Unlocking RPM with Aimee Shugarman & Courtney O’Dell: Mediavine On Air Episode 11

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Greetings content creators and welcome to another episode of Mediavine On Air, the podcast just for you.

RPM, or revenue per mille, is often mistakenly thought of as the amount or way that a website earns. While this is not the case, RPM is a math equation that provides an overall picture of how your website is performing.

We had two amazing Mediavine publishers on the Summer of Live in 2019, talking about ways they’ve optimized their site and content to maximize their earnings. And since their tips are evergreen, they’re every bit as applicable today as they were a couple of summers ago.

Courtney O’Dell of Sweet C’s Designs and Aimee Shugarman of Shugary Sweets are Mediavine OGs and on top of delivering real talk about earnings, they are also both just a blast to spend time with.

Now, let’s make it RAIN!

Helpful Resources

What is RPM — and How Mediavine Calculates it.
What is Header Bidding? — Learn how bidding on ads has changed over the years.
Ad Revenue By The Seasons — Why does spending differ throughout the year?
Google PageSpeed Insights — Check your site speed and site health using this tool from Google!
*Since filming this episode, we’ve found that Jump to Recipe can impact revenue for the better!



JENNY GUY: Hey. It is Thursday. It is the Mediavine Summer of Lives, and I am so excited about today. We are unlocking RPMs with two OG Mediavine publishers. They’ve been around since almost the beginning. And they are going to give you all their tips, tricks, and and strategies [INAUDIBLE]

So if you guys would go ahead and introduce yourselves first. I’m here with Courtney and Aimee. Courtney, you want to go first?

COURTNEY O’DELL: Sure. I’m Courtney from Sweet C’s Designs. And I have been with Mediavine since just after Mediavine started. I think I’m number, like, 75.

JENNY GUY: And Aimee, would you give the same thing?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Yeah. I am Aimee from Shugary Sweets. And I have been with Mediavine maybe number six?


So 2014. From the very beginning as well.

JENNY GUY: That’s so great. And will you tell me about your blog first? Your brand? Kind of that journey in a nutshell?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Sure. So I’ve been blogging since 2011. And I mainly do sweets. But a few years back I ventured into savory as well. And surprisingly those do much better on Pinterest. So yeah, that’s it.

And your blog’s name?

Shugary Sweets.

Excellent. And Courtney, same question to you.

COURTNEY O’DELL: Well, I actually started off as a craft blogger. And really quickly branched into food, because everyone has to eat. And I realized I was really lazy, and didn’t love doing crafts all the time. So I still do a little bit of lifestyle stuff.

I branched out into a lot of travel stuff. I’m always traveling. And I’m still doing a lot of food. So I have really bad ADD, so my blog kind of does too, and I just kind of– if I’m into it, I write about it.

JENNY GUY: I really love that, and I’m going to– so since I have you guys captive for an hour, we’re going to talk about RPM. But other things. So I just want to branch out.

Courtney, some people say you have to niche. And you just said, you don’t niche at all. So tell me how that works, and what you would say to someone who said you can’t niche and be Successful?

COURTNEY O’DELL: I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you don’t feel into your blog, nobody is going to feel into it. So I have gone through periods where I’m writing what you’re supposed to write. Where you’re writing so-and-so copycat recipe, or this, or that, or–

I tried forever to get virals. Just– I’m not good at that. If my heart’s into it, it’s not going to happen. I am a lot of things. I’m really bad at being fake.

So you have to be really, really into something. You have to show Google you’re an authority on it. And you have to get your readers really excited about something you’re excited about.

And luckily, that kind of works with SEO, and with the ad stuff, and with RPM. Just when you’re feeling it and you’re into it, it spills out.

JENNY GUY: And Aimee, same to you. Was it hard to start savory with a blog called Shugary Sweets?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: No, because everybody eats dinner, including my family. So when I first started my blog, I was very into making the next over-the-top dessert. And I realized nobody’s looking for those. Nobody’s looking for kitchen sink garbage disposal Rice Krispie treats with bananas on top.

So I started putting those classic recipes that people do want. Like chicken tetrazzini, and the perfect Rice Krispie treat. So branching out into the classic recipes, and into what my family eats, is what’s been successful for my blog.

JENNY GUY: I love just being true to yourself as kind of an anthem. And we’ve talked about this through a shared doc using Google’s. And I know that that’s kind of your theme, both of you, with your advice. And I love that.

So just to let everyone know that’s watching, hello. And I’m here with Courtney and Aimee. We’re talking about unlocking RPM. If you guys have questions for us as we go through, please just comment, and we will talk about what you want to know.

But let’s start here. Talk about your journey with ads, and then coming to Mediavine, and what the difference was when you came to us.


You’re laughing.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: All right, I’ll go first, since I came to Mediavine first, How about that?

COURTNEY O’DELL: you go first.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: So I originally– you know, everybody starts with Google AdSense. And obviously making a few pennies with that. And after my first year, I bought a car. And my goal was, I’m going to make the car payment for our family with my blog.

