A few days ago, the RIAA announced that they were suing another 477 people who shared MP3’s. I had a fake Yahoo press release rigged up so that people could put in a friend’s name, and it would generate an official-looking link that they could send to their unwitting friend. The friend would read the article, see their own name, and presumably wet their pants, thinking they were one of the 477 defendants in the lawsuits. I posted this little gem to Slashdot, a popular geek news site, and braced for the worst.
For those of you unfamiliar with Slashdot, there’s a phenomenon known as the Slashdot Effect: when Slashdot readers see the article, they all click on your link more or less simultaneously, and the huge amount of new traffic brings your site to its knees. It’s a great test to see how stable your web server is, how efficient your code is, and most importantly, whether you have the bandwidth to accommodate the huge number of visitors. With my home DSL line, the last factor there was obviously the weak link in the chain. Sure enough, within a matter of minutes my DSL was dead slow. The server held up fine, of course, because it just wasn’t that much bandwidth to worry about.
Seeing the sudden influx of visitors made me think – hey, I should put Google ads on the fake Yahoo press release. Who knows, maybe I’d earn a buck or two? Over the course of three days, the pages involved got 46,092 hits – a very respectable number given the puny bandwidth of my DSL line.
Out of those 46,092 hits, only 28 people clicked on the ads, earning me a whopping total of $13.20.
I’d heard from other sources that Slashdot readers are extremely web-savvy, and unlikely to click on banner ads. I would agree with that simply because I’m a Slashdot reader myself, and I don’t even see banner ads anymore. My mind just completely bypasses anything that looks like a banner ad. My click-through rate of .06% bears that out. Look at it another way: out of every 1,646 visitors, only 1 person clicked on a banner ad. Wow. That’s some pretty low numbers.
Part of that has to do with the types of ads Google was showing. On the press release, Google displayed ads for lawyers (because the page was about lawsuits, I guess.) On the sign-up-a-friend links, Google displayed ads for web templates, presumably because I have templates for ServersAlive elsewhere in the site. Interesting.
That little experiment really sobered me up as to how difficult it is to make money off banner ads. I’ve never tried it before, and I certainly wouldn’t want to try to make a living doing it. I’ve got friends who run sites with Google ads, and they do quite well in revenue, but again, not nearly enough to pay the mortgage.