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James Schramko interviews Matthew Paulson (Matt is from Mattpaulson.com) about how you could start generating passive income through a successful AdSense campaign.
In this episode:
- The process behind setting up a property for AdSense
- How to earn more despite having fewer websites
- The benefits of outsourcing content production
- The mistake that many people make when it comes to driving traffic
- Playing the numbers game and the importance of promoting content on your own quality sites consitently
- Simple and highly effective tips for posting ads
- The relationship between your content and the ads you post
- Re-evaluating and adapting after the Panda updates
- Picking your domains
- How to sell your links
- The benefits of offering your sites for sponsored posts
- The best tips for selling links
- A checklist of things you could do to maximize AdSense today
- Where you could contact Matt
- A short summary of the discussion
James Schramko here. Today, we’re going to be chatting to a new friend of mine called Matt Paulson who’s really going well with Google AdSense and that’s where he’s publishing advertisements on his website which is a relatively passive way to bring in revenue and he’s doing really well with it; which you’ll hear on this episode. So I hope you enjoy this.
James: Matthew, I noticed you posted recently in a community that we’re both a member of that you had some success with AdSense which was, from what I can tell, a very good result. Would you be able to share with us some details about that?
Matthew: Yeah. I’ve been doing pretty well with AdSense for the last couple of years. 2012 I made a total of 104,454 dollars and this month I’ll be on track to do about 20,000 dollars just based on the kind of cycle or the seasonality of the type of content sites that I do. So, I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m pretty excited about it. Since my opportunities will go up again after that.
James: Well, I was excited seeing your results because I have a number of websites and I’ve never found AdSense to be that effective for me in certainly not the numbers you’re getting. And if I cast my mind way back in the beginning of when I went online, I had some exposure to some course that a guy called Michael Cheney put out about AdSense like 2006 or something. And I was getting some reasonable results then, but then I found other things and I got tied up with affiliate marketing and then creating my own products. What was the main decision for you to stick with this AdSense thing?
Matthew: Well, on 2007 and 2008 I had some personal finance websites that I, you know, had a few thousand hits a day and I was making maybe a thousand dollars a month from and I kind of thought, you know, “What if I could maximize this as much as possible and would it ramp up the traffic, optimize, you know the ads just do a crazy ball rolling” and you don’t really find topics that advertisers really want to bid on and, you know, three or four years later, you already ramped up the formula of page views, click through rate and cost per click.
James: Okay, so it sounds like you’ve got some kind of framework for things that you measure. You’re looking for page views; you’re looking for the cost per click. Do you have a process that you go about when you’re setting up a new property for AdSense?
Matthew: Yeah, I kind of determined where I think the best ad spots are and I also tried to identify kind of a content area that, you know, people or advertisers really bid on heavily because that will give you really high cost per click. So the placements that I do and if for AdSense there I do try to do 728 by 90. Then in the top right, and that I do a 300 by 250 and the top of the sidebar and then a 336 by 280 directly below content. In those three units I typically get click through rates of 2.5 percent which is pretty good for AdSense, you know, without the people that are scamming and getting 10 percent.
But for a legitimate click through rate, that’s pretty darn good. You know you can use the AdWords keyword tool to figure out the kind of topics or keywords that people or advertisers are spending a lot of money on so then you can write content about those things and, you know, if those ads show up on your site and people click on them, you know you can get a pretty high click through rate or cost per click. When you have, you know, a whole bunch of clicks, that adds up pretty quickly.
James: So Matthew, do you have to have a lot of sites to make this work or do you have less sites and a high volume of views. Do you have a particular strategy there?
Matthew: Yeah. Probably 80 percent of my revenue comes from three different websites so the number of websites doesn’t matter so much. It’s just more of a numbers game of page views and the click through rate and cost per click. So if you can get traffic there and optimize your ads, you can do pretty well if you’re writing about, say, finance or health or things that advertisers think there’s money in.
James: So once you’ve got a good performing site, it’s much easier I guess just to add more content to an existing site than to go and set up more sites.
Matthew: I would say so, yes.
James: Now, in terms of content, that would have to be one of the biggest costs in either dollars or time. Do you do the content yourself or do you have a strategy around this?
