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What's a web page worth?

© February 2006 Anthony Lawrence

There have been some interesting comments recently about what the advertising income potential of web pages really is. In an interview at Wired, Harold Davis (an author who writes extensively about Google) suggests that $10 per page per year is a reasonable figure.

I think that's wrong for several reasons. The well respected ShoeMoney says that pages have nothing to do with it, and that www.shoemoney.com/2006/02/01/is-your-website-makeing-what-it-should-be/ (link dead, sorry) unique visitors are what really determines income. I think Shoemoney is right, though I do have to wonder about the amounts he says a unique visitor is worth.

But first, why is Harold Davis wrong? Well, it's like this: I have pages making more than $10 a month, never mind a year, but if I average out ALL pages, it's about $1.00 per page per year. Good thing I have a lot of pages, isn't it?

Part of the problem is that you just never know what's going to be a money maker. I have *some* idea, but sometimes a post I really think will be winner is a dud and something else that I thought was important to post but never would make a dime will chalk up great results. Many of the other authors here probably feel the same way.

But there are other factors here that rough math like this doesn't cover. I've been posting regularly since 1997, and actually started (under a different domain name) way back in the early 90's. Some of the stuff from those early days is completely out of date and of little use to anyone, so it attracts very little traffic. On the other hand, some of it ages more gracefully and still gets traffic. If I wanted to do a real analysis of page value, I'd need to take things like that into the picture - and that's very hard to do.

Many bloggers haven't been at it long enough to see the real effects of time on pages, so could falsely think that a page that generates X dollars a year now always will. It might, but it probably won't, and how quickly its glory fades is dependent on a lot of factors out of your control.

My point is simply that it just isn't true that if you bang out three times the posts you'll get three times the income and that it will accumulate over the years, giving you more and more equity. It is extremely unlikely to work that way. Most pages will lose value over time. Some last longer than others, but very few will hold on forever.

What *is* likely to work is traffic. It's just a numbers game after all is said and done: the more unique eyeballs read your page, the more likely some of them will see an ad of interest. So I think Shoemoney is dead on: there is a definite relationship between unique visitors and ad income. However, Shoemoney says that 2 cents per unique visitor is a low figure, and that makes me blink in amazement. If this site made that much per unique, I'd be pulling down $120.00 a day or more (and would also be paying the guest authors here a lot more than the pittance I send them now). So, either I'm doing something very, very wrong (always possible), or Shoemoney is overly optimistic in his figures.

Which is it? I sure don't know. You know I'm sure as heck going to try to find out.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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