| This 60 message thread spans 2 pages: 60 (  2 ) > > || |
|Double Yer Pages, Double Yer $$? Probly not.|
AdSense Ain't a Linear Game
I was enjoying the latest thread about calculating how much AdSense money could be made [webmasterworld.com] when it occurred to me this is pretty much a FPF (Frequently Posted Fallacy), much like the recurring Search for High-Paying Keywords [webmasterworld.com]. Since I took a whack at the other one, thought I would take a whack at this one too.
One of the bad features of AdSense blinders (having Google completely separate you from the task of getting either readers or advertisers) is this familiar fallacy:
|If one page makes me $1/day, then all I have to do is come up with 999 more pages, and I'll be making $365,000/year! |
Why does this reasoning virtually always diverge so far from reality as to be useless?
- Good ol' Zipf For any website with a non-trivial number of pages, you invariably end up with a Zipf distribution of traffic (and earnings!) across your pages, which is about as far from a uniform distribution as you can get. 20% of your pages will get you about 80% of your earnings, so you end up "wasting" (assuming we ignore secondary effects) 80% of your time. Wasting 80% of the time you spent creating 10 pages is a very different feeling than wasting 80% of the time you spent creating 1,000 pages. It may become difficult to stay motivated!
Look at this another way. You have to write 10 pages to get 2 that perform significantly better than your average (keep in mind, your "average" will quite likely be closer to $.05/click than to $1/click). To get 20 good performers, figure on writing 100 pages. To get 200 good performers, yup, you need 1,000 pages. Will you really have the energy to shoot for 2,000 good performers? (Of course, this is a general rule and a general law of distribution -- please don't bother to post how your specific numbers are woohoo better or boohoo worse. The point is, if you're starting out and you believe your website is going to magically be immune to the curse of the Zipf distribution... well, I guess you can always give Amway another try after AdSense doesn't work out :-)
- You can't predict. You'll see people in this forum poring over the Overture bid tool or the AdWords SWAG tool to find the keyword X that will make them $2/click. Only to discover that keyword X actually pays you only $.05/click, while keyword Y, which you failed to really develop enough content on, is paying you $1.50/click (even though it was a keyword you never even thought to research, let alone really target).
- Things change. You'll see people yelling at Google for "ruining their business" here. For many of them, they got pretty much flat-out lucky and ranked highly for some high-paying keywords. Unfortunately, they attributed their success to just being really smart, so instead of continuing to buttress their content and spread their risk out, they just sat on it and got destroyed by the next big Google algorithm update. IOW, they had a lousy Google Stability Number [webmasterworld.com] and did nothing about it. Because things change, you have to budget for maintenance (or watch your SERPs slowly slide into oblivion as competitors smell money and put the work in to top you), and maintenance probably grows in proportion to the number of pages you have, which will surely slow down any amazing ability you have to grind out new pages at high speed.
- Traffic has limits Hey, look at me making $1/day off my Miami Musings. Hey, look at me making $2/day after I double my Miami Musings page count. Hey, how come I'm still only making $2/day even after I wrote 10 times as many Miami Musings pages? Ooops, guess there was a limit on how many people wanted to read about that.
- Ad inventory has limits Hey, look at me making $1/day off my Miami Musings. Hey, look at me making $2/day after I double my Miami Musings page count. Hey, how come I'm still only making $2/day even after I wrote 10 times as many Miami Musings pages? Ooops, turns out most of my money was coming from one advertiser, and his AdWords budget was set to $2/day.
- Self-competition Man, my Miami Musings post about the new "Miami Vice" movie is so popular, I'll create some more content on that topic. Ooops, now the traffic/clicks I was getting on that one page are effectively spread across my now multiple pages on the topic, with only a small net increase in either traffic or money. In my mania to grind out new pages on my favorite topic as fast as I could, I just ended up competing with myself.
