Website Revenue Models: Real Revenue Statistics For Small Websites

After we launched our first website we wanted to understand how our results compared to “average”. There wasn’t a source of reliable data so we built one!

Based on a survey of 100 websites which were listed for public auction, here are the trends on how much they earned per visitor. This data was the basis behind our website revenue calculator

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Start With User Experience

While Google AdSense is a good product, their analytics platform leads you down a blind galley. They put a high emphasis on page level revenue per thousand visitors, which is a common ad network metric. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t the metric you want to focus on to optimize website monetization. Think about your business for a moment. You create content and generate organic traffic (clicks) from Google search. Shouldn’t you try to maximize the revenue per inbound click (or session)? You earn your money from the total session, not from optimizing individual web pages. Remember the classic ad optimization failure mode: Loading up a web page with so many ads that the visitors immediately leave. This can be especially dangerous if the typical reader is likely to stay awhile. While you max out revenue per page-view, you limit your revenue with shorter visits. Except in today’s SEO environment, short sessions with bad UX metrics will hurt Google’s assessment of your website’s quality. Get ready for those rankings to start dropping. And then you have nothing. You can get a start on this sort of analysis by creatively using Google Analytics. More advanced ad optimization generally requires an ad network partner with a good testing platform.

Ad Optimization Tactics: Ad Placements 101

AdSense (and other ad networks) refer to the ad slots on your page as ad inventory. These ad placements are made available in an online auction via a platform such as Google AdExchange. The inventory is matched with bids from advertisers, referred to as “ad demand”. Many ad networks have their own platforms where they combine Google’s demand with third party ad buyers. This process is referred to as programmatic advertising. Machines control the auction, assembling the inventory and managing the bids. When someone visits your page, the AdSense code triggers a signal to the auction that a visitor meeting specific criteria is available for bidding. The most basic level of ad optimization is arranging your website so your inventory is attractive to the right buyers. This could include organizing display ads into adsense channels for easy targeting. The process starts with optimizing your inventory – in terms of ad placement and ad sizes. Certain ad sizes have more demand among ad buyers, which helps you get better rates. Avoid rare ad sizes as a publisher. Along the same lines, where you place it on the web page will affect how often the ad is seen (visibility) and the rate at which it gets clicked (CTR – click through rate). There are other techniques to ensure the ads stand out from the page, such as contrasting the background colors of the ad with the web page. You should test ad format changes (ad size, ad unit, ad type) along with link unit placements and text ad settings. You need to carefully balance this with audience engagement. This takes two forms: first, you need to show relevant content to keep the viewer engaged. Second, if you expect to get multi-page visits, don’t neglect to display appropriate calls to action to guide your visitors deeper into the site or ensure they’re aware of other relevant content. If you are an AdSense publisher focused on mobile traffic, look at how to implement responsive ads. You also need to ensure you’re compliant with the program’s policies to avoid putting your AdSense account at risk.

Where Ad Optimization Technology Can Help

Most folks start by doing ad optimization manually (tracked with Google Analytics) and move to a more structured platform. The more advanced platforms in this business (such as Ezoic’s) include automated testing processes that can look at combinations of different ads and page layouts. You identify the ad space and the system creates ads and tests them to optimize ad revenues per visitor. The other element you should look at is improving the level of competition within the ad auction. You’ve already taken the first step by getting approved by Google: AdSense pays better than many ad networks. However, there are premium ad networks out there which can pay substantially higher rates. You also can look at technical opportunities such as header bidding, which can increase competition for ad inventory. This may require working with ad code. I’m a bit more skeptical of bloggers who are pushing an optimized WordPress theme for AdSense. A good WordPress theme may address a few issues, but these are tiny relative to getting the ad unit, ad size, and mix of bidders correct for your ad inventory. The optimized theme is more likely to help with UX issues and page speed. You will want to run sidebar ads but these can be handled via various plugins and custom widgets. We will dig into this subject a bit deeper in the articles below. Beyond the tactical aspects of shuffling ad slots around a page, there’s another layer of strategic ad optimization worth looking into: which types of blog posts tend to outperform? That can help guide your content development efforts to increase your overall return on new content.