And I did. And I did not for another year into it, until I found another ad network to work with. And I made decent money, and ran into some issues. And then all of a sudden, I wasn’t making money any more.

And I begged, and begged, and begged Amber to help me. Because people at that time were waterfalling ads. And my husband would try, but he was busy with his own job.

So Amber’s like, stay tight. Stay tuned. We’re going to help you. I have a plan. And that’s when I heard about Mediavine coming alive.

JENNY GUY: And what was the difference when you came to us?

Oh, gosh. Well, I make money now.


I make more than just my car payment. So yeah. I mean, quadruple times four. Whatever 16 times is. A lot.

That’s good.

A lot more. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Ms. O’Dell?

COURTNEY O’DELL: I started doing the waterfall stuff with AdSense. And I was making pennies. I was like celebrating every month if I hit the threshold for payout. So Big Day!


You know, honestly I was blogging for things like diapers at the time. I had babies. I was like, yay. I can pay for formula this month without my husband. So it was just a hobby. I didn’t really think much of it.

And I actually was an original blogger for a different ad network, and I was one of their OGs. And that was great. And I just had some problems with my site.

And at the time, Aimee was like, hey. Amber is starting up this new thing. You need to get on the wait list. And Aimee kind of got me in the front door.

So I was really lucky to have a friend sort of force me into it. Because I didn’t realize some of the problems that my site had. And how much more I could be getting out of my site, until she kind of woke me up and said, Courtney, be smart about this.

So luckily I had someone kind of beat me over the head and show me that I could make a lot more with the blog I already had.

So what are some of those problems that you got fixed when you came here?

Well, I don’t want to get too too into it, because it was a really weird issue. And there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it. But my last company had too many ads firing on a page. I got dropped from Google search results.

When you get dropped from Google search, you are dropped from Pinterest results. So my blog went from well over a million, to like 300,000 overnight. And it has taken me since I’ve been with Mediavine to get close to where I used to be.

But happily, since searching to Mediavine, I don’t really care about numbers. Because I’m making so much more than I ever was. And it’s really given me the time and freedom to build my blog in an organic way that keeps it going forward.

So I’ve been able to invest in my site. I’ve been able to hire on people. I’ve been able to do things like hire video editors, and people that do videos for me. Or a really good tech work, and site speed audits, and things like that that have just really taken my blog to the next level.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. I love both of your sites a lot. And I scroll both of them on the weekend. I’m a notorious insomniac, and I like to look at food when I can’t sleep. So I look at your food porn when I can’t sleep.


So thanks for that. So let’s jump in with our headline. How did you guys start on the journey of maximizing RPMs? Because it’s not something most people wake up. They think, I want to make money. But you guys have a scientific step by step. So how did all that start?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: So for me, I kind of fell into it. I didn’t realize my RPMs were as high as they were, or that they were growing to maximum potential, I guess you could say. I was more focused on optimizing my site for site speed, and making my content longer.

Because I had read Google wanted 300 words. And then they wanted 600 words. So I was trying to make my content longer. Adding bigger fonts.

I started putting more photos in my blog posts. I originally used to only do like two, maybe three. And I upped it to four to five photos. And I just realized, wow. The more I’m doing these things, my money’s going up. But I’m not working that much harder to do little changes.

And those little changes not only helped me in the RPM, but they’re also helping me in the overall scheme with Google, and search. So I remember talking to Courtney about it. Like wow. Our RPMs– you know, like my RPMs are doing pretty good.

And we will be talking about it. It was like, oh, we’re doing really good. This is great. And then in talking with other people, I kind of learned that mine were higher than quite a few people’s. And so I started helping other people learn the tricks to what we were doing to see if it would help their sites as well. And it did.

COURTNEY O’DELL: And that’s really important. The more that we have helped other people get higher RPMs, the more our RPMs have gone up. Because the stronger we make our network, and just blogging as an industry-wide. More money that everyone else makes in blogging, the more money I make.

Because it’s showing advertisers that we are worth it. That we are a legitimate business. That we are a strong industry. That [INAUDIBLE]. And digital is where you should invest. And all of these things. So helping other people has actually really helped us a lot too.

JENNY GUY: You guys are so, like, the epitome of what Mediavine is. Because we always talk about high tides raise all ships. And that’s our motto. And we want to give back to the community that built us, and strengthen and empower everyone. And you guys going grassroots and helping people earn their livings is really incredible.

So we had a couple of questions. Lillian wanted to know what RPM is. And we’ve got Monique wanting to know what a waterfall is. We’ve got– and Susannah is sharing blog posts to help them with that. So we can talk a little bit more about the nitty gritty of what we’re talking about.

So you guys talked a lot about testing–

–and testing different sites.

Don’t need to know waterfall. We are so far beyond that.


We don’t want it.


I had Phil on here. So go back and look at that one. He knows what a waterfall is. He knows all about that.

COURTNEY O’DELL: It was an old, outdated ad that we used to use, that would make us like maybe $50 a month.

JENNY GUY: I feel like, don’t go chasing them, is probably a good–

Do not chase waterfalls.

We got a little TLC.


