I’m an analytical guy by nature. I probably spend way more time than I’d like to admit punching numbers on my calculator trying to find the answer to “what if!” I dream about “what if” my new business ideas hit the big time; how much they would cost, how much money I can get in return, or how much it costs to get a new customer.
Does that make me a nerd? Maybe so, but my analytical skills have come in handy as I plan out my niche website strategies. I have covered some of this material in the past, but today I wanted to discuss in detail how you can calculate how much traffic and earnings to expect for a keyword or an entire website before its built.
So bust out your calculators and adjust your pocket protectors, we are about to get nerdy up in here!
These are calculations that will work with both small niche websites or larger authority type websites ( like the one for my new authority site project here). I will give an example of a small niche website keyword, and then I will walk through the calculations of my new authority site.
Overall, I will be calculating the earnings based on Google Adsense; however, with some minor adjustments you should be able to calculate your earnings for any type of monetization strategy; including Amazon, Clickbank, CPA offers, or other methods. The first thing you need to do is find a keyword that you are considering building a website based on.
I discussed 15 ways to Brainstorm for Keyword ideas right here. You can then use a keyword research tool to expand your keyword list. I also recently made a video showing how to brainstorm and quickly expand keyword lists to find a winning keyword.
How To Estimate Keyword Traffic
Estimating keyword traffic is easier now than it has ever been, but there’s no science to get it exact every time.
For example, my website ranks for the keyword “best niche markets”.
Long Tail Pro estimates that this term gets about 30 searches per month:
But the article that ranks for this term is the 2nd highest traffic article on my website. In the last week, it had 1,406 pageviews.
What’s up with the big discrepancy? Is Long Tail Pro just flat out wrong?
No. The difference is because my article on best niche markets is ranking for more than just “best niche market”. In fact, it’s ranking for a whole slew of terms; almost 1,000 different keywords!
Long Tail Pro isn’t wrong, it’s just that when I wrote an article about “best niche markets”, that article included other keywords. It wasn’t forced; it was natural. It just happened.
We can draw two conclusions from this finding:
- It is easier than ever to estimate keyword traffic. Just plug it into a keyword research tool of your choosing. You can even use free ones.
- Keyword traffic doesn’t matter. If you write excellent articles, you’ll rank for more than one keyword. You might even rank for enough keywords to get 1,406 visits per week 🙂
You can estimate traffic with a tool if you want to. But I wouldn’t worry about it. Even on my Niche Site Project 4, I don’t concern myself with how many searches per month a keyword gets.
It’s better to write incredible content and worry about the results later.
How To Estimate Website Earnings
So you have your target keywords. Now how much can you earn with those?
We can boil this down to one metric: Your revenue per thousand visitors (RPM).
Ads tend to have a pretty low RPM. in the old days of just Adsense, I could get about $2-$4 RPM. So if I wanted to make $2,000 per month, I had to have a monster 100,000 visitors per month!
The bar has been lowered quite a bit in recent times. Now there are networks that place ads for you and run a sort of permanent split test on your site. Mediavine is one popular network for ad management (check out my Mediavine review). Ezoic is another option and better suited to smaller websites (check out my employee Brady’s Ezoic review).
My Niche Site Project 4 used Ezoic and I’m at about $17 RPM. That’s pretty monstrous and will vary depending on your niche. To estimate another website’s earnings or your future earnings, I would place my ad revenue at about $5 RPM. If you go higher, that’s awesome! But $5 will be about right for a lot of people.
Your much higher earnings will almost always come from your affiliate earnings. Posts that are buying guides or product reviews tend to convert well; when someone is searching “best dog harness for hiking”, that person has credit card in hand and ready to buy.
I’ve seen affiliate earnings for these types of posts get into the $40-$60 RPM. That’s a lot higher than ads. The downside to affiliate earning is that it’s tough to monetize all of your articles. Outside of your review or buying guide articles, your affiliate earnings trend pretty close to a whopping $0.
I recommend putting ads on your info pages, writing some affiliate articles, and then testing ads on your affiliate articles.
To estimate a website’s earnings, try to find their balance between info content and affiliate content. Estimate affiliate earnings at a low $20 RPM and ads at a low $5 RPM. Then it’s just a matter of estimating the traffic and doing your math.
How Much Traffic Does A Website Need To Make Money?
In theory, a website can make money off of one visitor who buys your product, clicks an ad, or follows your recommendation.
In practice, you’re going to need pretty significant traffic. Let’s use the numbers we talked about above to give us a rough estimate.
Let’s say that you publish nothing but affiliate articles and get 1,000 visitors to your site each month. If you are earning on the low end, you’ll be making about $20 per month. On the high end, you’re looking at maybe $60 per month.
That’s nothing to write home about.
And the numbers are even less if you’re publishing anything that isn’t affiliate content. If you have a mix of affiliate and and info content, you might be pulling about $13 per month.
