Bryan Helmig

Co-founder of Zapier, speaker, musician and builder of things.

I run a few websites (lets just say over a dozen) so I generally spend a lot of my time optimizing and tweaking these sites. My first site, a free guitar lesson resource, survives solely off of Adsense. I like Adsense, its easy to use, is extremely popular, and there are is no shortage of willing advertisers.

I receive decent traffic from all three of the big search engines, and while the night may still be quite young, I can already see which site I am leaning towards as my favorite search engine…

A comparison of revenue earning power.

Thanks to Google Analytics’s handy Adsense integration, I can see exactly which keywords will give me better eCPM, or “the estimated revenue from AdSense per thousand ad page views”. Out of my largest referrers, the highest eCPM earners are…

  1. Bing with 425% of average eCPM!
  2. Yahoo! with 188% of average eCPM.
  3. Direct (no referral) at 98% of average eCPM.
  4. Google with 71% of average eCPM.

Now these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, I haven’t controlled for other variables, like landing pages, keywords or traffic numbers. However, a cursory overview tells me that any set of numbers with a extreme deviations from the average warrant further investigation. Discuss this, I will.

What’s going on?

Well, Bing and Yahoo! both rank me much, much higher on my target terms than Google (think top 5 vs. top 50). So right off the bat, I am thinking of this in a couple ways:

  1. Bing and Yahoo! are both sending me much more relevant traffic. Therefore the users are more engaged with the site, and are more willing to explore relevant advertising offers.
  2. Bing and Yahoo! are both sending me much less relevant traffic. Therefore the users are less engaged with the site, and want to click away from the site through advertisements.
  3. Google users are more web savvy, and tend to ignore the branding of the the Google Adsense ads (they do have a distinct look).

Well which is it? Well, let me bring in some more information: bounce rates. Bounce rates are great indicators of whether people stick around on your site or not, the lower the bounce rate, the better. Low bounce rates mean users spend more time on your site, time that is likely to translate to favorable actions (bookmarking, ad clicking, etc.), so there might be a little harmonizing amongst the data… Let us explore:

  1. Yahoo! with a BR of 38.06%.
  2. Bing with a BR of 39.52%.
  3. Direct (no referral) with a BR of 45.37%.
  4. Google with a BR of 50.98%.

Anyway you slice it, this doesn’t look good for Google. Google has the highest bounce rate of the bunch, even higher than the site average. Yahoo! and Bing are both neck and neck. And they make me more money per click-through, Win-win! However, in all fairness, they are sending traffic from different search terms. Yahoo! and Bing just seem to be better at choosing relevant search terms at the moment.

The last theory I put forth was one that suggests that Google users are a little less advertisement prone than their counterparts at Bing and Yahoo!. Perhaps this is true since most folks are learning of Bing through Microsoft’s big ad campaign. Sheeple in, sheeple out. Coincidence!? Probably. Who knows.

Why is it so?

Well, in reality, it may not be so. The data isn’t very normalized. In fact, as of right now, both Bing and Yahoo! combined only send about 1/5 of the traffic Google sends. But this number is growing everyday, so we’ll have to come back in a couple months to see if this changes.

But as for now, I am thinking Bing and Yahoo! are both ranking me better for keywords I know my site is good for. Google just seems to be pickier (and a little less efficient in this case). My suggestion would be to get you some Bing traffic and see for yourself.

Whoever is reading this and has a soft spot for statistics of any sort, perhaps you can put forth some clarifications or suggestions. I’d love it.

Edit: Now with the Yahoo!/Bing deal, let’s hope these numbers hold up and more traffic comes pouring through. 🙂

Posted July 1, 2009 @ 4:27 pm under Work.