I’m dating myself there. OK. So you guys talked a lot about testing different methods. How do you go about testing ways to raise your RPM?

COURTNEY O’DELL: Well, I think we like to tweak a lot of stuff on our sites. I know a lot of people who are really afraid of change. And Aimee and I are probably over zealous in that area. We’re like, oh, who cares about this? We’ll just try it.

And sometimes that has hurt us. But most of the time, we’re really willing to make changes and track what we’re doing. And sit down and look at our analytics and say, hey, not only did my money go up, but my SEO went up. Or this went up. Or oh, this is probably not a good change because this went down.

And we kind of have a little group of people that we bounce ideas off of. Both of us are trying to be really, really, really open with our very small set of people. Like, this is so terrible, but I will often screenshot my analytics and my Mediavine my dashboard and compare them with Aimee’s.

Because we have pretty similar traffic. We have pretty similar RPM. And I’ll be like, hey, I tried this new thing today. And look at what it did.

And she’ll try it. And if it works on hers, and it worked on mine, then we’ll go to another friend. And say oh, guys, we found this really cool tip. Why don’t you try this? And that has helped us so, so much.

I’m going to cut in–

And if it crashes, then we also–


JENNY GUY: I mean, that’s the best way to learn sometimes, unfortunately, is to fall flat on your face. And say, well, that’s not it.


So I was going to say, what are the things that you are changing? When you say you guys are change-aholics, what are the changes you’re making?

COURTNEY O’DELL: So like format to our posts. The way we’re wording things. The way we are going after keywords. We will, like, the blurbs we write for our posts. The plugins that we use.

Just lots of– literally anything on our site, we will share. Hey, I tried writing a two sentence summary at the top versus one sentence. Or I tried doing this picture order, or this pin shape, or this or this. Just everything.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: And also, we use what Mediavine provides. We change up the ad frequency, and the type of ads we run. And we bounce those ideas off of each other too. Like oh, I just bumped it up to high frequency, and my numbers went way down.

Or vice versa. Maybe they went way up. So we share those with each other as well.

COURTNEY O’DELL: Like Aimee’s site works better when she’s at normal frequency. And when I went to normal, it tanked it. Mine works better at high frequency.

So it just depends. And we look at our percentages. We’ll compare over a couple of days. Give it a couple days adjustment. And we just know what to question in our sites to kind of help each other go out more. And try–

JENNY GUY: Tell me about how you test. How do you test? It’s strategic, and pretty– I mean you guys are thorough as heck.


COURTNEY O’DELL: I mean, we’ll screenshot a lot of times like where we start. Or you can make an event in analytics. I am way too much of a spaz to remember to do that well. So I’ll just dive in through my analytics.

I like to put that frame, so I’ll remember, I did this on this day. And often I’ll message her, and be like, hey, I’m trying this. I’ll let you know how it goes. And then I kind of have a paper record.

Should be more organized and have it in an actual file. But sometimes, if it’s just in the message, it’s better than nothing. And then I’ll go and revisit that in a day. Hey, I did x, y, and z, and it helped. And I’ll break down my analytics to that variant.

I’ll just in the Mediavine dashboard and say, just show me the results for the last three days. This is the day before I made the change. This is the day after I made the change. What’s different? What can I figure out has changed?

Is it going up? Is it going down? Can we really tell? And we just play with our data to see if we can find patterns.

JENNY GUY: Rebecca Ludlum just asked, how long do you guys test for before you call it a win or a loss?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: One day. One week. It really depends on how antsy we are. And it depends on what I’m testing. So for instance, a lot of times I test my sticky video. Because that’s a big moneymaker, is running that sticky video.

And so a lot of times I will, let’s say, I think right now I have my iced oatmeal cookies as my sticky video. So that’s the one that will play as the backup on posts that don’t have a video. And so I write down my impressions every day. How many impressions did that video get?

And if it starts to tank below a number that I create in my head, then I will change out the video. Or if let’s say the CPM on that video goes down below a number in my head, then I will change the video around. Or I’ll change the video if the season is different.

Sometimes I put one on, and the next day it’s already not doing well. I’ll change it immediately. Kind of if you will–


Right. If it doesn’t match what I’m wearing, then I change the video. If my nails are a different color in the video than what they are now, I might change it.


COURTNEY O’DELL: And I really like to look at mine. I like to just keep always growing. So when I look at my analytics and something is going down, I’ll change it up immediately, and see if I can get it to go up again.

So many people get caught up in, oh, it needs to be this number. It needs to be this percent. I really want to hit x, y, or z. I don’t care about any of that. I’m like, if I have one extra page view, or if I have one cent extra. If I have any growth, it’s good, and I’m fine. If I don’t, I will start changing things one by one until I get to grow again.

JENNY GUY: So talking a little bit more specifically about your testing, how do you use Google Analytics alongside the Mediavine dashboard? Do you have any tips on how to implement those together? Do you test on certain days? Get a little more detailed for a test.

COURTNEY O’DELL: I think you have to test, first of all, you have to look at changes both small Break it down to the couple of days before and after. But then also look at it big. Like look at months on end.

