Simplifying Ad Optimization with Andy Marzka from AdThrive – FBP008

For today’s episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast, Bjork talks with Andy Marzka, founder and CEO of ad optimization service AdThrive.

Last time on the FBP podcast, Bjork discussed the art of photography with Ashley and Gabe Rodriguez from Not Without Salt. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that episode (or if you want to hear it again!), click here.

Understanding the Complexities of Ad Optimization with Andy from AdThrive

Ad optimization is one of those things that totally clicks for some people and totally doesn’t click for others. And even for the people it “clicks” for, it can be a confusing, befuddling, and frustrating process to get it all figured out.

Fortunately, Andy Marzka agreed to help us understand it all a little better. Andy is the founder and CEO of AdThrive, an ad optimization service that helps you make the most money possible with your ads.

In this eye-opening episode, Andy reveals:

  • What DFP is and why AdThrive uses it
  • How passbacks work and why they are important
  • The number of ads you should have and how to place them
  • How the ad industry is changing – and what it means for you
  • Why ad impressions don’t always add up to equal the number of pageviews
  • What cookies are and how they work
  • When you should start using ads as a new blogger
  • When you should think about getting an ad manager
  • His advice for making money in blogging
  • The importance of mobile and what it means for your ads

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Bjork: Welcome to episode number eight of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. What’s up, everybody? This is Bjork Ostrom. In this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, we’re going to be chatting with Andy Marzka, the founder of ad optimization company AdThrive, packed full of good information. Any guesses as to what that information is about? Kittens. You’re right. No, just kidding. It’s actually about ads and ad optimization.

There will be no speaking of kittens although that would make for a great episode, but we’re going to actually be talking about ads, and we’re going to be talking about everything from the best place to place ads on your blog, changes you can make to create more income from your ads, and the best strategies for bloggers that are in the beginning stages, the intermediate stages, or the advanced stages of building their blog. Strap on your thinking hat. There’s tons of awesome content in this episode, so let’s go ahead and jump in. Andy, welcome to the podcast.

Andy: Hi, Bjork. How you doing?

Bjork: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for jumping on today. I’m really excited to talk to you about ads because I know that there’s a ton of questions that people have. We hear them, and to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m the expert. One of the reasons is because I’m not in doing it a lot, but for you, that’s what you do. You’re in it, and so I’m excited to hear some of the wisdom you have to share with people that are listening in today. Before we get into it, what is ad optimization anyways, and why do we need to be aware of it?

Andy: Yeah, so actually … First of all, I want to say that you’re being really humble in saying you’re not an expert there. I’ve personally been following your site, and your monthly earnings reports, and all that stuff, and you guys are really good at what you do for sure.

Bjork: Thank you. Thanks. I appreciate it.

Andy: There’s that there, but ad optimization … It’s a really tough question, but a great question. I guess it all boils down to making the ads make the most money possible. The way that we do that is getting the right ads at the right locations, the right types of ads, setting them up in a way that they’re competing with each other. No one provider gets full reign over any ad space, but we allow them to bid, and the highest bidder on any given impression should get to fill that ad. Then, it also goes over into ad quality, so we want to optimize it for earnings, but also make sure that it’s displaying ads that you’re okay with having display on your site.

Bjork: Sure, no. That’s great. To go back to the first thing that you mentioned about actually knowing stuff or being in the industry, I, in my mind, envisioned it to be like learning a language where after Spanish 1 in high school, I was like, “I know Spanish,” and then you take Spanish 2, and you’re like, “Wait, I have no idea what’s going on.” I think that ads can be the same way where when you first get started, you’re like, “Ah, I know this. I get this. I have an idea.” The deeper you get in, the more you realize, “Oh, my gosh. There’s so much stuff and so many things that I can be doing,” which is why a company like yours exist and why it’s important.

Andy: Absolutely.

Bjork: One of the things that I’m curious about before we get too deep into the nitty-gritty details is to hear a little bit about your story. I know that you haven’t always been doing this as your full-time job, so what is your story? How did you get in to this? What were you doing before?

Andy: Yeah. Three years ago, I was a high school math teacher. It’s funny. My wife is a blogger. She has a DIY decorating blog, and she had always managed all of her advertising, all of her … Everything blog related was all on her, and I helped her with a couple design things, little technical stuff, but for the most part, it was all on her. She’s starting to get to a point where she was getting more and more traffic, but not making very much money, had some friends saying they were making some decent money, knew that that was out there to make money, but just didn’t have the desire to do it.

She’s really smart, and she’s the kind of person that’s capable of learning, but she had no interest in digging in and researching the complexities of ad optimization, so she started begging me to get in and do it, and I hesitated. I said, “No, I’m busy with school, and coaching, and all that stuff,” but she finally talked me into it, and I jumped in, did some research, learned all about DFP, watched tons of videos, and I actually started to get excited about it because being a nerd at heart …

Bjork: And a math teacher, right?

Andy: Yes, yes.

Bjork: You’re a numbers guy.

Andy: Yeah, so I was analyzing the numbers and went, “Shoot, we can make more money by making this little adjustment.” Within a couple weeks, I started adjusting things, got her set up in DFP, got her on a couple of ad networks to compete, and more than double her income within 2 weeks.

Bjork: That’s awesome.

Andy: Yeah, and then continued on after that, over the next couple weeks beyond that, and was able to double our income again, so almost on a quadruple in her earnings over a month. You could imagine that made a huge difference for her family, and it got to a point that she didn’t need to even think about working out of the house anymore. She’s now a full-time blogger, and that’s just what she does. After seeing that and the difference it made to us as a family, she mentioned it to a few of her friends in a Facebook group, and they begged me to do the same for them. I said, “No, no, no, no, no. I can’t do it. I’m in the middle of the school year. It’s track season. No way. I’m not going to do it.” Somehow, they talked me into it, and I had the same results on their sites, quadruple, triple income within a few weeks by implementing the same ideas.

Bjork: That’s awesome.

Andy: Then, from there, they nicely mentioned it on a large Facebook group, and I had a 40-blogger waiting list. Things got out of control.

Bjork: Wow. There’s a few things you had mentioned though that I want to go back and hit on for those aren’t familiar. First thing was DFP. Can you talk about what that is and why people should use it, or if people should use it, what that’s all about?

Andy: Yeah, so DFP. That’s a Google product that’s called “Double-Click for Publishers”, and it basically allows you to get all of your ad inventory set-up in one space that allows them to compete based on price. In simple words, it drives up the competition. By putting additional layers, it allows Google to serve ads only if they can beat your existing providers, your other providers. Just by doing that, you get a 20% to 30% gain just in that competition.

But then, the downside of DFP is it’s a super company, so the question of if people should use it, if you can, you should. I think you’re right. Running DFP is better than not running DFP, but if you don’t do it right, you can end up hurting yourself and making less money. It all comes down to if you have the ability to learn it. It’s super technical. It’s complicated. I‘m not sure if you’ve dabbled in it at all.

Bjork: Yeah. My experience with it was take some time, look at it, look for tutorials, and then say, “And I realize I don’t have enough time in the day to learn this.”

