Time to call it quits with Adbrite and Project Wonderful

For several months I have been trying out two different small time ad networks to see if they were viable methods to produce extra income. The first one (Adbrite) went out of business after about ($10 of income over about a year). The second one (Project Wonderful) I really did like the idea and service, but after about a year of having their ads run on a few of my sites, my total income from them is around $8. So in the end It looks like they were not even worth the time I spent installing their ads.

Also, just for archival purposes, (as I am not actively tracking the changes in my overall income per hour) currently I estimate I have earned about $0.91 per hour I have invested in this experiment.

Memoirs on a project that took too long (way too long)

So, I have finally completed my upgrade of my Diablo 3 Calculator site. I am very happy with how the final product turned out I feel like I greatly improved the tool. On the outset I thought that since this site was my most successful project to date that it would be worth it to polish the whole thing into a even better, bigger, badder tool. However, I am afraid that from a economical perspective and in regards to my ultimate goals, I think I made some pretty significant errors. I would like to get down on paper what I feel I did wrong so I can hopefully be more efficient in the future.

First: I spent too much time on the project. Way too much. It took me like 5 months or so. I probably put in a good 300 – 400 hours or so to polish everything up. Since I am still new to the world of web entrepreneurship I think this is the equivalent of putting all my eggs in one basket. I could have done 3 or 4 smaller projects and maybe could have come up with something that was even more successful, but instead, about half a year later I have pretty much the same in terms of income producing web property as I did before.

Second: I don’t know if I an going to see any extra return on my time invested. The site was already reasonably successful in the first place and ranking well. While I know I greatly improved the tool, I don’t know if from an economic standpoint I will make any more money from the site than before. So far I have seen little change in the adsense income coming in and it seems unlikely that will change. I probably should have never started the project upgrade in the first place. I think before starting future projects (or improving existing ones), I should take the time to try to judge if the potential increase in income can justify the time I will invest in the project.

Third: My Market/Niche I feel was a really poor choice. Diablo 3 has been a fairly unpopular game. I doubt it will maintain a very large player base for very long. I knew all this before I started the upgrade. I want to build things that will be viable for years to come. I think it would be far better for me to focus on markets niches that will hopefully be profitable for decades or more.

Fourth: The keywords for this site are low paying. This directly translates to lower income potential. I should probably spend some time before starting a project to research out if it is a higher paying market and how much competition there is in the market. Hopefully in the end this will translate into more profitable sites with higher paying keywords.

Fifth: I think a very useful skill to develop is the ability to correctly estimate how long a project is going to take. So far I have been incredibly poor at trying to gauge the time involved in completing stuff. Instead, up till now I just get a idea and then just throw myself at it assuming that it wont take long. If I could get a more accurate reading on how long something will take, I could better judge if it might be worth my time to try.

Sixth: I am always trying to learn new stuff. Pretty much everything I have done up till now I have been trying a new technology, different language, or some framework or something. While this is for sure a good thing as I have greatly expanded my skill set, I think it might be about time to start trying to cash in on what I already know rather than trying something new each time.

So, I guess ultimately what I am trying to say is I really need to start valuing my time more. I need to take the time to plan the whole thing out and try to see if the proposed endeavor might be worth my efforts. If I am ever going to get to $1000/month I need to more strategic with my time and not so willy-nilly.

A small victory

After more than a year of dinking around I have finally caught a gimps of success (a small glimps that is). But hey, you gotta celebrate your small victories. My diablo 3 calculator project really has taken off and is starting to generate some significant traffic and I am actually making a little income. Up to this point my estimated income per hour has been down there at around 10 to 20 cents, but now it is showing all the way up there at 60 cents an hour. Yeah, with an income like that I wont be quitting my other jobs anytime soon, but who cares, this whole experiment just may work(just might take me another decade to up my income up to $10/hour). I think the idea of “passive” online income may be a myth. This is all taking and incredible amount of time and effort.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Ever see that ’90 Kevin Costner movie called the Field of Dreams? For those of you who are not familiar with the movie the catch phrase from the movie is “If you build it, they will come”. I saw this movie when I was young and this line has always stuck with me. In retrospect I think I approached this experiment with a similar kind of mentality. That if I simply built something online, people would come (and click on advertizements and make me lots of money). Almost a year later, however, I am realizing that there may be more requirements than simply building “something”. I was talking to my wife about some of my frustrations and told her that I was becoming disillusioned with the “if you build, it they will come” concept when it comes to the realm of the online. In response she pointed out something I missed in the movie all those years ago. Kevin Costner’s character in the movie wasn’t just building “something”, he was creating something very unique, special, and in high demand. He was building something that people could not find anywhere else.

