The post itself is only 120 words, little more than a blurb about a car parking game meant to kill five minutes for a bored visitor. More importantly, it has no external link juice or buzz of any kind (not counting this post). Yet it helped to boost its site’s profits by over 500% because it ranked well in Google.
According to Google Analytics, two-and-a-half months after it was initially published, the post suddenly started ranking well in Google. Traffic to the page jumped nearly 550%.
I asked Google if I could disclose the bits of information that make this case study particularly juicy, like the post’s CTR or the estimated earnings. Their answer, unsurprisingly, was that I couldn’t. Thankfully, I am allowed to talk about gross payments, and a little creative math helps reveal the rest of the story.
The site in question received its very first AdSense payment in June 2006 for $110.92. It’s next payment in the amount of $106.36 didn’t occur until six months later in December 2006. From this, we can extrapolate that the site was earning about $17.73 per month at the time. Not stellar by any measure, but the site is personal rather than commercial in nature.
The next payment that was received was for $218.64 in April 2007, after the post had been running hot for a month. Given that AdSense payments are only assessed at the end of a month in which the account exceeds $100, the site’s total earnings for that month were at least ($218.64 – $99.99 =) $117.29. Comparing this to our baseline of $17.73, we come up with a 561.5% increase in monthly profits.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to infer causality with this data. After all, many other factors influence the profitability of a website. Suffice to say, though, that confidential data supports the implied conclusion. This one post did manage to vastly increase the profitability of the site.
Obviously, there’s a lot to be learned from the success of a post like this. Here are a few lessons.
1. External links aren’t everything. This post had no external link love. It gained a PageRank of 3 by virtue of its internal links alone, which goes to show how a solid internal link structure can give any post a chance to rank well.
2. On-page SEO can really make the difference. Using your main keyword in the title and H1 tags, as well as several times in the body, is a solid way to rank. Tweaking your template to keep the heading and content near the top of the source code also helps. As with all SEO tips, though, be sure not to overdo it.
3. Even oddball terms can be monetized. This post was never expected to generate revenue. It was just a “Here’s a cool link if you’re bored” post. However, it goes to show how even an oddball term can have decent search frequency. More importantly, nobody optimizes for oddball terms, so ranking for them is generally quite easy.
4. Long-tail terms often out-perform short-tail terms. That is, you’ll get more traffic from terms you never thought up than from the specific terms for which you optimize. This post was targeted at the keyword “car parking game,” but more than half of the traffic resulted from unexpected variations on that term. This isn’t anything that SEO professionals haven’t been saying for years, but it’s worth reiterating.
5. Ad placement is crucial to clickthrough rate. Depending on your site, achieving a high conversion rate may be a monumental feat. This post achieved so much success due in large part to the placement of an AdSense unit within the body. If you’re not sure what works best, review the AdSense help center and, above all, never stop testing.
6. Money isn’t everything. A successful blog isn’t necessarily one that makes the most money, especially in the short term. AdSense profits come and go, but readership and credibility in a niche will result in more lasting and varied profitability. This post contributed to neither, and so its overall value to the blog will diminish with its rankings.