Episode #65: Website Ads 101

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about running ads on your website. We’ll wrap up with an actionable tip for this week!

Diane Sanfilippo: Let’s just say you are someone who is blogging regularly, and you do get some sponsors. What if you have a sponsor four times a year for a month at a time, or three months, then you still want to have another way of monetizing the site that’s not just directly tied to that specific work. It’s building on what you’re doing as a content creator all the time.

Welcome to Driven; a show about business, life, and wellness from two confident, curious women who are pulling back the curtain on what it’s like being an entrepreneur. Each week, join hosts Diane Sanfilippo and Cassy Joy Garcia talk about being your best, showing up for your dreams, and kicking self-doubt to the curb.

Diane is a business whisperer, best-selling author, and plant-hobbyist based in San Francisco. Cassy Joy is the founder of www.FedandFit.com, best-selling author, and casserole enthusiast. She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Cassy Joy: In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about running ads on your website.


  1. What’s on my plate [1:03]
  2. Shop Talk: Ads on your website [26:14]
  3. Deciding to use ads [38:23]
  4. Earning from ads [56:14]
  5. Tip of The Week: Evaluate your ad use [1:04:09]

1.  What’s on my plate [1:03]

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s on My Plate. In this segment, we talk about what’s happening in our businesses, and in our lives for the week. Cassy, what’s going on?

Cassy Joy: Well, I took. You called it. I took a vacation with Austin this past weekend. And we went to go celebrate his brother’s 40th birthday in Seaside, Georgia. Which was a short drive from where they live in Jacksonville. And only for such a special occasion, I think, would we have ventured out right now. Anyway. I went away, and I thought that I might work the whole time, because what a luxury to have your computer; access to your computer 24 hours a day. Whereas during the work week, I really only have my computer in front of me for 5 hours a day. You know. And then I have my phone when I’m at home; maybe, if Graysen is distracted. But usually it’s totally put away.

So I thought I’d work the whole time, but I didn’t! I worked on the way there. And then I just really unplugged. I was there and present for the weekend. Austin and I had the best time. It was good for everybody. The girls stayed with my parents. And it was so good for my parents, so good for the girls. I felt like Gray and Bee both lept three months in development while we were gone. It was just so funny!

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: We came back and Bishop, our youngest, is sitting up! Like, totally unassisted. I feel like she could practically say a whole sentence! She can’t. But she just made such a huge leap, and they were all so happy. It was just so sweet. And then, of course, it was definitely good for Austin and myself. It made me really realize and reappreciate why we work so well, I think. We both lead very aggressive lives. You know; we build businesses, our own businesses. We are very outgoing and involved in our families, cross supportive in our friends’ lives, and we do a whole lot. And it’s like; all of that works, I think because we have such a strong foundation when it is just the two of us. So that was just really nice.

But anyways, that’s not what I meant to talk about. What I was going to say is that with all of this time, in air quotes, away from my computer, what it actually did was it allowed me to essentially slowly erase the mental whiteboard that I have of things that I constantly think about with the business. And all of that whitespace {laughs} is just like a playground for new ideas.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that analogy.

Cassy Joy: Right? So I love analogies. Sometimes I love them too much, and I layer then on top of each other. Nobody like an analogy sandwich. You see what I just did there? I used an analogy to talk about analogies! {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Cassy Joy: Anyways. I have this mental whitespace to think through some things. And really what I thought right now, and what I was most convicted with is; number one, getting really organized. We’re in our space. We’re through the book. We’re now in Q4. We have our plan set for that, which is the biggest month for people who consider themselves bloggers and publishers, which we are. It’s the biggest quarter for the whole year, especially for this group. And I say that’s relevant because of the conversation we’re going to have today.

So we’re through all of these big milestones, and now the time has come to really get organized and click the team into place and build some processes that we can all thrive within. So I came up with those ideas. And also a burning desire, Diane; when the world gets quiet and I have that mental white space to think about; what is it that I want to do or I feel most called to or pulled to do in my business; I need to write again. I need to get back behind the computer. I need to be developing recipes myself. I mean, I share that workload with Amber Golden, who does the majority of our recipe development. I share that workload with her, but I just want to go back to being a blogger, I guess is what it really comes down to.

So, I did. I worked on recipes last night. And I wrote an article this morning about that nursing sports bra review. It will be published by the time this comes out. So that was great.

And then also did some noodling on this launch that we’re going to have in January. And I don’t know if I’ve told you about it. And actually, we’re pretty stumped on what to do with it. I was chatting with the team yesterday, and all of us just sat around looking at each other and thought; if somebody else were to walk into the room, they could be like; here is the obvious solution. How do you not see this obvious solution? And I thought; I think this is one of those things I need to run by Diane and see what her perspective is on it.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: But we’re going to launch meal plans coming in January. And these are digital meal plans. And I just really want; because there’s so much work with how we’re doing it. We’re not just slapping together recipes. We do that {laughs} not to belittle the work that we do in our weekly newsletters, but we put together these weekly newsletters with meal plans that talk about; make this for dinner and this for dessert, so on and so forth.

But these kinds of meal plans are going to be in the same vein and quality and thoroughness that you’d come to expect from our Cook Once, Eat All Week style content. So we’re putting those out. They’re going to have shopping lists. They’re going to have stepwise instructions. It’s going to be really thorough, really thoughtful. And actually, the editor who I hired to help us edit my third book, which is now turned in. The publisher has given glowing reviews of because of the edits. So exciting. She actually had some bandwidth to help us edit these meal plans, as well. So we’re hiring her for that. And she was so kind to take that. Because it’s not necessarily what she does, but she said she always is open to work with people; clients she likes. Which I very much appreciated.

So anyways. I want to figure out how we can use this launch in January to propel forward into a more sustainable product line; digital product line. Something maybe like a subscription, but I don’t want to commit to a subscription unless it is truly sustainable for our business. So it’s going to require; we’re so busy focused on the launch, that I’m having a hard time also holding the thought of the strategy that could be required to make a subscription launch also successful.

