Back at the end of Oct 2007, I admitted my long-term efforts to reach $100/mth in AdSense revenue on all of my blogs collectively. Embarrassing but true. Since then, I reached about $160 in Nov and just over $200 in Dec. However, January isn’t shaping up too well, and I’m not surprised – especially after Xmas. (Note: this doesn’t include revenue from other ad sources. My total take is still only about $475/mth, minus my partners’ shares.)
I’ll still be past $150/mth (AdSense) in January, I think, but not all of these earnings belong to me, since I’m partnered on some of the sites. So AdSense still hasn’t worked for me. However, now that I have a bit more time to devote to sites that I own/ co-own, I do see that a scientific approach works for certain niches. Here’s what I’ve learned since cracking $100/mth in AdSense (including emphasizing what I’d learned in October):
- Traffic. It takes a great deal of traffic to earn a living with just AdSense. And then some. And traffic is seasonal, as well as affected by holidays. Even important TV or sporting events will affect traffic.
- Low CTR. Many popular niches have very low ad CTR (ClickThrough Rates). I long ago gave up regularly updating any of my “how to blog” blogs. Instead, I casually add new content when I have it, and might occasionally get a dollar here and there. But my focus is down to about four niches instead of the dozen-plus that divided my efforts and earned me nothing.
- Diversify topics. If you are banking on just AdSense, consider diversifying with a few sites covering topics you’re interested in. But honestly, don’t fool yourself into believing you can maintain more than two active blogs on your own, especially if you are covering non-overlapping topics. I’ve given up that effort, but I do add new content once in a while to my mostly dormant older sites. The difference now is that I do it when I feel like it, not because I have to. And the net result is better quality articles.
- Supplement ads. Depending on your niche, throw in some CPM (Cost per Mille) ads to capitalize on traffic. Not all niches have suitable ad networks, but if you luck out, it can make the difference between giving up and sticking it out a bit longer. CPM ads are really useful if you plan to write and promote “resource bait”, which might bring surges of traffic that earns you at least $3-5 per thousand (per Mille) pageviews.
- Paid reviews. Personally, I don’t like doing these. They sometimes appear on my sites, but I often get a friend to do the review and pay them the full amount. But if you have a suitable niche and don’t mind, these can earn you some extra income. The problem for me is that they take extra writing time on top of what you already write.
- Diversify income sources. I still don’t believe MOST bloggers will earn a living with just AdSense. I’ve previously discussed many ways for alternate income (such as freelancing), and for using blogging as a means to promote your other income sources. This includes promoting your services and products. (For example, I hope to use blogging to promote my movies, once I finish film school. In the meantime, I’ll keep building my personal brand, as well as start promoting my future film studio name. I no longer plan to make a living from just blogging. It’s not satisfying enough for me.)
- Take a scientific approach. In the right niche, you can often count on a consistent average daily CTR for ads. Say it’s 2%. Work backwards. The daily CPC (Cost per Click) will fluctuate, and is affected by seasonal changes, but make a rough, conservative guess.
Maybe you want to earn $1000/mth. And maybe you’re averaging $0.20 per click. That requires 5,000 clicks per month, or an average of 167 clicks per day. (Just consider that weekends are usually slower for most niches – something I’ve tested in about 15-20 niches.)
If you’re averaging 2% CTR, then you need about 8,350 PV (pageviews) per day. If you are using social media sites and can figure out how to get at least 100 PV for each post you promote, then you’d need 83 posts/ day. Not a winning approach. This is where you need to put the most effort: efficient ways to promote your posts, even after the search engines finally index your new site. This is why you need to make lots of “social” friends.
On the other hand, if you can pull 500 PV per post by using five or six social media sites, then you only have to do 15 posts/day. Not long ones, but you’ll still want to write at least 100 words/post, to escape “thin content” search engine penalties. Put some effort into maximizing the effect of your blog posts.
Obviously, this 15 posts/day approach is not suitable for all niches. In some niches, readers simply won’t appreciate it. But the general principles I’ve mentioned still apply. Your niche might just have a rough scientific formula, though 3-5 quality posts per day might be all you need – especially if it has a high ad CTR, or at least provided you make the effort to promote on social media sites.
And when the search engines finally kick in and send traffic in the many thousands of pageviews per day, that’s when the revenue COULD go exponential. Provided you’ve done everything else right, and added a reasonable mix of CPC (e.g., AdSense) and CPM or CPA ads.
Building a successful blog is like playing a game of golf: there are dozens of factors you have to apply in sync. Here are a few:
- Adding timely content of at least 100+ words, if your site is newsy.
- Adding quality content that satisfies your readers and induces them to help you promote.
- Promoting your own content or hiring someone to do it for you.
- Having the most optimal layout of content, navigation, and advertising.
- Being consistent.
There are other factors, but these are the ones that come foremost to mind. You just have to find the rhythm that’s right for you and your topic.