Andy: Yeah, and it really becomes a full-time thing. To bring in your analogy on a new language, it is a super complicated language to begin with, and then the dictionary for that language is always changing. It is just new stuff coming out, new ways to set things up, new features, and so it’s just … it’s a super complicated thing, and so I would recommend that yes, you do get it. If you can get it up and running, that’s great. It’s either you personally do it or you get somebody else to do it. That’s part of what we do. We set it up in our DFP account to drive up the competition, but I think that somebody should do it either way.

Bjork: One of the things that I think Lindsay and I are slowly starting to understand, so Lindsay, my wife, has Pinch of Yum, and then I spend some time helping with that, and I also do Food Blogger Pro. One of the things that Lindsay and I are starting to realize is that we can’t do everything. Like you said, you can … Everybody that’s listening to this is probably capable enough to go in and learn DFP, but that means then you’re not producing content, you’re not writing a blogpost, you’re not maybe making a video, you’re not networking, things like that, so everything that you decide to take in-house means that something else is not happening.

One of the decisions that we made as we’re trying to understand or trying to clarify what we’re going to spend our time on was saying, “Do we want to do this on our own or bring in people that work in it every day?” It made sense for us to move forward with AdThrive and to use somebody that’s in it every day. One of the things that I’m curious to hear you talk a little bit about is … So there’s DFP, and DFP would be considered an ad server. Is that right?

Andy: Yes, that’s right.

Bjork: There are other ad servers. Why would somebody decide to use DFP versus maybe another ad server that would be available to them?

Andy: Yeah, so there are definitely others out there. I think it all comes down to the ad inventory available. DFP brings Google. You got all the AdSense ad inventory into the mix, and each of the other ad servers or most of them have their own ad exchanges, which is a group of ad buyers that they all bring together to compete with the ads. They each have their own, and I feel like Google is by the far the best that they have the largest pool of inventory and it’s the highest performing that we’ve seen. Yeah. We’ve tested others, we’ve worked with others, and that’s right. We actually have accounts with several of the other big players in that, that serving area, but I just … I feel like DFP is the best one in mind.

Bjork: Yeah. Am I off in saying that DFP is maybe more affordable or free when compared to other ad servers which you maybe have to pay a share or an impression fee? How does that work in terms of the cost of DFP compared to others?

Andy: Yeah, so DFP is free up to … I don’t want to quote the number wrong.

Bjork: Sure.

Andy: It’s somewhere around 100,000,000 impressions a month, so that’s pretty much none of … I don’t know. Most of the internet… It’s free for most people.

Bjork: Right, right.

Andy: Unless you’re an ad network, it’s free basically. Yeah. If you get in … The others one are cost involved with using some of it. Some of them, you just can’t use at all unless you have enough traffic volume. They have minimum requirements. One of the other big ones out there has a minimum of 10,000,000 impressions a month, which pretty much rules out most blogs. There’s not a lot of blogs up in that range.

Bjork: Yup. One of the things that I wanted to hit on that you had mentioned earlier was the idea of you got in, and were able to make some changes and make some adjustments that increased, doubled, quadrupled the income from the blog. What did that look like when you started? Where are things at when you first went in and you said, “Okay. Here’s where things are at?” You don’t need to name specific ad networks. You can just use generic names because as you know, those things are changing all the time, so a year ago, it’s going to be different than what it is now, and a year from now, it’s going to be different. The idea that I want to convey is the general things that you changed in order to get to the point where the blog was earning more from ads, so the before and after.

Andy: Yeah. Basically, the before was … it looked a lot like a single network or possibly two networks running in each ad space that just got a full reign of the inventory. They got everything.

Bjork: Okay.

Andy: There would be a … A certain ad never can install directly on a site, and they would have a set-up to passback to another network if they didn’t have the chance to fill it, but it wasn’t anything complicated. It’s a pretty easy set-up, and most ads never … Will make it easy for you to set up those passback tags, so that was as I came in, and so they were … The ads were just placed randomly. There was no logic to where they were on the site.

When I got in and did research on where the best locations are first of all and made sure we had ads running in those locations, and good locations are the high-click regions, and that’s something that you should definitely test, and move things around, and try things out. It’s not something you want to just jump in and say, “This is the answer.” There are trends certainly that, for the most part, states that have sidebar on the left and ads above the fold. Those ads are going to perform better than the sidebar on the right with the ads above the fold. Things like that.

Bjork: Interesting.

Andy: Those are simple little fixes that the data shows bring some more money. When you look at … So they were set up, I would say, mostly random. When I got in, I brought in more inventory, more ad networks to compete. Instead of one network passing back to another, it was installed inside a DFP with all of them set at a price, a certain price, the price that they’re actually delivering, and then they would compete at that price point in every single ad space. If one couldn’t fill it, it would pass to the next in the line. If they couldn’t fill it, it would pass to the next one in line. At the end, I set it up so there was a single ad network that filled 100%. You always end with 100% fill network, so that nothing goes unpaid.

Bjork: Okay.

Andy: Actually, in that before, that was one thing that was also off is that the … They had unfilled ads. The final layer in their ad set-up wasn’t able to fill 100%, so it would just serve nothing. Server blank ad or a free ad advertising to ad network.

Bjork: Sure. Sometimes, you’ll see those. It will maybe a nonprofit ad or something for Charity: Water, which definitely isn’t a bad thing, but if your hope for your blog is to create an income from it, you’d probably want to be showing something that would monetize.

Andy: Exactly.

Bjork: Can you hit a few of those points? My feeling is there are some people that are listening that are like, “Yup, I get it.” For them, it would be affirming what they know, and then there’s probably some people that are listening that have heard some of those words that you’ve shared or phrases that maybe don’t quite get it. One of the things that I think is important to hit on is passback. Can you talk about what that is and why that’s important?

Andy: Yeah. Most networks don’t fill 100% of the inventory, 100% of the ads. If you installed it on your site, they’re going to fill it as many as they can. Like you said before, they’re going to pass … They’re going to survey PSA, a free ad or a blank ad, and so what we do is we tell that network, say … Let’s call it Ad Network A, the first one that’s installed directly on your site. We say, “Hey, if you can’t fill this ad, I want you to serve this other ad network instead. If you can’t pay me, then don’t fill it with a zero-dollar ad. Give me something that will actually pay.”

Bjork: Got it.

Andy: The cool thing is you can actually give them a price. You could say, “Hey, I don’t want you to serve any ads that are below 20 cents.” You give them a specific number, and then they’ll … Any time it’s below that number, they’ll pass it on to the other networks, so that’s a passback tag that you would give them. It’s just a code that the other … Ad Network B would give you that you’d give to Ad Network A that tells them to pass it back.

Bjork: Got it.

Andy: You might hear some other words like defaults, how … I guess like house ads, stuff like that. There’s a lot of different words they might use to describe that passback tag.

Bjork: Sure, so passback, default, all of those. Meaning, if there’s an ad network that’s showing ads and they don’t have something to show or if they don’t have something to show above a certain price point, then I want you to show this instead, and that could be another ad network that maybe isn’t quite as high a performer, which is why it doesn’t show first or one of the things that you mentioned that I think is interesting and a trick that not a lot of people use is this idea of house ads. Sometimes, people will have their own products. Is that right, and they’ll be able to show an in-house ad?

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork: Can you talk about how that works?

