Many digital publishers have come to depend on the ad-tech industry to help effectively monetize their content.
And with global digital ad spend projected to climb from around $625 billion in 2023 to more than $835 million in 2026, the digital publishing industry stands to benefit from brands' ongoing pursuit of their target audiences.
While large, well-established publishers can rely on organic traffic, smaller players may need to look at other ways to boost their ad revenue.
Many publishers already earn money with Google AdSense, or even one of the many AdSense alternatives out there, but there is another way to squeeze even more value out of existing ad inventory: AdSense arbitrage.
Also known as traffic or digital arbitrage, AdSense arbitrage basically involves publishers paying for ads that drive traffic to their website in the hopes of increasing ad impressions and click-through rates (CTRs).
Because this isn’t a particularly common practice, it can be shrouded in uncertainty, such as whether it’s even legal. Read on to find out more about Google AdSense arbitrage, how AdSense arbitrage works as well as the Google AdSense arbitrage strategies publishers can use to boost their revenue.
Table of contents:
What Is AdSense and How Does It Work?
Google AdSense is an advertising program that allows digital publishers to run ads on their website, blog, or YouTube videos.
AdSense offers available publisher ad inventory to trusted Google Ads users, selecting the highest bidder for each slot. Publishers receive money based on either the number of clicks or impressions the ad received, depending on ad type.
Publishers receive 68% of the money the display ads generated, while Google takes 32%. However, only 51% of any AdSense for search revenue goes to publishers, with the rest going to Google.
AdSense is relatively easy to use and is free to join.
What Is AdSense Arbitrage?
AdSense arbitrage involves a publisher paying for ads to drive visitors to their site, generating ad revenue through additional ad impressions and clicks from this traffic. Ultimately, the strategy’s success lies in publishers making sure that these visitors are generating ad revenue that outweighs their own ad campaign’s investment.
How Does AdSense Arbitrage Work?
AdSense arbitrage boils down to three interconnected steps, which are as follows:
- Publishers invest in CPC ads promoting their site
- They place AdSense ads on the page that receives the traffic
- Publishers then work to convert this website traffic into ad impressions and clicks.
Getting Started With AdSense Arbitrage
Publishers looking to experiment with traffic arbitrage first need to consider whether their content is within one of the best AdSense niches.
If their content isn’t then they should probably consider expanding their focus to make it worthwhile. Some examples of proven niches include:
- Real estate
- Health and fitness
- Travel and accommodation
If they haven’t done so already, then website owners will need to sign up for an AdSense account.
With this step ticked off, publishers need to create and implement a content strategy plan on their site. While the goal is to get visitors to click on ads on the page the CPC campaign is driving traffic towards, it’s not a bad idea to link through to other interesting articles and stories that users might also be interested in.
Determine where traffic will be purchased from and the associated costs. It’s crucial to catalog and control costs in this stage to understand whether the arbitrage strategy is working or not.
Publishers also need to implement A/B testing to identify and eliminate low-yield traffic sources, targeting high quality website traffic instead.
Is AdSense Arbitrage Illegal?
While there is still some contention in the digital advertising industry about the legality of using AdSense arbitrage to monetize a site, Google doesn’t consider traffic arbitrage to be illegal.
In fact, the tech giant’s monetization and ads policy clearly states that publishers are “'welcome to promote your site in any manner that complies with our program policies. However, AdSense publishers are ultimately responsible for the traffic to their ads.”
This is where things can get tricky, particularly for inexperienced publishers who may have purchased their visitors from untrustworthy traffic sources.
Some of these services send artificial traffic to websites, despite their appearance. To deliver the traffic levels that their customers expect, these services often generate clicks and impressions using click bots. For this reason, Google strongly urges its clients “to use caution when partnering with third-party traffic services”.
Google also provides a handy guide covering what to look for in a provider when considering directing paid traffic to a site.
With that said, here are a couple of points we think are worth considering when deciding whether to go with this strategy:
Large Number of Bot Traffic
While receiving traffic using paid providers can lead to quality traffic, it also comes with inherent risks, which publishers are responsible for mitigating.
If an AdSense account sees a large amount of bot and fake traffic, leading to invalid clicks on ads, the account will be suspended.
Made for AdSense (MFA)
Similarly, sites deemed explicitly Made for AdSense (MFA) are likely to be rejected or have their account suspended relatively quickly.
MFA sites are easy to spot, as they are poorly made, offer little interest and value in terms of content, and generally provide a poor user experience (UX).
