Are You Getting Maximum Dollar For Your Ad Space?

The events of the past few days have really got me thinking about blog monetization in a big way. I wasn’t happy with the Google 300×250 ad so I decided to sell it for $1,000. The person who brought the spot, Ryan Stewart, flipped it for $1,400 and got over 1,000 clicks to his blog from the two days his banner was running. The new buyer, Rich4Life.Us, made $3,500 on the first day with the ad spot.

All this has made me question if I’m getting maximum value for my advertising spots. Realizing this value is all about tweaking and experimentation. The 300×250 ad spot had made me as much as $1,300 in a month. Now I see I can charge a lot more for it. However, there is a balance that needs to be maintained.

Maximum Income vs. The User Experience

I had a few marketers tell me that I should have sold my Ebook instead of giving it away for free. By giving the book away, I managed to “sell” over 30,000 copies. The book has done a great job promoting the blog. However, had I sold it for $47 it could have easily sold at least 2,000 copies and I would have reported a new blog income record of over $100,000 (once you combined the other sources). Will those free Ebooks make me $100K? It might eventually, but the odds are stacked against it. Marketers who give away free Ebooks use an upsell and One Time Offer (OTO) to make money – my book has no such thing.

The reason I gave the book away was to maintain the user experience. The blog can actually make a ton more money than it does now but if I were to push it that far, the user experience would degrade to an unacceptable level for me. You want to maximize income but you also must keep your readership in mind at all times.

Fellow Vancouverite Markus Frind of Pleny of Fish is facing the maximum income vs. user experience problem on a grander scale. His free dating site makes over $6 million a year, which sounds great. However, Match.com makes $300 million a year with less traffic than Plenty of Fish.

I’ve come a long way in the last 3 years, today I’ve single handily built the largest dating site in the world with no employees. The site generates more relationships than match.com yet only makes a tiny tiny fraction of Match.com’s 300 Million a year. So today I sit at a turning point, the site has over 1.1 billion pageviews and 45 million visitors a month, the maintenance and all that annoying stuff is growing fast and there is no way to effectively monetize the site without employees.

Take A Look At Your Advertising Spot

The bottom line is Google AdSense can only get you so far. If your prime ad spot isn’t pulling in the kind of money you like then ask yourself what you can replace it with. Can you sell the spot to a direct sponsor? Can you replace it with an affiliate deal? Would the spot do better promoting your own site(s)? Would it be better just to get rid of the spot? The key is to experiment and mix things up. It is a lot easier to double blog income by tweaking than it is to double income by doubling blog traffic.

Doubling Traffic Does Not Mean Double Income

income-traffic.png

If you look at the above income chart of John Chow dot Com from September 2006 to April 2007, you’ll see that traffic and income are not very related to each other. Most people think double traffic equals double income. That is not the case. It’s not the traffic that is important, it’s what you do with the traffic. Plenty of Fish has tons of traffic. However, if he can get the same eCPM I get, he’ll be pulling down $44 million a month instead of only $6 million a year.

It’s time to look at your blog and ask if you are truly maximizing income while still preserving the user experience. If you haven’t done anything new to your blog monetization wise, now is the time. Summer is a slow period and best used to tweak the site for the advertising bonanza that comes in the fall. You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?


102 thoughts on “Are You Getting Maximum Dollar For Your Ad Space?”

  1. Dave says:

    Do affiliate programs not perform well for you (banners)?

    1. They probably do, but I imagine after this experience, he knows the true value of his adspace.

    2. Nabloid.com says:

      Yes! Now he knows that some affiliate programs can earn him multiples more than traditional advertising. I expect he’ll keep doing advertising, but I wouldn’t be surprised if John uses certain spots (like the one being discussed) for affiliate sales rather than sell it.

      But think about it, if you are selling advertising space, obviously someone else thinks they are going to make money off of your site by spending ad dollars… or they wouldn’t advertise. So advertising inherently leaves some money on the table…

      JOHN!!!!!!!!
      The question I have is, how much friggin’ money could be made without doing any advertising (well not any) and using all those lucrative spots to promote quality affiliate programs? My bet is he would make more money, as long as he kept his text-link-ads, his kontera, and his pay per post… some of those are bought strictly for PR and not necessarily for the clicks or to sell things. Perfect example is the two banner spots and perhaps the google footer spot… if those were used to do quality and high paying affiliate programs, how much would he make? More? Less?