Matthew: I have four or five writers that I hire stuff out to consistently and I’ve been working with them for years and you know I have pretty good arrangements. I couldn’t bring myself to writing content of sites anymore. I just, I don’t want to be the worker. I want to be the guy, you know, commanding the ship, so I’ve got people writing for me and that’s been working out pretty well.
James: That’s smart. I guess one of the major appeals is you’ve got this recurring income that is just dependent on content from one side of it. So we’ve talked about the on-page stuff. We’ve talked about some topic selection, some ad layout, some content, the fact that you can have bigger sites and less of them. Let’s talk about off-page. Are there things that you’re doing to drive traffic to these sites or are they just getting Google organic traffic?
Matthew: A lot of it depends on the site. There are I think a lot of people that, you know, have content websites that when they get traffic they make the mistake of only focusing on kind of the main Google search results. I have sites that get just a whole bunch of traffic from Google video and Bing video. I’ve got sites that get traffic from an email newsletter I have.
I get sites that get traffic from Twitter and Facebook a little bit. I have sites that get traffic from, you know, kind of the Google news and Bing news and sites like that and some of the finance sites, so I think the biggest mistake that people make is just focusing solely on, you know, Google search and kind of ignoring, you know, of the kind of tangential search engines like YouTube and Google images and Google news and there are just plenty of opportunity there and the kind of the pool of people that are competing for those rankings is just so much smaller and it’s just a lot easier to get those placements that you want in some of those other search engines.
James: You’re a man after my own heart. This is part of what I teach in Own The Racecourse is to take advantage of those alternative traffic sources. So, are you having some of these people prepare content to put away from your site pointing back to your site?
Matthew: One thing that I’m not very good at is, you know, traditional search engine optimization. I don’t do any satellite sites or anything like that. I have just gotten pretty lucky in getting people to link back and I don’t try to gain the system too much. It’s, you know, hasn’t ever worked out well for me before and I’m not good at it so I don’t do it.
James: Oh I’d think you’re definitely on the right track there. With the sites that you have, if someone were to go and look at them, would they think that “this is a high quality site”? Are we talking like a “Huffington Post” level of quality or would they think “this is a made for AdSense site”?
Matthew: You know, none of them look like made-for-AdSense sites. There is, you know, a lot of it is kind of a numbers game in just getting a lot of content out there. Certainly there is a different level of quality. Some sites are a lot better than others.
James: Give us an idea of volume like, can you tell us how big one of the sites might be in terms of number of indexed pages or how many page views you’d be getting on a monthly basis?
Matthew: I have a site that gets about 300,000 page views a month and in that, I publish several dozen new articles a week and that’s one of my newest websites. And then I have three writers that write on that site.
James: Yeah, that is huge. And just for by way of comparison for my listeners, if they are looking at SuperFastBusiness.com, it gets around about 40,000 page views a month, so that’s a lot of traffic and I’m going to guess that it must be a high volume market.
Matthew: Yeah. It’s actually a political site, political news, so I just have some writers writing 3-400 word posts.
James: About the ads themselves, are you going for the ads that blend in or ads that stand out or is there some other method you have?
Matthew: So what I typically do is I never use a border. I find those don’t work too well so it’s just white. And for the heading, I try to do the same color as the links on my site. So if I had blue links in a text, my AdSense link should be blue. The text I always do black or kind of a really dark gray. And then for the link, I just do kind of an accent color on the site. Everything that I’ve read and everything that I’ve experienced personally just tells me that you really want them to blend in that site really well, you don’t want them to be hidden but you want them to kind of use the same look and feel as the site that you’ve got.
James: Fantastic. So Matthew, this is really, really good information and I’m sure someone listening would, firstly, if they don’t know what AdSense is, they’re probably going to look it up; but it’s putting advertisements on your site and you make more money the more people that click on the ads.
What are your thoughts on the content? Is the content supposed to be dull and uninspiring so they click away on the ad or is it supposed to be really good and engaging so that people share it and bring more people to the site?
Matthew: You know, I don’t think those two concerns are the same thing. I don’t know that the level of quality of the content has a huge click through or effect on the click through rating. I think if the ads are interesting to the user, they’re going to click on them regardless of the quality of content. I mean, obviously the better you can do for quality I think is you know what you want to do for the long term because, you know, Google will eventually figure out that you have all the crappy low quality content site and find a way to screw you over in the rankings one way or another.
So, you know, I just try to shoot for, you know, based on the money that I can afford to spend what is the best content I can get.