- High velocity means lousy control As alluded to in the previous point, an ability to spit out lots of pages real fast goes right along with an inability to realize you're headed down the wrong path before you've wasted too much time. Slower content creation (which sometimes goes along with better quality content) makes it more likely you'll see that Topic X offers lousy returns before you've written 30 pages on Topic X. Also makes it more likely you'll see that you can dominate the SERPs for Topic X with just a couple of pages, so you don't waste time writing 28 more pages that essentially just cannibalize the same traffic across more pages.
On the plus side, it couldn't be easier to just take a whack at any content topic under the sun, slap AdSense on it, and see what happens. That's good, because that's just about the only way to find out how much (or little) money you can make. If you're making $20/day off your nice little 20 pages of content, and you think that means you can just add 20 more pages and make $40/day, then you're probably in for a rude surprise.
AdSense Ain't a Linear Game
Haah! True.... so true. I am one of those that make most of my money on only 20% of my pages. But that is O.K, I want my readers to have a little diversity anyway.
Ronburk, that's a great post, although I take issue (just a little bit) with one statement:
|20% of your pages will get you about 80% of your earnings, so you end up "wasting" (assuming we ignore secondary effects) 80% of your time. |
Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that the 80/20 rule is 100% reliable, and that 20% of your pages are generating 80% of your AdSense earnings.
The other 80% of your pages (the ones that generate 20% of your earnings) are still making money. Maybe not as much money as your top-earning pages, but if the pages are "evergreen," the traffic and revenue will add up over time. For example, on a site that earns $5,000 a month, the low-performing pages are pulling in $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year--enough to pay the rent or the grocery bill or a year's college tuition in many cases.
Also, those 80% of your pages that produce only 20% of the revenue may be helping to bring in the users who generate 80% of your revenue on your "money" pages. I've certainly found that to be true of affiliate revenues, and I'd guess that it's true of AdSense revenues, too. (Although I rank high in Google's organic SERPs for a number of "money" terms, nearly all of the traffic on my "money" pages comes from other pages within the site.)
I'm not disagreeing with the overall thrust of your post, by the way; you make a number of very good points, and I hope more than a handful of people read this thread before it gets lost in the forum's noise.
You can't predict..........
Man is that ever true! At least for me. Pages I couldn't imagine would pay well have sometimes ended up paying better than I could have hoped for. Others I thought would probably do ok, didn't.
The 80% are important pages though, to the site, and to my income. They may only produce 20% of my income, but that's 20% I sure don't want to give up.
And considering that one can't predict page income with any accuracy..............
Back to your main point, more, more, more....
I'd guess that at some point you run into the diminishing returns thing. The problem is when does that happen. Will 2,000 pages produce twice as much as 1,000, but 3,000 pages will only earn 2.5 times as much as 1,000?
I don't know how to predict that.
Ronburk - awesome post
I see this thinking all the time not just with adsense but with just about any possible business plan. I knew these guys I was doing some work for a few years back and they had a new one every month - if we get these people to pay $10/month then we just need to get 5000 people signed up thats 1/2 million a year in sales, it will be easy with the internet!
It failed over and over again, I kept building the sites until the money ran out, they ignored my "business" recommendations and told me to stick to "programming" - well i learned A WHOLE LOT from them. As they are long out of business and I am on my own again doing all the better for it.
In any case, I think you have basically just outlined basic human greed - this is why MLMs and spam continue to exist - there is one born every minute
it takes some people a long time to realize that all that energy they spend trying to get "something for nothing" can actually be spent on something with some substance and that that is what will actually lead to real wealth
- any way - thanks for the great post
Good post Ron. The 80/20 thing is the only issue I have with your post, There's no particular compelling reason to assume that it actually DOES apply to many things. It's often misused, and as with most rules of thumb, it's often somewhat wrong, and occasionally really really wrong.
It's origin (in Italy) had to do with population, I believe, and then it got absconded with...to some rather poor conclusions.
Anyway, no matter. Your points still make sense.