    3. Sean says:

      I prefer using affiliate program to advertise on my blog rather than Adsense if I had to choose one.

      I however go with both though because you only need clicks to make money with aDsense. 😈

  2. Mayo says:

    As i said in Markus blog he could really pull 30-50 million $US a month i he tweaks to the pain, but alas POF is a different beast than the simple blog..

    As i see Markus is loosing 3-6 million $US minimum p.a. by just sticking to the Google AdWords.

    1. At the scale Markus operates on Adsense is not the way to go…however, it’s not exactly easy to monetize a site of that size either.

    2. Geedos says:

      To be fair – it’s a nice problem to have. He’s still making 6 million a year which isn’t a bad revenue stream to have.

      You could argue he’s ‘losing’ 3-6 million by sticking to Adsense but if I were him I’d be tempted to sell at a figure that includes the potential revenue opportunities rather than move into an area he is not comfortable in and risk degrading the user experience.

  3. Mayo says:

    ok i said too much on the per month basis! 😳

    well he could certainly make 30-50 MM $US profit p.a. 😛

  4. Jacob says:

    This is my favorite blog post I think you’ve ever written, John. It does bring up some good points. I think, though, for small bloggers like myself (unfortunately), there’s little we can do except rely on the adsense, at least for that particular spot. Granted, I still use TLA, Kontera (even though the representative seems to hate my e-mails to get a second blog added), and ReviewMe/PPP (even if I’ve made nothing), but the thing is, Adsense is one of those consistent things that are drilled into our heads when we first start. I’m finally saying, “screw Adsense,” but that took me a year. For others, it takes longer.

    1. Indeed i honestly enjoyed reading this post, I think i will bookmark this post for feature reference. The post is so pleasant to read and so detailed but yet in simple words.

      It does truly inspire the reader to give a try and follows the suggestions.

      p.s. yeah, i just realized that i had lost the first post for a good time lmao.

  5. So, you mind user experience is more important than traffic?

    1. Jacob says:

      You know, I think the two go hand in hand. With better user experience comes more traffic. Word of mouth, you know?

      1. This is a complex industry and you can’t reduce it down to a simple statement… i.e. this is the most important thing about running a successful blog. Yes there are a lot of different factors that are very important…but they all go hand in hand.

    2. Sunnye says:

      User experience should be top, why would I want to visit a site with mostly ads.

  6. Mayo says:

    To first commenter, Steve Pavlina is raking over 20K $US p.m. just on affiliate! 😯

    1. Jacob says:

      I’ve heard of that happening before.

    2. That’s a drop in the bucket, compared to the big names in affiliate marketing.

      1. I’d be happy with 20k a month. I’ve found that the best affiliate marketers all had large online real estate BEFORE pushing products. If you’re getting 10 million visitors plus a month then affiliate marketing just becomes a simple numbers game.

  7. Erik Karey says:

    I think you’ve struck a nice balance between user experience vs maximum income here John. I’m positive you can earn more from the blog and given what you’ve accomplished so far, I think you can do it without sacrificing the user experience. Just think evil!

    1. Jacob says:

      Yeah, I have to agree with Erik here. I’m on a site (if it had ads, it’d make thousands a month) where the members are literally addicted to the site. No matter what, they come back, because they’re addicted. I seriously doubt people would stop reading JohnChow.com just because of you expanding your market. Some might out of envy, but none would do it out of “well now the site looks stupid.”

    2. Geedos says:

      Plus the methods of raising revenue are to tinker with existing ad spots which in itself doesn’t degrade the user experience because we’re already used to seeing them on a regular basis.

      I think the experience would only noticeably degrade if John were to increase the noticeable number of advertising spots on this blog.

  8. KingJacob says:

    You got to customize your ads to things your users actually want/need if you want to make any money blogging, Adsense does make money but it doesnt scale too well for blog.

  9. Great post John….simply great…i enjoyed reading it and even lost the first post (i think) but was worth the time. An amazing read.

  10. Glen Allsopp says:

    Completely agree, thats why I’m getting ready for it now

  11. Roberta says:

    I’d like to replace my Adsense ads with something a little more lucrative. The problem is, that I can’t seem to find anything that would bring in some money for the kind of site that I have. Any suggestions for improvement? I’ve tried Kontera, but didn’t make anything from that. I’ve also tried to sell AdIcons and private ad space. Still nothing.