A lot of times I will look at– you have to look at the same days of the week. So like if I compare a change I made on a Sunday to a change I made on a Friday, the traffic for my Sunday and my Friday are totally different. They might as well be a totally different blog.

So I can’t really compare that. You have to know what days you get more traffic, what days you get less. What your base lines are. You can look and see, oh my gosh, Sunday is my highest traffic day. I made this change, and I am way off my target of what I normally am. OK, this is a bad change. I need to move back up.

So I look at my analytics all day, every day. I check in every couple hours. You start to realize patterns. I know I should have this many users at this time. I should have this many users at this time.

I was just in Germany for like a month, and it kept throwing me off. Because I was like, oh, I have like two people on my site. And then I’m like, oh right. It’s like 1:00 AM in America.


But I’m used to looking at it at a certain time and thinking, oh, this many people should be on it. But you really have to watch things like that and kind of know where your blog is. And the same goes for RPM. So Monday, even if I’m having the best traffic day ever, even if RPMs are crazy high, even though Monday is a great day for my blog, Mondays suck for my RPMs.

RPMs are always lower on Monday, because the budget is resetting for the week. So I just have to know I can’t freak out if something dips a little bit on Monday, and think that it’s this change. I have to remember, oh wait, it’s Monday. Every single week it goes down on Monday. So you just have to sort of understand your blog’s patterns.

It sucks so much that Monday comes every week.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: I will butt in and say, Courtney’s using that as an example because my blog is different than hers, and Monday is not my worst day. When she says, you know, don’t make a change on Monday, follow your own– like look at your own numbers. Because for me, my bad days are usually Wednesdays.

So I try not– if I’m going to do something, I may do my changes on Wednesdays, because mid-week my stuff goes down, and the weekends, my stuff goes up. Because for me, I’m very Pinterest heavy. And I think people are scrolling Pinterest on the weekends, planning their meals.

And so my stuff goes from Sunday to Tuesday really well. And so my RPMs are up, because my traffic’s up. And I just wanted to clarify that. Just because Courtney’s saying Monday, don’t be writing this down and saying, OK, Mondays. Don’t– you know. Monday is the worst day for RPM.

Because I think every site is different on that. Just like when Courtney says she changes things on Fridays, also watch the time of the month. Because the beginning of the month and the end of the month can be very different in RPM versus the middle of the month, which I find the middle to the end of the month very strong. So I try to do all my changes at the beginning of a month, when RPMs might be a little bit lower, and I can tweak things.

And then I’ll compare the beginning of this month, to the beginning of last month, to the beginning of the next month. So the time of the month and the time of the week both I would say equally matter when you’re doing your comparisons.

COURTNEY O’DELL: And blogs change all the time. Friday used to be my number one best day of the week. Friday was like, pop out the bubbles. Now it’s like a wasteland. And it changes all the time. So you just have to really get cozy with your data, and learn foresight.

JENNY GUY: And you guys were mentioning day of the week, plus time of the month. It’s also the seasons.

Every Quarter

Right. Exactly. So I think– could we post the ad revenue by the seasons blog post by Brad? That’s really helpful in explaining the seasonality of ad dollars. But that’s not always true for a health and fitness blogger. Q1 is great.


So it all depends.

COURTNEY O’DELL: Like my Q1 is always huge, even though my RPMs are terrible. I’m like [FRUSTRATION].


And my Q1 is bleh.


But that’s better. You’re– I’m not making any money off my good traffic. [LAUGHS]


JENNY GUY: So Sherry Smotherton-Short, she said, do you think there’s a minimum amount of traffic necessary for your results to be statistically– easy for me to say– significant?



COURTNEY O’DELL: We’re both– I mean, I’m not going to say our number, but I’m under a million page views. I’m right– I’m real close, but I’m under a million page views.

We are not mega bloggers. We do not have millions of page views a month. We actually make a lot more than people I know with like four or five times page views that we have.

You do not have to have crazy high page views.

Yeah, it helps, because every page is more money. So the more you have, the more you’re going to earn. But earning has nothing to do with the amount of page views you have, when you have the type of ads that Mediavine grabs.

Tell me about trying to compare different blogs in different sites apples to apples. Because we’ll all a lot of times have people come and say, this person has a craft site, and I have a craft site. Why are we making the same amount of money with the same amount of traffic?

COURTNEY O’DELL: Well, I mean every advertiser is different. And advertisers look at our sites. I watched the Phil video religiously, and I wrote down everything. And actually, when we were at Everything Food, poor Phil, I stalked him. And I was like, tell me how our ads work. Can you walk me through this?

And he’s like, you just want to hack it, don’t you. I was like, yep.


So if advertisers are looking at my site and Aimee’s site, we have different posts. We write at different times. We post different times. I have more Google traffic. She has really, really dedicated loyal followers. It depends on what advertisers want. And it’s all going to be so different.

