When you’re starting out, the idea of making some passive income on your website is pretty appealing. So you look at services like Google Adsense or Project Wonderful, and you think that’s it. Sign up, toss some ads up, and you’ll make $.50 a month (yes, that’s fifty cents). For most people, that works quite well. But what happens when you’re not ‘most’ people?
What Is an “Edge” Site?
An edge site is a site that has a very niche audience. For example, 10 years ago, WordPress would have been a very niche subject and thus an ‘edge’ site if you were trying to get advertising. But if you said “It’s a technology blog” then you’d have a broader set of possible advertisers.
Paradoxically, niche sites do better in Google search results, which makes them better traffic but harder to target. However, that’s not what an edge site really is. An edge site is a site that has content on the edge of what the various ad hosts would be comfortable allowing. And if they’re not comfortable, then they’ll close your account even if it’s just one of your domains that they don’t like.
What Makes It Questionable Content?
Have you ever read those terms of service? The ones you agree to when you sign up for ad companies? Of course not. But you kind of get the gist of what they’re on about. Basically they don’t want anything offensive on their networks, like promoting racism or bigotry. And there’s always a clause in there about “pornographic or sexually explicit material” — to whit, don’t have it.
But what you may not realize is that sexually explicit also covers talking about sex. No, I don’t mean the erotica kind of content, I mean if I use Google Ads, I can’t have a website that gives you advice on sexual dysphoria, or even sexual health issues.
How Do You Know if You’re Edge?
I found out because Google AdSense decided that a picture of two women in a bubble bath (which was a promo picture for a TV show) was too much. They cited it as being ‘adult’ and there was no further information as to if it was actually the image or if it was the post content. Yes, you read that correctly. They just said “This page is naughty!” and didn’t give me a chance to figure out what or why or how, except to experiment.
Oh and if you experiment and get it wrong, you run the risk of losing the whole AdSense account, not just that one domain. Have a nice day.
Google effectively doesn’t care about you. There’s no way to email someone and say “Hey, is the problem this one image or the subject matter of my site, which you approved 2 years ago?”
What Are The Options?
Now that I’ve scared you a bit, your choices boil down to:
- Find a lenient service
- Host ads yourself
- Rely on affiliate links
They do really suck.
The biggest issue with the services is that unless there’s a human-contact available, there’s very little you can do if you ‘break’ guidelines by being on that edge. I mentioned Google as the worst (if you have less than 500k page views a month, you’re outta luck), but Amazon’s not really much better unless you like auto-replies and stock answers. In my experience, the best people behind ads are Project Wonderful, but the quality of ads can be a bit low.
Even though I run my own, self-hosted, WordPress site, I loathe the idea of a self-hosted ad service. You can do it via WordPress plugins, but if you’re thinking they all look a bit janky, you’re right. They do. They’re all clunky in my eyes. Revive (formerly OpenX Source) is the nicest, but they’re not very fast and you have to maintain them. Which is an extra burden. And then it’s the damn hustle to get ads and manage them.
Lastly you have affiliates. Now they’re a curious mix of the most lenient, whereby I mean some like ShareASale will let you do anything but ‘adult’ and hate sites, and others like Amazon are super super picky. In both cases, though, they let affiliates approve you as an individual, so there’s that.
If you want ‘easy’ money and you’re an edge or niche site that is possibly on that inane ‘family friendly’ bubble, you’re going to need to go with Project Wonderful. At least until you get big enough for BuySellAds to pick you up. Otherwise it’s a hustle to get the attention.
Or you could try selling things…