    Any thoughts, anyone?

    1. Jacob says:

      Personally, I wouldn’t replace Adsense with anything. As you can see on this blog, John still has adsense. He is still leaving that option open to make a profit. He’s just not giving it his biggest support anymore. If I were you, I’d use Adsense AND Kontera together. Perhaps try a little Text-Link-Ads?

      1. Simon says:

        I took kontera off my blog but not because it wasn’t lucrative, in fact I was making more than expected, but because I didn’t get positive vibes from readers and potential readers. In this type of scenario, the reader comes first, especially for a new blog.

        Simon

        1. Jacob says:

          I haven’t had many problems with the readers disliking the Kontera, but my reader base might not be the largest.

        2. Geedos says:

          I find this interesting because I’ve never heard of people complaining about Kontera being intrusive to users.

          What do you mean when you said you didn’t get positive vibes from ‘potential readers’?

          I think generally the complainers are in the minority and soon stop once they’ve got used to the new advertising channel that’s been introduced.

          1. KingJacob says:

            It is a little intrusive having the window pop up all the time but if a user doesnt wants ads they can always subscribe to a blogs feed.

      2. Roberta says:

        I’ve also tried Kontera along with adsense, but still haven’t achieved good results. John’s blog is too rich for my blood as far as reviews go, so I’ll just have to keep trying everything.
        I do have to say that there is an amazing difference in the eCPM comparing my personal blog with my collections and credit tips blog. Weirdness.

    2. It all depends on the kind of traffic you’re pushing. If you are relatively low traffic, then Google Adsense is your only option.

  12. Scot Smith says:

    John,
    Just remember that it is your responsibility as a publisher to provide an excellent ROI to your advertisers. Whether that advertiser is yourself or not is an entirely different story.

  13. Alan says:

    I think some webmasters are afraid of overpricing and then losing prospective advertisers.

    However, an interesting fact:
    There was someone I heard about who was selling ads for 7 dollars on their site. It was about half of the “worth” assigned by most networks, and they still weren’t getting any buys.

    Then, as an experiment they raised their price to 60 dollars and… they got two prospective buyers the very next day.
    Advertisers sometimes seem to feel more comfortable with higher priced ads, or so it seems.

    1. Jacob says:

      Well, it’s all about how you feel about yourself. Selling for too cheap and advertisers think you have no confidence. Confidence is important if you’re going to take the necessary risks to take your site to the next level.

      1. Simon says:

        couldn’t agree more. I’m selling reviews on my blog for 30 dollars a pop, not because I think I can get that much but because I know that I’ll have less chance selling them for 5. And at least I’ll know when my blog gets good enough to get 30 dollars for a review.

        Simon

        1. Jacob says:

          And when your site is starting to get reviews for $30.00, you will increase it to $50.00. I would rather write two reviews at fifty dollars a piece than four reviews at $25.00, you know?

  14. One thing tis discussion has pointed up to me is how many folks haven’t bothered to think through how non-web business earn money. The web is not really as different to “real business” as some people might think.

    The AdSense “yes or no” questions and especially the amazement at someone renting ad space and reselling for aprofit kind of indicate that people do things like drive past billboards or watch TV commercials every day without ever realizing how th billboard agency, the TV network and the advertisers buying space there are all making money. Think beyond the web … how would you make a dime if tomorrow there was no web … then you’ll see how to make money using the web.

    1. KingJacob says:

      Exactly if you have the traffic, you should negotiate ad prices directly from companies not be lazy and let google do the work and take the profit.

  15. Nate W. says:

    That was one of the best posts I have read during my 10 months of reading your blog. Very specific yet explained in very understandable logic. Great work.

    1. Jacob says:

      Yup…That’s what I said to him too. It’s one of those rarities that really shows why people like to read this blog.

      1. Enkay Blog says:

        I agree, it was sort of inspirational.. except for the fact that it will take a long time before one of my ads is worth a grand!

        1. Simon says:

          Yep, definitely one of your best John.

          Simon

    2. Yes, it was a great post! There is a lot of fluff here at JC.com, but it’s worth sticking around because every now and then you get solid posts like this.