So you can get a good idea of where you’re at with friends. Like you can look at our RPMs and your RPM and say, OK. I know a range of where I can be around. But you can’t compare, like, to the dollar amount. It’s just worthless.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: And I think that’s really important what she said. Because I hear a lot of times in groups and stuff, that if you have higher organic traffic, you will have higher RPMs. And I can tell you right now, my organic traffic is less than 10% of my page views.


COURTNEY O’DELL: So there’s that. And my organic traffic is like 60%. And my– some people are like oh, social media doesn’t pay well. Well, Aimee kicks my butt around the corner on social media. And I do really well on Google. And we’re really close to each other. So you can’t– it’s all stupid to compare.


JENNY GUY: Thank you for that. OK. Give us a list of the top fixes that publishers can make, right here, right now, and see immediate results.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Write longer content.

Write long posts!

COURTNEY O’DELL: Write long posts! Yes.

And break your posts up, and put in lots of pictures and videos.


JENNY GUY: Break your posts up like how?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Like not long paragraphs. So the max I usually do is maybe three sentences in a paragraph. And I put in lots of title tags. And I put in lots of pictures. I try to make it as long as possible.

And Courtney is like the wordiest person I know. I don’t even get close to the number of words she puts in a post these days. So the longer the better.



COURTNEY O’DELL: I talk a lot. So writing a lot. I like to locate value for readers. So I like to think, hey, if I’m going to get a comment on this, what are they going to say? And I’m going to address it in the post.

And what is someone going to search after they go to my post? So if I’m making a chicken, and they’re going to say, well, can I freeze this chicken? I should put it in the post. Because you know what, it’s really easy to add those extra words.

Then I’m going to get the search and ad interest from not only my chicken, but the can I freeze this, or can I do this. If I’m visiting a city, I’m going to look at what other people are doing. And write not only the best restaurant, maybe the best, I don’t know, delivery service.

Or I try to think of random questions like I’m talking to my friend. And say, oh, this doesn’t work if you do this. Try this. Or here’s something that will go along with it. The more length you add to these posts, the better.

But the other really easy hack that everyone should go home and do right now is look at your font size. And increase your font size. I have a crazy, crazy high font size.

This is one of the tests that we were doing back and forth. I increased my font size to 15 from 12. 12 was so tiny. I couldn’t read it. I was like, look, I’m getting older. Maybe I just can’t see.

Put it up to 15. A huge increase. And I was like, OK, I kind of dig it. I can actually read my own blog now. And then I was like, I wonder what will happen if I do it to the next one.

I bumped it up to 19, which is grandma big. But you know what? My bounce rates fell so much. People are on my site more. So apparently, everyone can’t see. And my RPM went up like $5 overnight. So jack your font size up now.

JENNY GUY: But like you always say, it’s to do with your reader experience.


Because if you’re reading on a mobile phone, reading that tiny font like I’ve got Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass with me when I’m on the streets reading your food porn. So I want the big fonts. You’re helping me.

COURTNEY O’DELL: And it’s the same with our really short paragraphs. I am a political science and English major. And the English major like wants to scream when I read our blogs, because they’re so scattered and not good grammar. But if you look at it on a phone and you’re scrolling through, it’s so hard to read anything over a sentence or two.

So I really try to break it up, even if it looks ridiculous. Even if I think it seems weird. It helps so, so much. And I’ve noticed I actually read my own site now. And I will go back through.


I couldn’t read it before. It’s hard. You’re just scrolling through it really quickly. And you just kind of zone out. You don’t look at it. It’s this wall of text. The more you break those up, so much better.

And if you’re worried about things like ads inserting in certain places, you can always put it in a block quote, or something that the ad won’t trigger in that certain set. And then it’ll just trigger before or after it.

But really, break up your text so much. Hit the Return button. And increase your font size. And overnight, you don’t have to change anything else. You will make more money. You will.

And take out your Jump to Recipe buttons.



Which is so– I know I’m going to get daggers thrown at me for that. But you know, we compare RPMs with so many people. And we kind of had the ones that get the reputation for crazy high RPMs.

Look. I understand why they’re there. I’m not going to argue that. Are they a better user experience? I actually think they are. I totally know why people do it.

But I’ve never seen someone with a crazy high RPM with Jump to Recipe buttons. So for me, like great. I’m happy that people have a better user experience. But I’m in this for the money. So as long as they’re not leaving, I don’t care. I’ll take your money.

When they start to leave, I might reconsider that. So for now I’m just thankful that they’re there. But I don’t care if you do or don’t. Just consider that really high RPMs don’t have that button.

JENNY GUY: We’ve got a post. Can we share it? Stop. Don’t jump.


AIMEE SHUGARMAN: I would also add a couple other things that you can do to increase your RPMs quickly. And one of the things that I did was I had a site audit done by Lauren. And she set up my site so fast, that literally my RPMs went up, I want to say the word overnight. It probably wasn’t overnight. But it felt like, oh wow. I’m finally making money at this blogging thing.

As soon as she was done, it was– I believe her– Once Coupled was her business name. And she did a great job getting my site much faster. And also get rid of your sidebar, people. I know we love having our Instagram stories over there, and all of our Pinterest things over there. But once you get rid of all your junk in your sidebar, your RPMs will go up too.