And honestly; I would be writing off this conversation entirely and say; let’s just focus on the launch, if this were July. Right? Or if this is March. But because it’s January, and because it’s for my blog; my website, Fed and Fit, this is our highest traffic month of the entire year with the lowest RPMs of the entire year. Which I’ll talk about later what that means. Highest traffic, lowest RPM, means we have the most number of eyeballs on our website but we make the least amount of money off of them.

So, as a smart businesswoman, I know that I need to do something to monetize that interest. I need to pivot; earn their trust and then pivot that trust and interest into a product that, of course, will serve them well. But serve them well going forward.

So, just a tiny little riddle that we’re working to solve. And that could change our business. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, it really could. So is the riddle right now this idea of; you’re not 100% sure if you are going to make it a one-time thing or a monthly thing, or annual, or whatever?

Cassy Joy: Well, it’s how to; so pie in the sky, is I would love to solve the riddle of, how do we offer a subscription to our style of meal plans in a way that actually provides our subscribers a tremendous amount of value. But that does not present a tremendous burden on our team to maintain.

So I learned this lesson with the Fed and Fit Project, when we launched the Fed and Fit Project, we had a subscription model. And for our subscribers, our monthly subscribers, we gave them one weekly new article that was just for them. And every month a new eBook. And then after 18 months of that, right? Of weekly articles and eBooks we were like; goodness gracious, we have said it all. There is nothing new!

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: So it was not a sustainable model. Meal plans are a different story; that is a little bit more of a bottomless well. Especially after over 1000 recipes on our website. But I want to make sure that; listen to this article. Excuse me, I listened to this interview. I’ll pull up the lady’s name, but she wrote a book that I just ordered. I was listening to an interview of the author, Robbie Kellman Baxter that she did on the Story Brand podcast. And she wrote a book called the Forever Transaction; how to build a subscription model so compelling (this is a long subtitle) that your customers will never want to leave. And it was just a really; it was such a little taste of her content. So I bought the book so I could really understand it all.

But something that she said that really stuck with me is that; when it comes to a subscription one of the pitfalls that people fall into when they build a subscription is they think; how can I take my content and stretch it out. Right? They’re more like product-oriented/focused. Where she says for truly successful subscription, and I’m paraphrasing such maybe putting words in her mouth. Disclaimer. But she says, for truly successful subscription, you need to take what is it that your customer wants and then expand on that.

So an easy example that she gave on the show that I listened to was; for a drive through car wash. You, the owner of the drive through car wash, you’re thinking; I want people to get more car washes. Right? So my product that I’m offering them is three car washes a month for X number of dollars. This is your subscription. And they save money the longer they stay a client. So on and so forth. But that’s not actually what your clients wants. What your client wants is a clean car. So if you have that in mind, then you might change your offering to be three washes; or, any time it rains come in and get a clean wash from us.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: Something like that. That’s a much more compelling offer. So I’m trying to figure out. They kept saying on this show. They were like; content creators have it so easy when it comes to building a subscription model. And I was like; but do we? Because how do you delineate between all of the content that’s digital and free versus something that’s paid?

I’m not saying we’re going to solve this in the next 90 seconds.

Diane Sanfilippo: We’re not. But I have a couple of ideas that maybe can.

Cassy Joy: Help me. Help me.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ignite you a little bit, feed into your noodling. But we can talk about it more. Maybe we’ll talk about it on our next episode.

Cassy Joy: Let’s do it.

Diane Sanfilippo: In a week. So a couple of things that kind of came to mind. This isn’t the meat of our episode, but this is what we wanted to do with this show, where we’re like; here’s what I’m thinking about, what do you think?

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Sometimes the things we’re thinking about are a little personal with our businesses. So we can’t always share every whim. But anyway. So a couple of things regarding the fourth quarter, and getting whatever the initial thing is out. I feel like there’s always this sense of not knowing what the monthly or whatever; let’s just say it’s a monthly thing. The subscription.

It’s really hard to anticipate forward what your going to give people on a monthly basis in a very exact way. It’s really hard to anticipate that. And I think you might be able to anticipate it for like 6 months to a year, but I would just say; it’s ok if that’s as far as you can think with; ok. We’re going to do this and we know we can deliver that for about a year. Because what you deliver can evolve, so that’s just one thing I want to say. Is give you permission to not have to think; what will this be for forever every single month. It can evolve.

And whatever you’re going to pitch initially; just like you did with Cook Once back in the day. I think at the very least having some kind of offer. And of course, an opt in, is going to at least capture all the people who are interested in what this thing is that you’re releasing.

Cassy Joy: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Even if you don’t have all of the potential future stuff. I think there’s just so much value. And it is a monetization to me to just capture an email address.

Cassy Joy: Oh it is, for sure.

Diane Sanfilippo: So just to let people know; that’s a real thing. If you’re like; I don’t know what I have to sell, but I know I’m going to have more traffic right now to make sure that if you don’t have something to sell, that you’re at least capturing emails. Because that’s basically a payment. To me, I think that’s a payment. It’s a form of payment that doesn’t cost someone anything.

Cassy Joy: It is.

Diane Sanfilippo: But let me just go on with a couple more things. So what do your people really want, and when it comes to being a content creator, I think there’s a few things here. And I know it was kind of an out there question. But one thing that I do think that people want is access to you. So I think that might need to be metered in whatever way. because obviously you’re not going to be like; well, if you’re a subscriber, you can ask me a question 24/7. That’s not what I mean. But maybe it is something that’s a monthly Zoom call, or a quarterly Zoom call. Some way that people can get that connection and access to you. Maybe it’s a private Facebook group or a group somewhere else. Maybe it’s online behind Teachable or some kind of community or some way to get access.

I’m not saying this has to happen. I’m just saying; I know that’s something that people want. Because of being a nutritionist and being the expert behind the brand. Even having your collective of people who contribute. I think, as the editor, that would be interesting to me as a consumer. If I was like; ok, I get this person’s content.

Here’s an example; Jessica Yellin; I’m on her Patreon. And she offers; she’s been doing these post-debate Zoom calls. And I tuned into a couple of them. Like, I want to hear them. I want to hear whatever is going to be said. I don’t really need to participate, but I want to listen live. I think it’s really interesting. So I thought that was something interesting to note.

