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Do AdSense Referrals Work?

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of March 2007 Adsense, Affiliate Programs 0 Comments

Today’s reader question is – ‘I would like to know your views on Google referral ads. Do you make money out of them, or is it something to run away from?’ – submitted by gabo_uy.

Google AdSense Referrals are the CPA ads (cost per action) from the popular AdSense service. At the time of writing this they have four products for their publishers to choose from (AdSense itself, AdWords, Google Pack and Firefox plus Google Toolbar). Putting it most simply – if a reader makes that you send to one of these services does a certain thing (they are different in each case) you then get paid a certain amount.


For example if I refer someone to the Firefox plus Google Toolbar and they actually download and use it I get paid $1. If someone someone downloads and installs the Google Pack I get $2. If someone signs up for AdWords and spends $5 within 90 days as an advertiser I get $5 etc (full details of what you can earn for different conversions here).

So onto gabo_uy’s question – do I make money from the Google referral program?

There’s a short answer and a long one.

The short answer
Yes I make money from the Google AdSense Referral Program.

The long answer
I’ve had very mixed success with AdSense Referrals.

I’ve attempted to promote all four of their products (in fact there used to be a fifth – the Picassa photosharing service) and the only two that I’ve had returns on that have amounted to anything are the AdSense and AdWords programs.

I’m not sure I can give specific details of my conversions on the referrals program – but let me make these observations on my own earnings:

  • Earnings have Improved this month – I’ve been using them since they began the program in November 2005. In that time I’ve earned earned a bit over $2900 from the program (almost completely from the AdWords and AdSense products). However a around half of what I’ve earned has been earned in the 2 months since they changed their payout system to reward publishers at lower conversion levels
  • The conversion rates are very low in my experience. Despite having a site that is fairly closely related to AdSense (and a lesser extent AdWords) the percentages of those clicking on the referral links/buttons is incredibly low. The percentage of those who click that actually convert to the thresholds that AdSense require is even lower (although the 1 Feb changes will help this).

So my overall reflections on the Google AdSense Referral program are mixed. There has definitely been some improvement of late with it due to both the changes AdSense made but also as a result of a few changes in the way I use it.

Tomorrow I want to write a second post on Google AdSense Referrals – this time asking ‘how can you make them perform better?’ In this post I’ll share some of the changes I’ve made over the last couple of months that have helped improve my earnings from them.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Really glad you posted this. I’ve been asking myself that question. I have adsense and the firefox/google toolbar on my site and have been considering taking it out. Looking forward to learning more about your experience with these, especially how you improved the functionality.

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  3. My Experience:
    – added a referral (Picas) after one month the number of clicks was 0
    – with the PC of a friend of mine I’ve downloaded the picasa software from my website, I’ve installed it but the number of clicks was ever 0
    – I’ve stopped to use google referrrals

  4. I have tried Firefox and Google pack referrals for about six months (20K page impressions). Till date my total earnings = $0.00!

    Haven’t tried adwords or adsense referrals.

  5. Nope, the click thru rates r six feet under. forget conversions…..not even worth talking about. Still I dont know why use them!

  6. As always I learn so much about what I have already come in contact with on the web from your posts. I appreciate the way you answer questions from your own experiences in a way that is easy to understand.

  7. I don’t bother using the referral systme. I don’t havce enough readers to make it worth while. My 3 third/newest blog hasn’t been up very long so cluttering it with unnessasary ads would turn people away I think.

  8. I was hoping to use the referrals as well on my site but it doesn’t look like it would be worth it for my site.

  9. It must have a lot to do with your niche. I run a silly humor site, and for the first few weeks I ran Adsense ads, and all of their referral banners. In those first 3 weeks, I made very little from Adsense (about $20), but I received another $20 from people signing up for Firefox.

    At the time, I was only getting 50-100 visitors a day, which means that approximately 2% of all visitors installed Firefox. Seemed like a very high conversion rate for a product that everyone already knows how to acquire.

    I’ve since eliminated all ads to focus on building traffic (which has worked splendidly, now over 10K uniques/day), but I’ll almost certainly bring back that Firefox referral ad. If it maintains that same 2% conversion rate, then I’ve just found myself a new job! ;)

  10. I didn’t have succes with adsense refferals at first, but made huge succes when my friends got interested how I earn money, and after I explained them how to start blogspot+adsense (plus how to get few thousand visitors in few days through various free/legal methods that produce the traffic = clicks) they almost instantly earned 100$ in 4-5 days. (submissions to bigger sites) ie. link of the day etc…

    so I got around 10 clicks on adsense refferals = 10 conversions :) in about 1 year…

  11. The problem is that everyone who has a website already knows about Adsense, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who says, “Adsense? What’s that?”

  12. I Agree with you Brandon, Maybe AdSense referrals worked fine two years ago, but not now.

  13. I’ve never had a referral for adsense, but then again I don’t write about blogging or write to webmasters.

    If you put relevant ads on your site to that of which you write, you’ll always have success.

  14. I found that promoting an adsense “join page” on my site drove more targeted visitors rather than including the banners or text links below posts.

  15. My question is: are there intangible benefits to displaying Google referral ads? Having Adsense ads and other kinds of advertising make most blogs less appealing… however, some Google referral ads seem to be in a different class (they don’t look like ads so much as a “powered by”-type deals). Any “social proof” value from the Google brand, or other benefits?