Another bit - if you have a website that focuses on a niche, is user and content oriented, then as you develop more pages, you start to "compete with yourself" in the SERPS. That's not necessarily a terrible thing, but it's worth realizing that if you have 10 pages or 100 pages that would rank in the top ten in the SERPS on a term, only one is going to show for any given search.
I'm over simplifying a bit here. There's stuff you can do via synonyms and such things to increase serp coverage, and you can do this keeping the user in mind.
I can directly attest to the fact that double, or even triple the page impressions does NOT equate to triple the earnings.
Just today I got a TON of traffic from a couple of different referrers to a newer chunk of one of my sites. Now, while I have was is nearly TRIPLE the page impressions as compared to normal for the day, I have only made marginally more money because of those.
Lots of things may account for this, my main reason is that the people referred evidently don't click much. Ah well, tiz a tech site anyway, and hopefully the traffic that came and went will link to me elsewhere.
Oh, for the 3x page impression count of today, I made roughly 25% more than usual.
I have one site (X) that makes 30-45% of the funds another site (Y) makes. Site Y has 54.5 TIMES the pages index in the engines as site X.
It would be easy to draw a conclusion, but there's an important piece of info that I left out. Site X is a niched site within a niche (IE special green widgets). Site Y is a general site in a niche (IE Widgets).
I don't think adding more pages equates to an increase in AdSense revenue. Rather, it can add stability to the website and consistency in revenue earnings.
I think that this all points to he reason that you should write about what you enjoy.
If your only purpose for writing is the money, then it can start to get discouraging when the income isn't linear.
On the other hand, if you are enjoying your writing, you will at least get some satisfaction from knowing that you produced a good article even if it doesn't bring in money directly.
You are also more likely to enjoy writing about all aspects of your niche, instead of trying to write only for the topics that will directly earn you money. This broader range of topics will help bring in a much wider variety of traffic and ads, not to mention those wonderful natural links if you have really good content.
Good stuff Ronburk, as always. Thanks for a great post!
This post is very useful for newcomers to adSense. I have already learnt the hard way that this is soo true. Maybe not 80/20 for me but quite close.
But at the same time , it is important to keep adding content, as you may strike gold somewhere and if you donot try, you never know what you missed. I keep researching and adding content and once in a while strike a few $ clicks which keeps me motivated.
Thanks for a great post.
|Good post Ron. The 80/20 thing is the only issue I have with your post, There's no particular compelling reason to assume that it actually DOES apply to many things. It's often misused, and as with most rules of thumb, it's often somewhat wrong, and occasionally really really wrong. |
Even if you assume it is true, there's also an assumption that you have to build the crappy 80% along with the good 20%. Otherwise, we'd just build the 20%, right? But wait, then it would be 100%.
You can call it 80-20, but building the crappy 80% is just part of the deal. You're still back to 100% of your pages making 100% of your income.
Even using the 80-20 thing, you still double your pages (or sites) to double your income.
Using one page as an example isn't really real world. Could we also say that 20% of that one page makes 80% of the income for that page? If so, you still have to write 100% of the page.
The rest of the original post gave me plenty to think about that I might not have otherwise. Thanks.
Excellent points, ronburk. There's little doubt that something like the Pareto Principle (80/20) applies to Adsense page performance.
I'd add that it's possible that doubling your pages could MORE than double your Adsense earnings... but only if the new content either hit some great hot buttons, garnered new links for the site, or boosted the site performance as a whole in some way.
In most cases webmasters won't find this out. If they have a sites that are generating good revenue, they are far more likely to add pages to those sites vs. adding content to a poorly performing site. In some cases, enhancing a bad performer may be more profitable in the long run than trying to squeeze more out of a strong performer. This is all very situation dependent, of course, and often the old line about "throwing good money after bad" applies to websites, too.
The reason the Pareto Principle works is that most publishers prepare and publish the most important parts of their website first - the parts most in demand by their potential visitors. This is only natural.
Later on they extend the site to include more in depth information - but information in much less demand.