And then one thing with the way that content works for a company like yours. So, you will always have new recipes on your blog. At whatever cadence, even if it’s not three that are brand new every week. You’re always going to have new content. What won’t happen automatically unless it’s maybe part of a subscription is; how do we work that new recipe into somebody’s regular meal plan. With a shopping list. With everything else.

So I think that could be something that people would want to subscribe to. Where there’s a combination of; I mean, obviously you know this. But it’s like taking the easiest recipes that you have and maybe there’s a couple that are a little more; this one’s a little fussy. Most of yours are not going to be fussy at all, right? {laughs} But just the one that maybe; ok, this week, if you want to try something that’s a new technique or a new cooking method that you’ve never done before. We’re incorporating that.

Or maybe it’s when the holiday comes this month, our meal plan; maybe it’s 4 weeks of meal plans and there’s one week that includes holiday meals. It includes using leftovers, whatever. So I think there is a way to consistently, every single month, offer people newness that uses a lot of content that they are comfortable with. Because I actually don’t think there’s a downside to that. I think somebody seeing a recipe and a meal plan that they’re comfortable with and familiar with is a relief. But then there’s newness as well.

And some of that newness comes from just pulling from the thousands of recipes that you have. But some of that newness is going to come from actual new recipes. So they can’t possibly have had a meal plan with it before, because it’s a brand-new recipe.

Cassy Joy: I love that. That’s super helpful.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, so that’s a way to recombine things but also know that you’re leaning on content that you’re already going to be making that’s new. But layering on the thought process and the planning, which is what your team is so excellent at at this point. And that’s the part that everyone, I think, struggles. {crash}

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: Struggles with the most. {laughing} I mean, it’s raining the sound panels. I was so proud of us for getting them before the show. Those are my thoughts.

Cassy Joy: Those are really good thoughts, and that’s really, really helpful. I think that gives me some breathing room. I feel good about going forward. Because it’s true; we will have brand new content. What if there’s a new cooking gadget that pops up? Or a new technique, to your point. I want to be able to incorporate that into our meal plans, and maybe our meal plan subscribers will know that we’ve got their back in that regard.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right. Maybe once a month, maybe it’s something like; when the Dalgona coffee was super popular, maybe you’re like; next month we’re including a demo in your meal plan. We’ll give you the shopping list. We’ll tell you which one. So it’s just really synthesizing the information all in one place for the people who are your biggest fans. They love and use your recipes all the time. And I don’t think there’s a downside to pulling content together so that I don’t have to spend more time searching on the website and pulling it from a million places, do you know what I mean? I think saving people time is such a huge value proposition.

Cassy Joy: Yes. Super helpful Diane, thank you.

Diane Sanfilippo: Great.

Cassy Joy: And to your point, really quickly. Because she’s so right, y’all about having an opt-in in January. If you are listening, and are on a health publication of some kind. Food, health and wellness, something like that. Definitely start right now to create a free opt-in for your website for your email list that will go live in January. Because you’re probably going to have more traffic than normal, and you want to capture those.

So what we are doing, for example, is we have five weeks of these meal plans that we’re publishing. And one of those weeks is going to be a free download. So I think that’s a great thing to noodle on, depending on what your business is.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: What do you have going on? It is raining sound panels. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s raining sound panels. So my first note was that I’m finally recording from the shop. Hopefully it’s not too echoey in this room. And I think one, two, three, four, five, six out of 48 {laughs} sound panels have now fallen. A few of them fell from the highest spots, too, that were directly over my head. {laughing} Needless to say, we will need to replace those. Gravity is getting the better of them. But I will {laughs} maybe do them, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do them myself or have Scott redo them. But I’m just saying, most of them were panels he put up, so. He didn’t push them into the wall quite as hard as I did.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: I was like really pounding it with my fist there to; as if I was nailing it in. You know, like on each corner. So, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. But yes, I’m recording from the shop. Very exciting. And, very exciting as well, I made pickle juice marinated chicken for the first time. So a few weeks ago, I was playing around with feta-brined chicken. So the water, when you buy feta cheese in brine. Like, in the water. It’s called brine. What’s left, that water when you are done with the cheese, has lots of flavor. It has a bunch of salt. I’ve marinated chicken in that; it’s awesome.

But what I did with that, I added some Greek seasoning. Greek Balanced Bites seasoning as well as a little extra; maybe a little extra salt. I forget. I don’t know; some olive oil, maybe lemon juice, I added more to that. But with the pickle juice, I just did the pickle juice. I had some Bubbies pickle juice, and it was like a bread and butter type pickle. Which I actually really love. I know those are a very divisive type of flavor. I like almost all pickles, so.

But we marinated about 3 pounds of chicken, and I did just boneless/skinless thighs. I did an egg dip, and then some gluten free flour that I seasoned up, and just did a shallow pan fry in some ghee and then popped them into the oven on a rack, like, inside the baking pan. And then I used the convection setting on my oven. Which, for those of you who don’t know; that’s actually what an air fryer does. It blows the air around inside whatever the machine is. So if you have a convection setting on your regular oven, essentially you have a giant air fryer as your oven. I mean, if you use that setting.

So anyway, I did that. They came out great, but I just need to work on the cook time a little bit. And I need to work on measuring {laughs}. Story of our lives. I just seasoned the flour, I didn’t measure anything that I put in there. I was like, do-do-do. Just, my Swedish chef impression. Yeah, so I’ll have to measure. You know, how much flour did I use. Or how many pounds of chicken.

But yeah. It came out really delicious, and I basically want to eat that all the time. So, so good. So I will get that on the blog, and I’ll figure out how to optimize it, and we’ll be talking {laughs} about some of that. So that’s kind of the news from life.

And then business; we’re working on one more set of possible hail Mary in terms of getting it in the 2020 calendar year products. So I’ll see if I can make this thing happen. The cool thing about the copackers that I’ve been working with, we are able to work sometimes on pretty short timelines. The thing that takes the longest, typically, will be things like printing packaging. So printing bags, for example. That tends to take anywhere form 6 to 8 weeks, at a minimum. So doing things in real printed bags, you can’t just quickly release.

