One year ago, my blog reached the minimum traffic requirement of WordAds and the advertising platform added my blog to their program. Starting October 2017, I was able to display ads on my blog and earn part of the generated income. At the beginning, I was very excited. However, after few enthusiastic months, I soon realized that I will not be able to earn lots of money using WordAds. Sure, displaying adds earns some money, but compared to my regular salary, it is negligible.
Review: One year of WordAds
In this post, I want to revisit my first year with WordAds and share some experiences and observations that I made throughout the last year. Especially, I want to report some general points, such as how the income reporting and payout works, and discuss some issues related to traffic.
How does WordAds report earnings?
Once I was accepted to the program, a new “WordAds” button appeared on the sidebar of my dashboard. The button leads to a page that reports your monthly earnings together with the number of ads that WordAds served your viewers. Until September 2018, WordAds reported these figures on a monthly basis. Thereby, the figures of one particular month were usually published between the 20th and 25th of the following month. In October 2018, WordAds introduced a new feature, the company incorporated the ads and income reporting system into the Jetpack package. More precisely, WordAds added a new tab on your stats page. That is, next to traffic and insights tab, now one also finds a tab called ads that reports the number of ads displayed and the income generated on a daily basis. In my opinion this represents a huge improvement. Finally, once you accumulate 100 dollars of income, WordAds sends you the money to your PayPal account.
How much does WordAds pay?
How much can one earn with WordAds? While these seem to be very important questions to many bloggers, I am just not the guy to ask. WordAds is the only source of revenue that my blog generates—I tried the Amazon Affiliate program, but it didn’t work—. In order to make a living out of blogging, my blog would need to generate millions of monthly page views each month. Currently, I am having a few thousand. Hence, if one seeks earning advice, there are many blogs out there that propose fantastic strategies to earn money with blogging. In this post, I prefer to focus on some simple statistics. The average CPM—earnings per thousand impressions—was 0.685 (October 2017-November 2018). That is, displaying thousand ads generates on average an income of 68.5 pennies. Averaging 3 ads per view, I roughly earned 2 dollar per 1000 views. However, throughout the year the average CPM fluctuates considerably. The following table display the average CPM for each month since I was accepted to the program. Note that, the average CPM was high during between November and April and dropped during the summer month. Up to this day, the average CPM did not recover from this dip. The fluctuations in CPM might be driven by various factors. For instance, a different composition of traffic—US traffic pays more than traffic from other countries—and a different willingness to pay—firms paying for ads pay more during certain periods than during others—are probably the most important factors explaining the fluctuation in CPM. If time permits, I will try to examine in greater detail what factors drive these fluctuations.
The average CPM does not only fluctuate throughout the year, but also within a week. The table below reports the average CPM for each weekday. One can see that the average CPM varies substantially between the different days of the week . The average CPM is lowest on Tuesday (0.57) and highest on Saturday (0.72). However, note that, while the table above uses monthly data that was made available since the beginning of my WordAds affiliation, i.e. October 2017, the following table displays estimations that are based only on information from October 1, 2018 onward. Nonetheless, even though I have only a limited amount of data points for each weekday (between 10 and 11), the construction of 95% confidence intervals—based on a t-distribution—indicates that the CPMs are statistically different from each other.
|Day||Average CPM||95% Conf. Intervals|
What factor possibly reduced traffic and income?
During the last year, traffic on my site slowed down considerably. Additionally, also the average CPM decrease during the year. In the reminder of this post, I will mention some possible factors that can explain the decrease in traffic and average earning. Besides the fact that I started displaying ads during the last year, a couple of additional factors might have potentially reduced traffic and income on my blog. First, AMP was activated on my blog. Second, I changed my theme. Finally, GDPR came into place.
The sole fact that I started displaying ads on my blog probably already reduced traffic by its own. The reason being that ads slow down the loading speed of a page. It is well known that search engines punish long loading times and decrease the rank of site that take a long time to load. Thus, displaying ads might have led search engines diverting less traffic to my site. This is what I actually observe, my average google-rank decreased considerably during the last year.
AMP might be an additional factor that could have caused the slowdown in traffic on my blog. I do not remember exactly when, but at some point AMP was activated on my blog. AMP is a library that translates web pages into mobile pages that are compelling, smooth, and load near instantaneously. The advantage is obvious, AMP pages load incredibly fast. Hence, search engine rank improves as loading time decreases. Unfortunately, AMP is very bad in parsing latex code. And, as I use a lot of math in my posts, most of my posts look very bad when AMP transformed. Hence, even though AMP decreases the loading speed of my blog posts, I am pretty sure that it also increase my bounce rate. Thus, on December 16, 2018, I decided to no longer use AMP.
Change of Theme
In August this year, I felt that my old theme was outdated. Thus, I changed the theme of my blog. I switched from the theme twenty ten to twenty fourteen. I am not sure by how much this change influenced the visibility of my website, but I suspect that a new theme comes with a different loading time and different custom settings. Hence, bots and crawlers will have to newly evaluate at least part of my blog and SEO ranking will drop temporarily.
Finally, in May 2018 the European Union put the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into place. The law basically aims to give control to individuals over their personal data. Importantly, from a bloggers perspective, GDPR considers cookies as personal data. The reason being that cookies can identify an individual. The issue with not using cookies in advertisement is it that ads cannot be personalized. Hence, companies’ willingness to pay reduces substantially as they cannot select their audience as precisely as with cookies. Thus, even though GDPR does not reduce traffic on your site, it still decreases your income per ad displayed in the European Union and other countries that implemented GDPR. GDPR might also have reduced the average CPM on my blog. The following figure plots the monthly CPM over time and shows the average CPM before and after GDPR was introduced. Unfortunately, I cannot attribute the decrease in the mean to introduction of GDPR. The reason being that also the composition of the viewers changes significantly during summer. I would need a lot more data to clearly identify the effect of GDPR on ads revenue.