Andy: Absolutely. You can upload an image or get or put in a specific code. Instead of passing back to another ad network, you put in your own product. If you have something great to sell and you’d rather advertise your stuff as opposed to getting a lower paying ad, that’s great, or even other content. You can have an ad display one of your popular posts. Something like that. Something to drive more traffic.

Bjork: Sure.

Andy: It’s a balance between at what point would you like to cut off the payment amount if you don’t … It’s worth more to me to get my own product advertised than it is to serve a 10-cent ad, then I’m going to … Okay. I’m going to set a price. Actually, just get this vocabulary out there because I’m walking around. It’s called a “floor price”. That’s the price that you give the ad network to tell them to not serve any ads below that, so you would give them a floor price at whatever point you believe your product is worth more than or the value.

Bjork: Yup, no. That’s great. One of the things that we haven’t done that we probably should is for the pages that we do have that create an income, maybe it’s an e-book page or something like that, we should go in, and take a look at that, and see how many people actually go to that page and end up purchasing. Essentially, what value each impression gets, and then track the house ads to see what a click-through would be, so we could do an analysis of that. That would be like a 201 thing to do, but it was something that I thought of when you’re talking about that. We don’t run any house ads right now. We have in the past, but it’s … I think it’s smart for people that do have products. It would be a good thing to do, especially if they can set a floor price that’s really low, right, like if it would be 5 or 10 cents?

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork: It makes sense with the floor price just being that that’s the bottom. Is that right?

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup, exactly. Yeah. That’s a great thing to do. There’s cool things you can do with analytics to get in and get that data, and you’re right that’s it’s like 201 or maybe even a 301 type conversation, but it’s definitely a valuable thing that not many people are doing, but it can make a huge difference. If you’re making more money on your personal products, then there’s times that it makes sense to serve that instead of ads depending on the click-through rate of that, so lots of math and analysis involved in getting to that point.

Bjork: Perfect for math teachers, right?

Andy: Yeah, yeah.

Bjork: One of the things that I was curious about is you had mentioned ad placement and you had talked about … There’s the left sidebar, there’s above the fold. If somebody is just getting started with ads, do you have a recommendation and say … I think and obviously, it’s different for every blog, and like we’re talking about before, it changes over time, but just a very beginner level, where should people start and maybe how many ads would you recommend that they put on their page? What would you say to somebody that would ask you that question?

Andy: Yeah, so you definitely hit it that it’s different for every site, but there are some general rules of thumb. First of all, you want the ads to work into your theme. You don’t want your … You don’t want them to stand out and be up in your face. It should blend in. It should be consistent with your content. It goes back to how you built your theme. To really answer the question, ideally, I’d love it if a theme was built to be able to include a header ad of some kind somewhere up near the header, below the header, around the header, in that space.

Above the header doesn’t pay as well as below the header because people typically will scroll down before it even gets a chance to load, things like that, but … So that’s one. You want to get something up near the header and towards the top of your sidebar. Most people put there a little “About Me” type thing at the top of their sidebar. I’d say get an ad right below that, and then get right into content below that in the sidebar. The highest places you can put … Or highest performing place you could put an ad is inside the content. If you can get it inside the post, a lot of people don’t like that, and I’m in that boat. I don’t love those placements, but really, from a reader perspective, I’m not annoyed as a reader as I look at … as I scan through a post and see those.

I guess as you’re deciding where to put them and you’re putting in new ads, try to get some by the fold. Think about what you’re comfortable with. The answer is different for everybody on how many ads they should run. I personally like six-ish. Around six is good. There are some people that are comfortable with more, and they would run … I mean, even like to have some … Like they want to run 12 ads, and there are some that say, “No, no, no. I don’t want to get too many ads on my site. We’re going to get one or two, and that’s it. I’m happy with that.” It all comes down to personal preference.

I don’t like ads stacked up right next to each other. If we can avoid that, we should separate them out, put content in between them, and it’s all about getting good content around and between the ads that makes those ads not just jump out in your face. They blend in, and so it’s that trick between you want them to see them and notice them, but not to send them to the point of like, “Oh, that’s an ad, and I’m like avoiding that,” and they get … It’s called “ad blend”, and they just … They don’t even look at that anymore, so it’s good. It’s a tricky little in-between you’re going for.

Bjork: Right, the user experience versus monetization. That teeter-totter, that balance of, “How can you make something so it’s still good user experience?” But realistically, the ultimate user experience is no ads at all, which means for sites that monetize primarily through ads, that you’re not getting paid, and then it’s really hard to justify content creation.

Andy: Exactly.

Bjork: There’s this interesting teeter -totter and balance between presenting ads in a way that is income-producing for your business or for your blog, and yet at the same time, a good user experience for the people that are visiting your site, which is really … It’s a hard decision to make, and it’s a hard back-and-forth.

Andy: Absolutely. The same thing about what your family needs. That’s one of the big things we try to get at, at AdThrive is to say, “What do you need as a family? What are you family goals? What are your blog goals? Is there a number that gets you to be a full-time blogger, and you get to quit your day job, and that’s what you really want to do? Okay. Let’s see what we can do to work to that number.” Sometimes, we approach it from that way. We always say that we do … We make you the most money possible on your ads, but it’s relative. It’s the most possible money with what you want to … what your goals are.

Bjork: Yeah, what you’re comfortable with.

Andy: Yeah, exactly.

Bjork: Sure. AdThrive now has been around for how long? How many years?

Andy: Two and a half years.

Bjork: Okay. I’m guessing that when you hear two and a half years, it sounds like a short amount of time, especially for a business, but I’m guessing that you’ve seen some change even in the two and a half years that you’ve been around. How are things different than from when you first started two and a half years ago?

Andy: Yeah, so we’re in one of the fastest changing industries in the world. It’s daily. It’s not like a change over a year. It’s every day. There’s something new, there’s something different that we’re staying on the leading edge of, and so it definitely takes tons of investment, and time, and resources, and just reading, and researching, and following the trends, and trying to stay ahead of the trends. Things that have changed in the last two and a half years. First of all, two and a half years ago, premium ad networks were the thing to do. If you were on a premium ad network, you could almost just run two or three of those premium ad spaces on your site and nothing else, and you’ll be making really good money.

Bjork: Can you talk … explain what a premium ad network is?

Andy: Yeah, so there’s a few of them out there. I’m not going to mention them by name because like you said, they’re all changing and everything is all different in there. A premium ad network is one that focuses more on direct sales. They have relationships directly with advertisers, and they’re bringing a pool of sites saying, “Hey, we have this huge group of women’s interest type sites. Would you like to purchase ads on these sites?” Basically, it’s just … They’re going. They pitch to them the quality of their inventory, and the advertiser buys, and they serve those ads in site. There’s not a ton of competition going on there. It’s just what that sales team can sell, that’s what they serve.

Bjork: A classic sales relationship, one company to another company.

Andy: Yeah, exactly.

Bjork: A lot of times, maybe one individual to another individual saying, “We have this stuff. Do you want to fill it with your products’ ads?”

Andy: Yeah, exactly. Over the last couple years, that direct sales mentality is disappearing. It’s going away, and the reason it’s going away is because the technology has advanced to the point that advertisers can now buy ads more efficiently without that sales team middleman. They can go directly to the site and buy it through an ad exchange, through a … Basically, like through AdSense, through any … There’s a ton of other providers out there that are selling these pools of ads, and so advertisers are able to say, “Hey, I want to serve a group of ads on sites that have 80% women readership that are only in the United States.” Even, they can go as far as saying, “Only in the northeast of the United States.” They can really target it down to exactly where they want to serve it and who … what type of reader they’re trying to shoot for.

