On the fourth episode of The Domain Magnate Show, we had a discussion with Mediavine’s Co-Founder, Amber Bracegirdle about the technicalities, tips, and secrets you haven’t realized yet on monetizing your website through advertisements. We also run through how they “accidentally” created Mediavine out of their frustrations in the ad companies for their blogs.
Amber Bracegirdle is a forensically trained fraud analyst, turned to Food Blogger. An experience that lead her to co-founding a powerhouse family of websites, Mediavine. She’s also the managing editor of FoodFanatic.com, author behind bluebonnetbaker.com and the co-host of the podcast Theory of Content. Amber mastered progressive ad placement, SEO, building social media presence, creating outstanding content, and developing exceptional recipes.
Connect with Amber: LinkedIn
SKIP TO THE GOOD PARTS:
00:52 – 01:26 – Mediavine in numbers
02:57 – 04:43 – The start of Mediavine
14:49 – 16:38 – Close calls and big mistakes
19:27 – 21:50 – Why your website speed matters
22:54 – 28:00 – Digging down to viewability score
33:09 – 39:11 – Health checks and ad placements
34:12 – 43:30 – Beating Google at their own game & thoughts on diversifying
43:38 – 48:16 – Requirements to qualify as Mediavine’s publishers
40:07 – 52:03 – RPM Challenge
59:00 – 1:02:19 – Mediavine payment terms
1:04:11 – 1:04:58 – Making sure your audience are real people
1:09:09 – 1:11:20 -Competition
1:15:06 – 1:15:39 – ad blockers
1:17:40 – 1:18:37 – Changes that are going to happen in Advertising
1:20:21 – 1:20:57 – final tips
Michael Bereslavsky 0:14 Welcome listeners. Today we have Amber Bracegirdle, the cofounder of Mediavine. Welcome here.
Amber Bracegirdle 0:22 Hello, hello. It’s great to be here.
Michael Bereslavsky 0:25 Amber, I’m excited to talk to you today because I’m really curious to get more into monetization.
Amber Bracegirdle 0:32 Okay.
Michael Bereslavsky 0:33 Where are you calling from?
Amber Bracegirdle 0:35 I’m calling from San Antonio, Texas.
Michael Bereslavsky 0:38 Nice. We like to start our show with numbers.
Amber Bracegirdle 0:44 Okay.
Michael Bereslavsky 0:44 Can you tell us a little more about Mediavine in numbers, maybe your revenues or traffic, things like that?
Amber Bracegirdle 0:52 We don’t tend to discuss revenue. But we do, we can tell you that we work with 5400 bloggers. Little bit more than that actually now as of last week. We have more than 7 billion ad impressions across the network. We work, we have I think it’s over 100 million in social impressions a month. So pretty, pretty substantial group of bloggers that we work with. But we started four years ago with six websites.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:26 Nice.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:27 So, the growth has been pretty crazy.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:31 How many people do you have now in the company?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:34 In the company? So, we started with the four co-founders, and we hired Brad, and that was five of us. Now we have 62 and we’re hiring 10 right now.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:44 Oh, that’s quite an astonishing growth.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:47 Yeah, yeah. We’ve grown by more than 100% every year.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:50 Is that locally or remote?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:54 Everybody’s remote. Absolutely, everyone is remote. We do have, we call it me Mediapolis, or some version of that mini vine. We have a small contingency in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and another group that sort of spread out over North Carolina. But otherwise everybody is far flung.
Michael Bereslavsky 2:15 Nice. And do you mostly hire in the US or where they also hire these days?
Amber Bracegirdle 2:21 Really right now it has been US. It’s not necessarily because we’re opposed to hiring externally, outside of the US. It’s just that we haven’t had anybody come across, I think, that we’ve wanted to bring on board. And we’re also not really set up for hiring in a foreign country. We’re not incorporated internationally or anything like that. So, we would need to do that before we start hiring internationally.
Michael Bereslavsky 2:48 Yeah, it makes sense. Absolutely. And you have four cofounders, that’s quite unusual. How does that work?
Amber Bracegirdle 2:57 So, the company itself was actually founded in 2004 by my three fellow co-founders. The guys, as I refer to them, Matt, Eric and Steve. They had worked together at Eric’s brother’s company, at one point, and then they formed something that they called iScribe limited together, and then they sort of renamed it at some point to Mediavine. And I didn’t come along until 2013. And I came along to help them create and run a food website. I’m a food blogger, it was my hobby at the time. I’m also a forensically trained fraud analyst. And so, food blogging was my hobby at the time, and I came to help them start and run a food website, which I still run today. And we sort of happened into all of this, like it was complete and total luck along the way, we did not plan to create an ad management company. What happened is our ad company sort of fell apart. And Eric, who is the programmer among us said, I think I can build something for header bidding. So, I’m going to try. And within a couple of weeks, we were out earning our main network with remnant advertising, which is bananas. If anybody knows anything about advertising, you know that you never out earn your direct sold stuff with remnant, but with programmatic header bidding, we were. And so, we decided to, our contract was coming up for renewal, we decided to strike out on our own. And right around the same time, you know, bloggers always talked to each other, right. And so right around the same time, I mentioned to my best friends, that we were going to be doing our own advertising. And she said, Oh, my ad network sucks too, can you help me. And that was kind of the question that struck history. Because when you go to represent a site that you don’t own in ad communities, you have to jump through a lot of hoops with Google Ad Exchange, and a bunch of others. And so, once we had done that for Jamie site, which is mybakingaddiction.com, we could pretty much do it for anyone. And so originally, the idea was, we would open up this to our food fanatics, so the people that write for food fanatic, which is the food website that we had started together. We had about 50 contributors at the time. And we said, well, this is something we can offer them as an added benefit, because we were never, we’ve never been able to pay like what a sponsored post would pay. But we’re also allowing them to use that content on their own website and stuff like that. So, and so we thought, well, this will be a great benefit, right? And then we quickly realized that the thing about programmatic advertising is not necessarily the individual sizes of the sites, but the collective size of the group of sites. And so, we decided to just open it up to anyone, barring a few checks on our side. And so, we went from six websites to a thousand in probably five or six months. Mostly, I mean, entirely word of mouth, we’ve never done outbound advertising in terms of like Facebook ads, or anything like that. So, you know, I can confidently say that sort of the first thousand bloggers we worked with, I knew them on some level, I’d been a blogger for a long time, this year would be my 11th year of blogging. So, you know, and once we had that many that were just talking about us all the time, we’ve just continued to grow.
Michael Bereslavsky 6:33 Yeah, that’s perfect. So, you just grew through word of mouth.
Amber Bracegirdle 6:38 And we still do.
Michael Bereslavsky 6:39 And how much traffic did you have when you started? Was it enough to kind of go and implement header bidding? Because it usually needs, I understand quite a traffic.
Amber Bracegirdle 6:49 Yeah, you do. So, one of the things that really is lucky about all of this is that our site, The Hollywood Gossip, by itself was big enough to do header bidding. It gets about 60 million page views a month.
Michael Bereslavsky 7:03 Oh.
Amber Bracegirdle 7:03 So yeah, it’s a huge website, we have that one. We’ve retired Movie Fanatic and rolled it into The Hollywood Gossip, but we have The Hollywood Gossip, TV Fanatic, and Food Fanatic. And so, by itself, The Hollywood Gossip was big enough. So, it sort of carried the group of sites for a while in terms of being able to garner the deals that we wanted to get. But now the network itself outperforms THG by a lot.
Michael Bereslavsky 7:31 Yeah. And now if someone were considering to go and implement header bidding on their own, what would you recommend? Like what’s the minimum amount of page views per month with it would make sense?
Amber Bracegirdle 7:45 You know, I don’t know at what level sites like DFP, they call it something else now, but Google renamed it. But I don’t know what their level is that they’ll even consider working with the site. I know it’s pretty high. The other thing is the advertisers that are out there, they still sort of have outdated thinking when it comes to this stuff. So, if you’re a site by yourself and you aren’t registering on Comscore. I don’t know if you know what Comscore is, I can talk a little bit about that. If you’re not registering by yourself on Comscore, they’re really not interested. And so, for a while, when we started, we didn’t have a sales team. And we struck up a deal with Conde Nast where they’re Food Innovation Group would go out and do direct sales and programmatic deals for our group of websites along with their own. So, we were getting grouped in with Epicurious, and Food and Wine, and Travel Traveler, and all of that stuff. But at some point, we realized that we were actually bigger without them than with them. And so, we realized that err, not that we were bigger without them, but that we were big enough on our own, that we could go out and get these deals by ourselves and not have to share or not have to play second fiddle, right? Because when you’re in a conversation on behalf of Epicurious, and all these other websites that people may have not heard of before, Epicurious is where they’re going to do most of their spend, right? And that group was always wonderful. It’s not that they weren’t advocating for us. It’s just that if you’ve got Epicurious versus two sites that you don’t know, you’re going to spend the money on Epicurious.