 So, how does all this relate back to web entrepreneurship and this blog? Well… In an honest appraisal of the things I have built so far I am realizing that they really are not all that special or unique. My blogs and game offer almost nothing new or special. So, I guess it is not really all the surprising that I have not  made much money. I can take comfort in the thought that I have learned oodles from my efforts thus far, however the bottom line is that as of yet I have been highly unsuccessful in online entrepreneurship. Guess it might be time to update my frame of mind from “If you build it, they will come” to “If you build something special, they will come”.

11/11 Update

Nothing good to report this last month. Still stuck in a downward trend (well, I guess I have never really had an uptrend). In truth I really have not had that much time to work on anything and so I guess this is what should be expected. No worries I am not losing faith yet, I am in this for the long run and will keep on trying things until I figure out a way to reach my goals.

A search for “how to make money online” or “how to monetize websites” seems to always generate thousands of pages with people claiming to be making oodles of money online with little or no effort. Hogwash!!! Earning money online is just like anything else, it takes work and patience. However I do wonder if this is one of the reasons why my blog is not very popular because it doesn’t promise easy money.

On the bright side of things it looks as though Google has rolled out its PageRank update and I was lucky enough to receive a rank of 2 on both asteroidsinc.com and infobrink.com which is good I guess. I am hoping to maybe leverage the improved rankings to help increase the revenue potential of my sites.

Asteroids Inc.
Visits: 1364
Adsense Income: $9.20

Infobrink Blog
Visits: 217
Adsense Income: $0.20

RoadTrip-USA Blog
Project Wonderful Income: $0.04

First Impressions Of Project Wonderful

I wanted to try out some different types of advertising to see if I could more efficiently monetize one of my sites. I have been aware of Project Wonderful for quite some time and decided to give it a whirl first. I was attracted by the simplicity of the system and the pay per day rather than pay per click model. Also, they offer free advertising which of course I had to try out (I am kinda a sucker for free stuff). In the end however, the free advertising required too much time to make it worth it for me(they only let you bid 0 on a space for a maximum of 2 days making it quite time intensive to keep your ads running).

As for monetization, I started with 2 half banner ads placed at the bottom of Asteroidsinc.com. However after a couple of weeks with almost no income from the 2 half banners, I switched over to a single full banner (in an effort to create more competition between advertisers). I had Google Adsense ads on there for a few weeks in the exact same spot prior to placing the project wonderful ads so I had something to compare them against. I had high hopes, but after only a few weeks it was quite easy to see that the Project Wonderful ads significantly underperformed the Google Adsense in terms of gross revenue.

Having said all that, I still really like the idea behind Project Wonderful. Maybe after a few months/years as it grows in popularity and attracts more advertisers it will be able to better compete with Google. Also, it is important to note that the site I tried to monetize has a low traffic. I imagine the Project Wonderful ads will most efficiently monetize pages where there is high traffic but low click-through rates. All in all my final verdict of the site is “Not now, but maybe later”.

As a finishing thought, given the low revenue I was receiving from my Project Wonderful ads as a publisher this may indicate an opportunity on the flip side for advertisers looking for cheap advertising (I may have to investigate that further).

If you would like to try project wonderful out for yourself here is my affiliate link. They did do a great job of making service intuitive and straight forward.

10/11 Update

Well, this month was a harsh reality check. Last month I made more income with ads posted for only 2/3rds of the month. In my mind I had the impression that income and traffic to my sites would just naturally improve over time while it appears the exact opposite is true. After being really excited last month thinking that my income would just go up and up this months earning are quite literally a downer. It is turning out it is a bit harder than I thought to monetize my sites. At this point it really does seem quite impossible to achieve $1000/month when I can even maintain $17/month.

I do know some of the things that negatively affected my profitability. In an attempt to test out my monetization options I replaced the Adsense footer ad on asteroids inc with project wonderful ads for a few weeks. This likely cost me quite a bit as the Project Wonderful ads only pulled in a measly $0.14 while a single click from adsense could have produced far more income. Also, for asteroidsinc.com I had been receiving a whole lot of my traffic from a single page (chromeexperiments.com). Last month my game was featured on the front page which generated lots of traffic, but it has now been pushed back to the third page which has dramatically decreased the amount of traffic coming from the referral. On top of all that I did not spend any time further promoting any of my sites.