What do you guys have in your side bar?

I don’t know.

Not much. Someone go look.

COURTNEY O’DELL: I think I’ll have my popular posts, but I need to redo it, because it’s spacing weird. And I want it to be even smaller. And I might have an About Me. But I don’t know. No one sees it. It takes up space. No one clicks through it. It’s worthless. Just get it off. I also did a Once Coupled site speed audit and your site speed is so major and just increases your site’s value overnight. But site speed is a big, big part of the puzzle. Compress your images. That’s another big one.

What do you guys use?

ShortPixal. I think whatever Lauren says.

Whatever she’s got up.

have someone above my pay grade to do that for me.

JENNY GUY: I think that’s good. Outsource. We are getting tons of comments. You have pleased Professor Hochberger. He says you can’t press hard enough. Sherry said, so anything that will lengthen the post is good. More words, more pictures, lists, et cetera.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Yep. I have a template that I do– And actually, our templates are very similar that Courtney and I use to write a blog post asking– sometimes I’ll put in frequently asked questions. And I use Answerthepublic.com to come up with what those questions might be. Because I don’t have in my head questions my friends would ask me about my food.

So I use a website that lists questions that people might be Googling about a certain thing like can you freeze this? Can you bake this? Can you no-bake this? Can you save this for your grandmother for four months later? It has ridiculous questions. But it also has good questions that you use. And I have a format for every blog post that I use to keep it– I try to shoot for over 750 words per post. I know Courtney’s like 5,000 words or something.

COURTNEY O’DELL: I’m like 2,000, words which is equally ridiculous, but.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: No, it’s great. It’s amazing.

No, it’s good.

My travel posts are like 8,000 words, so.

But here’s the thing. When you write a longer post some people say, wow, that’s just so much work. But it’s also helping in Google’s eyes. So you’re not just doing it for the RPM, you’re doing it for your search, for a better user experience. It’s the big picture you’re looking at, not just a small piece of it.

COURTNEY O’DELL: My 2000 word posts I could just put up and not Pinterest, Facebook anything. Now, I will, because I want to get the most I can get out of it. But I could just put out my 2000 word post and get way more visits than I would six really short posts. I can’t compete with someone with 5 million Facebook followers. I have 140,000, which I know sounds great to some people, but in my niche, it’s just not big at all. So I have to add value in other ways and reach people in other ways. So adding these really long posts is amazing, amazing, amazing for money. But it’s also helping my SEO too. And it’s really helped a lot. Just always focusing on adding more value to your readers, your money will go up and your SEO will go up.

JENNY GUY: Stephanie wants to know, do you put your recipe card at the bottom of your blog post?


Absolutely. Make them scroll all the way through those ads to get to it. Because for me, that’s what people are coming for. They don’t care about my stories really. They’re coming from Pinterest, so they have to scroll all the way down to get to that recipe.

COURTNEY O’DELL: I do put a paragraph at the top that says, hey, if you want to skip all my really helpful tips and tricks, scroll down. I don’t give them the button to do so, but I say like, hey, scroll. And that cuts down on a lot of– actually, I find that people actually read my tips and tricks knowing that it’s going to be a lot in there. But I put it at the very bottom. I even keep my– I know a lot of people hide their long pins. I put it right before my recipe.

JENNY GUY: Nice. OK. Michelle Palin wants to know when you say template, Aimee, is that something you just typed up or are referring to on paper or do you actually have a template in WordPress for your posts? It’s all in her noggin.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: It’s all in my noggin. It’s basically I open up my blog and I copy the exact same format that I wrote. So if you were to look at my blog right now, and you were to click on whatever the most current recipe is I think it’s lemon cheesecake, you’ll see that I write a little story.

You’ll see that I’ll say how to make lemon cheesecake. Then you’ll see I might say, frequently asked questions about cheesecake. And actually, maybe not in that post. For the most part, that’s the format I use. Then I’ll have links to all my social media. Then I’ll have links to other people’s recipes. Then I’ll have links to other recipes on my blog that are similar. And then I’ll have a video, because let’s talk about video too. That’s very important to your RPMs. And then I’ll have the recipe. And then interspersed in all of that are photos.

JENNY GUY: But, yes, let’s do talk about video. Talk about how that’s changed your RPM and your overall site in the last year.

COURTNEY O’DELL: Video just has created insane RPMs in a way that nothing else can. I have– now that I have a sticky video on everything. That’s the number one. You need is a sticky video. Even if you have a quick About Me. If you go to my site right now, I actually have one that talks about my popular posts and has you scroll through and see what some of my popular posts are.

At the very least, do that. You can do some kind of slide show. You can do some kind animation. There are a zillion sites out there that you can get templates for where you just pop in your pictures or some of your B-roll or things like that. Get one of those videos up at the very, very least, and your RPM will start to really jump.

But I’ve even started noticing lately my top posts that don’t have their own video in the sticky are not making what my posts that have their own dedicated video are making. So right now I am taking all of my extra revenue and hiring out, because I don’t have the time to make a million and a half videos. I’m hiring out people to make some of those videos so that I can get every extra cent. Because every post with its own dedicated video makes so much more I’m finding.