James: It seems like you have a pretty good strategy for multiple traffic sources. Did you have any impact with the change in Google algorithms last year with Panda or Penguin?
Matthew: Panda was…well, let me tell you a story. I was like, December 2010, January 2011 kind of before that, I was Audible.com’s one of their top Affiliates. I was getting 7 grand a month in affiliate checks from them alone. I was sending hundreds of free trials to them, you know, every month. Then, and the strategy I was using is I created basically a press release for every single audiobook they had on their website and I sent it out kind of through to my different websites.
And then when the Google Panda update came, they decided those articles were very similar in stealing quality content so whatever hit the algorithm and you know that revenue dried up overnight. So I lost about 7 grand a month in revenue just overnight when that first Panda 1.0 hit so that really caused me to re-evaluate my strategies and what I was doing and, you know, so if I throw this back up, I’d rather do it in a way that’s, you know, diversified not just dependent on this one search engine ranking.
James: Do you start with brand new domains or do you buy expired domains or secondhand sites?
Matthew: So I have a mix of each. If I’m going to do a new site, I’ll usually just buy the domain. You know, I’m kind of fearful and all unless I see like a new domain except from somewhere else that works. Where there’s a domain that I want somebody else has, I might try to buy it. And then, I don’t have too many secondhand sites.
I bought a few of them from a guy that I knew that wasn’t doing some other stuff that I was and he wanted to get out of the business so I bought all his sites for 10 grand, you know, I think maybe about 7 or 8 months ago. And those I’ve made some money just selling, AdSense on. Then I sold a few links and there’s always good money in that too.
James: How do you sell the links?
Matthew: So typically what happens is if you have enough websites and you have a contact for many websites, people will email you and ask to buy links on your sites. The best way to do that without, you know, kind of running afoul of Google’s algorithms is to, you know; just have somebody what is called “sponsored posts”.
So they might write an article, you might write an article and just include a few links back to their site. And depending on the quality of your site, you can charge anywhere from 50 to 250 depending on the sites. Most of my sites are about a hundred bucks to do a sponsored post on, but there’s still good money in there. I consistently make 4 to 5 grand a month just doing those.
James: I’m really fascinated with the AdSense thing because it’s not really requiring too much from you once you start doing it. Do you continually optimize? I mean it sounds like you’re very good at the conversion side of this.
Matthew: Let’s step back a minute for to take a look at the “selling the links thing” one more time. One tip that I would suggest anybody that wants to do that well and has a bunch of sites, is to maintain a list of advertisers and just email them every month saying “Hey, if you want to do a sponsored post, here is my list of sites.
Get in touch if you’re interested” because chances are, the people that are emailing you work for SEO, you know, companies and they always have new clients and they always run a few ads, so you should maintain that list and send them an email on a monthly basis. You can typically just…you can typically sell off several links from that and I have a list of 3 or 400 advertisers now and I do pretty well with that. So that’s my tip for that.
James: Nice. Well my side tip to that is put them on a recurring subscription.
James: Just make the sale once and get paid over and over again and I’ve built an entire business on that model, so it’s a great suggestion. Well, tremendous value here. So, if you were in my situation and let’s say I’ve got a couple of sites that have great domain names, they’ve got multiple traffic links, they’re not in any trouble with Google and I wanted to really increase my AdSense revenue.
I do have AdSense on a lot of my sites just as a barometer to see what’s changing in the market and to get a feel for which offers convert. What would be the little checklist of things that I could do, go into my site to make them perform better with AdSense without doing much else other than changing the way that it’s laid out?
Matthew: Okay. So one thing that you can do or a couple of things that you could do with your AdSense is you can specify in the java scripting, specify a custom channel so you could do a custom channel for each category on your website. So you could see, you know, are articles about this or this making more money than others? So you could see, you know, by creating those custom channels, you could see the cost per click on like any different, any specific article or any specific category on the website. So that will, you know, help you kind of figure out what direction you should go for content.
And then the other thing is just to really optimize your ad units and you can do three on a page. You know, if you go back earlier in the interview, I kind of told you what I do. One of my websites that I’ll tell you that kind of uses the layout I like to do, let me think of one quick, is Healthaim.com so the word health-A-I-M.com and then you can kind of see what I do and what works for me.