Michael Bereslavsky 9:30 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 9:30 And so we decided, well, what we need to do is make a name for Mediavine itself, which is why we started gathering our own Comscore and moving the sites that were listed under the Food Innovation Group back over to Mediavine. And now I believe we’re number four in food, number eleven or eight in travel, something like that.
Michael Bereslavsky 9:50 In Comscore?
Amber Bracegirdle 9:51 Yeah. In Comscore.
Michael Bereslavsky 9:53 So, is it like Alexa but more…?
Amber Bracegirdle 9:56 Kind of, kind of. So Comscore started out with like TV ratings. And they still do that, right. So, they still do TV ratings, like Nielsen stuff. But they also do it for websites. And so basically what happens is, if someone asks you for a traffic assignment letter, what they’re doing is they’re saying, you’re signing an agreement that says, this entity has my permission to take credit for my traffic in a way that allows them to garner advertising deals. It doesn’t refer to your traffic and taking credit for your traffic and any other way. It’s literally just, they have my authority to go out and negotiate advertising deals on my behalf. And so, when you do that, and you combine 5400, 5500 websites, you become ginormous. To use a very American word, you become ginormous. And so, you really have a lot more authority in the space than most people would be able to get on their own.
Michael Bereslavsky 11:00 Yeah, I remember we had to sign that letter, that email, just recently, then we got one of our sites finally approved for Mediavine.
Amber Bracegirdle 11:09 Yay.
Michael Bereslavsky 11:10 So, you kind of started this whole thing as accidentally because of your own niches, and then you just had people coming to you and asking if they can join? At what point did you or did your cofounders realize that, you know, this could be something really serious. That this could be something big on its own.
Amber Bracegirdle 11:32 So, I definitely, so it’s very funny, we had a phone call with Jamie when we were talking about her ad placements before we launched them on her website. And she and I both said to Eric, we’re going to start an ad network. And he laughed at us, and said, we’re not going to start an ad network. And then the very next week, BlogHer and SheKnows merged. And he goes, ah, maybe we are going to do something here. And I think, very quickly we realized, because I, we were starting things like really kicking things off and sort of the summer of 2015. We started in June. And then I got pregnant with my second son in November. And we had already hired Brad. And we were, Eric, myself and Brad were kind of doing the heavy lifting of the ads stuff because Matt and Steve were focusing on our owned and operated sites to make sure that they kept going the way, and growing, the way that we wanted them to. And so, we realized very quickly that when I went on maternity leave that we would be in a heap of trouble. And so, we had to hire some folks pretty quickly to bring them on, to do sort of the customer service, the publisher support facing aspects. And so, we hired Nicole. And then we very quickly hired Heather, we hired more engineers, and it’s just kind of never stopped. But we knew I think, reality hit us when we were talking about my maternity leave, that we were going to have to hire people specifically for the ad stuff not for, you know, working on the owned and operated websites. And that was within like four months of taking on the first website.
Michael Bereslavsky 13:19 So you basically had to grow because, just sustain, just to have enough people to…
Amber Bracegirdle 13:25 Yeah. Just to have enough people to make sure that emails were answered. Like I think one of the things that made us stand out is that Eric and I, from the very start, we were like, Okay, if we’re going to do this, one of the things that it’s really important to us is that we always explain as much as we can, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. A lot of other people in the space would purposely be opaque.
Michael Bereslavsky 13:53 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 13:53 Because they didn’t think bloggers cared or they didn’t think bloggers would understand, et cetera. And I guess because I am a blogger, I was like, No, no, these are smart people. And we can explain things in ways that make them understand. And I think if we are transparent from day one, that will service us far better than anything else. And it really has been the number one marketing strategy is just tell the truth. If you screw up tell the truth. Just make it right, you know. And we kind of internally, you know, we never cringe if a mistake has happened because we know that just going out and telling the community here’s what happened, here’s why it happened. Here’s how it wouldn’t happen again. And here’s what we’re doing to make it right, is better than any advertising campaign we could run.
Michael Bereslavsky 14:43 Absolutely.
Amber Bracegirdle 14:43 You know.
Michael Bereslavsky 14:44 Did you have any close calls, any big mistakes like that?
Amber Bracegirdle 14:49 Yeah, well, I think everybody remembers that big, the yellow ad thing with Google a couple of months ago, I don’t know if you remember. So I think it was in q4, last year, Google accidentally set live this, basically just a yellow square on DFP that had a ridiculously high CPM. And so it was beating out all the ads on the internet. And it ended up being something like a $10 million mistake on their part. It was live for about 45 minutes. And we’ve normally, if it’s something that we had control over, we will always make it right, right? Like we’ve had people accidentally set things live in our own environment that we make right. But this was something we had no control over and we had no way to stop it. But it made people’s RPM jumped by like $15 in a day.
Michael Bereslavsky 15:45 So it was good.
Amber Bracegirdle 15:46 Which was wonderful. But also, we had no idea if Google was going to pay for it.
Michael Bereslavsky 15:50 Ohh.
Amber Bracegirdle 15:51 And we did not, so some of our competitors chose to just literally shut their dashboard down because they didn’t know what Google was going do. And they didn’t want bloggers coming with pitchforks wanting that money. And so they shut their their dashboard down. And we did not do that. But we were also very forthcoming, like this is what’s happening. We don’t know what’s happening but we will absolutely advocate for you, you know, with Google, because they did beat out all your other advertising. And luckily, Google chose to make it right. But we were definitely biting our nails for a while.
Michael Bereslavsky 16:30 So you had to kind of negotiate against Google for a bit.
Amber Bracegirdle 16:35 Yeah. We did that a lot.
Michael Bereslavsky 16:38 Yeah. And there are many ad networks these days and Google, obviously, ginormous. How big would you say you are compared to all the other networks working with Google? Like, would it be like in the top 10th of 100?
Amber Bracegirdle 16:51 You know, I honestly don’t know where they rate us. I know that in terms of other ad management companies, we have two or 3000 more websites. I don’t know. And I know that we are big enough now that when we call out a problem, it’s not summarily dusted under the rug. Like there, you know, there is an actual conversation that happens. We don’t always get our way. But we, you know, we work really hard to get our way as much as we can. So I don’t, because I don’t think even Google is public with that information. And so unfortunately, I have no idea where we stand, I just know, like, you know, and looking at things like Built Within or, or whatever, that we are definitely larger than by two or 3000 sites, than the other companies that people would lump us in with. We don’t actually see ourselves in that space but you guys all seem to, so.
Michael Bereslavsky 17:50 Yeah. So do you guys still see yourself as you know, as a network for bloggers? Or do you see yourself as kind of a major player in the online ad industry?
Amber Bracegirdle 18:01 So we actually, this is what’s really funny is we don’t consider ourselves an ad company at all. At all. We have an eye to the future, which is why we aren’t just focusing, like, obviously, we have an entire team of engineers that works on the ad tech. But we also have an entire team of engineers that works on the WordPress tech. So we’ve got Create, we’ve got, which is our WordPress plugin. We’ve got Trellis coming soon, which is our WordPress framework. We’ve got it live on a couple of websites, it’s kind of a game changer when it comes to site speed. And we’re just kind of eyeing the future and realizing that, in order for us to help people make as much money as possible, we need to provide them with the tools that don’t get in their way. In the same way that our ad tech doesn’t get in the way, like our goal has always been, let’s not screw up the user experience as much as possible. Let’s not screw up site speed as much as possible, because we didn’t want to lose our number one rankings for The Hollywood Gossip, right? That was, it was a selfish goal. Like we don’t want to screw up our own websites. But when you don’t want to screw up your own website, you’re not going to screw up anybody else’s either. And so we definitely see ourselves as a big player but not in the space that you’re defining us in currently.
Michael Bereslavsky 19:25 Make sense.
