It’s finally happened: a “10 things” post. This is basically a summation of the information that I wanted when I asked this question.
One: Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com actively prevent you from placing ads on your site.
Wordpress.org are a free service. They subsidise this by placing their ads on your site. Moving to Wordpress.com removes these ads for you (based on the annual fee that you pay - £90 / year at the time of writing), but doesn’t allow you to place your own.
Two: The ad service available to Wordpress.com users is not under your control.
After applying for WordAds (as far as I’m aware this is the only ad service accepted by Wordpress.com), I received no reply for several months. I finally enquired and received a reply. The reply stated that they had a minimum traffic requirement and, while he couldn’t tell me what that was, it was roughly 10 times mine. I was receiving around 1,000 hits a month at the time, so unless you’re getting 10,000 hits every month - don’t bother.
Three: Amazon Associates and other affiliates
Amazon Associates, and other “associate” web sites sound like an excellent idea. There’s no Wordpress policy against them, and you can add them to your site easily enough. The problem that you have here is that they have to appeal to your readership so much that they will click the link and buy something.
My blog is a tech blog, so trying to sell a couple of tech books and a CMS provider didn’t seem to work at all. Obviously, if the book is your own book then you may fare better.
Four: Self Hosted Wordpress sites can contain anything you want - ads, links, whatever
Following my lack of success with associates, and my conversation with Word Ads, I decided to go down the self-hosted route. I used a company that offered to migrate the Wordpress.com site for me. This did seem like quite a straight-forward process and, unless you actually want the experience of doing this yourself, I’d recommend it (most hosting providers offer this as a free service). Make sure you test the migration afterwards though; after the first try, mine was missing deep links, the source code plug-in wasn’t working and some of the text had been strangely corrupted. The second attempt worked better, but it took about five before it worked correctly.
It’s worth remembering that unless you have your own domain name (part of the Wordpress.com offering), you may have a job to re-direct links. I believe there is a Wordpress service that will forward traffic for a period of time to prevent search rankings dropping, but that won’t fix a blog that references your site by URL.
Five: Advertising doesn’t pay as much as you think
Once you manage to get your own site and put ads on there, you might be disappointed.
My site is getting around 80 - 100 hits / day at the time of writing. That’s worth about £0.01. I can’t say if it’s the same in America, but that’s less than 2 cents by my reckoning - so I don’t even get to have my 2 cents!
Also, in some cases, your hits may depend on the day. My blog appeals mainly to programmers, so weekend traffic is roughly halved.
Six: Click Through pays much more
So, I’m getting a shiny penny every day - then one day, I got £0.90, and on another I got £1.49, so clicks matter a great deal. I’ve seen a number of articles saying 0.1% click through rate is about right. Based on my current traffic, I should expect 3 clicks / month; that’s close to what I’m getting. The amount paid for a click through seems to vary wildly though, but average at around £0.50.
Seven: A long tail
This almost goes without saying, but if you have more posts, you will attract more visitors. If you post every week about something then after a year you’ll have 52 posts. The model number of visits (most frequent) for each of my posts is one per day, so that would make ~50 visits per day. Based on the above information, you can expect to be making a cool £0.30 pa!
Having said that, unless you’re writing about something time sensitive, you can expect that hit rate to be maintained for the life of your blog. Also, if you have a backlog of 50 posts, there is a greater chance that you’ll get referenced by a major publication.
Eight: Search ranking
I have a single post that is consistently receiving the highest hits:
My guess at the reason for this is that if you type: “server principal not able to access the database” into Google, this link is number two!
Clearly I’m an SEO expert then? Well, not really - TBH, I don’t know the first thing about search ranking; or, for that matter, care. My day job doesn’t involve me doing anything relating to search ranking, and I didn’t actively do anything to cause this. My guess is that if you can find a niche subject matter with not much existing information, and you’re not writing about, or publishing something that Google will downgrade, then after a year or posting, you’ll end up with at least one or two high ranking links.
Nine: From what you’ve seen above, you’re very unlikely to be able to retire on the revenue from blogging
The question to ask here is what are you actually after making. I, myself, would like to buy a solid gold house on an Hawaiian island with the money I make.
Well, I’m sure some people make a decent living from this. If you’re someone very well known in your field, like Jon Skeet, or Scott Hanselman, or if you’re Delia Smith and you write a cooking blog, you’ll get traffic because you are who you are.
That’s certainly not to say that these people haven’t got content that’s worth reading - they have, and they are leaders in their fields. They may also have reached a critical mass, whereby their name sells their content as well as the other way around.
Also, let’s think about some figures; imagine that what I’ve said above is factually correct in every way (just for a minute): 100 hits / day = £0.01 (£0.30 / month) 0.1% Click Through Rate (CTR) Average at £0.50 / click
This means that:
10,000 hits per month (the quantity quoted to be by WordAds) = £1 / month CTR = 100 Clicks = ~£50 / month
So, if I can increase my traffic by three times, I can earn £51 / month!
A quick guestimate is that it would take an average hit rate of 100K hits / month to make it something that you would consider income. If my total of 70 published posts generates me around 100 hits / day, I would need to post another 630 posts or something.
Ten: Well, I did say 10 things! Oh yeah - the disclaimer
Obviously, these figures are guesses. Many factors influence traffic. Most of what I’ve written above is my interpretation of something that I don’t fully understand. However, I wish I had read this a year ago.