The other thing that I do is, you know, AdSense aren’t the only units on my page, I also try to do some cost per view or CPM ads or display ads. On the network I’ve had pretty good luck with the “Tribal Fusion”. So I’ll do three AdSense ads and three ads to Tribal Fusion and, you know, between those two I can easily make 20-25 bucks for every thousand page views.
James: Fantastic. Well, you know this is just really generous. When I first spoke to you about having this call, you didn’t…you said you don’t have anything to promote and that was very kind but it turns out you do actually help people, if they want some consulting, to help optimize their own sites. Where can they go and have a look at that?
Matthew: Sure. So I do a little bit of ASP.net web development consulting. I could do some WordPress stuff too if you need me to. I could also take a look at your AdSense stuff if you want me to. My website is Mattpaulson.com – M-A-T-T-P-A-U-L-S-O-N.com and then my email is just and I’m on Twitter, my ID is MatthewDP so Matthew and then “D” as in dog and “P” as in pony so feel free to get in touch in any way that you want to.
James: Matt, thanks so much for sharing this and I’m sure listeners have got a lot of value from it. They’ll probably ask a few questions where we post this interview so might be worth checking out a couple the questions.
James: I hope you have a fantastic year this year with AdSense and it sounds like you’re on a winning formula.
Matthew: Awesome! Thanks James.
James: So there you go. Matt has given us some fantastic information around AdSense. Very generous talking about ad placements, how to get some revenue from non-AdSense sources as well, he’s even given an example site which is just so generous. If you’ve got any questions or comments, please post them right where this interview is posted.
And it is my pleasure to be able to bring to you people who are really getting great results but may not be famous and they’re not on the typical guru soap box. So thank you so much for listening. If you would be able to go to iTunes and leave a nice comment on SuperFastBusiness podcasts that would be also really appreciated.
Please leave your comments.
Barry H says
Great tips here thanks James and Matt.
Gives me confidence to keep on my similar path!
Matthew Paulson says
It was a pleasure to do this interview. Hopefully SuperFastBusiness listeners will get some value out of it!
If anyone wants to get in touch, here’s how to do it: http://mattpaulson.com/contact/
Fantastic interview Matt and James. Question for Matt: How do you decide which market to get into? For example, are your sites all passions of yours or is it done on the numbers via keyword research etc. Thanks in advance!
Matthew Paulson says
Chris – To do well with a site, I really think you need to have an interest in the topic area. , but you should also pick an area where there’s money to be made in advertising. Health and finance are both great areas. Crafts and computer gaming, not so much.
Jason Nelson says
James and Matt, good invertview. Matt, you are doing huge volume in terms of content. I was wondering – what is your content creation strategy?
Matthew Paulson says
Now that’s top secret :-)
Very good interview. I am impressed and also inspired by the tips. I did not realise the 3 adsense spots and also the sizes are the most important and that is where they bid highly for. I will try that.
Hi Matthew. I had a couple questions….
I was curious how much you have to pay a writer for decent content when you are are generating that much content a week I assume it adds up. Did you just use a place like odesk or one of those marketplaces like(content authority/textbroker/iwriter)?
I have financial trading sites but kind of hard to keep them up writing good content and it can be quite hard to rank organically for trading(or finance). I would be interested in hiring writers to do the content but not sure I could find quality ones for that topic.
Since you write so much content do you get traffic then from the news sites like google news/yahoo news
Matthew Paulson says
Brian – What I pay varies quite a bit. The #’s are similar to what you might pay on TextBroker.
I do have sites that get traffic from news search engines, those help.
Great interview. Most adsense advertisers don’t see anywhere near that level of success. What is the thing that you do, that most people don’t, that you think enables you to be this successful? Is it focusing on content quantity and quality?
Matthew Paulson says
Daryl – It’s really a numbers game.
Lots of traffic * high CPCs (get these by writing about high paying content areas such as finance, health, legal) * good click through rates = $$
Excellent interview James and Matthew. I learned so much. Sharing the website and the ad placements was very generous.
Thank you both!
Hi James and Matthew,
Great stuff, thanks for the info guys.
Hey Matthew, how much SEO do you do?
Loved the interview. Sounds like very similar methods. We are building sites like this too. Good solid LSI and Long Tail Search suggest keywords help rank great for the long tail traffic :-) Appreciate you both taking the time on a subject I have loved for a very long time.
Excellent interview and thanks for the tips!!