For anyone in the publishing industry, it is no secret that focusing on audience acquisition and content creation while simultaneously reaching business goals can be quite tricky. You can’t avoid using your traffic assets, but before you monetize, you should understand the long-term costs associated with different monetization methods.
Are you taking maximum advantage of your website?
If you are reading this, you probably suspect you are not. Few websites make the most of their digital “real estate”. Most site owners either do not attempt to monetize their website, lack the right tactics to do so or end up with a sub-optimal user experience that discourages monetization in the long run.
How can you maximize the value of your website for both your visitors and your revenue stream?
Types of monetization
Since the late 1990s, the question of monetization has been raised time and time again – and various solutions have tried to answer it. These answers can be generally grouped into three types of monetization models:
Donations, merchandise and affiliate marketing are known to work only in very specific circumstances, can be difficult to scale and do not generally yield large and consistent benefits. However, solutions such as paywalls, sponsored content and other advertising are easy to scale and, if done right, an important revenue stream for any type of industry.
What is it? A paywall represents a method that allows access to content specifically to those who pay for it, either via a one-time payment or through a paid digital subscription, and restricts access to those who do not.
In order for a paywall to be its most successful, you need to deliver value, have enough brand authority and an audience who can afford and are willing to pay for this commitment.
Who is it for? With various paywall methods (tiered, metered/soft, hard), media websites like The Financial Times or The New York Times have a moderate level of success that allows them to supplement advertising revenue.
In addition, paid subscriptions are widely used for a variety of digital offerings. Video and audio streaming, gaming, courses and more make healthy profits through monthly subscriptions.
What is it? Sponsored content, also known as native or branded content, consists of paid content designed to have the same look and feel as regular content. In fact, sponsored content is most often developed with — or at least approved by — the website content team, to ensure smooth and frictionless integration.
The distinctive feature (and advantage) of this type of monetization is that, if done right, it is not only unobtrusive but also useful to your visitors.
Who is it for? Sponsored content works best on websites that regularly publish content (articles, news, blogs, reviews, etc.). Example: An insurer may publish an article about “10 things you need to do before traveling to Greece” on a traveling website. For website visitors, all 10 things might add value; for the insurer, one out of 10 (international traveling insurance) may generate revenue.
Advertising: video ads, content recommendation widgets, banners and display ads
What is it? Video ads, recommendation widgets, banners and display ads are advertising formats. As such, they need to be well integrated, so as to encourage click-through behavior but not affect user experience.
Who is it for? If you have a large enough daily visitor count — and enough content to drive retention — these types of advertising are some of the most reliable and scalable sources of monetization.
To give these formats the best chance and grow your monetization capabilities, you need to bear in mind three essential elements:
- Placement. Is the ad placed in a visible enough place to encourage clicks, yet unobtrusive enough to not disrupt your visitors’ on-page experience? Smartly placed native ads are more efficient.
- Relevance. Is the content of the ad relevant to the on-page content? Will it be interesting for your audience and preserve the unity of tone and message?
- Design. Is the ad format well integrated into the page design? Disruptive experiences lead to discontented visitors: auto-playing video ads, for instance, or widgets designed in a completely different style from the native environment will lead to poor user experience.
The most effective solution is usually by running a combination of formats. A video ad unit + content recommendation widget + banner, for example, can create a seamless thread across the page and gives the advertiser several opportunities to engage with the visitor.
The challenge here is to find the right balance between content and advertising, from the point of view of both user engagement and efficiency of on-page placement. What works most effectively is to run unobtrusive ads that do not interfere with user experience.
The “rules of engagement” for monetizing your website can, in fact, be summarized into four key principles:
Know your audience. You must define who your readers are and what value exchange you can offer them. Demographics, industry and consumer habits are key to understanding which type of monetization works best in your case.
Offer value. High-quality, unique and sought-after content attracts better audiences and advertising partners. This brings more traffic to you and drives clicks and engagement to partner sites.
Offer a great user experience. In the end, you need to bring visitors to your site and keep them engaged. For that, optimized pages are essential. Declutter your website so your visitors can find value quickly and without friction.
The rules of monetization are, in fact, no different from the rules of building a great website: find the best way to bring visitors over – and then give them the best value in exchange for their clicks and attention.