At the outset of this whole experiment I was hoping to create high quality sites which would naturally attract lots of traffic by virtue of others linking me on their own accord rather than heavy promotion on my part. I am starting to think that success may require revaluation this whole idea. I don’t know if/how I can make anything “higher quality” so I guess my best bet is to focus a bit more on promotion of my sites in the coming months to help keep my traffic up there. Hopefully I can turn things around.

Asteroids Inc.
Visits: 2521
Adsense Income: $11.52
Project Wonderful Income: $0.14

Infobrink Blog
Visits: 312
Adsense Income: $0.24

Time is of the essence

As this experiment in online entrepreneurship continuities I am realizing that I made a significant oversight on the outset. I did not include the element of time in my original design/layout for this site and experiment. I now see that this is an essential factor to consider in order to better understand how profitable my endeavors are. I am currently going through and updating the site to reflect how much time I am spending on the projects. I will have to estimate for what I have already done, but in the future I will try and keep a running total to add further insight into the practicality of the things I try. 

9/11 Update

I am ecstatic. This month I finally made some money (Hurray!!!!). All my efforts have not been in vain (well sorta). I have had some luck with monetizing my projects, but overall so far my returns are not very high at all and can in no way justify all the effort and time I have put into these projects. So far for the amount of time I have put into all this my overall income is in the neighborhood of $0.10/hour (yeah…not that impressive). But nonetheless it is a start, and I am happy with that. Hopefully with a little more promotion and continually adding additional online services/sites/apps I can up the income to a more realistic level.

My Results for last month are as follows
So far my only method of monetization has been Google Adsense

Asteroids Inc
Visits: 3446
Adsense Income: $15.6

Infobrink Blog
Adsense Income: $1.25

Moving forward I think these will be the next things I will try to accomplish this coming month.
-Find an additional source of monetization for both sites
-Create a HTML5 game portal
-Continue promoting Asteroids Inc

HTML5 Game promotion strategy

I have just finished my first game and am now in the process of promoting it. From what I gather, if I were promoting a flash game the process would pretty much involve submitting the game to the many gaming portals and hopefully land a sponsorship or licensing deal. It appears (when it comes to flash games) that as long as you have a reasonably decent game you have a reasonably chance at getting accepted into one of these portals and making some profit. As for HTML5 games, things are completely different. HTML5 is a new technology and there is not yet a whole industry built up to cater to the indie game developer. There are no huge gaming portals (that I could find at least) looking to license/sponsor games done in HTML5. I do believe that HTML5 is the future and will eventually replace flash, but we are not there yet, so I have to come up with a different strategy.

Initially I was trying to promote my game the same way you would promote any other website by trying to get my link in as many places as possible. I was visiting every blog that had anything to do with HTML5 games and trying to spam my link in a comment somewhere. However I came to the realization that doing this is probably is not an incredibly efficient way to go about getting more traffic. My target audience does not go to blogs about HTML5 games and then look through the comments for links to playable games. It is true that links may help improve my search engine rankings a little (maybe) but once again, I am not sure if this really will lead to more visits. When a casual gamer wants to play a casual game they usually are not sure what they want to play and are looking for site where they can browse and try out lots of games easily, kinda like an arcade (hence the popularity of the large gaming portals). They are probably not looking for a site with a single game on it (like mine).

This line of reasoning has led me to conclude that instead of trying to improve my organic search engine rankings for the game(i.e. getting a massive amount of backlinks), My strategy should be focusing on trying to get my game on sites that already have users looking to play games. Below is a list of some of the ideas I have come up with on how to go about doing this.

Social Bookmarking/Sharing (Facebook, Twitter, Google +1)

How many things have you looked at because one of your friends facebook ‘liked’ it? It kinda seems like this may be were the web is heading and I think it wise to try and tap it.

 Apps Sites

I already put the game in the Google Chrome Store. So far I have seen almost no traffic come from the listing, but I do know there are likely a lot of users there looking for games. Beyond the Chrome Store I know that there are many other apps sites/stores that I need to get listed in.

 Submit the game to the HTML5 portals that do exist

There are a handful of smaller gaming portals out there specifically for HTML5 games. They are small and just starting out, but who knows what they will become in the future. I already have gotten into one of them and they send me a few visitors each day.

 Start my own HTML5 portal site.

I am realizing that the is a need for more HTML5 arcade type sites, so why not try and fill it. I am planning on creating more games in the future so it might be a good asset to have to promote future games.

Update: my HTML5 portal site is now completed. You can submit your HTML5 game here.

 HTML5 Design/Promo sites

Due to the newness of the technology there are lots of sites out there which are showcasing HTML5 examples. I think that this is a great way to attract visitors who are looking to try something out. I already made it onto one such site and it has sent me hundreds of visitors.