It used to be with the direct sales and with premium stuff, it was that you were selling the site. You’re saying, “This is a women’s content site, women’s interest type site. Lots of women’s readership.” Now, it’s more … They’re selling to … Or they’re buying ads based on the reader. It makes a lot easier for advertisers, which is great for advertisers. Not so great for publishers because the ads that used to sell for $10, $10 CPM … Is it okay to talk about CPM? Should I define that?

Bjork: Yeah. Why don’t you define that?

Andy: Okay.

Bjork: Yeah. I think it’d be good to do a quick little sidebar on that.

Andy: Yeah. CPM is the measure of how much the advertiser is paying per 1,000 ad impressions, so a $10 CPM ad would pay $10 if it was served for a thousand impressions.

Bjork: Got it, and this is getting into the math zone, which is good for you. If you’re not a math person listening, stick with us. The one thing that took me a while to learn was a page view is different than an impression because you can have one page view, but if you have four ads on your site, that has the potential to be four impressions, so the impression is based on the ad unit. Is that right?

Andy: Yes, that’s exactly right, and so there could be … There’s a lot of ways to look at the CPM too, and there’s a lot of confusion around the calculations and how the best way … what the right way is to calculate it. Yeah. It’s basically the number of ads that were actually displayed. That counts as an impression.

Bjork: Okay.

Andy: Also, to make it even more complicated, there’s a discrepancy in the number of page views and the number of impressions. If you have one ad on your site and say you got a hundred page views, that doesn’t mean you got a hundred ad impressions because those don’t match.

Bjork: That goes back to the fill rate thing that you’re talking about before where sometimes they might not fill?

Andy: Not necessarily that. Industry-wide, there’s just a loss of impression, over about 15%, so regardless … And it has nothing to do with fill rate. If we have 100% fill ad that we’re running, it won’t necessarily get 100% of the page use.

Bjork: Why is that?

Andy: There are various reasons. Everything from something on the reader’s computer that makes it so an ad won’t display. Things like that or in …

Bjork: An ad-blocker or …?

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork: Yup.

Andy: That kind of stuff, and there’s also just … There’s errors and discrepancies. Just the data doesn’t match up, and it never does. That’s the normal. That’s industry-wide that we see that. To get around that, here’s what we do. We use a different metric called “RPM”, which is a measurement of how much money you earned … It’s so hard to … So I’ll just skip. I’ll give you …

Bjork: Yeah. You don’t have a whiteboard. You’re used to having like a chalkboard or a whiteboard where you can sketch stuff out.

Andy: Yeah, yeah. I could show you. Yeah.

Bjork: Yeah, envision … We’ll envision you drawing that on a whiteboard.

Andy: Okay, good. We stopped looking at impressions as far as our overall performance metric. Our number one goal is to make it, so that the site makes the most money possible per page view. We see it as our responsibility to make it, so that the most ads possible show per page view as far as that discrepancy is concerned. We’re talking about the 15% discrepancy.

Bjork: Yup.

Andy: Also, we can bring in the fair rate discussion into the mix, but what we do is we say, “Okay. How much money did you make on all of your ad spaces, and how many page views did you have?”

Bjork: Both of those are concrete numbers because you know for sure the page views and you know for sure the income, and the discrepancy is going to exist no matter what, so you want to use things that you know are concrete. Is that what you’re saying?

Andy: That’s right. That’s the logic behind it because that … And that discrepancy isn’t constant. It’s actually …

Bjork: It fluctuates.

Andy: Fluctuates. Definitely fluctuates, and so we have our … We get that metric, and so what we do there is we find how much you did you earn per 1,000 page views. That’s our RPM. Technically, the … People would argue this about the correct definition of RPM. I guess … Yeah.

Bjork: Sure. I’m sure that the industry would maybe have little things that they would do different with it or opinions about it, but the general idea is this is how much you’re earning from your ads for every 1,000 page views on your blog. Is that right?

Andy: Yeah, it’s right, and so you’d expect as you do work and you get more page views that …

Bjork: You have an idea.

Andy: You would make more money, and you have an idea of, “Okay. If I hit 200,000 page views a month, I’m going to make this much money. I can quit my job. That’s my goal. I’m shooting for 200,000 page views.”

Bjork: Great. Cool. All right, so that was our sidebar, so let’s go back.

Andy: Yeah, sorry.

Bjork: No, it’s good, and it’s important for people to understand. This can be one of those podcasts that people can go back to and listen multiple times, I think, and for people to know … As I was learning this stuff and getting into it, and I’m sure for you too, Andy, a lot of these stuff, I would read through and be like, “What did I just read?” and I’d have to go back and read it again, and again, and again, and there’s multiple exposures to it that helps. If there’s anything for you that are listening that you don’t get, don’t be afraid to go back. Listen to it again. Let’s go back. We’re talking about some of the changes you’ve seen, and you’re talking about premium ad networks. Now, it’s shifting away from those direct sale relationships, and the … What is that shifting to? How does that look now? You’re saying that it’s more of targeted-based purchasing. Is that right?

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, and the shift is towards what’s called “programmatic”. I’m probably going to define this differently than other people who had define it too. There’s probably hundreds of definitions of programmatic. Programmatic is basically when you … when inventory and ad inventory is purchased on an auction type environment where different advertisers are able to bid. Just to make it simpler, somebody comes to a site. Say there’s four ads on the site. Each one of those ads … And this happens really, really fast. Each one of them, they look at your cookies and your browser.

They try to get a quick idea of who you are as a reader. Any information they can get. They’re all about grabbing data, finding out who you are, and then they say, “Ooh, I want that ad,” and they say, “This is how much we’ll pay it for.” Thousands of advertisers all at once say, “This is how much we’ll pay it for.” Whoever bids the most is the one that gets to serve that ad, and they choose what product they’re serving in that space. It’s instant. It’s fast. It’s easy for the advertiser. It’s dynamic on their end, and that’s why the direct sales are tougher. Now, direct sales are still there, and that’s why there are premium ads that are still around, but it’s just not as strong as it used to be, and the shift is definitely towards that, programmatic.

Bjork: Interesting. What you’re saying is that now, there exists technology that didn’t exist even three years ago that allows people to really see who they’re serving the ad to, so for an advertiser, they don’t want to purchase these bulk inventory purchases because that’s like a fire hose where they’re looking for more of a targeted approach … A Super Soaker 1,000. A really targeted approach versus just throwing all the inventory at one site when they don’t really know who those people are. Is that what you’re saying?

Andy: That’s right. That’s exactly what’s happened.

Bjork: Okay. I remember having a conversation with a friend or an acquaintance who does everything on the advertiser side, which was interesting for me because I was so used to being on the publisher side, and he was talking about how they’ll run a campaign. Just to put it into a concrete example for people, they’ll run a campaign, and it will be something for maybe a pharmaceutical thing that they have. He said they can target … Their target market for that is 25 to 30-year-olds in the Midwest, and then he named of certain interests they have. If they’re able to … How are they able to get that information to get that targeted? Where does that come from?

