As a publisher, your first goal should be to create a website that encourages visitors to discover and consume your content, creating a loyalty that will keep them coming back for more. Once this goal is met, the aim to create a sustainable business through content monetization and continual optimization of the revenue streams to ensure predictability and a positive ROI are key. In this post, we will look at five ways you can monetize your website without interrupting the reader engagement.
Prioritize your reader engagement needs first.
Your first task is to decide how you would like your readers to engage with your content. There are myriad paths you can lead the reader to take – all to satisfy various parts of your business strategy. Examples of this could be article discovery (i.e. to click through to trigger more pages per visit), “read more” links (i.e. to ensure bounce rate is decreased by having your reader stay longer and dive deeper into your article) and social goals (i.e. assisting with the virality of your content by sharing it or commenting). In any of these cases, it becomes an issue of your article page architecture and how you want to direct your readers in a natural flow.
Let’s say that you want to receive an abundance of comments on each of your articles, but still provide monetization paths as an alternate reader option. We’ve seen clever implementations that take all of this in to account, most notably on CNN.com’s page architectures. They utilize three large areas of sponsored content between their article and comment section. Serious commenters who want their voice heard can click on the “Add Comment” button or the comment bubble showing the number of comments to skip the ads and get straight to the engagement area.
Casual readers have the option to scan potential ads before reading comments. This provides CafeMom the best of both worlds – social virality and/or monetization.
Other areas of reader engagement to highlight and draw reader attention to on their discovery paths within your article pages include the following:
- If you want visitors to subscribe to your mailing list, like your Facebook page, or follow you on Twitter, you will want these options to be near the top of your sidebar, above advertisements.
- If you want visitors to subscribe to a paid content membership, you will want that option at the end of each article and above ads, especially since a paid content membership will result in more revenue for your publication than a click on a third-party link.
- If you want people to share your articles on social networks, you will need to incorporate social sharing buttons into your article template that stand out above ads.
Use an “incentive article” strategy if you monetize via paywalls.
Article virality across the social web is a critical component to reader discovery. It’s free advertising (assuming your content is engaging and enticing enough to be clicked through to). A great example of this strategy is Elephant Journal, a publication that publishes on topics from yoga to sustainability to spirituality and on to politics. They utilize very specific methods of social targeting for their publications, leveraging primarily Facebook’s targeting systems. This puts content directly into the feeds of those with the highest proclivity to engage with it.
Upon clicking the sponsored post, landing on their website and consuming the article for free, the architecture of their website leads readers to discover more similar content. They’ve optimized their page layout in a way that is progressive and atypical; small banner ads on the left rail, all category pages with impulsive thumbnails and brief teaser titled. The reader is inspired to go deeper for more allowing three complete articles to be read per day even if no sign up action is taken.
Don’t let non-relevant ads disrupt content.
When people truly engage with a piece of content, they don’t want to be interrupted. Or worse, they don’t want to be confused by something they thought was part of the content, only to find out it was an ad interstitially placed between paragraphs of content, masked to feel and resemble content. Placing ad units in between sections of your content can be wrought with risk leaving distaste in the palette of your reader. Here’s a prime example:
This can be confusing to your reader, breaking their concentration on your content, and potentially turning them into a bounce visit from your website. This is why it’s better to monetize with relevant, in-content links instead and consistently analyze your audience’s behavior.
Keep your page load time as low as possible.
If your website uses multiple advertising platforms to deliver ads, another thing that could interfere with your reader’s experience is page load time. The more scripts your website has to load, the more time it will take to load and the greater the dissatisfaction of the reader. Free testing tools such as WebPageTest can give you an overall score as well as a breakdown of exactly what slows down your website.
While some entries in logs like the one above seem small, you have to consider how they add up with hundreds of different elements loading on your home page or individual article pages. Consumer statistics show that 47% expect websites to load in 2 seconds or less, 40% abandon a website that doesn’t load within 3 seconds, and 52% state that quick page loading is important to their loyalty to a site. So unless your content is that above excellent, you will want to make sure your website loads as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you won’t have visitors stick around on your website long enough to click on the ads in the first place.
Avoid using popups.
Popup advertisements are the most invasive types of disruption a reader can encounter while consuming content. In addition to interrupting your reader’s experience, it is also against the rules if you are driving traffic to your website using platforms like Google AdWords. You should note that any type of popup drives readers mad, from ads to opt-ins to Facebook “like my page” invitations.
Moreover is the issue with cross-device experience issues. Even if the popup works as designed for those browsing your website on their desktop, you also have to consider mobile users who will have a harder time getting to close these popups(assuming you are not utilizing a responsive or mobile-ready version of your content). So if you are determined to use any form of popups on your main website, be sure to test your mobile version for a good user experience and ensure you are in compliance with your advertising partners.
If you follow these five best practices, you will have a website that is optimized to generate revenue without driving away your readers. Remember that without readers, you won’t have anyone to click on your ads in the first place.