Clearly the later additions are likely to produce far less revenue than the initial portions.
The value of the later additions, however, may be to produce a much more authoritative site which may attract repeat and new visitors to a site over its competition.
Just a couple of random thoughts.
|The reason the Pareto Principle works is that most publishers prepare and publish the most important parts of their website first - the parts most in demand by their potential visitors. This is only natural. |
Good point, although I'd qualify it by saying "most publishers prepare and publish the most important aspects of a topic first." A site can have more than one topic or major subtopic, and adding a new subtopic can start the "most important" process all over again.
|Later on they extend the site to include more in depth information - but information in much less demand. |
That's probably true overall, but sometimes there are surprises. I've written a few articles on what seemed to be minor topics that have turned out to be some of the most popular pages on my site. As old-timers in the Midwest like to say, "Ya never know."
|The value of the later additions, however, may be to produce a much more authoritative site which may attract repeat and new visitors to a site over its competition. |
I agree with that 100%. Too many people focus on their "money" pages without looking at the bigger picture. That's we see so much teeth-gnashing in the Google News forum if rankings change. (When I see a post that begins "I've fallen from #1 in my sector," I think "There's another person who's bet everything on the home page and hasn't heard of the 'long tail of search.'")
80/20 or whatever the ratio is, you can't predict which 20% is it going to be that will make you the money. So, logically, you aren't wasting your time while preparing "the other" 80% of your site.
And, to be a reason for motivation: What if it's going to be the last 20% which doesn't exist yet? Would you stop now?
|80/20 or whatever the ratio is, you can't predict which 20% is it going to be that will make you the money. |
It depends. If I were to let AdSense channels dictate my editorial coverage, I could make some highly educated guesses about what to write. And even without channels, I can be fairly certain (for example) that an article about airport transportation in London or river cruising on the Rhine will get more traffic--and earn a higher eCPM from AdSense--than an article about reindeer-watching in the Norwegian Arctic.
Still, surprises do happen, and it's always satisfying when a story about an esoteric subject turns out to be popular and profitable day after day, month after month, year after year.
Hi roburk, EVF et al,
Yes, excellent thread. Thanks!
Business is DEFINITELY not a linear business. Nor is it gonna ride the exponential growth curve that most of our early spreadsheets show when we get all excited about a new business plan!
I am continually amazed by what turns out to "work" on my sites and what doesn't, so I try not to edit/filter too heavily at first, but build out anything that does turn out to work.
Why, for example, would some perfectly innocent pictures of feet (from my "People" section), garner so much apprently-normal traffic? (There can surely be only so many foot fetishists out there?)
Or a picture of my hand be a long-running performer?
Or that one of my joke images came in at #2 in image searches for the "World Cup" in G, at least for a while?
So, clearly, I took more pictures of feet and hands, and got a bit more footie material up!
The post is great, but misses one important point.
The assumption is that you are extending a single site to double the size, rather than adding a new site and doubling the presence in that way.
If I have a 100 page site about medium-paying keyword widgets and I earn $10 a day, and I then create a 100 page site about medium-paying keyword gizmos then I could quite feasibly earn $10 a day. The fact that I already have one site will not reduce the earning potential of the second, in fact, what I have learnt and the contacts I have made from doing the first will help and improve the chances of success in the second.
For me it's always been a function of traffic, get more traffic, make more money.
I don't worry about which pages generate the most revenue because the weakest pages may snare a repeat visitor that explores the rest of the site, you never can predict these things.
The only problem with some of the above comments about writing what makes you happiest to write about is if you spend an inordinate amout of time working on what earns the least then you're really not executing a very clever business plan.
At that point call it a hobby and move on.
Excellent post, Ronburk.