Andy: Yeah. Every time you go to a website, a cookie is stored in your browser, so that’s everything you do. If you searched for something on Google, the cookie is stored … Everybody is tracking everything, which is scary.

Bjork: Yeah, when you …

Andy: As I say, as I skate, it’s super creepy.

Bjork: Yeah, and you’re in it so much, you probably don’t realize they prefer … When I talk about this to other people, they are like, “What?”

Andy: Yeah, yeah. If you don’t know that’s happening, it absolutely is happening, and it’s all under the idea of them trying to present to you the products that you’d be interested in. My wife, she gets on my computer. She’s going to see some nerdy ads. I’m always looking at nerd stuff. This is what you get. If I go on hers, I’m going to get home décor. It’s just a fact. Those are the sites she’s on and she’s interested in, and so it makes sense that they need some tool to measure what kind of ads to give somebody. If so, as you’re going to get served, you would rather get ads that are relevant to you, but it is … Yeah. It’s creepy, but that exists. That’s the way it is and …

Bjork: The analogy … or not the analogy. The story that I think of was I was talking with my father-in-law, and he was looking at purchasing a new basketball hoop for his younger sons, and he was still searching around, and then he came to Pinch of Yum. He said, “You guys were showing an ad for basketball hoops.” He said, “It was the ones I was interested in.” It was a really interesting example of cookies are used where on Pinch of Yum, a food blog, there was a basketball hoop ad, which seems like it wouldn’t make sense, but because of cookies and the ability to track, it really worked. Whereas maybe three, four, or five years ago, that might have been an ad for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or something where it just wouldn’t have lined up with what he was looking at.

Andy: Yeah. My mom always gives us complements on the types of ads that are serving on my wife’s site because …

Bjork: Yeah. “I love those products,” right?

Andy: Yeah, they’re so relevant to her.

Bjork: Yeah, exactly.

Andy: “It’s so cool that you have … Whatever, HomeGoods, HomeGoods ads. I was just searching at HomeGoods, then I found an ad.”

Bjork: That’s funny.

Andy: Yeah.

Bjork: One of the things that in my mind exist, but I don’t know if it’s actually true, is a shift that parallels going from direct sales to programmatic with a decline of the CPM. Is that true, or is that something that I’ve just manifested? What does that look like overall for ads in terms of earning potential?

Andy: It definitely changes things. Like I was saying before that with the premium direct sales campaign, you could sell an ad for $10 or $20, but the … Those premium ad networks, but also keep a large portion, a large share of that money because it costs them a lot of money to sell that large high-performing ad, and so they would keep a larger share, so to the blogger, to the publisher, the amount that they got was significantly less than that to that $10 CPM ad. With programmatic, the CPMs are lower, but the cost to obtain that ad is also lower.

Bjork: Because there’s not direct sales people?

Andy: That’s right.

Bjork: They don’t have to pick up the phone and make the call, sign contracts, things like that.

Andy: Yeah. Yeah, so you don’t need this for your sales team to make that ad happen, so it’s a lot more automated. There are less higher paying campaigns now, but there are … So the ones that are serving are lower paying, but there’s more competition in those spaces, so I would expect … Yes, things are lower, so there’s the easy answer. Things are lower now than they were then across … At least in our industry and in the women’s niche industry that we primarily focus on right now. It is lower, but with that being said, it’s still strong. It’s just not like it’s going away or anything. What a lot of people is, “Ads as we know it, are they going away?” No, they’re not going away. They’re definitely changing. They’re evolving. It might be that there’s more ad types coming out in order to continue to maintain the CPMs, but there’s a trap.

Bjork: That was one of the things that I was actually interested in hearing you talk a little bit about is how display ads … and by display ads, I’m talking about the traditional ads that we’d see in a sidebar or above the fold, things like that, how those are changing in terms of the type ads that can be shown? When you think about 10 years ago, it was maybe they had some movement in it, but it’s probably a static ad. Slowly, as technology becomes more capable, they can change into certain … They just changed in general. How do you see that changing, and how does that impact bloggers?

Andy: Yeah, so there are some really good changes coming. At least, I’m hopeful that they’re going to be really good. You’re right that it used to be more stationary ads, maybe just an image or the text. I guess they’re like texts, text ads, things like that, and it shifted towards Flash-based ads, which had lots of movement, and you can … The ads got way more complicated. When that change happened, the ads also got a lot more heavy as far as what it does to your browser and slowing things down.

That was a good change for the advertisers, and broad and higher CPMs moved to those Flash-based ads, but also, put a bigger burden on the computer, the browser that’s actually trying to view the site. The big change that I’m excited about that’s going to be happening … I’m pretty sure it’s really soon is the switch from Flash to HTML5 because it’s a lot lighter, a lot easier on the browser, and that’s … A lot of people are transitioning all of their ads to HTML5, and that’s coming out hopefully by the end of this year.

Bjork: That’s awesome.

Andy: I think I’ve heard a lot saying that’s coming. Other big changes are video ads are now possible, so through those either Flash or HTML5, they can serve video ads inside of those same ad spaces, which are much higher paying. Advertisers are willing to pay a lot more for those video ads, and they perform really well earnings-wise, but they’re a huge burden on the browser if you get more than one going at the same time. One of the things we do is we block … We have it set up so only one will display at a given time, which works a lot of times, but there are a lot of sneaky ad buyers out there that will buy a chunk of ads for super low CPMs, and try and to sneak some things in.

They start out with it as a regular display ad with just an image on it, and then after a few weeks of running, they can rent it to a video ad that, a lot of times, might play audio, things like that, and they sneak those in, and they’re super hard to track down. Everybody is searching for these things and trying to get rid of those bad players in the industry, but they are sneaky, and they’re smart. There’s those type of things. They come up with the evolution of the types of ads that are negative, and they’re able to sneak in those bad ads, and they’re hardly paying anything for them too.

Bjork: It’s interesting because I feel like any industry you get into, there’s always this … In my mind, it’s like the guy who hasn’t showered for five days in his parents’ basement, and yet, is making an insane amount of money, but it’s like really dirty money. I envision those types of people to be the people that are running those ads, and we’ve run into that before. Like you said, it’s really hard to be able to track those down to see where they’re coming from.

If I understand right, those … That’s possible because it’s one of the downsides of programmatic is that it’s not being filtered through a company in a direct sales way where they say, “Okay. Now, we’re going to run this ad, and we bring it in, and we look at it, and accept it, and run it.” It’s somebody that’s going into this machine, and they put a bid in, and it gets through, and then they backdoor enter in these crummy ads. Is that how that’s happening?

Andy: That’s exactly how it happens. Yeah, and it’s a constant battle. We’re blocking multiple ones per day, and we’re … It’s just part of what we do. We’re tracking them down and getting rid of them, and it’s certainly a challenge to get rid of those bad buyers.

