FEBRUARY 7, 2023
- Anne Moss owns 25 websites where she blogs regularly about topics like gardening or home decor.
- She started in 2000 and for years made $3,000 a month — now she makes $130,000 in revenue monthly.
- She focuses on creating quality content and training her writers to engage readers.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Anne Moss, a 50-year-old co-founder of 25 websites based in Chicago. Insider has verified her business revenue with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2000, I started a blog in Hebrew about cats called The Cat Site because I loved cats. For my second blog I decided to write in English to reach a wider audience.
I left my military career in 1998, and my husband kept his full-time job to give us a safety net. It worked well for me as a mother of two sons because I could homeschool them while working on my new business.
For the first 15 years or so I was making about $3,000 a month from ad revenue. I learned how to run ads by myself through online research.
I continued to buy websites for the next two decades, and by the time the pandemic hit my 25 blogs had grown into a publishing business that was bringing in an average of $130,000 in revenue a month, mainly from ad-management services like Mediavine and AdThrive and Amazon affiliates. My expenses are about half of my monthly revenue.
My business was very experimental from the start
I registered lots of domain names across many niches, and I picked names that could be used for future projects or turned into a brand.
The considerations for choosing domain names have changed so much over the last 20 years, but I went after four-letter domains in the beginning. It was a different time back in the early 2000s — many decent domain names were still available, so I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to get them.
It was around 2016 when I noticed the changes in CPM rates, or cost per thousand, which measures how much a thousand ad impressions on a webpage costs. When I first started, for every thousand views I earned $2 or $3. It increased tenfold because of the advent of ad bidding; Google Ads runs an auction every time it has an ad space available, so the advertisers bid to get a spot, which raises the CPM rates. My CPM rates for some sites reached $20 or $30, and sometimes even $40.
I knew it was time to invest more in the business
In 2018, I hired my first virtual assistant from OnlineJobs.ph. In 2019, my husband and I invested about $10,000 to hire freelance writers and scale the business. I’m currently using the ProBlogger job board to post jobs.
We were losing money at first, because new sites generally don’t receive significant traffic immediately; it can take anywhere from nine to 18 months to see meaningful traffic. I saw this time as an investment, and my husband was very supportive because he saw the potential in it too.
Having gone to business school, he was able to help me create a business plan with different scenarios, which reassured us of our next steps. It was a matter of checking to see what would happen as we adjusted costs and potential revenue — like if we had to pay $50 or $100 per post, would the model still be profitable?
We needed to be careful since we’re in our 50s — we don’t have the luxury of starting over again like younger entrepreneurs.
When the pandemic hit, it was very scary at first, because companies cut down on advertising and my revenue dropped. But then the traffic went up like crazy because people were at home browsing the internet.
Looking at the numbers, my husband and I were convinced we could go all in. We made a life-changing decision to move to the US from Israel, considering most of our audiences are based in the US.
Some of the best-performing niches, based on my analytics, are home decor, DIY, and gardening
I don’t think there’s a niche that’s “bad.” A couple of sites have failed, like one in the pet niche and another in the home-decor niche. Some of my websites have views but make nothing because they’re still new. It can take more than a year for a site to be ranked on Google, so it’s a long game.
I don’t apply any technical SEO strategies such as link building to my websites because I’m all about creating quality content. When I hire a writer, I train them to write not for Google but for the readers by putting themselves in the readers’ shoes. What’s their state of mind? What are they looking for — information or entertainment? The answers to these questions guide the content creation.
It’s important to have clear guidelines for new writers that outline the expectations for style, tone, and structure. These guidelines should be reviewed regularly and updated as necessary to ensure they’re relevant and effective. Creating video training materials can be a great way to save time and ensure everyone is receiving the same information. Finally, providing writers with regular feedback helps foster a culture of continuous improvement.
The key to success is in people and process management
I’m now the CEO. I found an amazing COO with excellent people skills after posting a question about a professional service I was considering on Facebook. My main focus is on content creation and driving traffic. The COO handles all aspects of the infrastructure, including information systems, IT, risk management, HR, compliance, finance, accounting, and corporate governance. I work a lot, including on weekends.
Effective people management requires clear communication, goal setting, and a supportive work environment. I believe in setting expectations and regularly checking in with my team to ensure everyone’s on the same page and making progress toward our shared goals.
We believe in transparency and open communication. I make a conscious effort to empower my team members by delegating responsibilities and allowing them to take ownership of their work. This not only helps build their confidence and skills but frees up my time to focus on other aspects of the business.
I’m also experimenting with growing mailing lists, building out the websites as brands, and selling digital courses. You never know what Google will decide to prioritize, which is why I’m trying to build direct relationships with my customers through a mailing list. Our strategy for converting readers to our email list involves offering sign-up forms alongside high-quality content.
My advice for anyone wanting to get into blogging would be to focus on your site and your content rather than worrying too much about securing the perfect domain name. While top-tier domain names can be harder to come by now, there are still plenty of good-enough options available.
Courtesy/Source: Business Insider