Lao Tzu is perhaps the world’s most popular author. In the 2600 years since its initial publishing, Lao Tzu’s masterpiece, Tao Te Ching, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and reprinted more often than nearly any book in human history.
Lao Tzu was a great teacher, and a master of brevity. Though the Tao Te Ching is merely five thousand characters (less than fifty pages of English text), it conveys profound wisdom. His writing was potent, concise, and meaningful: all qualities which would prevent Lao Tzu from succeeding as an AdSense publisher.
No, Lao Tzu could never support himself on income from AdSense, or other contextual advertising systems. He probably couldn’t even earn enough to feed his water buffalo. Why?
Lao Tzu taught through the use of poetic metaphor. For example, consider this excerpt from chapter 8:
The highest form of goodness is like water.
Water knows how to benefit all things, without striving with them.
It stays in places loathed by all men.
Therefore, it comes near the Tao.
Poetry is the only feasible method of illuminating those truths which cannot be apprehended directly. When direct evidence is scarce, prohibitively expensive, or downright unavailable, metaphor is a useful substitute.
In fact, the understanding fostered by the use of metaphors is often superior to that created by examination of detailed data, wherein the forest is lost among the trees. The opportunity for such an understanding is the property of a fractal universe.
The AdSense bot has no real-world experience to draw upon, and the significance of these metaphors is beyond its grasp. Thus, readers interested in Taoist philosophy can be met with irrelevant and unappealing ads for bottled spring water. And when nobody clicks on the ads, then nobody pays the publisher.
You might suspect that, given the immense popularity of the Tao Te Ching in print, Internet niche marketing guidelines do not apply. Guess again.
Lao Tzu searches vs. Paris Hilton searches
Most professional AdSense publishers spew voluminous gobs of “content”, but Lao Tzu was clearly of no mind to do that:
Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao.
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.
Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
Lao Tzu wrote about universal truth. Unfortunately, modern search engines aren’t quite sophisticated enough to find it. Instead, they rely on keywords and phrases; in essence, telling users about what they already know.
The optimal long-tail SEO strategy, therefore, is to regurgitate conventional ideas, because they are most readily composed of familiar words and phrases. Would Lao Tzu do it?
The Tao is smooth and straight,
yet the people prefer devious paths.
Pearls Before AdSense
Using AdSense to profit from your writing is a bit like playing the lute for a cow. Your best work is often underappreciated, and equal attention is given to random noises. So, if Lao Tzu were here now, I would advise him to go into consulting instead. Maybe he could make money by helping businesses to leverage the Great Synergy?