  16. One problem that I see as a potential reason for having almost zero installs of Firefox is that almost 80% of my visitors already use firefox. Most of them also know about AdSense and AdWords and I am not sure how well Google Pack referral unit performs. I read about a site on Digital point forums that makes $600 to $800 a month by just the referral units, I was quite amazed and trying to drill down into their techniques to get such a high conversion.

  17. Darren, have you considered that perhaps many people are using your AdSense referrals as a tip jar? Perhaps new bloggers looking for information get recommended to your site, find useful info, then sign up though you as a “thank you”? I did that when I bought an ebook recently – I made sure I clicked through your link right before the purchase, and when I signed up with Dreamhost I used WordPress.org’s affiliate link to say thank you.

    I once got one AdSense sign-up over a year ago, but nothing came of it, and I dropped the link as it just chewed up valuable space. I do have a cunning plan, however, to try to get a few Google Pack signups…

  18. I only had some success refering Picassa. I have 334 conversions, but in Portugal the price is lower.
    I don’t use best places for the referals. But found that a banner or a text link on my site’s gallery has some sucess.

  19. Hey all,

    I am a new blogger. I only have one blog which is almost a month old now and averages about 500 hits per day (although my flickr page gets about 5000 hits per day) but I intend to put together a few more blogs over the next few months. Anyway I have been experimenting with adsense referrals with zero success and have considered removing them. None are related to my blog in anyway. I agree Kens post above on the tip-jar idea. I think that most of the ad clicks on my site are probably from people who appreciate my time and effort. I know that when I signed up for text link ads i did it thru an ad on this site as my way of showing my appreciation for the site. Although before I had a site myself I know I never clicked on any ads ever.

    Sorry for rambling.

    Just my 2 cents.


  20. I have pretty much the opposite results.

    Promoting Firefox and Google Pack bring in 10% to 15% of my overall AdSense revenue on any given day, primarily from just one button on one fairly well read web site.

    I’ve made virtually nothing from promoting AdWords and AdSense, even to those who might be interested and not already have an account.

  21. I think the problem with the referal ads is that the products being refered are already very poular and if everybody already has them, why wil they even think of cliking.
    On my blog, I use this feature due to 2 main reasons:

    (1)I love Google and firefox and I really dont mind making them popular for free. I guess that might be too generous and even stupid for a few.

    (2)My site is actually best viewd on firefox and not IE or opera or safari.

    I guess it might not be a big income source but the amount of space a text referral takes is minimal too. Atleast, it doesnt matter on my blog yet.

  22. As with any affiliate-styled product referral it makes sense to use it in a highly relevant context. I make between $500-$600 monthly on a combination of Google Pack, Firefox, and Picasa (now bundled with Google Pack).


  23. I must say that my conversion rates were also poor on FireFox, G Pack etc. However, on Adsense referrals I get a few clicks per they and a few new users every week.

    Nevertheless, for my opinion it’ll be best practice to keep fresh content, optimized site, and sticking with the basic text/images Ad links.

  24. I thought your conversion rate would be extremely low – even though as you said, your blog is closely related and thus attracts very targeted readers.

  25. In about 3 months since I implemented referrals on our sites I had just 1 download … and that was on Picasa.

    I will definitely drop referrals.

  26. […] You don’t have to take MY word for it — Problogger writes honestly about whether or not Adsense “works.” […]

  27. I am quite surprised you referals are so low considering the amount of traffic you must be receiving.

    I have searched all over your site and can’t any specific articles about how to get traffic to a new site could anyone tell me where I might find this kind of info?

  28. One question to all people here: why I don’t have Google Pack in my AdSense Referrals setup? I just have Google AdSense, Google AdWords and Firefox plus Google Toolbar :(

    This Google Pack could be the solution to increase my clicks / downloads / earning …

  29. […] Yesterday, I came across another post by Problogger. He was talking about whether adsense really work or not. […]

  30. hi! I am a new blogger and not familiar to this system of google adsense referral. But I will try to use this since I badly need to monetize my site.

  31. I dont think using referrals is a good idea when you are starting your monetizing. As many have stated above, the conversion rates are actually quite low. I read a good article on Ed’s page about monetizing your blog if you are serious about making money

    If you don’t have your own product (I highly recommend you create one as soon as possible), you should go about picking one, two or three top affiliate products (or services).
    One of the best affiliate program directories can be found at http://www.associateprograms.com.

    . Read the article on that site here

  32. I don’t make any money from AdSense Referrals i am calad you do
    thanks for the grat post

  33. Darren,

    First of all thank you very much for answering my question, I was re reading it a couple of days ago and wondering if it would ever have an answer, funny. Thanks again!

    Now, my two cents. Last month I created a “Pay your bill with Google: My experience with AdSense” post (in spanish) and conversions on that post are much higher than in regular pages.

    Also another thing that boosted conversions was mouth to mouth as bap commented, telling friends how I’m making real money and getting checks with google has increased interests, and conversions, within my circle of friends. I’m also tutoring some of them on their first steps with adsense.

    thanks again,

  34. I actually made a website specifically about firefox. This allows me to use any kind of link that I want to firefox, and the page it’s self explains some of firefox’s benefits. I’ve actually had good luck with this technique.

  35. I Have made just a little bit of money with google, but not enough to say its great. I made alot more money with hot rocket inc.

  36. I don’t make any money from AdSense Referrals i am calad you do
    thanks for the grat post

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