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When most of us start building a new site, we build it with a goal of making money. If you’re trying to monetize your site, it only makes sense to go after the the opportunities with the highest potential return, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple.
There are many ways to monetize a site, some more lucrative than others. For example, you can sell your own products (physical or digital), promote other people’s products through affiliate links, run display ads, and much more.
Each of these approaches has its own benefits and drawbacks, and you don’t necessarily have to stick to only one. In fact, many successful websites mix and match various monetization methods to maximize their return.
With that being said, it’s ideal to have one target approach in mind, at least in the beginning. Once your site is established, you can then expand into other monetization methods.
While many people target the more lucrative monetization methods when starting a new site, my team and I target display ads, which many people consider to be the worst option. In this post, I’ll show you why I don’t think that’s the case.
Why You Should Monetize with Display Ads
When I first attempted to build a website several years ago, pretty much all the advice I saw online said to either build an affiliate site or an ecommerce site. I actually attempted both methods.
First, I built a guitar-related affiliate site to promote products through Amazon Associates. Because I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, that site didn’t get much traction. However, I did eventually make a few bucks from the affiliate links placed throughout my posts.
I then created a couple of ecommerce sites, but instead of selling my own products, I followed the drop shipping approach where you promote products, then purchase and ship the products from the manufacturer directly to the customer.
With the drop shipping method, I was spending up to $10,000 within a single month to run Facebook Ads, all to basically break even with sales. On top of this, I had to field tons of complaint emails from customers about the poor quality and shipping times they were getting from the products I was shipping to them from overseas.
I’m not sharing these stories to tell you that you can’t be successful with these methods. In fact, plenty of people do really well with affiliate sites and ecommerce sites.
Instead, what I want to point out is how difficult it was for me to even break even. I put a ton of time and effort into researching and building these sites with basically nothing to show for it at the end of the day.
That’s when I finally decided to take another approach. One that is generally thought to only generate a small amount of money for a website. More or less a beginner’s method to use if you just want to make a little side income.
Little did I know at the time that my team and I would generate over $30,000 in a single month using display ads, all in less than 4 years.
Below are a few reasons why this worked out so well for us, and I why I think it’s a great approach, not only for beginners, but for anyone trying to make money online.
One of the biggest benefits of building a site primarily to run display ads is that there’s significantly less competition.
When it comes to competition, all you have to do is think about where the money is, and since most people think you can make more money by selling your own products or promoting products as an affiliate, buyer-intent based articles are quite competitive.
On the other hand, since so many people assume that you can’t make a significant amount of money with display ads, informational content tends to be low in competition. By information content, I mean posts like “how to fish in the dark” or “how can you tell when apples are ready to be picked.”
While you can definitely find buyer-intent keywords that are lower in competition, they are harder to come by than informational keywords. People go where the money is, and the money is in products (so people think).
Because it’s so much easier to find low-competition, informational keywords, it’s not very difficult to get a new site with posts built around these keywords to rank well organically in Google Search. Not only that, but you can rank for those keywords without building a single backlink to your posts.
Premium Ad Networks
It’s pretty easy to understand why most people assume that you can’t make much money with display ads. When I started my first display ads site a few years ago, I put Google AdSense on it, which only generated a few pennies per day.
While Google AdSense supposedly works well for some niches, for many others, you’ll need an astronomical amount of traffic to get a meaningful financial return. Fortunately, AdSense isn’t your only options.
Once you reach certain traffic thresholds, you can move onto “premium” ad networks like Mediavine and AdThrive. Even Ezoic, who recently removed their traffic requirement, can net you a relatively high return from your visitors.
We currently use Mediavine on all of our monetized sites, and our RPMs (revenue per 1,000 sessions) ranges from $25 – $40+ in a typical month. That means that for every 1,000 sessions on our sites, we’re making between $25 and $40. The RPMs are even higher during certain times of the year.
These revenue numbers are on sites with little to no buyer-intent content. We do have some buyer intent content on one of our sites, but ironically, that is the site with the lowest overall RPMs.
As you should be able to see, you absolutely can make a ton of money by primarily running display ads on your site. And while you might need more traffic than you would with a product-oriented site, you have to keep in mind that it’s much easier to drive traffic to your site with informational articles, as I mentioned in the previous section.
The final reason why I prefer to build display ads sites might be the best reason of all, and that’s that the income is passive. Whereas with a product-based site you will need to continually market new products, with an informational site, you simply write evergreen content that brings in traffic and revenue year after year.
If the idea of building such a simple passive income stream isn’t enough for you, keep in mind that by building a passive income stream, you’ll free up your time to put toward other money-making ventures, like building additional sites.
When you combine this process with a bit of outsourcing, you can practically scale this business model to just about any level without requiring any additional time or work from you.
While display ads are far from the most lucrative monetization method out there, for me, the benefits of using them far outweigh the cons.
If you’re looking for the low-hanging fruit, display ads are a great way to go. You can rank your articles more easily and create a passive income stream that will reward you for years to come.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.