|Sorting the fairytales from the reality|
It's probably because I don't have a single business orientated brain cell between my ears, but I am finding some of the stories regarding the amount of money generated purely from advertising simply mind blowing and would REALLY appreciate anyone who could give me a rough estimate of potential advertising revenue.
To give you a bit of background on my situation, I own and run a site in partnership with a mate, and it has been this way for a good 2 years now. This site started purely as a hobby, and is how we continue to run it. Being techies, neither of us really though about making anything more than a bit of pocket money from the site until recently, and are now wanting to develop it so that it can sustain a decent income ($50,000~$60,000 USD each) for both of us.
The essentials (as far as I know) of our site in our favour are;
- It offers free support (via forums only) and 450 odd technical guides and articles (of our own) specifically relating to one of Microsoft's most popular server class technologies, and both of us (as well as two other forum regulars) have been recognised by Microsoft with an MVP (Most Valuable Professional) award.
- We have around 100,000 unique visitors a month, and anywhere between 200,000 and 250,000 page views a month.
- We have well over 8000 registered members posting between 20~30 topics a day in the forums
- 4000 odd Newsletter subscribers.
- RSS feeds from all sections of our site that have content added on a regular basis.
- Being that we support a Microsoft product, there are literally hundreds of commercial 3rd party software vendors out there that develop specifically for this technology. So I wouldn't think there would be a shortage of potential advertisers.
- Have recently started holding monthly give aways for member contributions with prizes donated by sponsors.
The essentials (as far as I know) of our site that are not in our favour are;
- Looks like a hobby site run by techies (horrid design, and layout)
- No dedicated (or decent) advertising system
- Contacting us in regards to advertising is not immediately apparent (just noticed this the other day actually)
- Have NO IDEA of what our site worth is in terms of advertising revenue. I'm tipping we undersell ourselves significantly as I've read a lot of people here charging $5 an upwards per CPM. We are much less than that, and no advertiser has ever so much as battered an eyelid when given our rates.
- Approach to running the site has been a bit haphazard as we try and run it in and around our working and social lives.
Could someone please give me an indication of what a realistic monthly earning potential for a site like this might be? Also any pointers of examples of how to run a site to maximize attractiveness for potential advertisers would be greatly appreciated.
>> what a realistic monthly earning potential for a site like this might be
5-10% of the sales you can drive. :)
Tell me, how many new visitors you get a day, where they come from (geography and referals).
If you have 100K techies visiting you from call centers in India and solving their customers problems, they're worth far less than say 10K senior systems administrators who can authorise purchases. (Just a silly example... but you have to know what your visitors are worth).
Once you know the buying power of the visitors, you can then focus on either changing the demographics (broadening or adding a new niche) OR using the visitors credit cards to your advantage.
Only 5%~10%? Doesn't sound like much. But then again, I had no idea what to expect. If people are sucessfully charging $10 per CPM or above for a targeted market, and from what I've read an average CTR is somewhere between 0.5% and 2%, then there must be a high conversion rate through to purchase of those clicking through.
Don't have access to detailed stats at the minute, but just under half (49.5%) of our visitors are from America, with the next highest region being Europe at around 30%. Last time I looked at the detailed stats (about a month or two ago) we had around 30% return visitors. I see what you're saying regarding the value of the visitor though.
>> Only 5%~10%? Doesn't sound like much.
You just have to push a million or two dollars worth of product. Not too difficult if you can get the traffic sorted out.
CPM buys... you're not going to get them with your stats and site problems.
Tell you what .. if you're in a microsoft niche, see if you can work some hosting packages into your site. Web hosts pay ridiculous amounts in commissions. If you can SEO for microsoft and windows related hosting terms you're set.
>>You just have to push a million or two dollars worth of >>product. Not too difficult if you can get the traffic >>sorted out.
So by that I assume you mean 200,000 page views a month isn't going to be able to support us? Just to show you how business minded I am not, I've only just checked out the retail value of the products offered by our main sponsors, and they range from $50 to $1995 USD. The one with a product selling for $1995 is one of our biggest sponsors and has an ad displayed on every single page view in a very prominent postition, right under the main menu.
>>CPM buys... you're not going to get them with your >>stats and site problems.
