I’ve done a few things with monetization with my EntreCourier website. Some affiliate stuff here, sell a few things there. So far it’s seemed like nickel and dime work. A few dollars here, a few cents there.
I’m okay with that. This is the long game I’m playing here. I look at a lot of that revenue like I looked at visitors when I got started: A few here, a few there, don’t panic, it’ll grow.
Okay, what about advertising?
My hesitation with advertising
I wasn’t exactly drug kicking and screaming into this idea of advertising on my site.
But I didn’t go easily, either.
I know I’m not alone, I’m annoyed by all the stuff shouting at you to get attention. I didn’t want to be that guy that just added to the mix.
I’m sure you’ve experienced sites like I have, where the pop ups and slide in ads get too much in the way of what I’m there for in the first place. The worst are the ones that are constantly resizing because of some ad materializing out of nowhere, and now I have to scroll up or down to get back to what I was reading.
I don’t want to make my website something that people regret visiting.
Is there nobility in NOT advertising or monetizing?
That’s a question that’s probably worth a lot more thought. Maybe I should jot that down as something to write about someday. I’ve struggled with that question.
I am far less likely to ever go the advertising route on another website I call Paradigm. (Then again, let’s be real here. I felt the same way about EntreCourier.)
Maybe the answer to the nobility thing is, what are you trying to accomplish? Right now, Paradigm2 is about accomplishing a mission. It’s a passion project. If I could volunteer all my time to it, I would.
But the bills have to be paid. So how do you do it?
That’s kind of how my decision process went with EntreCourier. I have a mission with that site as well, to help gig contractors grasp the idea they are business owners. But, am I willing to do it for free?
Because if I have to put time into EntreCourier AND do something else to pay the bills AND have time for family, friends and life, there’s not much left for Paradigm, is there? And for me, the end goal is to allow myself to build Paradigm.
In my situation, giving time away on EntreCourier is defeating the purpose.
The reality is, there’s nothing ignoble about monetizing a site. In fact, if I think my site is accomplishing a purpose, making a living from it can be the noble thing. That’s because if the site itself is the thing that’s paying the bills for you, it allows you more time to put into the site.
That allows one to do more good.
Weighing advertising against my mission
I had to ask the questions:
Does advertising hinder what I’m accomplishing on EntreCourier? How would it help what I’m trying to do?
I realized that a lot of sites I frequent have advertising. But it doesn’t stop me from going to the ones that are helpful. It’s kinda like TV, you learn how to tune it out.
A lot of my audience is coming to the site to look for answers to specific questions. If I place ads, and they’re placed tastefully and in a way that they don’t get in the way, those ads won’t hinder them from finding what they’re looking for.
And if the ads are paying well enough, that income frees me up to put more time into other projects.
But, can ads pay well enough?
That was a big question for me. I read so many opinions that ads don’t pay well. Maybe you make enough to buy a cup of coffee.
Is it worth driving visitors away for a cup of coffee? To me, it didn’t make sense.
Then I watched a fellow blogger in my space talk about his streams of revenue. He mentioned he was making $20 for every thousand visitors.
My first thought was, $20??? Is that all?
Then the wheels started turning. At the time, EntreCourier was already up to 40,000 visitors per month.
That’s a whole lot of coffee. But, is it realistic?
I learned that the network he was using required 100,000 visitors per month to qualify. I wasn’t there yet, but at the rate I was growing I knew I could be within a few months.
More math. 100k visitors at $20 per… now we’re talking $2,000 per month. As in $25,000 per year.
This is the kind of income that I thought was still a couple of years away.
Researching advertising options.
Okay, but how do you get that kind of money? And how do you do it without getting obnoxious?
Let’s just say I did a lot of Googling. I learned that the $20 per thousand visitors was a term called CPM. Cost per Mille (or cost per thousand).
I also learned why “peanuts” and “a cup of coffee” were part of many vocabularies when it came to advertising revenue.
The point of reference was always Adsense. It’s easy to use and almost anyone can slap ads on their site.
I thought I’d turn on the advertising option from Jetpack to see what it looks like. It was called WordAds. The 2,000 page views on that day earned a grand total of 40 cents.
My CPM was $.20. Not $20. That decimal sure makes a difference doesn’t it?
Now to be fair, that average amount shot up over a few days. Some days I was making a whole $2. That’s a 500% increase.
And hey, every two days now I can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks, instead of waiting 5 days to get it at McDonalds. That’s moving up, right?
But you know something? There was still something encouraging. $2 per day is now pretty close to $750 a year. That kinda stuff adds up.
But did I have to wait until 100,000 visitors?
My first experiment with ad revenue was disappointing. But another piece of the experience was incredibly encouraging.
I don’t think I realized where I was at as far as site traffic before looking into all this. I started hearing that you’re doing well if you can get more than 10,000 visitors a month.
Okay, I’m doing a lot better than that. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I figured out that my potential was higher than I had thought before.
Maybe I couldn’t get that $20 cpm yet, but maybe someone could get me half way?
There were other options out there. Some were terrible about all the pop-ups. Or they advertised stuff that I just didn’t want on my site. We all know those ads that annoy the heck out of us. They’re kinda the online version of the inflatable dancing dude, flashing and dancing on your page to get your attention.
I didn’t want that crap on my page.
That eliminated a lot of potential ad companies for me.
But one company kept popping up as something to check into. There was this company called Mediavine that was getting some good reviews.
And I had enough traffic for them. But would they accept me? They had a lot of recipe and lifestyle bloggers. But hey, what’s the worst that could happen?