Sites don’t tend to make much money until you get into the five-digits-per-month traffic mark. If you’re publishing a lot of affiliate content, you could be making a few hundred bucks per month with 10,000 visits per month.
This is also the point when you can start applying to networks like Ezoic or Mediavine to boost your ad revenue. Email marketing also starts to be more and more effective at this stage, so you’re opening up new traffic sources and new ways of monetizing.
I would say that a site would need about 100,000 visits per month before it got to the point where you could start writing home about your site. You would need to mix your info content, affiliate content, and use email marketing. But at 100,000 views per month, you could make somewhere in the range of $2,000-$4,000 per month.
Example Keyword and the Formula
Anyway, the primary information you need before you can start calculating is the Exact Match, Local volume Monthly searches and the Cost Per Click. So, for my example, lets use the keyword “Water Pumps”. This keyword gets 6,600 Local Exact match searches and has a CPC of $1.61.
I have gone over how to calculate earnings in detail in this post: Search Volume and CPC Criteria of a Winning Keyword. But I wanted to discuss some deeper nuances that I skipped over in that post. The formula that I used in my previous post to calculate how much earnings you will receive is simply this:
Earnings = Estimated Search Volume x Adsense CTR x Adsense CPC
However, the formula is actually more complicated than that because we need to first calculate the actual search volume coming to our website. Then to calculate for our entire website, we need to figure out additional search volume received from other planned keywords AND unexpected long tail keywords. We also need to jump through some hoops to figure out the Adsense CTR and the Adsense CPC.
So, the REAL formula to use is my updated formula shown here:
Estimated Earnings = (Keyword Search Volume x Google Position Factor) x Visitor CTR x (Adwords Tool CPC x 30%) x Multiplier for Long Tail Keywords
How to Calculate Estimated Search Volume
The initial problem is that we don’t know exactly how much traffic to expect for our keyword. We know that “Water Pumps” gets 6,600 searches each month, but we obviously can’t expect to get every last visitor for that keyword. So, how much can we expect? Again, I have covered this before, but here is a graph that shows a general breakdown of how much traffic the top 10 sites in Google based on positition can expect. This is data provided by Aaron Wall at SEObook.com (originally from some AOL leaked data) to determine search volume:
So, if you are ranked #1 in Google you can expect to get approximately 42.13%. In addition, I don’t really agree with the other positions. This data is just based on the first website that a visitor clicks on. So, yes, maybe only 11.90% of searchers click on result #2 for their very first click, but you and I both know that when we search for a keyword, we often click 2, 3, or even more of the results! So, the actual % of people going to the lower ranked sites is actually MUCH greater. In fact, I have not noticed a huge difference in traffic between being ranked 1, 2, or 3 for a keyword. Obviously this can really depend on a number of factors. I have seen this time and again with my niche websites – I get essentially the same amount of traffic being ranked in any of the top 3 positions. I also see about the same for positions 4, 5, and 6 – lets say 20%. Then for the bottom 7, 8, 9 and 10 its probably closer to 5 to 10% of the monthly search volume of the keyword.
So, if we rank #1, #2, or #3 for “Water Pumps”, we can expect about 2,781 visitors per month (42.13% x 6600) for that keyword. If you think you can only rank at the bottom of the 1st page, you should only expect about 330 to 660 visitors per month.
How to Calculate Adsense CTR
The Adsense CTR needs some explaining. The CTR shown in your Adsense account is actually based on the number of Pageviews NOT visitors. We have just calculated how many visitors we are expecting to our website – which is a completely different number from pageviews. Honestly, there is no way to know the exact click through rate until the site is up, but I usually just use 10% of VISITORS.
So, if each visitor looks at 2 pages on our site, the actual CTR shown in our Adsense account would be 5% – make sense? If each visitor looks at 3 pages, then if 10% of visitors clicked on an adsense ad, this would make our Adsense CTR 3.33%. Hope that makes sense. So, for ease of use, I just calculate that 5 to 10% of visitors will click an ad. Obviously your CTR could be significantly lower or higher than you calculate here – this is just a rough estimate.
So continuing on with our “Water Pumps” example, if we rank #1 we are expecting 2,781 visitors for that keyword. We are then estimating that 10% of those visitors will click an Adsense ad – or 278 clicks per month. Sweet we are getting close here! Now we just need to figure out how much we are getting paid per click.
How to Calculate the Adsense CPC
The Google Adwords Keyword Tool shows the CPC based on how much advertisers are willing to pay to be listed on Google.com. Advertisers will pay less to be listed on your website. I usually use a factor of around 30%. So, for our keyword, “Water Pumps” with a CPC of $1.61; I would estimate closer to getting paid $0.48 per click. Also, this number could fluctuate heavily as advertisers stop bidding on this keyword, new advertisers enter the market, or they change their bids for other reasons.