Yep. I would totally agree on that.

And I’ve noticed– I had a couple of posts that I don’t have a video for go huge lately, my RPM has been a good $4 or $5 off of what it really should be right now. It took a big jump. And I was like, what is going on? I haven’t changed anything. My Google rankings are going up. What’s happening? Oh, the video, you don’t have that on dedicated. I swear it really does make a big difference. Not everyone can do that though. So you should– don’t let that make you think like, oh my gosh, I need a video for every post. Those are just in my top [AUDIO OUT] search results. I just got caught off guard and had a couple of things go really big that I didn’t really plan for.

JENNY GUY: So video huge. And we are working right now in marketing on a video that we’re calling Video, Video, Video. Because it’s about all of our features. And it gives you a step by step on how to implement all of them really simply and get that RPM boosted. That’s coming at you very soon, like within a week. So stand by on that. OK. We have a question from the man himself, Eric Hochberger. What percentage of your content is tips and tricks versus stories?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: I would say for me, my story is just a couple of paragraphs. And as I said before, my paragraphs are one to three sentences each. So it’s not very much of my blog posts. Sometimes depending on the blog post it might be more. Obviously, if it’s a sponsored post, there might be more back end to it. But I would say at least 50% to 75% of the blog post is bulleted, tips and tricks, links to other things, more fluff content.

JENNY GUY: We have a ton of people asking really quickly, how do you find out the RPM for an individual post? How are you tracking that?

COURTNEY O’DELL: I use Kay’s spreadsheet that she dropped in the Mediavine group. If you [AUDIO OUT] can find that, then you can take your data– they made– sorry. Sorry, sorry.

We all just looked at our phones.

I know.

[INAUDIBLE] is not murdering them.


–what each post is making. If you don’t want to go that path know the exact amount per post you can look in the side and see what your top 10 posts are. So for me where I was talking about the example before that those three posts. That was the only thing that was different on my site. So I could tell, OK, in the top 10 that were showing in the dashboard, there were three that didn’t have their own dedicated video. So I didn’t know the exact RPM for those. I did end up looking into it and saw it there. But I could just tell from looking at that that was a change.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: And I don’t go as deep as looking at individual RPM. I use what Mediavine provides. And I look at my top pages. And then I also look at my top videos. And so I make sure that– and that’s how I choose my sticky video as well is I go into my top videos and I look and see which one has a higher CPM. And I’ll plug that one in until that CPM starts to drop. And then I’ll plug-in a different one that has high CPM.

JENNY GUY: Excellent. OK. So let’s move on to a different topic. We’re getting a ton of questions and that’s awesome. We’re going to try to get to as many as we can. And the marketing team is jumping in and answering as you guys are asking. So we’ll get to you. Let’s talk about RPM and that other three letter word SEO. How do they interact, compliment each other? How do you guys make those two make beautiful music together?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Well, I think I kind of mentioned it before that the longer the post you make and the better it is in the eyes of Google. You’re increasing your search engine optimization by making those posts lengthier. So by answering those questions that people are Googling, you’re putting those as a priority in those posts and as a result, you’re making your posts lengthier, which is great for your RPM. And you’re obviously, optimizing it then for SEO.

COURTNEY O’DELL: Yeah. Best practices for the way Mediavine runs ads just so happens to line up perfectly with what Google wants you to do. And it can’t really be too much of a coincidence that we’re using the Google Ad Exchange and Google controls search results. So it only makes sense that the two would play harmoniously together. Make one happy, you’ll probably make the other happy.

I actually was terrible with SEO, was absolutely awful at it, had no idea what I was doing. And I started this whole RPM journey by calling Amber one day just fed up. Why is my RPM so low? Why is it so terrible? I’m hearing all these other people at another network doing so much better. I was like, I was ready to leave. And she’s like, well, Courtney, try this, this, this and this. We’ve given you all of these guidelines. You have so much information out there. Actually, she said it very sweet.

But she was like, why didn’t you try all the things that we’ve encouraged you to try? And I started to do it. And I noticed, oh, my money’s going up. And, oh, I’m starting to get a lot more traffic. And then it snowballed from there. I realized the two play completely in with each other. The more value you give to Google search traffic, the more Google’s search ads are going to want to work with you.

JENNY GUY: Yes. We also happen to be at Google. And we work with Google. And there’s so many things. We love Google at Mediavine. So when you said the thing about value, sometimes you’ll see– and I’m not seeing anyone do this here. But I’ve seen multiple pictures of the same thing in a post or double recipe lists, one in a font and one in a card. So that’s not the type of content you’re talking about adding, right?

No and yes. No. I’m so guilty of the same picture. I’m for it. I take the same shot from 10 different angles. I realize that I should do better. I am one person. I can do so much. Shouldn’t probably. It’s not hurting me.

COURTNEY O’DELL: If it’s not hurting.

Yeah, no.

