Could Lao Tzu Make Money With AdSense?

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.

Mandelbrot set (rendered by Wolfgang Beyer)

Example of a fractal image
Each part is a copy of the whole

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.

Lao Tzu omitted needless words. While this practice is a hallmark of good writing, it doesn’t produce the long-tail search engine traffic coveted by niche publishers.

SEO expert Aaron Wall recommends that AdSense pages contain 500 to 600 words. But if Lao Tzu’s 81 chapters were published online, each would average just 62 characters.

You might suspect that, given the immense popularity of the Tao Te Ching in print, Internet niche marketing guidelines do not apply. Guess again.

Chart: popularity of Lao Tzu and Paris Hilton
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?


  1. Great point, dude. Adsense is okay at coming up with relevant ads to serve to my site but occasionally I get huge banner ads for interior decorating and that sort of thing

  2. The world’s most popular writer does not need adsense or any other nonsense.
    How much of an increase in revenue does a blog like this, linked to adsense and therefore surrounded by ads, bring to you?

  3. Honestly, these ads pay the kind of money that jingles, not the kind that folds. I could go into further detail, but I prefer to focus on the subject of martial arts for personal development.

  4. Fair enough. I also prefer to focus on martial arts for personal development.
    I believe that the geniuses of the past would find a path in the present, even if a different one from before.
    Lao Tzu was able to say in a few words what many writers can’t say in whole books.
    I agree that the current approach is very different. However, if a contemporary writer of genius appeared the average writers would follow and fashions would change, and if the fashions changed then the businesses that follow them would try to too.
    Adsense would try to make money from Lao Tzu.

  5. Well there’s no question you’ve made a commitment to adesense around here!

    I have had mixed results. I’m doing my part and was able to multiply last months earnings by 10. But Adsense is killing me on content matching . But IF you can get content matching and a good amount of traffic you’ll make dough (plus a few other secrets, but I’m sure Tzu would agree for me not to reveal all…)

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