But in terms of spices, I’ve been able to get labels for jars that I love in about a week turnaround, once we have them designed. So if I order them on a Monday, we usually have them in hand on that Friday. Which is amazing. So that’s been really opening up the options of a lot of limited edition, just kind of small runs for us to do, that’s been really fun. So yeah, we’ll see. We may have a few more products sneaking in before the end of this year for Balanced Bites spices. And then some others that we’re working on for early next year, as well.

I’m just really kind of leaning into the newness and seeing how people respond to different things. I know people have been asking for certain types of blends for a long time, and we’ll see how those go. Adding them in and kind of going from there.

I have one idea for a product that I’m not going to get into the details of it now; I’ll tell you when we stop recording.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Because I want to see if I can execute it. But I had this idea recently, and I was like; wow. I think people would really love this. It would be a way to make something that I think a lot of us love to use at home, but the effort is a little intense. And if this works, it would just make it so much easier. It’s something you could use from a packet with like hot water and blend it. And that’s as much as I’m going to say. But it’s not like hot chocolate or anything like that.

Cassy Joy: Ooh.

Diane Sanfilippo: But, it would be really interesting if we could execute this. So I’m going to test it out. I don’t know, I think it would be pretty genius. But we’ll see. So anyway. {laughs} The look on your face is like; what could it be? I’ll tell you when we stop recording.

Cassy Joy: If you need me to test anything, Diane, you know I’m here for you. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: I will. I will certainly ask you. Yeah, so that’s what’s going on. And the shop is coming along swimmingly. Minus the sound panels that keep falling off the wall. But I digress.

2.  Shop Talk: Ads on your website [26:14]

Diane Sanfilippo: Shop Talk. In this segment, we’re going to talk about running ads on your website. This topic came up because I said to Cassy; I have a friend who is trying to nudge me about getting ads on my website. And I was like; I don’t know the first thing about it. And also, I don’t know the page views on my website. When I have joked in the past that I’m not a blogger, it’s never because I think anything less of someone who is or isn’t a blogger. It has nothing to do with that. I’m like; whatever the list of requirements to consider yourself a blogger are, I have a blog. That is where it ends. {laughs} All of the things that real bloggers are great at, and study, and refine, and consistently do, and I have so much respect for it because that is such effort and commitment. I don’t do any of that stuff.

So yes, I have a website. I should say have a website. I barely have a blog. It shouldn’t even be counted that. But it’s really interesting. Because I think monetizing a blog with ads is so powerful, because you can work on your content, and you do your thing, and you optimize. And for a lot of people, selling something to the people who come to your site, or follow you on social. Pitching an item or making an offer is uncomfortable for a lot of people. And running ads is a way to passively earn money from the people who are on your site without having to say; hey, can you buy this thing that I made. You know what I mean? For a lot of people, that’s like; whoo, what a relief.

And also, you’re working so hard to get traffic to your site. To create content that people are going to love; off course you want a way to monetize that. I took a different route from the beginning, and we’ve talked about that on various episodes. But different routes for everyone. I just think there’s a different approach for everyone. So I really want to get into learning more about how it works. Who should be running ads, who shouldn’t. What are the different types of ads that you can do.

And then; last but not least, I really want to know. What can people earn from ads on their website? And at what point of a certain amount of traffic is it like; you’re not ready yet to put ads on there. And you’re just going to go down a rabbit hole and then discover that you’re not kind of qualified yet to do that. Which, for all of you listening, hearing the number of page views you would need; I have no where hear that. So, {laughs} not a blogger.

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: A failed blogger, I should say. But, let’s talk about it. So how does it work, when you want to run ads on your website; you’re just thinking; ok. I’ve got this site. Maybe you’ve been blogging for like 6 months. You have a bunch of posts, and you’re thinking; can I monetize this? How does that work?

Cassy Joy: So, how it works is; I would first start by pulling up your analytics on your website. Google analytics is probably one of the easiest ways to go about this. And I’m not going to walk you through the steps to do that, because if you just Google “how do I get website traffic stats on my website” or “traffic stats on my website” you’ll be able to find a bunch of tutorials. Just, if anything in here is confusing, Google it.

So you will find what your traffic is, and I think that’s a good place to start. because, depending on your traffic at that point in time, will kind of point you into different directions of what ad networks might be a good fit for you. There are some ad networks out there that require a minimum number of page views in a month. So any of these minimums that you come across are all monthly numbers; just know that.

So a minimum number of page views in a month, and the way that you typically calculate number of page views is; I will take the average of the last three months, it usually gives me a pretty good idea. And if you’ve been a publisher for a very long time, as in a blogger. That’s another way, fancier way to call bloggers, is we’re publishers. If you’ve been a publisher for any large amount of time, you know, especially for example if your content is food. That our traffic usually slumps during the summer, and really peaks in Q4. So that’s October, November, December. And then if you’re in the healthy food blog space, then your traffic continues to peak into January, and then it starts to dip down a little bit in the spring and way down during the summer.

And so that three-month average is going to fluctuate depending on what part of the year you’re in. So you can do it a couple of different ways. You can either take an average of all of your current months that you’ve been live; the last three months; or just the last month. Whichever one looks the best.

So let’s say you figure out that you have, in a single month, you have 10,000 visitors on your website. Or page views on your website. Which is different from number of visitors. Maybe you have 10,000 page views, and 1,000 visitors. Unique visitors. Those are two very different numbers. And different ad networks will tell you to look at one or the other. The majority of the ones out there that I’ve experience want to know about your page views. And the difference between those two numbers is that a visitor; probably obvious. But a visitor is a single person that lands on your website. And maybe they click on 10 pages. So that means that they would count as one visitor, but 10 page views.

Ok, so that’s it. You would start with the number of page views you have, and that would tell you who you might be able to work with. There are a lot of ad networks out there now that have zero minimum page view requirements. So if it turns out that you do have 10,000 page views in a month, that is something to pat yourself on the back for. That is definitely something I know you’ve worked really hard on. And you might have to work with a company, because you are still getting started, that does not have a minimum number page view requirement.

The ad network that I work with is Ad Thrive. And I came by way of them a recommendation from; I think it started with Lexi Davidson of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. She’s a dear friend of mine. She was talking about them; it must have been four years ago, now, I think. Maybe a little bit longer. We were at; it was the last time we went to PaleoFx, however many moons ago that was. And she was sharing with myself and Juli Bauer of PaleOMG about her great experience with Ad Thrive. So we all applied, and switched over.

