Hey Dom, thanks for inviting me to guest post on HPD. As you know, I'm a big fan of your blog and article services, so it's great to contribute here.
Ironically, I had absolutely no interest in making money from display ads when I first got into publishing websites. That was because I paid too much attention to the "how to make money online" crowd who said AdSense was the lowest and worst monetization option for websites.
What I've since learned is that AdSense is a poor monetization option for any business oriented website. That's very true. Affiliate offers, selling courses and services and offering coaching are MUCH better ways to monetize business-oriented websites.
The thing is not everyone wants to publish a business website.
In fact, most websites online have nothing to do with business.
So if you want to publish a website about flowers, unless you sell flowers, your best option to make money is AdSense. Sure, you can toss in some affiliate stuff, but the lion's share of revenue will be from AdSense or whatever your preferred display ad provider is.
Here's the deal.
While revenue per 1,000 pageviews (RPM) isn't as high with AdSense compared to a "how to make money" blog selling courses, the potential traffic for a flower website is WAY higher. 30,000 visits per month to a business website is quite good, but that's peanuts for a flower site. A decent Pinterest account can send 30,000 visitors PER DAY to a flowers site.
So while RPM is lower, overall revenue for an ad-monetized website can be just as good, if not higher than a business oriented website.
Website revenue is traffic X $ per visitor. If you earn $10 RPM and get 100,000 page views per month, that's $1,000 per month.
What does this mean?
This means Adsense and the like may be a very good monetization option depending on your niche.
Not all niches and content can make good money selling courses, services and promoting affiliate products. But that doesn't mean it's a bad niche.
About My AdSense Websites
I currently have 2 sites that are largely monetized with AdSense. One is established and earns the lion's share of that money. The second is fairly new but is just starting to get some okay traffic. Together they earn approximately $320 to $500 per day from display ads. To earn that, those sites get a lot of traffic.
While AdSense is the bread and butter of those sites, I also earn $100 to $300 per day in affiliate offers. Which brings up an interesting point. You can use both AdSense and affiliate offers on a site. In fact where affiliate offers perform well, I reduce the number of ads.
My goal these days for niche sites that use AdSense is to have 50% revenue from display ads and 50% from other sources like affiliate offers.
One thing I love about AdSense is it's very consistent in how much it earns, whereas with affiliate commissions, I can have a bad day followed by an awesome day.
How Do I Choose a Niche for AdSense Monetization
Actually, this is pretty easy. Here's what I look for:
1. Huge potential traffic:
In case you haven't realized it yet, in order to make half-decent money with AdSense, you need a lot of traffic. Therefore, I enter fairly broad niches that have a lot of keywords and where the seed keywords have high search volume (i.e. 50,000 monthly search volume for the main keywords). Of course I don't rank for all of those, but I do rank for thousands of longer tail keywords and so traffic is plentiful.
I prefer visual niches. There are plenty of niches that do well with AdSense that aren't visual. However, I like visual niches because I love using Pinterest.
An example of a visual niche is a recipe website or food website.
I also like image SEO. These two traffic sources (Pinterest and image SEO) work well for me. Therefore, my two main AdSense niche sites are both very visual.
In 2017, I hired 2 full time graphic designers who create custom graphics and illustrations for my niche sites. These have helped Pinterest traffic quite a bit. I'm always trying new things with Pinterest and coming up with cool visuals.
A collateral benefit of creating your own popular custom illustrations is it's very easy to attract links naturally. Here's an example.
Suppose you're in the camping niche and you're doing a series of articles on camping tents.
Like many camping gear options, there are a lot of different types of tents that serve a variety of purposes and offer a variety of features.
A simple, but potentially popular graphic you could come up with would be a graphic that shows and explains all the main different types of tents.
3. Unique Angle
I like to choose a niche with which I can offer something unique so that I can create a unique site within the space. By unique, it could be a particular type of content or it could be some website feature not used on other sites in the niche. For my bigger niche site, I offer a lot of content that isn't covered anywhere else. This is a result of doing keyword research and analyzing what was working on the site. Over time I noticed that I was getting a lot of traffic for specific topics and more specifically, certain types of articles. Since I had success with something, I focused on those topics and types of content.
As for my newer AdSense site, I chose it in part because I was able to create something not done online at all. I'm not going to spill the beans here because I don't need a bunch of competition, but that unique feature revolved around creating very user friendly features that make the site really helpful.
4. I go broad
A lot of people suggest that you should niche down to something very specific. This is good advice if you're selling a course or focusing on promoting a specific product as an affiliate via email marketing. I'm in a B2B niche where I focus on email marketing and it's a very, very niche specific.
