Google AdSenseIf you’ve spent much time on the monetization of your community, you’ve run across Google AdSense, Google’s advertising program for web publishers. More to my point, you’ve probably run across people asking for what else they can do besides AdSense or as an alternative to AdSense.

In fact, a Google search for “AdSense alternatives” (with quotes) spits out 162,000 results. “Other than AdSense” provides 123,000. This is natural, due to the popularity of the program.

In June, AdSense will turn 10 years old. As a web publisher, I have used AdSense almost from day 1 of the service (July 1, 2003 is the earliest day in my stats), which means I’ve been using it for 10 years. In recognition of this mark, I wanted to take a moment to remind people why AdSense is so great for people who own online communities.

Currently, I am in the process of re-evaluating the monetization strategy of my websites. At one point, I shifted away from AdSense quite a lot. Never fully stopping, just shifting. I’m now shifting back and that has led me to have a renewed appreciation for what AdSense provides us with. Here is why AdSense is great:

  1. Depth of the content they can provide ads for. They are playing with perhaps the biggest pool of advertisers in the world. As such, no matter how obscure or unique the topic of your community, they may have an ad for you. They may be your best bet for targeted advertisements.
  2. Countries they serve ads to. This is a big one for those of us with substantial portions of traffic from outside of the U.S., U.K., etc. AdSense has a wide, international reach and can serve ads to visitors from countries that many networks cannot.
  3. Quantity of paying ads available. They have deep inventory and while they will default or run out of paying ads, so do most or all networks (at least at a decent price point).
  4. Low barrier of entry. In general, AdSense is very accepting of sites and if you aren’t doing anything devious, you’ll be able to keep your account. Yes, I am sure there are cases of innocent website owners who have lost their account. But there will be exceptions when you are dealing with the scale that AdSense is dealing with.
  5. Flexibility in ad sizes. They offer a lot of different ad sizes and, most importantly, can fill inventory to those sizes because of how their program works. So you can use them to fill in gaps in areas where a 728×90 or 300×250 won’t work.

As a small aside, AdSense has been a friend to forums and online communities since day 1. Many ad networks didn’t support them 10 years ago. Many eventually found they had no choice but to start serving ads to sites with substantial UGC (user generated content), which for many networks used to be a way to disqualify sites. As the web grew more social, they had to adapt. AdSense has always been there.

I’m not saying that AdSense performs well for everyone or that you should only use AdSense. In fact, the way to get the most out of your display advertising is usually to employ a mix of multiple ad networks with campaigns that you have sold directly, as we described in “Monetizing Online Forums.” But, sometimes, I feel like people can overlook AdSense or take it for granted.

Even if it isn’t a top performer, that doesn’t mean it can’t be very valuable for you in monetizing your remnant traffic or your international traffic. For some, it will perform better than other display advertising networks. The only way to find out is to test. Don’t forget about Dre and don’t forget about AdSense.

Happy early 10th birthday, AdSense.