Brands enlist content to drive awareness within their industry, acquire prospective clients that are researching online, and are using content to drive retention by assisting customers to be successful with their products or services. The challenge with a brand utilizing content is overcoming the hesitation associated with a prospect or customer seeing the content purely to drive revenue (which is what it’s for).
Your branded content is going to always be biased toward your brand, providing an opportunity in the marketplace for third-party sites that may be more balanced in the content they produce. Martech Zone is exactly this – while we definitely promote some platforms, and we have disclosed relationships to promote others, we strive to be vendor agnostic overall. I’ve never really believed in a best solution for any business – most businesses have resource constraints and customized processes that require them to analyze their processes to find the best fit for them.
How Content Creators Monetize Their Work
A good friend contacted me this week and said that he had a relative that had a site that was getting significant traffic and they wanted to see if there were a means of monetizing the audience. The short answer is yes… but I don’t believe the majority of small publishers recognize the opportunity or how to maximize the profitability of the property they own.
I want to start with the pennies… then work into the larger opportunities. Keep in mind that this isn’t all about monetizing a blog. It could be any digital property – like a large email subscriber list, a very large YouTube subscriber base, a podcast, or a digital publication. Social channels don’t fair as well as they’re mainly seen as owned by the platform rather than the account that collected the following.
- Pay Per Click Advertising – many years ago, a presentation I watched at an event called running publishing ads was webmaster welfare. While it’s the easiest system to implement – just putting some scripts on your page, the pennies you make with each click have the lowest yield. Some systems, like Google’s Adsense platform, are even intelligent enough to find and optimize your site by placing the ads without any need for placeholders on your site. There is an opportunity here to make money but you balance destroying your user experience if your site is virtually impossible to experience without ads everywhere.
- Custom Ad Networks – advertising networks often reach out to us because they’d love to have the ad inventory that a site this size could provide. If I were a general consumer site, I might jump at this opportunity. The ads are rife with click-bait and terrible ads (I recently noticed a toe fungus ad on another site). I turn these networks down all of the time because they often don’t have relevant advertisers that are complimentary to our content and audience. Am I giving up funds? Sure… but I continue to grow an incredible audience that’s engaged and responsive to our advertising.
- Affiliate Ads – Some businesses run their own affiliate platform or have joined centralized platforms like Partnerstack. Affiliate advertising is typically a share of the revenue that your site produces by referring the visitor through a custom, trackable link. Be sure to always disclose using them in your content – not disclosing can violate federal regulations in the United States and beyond. I like these systems because I’m often writing about a particular topic – then I figure out that they have an affiliate program that I can apply for. Why wouldn’t I use an affiliate link instead of a direct link?
- Direct Ads – by managing your advertising inventory and optimizing your own pricing, you can utilize a marketplace platform where you can have a direct relationship with your advertisers and work to ensure their success while maximizing your revenue. You can typically set flat monthly pricing, a cost per impression, or a cost per click on these platforms. These systems also allow you backup advertisements like Google Adsense when no direct advertiser is available. They also allow house ads where you can use affiliate ads as a backup as well.
- Revenue Share – While many of the above platforms require you to manage them day to day, there are some amazing systems that have emerged in the marketplace. One is Ezoic, which I’m now using on Martech Zone. Ezoic has a comprehensive solution where they work to increase your site’s monetization through ads, help you analyze your site to improve its performance and provide you with a ton of tools to increase the advertising yield of your site. I’ve only been running the system for a month or so but I’m already seeing my revenue increase to about 3x right now with a potential of over 10x.
- Native Advertising – This one makes me cringe a bit. Getting paid to publish an entire article, podcast, or presentation, to make it appear like other content you’re producing just seems downright dishonest. As you’re growing your influence, authority, and trust, you’re growing the value of your digital property. When you disguise that property and trick businesses or consumers into a purchase – you’re putting everything you worked so hard to create at risk.
