WordAds in 2013

Coming up in February, we will celebrate the 2nd anniversary of WordAds. Based on the feedback we get from advertisers and publishers, we’re calling the program a success. We now have more than 10 thousand sites running WordAds with around 1 billion ad impressions per month, and we will be paying out around $1 million to WordAds publishers in 2013.

For most publishers, earnings are steady with their traffic, but we have some notable success stories where publishers have over-night viral posts that bring in tens of millions of page views over a few days.

For 2014, WordAds’ product roadmap calls for:

  • More ad types to chose from.
  • Improved reporting.
  • As always, higher earnings and improved ad creative.

To learn more about WordAds, please feel free to stop by Why WordAds? and our FAQ page.

If you have a WordPress.com blog, request an invitation today! If you have a self-hosted WordPress.org blog, we plan to expand our service to you eventually, or you could easily move to WordPress.com if you just can’t wait to be a part of the WordAds family.

2013 was a great year for WordAds. Let’s make 2014 even better!

The WordAds Team

rads2013

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Choosing a Subject: Niche or Broad?

Pencils

Photo credit: Wikipedia

A common question we hear is, “I have blog, now what do I write about?”

If you’re reading this, you probably have a blog, and you might even be earning money from that blog. If not, you’re at least keeping track of how much traffic your blog gets. Your earnings are primarily affected by traffic, and traffic is primarily affected by what your blog is about. Is you blog a niche subject, like 9to5 Mac (where folks can instantly find Apple-related news), or a broad subject like Jon Negroni (where folks can find articles on pop culture, social media, and generally anything that Jon Negroni finds interesting to share with his readers). Both sites are great, both are very popular, and both bring in some great revenue, but they both share very different traffic dynamics.

A broad subject blog tends to bring in more of a following of dedicated readers than a niche subject blog, which tends to attract many one-time readers from search engines. Take a moment to remove yourself as a blogger and think of yourself as a reader. If you love what Jon Negroni has to say, you’re probably already following his blog, or will be following it right after you read this article. If you want to hear about the new iPhone, you’ll probably find several articles from 9to5 Mac at the top of your searches. Is either situation better than the other? Technically, yes, but ultimately, no.

A site with a broad subject focus, like Watts Up With That? (focussing on climate change, an arguably broad subject within itself) is bound to maintain a more stable average than a site with a niche subject, like Stoopid Housewives (focussing on news and gossip surrounding Bravo’s Real Housewives series). While traffic to a broad subject may maintain a more stable average, traffic to a niche subject will have higher peaks and lower valleys. How much traffic both sites accumulate at the end of the month is really up to the site. It can’t be quantified or predicted with any shred of accuracy, no matter who or what claims they can. A broad subject may enjoy a more comfortable average throughout its existence thanks to a more dedicated following, while a niche subject will have amazing days when something remarkable happens within its subject and terrible days when news simply dries up.

Ultimately, you should write about what you want to write about. Let the traffic come to you, and let that traffic stay if it wants to. Write for yourself, the audience you want will grow, and your earnings will follow.

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Your Readers are People

Audience at a show in Hong Kong.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re part of the WordAds family, you’re already making money from your posts. The money is there, but it doesn’t always flow evenly. There are a variety of factors that affect how much you’ll make at the end of the month, but the only one you should worry about is the fact that your readers are people, not robots.

Your readers are people, and they can come and go as they please. Just because you have 500 followers does not mean that every post will have 500 views. In fact, the same post could just as easily have 200 or 2,000 views. Now, I’m not here to do the usual thing and tell you to bend to your readers, quite the opposite in fact. Never betray your style. You are who you are, and your audience follows you because of who you are. If you are actually looking to change your style, there are tips and challenges posted every day at The Daily Post, but don’t let a drop in traffic or revenue force you to change.

Your readers are people, and they have friends who want to read entertaining content too. Just like there could be a day when your traffic drops to seemingly unrecoverable levels, there could be a day when it balloons out of control. Now, I don’t know the secret to suddenly getting millions of readers, but from what I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure there is no secret. One day, you could be writing about a unifying theory which ties together all Pixar films or a series of embarrassing Walmart photos (not for the faint of heart), and you’ll suddenly go from making hundreds of dollars a month to thousands.

Your readers are people, and they want to continue to read the things they enjoy. Don’t change your ways to bend to a departing audience. Stick to who you are, stick to your style, and embrace the audience who stays with you because of who you are. Don’t worry, they’ll bring their friends.

That’s a lot of words to really say three often repeated words, so I’d like to close with them, “never give up.”

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Retain More Readers with Images and Videos

Running ads is only half the battle. The other half is building and retaining an audience, so you actually have folks who will see the ads. While writing the text of a blog post is clearly important, finding ways to add images and video when appropriate will stimulate your readers’ minds, giving them something more than text to dig through, and a reason to come back.