Amber Bracegirdle 19:25 If that makes sense. Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 19:27 Yes. So you mentioned site speed, that’s interesting because the last time when we chatted briefly, you looked at one of our websites, if you remember, and you gave us some tips. And basically, you told me that most of those tips were just about improving the site speed. Just making it faster. And I was a little bit surprised. I was expecting somewhat tips on how to reposition ads to improve conversions.
Amber Bracegirdle 19:53 Oh, yeah. So.
Michael Bereslavsky 19:54 So how important is site speed really these days?
Amber Bracegirdle 19:58 Well, let me tell you. So first of all, site speeds a major ranking factor, right? The other thing is that everybody’s on mobile phones. So the faster your website loads on a mobile phone, the more people are going to stay engaged with it and not hit the back button and go for somebody else. Also, your ads load faster. So the thing about the ad positioning, you know, as a single site owner that’s trying to do this yourself, really the best advice I can give you is what we do ourselves, is test it out, figure out how readers are interacting with your website using plugin like Hotjar or something, to figure out the heat map and how they’re interacting and put your ad positions where you know people are looking. It’s as simple as that. Like your ad income will go up so long as you are putting ads where people will see them. They don’t have to bonk them over the head, like an interstitial on mobile or things like that. You don’t have to do that. So long as you are being intelligent about your placements in terms of what your readers are actually doing on your website, you’re going to be fine. And that’s different for every website, which is why when we scale, right? Like we we have some standard placements, but they move around based on what device someone’s on, or what, how your actual content is displayed, they’ll move around. And so me saying to you, oh, you should put your ads to these places, like that’s not a long term solution, right? Because it’s going to be different for every page that someone’s looking at, and all of that. So site speed is huge, not only for the ranking stuff, but also when your ads load faster, your viewability score goes up. And viewability scores are incredibly important these days to getting a high CPM. So what a viewability score relates to is how much?
Michael Bereslavsky 21:50 Can you explain what a viewability score is?
Amber Bracegirdle 21:53 Yes. So the way an ad gets a viewability score is it needs to have at least 50 percent of the ad in the viewable screen for at least one second. When that happens, it starts to calculate a viewability score. The longer the ad is in the viewable screen, the higher the viewability score. Which is why you see everyone using like those sticky footer ads at the bottom of a browser because they stay there, no matter how long someone scrolls. They stay in the viewable screen and they have an incredibly high viewability score. In the same way that we were the first ad company to ever put an ad in a recipe card for food blogger, right? And when we did it everyone was like, that is the dumbest thing we’ve ever seen. It’s below the fold, what are you thinking, it’s not valuable. And the thing is, the way that readers interact with a food blog is that they do scroll through the content and read the blog posts, but they’re scrolling all roads lead to the recipe card.
Michael Bereslavsky 22:54 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 22:54 Whether they come in from Pinterest, or Google or Facebook or whatever, all roads lead to the recipe card. And so having an ad in that space, it became, very quickly became the, and to this day, the most lucrative ad position on our website, or on our network rather. And so that was literally about us switching how we think about it not worrying about traditional advertising norms, and instead saying how are people actually using these websites. And it’s one of the reasons that we made that Create plugin, is we were trying to give more genres of blogging, the ability to create a what we call most valuable content card that will encourage the reader to interact with the website and scroll all the way to the bottom of the blog post to get the thing that they want.
Michael Bereslavsky 23:45 So the viewability score, how does it come into play in terms of the CPM of the ads?
Amber Bracegirdle 23:53 So we run at about, an average desktop CPM for us, across the network if we average it is about 3.50, $3 and 50 cents.
Michael Bereslavsky 24:05 So that’s for 1,000 views…
Amber Bracegirdle 24:08 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 24:08 Of the page, of the ad, of the…
Amber Bracegirdle 24:10 Right. But a, yes, but a typical one is around $1.75. Depending on the time of year and things like that, right? But viewability, so let me explain what viewability actually means to an advertiser. It means that their ad was actually seen. There’s been advertising since Greek and Roman times, right? Like they found frescoes that were actually advertising on walls, right? But with digital advertising, with display advertising, it’s literally the first time in the history of advertising, that you can actually prove someone saw this ad, and how long they saw it for. That is incredibly valuable to an advertiser, and they are willing to pay for it. Mediavine runs, so the score goes from from zero to 100, with industry average sitting somewhere around 70% viewability. Mediavine runs at eighty plus.
Michael Bereslavsky 25:10 Okay. Make sense.
Amber Bracegirdle 25:11 Yeah. Because of how we lazy load ads, meaning that we’re not loading ad positions that won’t be seen. Which was, again, that was a selfish choice, we lazy loaded ads from the day we launched the company, because we didn’t want to slow down The Hollywood Gossip.
Michael Bereslavsky 25:25 So in terms of, so for publishers, how is it important? How can they increase their viewability?
Amber Bracegirdle 25:33 So you can increase your viewability, one, by paying attention to site speed, getting your site to load as quickly as possible. Two, would be keeping your reader engaged, right? Engaging content. We talked a lot about writing long form content at Mediavine, but we’re not asking you to write just for length, like don’t do that, because people will check out and they will be gone. And then you don’t have viewability anyway, right? Engaging content that people are going to stay on the website and look at, and also consider ways that you can employ a most valuable content card. So Create is free. You don’t have to be a Mediavine publisher to use it. It doesn’t just do recipes. It does How To cards, which are really interesting, because you can literally use those for how to do anything. So initially, we were considering that schema type, no one else was doing it. And it was we were thinking, Oh, well, this will be great for our craft and DIY bloggers. So we released Create. And all of a sudden, we had like marketing bloggers, that were using this thing to showcase how to create an email course, how to set up a scheduler for your social media stuff. And they were creating that most valuable content card that people were scrolling to and printing out or scrolling through and sitting there for a while reading what’s in the card, which is exactly what recipe readers do, right? Which is perfect. It’s exactly what we want them to do. Because not only is the recipe card out, or the ad, we call the recipe card ad. But the card ad in view, your sticky ad at the bottom is in view, if they’re on desktop, your sticky sidebar ad is in view, all of those things can refresh every 30 seconds. And if they’ve been in view for 30 seconds, your viewability score is ridiculously high, which means the CPM for those ad units is ridiculously high. And we’re running a new option every 30 seconds. So finding a way to understand how your reader uses your website and then sort of manipulates, not my favorite word, but manipulate how they’re interacting so that you know they are scrolling and they are seeing all of your in content ads where they are sitting at that most valuable content for a while can really be a game changer as far as increasing your viewability score.
Michael Bereslavsky 28:00 This is great advice. So to sum that up, use a heat map, something like Hotjar, to figure out where people are clicking and looking.
Amber Bracegirdle 28:09 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 28:10 Make sure that it loads fast. Use some kind of scorecard website, sticky content to attract visitors so that they stay longer.
Amber Bracegirdle 28:21 Yes.
Michael Bereslavsky 28:21 That’s about it, right? That’s…
Amber Bracegirdle 28:23 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 28:23 That little free…
Amber Bracegirdle 28:25 Yeah. And then video. A lot of people think that video is not for them, because they don’t you know, they’re not in food. They’re not in crafts, they’re not in whatever. But everybody has five top blog posts on their website that they can find stock images for and create a slideshow video using something like Animoto, everybody can do that. And when you engage video on your website using like the featured video stuff, your income can increase, it can become 15 to 30% of your total income.
Michael Bereslavsky 29:00 How long should the video be?
Amber Bracegirdle 29:03 So 30 seconds is ideal because if you can create multiple, you will automatically engage a playlist. So it’s kind of like the same idea with the refresh. Every 30 seconds they would get a new video ad and video ads tend to have ridiculously high CPM. On desktop they’re like $19.
Michael Bereslavsky 29:22 Nice.
Amber Bracegirdle 29:23 So definitely worth doing. If you go and look, Michael, you could go and look in the Facebook group right now. And search for people who say things like, if you haven’t done video yet, get some on your website, and you’ll find multiple posts where people were very resistant to the idea. And then as soon as they engage, they’re like oh my gosh, the money, the money. And the thing is like we’re lazy loading all the video. So long as you’re using the optimized placement stuffs where it sits below the fold, it should be lazy loaded. So it shouldn’t impact your site speed in a dramatic way. Like we’re doing everything to make sure that we’re not getting in the way of the site loading.
Michael Bereslavsky 30:01 Yeah, the Facebook group is quite active. And I noticed that you’re quite active in it as well. Is it only for Mediavine publishers?