However, for AdSense sites, I prefer niching up. I go fairly broad. Arguably, my niche sites encompass multiple niches (aka silo stacking.) This way potential growth and traffic is high, which is important when monetizing with AdSense.
What About AdSense CPC? Does This matter?
It kind of matters.
You probably know that you can view CPC data in the Adwords Keyword Planner. While it's kind of helpful, it's not something I use to dictate whether I'm entering a niche or not. Here's why.
First, that data is based on Adwords click cost, not clicks on AdSense ads. That said, you can generally divide the Adwords reported CPC by 3 or so to get a very rough idea of how much you'll earn per click with AdSense ads, but it's still not all that accurate.
Second, more and more ads that show up on niche sites these days are retargeting ads instead of topical ads. Retargeting ads are served to visitors based on sites they've visited in the past.
This is good overall because even if you're in a low CPC niche, you can still get some okay CPC AdSense revenue because the ads are targeting the visitor, not the topic. I think also that retargeting ads are good for click through rate (CTR) because they are very relevant to the visitor.
Third, generally, I prefer entering a niche with much higher potential traffic than high CPC. For example, law sites can get you some really high revenue per clicks because of attorney ads. Attorneys bid a lot of money for clicks. However, the potential traffic to a law site isn't great. Moreover, it's a very competitive niche.
Does Level of Competition Matter?
Generally speaking, strong competition means lots of potential traffic as well as a lot of long tail keywords. As long as there are lots of long tail keywords that I can tackle first, I like the niche.
An important factor I look into is the volume of longer tail keywords. If there are thousands of long tail keywords, I like the niche... even if there is extreme competition for the main seed keywords.
Getting Traffic to AdSense Websites
My first foray into AdSense sites depended mostly on Facebook traffic. This was back when Facebook reach was really high (2013 to 2015) and so it was easy to get a lot of free traffic. Boosting popular FB posts sent loads and loads of traffic to a site for very low cost. However, these days Facebook traffic is non-existent. It's getting worse all the time. I don't do much with Facebook anymore as result.
Fortunately, once Facebook traffic started drying up, I had the foresight to focus on long tail SEO. I published a lot of content targeting long-tail keywords and together that results in plenty of daily traffic. As mentioned above, I also get quite a bit of traffic from Pinterest.
With my second, newer AdSense website, I planned that with a focus on organic search traffic from the start. Again, I am focusing on long tail keywords. To date I've published about 200 pages and have hundreds more planned. Most of those pages target long tail. If I do happen to rank for any seed keyword, that will result in 50,000 to 100,000 monthly searches. It's a very high search volume niche with loads of long tail keywords as well. Plus it's visual so it's a win/win/win for me.
Because I'm focusing on organic search traffic with the new site, it's going to take another year before it really pays off. I'm not doing all that much link building other than some guest posting and pinning to Pinterest. Instead, I'm creating cool custom graphics and illustrations and zeroing in on really long tail keywords to slowly grow the traffic over time.
In fact, interestingly enough, now that the site is getting traffic, natural links are coming in at a pretty decent clip. That's a result of custom graphics and the unique feature I have on the site that makes it one-of-a-kind.
Here's a recent referring domains screenshot from Ahrefs:
In total, I did about 10 guest posts. Once the traffic started rolling in, other sites started linking naturally.
This wasn't a fluke. It goes to show that you can build links naturally. Here's a referring domains screenshot for my bigger AdSense niche site. I think in total I did maybe 5 guest posts. The remaining thousands of referring domains are naturally acquired.
Does this mean you should not build links?
I should do more guest posting and outreach.
The thing is I don't like doing it and I'm okay waiting for natural links to roll in. There's no doubt I could grow traffic much faster to my sites if I spent more time link building... and I may do that because for the first time in a long time I'm running out of content ideas.
I prefer coming up with and investing in cool graphics and publishing research that attracts links. I find this to be more enjoyable and easier.
But if you like building links, go for it. I think the risk is minimal if you're smart about it.
Timeline for Launching and Growing My Newer AdSense Website
This site took longer to build out than my first AdSense site because I didn't have as much time to dedicate to it. Here's what I did once I chose the niche.
1. Planned out the first 100 pages: I did extensive keyword research and planned out the first 100 pages (or posts).
2. I organized site structure: I spent quite a bit of time planning out how those first 100 pages would all fit together. The site has a few categories, but I wanted it structured in a solid silo architecture. In fact, I used mostly pages as opposed to posts for the structure to keep the silos really tight.
3. Built out the pages: Because it's a visual site, I needed about 2,000 images to build out the first 100 pages. This took quite a while to collect and then write all the content. However, after 4 months it was done with the help of two VA's.
When did I launch? I launched after I had about 30 pages done. By launching, I mean switched the site from "nonindexed" to "indexed".