  16. I just started my blog on personal finance and I made a whopping $4 in my first two weeks! Glad I’m in it for the writing and not the income! Perhaps one day I’ll have the problem Frind is having…

  17. Enkay Blog says:

    I would definitely be wondering if I was getting my money’s worth considering that $1000 is quite cheap compared to the amount of dough the ad has generated in such a short period of time!

  18. Pat B. Doyle says:

    I bet you could make the most money by selling your own product. Your readers know and trust you. I’m sure they would buy a product that teaches some of the things you do to make money, get traffic, etc.

    1. Isn’t most of that covered in the free e-book? It’s well worth a read.

  19. www.yeoq.com says:

    wow johnchow your traffic stayed constant and your earnings grew exponentially. guys do you think i am maximising?.
    http://www.yeoq.com

    1. Jacob says:

      Other than the “buy me a drank” feature, I don’t see any ads. Perhaps I am blind, but no, I don’t think you’re maximizing.

      1. KingJacob says:

        Really this site is pretty monetized, though alot of the ads are affiliates so its a little harder to tell its an ad.

  20. sitefever says:

    Good points you make, John. Although your advertising spots cost a little much for most bloggers, they are definately worth every penny.

    P.S.- Napolux.com released a new version of the MyBlogLog avatar on comments plugin that eliminates the broken image thing… I don’t know if it works because I have not been able to try it out yet. It’s found here:

    http://www.napolux.com/2006/12/14/myavatars-a-wordpress-plugin-for-mybloglog/

  21. Dian says:

    [OOT]
    hey john, are u taking part in the Blog Action Day?

    1. Jacob says:

      I don’t know about John, but I’ll be honest…Being a biology major, that definitely sounds like an interesting thing to write about, so I will probably bookmark it. 🙂

    2. KingJacob says:

      Thanks for the link Dian, I signed up.

  22. Spluch says:

    😯 Wow! That’s a huge difference… and all along, I thought traffic is the most important… but thinking back, you will still need a critical mass of readers before such boosts in profits can be achieved.

    1. Jacob says:

      Traffic IS important, don’t believe otherwise. But it’s how you convert that traffic that becomes the tricky part. The owner of PlentyOfFish has a ton of traffic, but I believe on adsense. JohnChow doesn’t get AS much traffic as PlentyOfFish, but uses a massive array of programs.

  23. Click Input says:

    I have to agree… Adsense most certainly is not the be all and end all of advertising. The most important thing is trying other stuff!

  24. Marco says:

    Really, this has got to be the best post in this site since I’ve signed the RSS feed.

    Congratulations and thank you for this awesome user experience, John!

  25. SeoVibe says:

    Interesting for sure.
    Why not go for maximum dollars John, you could split the position into a rotating 5 slots, each slot selling for a little less. Keep one of the slots for yourself and place an ad of your own to another of your own projects.

    The result is its cheaper for an advertiser to buy ad space, the ads change as people navigate through the site and some of the traffic doesn’t leave your network at all.

    It’s just an idea, be sure not to sell more ad slots than you get average page views though. if you visitors look at 5 pages on average that should be the max slots you sell imo.

  26. I tend to agree with people here about it being hard with new blogs…

    then another part of me says we are not being creative enough.

    Hmmmm.

    :mrgreen:

  27. mason says:

    Yea keeping the balance between ads vs content is very hard to do. I’ve fallen for this and lost a lot of visitors to my old site because of it.

  28. Andrew says:

    I was inspired by this ad flipping concept and I was thinking of other ideas. I came up with something that may be interesting to some. It’s called BlogFlip – You pay for the blog ownership to be flipped into your hands. You have complete control over it to promote your website or business. After you have received traffic to your site you can flip the blog to someone else for more money or the same amount so you don’t lose any money or you can earn some back. Check it out if you are interested: http://blogflip.wordpress.com

    -Andrew

  29. Filip says:

    Very good indeed post. Simple, and objectiv. But I have one question. What about having a blog like http://www.andosozinho.blogs.sapo.pt in portuguese? Google Adsense, as I know, is the only that serves ads in manny languages. What do you suggest for Portugal?

    Thanks

    🙄 Filip

  30. steve gallay says:

    Hi Mr.Chow,love the site,saw you on “The lab with Leo” so I decided to buy you a beer!! cheers!!

