I’m done with my Medium vs Adsense experiment here. This is all part of a passive income strategy evaluation game I’m playing. I’m trying to see if I can build a $100,000 a year passive income portfolio. I know it will take time but I like playing these kinds of games.
Right now I’m evaluating a mix of different things such as dividend-producing stocks, web monetization, and Adsense. So far for February, Adsense is beating the pants off my Medium income.
Why? That’s an interesting question and without access to the data Google has on my site, I can’t be conclusive but I can guess. My guess? It’s my search engine optimization (SEO).
Optimizing SEO & Adsense
I spent a ton of time last year optimizing my old blog for SEO so I can rank higher on Google search results. I switched from Pelican to Hugo — both static CMS generators — and ported it all to AWS Amplify.
That’s given me blazing speed load times and because of that, I was able to put Adsense on and not affect page load times. Yes, I took a small hit but the load times vastly outperform my old WordPress and Pelican site.
Optimizing my SEO with fast load times has given me a big bump on the Google SERP rankings, almost all of my tutorials are now ranking on the first or second page. The only negative thing about that is that my tutorials are niche topics so the audience will always be small for them. Still, it’s nice to see the fruits of my labor paying off.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2021, I started writing more about passive income topics there as a way to diversify my content and attract a diverse readership.
When I added Adsense back in (my guess here), Google saw a site that started in 2007 with newly SEO optimized posts and load times and went wild. It started to serve relevant ads and kept learning what makes people click on the ads.
Granted Adsense was slow on the uptake for the first half of the month but I’m generating daily clicks and impression income. Right now it’s paying for my AWS Amplify hosting and that’s a BIG win in my book.
Medium Publishing & The Porn Apocalypse
What about Medium? I like Medium a lot and you can get a lot of notoriety there if you’re a good and entertaining writer. There are several writers that I follow that seem to make a living writing on Medium and kudos to them!
However, Medium feels like a single point of failure if you exclusively write and derive your main income from there. Why? Because you are at the whim of some publication you post to and your topics might not be all that interesting.
If you’ve seen what’s happening with the porn apocalypse (aka pornocalypse), a hosting platform like Medium can toss you and all your hard work off of it on a whim. For those that don’t know about this pornocalypse ( NSFW link), it’s where sites like Tumblr — who have hosted adult content for years — suddenly decide that it’s no longer a safe corporate thing to do and kick off adult content from their service.
Whether or not you do adult content, it’s always best to have your own hosted domain on the Internet. This way you can sell a product, service, or subscription without fear of being shut down. Of course, if you do something illegal then all bets are off, so don’t do anything illegal.
If you do have your own site then you have to think about attracting views to your articles or pages. You have to work on SEO (most modern CMS’s do that well) and build a ‘go to’ market strategy.
I use Medium to generate traffic to my site by crossposting articles. You can post your articles on social media and even buy Ads from Google to drive more traffic to your site. I know buying Ads from Google just feels ‘yucky’ but coupled with a good strategy it can do wonders.
Remember, all of us are just some person or company screaming in the void of the Internet something like “I’m over here! I got something to say!” Or in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “kill me now!”
Don’t Monetize Your Hobby
There’s a reason why I bring up the ‘go to’ market strategy, it’s because of these two Reddit posts I recently read. They both got me thinking long a hard about what the hell I’m doing with my blogs.
The first Reddit post is about a writer who is giving up on self-publishing.
I can sympathize with him, when you self-publish you perform every single task that a traditional publisher would do for you. You would just focus on writing a great novel and they would market it, distribute it, book your ‘meet and greets,’ etc. Doing all this in addition to writing can be overwhelming.
The other post supports the idea that you shouldn’t monetize your hobby, to which I partly agree.
I’m sure we heard that saying that if you find what you love and earn a living at it, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
How full of shit that is.
If you’ve got a fun side hustle or hobby it might be a bad idea to try to turn it into a full-time job. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, making a few bucks (or not) from it, and doing it for the rest of your life.
For me, it’s baking sourdough bread. While I find it romantic to have a small bakery making sourdough bread, it’s NOT something I want to make a living at.
There’s nothing wrong with doing a lot of things for fun and if you can learn from it. For example, I recently found this 20BooksTo50K Facebook group. That group is filled with writers that are writing a minimum of 20 books to be published on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited.
The idea is with the right cover, right story, and right price point you should generate $50,000 a year from your work.
That group is filled with advice on how to do all the stuff the original Reddit poster complained about. Yes, you have to bust your butt but the sales from their books sure sound like passive income to me.
It reminds me a lot of my effort vs time curve.
You have to write a novel or novella, then design and make a cover, then market it. Once the writing, cover design, and distribution is out of the way, you can focus on small amounts of marketing to keep your novel in the mind space of people.
This is part of the reason I restarted my ThomasOtt.IO blog again. One reason was to see if I could migrate to the Ghost CMS and the other is I needed a new place for my writings. It’s another watering hole for me to lament about things, analyze data, and play the passive income game.
Ghost has some really nice features. For example, I can create a members-only and a paid-members-only section. I experimented with that setup years ago on Neural Market Trends but it failed, but it still remains in my mind space. Maybe this time I could get it to work.
Why did it fail? Because blogging was new back then and no one wanted to pay for it. Now, people will pay for things if the price point is right AND you have something of value to share.
There are ways to make a living by blogging and building content. Medium has shown us the way with subscriptions and I like that method a lot. The trick is to build up a big enough following to get them to come and pay a monthly subscription at the right price point.
Medium charges $50 per year, which comes out to $4.17 per month. I could make a subscription site for $3.99 a month but my problem would be what to share with you all?
Or, I could try the 20BooksTo50K route and write my stories, which I enjoy a lot. I certainly don’t mind doing the book cover designs, the marketing, the analytics (that’s right up my alley), and the SEO. That’s almost second nature to me now.
For example, I didn’t know that Mystery and Fantasy books are more popular than Young Adult and Erotic books. I’m not sure which genre would be harder to break into from a self-publishing aspect but this data shows some interesting trends.
My research phase will continue for the next several months and the data will direct me where to go. In the meantime, I’ll continue to write what I like. I hope you do too.