Well, with the exception of having no idea what our site traffic is worth to our sponsors, all other 5 points that I've identified as being against us can be fixed within a month or two. I wouldn't dream of asking $10 per CPM from where we are now, even $5 per CPM would be a massive increase on what we have now. Do you think we should be looking at offering CTR based advertising plans instead from where we are now? What would be a decent price per click for a CTR plan (ballpark of course)?
>>Tell you what .. if you're in a microsoft niche, see >>if you can work some hosting packages into your site. >>Web hosts pay ridiculous amounts in commissions. If >>you can SEO for microsoft and windows related hosting >>terms you're set.
Web hosts might not suit us actually, as the technology we support is actually IIS (Microsoft's Webserver), so a lot of the people asking questions are actually working for hosting companies, and not looking for places to host. SEO doesn't seem that bad (not great, but not bad) as we are in the top 10 results when searching for "IIS" on 6 of the top search engines I tried (No. 3 on google who is by far our biggest single referer). Think we could do a lot of work on our keywords though to broaden things up.
>> So by that I assume you mean 200,000 page views a month isn't going to be able to support us?
No, I did not mean that. We have one finance related site which averages about $20-25CPM on adsense alone. Top notch information and good SEO behind it. (I actually did an A/B test and saw that the CPM hit $100 when I err .. turned off the content.. but that is another story).
Let me begin with some basics.
1) Do NOT bank your life on one site. You can get caught up in collateral damage and get destroyed pretty quickly. Now its if its just beer money, but don't bank your mortgage and kids college fund on it.
This is true with any business. Imagine a restaurant with just one location where they only served up "beef" products. Might work.. but that limits the range the owners can play with.
2) Look at your niche carefully. Are you the leader and do you have the ability to dominate the search results for that niche? A very important lesson that one of the superest of all affiliates that I've met was a one liner .. "if you can dominate that niche.. no matter what it is, you can make money".
3) Think laterally when it comes to your audience. If they work for corporations chances are product type affiliate programs will not work, given that they need authorisations, purchase orders and all sorts of paper work to buy equipment and services. However, they do make a good living with what they do at work... how can you make them suceed. Say MS certification programs, books... whatever... a geek dating program...
If you are a one site wonder, it is going to take time to diversify, so might as well exploit your current wonder while things are good.
Look at Amazon, CJ and see what sort of things support your audience.
As an example, I'd searched for "IIS books" and came up with a $47 book which looks like a bible. From there, look at the Listmania, SIPS and CAPS (those are awesome for researching long tail keywords..). Create a review section on your site which allows you to post a featured review and allows your visitors to post their comments. It could be a forum or it could be driven by a custom CMS... (irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make).
If you can then rank for "IIS books" and related long tails.. you're going to achive two things. 1) You'll increase your traffic.. newbies will now learn from people who have worked with IIS all their lives.. 2) With Adsense and an Amazon buy box in there, what have you got to loose?
4) Do your experimenting while you have a day job. Once you've sort of worked out a system that works (say you start selling a copy of the book that I mentioned earlier), expand on that.
Hmm.. time for me to go back to work and update my dog's blog on how he learnt about IIS deployment procedures by reading this wonderful book. ;)
Thanks again for your help shri. I've gone from not even being aware you could make any decent money on a low budget website such as mine, to then thinking I was sitting on a goldmine and didn't know it, and now think that there is money to be made with my site except I just don't have the skills at present to get it there :-) . Seems I've come almost a full circle :-) .
I'll be sure to take all you're advice on board as I try and get some business wits about me :-). Another example I just found is quite a few of our site partners have gotten up around 10,000 referals from us, one has even gotten 16,000. However as our click tracking software is so limited, I have absolutely no idea of how long these took to accumalate. It could be 2 months, it could be 2 years! I think getting a decent banner management program in there such as phpAdsNew to start collecting some usable data for 6 months or so should be a prioirity so we actually have something to work from.
Thanks again :-)
>> I just don't have the skills at present to get it there
One last tip .. start with the forum libraries. They have some of the best tips / threads you can find on the site.
Don't get overwhelmed and buy us a round when you get your first check.
By the way, I'm assuming you've strategically thrown adsense on your site. :)
Excellent post, Shri. Some nice insights!