4. Enhanced the first 100 pages: Once the first 100 pages were published, I personally went into most of them and toyed around with layouts and concepts to make them better. I spent quite a bit of time doing this because for this site, layout and navigation is very important. Once I had a few prototypes I liked, I had my VA's roll out the tweaks to all pages.
5. Added another 100 pages: Once the foundation of the site was done (being the first 100 pages or so), I set out to get the next 100 pages published. They're pretty much done now.
FYI, I put Adsense on the site once it hit 30 visitors per day. I still don't have sufficient volume to test Adsense placement, but once I get to a few thousand visits per day, I'll definitely do some AdSense testing.
6. Affiliate promotions: Within this niche are a handful of products I can promote as an affiliate. I published 5 in-depth "best-of" articles. For these articles, I did build some guest post links. I will probably need to add more.
7. Next: I have another 200 pages planned which 2 VA's are currently working on. Those pages should be done in 3 to 5 months.
8. Pinterest: I'm adding custom images, illustrations and collages to Pinterest every week. Pinterest traffic is starting to materialize. Pinterest will be an important traffic source for this website as well.
9. End goal: 500 to 700 excellent pages of content. At that point, I'll publish more blog posts here and there, but the focus will be having my VA's add more photos which fall into the various pages and posts to keep the site updated and dynamic. At that point it's all about consistent promotion and climbing the SERPs for as many keywords as possible.
Potential traffic: Based on keyword research and the competition, 2 to 3 million monthly visitors is possible, so that's the goal. That will result in a very good monthly AdSense revenue.
I keep it simple
Instead of trying to master 6 social media channels for my niche sites, I focus on 2 traffic sources, namely organic search and Pinterest. Yes, I post to Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but those aren't the focus. I focus on what delivers the biggest bang for my buck.
If Pinterest isn't a good fit for your niche, focus on what is a good fit. Don't blindly invest time and money into traffic sources. Focus on what works best. At first you might have to experiment a bit, but once you see something working or not working, focus on what works and spend less time on what is not working.
Do I use private blog networks for links?
As of now, no I do not. I'm at the point in growth where I'm not keen to risk it. That does not mean I wouldn't use them on other money sites down the road. I think it's a cool approach if it can be pulled off... perhaps it could speed the growth of a site by quite a bit.
Do I accept and publish guest posts on my AdSense sites?
Yes, and I think this is one of the best tips I can share with you. The thing with building up these huge sites is the cost of content is very expensive. Ordering 30 to 100 articles at a time costs a ton of money. Writing it myself would take months.
A solution to this problem is getting guest authors to give you the content for free.
The only thing to keep in mind when accepting guest content is you need to be demanding about the quality of the content you will accept. It's fine to reject content. Moreover, you can also tell guest posters what topics to cover. So if you've done your keyword research and have a list of topics. as people ask to guest post on your site, you simply give them the topic, wordcount, internal and outbound link policy, image policy, etc. I've received thousands of dollars worth of free content by accepting guest posts. I still accept it to this day, but I'm exacting as to what I accept.
I write about this method of getting free content in my article "How I got $3,000 Worth of Free Website Content". Since I published that article, it's way more than $3,000 worth of free content.
Do I buy traffic to my AdSense websites?
Back when Facebook traffic was much lower, I bought quite a bit. These days the margins are too thin. However, I do still buy traffic here and there, but not to profit from ad arbitrage. Instead, I use paid traffic to promote my content and seed it with traffic. I do this only for content that I know will do well on Facebook so that the cost per click for traffic is still reasonably low.
Do I build up email lists on my AdSense websites?
Yes, I do. I have yet to set up my email newsletter on my new niche site, but I have one planned. For my older AdSense website, I have 38,000 email subscribers and that's after deleting thousands of subscribers who haven't opened emails for 6 months (I scrub my email lists every few months).
While I don't make a ton of money from these email newsletters, it's a good source of daily traffic. I can write and send out an email in 15 minutes which will deliver thousands of visitors instantly. It's a great way to promote new content (which gets published daily).
My AdSense Strategy in a Nutshell:
- Seek out huge traffic niches.
- Find hundreds of long tail keywords.
- Publish excellent content in vast volumes targeting those long tail keywords.
- Grease the SEO wheels with some guest posts.
- Invest in custom graphics, illustrations, charts and collages for Pinterest traffic and natural backlinks.
- Train team of VA's on how to do it all.
- Be patient and grow the site.
While it looks simple, it's a lot of work, and I have 9 VA's across my sites to help. So while this works, expect to work hard and expect it to take quite a while to work. But once it all works and revenue climbs north of five figures, you have an asset that can pump out cash like clockwork 24/7.