YEAR THREE: PROFESSIONAL BLOGGING

February 12, 2015
Rachel Schultz

Every year on the anniversary of my site’s birth, we celebrate blogginess for a week. Today’s post will cover some new things, but it as an ongoing story from what I have already written in these yearly updates. If you are interested in more about professional blogging or want to start from the beginning, see what I wrote in year one and year two. There are four major topics that were big for me while blogging over the past year.

Obsessively making lists is the glue that holds me together. (Overstatement.) Calendars, three ring binders, colorful tabs. It is all great and a solid to-do list is the crown jewel. You might like this post as well. There’s pie charts.

YEAR SIX

WATERFALLING

Advertisements are a means to an end for this blog. What I am really about is the content, but making money is what enables me to commit to doing this consistently. I carefully keep myself in check on how pervasive advertisements are around here. I have never participated in sponsored posts and keep this center column pure blog. It is possible I will someday do sponsored posts, but I would be very selective and insist on maintaining my readers’ trust.

“Waterfalling” is a way I have increased my profit while having no additional ads. To understand this concept, we are focusing on fill rate. Let’s say your page receives 100 hits (also known as “pageviews”) in one day. Fill rate is the percentage of those hits where the ad network had an ad to display in your ad space.

Blogs are paid per 1,000 pageviews, also known as CPM (stands for something Latin meaning “per 1,000”). $1.00 CPM is okay; $5.00 CPM is great. You read that correctly, 1,000 pageviews could only earn you $1. That is why it is a lot of work to make any real money through a blog. Usually a network with a high fill rate will have a low CPM. Networks with high CPM generally have lower fill rates because they are selective to only use high paying advertisers. No ad network has a 100% fill rate all the time.

Traffic Pie Chart

The goal of waterfalling is to get yourself as close to a 100% fill rate as possible. To do this, and therefore make the most possible money from an ad space, I create a chain of networks. First, I put my highest paying network. If that network has an ad to serve, then wonderful, I probably got paid top dollar. If not, I have programmed for that ad space to “passback” to the network I have as the second highest payer. If they do not have an ad to serve, it goes to the third tier and so on. You could have as many tiers as you would like, but by about three or four all ads will have been served. A third or fourth tier ad would have a 90+% fill rate on its own.

This is pretty tech-y, so I encourage you to research this process more if you are interested in setting it up on your own site. This was something new I used in 2014 and it brought an increase to profit.

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Redesigning my site this year instantly increased traffic and the numbers have remained consistent, and even continued to grow, ever since. I recommend investing in this once your site has begun to make some money. Many bloggers say whatever they make from their blog, they put some of it right back in. I hope to soon earn back what I spent on the design because of the traffic increase from its help with site navigation and the brand appearance overall.

LEAVING BLOGHER

BlogHer was the ad network I had most of my income with. And yet, this year I left them. It is not me; it’s you.

There are three main reasons I did this. First, their numbers were slipping. When I first signed on with them in May 2013, I was earning as much as a $6 CPM with them. Throughout 2014, their numbers dropped substantially. They insisted these changes were industry-wide, but I was just not seeing it. The numbers from all my other ad networks were growing.

Traffic Pie Chart

Second, BlogHer prohibited waterfalling, which as I illustrated above can hugely increase payout for each ad space. Finally, BlogHer required a huge BlogHer logo to be prominently placed on any blog working with them. For $6 CPM I could tolerate it, but once their numbers fell and my site was redesigned, their poorly designed logo was not cutting it.

The spaces have been redispersed to other networks and has so far proved to be the right decision.

ADAPTING

Much has been written on how the blog industry is changing. Some tell of sure defeat for the blogs relying on banner ads in a way that before the year is out blogging will barely be a career anymore. I think the fear mongering potrays it to be worse than it is, but I do believe markets and publishers will have to adapt. This really is not different than any industry. (Think of the poor print medias!)

The key is adapting. This video on the The Sigmoid Curve is worth your time if you are earning some level of income from an internet presence.

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