lead and traffic strategies to capitalize on cross-promotion

5. Treat the connection as a strategic partnership

You may not have the same satisfaction of seeing your AdSense climb every day. Affiliate sales are sometimes sporadic. But, you’ll earn a lot more because you’re landing bigger sales.

This process we’ve described is simple, as you can see by the limited steps, and manageable for anyone getting their start in affiliate marketing.

Google Adsense can certainly give you a nice bump when you’re first getting your go.

But, if you want to make the big bucks then you have to think beyond the penny clicks.

AdSense or Affiliate Marketing or… Both?

Yes, you can have both.

AdSense does make good money when you’ve optimized the site and drive crazy traffic.

We’ve detailed this extensively in our AdSense guide (which you should read).

The problem is this takes a lot of time when you should focus on building a strong community. Sending people away when they could have become die-hard fans made you miss the opportunity to later sell them on an affiliate product. They probably aren’t coming back because they found what they were looking for in the ad.

4 considerations comparing AdSense or Affiliate:

  1. Selective Advertising: This involves not placing AdSense on pages you consider “money pages”. These pages aren’t low-quality but aren’t flagship content. You’re okay sending people away because it doesn’t have anything to promote. Use widgets and custom code to display AdSense ads on these pages.
  2. Qualify the Program: The brand may do a stellar job with online advertising but suck for affiliates. There are plenty of programs neglecting their partnerships with lackluster creative and support. Swap back if this is the case. Or, vice versa if their affiliate opportunities blow ad efforts out of the water.
  3. Desktop vs Mobile: Mobile overtook desktop browsing but desktop generates 3x the conversion (still). Your audience may want quick content and solutions (ad offers). You could set site options displaying AdSense to mobile users only or vice versa — check your stats.
  4. Test Everything: Don’t take our word for it and test everything coming to your own conclusion. All audiences are different, some more likely to click ads versus buying affiliate products. You won’t know this until A/B testing the ad units.

We’re sure you’ll find that balance.

Lock in which of the two (or both) delivers the best bang for its buck. Scale it.

Good luck!