Robert Stevens, CEO

Utah, USA
WriteExpress WriteExpress
Sorting through hundreds of letters

In 1995, after eight years of programming at a large word processor company, Robert John Stevens teamed up with BYU linguistic professor Melvin J. Luthy, PhD to create the ultimate software writing tool at WriteExpress. "I collected every prewritten letter I could find," Robert explains. "I sorted them into 500 topics, stripped them down to their skeletons and then hired dozens of professional writers to create fresh, unique letters, helpful writing tips, useful steps, and example phrases and sentences." With Luthy's expert editing from his kitchen table, they created thousands of letter-writing templates to help people communicate more effectively and packaged their content as a standalone app and as add-ons for popular word processors.

Robert began to sell their software online, and when Google Ads (then called AdWords) launched he purchased pay-per-click advertising to drive traffic to their site and increase sales. "We often spent $20,000 to $30,000 each month on AdWords. It was great but as competition increased so did the cost of advertising per sale," said Robert. "More and more people expected to find free templates online."

Discovering AdSense

To help cover some of the advertising costs, one of Robert's employees suggested they use Google AdSense to increase revenue. "He told me thousands of daily visitors were exiting without purchasing, and suggested we use Google AdSense to earn some money from our traffic," Robert recalls. As competition for template websites grew, Robert and his team found themselves in a circular marketing process that eventually became unsustainable.

Immediately, Robert began to revisit and re-think his business model. "An idea flashed in my head," he says. "We could pivot from a paid model that sold software and required an AdWords marketing budget to a free model by publishing all our content for free and earning money from AdSense ads."

“AdSense allowed us to put our content online for free, and help hundreds of millions of people communicate effectively. Few English teachers ever had so much influence.”
From left to right Robert, his wife Suzanne, Mel's wife Anne, and Mel at Robert and Suzanne's wedding in 1989.
Re-building his business

Though making the decision to leap to an ad-supported model was gutsy, Robert proved he could search engine optimize (SEO) his website pages for increased traffic, and knew AdSense already delivered revenue for his business so decided to make a big bet on it. "We chose to stick with AdSense and within a short amount of time, we were generating thousands per week in ad revenue," Robert recalls. "Seeing instant success was a joyful moment for me–like the Back to the Future scene where Marty McFly's siblings reappeared in his family's picture. I knew then we were back in business. We've now earned more than a million dollars in lifetime ad revenue from AdSense." With his earnings, Robert supported his family of nine, and funded new software ideas.

Though he's thrilled the business model worked, Robert is most happy the increased traffic helped more people. "AdSense allowed us to put our content online for free, and help hundreds of millions of people communicate effectively," he highlights. "Few English teachers ever had so much influence."

While AdSense revenues from WriteExpress.com and Rhymer.com are below their peak, Robert still uses the few thousand dollars he earns each month to help fund his new entrepreneurial ideas. "Overall, AdSense has been wonderful for us," says Robert. "Though I've had my ups and downs in this business it's been an amazing journey and I'm proud of our writers and editors."

About the Publisher

Robert Stevens has 30+ years experience leading software engineering teams in hands-on roles and is the inventor of those lists that appear when you type (Google incremental search Robert John Stevens). He completed his M.S. Computer Science coursework (all but thesis) with emphases in AI, computer graphics and networking. Before joining the Brigham Young University faculty, Melvin Luthy taught at Indiana University and Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. He produced the linguistic content for the WriteExpress Rhymer and Phonetic Finder, and was the main editor for Easy Letters, 3,001 Business & Sales Letters and and 4,001 Business, Sales & Personal Letters.
About the author