Amber Bracegirdle 30:09 It is, yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 30:09 Can other publishers join?
Amber Bracegirdle 30:11 No, it’s only for Mediavine publishers. It’s sort of an exclusive, we are considering some ways that we can help publishers that aren’t yet at Mediavine levels or perhaps were rejected. We were talking about ways that we can help that. So.
Michael Bereslavsky 30:26 So I have a…
Amber Bracegirdle 30:27 It’s a long term plan.
Michael Bereslavsky 30:28 Yeah. I have a small confession to make. So.
Amber Bracegirdle 30:31 Sure.
Michael Bereslavsky 30:31 Before we start using Mediavine a couple of weeks ago, actually tried to submit some of our websites, but we got rejected. I think like five or six websites rejected.
Amber Bracegirdle 30:43 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 30:44 So very strict.
Amber Bracegirdle 30:45 We are very strict. We have a reputation on the outside of the industry, as having the best content websites, we take that very seriously. But also, if enough of our ad partners are turning down a website, and won’t bid, we would be no better for you than AdSense.
Michael Bereslavsky 31:07 Yeah. I understand.
Amber Bracegirdle 31:08 And so, that’s kind of where we land when we reject the site. We, honestly, we hate rejecting websites, but, especially because so many people are just you know, blogging typically comes from a place of passion or a place of wanting to, you know, be an entrepreneur or something like that, which inherently has passion behind it. And so it’s really hard for us to be like, Nope, sorry, we can’t take you on. But a lot of times, we don’t even know why a site has been rejected by our ad partners. Sometimes their tools spit something out. Sometimes they see an article they don’t like, but as soon as they say no, like if enough of them say no, then we, there would be literally no competition in your auction. And so you would only have Google bidding anyway. And it wouldn’t be any better. So it’s, you know, that’s where we land on a lot of that stuff.
Michael Bereslavsky 31:59 Yeah. Absolutely. So it was interesting, since I just checked the data today from that website that we did. And it’s an affiliate website. So it makes most of its revenue from affiliate commissions. And it’s make…
Amber Bracegirdle 32:14 Right.
Michael Bereslavsky 32:15 It makes close to $15,000 per month, mostly through Amazon affiliate. And we previously had some AdSense ads on it. But AdSense wasn’t making much, it was making like $16 per day. That was the average when I looked up. And we replaced those ads with Mediavine. And now I checked and it’s doing $60 per day. So instead of, so it’s like a four times difference.
Amber Bracegirdle 32:41 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 32:41 So I noticed that you had probably more ad units with Mediavine because with Google, you can just place individual ad units. And if Mediavine…
Amber Bracegirdle 32:51 They do you have, they do have a new…
Michael Bereslavsky 32:54 Yeah. They do have automated, but I usually prefer just using individual units kind of old school. And we only had I think one or two of it with Mediavine. I’m actually not sure how many we had because I believe they are placed like every couple of paragraphs.
Amber Bracegirdle 33:09 Right. So a good way to know is actually your health checks. So your health checks are averaging per session. So the first health check is for your top sidebar ad. And that is looking for your sticky sidebar ad to have twice as many impressions as your first sidebar ad. So basically what that’s looking for is for your sticky sidebar ad on desktop to have refresh one time during a session. That’s what that health check comes from. The mobile in content health check comes from how many ads are averaged per session in content. And then the same for desktop. And so if you actually take how many, like what your average number of pages per session are, and divide your health check by that number. That’s how many ads are actually loading on a page view.
Michael Bereslavsky 34:08 Okay, so pages per session, pages per session divided by health check?
Amber Bracegirdle 34:15 Divide the health check by pages per session.
Michael Bereslavsky 34:18 Okay.
Amber Bracegirdle 34:18 So like, I think, mobile in content we’re looking for, if you are at teal, we’re looking for you to get eight ads per session. And if you have a typical of like 1.6 pages per session, then you would divide eight by 1.6. And that’s going to give you the average number of incontinence that are loading.
Michael Bereslavsky 34:37 Okay. Make sense.
Amber Bracegirdle 34:37 For a reader, per session.
Michael Bereslavsky 34:40 And I was wondering, do you have many websites like that, that are primarily monetized through for different affiliate offers, and they use Mediavine as supplemental income?
Amber Bracegirdle 34:51 Yeah. So we have a fairly big presence in the finance industry, which is very heavily affiliate. We also have a decent presence in fashion, which again, is very affiliate heavy. We actually did this live, this Facebook Live with a fashion blogger and we specifically asked her, Do you remove Mediavine ads on your pages that are always your good performers for affiliate? And she looked at us like we were crazy. And she’s like, why in the H-E-L-L would I do that? She had seen absolutely no change in her affiliate income adding ads on those pages.
Michael Bereslavsky 35:30 But have you done, have you done some A/B testing, can you…?
Amber Bracegirdle 35:33 Because we individualize everybody’s ad setup, like letting them choose what they do, it’s really hard to A/B test on that granular level, because we basically have to take control of how the ads are loading and not allow you to remove them on the page if you want to remove them from because like we have some finance bloggers that their top two pages, they don’t have ads on them at all, which makes their RPM look falsely low, right? Because RPM is a math calculation. But we’re not going to force them to put ads on those pages so that we can A/B tests. So
Michael Bereslavsky 36:07 Well, that’s…
Amber Bracegirdle 36:07 So it’s kind of difficult.
Michael Bereslavsky 36:09 That’s always been my thought as well because it’s reasonable to assume that if you put those kinds of ads like Adsense or Mediavine or something similar on a page where it gets a lot of affiliate sales, and you know that the affiliate commission’s are going to be so much higher. So it’s reasonable to assume that people will just click, some of the people will click on the ads, instead of going and buying some products. So you might lose some of those.
Amber Bracegirdle 36:35 Right. So there’s a flip way to think of it that both, there’s a travel blogger named Leah, that we did a live with as well that she sort of flipped this. And she said, Listen, I know my conversion rate on my affiliate pages is 15% or 30%, or whatever it was, and 70% are not actually going to click on my affiliate link. So I would rather monetize the 70% that aren’t clicking my link than not. And if it means that I get 28% conversion instead of 30, I’m still coming out ahead.
Michael Bereslavsky 37:14 Okay, that kind of makes sense. Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 37:16 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 37:17 But how would people know that these are the 70% and not the 30% who are clicking?
Amber Bracegirdle 37:23 Well, I think you’d have to watch the income, right? So if you put ads on a heavily affiliate page, and you see the income drop on affiliates by 10%. But you see your ad income, jumped by 20%. If they, you know, they’re either going to equal out or you’re going to come out ahead, would be my position. Because even if they click on, say for example, if they click on an Amazon ad, typically, the CPM from that ad is going to pay you more than the affiliate commission.
Michael Bereslavsky 37:56 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 37:57 Unless you’re like super grandfather and have one of their really old great commission structures.
Michael Bereslavsky 38:03 Okay. Yeah, it’s a bit difficult to test also because you have so many variables.
Amber Bracegirdle 38:09 Absolutely.
Michael Bereslavsky 38:11 I got to say that I was really impressed just from those couple of weeks. So how can you really explain and how it’s possible that you are beating Google at their game, you know, even just at specific niches Google is, I mean, they’re the biggest company that browse online ads, they have the smartest people. What are you doing so much better that you’re able to achieve substantially better results than AdSence.
Amber Bracegirdle 38:37 So really it comes down to the auction that we’re running. Google, as far as I’m aware does not run an auction for AdSense. There is a little bit of header bidding happening, but I don’t, I don’t know. If they are running an auction, they’re only running an auction within themselves, right? And so for us, we’re working with all of the largest exchanges. So we’re working with AppNexus, which is the second largest ad exchange in the world. We have a seat at AppNexus, which is huge. We’re working with Index Exchange. And like Gumgum does our in image ads, but they also are better in that footer ad, right? So they have sort of, they’re the only people in the space that are doing in image ads. But they are one of like 10 different bidders for that adhesion spot at the bottom of the browser. So it’s literally, it’s about providing enough competition. Our argument has always been that on these websites, on these lifestyle websites, and affiliate websites and things like that, the user, the reader is so valuable. And what the auction is doing and having exclusivity in that auction is doing is it’s forcing all of these advertisers that used to buy on your website via waterfalls, or whatever the case may be. They used to cherry pick, whoever was offering your website at the lowest cost, right? They didn’t care where they landed in the waterfall, so long as they got it for the cheapest price. With us, forcing people into a singular auction funnel, it’s like being on eBay and having the only Beanie Baby ever in existence. I’m bringing up my podcasting partner, apparently, has a secret Beanie Baby blog that I just found out about last week. So it’s like having the one Beanie Baby that everybody in the world wants and having one eBay auction, everyone is bidding in the same auction, it drives up the price. That’s why we require exclusivity because anytime that someone else can sneak in behind with another listing for the same website on these programmatic exchanges, they’re going to keep lowering the price. And our floor is set super high because we know what your audience is worth. And so if you have another bidder list in your website, it undercuts your auction entirely. And you’ll never earn well. You know, which is why we require the exclusivity.