I think the main piece of advice here is the logarithmic nature of Adsense income (or any income for that matter). We could forget about Pareto and talk about the law of diminishing returns and the lesson to learn would be the same.
what i've seen is that for some sectors, one of the limitations on earnings may be the number of advertisers... page r.o.i. becomes a battle with ad blindness, and you end up with the 80/20 problem.
per the above, forums are an extreme example of fresh new content, targeted traffic, and poor ecpm.
so it can be more effective to spend your time creating new sites on entirely new topics, using the best page designs with tested r.o.i.... you'll have to deal with search rankings and sandboxes, but in the long run your content creation time will have been more productive.
|The only problem with some of the above comments about writing what makes you happiest to write about is if you spend an inordinate amout of time working on what earns the least then you're really not executing a very clever business plan. |
It isn't necessarily a question of what makes you "happiest," it's what makes an authoritative site. I have what PC Magazine has called "the premier visitors' site for [destination]" as a subtopic within my overall site, and it has 500 or more pages of editorial content. Some pages make a lot of money; others don't. But those pages that don't make a lot of money help to draw in readers, encourage repeat visits, attract inbound links, and earn favorable press coverage.
|If I have a 100 page site about medium-paying keyword widgets and I earn $10 a day, and I then create a 100 page site about medium-paying keyword gizmos then I could quite feasibly earn $10 a day. The fact that I already have one site will not reduce the earning potential of the second |
Good point, and that brings us to another topic that's often discussed at Webmaster World: Is it better to have one big site or a bunch of little sites? I lean toward the "umbrella site with subtopics" approach myself, because there are certain advantages to having a visible presence within one's niche. (Obviously, that approach works only if the other topics that interest you--or that you think can be profitable--fit within the overall topic of your existing site.)
ronburk - another good thread topic.
I agree with you, but :-), the 20/80 ratio and the high/low click values are valid but largely irrelevant statistics. The average page (limited to AdSense for this thread) revenue is very important (and not just because it times the number of pages is your revenue):
* site revenue can increase linearly with site size based on an average relatively easily.
* the average amount itself can be increased through good analysis, planning, and work.
* this average can be reasonably pre-approximated during niche research and site planning for a business plan prior to actually doing a word of code or content. There should be no big revenue surprises once a site is up unless AdSense (and whatever other revenue sources) significantly alter their T&C.
Setting, achieving, and maintaining an acceptable average is eminently doable. Attempting to raise the lower 80% to equal the top 20% is an exercise in futility and frustration.
The nice thing about averages is that the more input/pages the greater the stability of the average. Naturally a diverse range of sites, not just adding pages to one site, is of longterm importance in stabilising ones average revenue. A nickel/dime a day average per page can be quite profitable (1000-pages == 50/100$ per day) over time. Not that more is bad, of course.
As mentioned traffic is a critical factor. A site niche must be both popular and saleable. Traffic without conversion is a hobby. If this wasn't researched prior to code/content you are guessing. For many/most niches both popularity and potential sales numbers can be approximated. Traffic exhaustion is a sign of poor planning.
The same people who fixate on the high value clicks are often the people without a business plan, without a site architecture plan, relying on a scattergun approach of chasing keyword value. The manic-depressives of the web.
|The only problem with some of the above comments about writing what makes you happiest |
It isn't about what makes you happiest, it is about enjoying what you write about. Huge difference.
What you are doing, is building a profitable and informative site that draws in visitors and links. That is much easier to do when you enjoy the subject instead of fretting over how much money a particular page will directly produce.
As for what makes you happiest, you should absolutely write that as well. Even if it is only a hobby instead of a business, there ain't nuthin wrong with having a hobby that pays you money.
It's like someone else said, 100% of your site produces 100% of your site's income.Building a good site includes those pages on the trivial and esoteric portions of your site.
|That's good, because that's just about the only way to find out how much (or little) money you can make. If you're making $20/day off your nice little 20 pages of content, and you think that means you can just add 20 more pages and make $40/day, then you're probably in for a rude surprise. |
This may be true if you just add pages without doing any analysis. But if you think about things and plan well, often you can double your pages and make even more than double your earnings.