So different ad networks will pay you different rates, different amount of money, depending on the number of people who visit your site. Some of them pay you based on page views. Some of them based on clickthrough rates. So, they’re only going to pay you if somebody actually clicks on that ad and then goes through. So just kind of familiarize yourself. Everyone runs things a little bit differently. Some ad networks will put an ad, but they won’t necessarily promise to fill it all the time.

So let’s say, on your website, you say; I want an ad on my right-hand side bar. It’s going to be the first thing you see. And if you see that ad, sometimes when you pull up your website, it might be blank. When I first started Fed and Fit, as just a plain old blog, 10 years ago, I ran through through WordPress.com. So WordPress would place ads on my website on my behalf, and before I knew any better I’d always be like; why are there sometimes ads and sometimes not ads? And it’s because some of those companies that WordPress had worked with at the time, maybe they were not targeting the people who were on my website. Or there wasn’t a buyer for that spot on my website.

So, that’s called a fill rate. You’ll find that some advertisers will promise a 100% fill rate depending on number of page views. So that’s why there’s kind of different threshold and it’s a bit of a moving target. I hope I didn’t confuse you. Essentially, there’s a lot to learn about it, but if you just start Google what ad networks have zero, no minimum page views, it will get you started on a list. And then I would just read reviews, do your research, do your due diligence there.

Ad Sense is one. That is another one that is very, very popular. Sometimes you can run that along side other ad networks. You can work with two companies at the same time. But Ad Sense does have some minimum requirements. Or they just don’t always approve everybody.

So anyway, that’s kind of how it works. In general, I’m going to speak mostly just to my experience over the last 10 years and what I’ve learned. The number that is most important in my world, in my business, and why this is such a big part of our revenue structure at Fed and Fit is because it does have the possibility to bring in significant income for our team. Which then allows me to go forth and hire more people.

Every time I have a certain number of monthly income that stabilizes in terms of revenue; I don’t look at that and say, “Oh sweet, I can go buy a new thing.” I look at that and say, “Oh, sweet. This can cover a salary.” That’s just how my brain works. Diane is nodding; that’s how her brain works also.

So, this is why this could be significant. Ad revenue, in my world, is calculated per thousand impressions. That’s also called an RPM. You’re going to see that thrown around. So it’s RPM is revenue per thousand impressions. And it is calculated by taking your estimated earnings by the number of ad impressions you received and then multiplying it by 1000. And if you see CPM, that’s referencing cost per thousand impressions. That’s more relevant to the business that’s buying ads.

Like I said, I use Ad Thrive, and their minimum is 100,000 page views a month. And just so y’all know, when I applied for Ad Thrive, it was in the middle of the summer, and I remember being so down on myself. Because I pulled up my numbers, and I remember my friends who were there, at the time. They were like; oh yeah, sure. 100,000, sure no problem. I remember pulling up my numbers and being like; ugh, I’ve been doing this for six years and I was just barely at 100,000 monthly page views. It’s just; y’all. Just pay attention to the time of year you’re looking at your things. Because it wasn’t necessarily that case all the time.

Ok, so that’s kind of it. And then you would apply, and see if they reply back. Pick your favorites. Rack and stack them. Rank them based on the things that are important to you; the qualities that are important to you. What’s their fill rate? How do they pay you? Do they have a minimum pay out? Do they have a minimum of; you have to earn $200 before they pay you? Or do you have some flexibility on who places ads on your website? Do you have flexibility in where the ads go on your website? Those are the things to pay attention to when you’re picking an ad network.

Diane Sanfilippo: That was really helpful.

Cassy Joy: Good!

Diane Sanfilippo: And looking at my Google analytics, I definitely have a big spike, not quite double the traffic, but definitely up there in January. And then a little bit of a dip in March, a dip in June, and then it’s a little bit flat over June, July, and then right now the number for October is only just starting. So, yeah, interesting.

I am a total novice, don’t know anything about this stuff. So that’s why I’m asking the questions. I mean, I’m like; oh I guess I should open the Google Analytics;

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t know any of this stuff. Ok. See, you don’t have to be good at everything to be an entrepreneur.

Cassy Joy: No.

3. Deciding to use ads [38:23]

Diane Sanfilippo: In fact, it would be boring if everyone was excellent at everything. Ok, why don’t we talk about who is a good candidate for ads. Because I think people should know. Are you the right person for them? Is it maybe the right time? Or are you the right person and it’s just not the right time? Is the right person and the right time? Maybe your goal with your site and blog are there, but how much time should you have been blogging already? Does it matter? If you just launched your site and you have three posts are you ready? Should you have a certain number of posts? Should you have been doing it for a while? What’s the deal?

Cassy Joy: You know, I think my answer would have changed on this topic 8 years ago. Because I think that 8 years ago, or however long ago, I probably would have said; you need to have 10 articles under your belt in the very least before you start thinking about placing ads. Because you just don’t know enough about your readers. Right? And what they would expect.

Now, ads are so commonplace, that it’s almost an expected part of a user experience, that I actually don’t think, for the most part, that it takes away from the reader experience. As long as you’re not plastering an ad in absolutely every single spot on your website. And we’ve all been to those websites, where you’re constantly clicking out of things just to read the article. They have those, because they convert really well and that website probably makes a lot of money off of those ads. And there’s a chance that they may not make it any other way. So, that’s what they have to do. Or it’s what they choose to do, rather.

So, in the past, I probably would have really encourage people to wait until they learn their audience, and they learn more about what their business is a little bit in walking it and experiencing it before they make that kind of a decision. But now I think there’s enough examples in the world where you could pull up an aspirational website, one that you really enjoy. One that you really like. You know you want to do something similar, but different. I think you can pull that up and see where they have placed ads and follow in the same vein. I think you can learn from others in that regard right now.

So I think that’s ok. Who to consider? Who would be eligible for running ads? I would say if you consider yourself a publisher of content. And by that I mean free content. If you are a blogger. What you do is you write about things and you publish free content, you’re able to do that because you’re receiving money from advertisers who are placing ads on your website. So you don’t necessarily have a product, a brick and mortar or something like that in mind at launch.