Michael Bereslavsky 40:58 Yeah. So is that similar to DFP? Similar to what Google does at their advanced program?
Amber Bracegirdle 41:07 Yeah. Yeah, so the DFP stuff, our ad server is DFP and then we’re connecting all these other pipes in. And Google is still our biggest winner of the advertising. They buy about 60% of the inventory on the network, but the other 40% is fought over. Like it’s all fought over, right? So Google and AppNexus and Index Exchange, and there’s about 10 of them in total, are all fighting for the same ad position in milliseconds. And so that’s really honestly what drives up that plus the viewability score, I think are the two things that sort of set us apart and make us the different player to the point that actually, Google quoted us in a blog post about lazy loading advertising and how good it is for viewability. Which made both Eric and me die, basically. We were like, Oh my God, did that just happened? And they now, now it is default, for their DFP customers that their ads are lazy loaded, which is pretty cool. It’s pretty cool that, you know, this opinionated thing that we decided to do four years ago is now kind of becoming an industry standard.
Michael Bereslavsky 42:18 That’s nice. So you set an industry standard.
Amber Bracegirdle 42:21 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 42:21 But still, so much of your business depends on Google. Are you not concerned that one day Google might start to pay attention, and just decide to kind of do some similar things and pretty much kill your business?
Amber Bracegirdle 42:34 I mean, there’s always the concern for something like that, right. Which is why we’re always talking to our bloggers about diversifying income. It’s why we work with nine other exchanges. So that, you know, if they decided to walk, I mean, the thing is, the nice thing, right? Is that if they decided to do that there’s a whole bunch of other customers of theirs that would would be as upset about that.
Michael Bereslavsky 42:58 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 42:59 As we would and it would upset the balance, right. It would upset the balance too much, I think, for them to recoup what they would lose in that process. So I, you know, it’s not something that keeps us up at night. But it is something that we preach all the time is diversify, diversify, diversify. We never want ads to be the only way that our bloggers are making money. But we’re also always paying attention to industry trends, so that we can stay ahead of that.
Michael Bereslavsky 43:30 Okay.
Amber Bracegirdle 43:30 We also have weekly calls with Google to make sure that we’re keeping things in a good working order.
Michael Bereslavsky 43:38 Nice. So let’s talk more about Mediavine and your publishers. So I understand its current the requirements are at least 25,000 sessions per month to qualify, is it right? And is that strict, like what if a website has 23,000 sessions?
Amber Bracegirdle 43:59 So it’s not super duper strict. If you have 23,000 sessions and your traffic makeup is really good in terms of like, what countries it’s coming from, and your traffic sources are really varied. And it’s not that you had, you know, a Christmas pudding go viral right after Thanksgiving. And that’s where 80% of your traffic comes from. We definitely will advocate with our partners to try and get that website in. If we think it’s going to be a good fit, we don’t see anything advantageous in making that website wait, if there’s no red flags, you know, and if they have partners agree to it, then typically, we can go ahead and get them in the door, so.
Michael Bereslavsky 44:43 Do you know whats are the lowest traffic websites that you’ve accepted, roughly?
Amber Bracegirdle 44:49 Well. So when we first started, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, right? And so we didn’t have a traffic threshold for probably the first six months. So certainly my own food blog that took a backseat to Food Fanatic, and then took really big backseat to Mediavine is not at our traffic threshold even remotely. I haven’t updated in three years, but it still has Mediavine ads on it. We do allow, if you have one website with us that’s in good standing and it’s been with us for a while, we do allow you to apply a second or third or fourth website at 10,000.
Michael Bereslavsky 45:29 Okay.
Amber Bracegirdle 45:30 But you have to already have a website in good standing.
Michael Bereslavsky 45:34 Okay, nice. So existing customers get a bit of a discount.
Amber Bracegirdle 45:39 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 45:39 And as you mentioned having…
Amber Bracegirdle 45:41 But all the other stuff still has to fall into place, right? Like…
Michael Bereslavsky 45:44 Yeah. Like you mentioned, so having mostly US traffic, having stable, consistent traffic, with some varied sources, right? And probably mostly in the niches that you focus on? Or do you take all the niches?
Amber Bracegirdle 45:57 No. We definitely do take people across multiple niches, like, you know, we’re not setting the world ablaze in the gaming industry or anything like that at the moment. But, you know, we absolutely could, if enough gaming websites wanted to come on to us, right? But we do focus on lifestyle, simply because they are the most lucrative in terms of audience member value. But also we come from that space, right? So we started with our Food Fanatics, and for a while people thought, oh, they’re only for food. Never the case, it was never the case, it was simply that that’s where we started, because that’s who we knew. But you know, we work with everybody from marketing and finance to, like your website, and affiliate website, we have a whole contingency of like book reviewing websites. Obviously, with The Hollywood Gossip, anything along those veins we have, which is as far from like, party planning and parenting as you can get. But we have those as well, you know. So I think really what is more important, is that your content lends itself to long form content. If your content only lends itself to short form, like little, you know, three paragraph blurbs, you’re never going to do well in Mediavine. And so we actually just, you know, won’t take your site out of the gate, because we know that you’ll never earn well with us. You know, you’re not keeping people engaged with short form content, you’re not going to have high viewability scores, you’re not going to load very many acquisitions. And people are just going to bounce away very quickly. And we know that that just doesn’t perform well, with the type of ad formula that we’ve cooked up, you know, the way that we do the things we do. So really long form content is super important.
Michael Bereslavsky 47:48 So how long is like, what’s the minimum? Or what’s the average? Would you say like 1000 words?
Amber Bracegirdle 47:54 I mean, if you want to be in teal, which is our health checks, right? It’s red, yellow, green, feel, we’re a little obsessed with teal. If you want to be in teal, probably 750 to 1000 words is good or if you have a decent amount of photography included, you can be a little shorter. The bare minimum I would say is 500 words.
Michael Bereslavsky 48:13 Okay. 500 to 750 is better.
Amber Bracegirdle 48:16 Yeah, 750. I mean, the longer the better, basically.
Michael Bereslavsky 48:20 Yeah. And I looked at some of your top websites on your website. And I have to say it looks like they’re all women oriented sites and owned by women.
Amber Bracegirdle 48:31 A lot of them are, we’re about 78% female. And again, it’s not, I mean, there’s three guys in my, you know, three guys are my co founders. It’s not something we intentionally set out to do. It’s just that in the lifestyle space, the majority of that group, the story is a stay at home mom. Was bored out of her mind or needed to make some money for her family. Didn’t want to get involved in a multi level marketing scheme and so she started a website. And you know, we have Mom, I mean, they’re some of the most savvy entrepreneurs you can imagine. So for me, as a woman, it’s awesome to see all of these female entrepreneurs just really kicking butt. But it’s not something that we like, purposely set out to do. It just happens to be the demographic in the space at the moment. You know, certainly in things like finance, we definitely see it skew male, we’re starting to see more and more dad bloggers.
Michael Bereslavsky 49:30 Yeah, that is great. And is there anything that people can do to increase the chances of acceptance into Mediavine?
Amber Bracegirdle 49:39 Yes. So we have a challenge on our website called the RPM challenge, right? And we created that for our bloggers to help them, a lot of people really like having a checklist. And so we created that for our bloggers as a way to say these are the things you can do to audit and improve your website. There’s also a, I think it’s how to audit your website in 20 minutes or less, that’s in our Help Center. It’s help.mediavine.com, and that’s open to everybody. That’s not, we don’t hide that behind a paywall, or behind a password or anything. So anybody can access either of these things. And basically, if you go through and you do those things, you will have set up your website for success on Mediavine. And so long as you are getting your traffic from places that monetize well, it doesn’t have to be an entirely US audience, you know, any mix of like US, Australian, British, New Zealand, Japan weirdly monetizes somewhat well, although it’s still always a little scary to see it in the top four.