Hi brashquido & shri,
Sorry my question, but for me to understand this interesting post, can you please clarify me what do you mean with:
>>> I've read a lot of people here charging $5 an upwards per CPM
>>> I wouldn't dream of asking $10 per CPM from where we are now, even $5 per CPM would be a massive increase
>>> CTR plan
>>> which averages about $20-25CPM on adsense alone
Thanks in advance & kind regards
It's possible you could do quite well, although forums are hard because the format tends to inflate page impression and visitor stats.
I also recommend you experiment with AdSense, but read the Program Policies and the contract and the FAQ carefully. Then go over to the WebmasterWorld AdSense forum and read some more. You have to take the program seriously and not inadvertently break their rules (e.g. by encouraging forum members to click the ads in order to support your site).
Before Bourbon I was getting alot of traffic to a section of my site where i'd post KB articles as I solved problems in my own capacity as a MCSE IT Manager. I can tell you that my adsense conversions were extremely low, I get the impression that techy people, specifically professionals get their info and scram they don't tend to linger or "surf". If I had a technical forum that would be like combining the worst audience in the worst format for ad conversions. That's just my experience, your milage may vary. If you find you agree than you'd want to pursue CPM routes maybe check kanoodle if you can get past using popup ads.
Shri: Nice answers, thanks for posting them!
|I just don't have the skills at present to get it there |
The best advice I can offer you is: Don't believe the above quote!
You may not have all the skills the real pros do, yet. But you undoubtably have enough to get started. To begin with, you knew enough to ask a good question in a great forum.
You can start with Adsense, and then work your way up from there as you learn more and explore more options.
The important part is to start.
Two fairly easy-to-implement advertising methods I'd suggest are AdSense and (if/when you reach 500k pageviews a month) IntelliTXT from Vibrant Media.
AdSense can be plugged into just about any size ad space and automatically generates ads based on page content. If your pages are fairly targeted, there's no reason why you can't get an effective CPM of more than $5 from it.
IntelliTXT scans the text of your page and automatically attatches links to certain keywords. This can be useful if certain pages touches on many different topics, and it's almost ideal for a forum.
Also, if your site has a high PR (4-5+), you can sell text link ads through one of the many text link brokerages on the net. Depending on the PR and the number of links bought, this can bring in a fair sized monthly revenue stream, though it's typically a flat fee (i.e. you get the same amount of money no matter how many times the text ads are clicked on).
Do you count forums as part of your pageview number?
We already have Google Ads, which was great to start with but has REALLY slakened off in terms of revenue generation (not even enough to cover beer money now). It'll be a while until we get to 500,000 page views a month, but the IntelliTXT sounds like a great idea. We have a PR of around 5 last time I looked, so it might be worth me looking up some text link ads.
P.S - Yes we do cound our forums as part of our total pageviews.
I've been profoundly unimpressed by IntelliTXT whenever I've seen it on a site. I guess all that matters for the publisher is the bottom line (okay, a big thing if not "all"), but it doesn't seem like it would drive motivated traffic to advertisers. More like people idly wondering, why is the word "cars" highlighted?
One thing I personally would be careful of in monetizing a site that essentially caters to professionals, and is an info resource for them, is not to break down that no-nonsense professional feel of it. You know, technical pros just immersed in their passion. That is what probably got your site to this position in the first place.
Else you have to make a decision to maybe change the visitor profile completely, utilizing the sites position in the SERPs to bring a different surfer in, which may come at the expense of some of your present traffic.
>> One thing I personally would be careful of in monetizing a site that essentially caters to professionals, and is an info resource for them, is not to break down that no-nonsense professional feel of it.
So they should know how much the information is worth.
Unfortunately this is one of those myths "don't monetise your site if it caters for niche x" that is best tested by the individual owner of the site.
Never said don't monetize a site...
Simply said be careful of losing credibility with your specific type of traffic. Someone mentioned dating for geeks....
Type of links you put into your site will effect how your info is judged. As a professional myself, if I am looking for specialized info I would certainly not take it from a site that offers dating links. It would make me doubt the qualifications of the source. Simple really
In the box, outside the box and no box. :)
A great way to monetize a techie site in a professional way is to offer free white papers from your advertisers, but charge the advertiser pay-per-download lead. These turn into corporate leads.
We advertize with CN*T this way, pay big $$$.