Have a look at The Pixar Theory, a hugely popular breakout post from blogger Jon Negroni. It’s a very fascinating post which describes a unifying theory between all Pixar films. Does the post need images to get its point across? Of course not. But, take a moment to close your eyes and image that post with no images. Imagine the huge and intimidating mountain of text growing ever higher, it’s insurmountable, there’s no way you’ll get through it even in a day, it just keeps growing and growing, little black letters, there’s no end in sight!

A Steep Climb, Kosciusko Drift

(Photo credit: Powerhouse Museum Collection)

Now, breathe a sigh of relief and look again. There are images, tons of colorful images from the films being discussed. They break up the text, add color, and help to illustrate points that text alone struggles to. Now, it doesn’t seem so insurmountable. In fact, it won’t take you long to read the post, and I highly recommend that you do.

English: Shiga Kogen - Sun Valley - summit

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is what adding media does to a post. It breaks up the text, improves the flow, and makes a long post seem much shorter and more enjoyable to read.

If you don’t have images to add to your post, there are plenty of ways to find and properly attribute royalty free images. If you have a blog on WordPress.com, you can already do this by just using Zemanta. If you don’t have a WordPress.com blog, just grab the Zemanta extension for the same functionality.

Videos are even easier to add. If you know of a video that will help to get your point across, embed it using the video provider’s embed code, or follow one of these guides if you’re on WordPress.com. Don’t overdo it though. Abstract images can be added just for the sake of color and variety, but abstract videos are a bit more wasteful than helpful.

The next time you write a post, try to spice it up with a few images or videos. Your readers will thank you!

Update: As of January 2, 2014, Zemanta is no longer available as a built-in feature on WordPress.com. Please feel free to visit Finding Free Images and other Media for some handy tips.

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Expectations on Affiliate Ads Often Over-Blown

We hear from many sites that they want to run affiliate ads or links on their sites. For example, a site that reviews books might want to include links to those books and Amazon.com will pay that site when someone clicks to link and buys it from Amazon.com.

We can follow the logic of the blogger who reviews books and believes that their traffic will convert to book sales.

In our experience, however, many bloggers often have outsized forecasts for earnings potential from affiliate advertising. We see it from personal experience as WordPress.com is the largest blogging platform and yet we earn relatively little from affiliate programs.

For most sites it’s tough to get a conversion and when it happens the affiliate partner will pay around 4% of the sale.

For sure there are real case studies of sites that have done very well with affiliate programs. Generally, they are sites created for affiliate programs and are in high end niches like travel and electronics. An example is the WireCutter which reviews tech products.

If you think you can bring in a large viewership for high end products like this which can be monetized via affiliate links we would encourage you to try. For other categories, we don’t think its worth extra work. Rather, WordAds uses software to automatically insert affiliate links so this is something you don’t have to be concerned with.

Broad Brand Campaigns and Multi-pronged Approach

So, if affiliate ads are not for everybody, what works? In our experience broad brand campaigns, often click to play video ads, perform the best and have good ad quality. Additionally, we like to run a dozen or more ad types at once. These include mobile ads, ads in images and videos, related content ads, and more. Each ad type might not be significant on its own, but when combined, you get more meaningful earnings.

 

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WordAds and Contextual Ads

We get a fair number of questions from WordAds bloggers asking why WordAds creative are mostly not contextual. For example, a vegetarian food site might want to see ads for vegetarian food. Some bloggers tend to want contextual ads because they think they will earn more and because they don’t want ads on their site that they feel are ‘random.’

We also hear from bloggers who do not want us to run contextual ads. Examples there are a gaming site that sees ads for guides to cheat in games or a site about divorce that has ads for divorce lawyers.

Google Adsense is the product most associated with contextual ads, as they pioneered it and it is the largest network. However, Adsense has evolved and now shows a mix of contextual and non-contextual ads.

So why doesn’t WordAds run more contextual ads? There are a few answers to that:

1)  Click to play video ads tend to perform and pay better. Targeting is similar to what you see on television where advertisers are looking to reach as broad an audience as possible. Ads are from auto makers or consumer product companies where most any viewer might be a buyer.

2) Retargeted ads can pay better. Retargeted ads happen like this: a viewer goes to a travel site and researches a trip to Miami. When they later visit your site our advertisers might show them ads for Miami hotels and flights. Some research suggests that up to 98% of a website’s first-time visitors drop off without converting. So showing ads to that 98% has been found to be a good bet for many advertisers.

3) Related content can pay better. These are ads where other publishers pay to drive traffic specific articles on their sites. This is somewhat similar to contextual advertising, the main difference is that contextual advertising drives traffic to a product or service, whereas with related content another publisher is paying to draw traffic to an article or post.

In addition to these there are other advertising programs that we run that pay better than contextual ads. In short, WordAds is not dead set against contextual ads, but we want WordAds users to get the most value out of every impression so we work with other ad types.

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Why WordAds?

What is WordAds, and why should you try it? It’s the simplest way to earn the best ad rates on your blog.

Picture this common scenario: You’re trying to park your car in a massive parking garage with ridiculously tiny spaces. You could spend hours circling the garage for the spot closest to your destination, and then have to contend with the ridiculously tiny spaces, or you could hand over your car to the valet and be on your way.