    Steven

  31. rich says:

    I actually did some things to my blog the few days because it has been so so in the monetizing part. I just finished up with them and I come to your site and see your latest posting. What a coincidence.

  32. Knuckles10 says:

    Great post John. Something I learnt off you a long time ago was what you mentioned in this artice, that more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more money. My stats graphs are similar to yours, traffic remains the same but income keeps going up.

  33. You were not needed actually to literally push me, but still yeah, this article motivated me. Have been thinking to monetize at least my domain name in different ways, so I am doing it. Reaping benefits from the same domain name in different ways.

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  35. Mr Beach Bum says:

    John, I think you should hold a monthly auction for that ad space. Start it out at $1,000 and let the market set the premium.

    1. Now that’s a winning idea, let the market decide. There are enough people here interested in pushing products at your audience for it to really work in your favour.

  36. Mr Beach Bum says:

    One more thing… John, you should write a new ebook based on your “nobody to somebody” blog project. The steps you take, the challenges faced in only having under $100 for advertising, etc. That would be an e-book worth paying for.

    1. KingJacob says:

      Why an ebook and not a real book?

  37. John Bennett says:

    Who really wants $100,000? I guess I might 😉

      1. Yeah, i will second the answer to that question with a smile too.

        🙂

    1. Jacob says:

      While it is nice to have 100K, let’s consider it like this…The blog is going to continue to grow in size and strength as that e-book is spread around the web. Next year, I bet 60,000 copies will have been downloaded. Now, 100K is a one time check bam bam bam, we’re done. But, if he continues to grow his blog, maybe by this time next year, he’ll be at 25K a month. Four months time, he’s at 100K.

  38. Robert says:

    Who would have thought to flip an ad – what a great idea!!

    1. KingJacob says:

      Companies like clearchannel do it all the time with smaller radio stations air time.

  39. Luiggi says:

    Dear John: I just sent you a cold $10 beer! I think this post deserves it!… and I am sending you several questions, ( 😈 ) too:

    – Do you think that Technorati’s authority number is related to traffic? Or is it related to links pointing to you? And what about its relathionship with earnings? As of right now, yours is 5,352 and doshdosh.com is 4,299. (My blog publicalpha.com is just 289… for now).

    Cheers!

    Luiggi

    1. John Chow says:

      Technorati is a measure of how many blogs link to you over a 90 day period. It’s not relationship to traffic isn’t that much. Mind you a higher traffic blog does tend to get more links, but then you have stuff like link trains and evil ping schemes to boost your ranking.

      Technorait ranking has very little relationship to earnings. It’s main advantage is getting you a higher price on ReviewMe.

  40. Geedos says:

    I don’t think you can compare how many copies of the e-book you gave away for free with how many you could have ‘potentially’ sold.

    However, I am interested why you didn’t include a one time offer with it? I don’t think that would have de-graded the user experience and if anything the book could easily have been slanted to sell the offer – especially if it was to do with making money online.

  41. I developed over 100 sites (mini & maxi) to earn huge income from Adsense Ads. I worked day and night reading all experts, tips to optimize. I did that. I bought a lot of eBooks and read every page of it. I changed the palettes,color, placements of ads. But still I am exploring why my icnome with targeted keywords not satisfactory. Overure, Word Tarcker all I used to select KEI & ovt. But in vain,
    Please advise what I have to do. Appreciate your guidance.

    Best regards,
    Dr.ALTAF HOSSAIN PHD.

  42. Jon says:

    No doubt theres work in both affiliate programs and blogs but surely if you get your niche right and people trust your blog then making money on your blog has got to work. Check out

  43. Michael says:

    Thanks I always assumed adsense was the holy grail of advertising and the reason I got poor earning was because my traffic but it seems its also my use of advertising.

  44. sandossu says:

    I love the way you manage traffic and monetize your blog. You really motivate me and give me ideas 🙂

  45. Chris says:

    Hey guys. I run a fairly new site, and we’ve gotten a pagerank of 5 and 2500 unique viewers a day.

    We’re only making about a dollar a day in advertising, however. With a pagerank of 5, it seems like we should be making more. I suspect our advertisers are poor; the ads seem rather low quality.

    Right now we’ve got two banner ads, ContentLink keywords in text, and on certain pages (news articles) Google Adsense text ads.

    Should I be making more and be looking for a better ad provider, or is this about right for the amount of traffic I get?

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