But definitely the addition of stuff just to add stuff, feels a little spammy to me so I wouldn’t do it. I think that would depend on you and your strategies. I don’t want to call anyone out for what they might be doing. That’s not something I do. But with the pictures I try to vary it up.

JENNY GUY: They look good to me. And I want to eat them. So you’re fine.

COURTNEY O’DELL: From– every time Eric said, don’t put the same picture of the same thing from ten different angles. I’m like, guilty. Guilty. Should it be better? Yeah.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: But clearly it doesn’t matter. So there you go.

COURTNEY O’DELL: You should make the angles a little bit different just so maybe you can spotlight a different feature or something of your recipe. For travel things it’s a lot easier for me, because you can be like woo, here’s 40 different angles of the same city. With one recipe it’s like, OK. Here’s an up close. Here’s a to the side. There’s only so much you can do.

JENNY GUY: The cheese only strings out and splits one way. It’s tough. And it doesn’t give you different attitudes as it splits out. It’s so annoying. OK. So are there– as we’re wrapping up. And I hate it because you guys are amazing. And I’m going to make you a promise to come back in the fall and talk again, because I love you both. OK any additional tips and tricks you’ve found successful? Do you plan content around RPM, emails, anything like that?

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: I think just going back to the original be true to yourself. For me obviously not doing the over-the-top garbage disposal things that I think look pretty, but people aren’t searching for it. People aren’t looking for them. If I don’t love it how can I convince my reader to love it? And for me, like Courtney alluded to, I have a lot of email subscribers. So for me it’s making sure that the people who are choosing to follow me, because they’re my loyal readers, I want to make sure I’m giving them the things that I think they would like. And what they like are those classic type of recipes, not the over-the-top crazy things.

JENNY GUY: Courtney, same question.

COURTNEY O’DELL: For me I really think the number one thing– and this is so cheesy and I can’t even believe I’m going to go here– I think so much of my RPM growth, and blog growth. It’s just been killing myself a lot of grace and not freaking out about stuff too much. I think as bloggers, we get so in the weeds about everything. Yes, I’m checking my [INAUDIBLE] give myself a heart attack looking at the wrong time of day.

But you have to look at it and believe that it’s going to happen. You can’t say, oh, my blog sucks. My RPM’s never going to be good. Because you know what? Your RPM will suck and never be good. You can’t say I’ll never have loyal followers. You won’t ever have it. You have to put yourself in the mindset of, I rock at this. I’m not there yet, but I will be. You have to really be a little bit more gentle on yourself. Because it comes out in your writing. You’re not going to be into it if you’re just chasing something to use a formula because it should work.

People see through that. You see through it. You’re never going to do the things you need to do to succeed if you come from a [INAUDIBLE] mentality. So again, it’s cheesy. I hate all that. But you have to give yourself more grace and really think positively. And it opens your eyes to trying new things when you come from a better mindset. Sorry. It’s just like attacking each other in the backdrop.

JENNY GUY: I guess that means that’s our cue to go. So we’ll do one more thing. Give us your top tip on anything. I’m going to give you guys a second to think about it. And next week we are talking about traffic growth with Leena of What Mommy Does and Stephanie of Spaceships and Laser Beams. It’s going to be awesome. We’re very excited about that. We’ve got a few more weeks of the Summer of Live. Please join us. And I want to thank our amazing RPM aces and Mediavine OGs, Aimee Shugarman, of Shugary Sweets and Courtney O’Dell of Sweet C’s. They’re going to give us our top tips. And then I’m going to let them go pull the children apart.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: I would say listen to Mediavine. Follow what they tell you. If they say put ads on, put the ads on. Don’t be afraid to follow all the tips that we’ve shared and that Mediavine has already put out there. Because we’re not recreating the wheel here. We’re just following what has already been shared.

COURTNEY O’DELL: I’m going to say don’t be afraid to think of your site as a business. We see our names in it. Some of us have our names incorporated into our site. which can get really, really personally. But you know what? It’s not personal. I’m talking about some things that I don’t even necessarily like to cook, because I know that that’s what my readers want.

I might talk about things that I don’t 100% feel, but in a way that I know is helpful to people that I do care about. So don’t be afraid to think of it as a business. Don’t be afraid to do things that you might not like. You might not like the format of posts. But if it’s going to make you more money and that’s your goal, let yourself make more money. There’s nothing wrong in treating this as a business and kicking butt at it and making more. And also share. I have two tips. Because we really need to share and come together. And sharing isn’t going to hurt your bottom line. It only helps us.

AIMEE SHUGARMAN: Help each other. That’s how you grow. Help each other.

COURTNEY O’DELL: And both of us, I know that when Aimee and I go up, it’s the time that we’re the most giving with our tips and tricks.

JENNY GUY: That is– everything’s been amazing. I am a little in love with both of you. Thank you for coming. All right. Every– yes. Heart Mediavine. And Go for Teal. OK, everybody. Thank you so much. We will see you next week for Traffic Growth. If you know anybody who is pushing to get to Mediavine threshold, tell them to come watch us. Courtney and Aimee muah, muah. Everybody have a great weekend.

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