How to Get AdSense Arbitrage Traffic
There are two ways sites attract visitors, organic traffic and paid traffic. As already covered, AdSense arbitrage involves purchasing that traffic. And while it does come with certain risks, it is a far quicker and simpler way to drive traffic.
While Google Ads would be an obvious method to drive ads there are some other options to consider:
Social media has an incredible audience reach, with Facebook alone being used by almost 3 billion people each day. At the same time, however, the vast majority of Facebook traffic comes via mobile phone, meaning publishers need to ensure their sites are optimized for mobile.
Content Discovery and Native Advertising
With content advertising on the rise, content resources such as ebooks, blogs, online courses, and case studies are increasing traffic sources. Service providers such as Outbrain, Taboola, and RevContent can assist publishers looking to leverage AdSense arbitrage by allowing them to roll out their content to a targeted market, eventually leading to an increased CTR.
How Does AdSense Arbitrage Make Money?
Once paid traffic has arrived at a site, it needs to generate ad revenue for the publisher either in the form of increased ad impressions or ad clicks.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
When it comes to AdSense arbitrage, most publishers will measure their investment in terms of cost per click (CPC). For example, if AdSense is paying an average of $0.50 for an ad click coming from the US, then the publisher simply has to ensure that they are paying less for their traffic arbitrage.
However, it’s advisable to also look at page revenue per 1,000 impressions (RPM). Particularly with traffic arbitrage, this can give a clearer understanding of how much money is actually being made.
Publishers can calculate page RPM by dividing their estimated earnings by the number of page views and then multiply that result by 1,000.
By understanding their RPM, publishers are better equipped to understand exactly what they should be paying for traffic to monetize their website effectively. Furthermore, by teaming paid traffic with an affiliate marketing strategy, publishers can potentially start to see significant profits.
Best Practices for Publishers Using AdSense Arbitrage
There are several best practices for publishers to follow when using AdSense arbitrage. Here’s an overview of AdSense arbitrage best practice for individuals who are just starting digital marketing.
1. Commit to Quality Content
First and foremost, publishers using AdSense arbitrage need to ensure they commit to quality content. Without great content, Google may reject a publisher’s AdSense application outright or suspend it soon after.
Firstly, any article should be of a decent length (no less than 500 words) and should be original and engaging, offering the reader something of value. As with any site, the content mustn't be plagiarized, and any images should be royalty-free -sites—such as Pexels and Unsplash—provide a wide range of royalty-free images at no cost to the user.
Publishers should also make sure they have a wide range of quality, original articles before applying to the AdSense program. Around 30 is a good number to aim for.
Publishers who are using Facebook ads as part of their advertising strategy should ensure that when people click on the ad, the destination page contains the product or service that has been advertised.
Similarly, when using content from sources such as Taboola, Outbrain, and RevContent to drive traffic, ensure the destination page contains that content. When it comes to making money through ad networks, content truly is king.
2. Create a Quality Landing Page
Publishers should never underestimate the importance of a quality landing page. A good landing page will be conversion friendly, have an easy interface and minimal page latency.
3. Don't Overdo AdSense Ads
It’s essential on any arbitrage website to combine a good mix of content and AdSense ads. While Google used to have a rule of three ads per page, it has removed that, leading to people flooding their pages with ads.
The problem with this is that if Google senses the percentage of content to ads is disproportionate, it will show blank spaces instead of ads. To avoid this, three to five ads per page is more than enough.
Publishers can include affiliate marketing, social media links and other offers to drive their advertising efforts further.
4. Monitor Paid Traffic Sources
As previously mentioned, traffic from artificial sources is a surefire way to ensure an AdSense account is suspended. Website owners are responsible for monitoring this, which is most easily achieved by setting up Google Analytics and tracking and monitoring all traffic sources.
AdSense arbitrage, though legal, comes with some inherent hazards. However, when managed correctly, being able to buy traffic can be a legitimate source of revenue for website owners worldwide.
Publift has been helping publishers maximize their revenue since 2015. Our partners have seen up to 55% increase in their publishing revenue by working with us. Get in touch with us to learn how to mitigate the risks and leverage digital arbitrage for maximum return on investment (RoI).
Adsense Arbitrage FAQ
1. What Is Traffic Arbitrage?
Traffic arbitrage is the act of purchasing traffic to a site through a vendor. Publishers can do this to make revenue through Google AdSense.
2. How Many Adsense Ads Can You Have Per Page?
It is recommended to have three to five AdSense ads on page. If there are any more than that then AdSense may display blank spaces.