You can also check out Google’s new Contextual Targeting Tool to get an idea of CPC bids on the content network. The tool is in beta and I don’t find it very reliable at this point. I have punched in several keywords from my own websites and this tool was still overstating the CPC by quite a bit on most of them. I just now punched in a couple of keywords that only pay me about $0.20 to $0.30 per click – and the contextual targeting is still listing the CPC of about $1.20 or so. I don’t use the contextual targeting tool and don’t really put any weight into it, but I just wanted to point it out – who knows – it could get more accurate down the road.
So, after my long winded explanations, we can finally calculate the estimated earnings for the keyword “Water Pumps”. We figured that we could expect around 278 clicks per month with an actual payout of about $0.48 per click – that gives us: $133.44. So, if we rank in the top 3 spots of Google, we can expect to make around $133.44 for this keyword.
Calculating for Long Tail Keywords
You also have to realize that you are likely to get more traffic for a niche website than from just your primary keyword. You will get long tail keywords traffic! For a small niche website this might only be 10 or 20% additional traffic to your site although it could be much more. Some of my niche sites get up to 50% of their traffic from long tail keywords. Some get much less – so unfortunately, none of this is an exact science! However, for a larger authority website, you should be able to expect MUCH more traffic based on those long tail keywords.
So, if we expect to get 20% more traffic from other keywords in our “Water Pumps” example, then we would take $133.44 x 1.20; which is $160.13. So, if we get 20% additional traffic from long tail keywords, we can expect our niche website on “Water Pumps” to make about $160.13 per month! This calculation takes a long time to explain, but in practice takes less than 30 seconds to figure out for each keyword!
If we were adding lots of articles we could obviously double or triple the earnings that the “water pumps” niche website is bringing in.
My Calculations for My Authority Site
Now that you understand (hopefully 🙂 ) my thinking behind how to project earnings for a site, I wanted to do some quick calculations for my niche authority site project. So again, I will be using this formula. But this time I will essentially be doing it twice – once for my primary keyword, and once for my long tail keywords. I will do it twice simply because I plan to have a massive amount of content so it makes sense to calculate the long tail keywords separately.
Estimated Earnings = (Keyword Search Volume x Google Position Factor) x Visitor CTR x (Adwords Tool CPC x 30%) x Multiplier for Long Tail Keywords
First, my primary keyword gets approximately 14,800 searches per month. It has a CPC of $8.04. I am hoping to rank in the top 3 of course, but lets just calculate the projections based on getting to the middle of the page – or a Google Position factor of 20% as discussed above for middle of the front page search results.
So, now I am going to quickly use the above formula.
14,800 x 20% = 2960
Visitor CTR estimated at 10% – So, 2960 visitors x 10% CTR = 296 clicks per month
The CPC is $8.04 – So, 8.04 x 30% = $2.41 . However, as I discussed in my article here on calculating earnings, I usually cap my expected per click earnings at $1. Yes, you can earn more, but it would be extremely rare to average $2.41 per click. So, I will implement my cap of an expected CPC at $1 to stay on the conservative side.
So, that gives me a projected earnings of $296 per month just for that keyword.
However, the long tail keywords will bring in MUCH more traffic. I expect to create 200 pages of content all targeting a new keyword that gets between 200 to 500 searches per month. So, lets take an average search volume of 350 searches per month on those long tails.
So, 350 x 200 articles = 70,000. If I rank the middle of the road, that’s 20% of that, or 14,000 visitors. However, I also expect ADDITIONAL long tail traffic on keywords that I wasn’t targeting. In fact, I expect to receive just as much traffic from these untargeted keywords as I do from my targeted keywords. So, that would be 28,000 visitors per month if I double the traffic.
So, 28,000 x 10% CTR = 2,800 clicks. At $1 average per click, that’s $2,800 earnings per month from long tail traffic. So, $296 from my primary keyword and $2,800 from long tail traffic is $3,096 estimated earnings per month. And honestly I think this is a VERY low estimate. If I didn’t cap my earnings at $1 per click and instead used the $2.41 per click – I am looking at a $6,192 per month website. And obviously it could fluctuate largely up or down based on traffic and ranking position. If I was ranking at the top of Google, we could double the traffic estimate to 43% – which would give me a number over $12,000 per month.
Anyway, I think its better to stay on the conservative side and estimate the site has good potential to earn about $3,000 per month. I know it has potential to do more than that, but this lower $3k is a good estimate of what I should be looking for.
As you can see, this is not an exact science – not even close. There are just too many unknowns to be able to reliably predict how much a website is going to make you before you even built it. However, these calculations CAN give you a ballpark figure, and I think that’s important. You need to know if you are looking at earning a potential $30 a month or a potential $3,000 per month.
So, I hope that my formula and calculation examples made sense! I was somehow able to ramble on for over 2,000 words here – all just to show a relatively simple calculation.
Anyway, I would be very interested in hearing your comments below. Please let me know what you think of this formula – is it accurate? How would you change it? Do you do something similar to project the potential earnings of your websites?