Bjork: Yeah. One of my hopes with technologies, I feel like we’re always moving towards a better place, and that’s just maybe my optimistic mentality, but I’m sure that something will come down the line that will allow for less manual filtering of that that will be able to catch those, but like anything, it’s like you have to wait until that exist. One of the things that I’m interested to hear about, Andy, is for you to do a quick virtual consulting for three different levels of bloggers, and I’ll present each one. You can maybe think about it a little bit, and let me know what you would suggest. It’d be beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Beginner would be somebody that would be maybe doing it for a year or maybe for two years. They’re not above, let’s say, a hundred thousand page views. They’re in the hundred or less, and they’re still getting their head wrapped around publishing and producing content. They’re just getting started out. What would you say to that person in regards to how they should handle ads and what they should do?

Andy: Yeah. I’d say for that person, my strategy is all about content, all about growing my traffic. It’s not a good time to focus on … Make it sure each page, you make the most money possible, but to get yourself to the point where when you do start optimizing your ads that you’re making really good money. What I would do is get it set up … I mean, a simple, easy, three ads … I would even just do AdSense only. Get some ads running on your site. Get some money coming in. Get that, so your readers are used to seeing ads on your site, and you could do a few more.

If you want to do a couple more with some other providers, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t spend time on it though. It shouldn’t be more than like minutes per month that you’re dealing with your ads. I do remember when my wife’s site was brand new and small, and we’d check AdSense and go, “Yay, you made $2 today.”

Bjork: Yeah, for sure.

Andy: I know it’s fun and exciting, but that’s not your goal probably. When you think about what your ultimate goal is and where you should be investing your time, that should be what your … all of your focus goes on. What does the end result look like for you? If the end result is, “I want this to be my full-time job,” then you got to get traffic because there’s nothing you can do with the ads at that point that’s going to get you to quit your job, so spend all of your time and all of your energy on growing your reader base, getting out there in social media, and getting good content on your site, and that should be your focus.

Bjork: That’s great.

Andy: If you can get somebody that will help you with the ads at the same time, great, but I wouldn’t spend time and energy on it.

Bjork: That’s great. We have an e-book that we give out with our newsletter, tips newsletter. If people want to grab that, it’s, but one of the … It might even be the first one that we talked about is tinkering as a huge mistake that people make where they get in, and it’s their first year, it’s their first two years, and they spend half a day in AdSense or like adjusting a logo. I think those things … It’s not that those things are bad. It’s just that sometimes, they can distract us from doing the important thing, which what I heard you say is content, and I think that’s so wise and really cool that you make that recommendation even being an ad optimization guy to say, “Hey, if you’re just getting started, focus on the content. Don’t focus on the ads.” I think that’s really wise. That’s great. All right.

How about that intermediate blogger? They are in that, let’s say, 100,000 to 500,000 page range. They’re getting to the point where it’s like picking up speed a little bit. They’re starting to think about, “Hey, there’s some potential with this to build into something.” They’re not probably doing it full-time yet, but they’re at that point where they have 100,000 to 500,000 page views a month. Is that what you would say as would be the intermediate level? I’m just folding those out, but …

Andy: Yeah. Yeah, that’s pretty good. Between 100 and 500, that’s good solid intermediate. I might even go down between 100 and 300. Once you get over three … I think 300 … 300 for me is a big tipping point in my mind because I think that’s the point where you can no longer use shared webhosting.

Bjork: Okay. Yup.

Andy: You need to take a step up there. That’s when a lot of things are changing on your site. You need to really, really hunker down and get serious on it.

Bjork: Great, so let’s say 100 to 300 for the intermediate level.

Andy: Okay.

Bjork: What would you say to them?

Andy: Yeah. Okay. This is going to be hard.

Bjork: Or it could be the same thing. It doesn’t have to be different.

Andy: It could be easy. It could be easy. Yeah. Now, it’s … You should start thinking about your ads. You should start … Man, that’s the point that we want to start working on a plan there and getting set up with other network. I can give you the … The easiest answer is … At that point, you’re thinking that you can sign up for AdThrive, and we can make you good money on your ads. That’s the easy answer.

Bjork: For sure. Yeah.

Andy: Now, that being said, it’s working with AdThrive. Some people want to do it themselves. They want to get in, and they want to figure it out, and they want to learn it. If that’s the case, now is the time to start learning and start doing it. Get in, get it done, and start making money on those ads because you have enough traffic that you can make money on those ads.

Bjork: What do you recommend somebody at that point if they are doing it on their own that they would use an ad server? DFP?

Andy: Yeah. I’d say the sooner the better. If you’re going to be managing your own ads, then you should learn DFP. You should get it set up. You should get your ads set up in DFP with multiple ad networks competing for the inventory and learn as much as you can.

Bjork: Great.

Andy: You do all the research, and figure it out, and don’t stop. At that point, you don’t stop and just leave it set up. You got to keep working on it, keep adjusting things, keep monitoring it. Follow the trends, try new ad networks, do lots of testing, so keep working through it. If you’re the kind of person that wants to be doing that, then now is the time. When you get to that point.

Bjork: Yeah, and those are rare birds, those people, but they might be out there. Then, what about 300-plus, so the person that’s moved into, “This can be a thing. This might be a thing,” all the way up to the higher levels. What should they be doing? What should they be focusing on with ad optimization?

Andy: Yeah. Usually, outsource. If you did start doing it on your own at that first level, it’s time to outsource. I think what you guys have done recently, I think that’s the right move. What we see is that the bloggers make more money and have more time, and their traffic increases from there. Now is the time that … When you hit that point, you’re getting lots of comments on all of your posts, and you’re probably replying to them. It’s putting all of that time into your contents, social media, and you don’t have time for it anymore. If you chose to do it in that range between 100 and 300, now is the time to start thinking about getting somebody else in to relieve you of that and put you at what you do.

Bjork: For sure.

Andy: You do what your best at and bring somebody else that’s awesome at the other stuff.

Bjork: For sure, to start to build a team. One of the things that I think is a huge wealth of knowledge that you have isn’t necessarily just the ad optimization stuff. It’s also the fact that you work with a large pool of really successful bloggers. I’m curious to know if you can pull out some common traits that you see from people that are either doing full-time or very quickly getting to the point where they’re building their blog full-time. What do you see as …? And it doesn’t have to be specific ads. It can be … I’m just curious in general like personality stuff, things that people focus on. What do you see from those types of content producers or bloggers in terms of how they run their businesses? Do you have any ideas for that?

Andy: Wow. Yeah. That’s a really good question. Our bloggers are awesome. The thing is by the time you get to the point that you have enough traffic to sign up for AdThrive, you’ve put in the work. You understand what it means to be a blogger. You understand the work and the energy it requires, and we get it too. I get it because I watch my wife do it, so I understand it, and I know what they go through to get to that point, but they are … And just to get to that point in traffic, they’re putting out good content, so you don’t get there without good content.

They’re on social media doing … connecting with people, engaging their audience in awesome ways. They’re working on multiple sources of traffic, and that’s from anything from Pinterest, Facebook, their SEO, getting their SEO worked on. All the aspects of their site that they put their energy into. They have relationships with their readers. They’re responding to comments. In general, they’re just nice people.

Bjork: Yeah. We feel like that about the … We feel like we just hit the jackpot. Maybe you feel like this too, but like the blogger community that we work with, they’re such incredible nice people that we’re like, “Oh, man. How lucky are we to be in this industry with such incredible people?”