I think it also depends on your site design too. My sites are mostly database driven. How much content displayed per page is largely up to me and back in March, I decided on a page size that is 1/5th what it used to be. Not surprisingly, doing so resulted in increasing the amount of pages on my sites five fold. While earnings have not multiplied quite as well as I had hoped (I attribute that in part to all the new pages not being fully indexed yet as well as bad timing for my move, i.e. Big Daddy) they are going up.
First, let me say I'm highly confident in the Zipf distribution. Whether that leads you to precisely an 80/20 rule is not important, the important thing is most of your pages will earn you less traffic and revenue than your per-page average.
If you've only got 100 pages, maybe you'll get a 70/30 rule. And as you get quite a bit bigger, the statistics will very likely push you more towards a 90/10 rule. But the basic Zipf curve will be there for virtually every site that isn't tiny. You simply can't multiply an increased page count by your current earnings to predict the future.
|The other 80% of your pages (the ones that generate 20% of your earnings) are still making money. |
This is an interesting point for which I think there is less broad data to go on. We would like to hope that the Long Tail will mean that, even though those poor-paying pages are paying well below average, that they still sum to a large amount.
Personally, I'm growing increasingly uneasy that it's possible that, with the huge explosion in competition for Google SERPs (and I'm focusing solely on free SE traffic scheme sites here), it's possible that the Long Tail cannot be easily maintained.
In my own pages, I see an increasing number of "dead" pages (absolutely no traffic/revenue) as my page count goes up. I don't have enough numbers over enough time to say what the trend is for me, and I don't know of any research that would give a peek at what the overall trend is for many webmasters.
I see my Long Tail is getting stomped on. It does not extend out to the right anywhere near as far as I would have hoped. Or, maybe it's just that my Long Tail is too flattened: if a page only makes me $.50/year, that's indistinguishable from zero as far as I'm concerned. I don't have 10,000 such pages to make the revenue from a too-flattened Long Tail multiply into something worth noticing; nor can I afford to write new content for wages of $.50/page/year.
So yes, that other 80% is making you some money. Makes you money even when you go on vacation. It's great. But I'm becoming much more sensitive to the fact that it's increasingly easy to create pages that, perhaps after an initial burst of free SE love, provide absolutely 0 traffic/revenue. They still serve other purposes, of course, (another place for already-arrived visitors to hit, intra-website page rank and SEO, etc.), but I do not generally want to spend time creating such pages.
In some ways, I think the Zipf curve is the central problem of being an AdSense publisher (at least the Good Content + Free SE Traffic + Qualified Visitors kind of publisher). How can you minimize the number of pages that won't pay you well for your time (even if multiplied times 10 years of earnings)? How can you raise the percentage of pages you write that will, over some plausible number of years at least, reimburse you for the time you invested? How can you squeeze a bit more revenue out of that flattened Long Tail to turn it from Waste-Of-Time into Paid-For-Itself?
I would sure like to see some data drawn from a large pool of AdSense publishers on just what their Long Tail looks like (Google has the data, but I somehow doubt they will share.). By the time you have even just 1,000 pages, a small change in the height of that Long Tail can mean a big difference in your overall results.
On a personal level, I never expand my site in a certain fashion because it makes me happy or because it instantaneously makes me more money.
I expand my site in a way which is both logical and useful to my visitors. I always limit any expansion to areas where I either have top flight knowledge or where I feel that I can acquire that knowledge.
That one must enjoy producing the content on a site goes without saying. If you do not enjoy producing the content, my experience shows that it virtually always shows in the finished product.
Once again, I believe expanding my site in such a fashion will make it appear more authoritative and attractive to visitors over the long term. I believe that producing an authoritative site produces the best monetary returns in the long run and is without doubt the best overall business plan. I know that this is a bit of a "long haul" type of approach, but it is one which has served me well over the last 6 years.
Nice post ronburk
| This 60 message thread spans 2 pages: 60 (  2 ) > > |