Michael Bereslavsky 50:45 In India. No?
Amber Bracegirdle 50:46 Anything like that. India does not monetize well. They don’t even hit our floor. And so one of the things that we do is that, in order to speed up your website, if someone can’t meet our floor to actually buy an ad, we don’t load an ad. Like we don’t have backfill, we don’t load nasty toe fungus ads, like we just don’t do that. Because ad quality is extremely important to us, again, because we didn’t want to chase our own readers away. And so in those cases, what happens is we collapse the ad. So if you have a majority of traffic from India, the majority of your traffic simply wouldn’t monetize. And it makes your RPM look like it’s 30 cents, because you know, an RPM calculation is your income divided by your total number of sessions, times 1000 makes $1 figure. So if you know 80% of your traffic didn’t get an ad at all, but you’re dividing your income by that entire traffic, then your RPM looks like it’s peanuts,
Michael Bereslavsky 51:46 So you’ll only put ads that you’ll get kind of high enough RPM. And if it won’t, you’ll just don’t display an ads on the page.
Amber Bracegirdle 51:53 We just don’t display, we collapse it to speed up your website. Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 51:57 That’s great because, yeah, I think most networks with affiliates will freely load ads?
Amber Bracegirdle 52:03 Yeah, they would. And we actually have a blog post on our website called, Why 100% Fill Sucks. That goes into why we don’t go for 100% fill here, we never will, it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth it to slow down your website, it’s not worth it to alienate your audience. And it doesn’t earn you much more money. So we’d rather increase the quality and performance of the ads you are displaying.
Michael Bereslavsky 52:29 Yeah. So we’ll include all those links in the show notes, for those listening, for the articles that you mentioned about improving your chances of acceptance, sending checklist and the explanations as well.
Amber Bracegirdle 52:43 Yeah, there is also a blog post about the application process. I forget the exact title. But if you search for application process it should come up on the blog. And that would help as well for anybody that’s looking to get approved.
Michael Bereslavsky 52:58 So about the process, I honestly found it quite long, I think I had to sign like five or 10 different documents. And it took more than a week to go through everything, and then fill out the details of the profile also. So many things to fill out. Compare to AdSense, you know, you just click accept, you add your website and that’s it pretty much, the next day you are accepted or rejected.
Amber Bracegirdle 53:26 So a couple of things about that. So the first thing that you fill out is actually from Google themselves. That’s basically saying, you know, I want this company to represent my ads, they require that you fill that out, not us. Then we have this TA, the traffic assignment letter, and we have our contract. And then the actual profile itself that we’re asking you to fill out, AdSense doesn’t have an influencer marketing arm, we do. So if we have a client that we think will want to work with you for like sponsored work like sponsored blog posts, or social media sponsored work, or whatever, we will pitch you to them. And then basically we become your agent in that space. And we’ll get you sponsored work. And the way that we operate is you tell us your fee for the scope of work, and then we add our fee on top of it. So that you’re never getting short change, like we’re not taking a cut out of your earnings, we’re explaining to the, basically we’re making the brand…
Michael Bereslavsky 54:29 Like, is that a big part of your business? is that something that’s…
Amber Bracegirdle 54:34 It’s not a huge part but it is a decent part. And we work, we have a salesperson specifically for that. We have four employees that are specifically for that, we see it as a value add. But also, one of the things that has always been important to me and has formulated the way that we did a lot of what we do is that there are a lot of unscrupulous people in the online industry that are willing to take advantage of bloggers who don’t know any better. And I know that because I personally have been, tried to, take advantage of. I think I’ve managed to not be taken advantage of but it frustrated me greatly to see so many of my friends be under cut, or be sort of taken advantage of. And so we decided early on that we would offer an influencer marketing arm because we have 5400 websites that a brand would find enticing. And so by having you fill out that profile, it gives us a ton of information to search through to find bloggers that fit a request for proposal perfectly. And then we can pitch you, and then once we actually have like, okay, we’re ready to go. We reach out to you and say, Okay, this is the scope of work. How much would you charge for this exact thing? So like in your profile, we’re asking you for rate. But we’re not just like taking that as the blanket rate, like we then reach out to you and we say, okay, well, this is the total scope of work, how much do you charge for that? And so it’s…
Michael Bereslavsky 56:05 What is the typical rate for a blog post these days on your network?
Amber Bracegirdle 56:11 it really depends on the blogger. You know, we have some bloggers that don’t have that much traffic, that are killing it on social media. And they’ll charge $1,000 for an Instagram post. But we have some bloggers that aren’t killing it on social but killing it on their blog, and they charge $6,000 for a blog post. So it really, and then there are some people that charge 250.
Michael Bereslavsky 56:34 Well, let’s say, like an average website. Say like 50,000 visitors per month, and some low social media presence. I don’t know, like a few hundred followers, a few thoudsand.
Amber Bracegirdle 56:46 I mean, I would say anywhere from 500 to 1000 is perfectly acceptable if you’re putting evergreen content on your website. And you’re also pushing that out to your social channels.
Michael Bereslavsky 56:57 That’s really cool.
Amber Bracegirdle 56:58 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 56:58 So that’s for just writing one blog post about advertiser including their links, their product, that’s right?
Amber Bracegirdle 57:05 Yeah. And a lot of times it’s like you’re also creating something with their product. Or talking about using their product, like we just did one with a, here in the US, we have, you know, we have health insurance and then we also have some programs on top of it. Like there’s an app for your phone called RX Saver. And they work out additional discounts with pharmacies, and I’m not sure how like all of that works, I just know that the app works. And so we worked with them to do a campaign across a bunch of our different bloggers, some finance, some travels, some parenting, etc. And basically, the goal was to get the blogger to go out to the pharmacy and use the actual app and talk about how much money they saved. And some people say $50. So it was really kind of impactful to their readers because it’s a free app that you can download. And all you have to do is have a pharmacy scan it and you might save no money but you might save $50, so.
Michael Bereslavsky 58:05 So the bloggers had to go to the pharmacy, use the app, and then write a blog post about it.
Amber Bracegirdle 58:10 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 58:11 Okay. And also probably shoot a video, something like that.
Amber Bracegirdle 58:14 They didn’t ask us for video, they just kind of, some of them took like photos of their receipts, and things like that, sort of demonstrate how much money they saved.
Michael Bereslavsky 58:26 And that’s like $1,000 to post, something like that.
Amber Bracegirdle 58:30 Something like that, you know, it was different for each blogger, depending on their reach. But yeah, unfortunately, we get that question a lot. And unfortunately, it is really individualized, like that’s one of those things that you can’t put like a standard number on because every blogger is different. In the same way that people are always like, Well, why is that person’s RPM different than mine, our content is the same and our traffic is the same. Your audience isn’t the same. And that’s why it’s different. And so it’s the same with influencer marketing.
Michael Bereslavsky 59:00 So I have a couple of quick questions for you about publishers. So what are your current payment terms, is it after 30 days, after 60 days.
Amber Bracegirdle 59:08 So it’s net 65. We typically, we, our date of payment is the fifth, but we usually send the money on the first, so you can typically get it. It’s typically a little early. But the reason it’s not 65 is we keep a very clean shop at Mediavine, we do not use your money to pay operating costs. And we do not use our money to pay publishers. That’s how companies like Mode went out of business. So we have always been very straightforward about that, is we can’t pay you until we have your money in house from the advertisers. So, it’s net 65. And then the revenue share is a variable revenue share based on how many ad impressions you are getting in a 30 day span. So you started 75% to you and 25% to us. And that includes any kind of discrepancy, ad server fee, et cetera, that all comes out of our side. So at the end of the month, what you see in your dashboard is what you’re getting. Most other companies will like I know when I was with BlogHer years ago, before they combined and everything like that, every month, like I would think Oh, great, I made this much money. And then 10 days later, they reconcile. And I made like 25% less than I thought because they took all the discrepancies out. And so what we decided when we started was we would take that out of our side, and it helps us keep the ad partners honest. Because if they start creeping up in terms of how many discrepancies they’re having, we shut them down until they can fix it. And so when you jump to 5 million ad impressions in a 30 day span, you jumped to an 80% revenue share. When you get 15 million ad impressions in a 30 day span, you jumped to 85%. On top of that, we have a loyalty bonus. So for every year that you’re with us, you get 1% revenue share back. So if you’ve been with us, there are a bunch of people this year that will have been with us for five years, you’re getting an additional 5% revenue share. So if you’re already in an 85% rev share, you actually jumped to a 90% rev share, which is the lowest we can possibly make it and break even on a website.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:01:16 Nice. So 75 is the default. And after they’ve been with you for a while, or if you have more than 5 million, or more than 30 million, is it monthly? Monthly page views, right?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:01:27 Yeah, it’s 30. Yeah, and it’s not page views, it’s ad impressions, right?