Now, if you’re starting your website; it’s a blog that you’re building to support a physical product, or you’re building to support a brick and mortar kind of experience. Like, say the car wash. Then it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to place ads, because you have limited number of the reader. You’re spending their attention, when they’re on the website. And you want to kind of help; I don’t want to say control. But you want to be able to construct the reader experience through your website.

So if you want them; if the biggest ask you have on your page. Your biggest call to action is order my spices; for example. If that’s your biggest ask. Or if your biggest ask is; come visit us on the corner of Lexington and whatever, and get a free carwash on us. If that’s the most meaningful ask on your page, then why place ads that could deflect from somebody who could get to that? Because an advertisements work on your website because people are distracted by them. They might see that dress show up from Nordstrom that they kind of had their eyes on, and it showed up on this random website. And they’re like; you know what? I do want that dress. It looks like it’s on sale. They’re going to click on it, they’re going to leave your page, and they might forget and they might never visit your car wash. They might never buy your spices.

So you have to decide; and there’s no one right answer 100% of the time. But you’re going to have to decide; what’s the most important thing for the reader on this page, and is it worth it to me to chance losing them before they get to my most important ask. And if you’re listening to this and you’re like; well, I don’t have a product. And I don’t have a service that I’m trying to sell somebody on, I just want them to like my brand and maybe they find my recipes helpful. Maybe they find my workouts helpful. If that’s the case, go ahead and put advertisements on there because it would be a great way for you to compensate your efforts.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, I think that’s really good to differentiate. Because we talked recently about influencers and sponsorships and all of that. And recognizing that getting sponsored content, even on your blog; it’s not necessarily a continual thing. There’s no guarantee, it’s a constant demand of; ok, here’s what this sponsor wants. Here’s what I’m set up to do. And that could be great. And maybe you get to a point where you have an agent, somebody who is helping you plan things out or brokering a little bit so that it’s not too much administrative effort.

But let’s just say you are someone who is blogging regularly, and you do get some sponsors; what if you have a sponsor four times a year for a month at a time, or three months. Then you still want to have another way of monetizing the site that’s not just directly tied to that specific work. It’s building on what you’re doing as a content creator all the time. So I think that’s a really important differentiation.

And what you just described, Cassy, is obviously the bucket that I fall into. And I think for a long time, I’ve just been in that bucket of; well, I have something else that I’m selling people. And I knew. And I’m curious about this, so you can maybe help us understand. But I always had this thought that I knew I wouldn’t be able to create new content regularly. It’s enough for me to show up and sit down and talk to my friend for an hour, which is what we do for a podcast. What Liz and I did for the Balanced Bites podcast for 8 years. I can’t believe we did that for 8 years. So we had new content in blog posts that went with the podcast, but I wasn’t blogging every single week. I didn’t make recipes every week. And I was like; I felt like that was just. I couldn’t be consistent with it, so I wasn’t going to be putting all my energy into it. In hindsight I kind of wish I had put some energy into it.

But I was selling the 21-Day Sugar Detox; it was an eBook. And then shortly thereafter my first book was published. So I really only started; I may have started blogging back in 2007 or 2008 originally, and then more regularly 2009-2010 and then not. Basically after 2010-2011, when I started writing Practical Paleo, I really almost never blogged. I maybe had 10 solid blog posts in the couple of years leading up to that.

But then once we were podcasting regularly, and I was writing the book; I just didn’t lean on that at all. So I think what ended up happening is the podcast became the content, the weekly content. And the books really became the thing that I converted people on. And so now, you know; that’s a one-time purchase for most people. Right?

Cassy Joy: It is.

Diane Sanfilippo: So that’s kind of the tricky part. Is like; you have to keep creating writing new books, creating content. So then transitioning to this place where I saw products that are consumable, that’s the place where; to your point, I don’t feel right about having ads on my website, because the ad is; come buy the spices. Right? Or come buy meals. Or a book. Or whatever it is. Because we’re already selling people something. I wouldn’t expect to find ads on Siete foods website, or something like that.

Cassy Joy: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: But, I just think it’s important for people to know that differentiation. And to also know yourself really well. because I think for the people out there who don’t love to say; I created this thing, here’s what it cost. That whole process for a lot of people is really uncomfortable. I’ve never found that uncomfortable because I’m like; I made this cool thing. Don’t you want to get it? {laughs} You should look at what I made for you.

But I think this is a way to kind of separate that and just say; well, I’m going to make what I make. And someone else can pay. And that’s ok. Just from your traffic.

Cassy Joy: Totally. And it works really, really well for a lot of people. Now, blog traffic is something that starts to just really accrue over time. Because you can’t just write 100 articles all at once. I mean, I guess you could. But that’s a huge level of effort. And then what actually works is not just getting it on your website, but getting it onto Pinterest. Getting it onto social media. Building a Facebook group of people who want to share recipes that they found and cooked and enjoyed from your website, and share the modifications that they made. Building a community around your content. And then that community starts to build up its own sort of traction.

So we really spend a whole lot of time focusing on metrics from Pinterest. From Facebook. Even though I personally have not logged onto Facebook in, I think, a very long time, except to check on our Beautycounter teams every once in a while. But a member of my team runs our group there. And it really brings in a lot of traffic.

So those kinds of things really helps snowball traffic over time, and make your effort even more efficient. You put out a new recipe, you nurture that recipe. You help nurture, and you’re thoughtful about how it might do in Google. Which can help you bring in a cold market. Right? The cold reader. That’s why I focus on this. Because this is the way that I can bring new people; brand new people. The grand majority of people who come to www.FedandFit.com are brand new. They have no idea who I am. They have never heard the name before. And they’re there because they Googled a green bean casserole recipe. Right? Healthy green bean casserole. They landed there, and then hopefully they poke around. Because it’s like; this place is kind of neat? This is kind of fun.

So anyways. It works really well for a lot of people. And there are a lot of bloggers who earn 100% of their income from ad revenue. They don’t take on sponsors necessarily. Maybe they don’t have any other affiliate income. So on and so forth.