Andy: Yeah. For the most part, they have groups on Facebook that are … of other bloggers that they share with, they work with, or they get in some kind of community where they’re interacting with other bloggers, getting feedback. I think it’s just like any other thing in the world that you do. It’s all about your attitude going in it. If you have an awesome attitude and you treat people well … I know they’re silly, maybe corny answers, but it all goes back to that.

They love each other. They meet up together. Our bloggers are friends outside of the blogging world and interacting with each other. They go on vacations together. Things like that, and I see pictures on their blogs. I’m like, “Hey, these are six of my bloggers that I work with all hanging out together.” That’s just awesome to see that, so things like that.

Bjork: Yeah, no. That’s awesome. Another question that I had, not necessarily specific to ad optimization, but I’m really curious to hear you talk about your experience with it because I know that you’ve had to quickly grow a team. I think this applies to bloggers because they … As you get into it, there’s that first phase of lots of hassle doing it on your own, and then there’s the phase of, “We need to start bringing people on to our team.” I know that you’ve done that with AdThrive. I’m curious, Andy, for you as business owner, business grower, what are some of the things that you’ve learned as you started to and continued to grow a team, and maybe recommendations that you would give to people that are looking to do the same thing?

Andy: Yeah. Our situation may be different than what any publishers or bloggers are looking at, but our number one requirement … I wouldn’t even talk to somebody until I 100% trust them, so there’s certainly that trust factor.

Bjork: How do you figure that out? How do you know that?

Andy: Yeah, so it comes from … Most of our team to start with has been direct connections to our lives and people we’ve interacted with and had close relationships with in the past.

Bjork: People you know?

Andy: Yeah, whether we went to church together or college together. Our kids play together. It’s the things like that. That was our initial team. Then, as we expanded from that, our network expanded to their network of people that they trust. We’ve gone from there. Obviously, there’s certainly background checks and things like that, but it all comes down to like deep conversations with those people on who they are, what excites them. Do they have the same passions as you?

That’s right. That’s our first focus on what we’re looking at is, can we trust them? Are they passionate about what we do? Do they go crazy and get excited when they hear that one of our bloggers got to quit their job today? That’s something that we flip out about. It’s like the best news you can ever give any of us is we changed their lives. They got to pay their … They paid their house off. Things like that. It’s crazy stuff.

Bjork: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Andy: There’s that. The same passions, trustworthy, but then … They have to be smart. In our industry, nobody … There’s no school for ads. There’s no … “I majored in ad optimization.” It doesn’t exist, so they just have to be really smart technical people. They’re analytical. They pick things up quick. They don’t need to have experience with ads at all. That’s all the stuff you’ll learn, and I have a vast amount of knowledge in the huge database that I have gained. You’re looking at me. I was a high school math teacher. I didn’t know anything about advertising, but it’s all learnable stuff if you put in the time and the effort, and we have a huge amount of data to back that up. Yeah. It’s the smart, capable, trustworthy, passionate people. As you bring out a team, that’s what you got to look for.

Bjork: Cool. That’s great, and good advice for us. We’re at the point where we’re trying to figure out, “What does that look like to build a team and to build a healthy team?” It’s a rewarding process if you go about and do it right, and we’re so proud of the team that we have, and we’ve started to build some really, really cool people, and we know that’s the same for you guys as we’ve interacted with your team.

To wrap up here, the last question I have. For those that are listening that feel like they need a little bit of encouragement, maybe they’re getting started, they’re growing, they’re spending a lot of time doing it. What would you say to those people that are hoping to take this blog thing, take this online publishing thing, and build it up into either just some passive income where …? It’s not passive, but some side income or even a full-time thing. What would the advice be that you would give to those people?

Andy: Am I repeat myself, what I said earlier because … And it all goes back to good content. Just building up that content base, building up the relationships with other people that have done it and have done a great job, and just surrounding yourself by the right people that are wise, and they have the experience, and they know what they’re talking about. Get support when you need support, and continue to engage your readers giving good content, and just get your awesome stuff that you’ve created out there for the world to see. There was one … I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this.

Bjork: For sure.

Andy: There was one thing that I would think it would be bad if we missed this in this call because I think it’s a huge change in the industry that I missed earlier that I just thought of is this shift towards mobile.

Bjork: Yeah, please. Let’s talk about it for a little bit. I’m glad that you brought it up.

Andy: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, because I totally missed it. We got through all the programmatic stuff and the … Yeah, all that. Yeah, and I missed talking about mobile. Mobile is it now. When you look at your site, what do you look at when you look at your site? If you’re evaluating your site, what do you look at?

Bjork: Yeah, right. That stuff. Yeah.

Andy: Most people look at their desktop. They’re sitting on their laptop, and they go, “Okay. This is my site,” and I say that that’s not true. Your site is not what you see on your laptop anymore. Your site is like what you see when you opened it up on your phone. That’s what your readers are seeing. A year ago, our average across the board, mobile traffic was about 30%, and now, we’re close to 60%. That’s not going to slow down. That’s going to keep … See, that’s going to keep getting bigger, or I guess I should say it’s going to continue. If you’re not focusing time and energy on your mobile site, then you’re missing it because that’s what everybody is looking at. That’s where … We need to optimize those ads. If you’re working on … If you had to choose between the two, you got to make sure those ads are optimized. To make things even worse, there’s … I’m probably going way long here.

Bjork: No, that’s … If you have time, I have time. I just want to be respective to your time, and I think it’s helpful for people, so continue on.

Andy: Okay then. No. No, I’m good. I can keep going. I love talking about it, so I’m fine.

Bjork: Okay.

Andy: The other thing is your ability. Along with the shift to mobile, also, advertisers, through this programmatic ad buying, are able to buy ads based on how viewable they are. Just displaying an ad isn’t good enough anymore. Just getting an ad clicked on isn’t good enough anymore. What they care about more is that an ad is seen, that it’s … The reader has it on their screen for at least a second, and then it count … That counts as an ad. They will buy those ads, but they’re at a point where they’re starting to stop buying ads that they can’t see, which is huge for a lot of people’s designs. What we’re seeing over the last years, most people are pushing their sidebar down below their content.

As you can imagine and 60% of your readers are on a phone, none of those ads are ever getting seen because people aren’t scrolling past the content to get to the sidebar content below. “I read the post. Now, I’m moving on to another post, or I’m … or another site. Those are my options right now. I’m not going to continue on that sidebar. I get to that about me thing, and I’m gone because now, clearly, I’m not in any new content anymore.” So, you’re saying 60% of your ads over the next year are not going to pay anything anymore, so you’re going to make $0 on those ads once this viewability technology really goes in full force, and every day that passes, it’s getting more and more prevalent.

Bjork: The idea with that is … It goes back to the technology thing where now people are able to see … And by people, I mean now advertisers are able to see if a certain ad unit or site has viewable ads. Of course, if nobody sees that, they’re not going to buy it.

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative), because I would want to buy that ad, and so I totally get it. The technology finally got here, so they can start doing that, and it’s … We’re seeing the sites that don’t have a good mobile theme with their ads embedded inside the content, their earnings are slowly dropping, and we do … We’re adjust and doing everything we possibly can, but when most of your traffic has ads that are not viewable, there’s not much you can do. It’s the way that … Nobody wants to buy that.

Bjork: Right, and that’s something that exists right now in terms of being able to purchase viewable ads, or that’s something that is starting down the line that will start to become more prevalent?

