Topic selection is one of the key factors for success in earning money with AdSense.

In this context, I am not talking about the larger issue of how vitally important niche selection and keyword research are for generating traffic. Those are big topics that I have and will continue to discuss in other articles. This article will focus on topic selection as it relates directly to AdSense.

Aside from the very important issue of traffic, topic selection affects AdSense earnings in two ways:

  • EPC (Earnings Per Click)
  • CTR (Click Through Ratio)

Earn More For Each Click

AdWords advertisers bid on the prices of their ad keywords. Popular keywords cost more than unpopular keywords. Profitable keywords cost more than unprofitable keywords.

As an AdSense publisher, you have access to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool which AdWords advertisers use to do keyword research. They use to tool to find inexpensive keywords; you can use the tool to achieve the opposite goal.

Start the tool by entering a keyword you either are competing for now or are considering competing for.

Under "Choose columns to display", select "Show Estimated Avg. CPC." CPC is Cost Per Click, the mirror statistic to EPC (Earnings Per Click). CPC is what the advertisers pay, EPC is what you earn.

You can sort the keyword results by clicking on the Estimated Avg. CPC Column header.

The Advertiser Competition column is also useful, because keywords with more competition are going to be bid more highly over the long term.

But CPC is only half of the picture...

Earn More Clicks

I use the same web template across dozens of sites. On some of those sites, that template earns a 2% CTR and on nearly identical sites it earns a 30% CTR.

What's the difference? The difference is topic selection.

The number on factor in selecting topics which will generate high click through ratios is visitor intent. Visitor intent is "what is the visitor doing on this page?"

Visitors who are being entertained are the worst clickers. Visitors who are looking for information are better. Visitors who are shopping are the best clickers of all.

Guessing user intent is more of an art than a science, but it is not all that difficult. Just think about how likely a hypothetical visitor is to spend money related to that page view. The higher that likelihood, the better your chance of earning a click.

Another topic selection issue that can effect CTR is the relative ad-blindness or ad-hostility of certain usergroups. Webmasters tend to be horribly ad-blind. They look at ads so much that they don't really see them any more. Certain social groups are ad-hostile. They believe that advertising is an evil tool of capitalist swine. They are likely to run Firefox and AdBlockPlus. You won't make a lot of money selling to those folks.

Customer group selection is also important. You will make more money selling to people with money than people without money. This makes a web site about power boats more likely to be profitable than a web site about refugee relief in the Sudan.

A Final Note of Caution

For many years, people have been publishing lists of high-paying AdSense keywords. The topics on those lists are extremely competitive and are high indicators of spam to search engine spam detectors.

In addition, AdSense is smart to those tricks. The amount an AdWords advertiser pays is not indexed directly to the amount an AdSense publisher is paid. The advertiser may pay $50 for the keyword "mesothelioma", but you are not likely to see more than a few cents for that click.

Chasing any keyword from a "high paying keyword" list is likely to be an exercise in frustration.