I do want to say who may not be a good candidate for ads. And again, like Diane said; know yourself really well. Even though Ad Thrive, my network; I love Ad Thrive. A part of this, if you’re listening and you’re eligible at that number, 100,000 page views a month to work with somebody like Ad Thrive. This is not sponsored by them. But, I like this company because they work with me on helping me to understand where is the best place to place ads. And they are also very understanding when I say; I want to delete these three ads because; number one, they’re not performing well enough and they’re just adding noise to the page. Right? I kind of have this luxury of being able to say; I’d rather earn less money on these that aren’t converting quite as high. So that I can reserve those punches and improve the user experience on my page. And they’re really good at that.

They’re also really good at me saying; well, what I was going to say is; most ad networks, you don’t have a say in what ads are put onto your website. Now, you can maybe, in some networks, ban explicit content. Things like that. But, if having ultimate 100% control over every single thing that shows up on your website is important to you, then running ads may not be the right thing. Because people will write to me; I remember the first time I started running ads Austin, my husband, took a screenshot and he sent it to me and he was like; hey, I didn’t know you were running ads for, whatever company. A company that he worked with. I was like; well, I’m not. I didn’t even know that was on there. You just allotted this thing that you understand or know. And not all readers realize that.

We get comments sometimes where people are like; I can’t believe you’d run an ad for XYZ. And a lot of ads that are run are placed on the readers Google history. Search history.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, they’re retargeted. We actually run; I’m on the other side of this more; I’m on the CPM side {laughs} more so.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Where we run retargeting ads for Balanced Bites meals in particular. And some friends are like; oh. I see your ad. And I’m like; please don’t click on it. {laughing}

Cassy Joy: {laughing} There’s one on my website right now. I actually just pulled up Fed and Fit, and I signed out so that I could see all the ads. And Balanced Bites is on my home page.

Diane Sanfilippo: Can you take a screen shot? I love that!

Cassy Joy: Yeah, I totally will. It’s right next to my face.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s so fun! Yeah. But, some people don’t understand that ads often; they are retargeted such that if you were on a website that is, you know, usually some kind of ecommerce site and they are in an ad network that is being run. That must be through Ad Sense, because we have ads through Ad Sense. I think only. I mean, is that an Ad Sense placement? Or no?

Cassy Joy: Good question.

Diane Sanfilippo: Maybe I have ads going elsewhere. I do not know.

Cassy Joy: No idea! {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Clearly I delegated this role, because I don’t know enough about it. But, yeah. It’s a retarget meaning you were shopping; somebody was poking around on the Balanced Bites meals website, and then they land on a website that runs ads that we have ads in that network. And it will appear. Because it’s just a higher quality way to show someone an ad. I mean, it’s kind of like; on television, you’re not going to have these target ads. That was another sound panel.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Not only are they maybe not helping the echo that much, they’re adding to the noise on this episode {laughs} as they drop. But if you’re watching a TV show, the demographics they can get and the information they can get for the ad are based on who typically watches this show. Whereas, a website, it’s so specific. Like you said; maybe a Nordstrom ad. Not only is an ad for Nordstrom, it’s that dress that you were just looking at.

Cassy Joy: It’s the dress.

Diane Sanfilippo: and it’s going to remind you; hey, didn’t you want that thing? I think that’s a better experience for the user. It does feel a little big brotherish and a little creepy, but at the same time, I’d rather someone show me an ad for something I actually might want than; I don’t know, like Icy Hot or some random product that I have no interest in.

Cassy Joy: Totally. I mean, the ads that I get are baby gadgets, and obviously Balanced Bites. It’s the things that are already a part of my general flow. So that’s kind of how all of that works. Now, I want to tell y’all really quickly; is there gray area in terms of are ads right for you or not right for you? There was a moment last year when I was at that SEO class. And Ty Kilgore, who is running everything digital marketing at the time, who now has graciously come on to help us on a monthly basis with Fed and Fit. I feel like Yoda is helping us. Like, The Guy.

But, I told him something at this class because Fed and Fit from a revenue structure standpoint is very different from your average blog. And that’s because; and I realize this over and over again when I hang out with people who consider themselves bloggers or publishers. Like, strictly publishers. Our ad revenue represents maybe 5-10% of our total revenue. And the majority of content creators, and people who do this for full time, it’s somewhere upwards of 80 and 90%. And this is according to Ty; him kind of sharing that high level number with me.

What I told him in this course was; I want to research SEO. I want more eyeballs on www.FedandFit.com. But I want more eyeballs on www.FedandFit.com so that they will sign up for my newsletter. So that they will maybe buy one of my products; one of my books. And maybe also click through some of my links that we then earn affiliate income off of. Those are much larger drivers of revenue in our business.

So I asked him; and I said, what do you think about turning off ads altogether? Would that boost user experience? Right? It’s something that I gave a lot of thought to back then. We decided not to actually reduce the number of ads, and they continue to perform really well for us.

But I noodled back then was; sometimes, if you have enough affiliate marketing, and enough products. Like, a perfect storm of other ways to drive revenue for your company, it might be something to consider to remove ads.

4. Earning from ads [56:14]

Cassy Joy: The last thing I want to talk about; sorry this is going so long. Is how much can you possibly earn from ads on your website? The numbers I’m going to give y’all. Please note; take these with a grain of salt. There’s a lot that can change. And even though I work with one ad company, someone who works with the same company might have totally different numbers. Like, these are very, very variable numbers.

I will say that in 2019; and y’all, this is after blogging full time for 8.5-9 years. My lowest RPM in 2019; remember that’s revenue per thousand impressions, was $9. So what does that mean? For ever 1,000 page views, I would earn $9. If that sounds like not a lot of money, sometimes it feels that way. {laughs}

So for every 1,000 people eyeballs on website, on each page, I would earn $9. When is it significant? When you’re able to scale, find new people, get on some Google first pages or second pages; have content that starts to do really well on Pinterest and social media. That’s when you start driving more traffic.

An average in 2020 right now is $15 as an RPM. And Q4 being the most; the best. I hope I can actually share these numbers. I mean, I feel fine sharing them for my business. But otherwise. Q4, like I said, is the biggest time of the year. I’m currently sitting at, in October, $27 as an RPM.