Andy: It’s started about eight months ago.

Bjork: Okay.

Andy: It’s just increasing as we go.

Bjork: Okay.

Andy: There are some networks out there that they won’t serve any ads unless it’s viewable, so they’re not paying at all if it’s not a viewable ad actually, so they’ll serve it, but they won’t pay it.

Bjork: Right. That’s a really good advice, and I think the takeaway from that is to pull up your site on mobile every once in a while because I know, like you said, it’s like … It’s not like people are writing posts from their phone, so they just don’t see it on their phone or very rare that they do. I know for us, that’s one thing that we’re processing through. We’re going through a redesign with Pinch of Yum right now and trying to figure out, “How are we going to intentionally build in those ads?” I know AdThrive has a mobile theme that they can use. If not that, then you have to figure out with your site how are you injecting ads into the content where people see them versus just having everything go down to the bottom where nothing is viewable.

Andy: Yup, exactly. If your goal is to make money, then you absolutely can’t stay with the ads getting pushed down below. It’s not an option, so do something. Either get somebody to redesign for you in a way that embeds the ads in the content. Like you said, we have our mobile product that converts the site to a mobile theme and injects the ads automatically, and it’s super customizable, so there’s a lot of routes to go. It can certainly cost a lot of money to pay somebody to do that kind of redesign.

If you’re not capable of the tech work on building it yourself, then get some quotes. See how much it would cost and definitely get a clear picture. What are they going to do with those ads, and how are they going to make them display? Just to piggyback on it a little bit, there are few that have gotten these redesigns that got the ads inside the content, and they were hiding the other ads, so they would hide their sidebar instead of making it not display at all, which is a huge issue because now you’re displaying it and you’re trying to display an ad that’s not viewable at all, and it’s like … And being hidden is against every ad network and every company in the world’s term of service. It’s a good way to get banned from AdSense, and kicked out of all, and blacklisted basically on the ad networks.

Bjork: Right. That was one of the things we had a conversation with Aaron, who we work with. When the Pinch of Yum mobile theme would go down, on some of the pages, we had it so it wouldn’t show because we didn’t want it to show. What I didn’t realize was that when you … And this is like a development thing, but in CSS, when you hide something … So CSS is a design language that you can use for websites, and we would have that hidden, but technically, it still loads. It just doesn’t show up, and so the ad network thinks, “Hey, I’m still being … This is still an impression,” but what you’re saying, Andy, is like it’s … That’s not okay because that’s still technically being shown even though you’re hiding it. Yeah, no. That’s great feedback.

Andy: That’s right.

Bjork: I’m glad that you brought that up. Is there anything else that you feel like is really important to hit, questions that I maybe didn’t ask that you think are important for people to understand?

Andy: No. I think that’s all I could think of. That is the big one, that take. If we missed that …

Bjork: Okay. Thank you for … No.

Andy: No, no …

Bjork: Yeah. It’s such a big deal too, so I’m glad that you brought it up. Awesome. Andy, I want to make sure that the thing that we wrapped up on is talking a little bit about AdThrive. Where can people find you, and can you talk a little bit about what AdThrive is all about and how you work? We’ve touched on it a little bit, but I just really appreciate you being on here, so I want to make sure you have a moment to talk about that.

Andy: Yeah. Basically, we take over the managing of your ads entirely. Take everything over. You don’t have to deal with it, you don’t have to think about it, and you can know that you’re going to make the most money possible. When you come on with AdThrive, we get in, and on the onboarding process, we look at your existing site and all of your existing ad network relationships, look at what’s working, what’s not working, make recommendations for new ad locations, new ad sizes, moving things around, all that kind of stuff, evaluate how things are performing now, keep what’s working or replace what’s not, and also bring our inventory.

We have our own ad network that we’re … We’re selling ads both with direct sales and with programmatic, so we’re bringing together the best of both of those worlds, and that drives up the competition. We throw through all of the bloggers networks that are performing well in our DFP account along with our existing inventory and let all of that stuff compete together along with Google’s inventory to serve the highest paying ad every time, and that means you make more money. It should be hands-off with the publisher. They just make more money. They give us the control. We take care of it. We’ll install the ads. We have a dashboard you can view your earnings in, and it’s a win-win. You make good money on it and have less stuff that you have to manage.

Bjork: Cool.

Andy: If you’re interested in it, you can go to If you have any questions, you can email info@adthrive, and we can help you with any questions you have or things like that before you sign up if you want. There’s a “Sign Up” button on the top right corner of the page. We’re actually redesigning now because we realized that as we looked at our site on mobile, it’s not … We weren’t quite following our advice and something …

Bjork: Go on desktop if you will go. Pull it up on desktop.

Andy: Yeah. It works on mobile. Something broke, and so we’re fixing that right now, but it all works, and it’s good. You can get in there, and sign up, and see … Read about whatever, what our service includes, and what it looks like.

Bjork: Awesome. Andy, I really appreciate you taking time to come on today. I know that people are going to get a lot of value out of it and just really, really appreciate it, so thanks for your time.

Andy: Good. It was fun. I’m happy to do it any time.

Bjork: All right. Thanks, Andy.

Andy: Have a good day.

Bjork: Bye. All right. One more big thank you to Andy Marzka from AdThrive for coming on to the podcast today. A ton of helpful information all about ads and ad optimization, and it’s all stuff that’s really important to know as you are starting growing and building your blog, so thank you, Andy, for coming on. As you know, we always have a few things to chat about before we wrap up. First, we’d like to thank our show sponsor. You know it. Food Blogger Pro. That’s us. We actually don’t have a sponsor. We sponsor ourselves. The way that we can do this podcast and make it possible is by the fact that or is due to the fact that we have this membership site, Food Blogger Pro.

Food Blogger Pro is a place where you can go to really dive deep, so we talk to experts here on the podcast, but Food Blogger Pro is a place where you can really dive deep and go into these different categories whether it’s learning about WordPress, monetization, photography, SEO, all of those things. We have video tutorials for those. We have a community forum of almost a thousand members. We have tools. We have discounts on different software. All of those things you can find at Food Blogger Pro. If you want to check it out, you can go to

If you want to stay in the loop with this podcast, there’s really two ways that you can do it. One, you can go into iTunes and subscribe. We would really appreciate it if you do that. The other is you can sign up for the Food Blogger Pro Newsletter. If you do that, we actually send a free e-book as well. The e-book is “10 Mistakes that Bloggers Make and How to Fix Them”, and you can get that e-book by going to to learn a little bit more about what those mistakes are.

Lastly, the last thing I want to say here is thank you, and we always want to take time and we really mean that. We want to take time at the end here to say thank you for listening to the podcast, for tuning in both for Lindsay, my wife Lindsay who runs Pinch of Yum and for me, Bjork, doing Food Blogger Pro. We work on those things together.

The reason that we can do that, the reason we can build these businesses is because we have incredible people like you that are following along with it that are staying tuned, that are subscribing to the podcast, visiting the blog, things like that. We really, really appreciate it, so thank you wherever you are, driving in your car, working out at the gym, or you’re just listening at home. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we really appreciate you. When I see you in person, I’m going to give you a high-five, look you in the eye, and say thank you because we appreciate it. All right. Friends, we’ll be back next week. Same time, same place. We’ll talk to you then.

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