As we draw towards the end of year, I’m proud to say that macintoshhowto.com has now been running for over 17 years! Here’s the story of how it began.
How it all started
I was working at Dubbo Presbyterian Church in Australia with two other Mac users, Bryson and Paul. Every now and then a very simple problem would pop up that one of us would need an answer to. Like, ‘how do I add a new font to my computer?’
One of us would inevitably know how to answer it. Then 3 months later someone would ask exactly the same question again. Then 3 months later, my mum wild ask exactly the same question!
So one day I said, ‘I’m going to start a website to put all our answers’. That was 2005. So when someone had a question, I’d type it up with an answer that we could refer back to. This was before the days of how-to websites. It was a new thing.
The oldest article I can find is this one on how to repair an iPod from January 2006. The older ones look like they have been deleted or updated.
The famous article
Then in March 2008 Allan comes along, and he asks: ‘How do I merge two pdf documents?’
The answer is here: How do I merge 2 documents in OS X?
That’s when macintoshhowto took off. It must have been the question that everyone was asking and no one had an answer for. (Not even Apple.)
If you searched ‘Merge PDF Apple’ Macintoshhowto.com was number one on Google and it stayed there for 2 or 3 years, even beating apple.com which came in second.
I’ve had a total of 18 million page views over that time.
How much money does that bring in via Google ads you may wonder. Here’s the answer.
$18,000 US total income in that time from Google ads. That’s approx US$1000 per year. I have minimal ads on the site and sometimes I get sick of them and turn them off for a while. I think if you worked the system you could probably make double that or more from a site like mine.
Keep in mind the bigger a site gets the more you have to pay to host it. Currently I am paying US$500 per year to run macintohshoto.com at SiteGround.com. I should just about break even this year!
Rise and fall
There was a slow but steady growth in popularity from 2006 till around 2013. You can see this in the Google analytics graph below.
Here’s a close up:
By 2013 ‘how to sites’ began to be seen as illegitimate sites. Everyone was making them to bring in traffic and make money from ads. Google also fiddled with their analytics algorithm which stopped sending traffic here. One of the biggest changes came quite suddenly in 2012 and then again in 2013. I wrote an article about this here: Google rankings. This is around the time that ‘Read more’ buttons started appearing mid article – to let Google know a person was interested.
Here’s a more recent graph:
Lots of other ‘Macintosh how to’ sites started appearing and copying my articles. Some of them just took my top 10 articles and duplicated them in their own wording. Some of them copied my articles word for word. And some of them even used my exact pictures! The first few times I lodged an objection to Google and they were removed from Google but there were so many I just gave up. I guess plagiarism is the best form of flattery! And if what they are saying is good (which it is because it’s mostly copied from here) then it’s still helping people.
So currently I’m still writing a new article when I need to remember something myself, or discover something exciting!
What else comes from owning a popular website?
It’s nice to get feedback from people saying the’ve been helped. Especially when it’s saved their family photos, helps wit a lost assignment or something like that.
I get an email almost every month asking me for a sponsored article with a to someone’s site. They want to pay me to write a review that links to their product. I used to reply with a reason why, but not I just ignore them. So a lot of this must go on. That’s a bit annoying!
If you have an article you’d like written send me a note to email@example.com.