They could say no.
I hadn’t felt this way since my job interview days.
After sending in the application, it was time to wait.
Somewhere I read that they consult with advertisers when bringing someone in from outside their normal type of blog.
Great. It’s not just one company I have to impress. It’s a whole lot of companies.
They’re not going to like me. They’ll see my audience is made up of gig economy workers who don’t have that much discretionary income.
Is that part of why I wasn’t making much on my WordAds? Was my site not that desirable?
I don’t know about you, but my self-doubt always went on steroids after a job interview. The more I wanted that job the more I knew they wouldn’t like me.
It was just like job interview days all over again.
And it felt like forever that I heard nothing. Just like another submitted resume that went nowhere.
Then, boom. This email asking for my Google Analytics data.
You mean they want to see more? It was like being called back for a second interview. They’re seriously looking at me?
I think I was more giddy about getting that request than I was when I actually got the email that my site had been accepted.
Trying to manage expectations
After not being able to cross the $2 per day with WordAds, I seriously questioned whether my site could really make any money.
If I could make $5 or $10 per day, I’d be pretty happy, you know? At this point I’ve got 50,000 page views a month. I hadn’t met the gold standard yet so I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t get that $20 per thousand.
But that’s okay. $10 per thousand would be pretty awesome. $500 per month… to me that was a pipe dream.
But what if it really was a pipe dream? What if it was closer to the $1 CPM. Was I in for a big disappointment?
I tried to manage my expectations. Don’t hope for too much, right?
When I got the acceptance letter, I did everything they asked for to get things ready. I was on vacation at the time but that didn’t matter. I was getting this done! So, I jumped through the hoops, did all the things, let them know.
A couple more things to do? Okay, check.
Then the word. Ads will go live on Monday.
It was freaking Christmas in June. The anticipation was too much.
And we’re live!
You don’t know how many times I went to my site to see what ads popped up. What was it going to look like? Was I going to hate it?
And then there they were. Five ads. They were all the same ad, but… It was five ads!
This has to be good, right?
One thing that crossed my mind was, I don’t hate it.
I mean, I didn’t know what to expect. What kind of ads would take over my site? Would they keep bouncing my content around when people were trying to read it? Would they be distracting? What kind of ads would pop up?
Are my visitors going to get the “Colorado Drivers will be shocked by…” type of ads? Or the flashy stuff that distracts them from my content?
It wasn’t that at all. They were there, but they never felt like they would get in the way.
But what were they going to pay?
I think I woke up about 4 AM Tuesday morning. It was time to open the presents. What was it going to be?
It was so early that the numbers hadn’t posted for the day.
I refreshed that page a lot. And then… there it was.
Not bad for about 2/3 of a day, right? It was about $4 CPM (they call it RPM or Revenue Per Mille). That’s four times what I made on my best day with WordAds.
I can live with that.
Holy Cow, Mediavine
Today is Saturday. Monday was the first day I went live.
A few months ago, we went away on a retreat to think through where we wanted to go with a lot of things. At the time I told her I thought EntreCourier had the potential to generate a full time income.
You know that look someone gives you when they’re trying to be supportive but you’re pretty sure they don’t believe you?
When I heard about the guy getting $20 per thousand visitors, that time I was getting the Spock look. You know, the one eyebrow raised. Intrigue.
Maybe there is potential.
Wednesday morning we were sitting on the patio for coffee and I pulled up my report.
I mean, $37 seems small, but that’s $1,000 per month kinda money.
I showed my wife. You could see the wheels spinning in her head. The calculator was working like it was for me.
This is real, isn’t it?
In one day I’d made more than what WordAds had earned in 3 weeks.
I showed my wife.
I could see the wheels of the internal calculator spinning. Not bad. I was happy.
Okay, I was ecstatic. I mean, in all my expectation management, I came to the conclusion that I’d be thrilled to make $10 per thousand. I expected it was going to take time to build up to more than that. And I was okay with that.
And yet, on day 2, I was over $15 per thousand.
But it wasn’t a holy cow moment. Yet.
Each morning, we continued the routine. I’d pull up the report, then show her.
And then I showed her this morning’s report.
Those were her words.
$97. For one day?
There’s got to be a mistake. I’m supposed to have a LOT more traffic than this to be anywhere NEAR that much.
Trying to process this.
I’m not sure what to expect going forward. I don’t know why it’s paying so well, to be honest. Right now, I don’t expect that it’s going to stay up there.
I mean, it would be sweet if it did. That’s $35,000 a year in ad revenue. For a guy like me who thought it would be cool to get a few hundred, this just doesn’t seem possible.
Right now I’m expecting it to settle down a little. I’m asking if there’s a mistake somewhere. Are they going to come back and say “whoops, our bad” and take it back?
On the one side, it helps me realize that the $35 to $50 per day isn’t unrealistic, and that’s exciting just in and of itself. But I don’t know, somewhere along the line it has to settle down. Doesn’t it?
And if it doesn’t, what do I do with that? Because all of a sudden, the income from this is far more serious than I expected. Do I double down on the site? Is this the point where I can suddenly transition to full time, or near full time?
I’m a little blown away. Maybe overwhelmed.
I think at this point I’m expecting it to settle down a little. I’m not going to set expectations that it will continue at this pace (though to be honest, it’s sure hard not to). Instead, I’ll just see what happens as this advertising thing settles in. If a month from now it’s still pretty steady, maybe then I can start making some decisions.