Michael Bereslavsky 1:01:32 Okay.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:01:32 And we did that because people who are extremely well optimized, can reach those goals at lower traffic. So it’s not all about the page views.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:01:42 Like a couple hundred thousand visitors per month?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:01:46 If you’re really well optimized, yeah. I’ve seen people as low as 300,000 reach that 80%. Because they’re extremely well optimize, they write long content. Obviously, it’s easier if you have a lot of traffic to hit those goals, because it doesn’t, you don’t have to be as optimized. But we wanted the goal to be as, we wanted the goal to be based on optimization rather than gaming page views.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:02:12 Yeah. That makes sense.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:02:13 Right. Because not every page views monetize is the same based on viewability and all that.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:02:19 And do you have any referral program? Or do you plan to have one?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:02:23 We do not have one. And we have no plans to have one, which I know frustrates our finance bloggers tremendously. But we decided very early on that we did not want to grow, we did not want an opinion of us to be part of someone’s revenue stream, right? We rely on the honest feedback to improve ourselves. And if you have an opinion of us tied to your revenue stream, you’re not going to give us an honest opinion. The other thing is that we grow so quickly, that I don’t think we could handle it if we had a referral program. And so the thing that we’ve always tried to explain is that as a programmatic advertising company, the bigger a programmatic network is, the more money it earns. Like just flat out per impression, the more money it earns. So you actually are getting, by referring people to us, you do actually get money back for that. And then we instituted the loyalty bonus, as a way to say thank you as well.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:03:27 Yeah. And do you have publishers that use paid traffic primarily?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:03:33 We do not. So if you have paid traffic that’s not from a verifiable source, like Pinterest, or Facebook, where you’ve paid for a Facebook ad, or you’ve paid for a Pinterest promoted pin, you will most likely get shut down very quickly on Mediavine. Those types of traffic typically are not real people. They’re from bot farms in a foreign country. They do not monetize well, and ad companies, Google specifically will blacklist you.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:04:02 Okay. So it’s not allowed, even something like buying traffic on AdWords doing arbitrage that’s against your terms of service?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:04:11 So long as the traffic is coming to you from, I don’t think there’d be a problem with AdWords. So long as it’s coming to you and it’s real traffic, it’s real people, right? Like one of the reasons that Facebook ads are so expensive, is that it’s real people, you have to have real people coming to your website, ad fraud is a thing. And if your domain is banned from Google, it’s across all add products, and it’s for the life of your domain.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:04:42 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:04:43 So it is not worth it.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:04:45 So basically test the real traffic.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:04:48 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:04:48 And if it’s acquired, if it’s bought, it’s okay. But it has to be real, right?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:04:54 Yeah. I mean, we use Facebook ads for The Hollywood Gossip all the time.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:04:57 Okay.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:04:58 That’s a really big source of traffic for us. But you have to, you definitely have to make sure it’s a real person because if it’s not a real person, you’re in trouble. And we look for that, right? Like, we look for people who all of a sudden have like a huge influx of desktop traffic, but their RPM drops tremendously, and things like that. And we’ll actually turn your ads off. Not because we’re trying to be punitive, but because we don’t want you to get blacklisted. Because a lot of people will invest in those things, not realizing that it’s a bot farm, that’s going to send them traffic. And so our goal is to make sure that your domain doesn’t get blacklisted from the ad exchanges, because then that’s it, you’re done, you’re toast. Like nobody is going to be able to work with you. It’s not like you can leave Mediavine and go to a competitor and be fine. If you’re blacklisted from Google, across the board. No Google certified publishing partners going to be able to work with you, we’re not allowed. So you can basically just shut down your business, it’s not worth it.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:05:57 Yeah, absolutely. So I have a question for you from from our community. There are many people who buy websites these days, they often do it with the intention of buying websites that have been monetized by AdSense or other networks, and putting them on Mediavine. And I was wondering if you are seeing that a lot? And also, is there some possibility to check first, let’s say someone is buying a website, and they want to check if this website would be approved by Mediavine now before they acquire that, is that something you allow?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:06:31 I don’t know that we’ve ever been asked that question before, I don’t think it would be something that we would allow, because a lot of the stuff that you have to sign as you’re going through the application process indicates that you own the website, right?
Michael Bereslavsky 1:06:45 But this only happens later.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:06:46 But you can kind of…
Michael Bereslavsky 1:06:47 Like the application, the signing, I think it happens only after it’s approved, right?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:06:51 Right. But the Google application happens sort of right away after we’ve done an initial PDF check. But that’s, the other thing is, if you’re looking at a website, you don’t have access to the analytics to then send us a PDF, right? And that’s something that we use with our ad partners. So we would have no way to know without that PDF, but I would say that a lot of people could figure out the likelihood based on their own approval process, right? If you’ve got at least one website on Mediavine, you can look at your PDF that was approved, you can look at your top posts, you can look at your traffic breakdown, and kind of understand, okay, these are the things that they’re looking for. And then look at how your website is interacted with by readers. If it’s long form content that is engaged with for a while and would receive a decent amount of incontinence, then you’re most likely in a good place, right?
Michael Bereslavsky 1:07:47 Yeah.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:07:47 And if you have a website that isn’t, you know, we’re brand safe. So you’re not, you don’t want to be buying things that are specifically geared towards like pornography, like we’re not going to improve that kind of website. That sort of thing is definitely very important. I mean, we even have a case study of a blogger who writes about relationships and marriage and things like that. And we had her go through her blog and replace the word sex with the word making love.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:08:14 Oh.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:08:14 And her RPM, her RPM went up by like $8 within a few days, because there are advertisers who have certain keywords they look for, and if it’s on the page, they will not bid. And so those are things that you can definitely consider when you’re looking at a website.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:08:32 Interesting. Yeah, because now that many publishers realize that Mediavine just has higher CPM, that’s becoming more of the moral thing. I’ve personally seen some deals recently that people put that in a contract so that if a website, after the purchase, if a website is approved by Mediavine, there is a higher pay out to the seller.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:08:55 That’s really interesting, yeah. Yeah, that’s really interesting. But, and I will also say like, if you’re seeing AdSense ads on the website, like then at least you know that it’s in good standing with Google, which is another big thing, right? So, yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:09:09 Yeah, absolutely. And I want to ask you a little bit about competition. So AdThrive, Ezoic, all the other different companies, what are your thoughts on that? Do you see them as competition? Like do you think that some of them are maybe better than Mediavine in certain niches? Or do you say that you’re better than them?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:09:26 Well, for me, it’s not about the niches right, it’s about and I don’t think for even them, it’s about the niches it’s about their process, right? We each have different processes, and ways that we choose to focus on how we deliver advertising. So I personally think that we’re the best for user experience. Now I know that, for example, Adthrive now gives you the option of lazy loading your advertising, but it’s not a default, you have to ask for it. Things like that. And I don’t necessarily think that that’s going to make their CPM jump, because if the majority of their network is not lazy loading, then you’re not seeing the network benefit of an increased viewability score, which is something that advertisers look for. I don’t have a lot to say about Ezoic slash Bloomly, like they use they use lots of fancy words to explain their machine learning, but we all use machine learning. So it’s like, okay, you’re just trying to sound fancy. You know, for a long time, people have compared us to AdThrive. But based on the long term roadmap that we have, I don’t think it will be much longer that people are comparing us to these companies. Yes, we absolutely do ads. Yes, we focus on the ads. And yes, the ads help pay for a lot of the really cool stuff that we’re bringing to the industry. But we are so much more than that, like we are focused on being so much more than that, that I don’t think that we’re even the same league. And I don’t mean that like in a bad way. I mean that in like, we’re in a very different business. Like we have very different goals. For us, it’s always about the faster product, the better user experience. Because when you pay attention to those things, the ads perform better, like automatically. Like it’s not something where we’re loading 50,000 ads on the page just because that will make you more money. That’s never been our goal, we’re long term thinkers.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:11:20 But you do load quite a few ads. I’ve noticed with default, I think is 12 ads per page, something like that.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:11:26 Right. But that’s the cap and that is not the default. That’s not how many, like if you go look at your health checks…
Michael Bereslavsky 1:11:32 It’s like the maximum, the default cap.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:11:35 That’s the default cap, yes. But you’d have to have the content to support that many. hits. Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:11:42 You have two or three paragraphs?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:11:44 No. So it’s not based on paragraphs at all. It’s based on density. So we go by the coalition for better ads, which is 70% content to 30% advertising. Our default across the network is actually 28% advertising to 72% content. So if your content only has enough space, like enough height, to have five ads, that’s all you’re going to get. And that’s only if a reader scrolls all the way to the bottom of your post. If they only scroll past two advertisements, that’s all that loaded, right? But a lot of people think, oh, when I scroll from the top to the bottom of my posts, there were 12 ads? Well, yes, for you, there were 12 ads, because you scroll from the top to the bottom. Most users don’t do that, they find the information that they want, and they leave. So using your health checks as a guide, you know exactly how many ads per page you are actually loading. By doing that, the equation that I told you earlier?
