I was grateful to get the chance to speak with one of Ezoic’s VIP publishers David Layfield from Affordable Housing Online.
Affordable Housing Online specializes in being a resource for low-income housing across the United States. Dave has labored and iterated on his website for well over two decades now.
After meeting him for the first time, I could tell by his attitude he was the type of person who had gained a lot from his time studying digital publishing, website content, and ad demand.
In the full-length video, we talk about how he got started with Ezoic and more of his background in the low-income housing industry and Dave shares more about his all-encompassing experience as a publisher.
Our blog’s purpose is to share some of the highlights from our conversation.
Here’s what we were curious to ask Dave:
Was afforablehousingonline.com your first website or have you had previous experience with owning and operating a website?
I had no experience. I was a computer nerd when I was a kid and had a VIC-20. But other than that I had no experience in coding, SEO, or online advertising. I self-taught myself everything for the sole purpose of building out Affordable Housing Online into something that people could use.
At this point there wasn’t anywhere to go like there is now, I had to acquire the knowledge myself.
It’s a lot easier today, I think Dreamweaver UltraDev 4 was the first tool I used when I was starting. And now you have Wix, Squarespace, and obviously WordPress.
I remember I was in it so early I had a Google AdWords account before you could target keywords around 2000. Basically, I would be showing my ads for housing for people who were searching for anything, like pots and pans for example.
It was the true first version of AdWords.
Were there any ‘a-ha’ moments for you in your publishing journey?
Yes definitely. One of the moments where things clicked wasn’t even by choice – it was forced upon us by Google.
I founded the site in 2000 and I was the only person working on it. The site was doing well on Adsense and producing a great living for me while it wasn’t even my main gig. So that grew to a point where I was able to hire a couple of people to help with the growth.
However, we weren’t doing the right things and something came along called Google Panda and Google Penguin, which were two large algorithm updates. This took us from about $25k a month in Adsense revenue to $2k in revenue essentially overnight. This was 90% of our revenue evaporating just like that.
From there we had to make a decision – to find out why Google doesn’t like us or shut the doors.
So I started digging around and teaching myself SEO and I realized that what we were producing wasn’t that useful for users. There wasn’t data that was deep enough or actionable enough for users.
What I had to do was adopt a new mantra that had been used by Google at that point in time which was to always do good by the user. To be fair, I had never really operated under that before. My mantra before was to put as many ads on the page as possible because I need as much revenue and I didn’t invest in my content and user experience.
At that point, we said to forget revenue, since it wasn’t really there anymore. Now we were investing in our user experience more. We started doing deeper data research to surface more information that’s actionable. And almost instantly we were rewarded.
So our real ‘a-ha’ moment was this – you create an experience where the average user that’s interested in your subject matter can improve their lives and everything else gets taken care of. You don’t have to worry about revenue or SEO. Stop worrying about the day-to-day metrics or where you rank. Improve your content and the rankings will come.
What advice would you give to new publishers? Or what do you wish you knew when you were starting?
Well since I didn’t know anything when I started I wish I knew everything!
What I would recommend for anyone starting today, is don’t fall into the trap of creating poor content.
For example, if I’m looking to buy a sawmill, one of my new hobbies, I’ll likely come across a large number of poor review sites or affiliates. I can’t trust any of them for those reasons. The most important thing is authenticity. Users are smart so they’ll know within one or two sentences whether you wrote it, a machine wrote it, or someone from a content farm wrote it.
Whoever your audience is, make sure that it’s genuine to them.
Wrap up from our VIP publisher
Later on, Dave shares info about his history with online advertising, how he looks at the invaluable data he gets from Ezoic, and his future plans for the business. Watch the full-length interview.
We hope you enjoyed this talk, felt inspired, and learned a thing or two! If you’d like to see or hear more from exclusive Ezoic VIP publishers, please let us know. Sound off in the comments about who you want to hear from or what you want to learn about.