If you’re building a passive website, the odds are high that you’re using Google Adsense to monetize it. There’s good reason that so many publishers rely on Adsense. It’s free to implement, requires no work, and Google handles the complicated backend issues like attracting advertisers, the bidding process, and tracking down payments. Publishers simply post a small piece of code and wait to get paid.
You know that I’ve used Adsense for years to build a passive income stream, and it’s paid off handsomely. But that doesn’t mean things are always smooth. Adsense earnings are volatile, fluctuating based on what ads are served and what advertisers are willing to bid.
Lately, I’ve been dealing with another problem. Take a look below. I’ve shown my earnings for December 2014 compared to December 2015. (At the time of this writing, the month isn’t completely finished. That’s why I’m showing just partial months.)
It’s easy to see that something isn’t right. Year-over-year, our earnings are down 18% while our page views are up 21%! The big problem is the Page RPM (revenue per 1,000 page views). It has fallen a staggering 32% to just over $22.50.
So what’s behind this drop? To be sure, you’ll see changes to your earnings with different mixes of traffic. A site can see dramatically higher page views but much lower earnings if that traffic is going to a page (or pages) that don’t perform as well for ad clicks.
I checked for this situation. It turns out that yes, my best-performing pages are seeing less traffic while other pages that don’t convert as well for ad clicks have higher traffic. For instance, my most popular page for revenue went from about 6,150 visits in December 2014 to 4,150 in December 2015. That’s a major drop. But it doesn’t completely explain why earnings have fallen.
So I dug a little deeper. I found that on a per-visitor basis my top pages are seeing lower click rates on ads resulting in lower revenue per thousand visits. In other words, traffic is falling to these pages, but more importantly, these pages aren’t making as much money even if they had the same amount of traffic.
(Note: I’ve blurred the page names below. This isn’t to be secretive. I simply don’t want links from this site impacting my SEO unfairly. If you’d like to know more about the sites I run, just contact me here.)
If you’re having trouble deciphering these charts, my click-through rate (the percentage of visitors who click an ad) has fallen from 2.0% to 0.4% for my most popular page. As a result, for every 1,000 visitors to that page, I have gone from earning $47.34 to $22.58 — a drop of 52%.
Keep in mind that all of this has happened without making any major changes to the page or site. I didn’t put up a new design or layout, or seriously alter the content. Just over the past year the earnings have steadily dropped. I can’t be sure, but I’m convinced that a major factor is the rise of adblocking software.
But adblock software isn’t the only culprit for such a sharp decline, and to be transparent, we aren’t sure what is to blame. It may simply be cyclical and advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much for clicks leading to lower earnings. Nevertheless, we can’t just sit idly by and let this happen.
How I’m Going to Increase Passive Income
No matter why earnings have fallen, what’s more important is what to do about it. It’s obvious that going forward I can’t simply rely on Google Adsense and these pages alone to earn passive income.
So here is my plan to earn more income, which you can use yourself…
1. Begin Using Affiliate Links
The good thing about affiliate links is that no matter how popular adblock software becomes, these links won’t be blocked. We’ve already began putting links on particular pages, and the early results are promising, creating a new income stream worth several hundred dollars a month to make up for the fall in Adsense revenue.
Our passive sites focus on the travel industry. Travel is a goldmine for affiliate offers. Hotels, car rentals, flights, cruises and more are all available for you to profit from. We were able to put links in pages that were already popular, creating an instant stream of income.
2. Test a Product Idea
We’ve put off creating a product for our websites for years. With earnings falling, we’ve decided now is the time to test one.
It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to put together a quality product. And I think the chances of a product working on my sites is relatively low. My site also doesn’t lend itself easily to a product as most people are visiting only to find small bits of information instead of searching for an answer to an overarching issue.
So to make sure I don’t waste my time, I’ll take a page out of The 4-hour Workweek and test a product before I create it. While it would take me weeks to put together a quality piece that I would be proud of selling, it would only take a few hours to come up with the idea for that product.
Once I have the idea, I can create a landing page and advertisement for it to place on my website. This takes just hours instead of weeks. From the landing page, I can include a link that clearly goes to purchase the product. Every click on this link would count as a conversion to sale.
But what about the fact that I don’t have a product already made? The purchase link would go to a final page that lets the buyer know that the product isn’t available just yet or purchase. At this point, I’m interested only in finding out if people want to buy it. I can get a sense of that from clicks on the link, without investing the time and energy in product creation.
3. Find Which Pages Convert and Drive More Traffic
This idea is by far the simplest to increase revenue. Thanks to linking Google Analytics and Adsense, I can see statistics on which pages result in the most ad click revenue. These are the pages that may not have the most traffic, but the visitors to those pages are highly engaged and generate a high amount of revenue on a per-person basis.
With these pages, driving more traffic to them can result in much higher overall earnings. We’ll take a look at these pages and explore ways to get them in front of more readers, including cross-linking from other articles, putting them in the sidebar of the page, and optimizing their SEO.
Have more ideas on how to generate more income from a passive website? Tell us the details in the comments below.