Online advertising is like that parking garage. You could spend months experimenting with different advertising networks and placements trying to find the best payout while also not over saturating your site with ads, and you could spend weeks trying to implement the advertising network’s code in a tasteful, bug-free manner. WordAds is like that parking valet, except you don’t have to pay or tip us in any way, and we actually give you money! We take care of everything for you, including negotiating with the ad networks, choosing the best ads, placing them in the best spots, and making sure they work properly overall. All you have to do is turn it on and transfer the payout to your bank account.

With WordAds, we ensure that your ads look great in any theme, including over 70 themes beautifully integrated with every possible WordAds placement. We bring the advertising networks to your blog with better rates than you could get on your own, as we negotiate rates for our entire network of WordAds-powered sites. There’s no code to implement. Just turn it on, and you’ll be collecting money in no time.

Just to show how easy it is, we’re just finishing up this introduction to WordAds video for the home page here, and we and wanted you to see it first.

To learn more about WordAds, please feel free to stop by Everything You Wanted to Know About WordAds, as well as our Benefits and FAQ pages.

If you have a WordPress.com blog, request an invitation today! If you have a self-hosted WordPress.org blog, we plan to expand our service to you eventually, or you could easily move to WordPress.com if you just can’t wait to be a part of the WordAds family.

We’re here to make it easy for you to get paid for your amazing content. Let us help you today!

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WordAds Q&A On DailyPost

WordPress.com’s DailyPost ran a Q&A on WordAds. You can read it here.

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New Ad Impressions Reporting

As WordAds sites likely saw, in September we began to report ad impressions together with your earnings. Previously, WordAds sites looked at their page views to make a rough calculation about how many ads they were serving.

Some sites have asked why WordAds does not serve ads on every page. We share your interest in running as many ads as possible, however, there are a few reasons we cannot.

1) Ad blockers. The number of ads blocked by ad blockers that site visitors have on their computers varies, but we have seen estimates that 20% of ad impressions are blocked by ad blockers.

2) Ads not viewed. Some site visitors might bounce from your site quickly after arriving. This will count as a page view for you but if they don’t scroll down to see an ad it won’t count as an ad view.

3) Normal ad server discrepancies. There is always a few percentage discrepancy between site stats and what the ad server counts. Usually your site stats are a bit higher.

4) Mobile phone impressions. WordAds serves ad impressions on many smart phones but there are other visits to sites that count as page views where we do not serve ads because the phone type does not accept ads.

5) Ad partners default to blanks. WordAds runs a ‘waterfall’  of ad partners from the highest payers to the lowest. If the lowest paying partner hits a cap on ads for your site they will stop running ads.

For WordAds sites, there is not much if anything you can do to increase the number of ads served, other than to get more traffic. It’s our job as the ad operations team to do our best to leverage ad partners to increase the fill rate of ads.

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WordAds Is For “Family Safe” Sites

There are many great sites on WordPress.com that cover sexuality or that use profanity to make a point or express a personality.  We don’t want these sites to change their blogs for WordAds. However, we do want to be helpful and explain why such sites cannot earn advertising income from WordAds and what criteria advertisers use to ‘blacklist’ sites that they don’t want their ads to run on.

Who Defines Family Safe?
WordAds is a technology, support and accounting liaison between your site and advertisers. We don’t create the ads or define the advertising goals, that comes from the brand and their agency. There are a huge number of sites on which these companies can advertise. If there is a chance that their brand will be embarrassed to be on a site, they will take their ad campaigns elsewhere.

Advertisers generally use software to both track where their ads appear to and scan those pages looking for ‘brand offensive’ content. This can be a blunt instrument that doesn’t take into context where the blog publisher is coming from. WordAds can and does champion sites that are black-listed by advertisers but we generally find that they err on the side of caution.

What Is Family Safe?
Google Adsense, which is the world’s largest online advertising network and one of the WordAds partners, has published their definition of family friendly here.  In short: “When in doubt about whether an image or text might be construed as adult content, our rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t want a child to see the content or if you would be embarrassed to view the page in front of colleagues, then it’s probably not family-safe.”

The WordAds team has had a number of discussions with advertising partners where we have noted that the definition of family safe changes greatly from country to country. What we hear back is that family-safe is mostly applied based on the norms of the Internet’s largest advertising market – North America.

Other Categories That Can Cause Blacklisting
We see other sites that get black-listed by advertisers for the following reasons:

1) Illegal downloads or copyright violations. More on that here.

2) Comment spam that is not family safe. WordPress.com’s Akismet will filter comment spam for you but some sites over-ride those recommendations. We recommend that you trust Akismet as we find many comment spams that are offensive.

3) Extreme violence or hate – even if its of a historical nature. Advertisers don’t want to appear next to images related to genocide, cannibalism, etc.

4) Content is not unique or valuable. Some sites are created with content copied from others sites with just a minimal number of changes. Advertisers generally feel such sites are not a good complement to their ads. More on that here.

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