Now, what does all of this mean? And why are those numbers so different? Advertisers will spend more or less money depending on the time of year and Q4 tends to ramp up ad spending. Which is why that RPM goes up towards the end of the year. Part of it is because, especially if you run a food blog for example, this is the time of year people want recipes. They want cookies, they want pies, they want turkey recipe, they want that green bean casserole. This is the time of year people want food content. So more people are Googling and searching and pinning and going to and saving recipes than ever before. And advertisers know that.

Your favorite bone broth company might really be investing to be put on targeted websites that have recipes that call for bone broth. That’s not an accident. So they’re going to spend more. So that RPM will go up. And also, advertisers, this is the time of year that PR companies really just need to spend the rest of their budget. Spend the rest of their marketing budget. Because for a lot of companies, it works this way in higher ed, in K12, in the government. It is spend it or lose it next year when it comes to ad revenue or spending dollars. It’s kind of like; I know this way in the government just because of another company that I used to work with. If you have a budget for a million dollars, if you only spend $900,000 of that, next year you only get $900,000. So it motivates you to want to spend it all. So end of fiscal, or end of the year when a lot of people are like; oh, shoot. Let’s spend all this money.

So it’s kind of this perfect storm of lots of traffic, lots of interest, and also a higher budget from these agencies. And then in January, everything takes a nosedive. My RPMs are usually the lowest for the whole year in January, and that’s also when my traffic happens to be the highest. Which is what I talked about earlier.

So how much does all this mean? If you have 100,000 page views in a month, and you’re earing a $15 RPM, that means you could bring in $1500 of income a month, that month, in ad revenue. And then where the bloggers that are full time bloggers that are doing this solely on ad revenue, and you’re like; wow, they don’t have any products. They don’t have any books. What do they do? How do they make their money? If they have 1 million page views in an average month at $15 RPM, then they’re earning 15K a month. That’s kind of how it boils down.

Diane Sanfilippo: that is very helpful.

Cassy Joy: Yay! I love it when I have helpful things to share! {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. It’s really helpful. The other note about Q4 spending for small businesses. For me, as a small business owner, I don’t have a budget that if I don’t spend it I don’t get it the next year. Since I determine the budget. But, a reason why I might decide to spend a little more in Q4 is because more expenses mean less taxable income.

So, that’s going to be a reason. If you’re an upstanding citizen who pays taxes and all of that. Just a thought. We should pay taxes. So, but if I were to spend an extra $5,000 at the end of the year, then that’s $5,000 of potential income that’s not being taxed. So just something to keep in mind.

Awesome. That was really helpful. It’s also reassuring because I have actually felt really strange about; it’s almost like this dual issue in my brain of insecure about the fact that I never really did things as a blogger, even though I started as a blogger. And I do wish that I had been someone who could consistently write articles. I mean, we did have consistent content because of the podcast and transcripts and all of that. But I just couldn’t do it. I’m not a writer. It’s just not my thing. Unfortunately, as a communication medium with the internet that is the medium. I also didn’t get into just making YouTube videos and all of that. But I did some podcasting back when, a decade ago when people weren’t at all podcasting, so maybe I did something right.

But I’ve felt really weird about it. And I’ve definitely felt like; darn. I wish I had kept up with it or had learned more. SEO and all that. And we talked about SEO many episodes back. {clatter}

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: There goes another sound panel. This will be the episode of falling sound panels. But, the upside is; first of all now I’m learning so much about page use and all of that. And now I have the focus for next year on websites and really improving all of this. But I love learning this from the other side. I love learning this as being someone who is running ads for my business, on blogs and how that all works. And also now it really makes sense, and I can breathe a little knowing that; ok, well, I don’t have ads on my site.

But it makes sense now for me not to. Because I am; you know, your point about what is the most important call to action. That is my big takeaway is; yes, my call to action is to come buy this product that I make. That’s really where I want people to come have that experience. Because that’s the best of what I offer right now is truly spices, granolas, meals, and all these other food products that we’re going to be creating. So, very reassuring and also that was just super informative.

Also, I hope that everyone listening is feeling like; if you were considering running ads, you have a lot more knowledge in your tool belt and if you were not considering ads, maybe you will consider it. Especially if you’re somebody who doesn’t want to create something that then you have to personally pitch it and say; hey, come buy this thing. This is what they refer to as the passive income from a blog. Passive meaning; you don’t have to say, hey come buy this. It’s happened because of what you’re building on the site.

5. Tip of The Week: Evaluate your ad use [1:04:09]

Diane Sanfilippo: Tip of The Week! In this segment, we give you one tip that you can take action on this week to move your business or life forward. Cassy; give us a tip.

Cassy Joy: Alrighty. So this is going to apply to you whether you’re running ads right now or not running ads right now. I want you to sit down and do a little homework on ads in general. If you currently run ads on your website, now is a good time to pull up your interface with your ad network. Or email them. Get in contact somehow and see how well is each ad performing on your website. Do some of them perform really well? Do some of them perform really poorly? Consider removing the ones that perform poorly. Because you’re adding more noise with less value.

And also consider how your page views have grown. If you have surpassed the threshold to apply for maybe a more adaptable ad network, because you have more traffic, then consider going ahead and applying now.

If you don’t run ads on your website right now, and you’re something you’re thinking might be something you want to do in the future, do some research on what ad networks are out there that would be on your favorite list. And go ahead and write down your pros and cons. Rank them by the one you think would be the best fit for you and your company. And start applying for them one at a time. And see how it goes.

Depending on the company, I seriously doubt that all of them are going to have you locked in for any matter of time. That’s something to look into. But these are always things that you can try on for size, see how it feels, and move on. I think it’s better to try things. Go ugly early, right? Try it on. See how it works for you and your business. Maybe it works great and you’re so glad you did it. Maybe it doesn’t work. You can always delete them. But give it a go.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s it for Driven this week. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe in Apple podcast, on Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow us on Instagram @TheDrivenPodcast. Cassy is @CassyJoyGarcia as well as @FedandFit and I am @DianeSanfilippo as well as @BalancedBites.

Tune in next week for another brand new episode.