When you start getting emails from readers complaining about how long you’ve gone since posting, you’re doing something wrong on your blog. Special thanks goes out to Galyna for shaming me into posting today’s update. 😉
Honestly, there was very little happening with my niches sites until about two weeks ago, so I just never got around to posting any updates. The newest site hasn’t climbed much in the SERPs over the last two months, so there is nothing to report on that front. The kids’ pets site has been holding steady at it’s #1 spot in Google, but the CTR for AdSense was horrible for the first month of serving up ads, and the average CPC for the site’s targeted keywords isn’t really worth writing home about.
The numbers I saw from the sites in late August and early September showed that I was getting steady traffic, but virtually no money. It prompted me to make some improvements that turned out to be somewhat effective, if not exactly thrilling.
Where I Improved (and Will Continue to Improve) My Sites
The basic formula for determining average monthly revenue for a site (using AdSense as the source of revenue) is as follows:
Visitors X Pageviews Per Visitor X Avg. Click-Thru Rate X Avg. Cost Per Click
Each one of those numbers can be manipulated to some extent, and the best way to increase AdSense revenue on a site is by maximizing as many of them as possible. While my kids’ pets niche site doesn’t look like it will ever be a huge earner, it has proven that it can already cover the cost of my web hosting and a few domain renewals each year. Even getting the site to the point that it could earn a steady $25-$50 a month would be a real coup for me. So here is what I did (or plan to do) for each factor in my revenue equation.
There are a lot of different ways to get more visitors to the site each month, but I am focusing on Search Engine Optimization for my sites. That means that my goal has to be reaching #1 in Google for as many keywords as possible to drive traffic. The site’s main keyword (and one direct semantic equivalent) drives about 65% of the site’s traffic, which is around 1,000 visitors a month right now.
As far as visitors driven by the main keyword for the site, I couldn’t ask for more. Most sources I’ve seen indicate that about 40-45% of Google’s users click through the first result on page one of the SERPs. Based on the Google Keyword Tool’s search volume estimates, my site is pulling in that traffic an impressive 68% of the time. Not too shabby! The problem, though, is that I am already at #1, so that keyword has reached its maximum potential already.
My only options now are to target more keywords, and to increase my rankings for the keywords I’m using already. I have five pages that are hovering around #10 for their primary keywords. I could focus my efforts on those keywords, but the return for the effort probably wouldn’t be worth it; reaching #1 in Google for all five of the keywords would only add about 100 visitors a month. So, I really do need to focus on some new keywords.
One keyword that should be achievable for me is a short-tail root for my main keyword. Surprisingly, the longer-tail keyword actually gets more searches each month. My site is already ranked #11 in Google for the short-tail, so a few high-quality backlinks with the short-tail keyword used as anchor text may be all that I need to get to the top.
My latest article is much more ambitious in its targeted keyword. It was indexed and ranked in the top 50 in Google within hours, and it is up to #37 as of today. It has a much higher search volume than any other keyword I’ve targeted, but I believe that the competition is beatable. If I do get to #1 for this keyword, it could drive an additional 2,000-3000 visitors to the site monthly.
Pageviews Per Visitor
This one is all about quality. My visitor bounce rate is around 63%, which I feel is a little high, but not horrific. Those that don’t bounce stay on the site for a surprisingly long time given how few pages there are. Average visitor time is about a minute and a half, with about 2.4 pageviews. A large portion of the visitors are reading every single page of content on the site, which is a good indication that the content keeps people reading. Of course, adding more pages of good content should add to the number of pageviews I get from each of the visitors, without the need for much off-page SEO.
Average Click-Through Rate
My horrible CTR prompted me to look more at my ad placements. I downloaded a great, free paper called The Ultimate Heatmap (not an affiliate link–I just wanted to share a great resource), which I used to redo the site’s layout.
The changes I made in the site layout were actually kind of small, but they made a big difference in the CTR. We’re talking about doubling, here, just from aligning elements more tightly than they had been. The CTR is still horrible, but it’s worlds better than it was before. The results were dramatic enough to prompt me to immediately redo my newer niche site as well.
The amount that advertisers bid for the keywords I have already targeted is out of my hands. If I want higher bids, I have to target new, higher-paying keywords.
That’s not to say, however, that I can’t increase (or decrease) the amount that I actually get for each click. Google has something known as Smart Pricing, which just means that websites that produce high CTRs for their ads get paid better for those ad spots. Of course, I have no sure way of knowing if I’m getting the the “Smart” price for my ads or the premium price. I do, however, need to make sure that my CTR is as high as possible and that my content is high-quality to avoid getting penalized.