Michael Bereslavsky 1:12:49 Well, you know, until a few years ago, AdSense was only allowing up to three ads per page. So it seems that something has changed drastically in the past few years.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:12:59 It did changed drastically. So we actually only used to allow five ads on the page. And that was when Google changed it to allow five ads on the page. And then for very long time that’s all that we did. And then Google themselves changed it to density, right? So like if you go and you use the ad experience tool that’s in Search Console, like they talk about the coalition for better ads, and the coalition for better ads has Google as a member, we’re a member, like there’s a bunch of companies, Microsoft, etc. that paid for a huge study to figure out like at what point do people start installing ad blockers. And what they found is that it wasn’t an actual like, total, it was a density.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:13:41 But isn’t this more about pop ups and pop unders and things that’s a lot more annoying?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:13:46 I mean that stuff is included as well, right?
Michael Bereslavsky 1:13:48 The ad blockers?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:13:49 So like, that’s why Google, that’s, I mean no, ad blockers are for in content ads to, like for sure.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:13:56 That’s why I think people just install them, to avoid pop ups, mostly.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:14:02 That’s not the commentary that I see. I certainly see like on Reddit and stuff that people are just talking about, they don’t want ads at the bottom of the screen, they don’t want it in content, they don’t want it anywhere. There’s just a certain percentage of the population that is just completely and totally advertisement in first, and we understand that. Which is why we say to people like don’t try to shove an ad at somebody who’s purposely going out of their way to not have ads like that’s not, it’s not great for your reader. And there’s such a small percentage that the better for us, the better thing to do is to focus on user experience and quantity. Like if you’re paying attention to quantity, of course, you’re going to be like, Whoa, there were eight ads on that page. That’s a lot of ads. But when you’re actually interacting with the post, they don’t all bonk you over the head like it’s very natural and seamless. And it’s only going to get more so.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:14:55 Yeah. So you’re reading it slowly and then they pop up.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:14:59 And they’re spaced out well, and all of that stuff. Yeah. So it’s really more about the actual user experience.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:15:06 So you mentioned ad blockers. I’m curious if you have any data in terms of how many people these days use ad blockers.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:15:13 I think there’s been several studies about it. And it’s only about 5% of the total population that’s online, and even less that are actually looking at like lifestyle websites. So that’s why we don’t care. We’re like, it’s, we would rather focus on making it a good experience so that people don’t install them than trying to get around the ad blockers that do exist and shove an ad at someone that doesn’t want one.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:15:36 Yeah. That sounds like a good strategy.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:15:39 Yeah. So it’s a little less contentious, I think. For sure.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:15:44 And so talking about strategies in the future, what are you currently working on? What do you see as your current challenges or goals for the company?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:15:56 So we definitely are working to get Trellis out into the real world, which is our WordPress framework. Adding more schema types to Create, we definitely want travel to come out.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:16:07 So that’s your own WordPress framework that people can use to build things?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:16:13 Yeah.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:16:14 That’s nice.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:16:15 It’s going to be really cool. And then we will also have a marketplace with that of Trellis approved themes that we know will not screw up your site speed on top of it. And then, and we’re talking to some designers about that. And then, just improving the ad tech continuing, we reevaluate that constantly. So that’s where, you know, I don’t see us as just the ad company, right? Like we’ve never just been an ad company, we’ve always been content creators. We’re hoping to move our owned and operated sites to Trellis very quickly, because currently they are on what we refer to as EricPress, which is Eric’s own CMS that he created on Ruby on Rails. And I’m really tired of not being able to update the website the way I want to because he’s too busy to go and reprogram the website. So having an entire team of WordPress engineers that I can say, please help, will be fantastic. So the owned and operated sites moving to Trellis is a huge deal for us. And really the reason that we decided to create Trellis to begin with is we couldn’t move The Hollywood Gossip and maintain our site speed on WordPress. And so we were like, Well, we’ve got to find a way to fix that. And then we’re like, well, same way with the ad tech, like, we’ll just make it available to the wider world because it will only help our publishers, which will only help the bottom line. You know? So really, I think just right now, those are the main two things that we’re focused on.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:17:40 And what kind of changes do you see in the market like in the next five years or so?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:17:46 I personally think GDPR is going to come a wider thing like it will make its way to the US, it will make its way across the world. The good thing is that like we created technology, like RCMP is really great. And we actually, there are certain websites among us that we were terrified, because the majority of their traffic comes from the UK or something. And they’re some of our biggest websites. We were terrified that their RPM’s we’re going to take a dive and they actually increased by 10% in the first week of using our same piece. So you know, I think that there will definitely be more data sanitisation happening and stuff like that. So we’re sort of future proofing for that right now. Like we’re making sure that we’ve got stuff in place. If, for example, this goes worldwide, things like that. But I don’t think digital advertising is going anywhere.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:18:37 Yeah, it looks like it’s only growing even now. So I’m curious, being successful and growing so fast. What are your plans for the future? Have you considered selling the company? You must have many VCs offer.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:18:50 Yeah, we get offers all the time, we get offers for VC. We don’t have any plans to sell, like people will always look at me like we’re crazy. We have so many ideas and so many cool things that we want to do that a venture capitalists would never let us do, an investor would never let us do, that we have no interest in selling. We didn’t get into this because we wanted to get rich quick, we were already doing quite well for ourselves. And so really, it’s about making the cool stuff we want to make for the community that has embraced us so well. But we do, we get offers constantly. And we are just, we’ve never entertained a single one because we’re just not interested.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:19:28 And I know you still have your own network of sites, right? Do you buy more sites? Do you do build more? Do you acquire?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:19:36 We’ve talked about buying other sites. But I mean, honestly, none of us has the time to run them in the way that we would want them to be run at the moment. So right now, No, we’re not. We’re not doing anything. I won’t say never. But you know, first order of business is getting our owned and operated sites on WordPress, and then we’ll see how we’re doing.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:19:55 And I saw that you categorize yourself as the most tagged person in Facebook group. So I got to ask, are you still quite active on Facebook?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:20:05 Always. I’m on Facebook the majority of the day. So yeah, it started early on. We started our Facebook group probably a month in. But also I was, as a blogger, I was in other Facebook groups. So people were tagging me all the time.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:20:21 Right. Thank you. So finally, before we finish, what kind of advice can you give people in terms of something very fast that they can do on their content websites in order to improve revenue or speed?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:20:36 Optimize your images, get an optimization plugin, like ShortPixel or Imagify, and optimize your images. Also don’t host on Bluehost or HostGator, any of those at all, because they will not help you with site speed. And they will throttle you as quickly as they can snap their fingers. Find a real host.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:20:55 Is there any good hosting that you generally command?
Amber Bracegirdle 1:20:57 I mean, there’s not a lot of specifics. I like Agathon Group if you are big enough to want managed hosting. And then I, a lot of people recommend BigScoots and stuff like that. But I yeah, I would just stay away from the Bluehost and the HostGatorsof the world.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:21:15 Right. Well, Amber, thank you very much for talking to us today and answering all the questions. And that’s been some really interesting advice for our listeners.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:21:25 I’m really glad.
Michael Bereslavsky 1:21:27 Well, thank you very much and have a nice day.
Amber Bracegirdle 1:21:29 You too, Michael, thank you so much for having me. Bye guys.
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