- Paid Links – As your content gains search engine prominence, you’re going to be targeted by SEO companies who wish to backlink on your site. They may flat out ask you how much to place a link. Or they may tell you that they just want to write an article and they’re big fans of your site. They’re lying, and they’re putting you at huge risk. They’re asking you to violate the Search Engine’s terms of service and may even be asking you to violate federal regulations by not disclosing the monetary relationship. As an alternative, you can monetize your links through a link monetization engine like VigLink. They offer the opportunity to fully disclose the relationship.
- Influence – If you’re a well-known individual in your industry, you may be sought out by influencer platforms and public relations companies to help them pitch their products and services via articles, social media updates, webinars, public speeches, podcasts, and more. Influencer marketing can be quite lucrative but keep in mind that it only lasts as long as you can influence sales – not just reach. And again, be sure to disclose those relationships. Unfortunately, this is another industry that’s rife with trust issues since many influencers don’t disclose their financial relationships.
- Partnerships – Developing programs with advertisers directly can drive far more revenue than the above opportunities. We often work with companies to develop ongoing campaigns that may include webinars, podcasts, infographics, and whitepapers in addition to CTAs that we publish through the house ad slots. The advantage here is that we can maximize the impact on the advertiser and use every tool we have to drive value for the cost of the sponsorship.
- Referrals – All methods thus far can be fixed or low pricing. Imagine sending a visitor to a site, and they purchase a $50,000 item, and you made $100 for displaying the call-to-action or $5 (or $0.05) for the click-through. If instead, you negotiated a 15% commission for the purchase, you could have made $7,500 for that single purchase. Referrals are tricky because you need to track the lead through to conversion – typically requiring a landing page with source reference that pushes the record to a CRM on to conversion. If it’s a large engagement, it may also take months to close… but still worthwhile.
- Membership – Having levels of membership is quite fruitful for many content creators. There’s public content that’s shared with all, but more valuable client is available behind paid memberships. When customers see value in the content they’re getting at no cost, getting them to subscribe for more valuable content is definitely a possibility. I have a lot of respect for content creators that are able to balance providing a
- Sell Products – While advertising can produce some revenue and consulting can produce significant revenue, both are only there as long as the client is. This can be a roller coaster of ups and downs as advertisers, sponsors, and clients come and go. It’s why many publishers turn to sell their own products. As a content creator, you may want to develop a course or in-depth publication that your visitors purchase.
- Whitelabel Products – You’d be amazed at the amount of software platforms, courses, products, and even services that you can brand as your own and sell directly to customers. Whitelabeling is a growing industry and can be a lucrative one if you’ve already got the audience in place that are interested in the products and services that are offered. Martech Zone has dabbled in this, but being vendor agnostic and then selling a solution could be a conflict my audience doesn’t appreciate.
- Events – You’ve built an engaged audience that is receptive to your offerings… so why not develop world-class events that turn your avid audience into a raving community. Events offer much larger opportunities to monetize your audience as well as drive significant sponsorship opportunities. In fact, I believe this is the most lucrative revenue opportunity despite the investment needed. I’ve personally run a few events and it’s just not my specialty so you won’t see a Martech Zone conference anytime soon. I know I’m giving up some revenue by doing this, but I just don’t enjoy the stress of running events.
- Consulting – As a content creator, you’ve built deep expertise in your area of focus. People are already seeking out your content… so there’s always the opportunity to drive revenue by working with businesses and individuals personally. Martech Zone has been a core to my agencies over the years, driving millions of dollars in consultation revenue as companies are looking to transform their businesses digitally. I’ve also helped research acquisitions, assisted platforms to enhance their offerings, and even partnered in building solutions.
Sell It All!
More and more viable digital properties are being purchased outright by digital publishers. Purchasing your property enables buyers to increase their reach and get more network share for their advertisers. To do this, you need to grow your readership, your retention, your email subscription list, and your organic search traffic. Buying traffic may be an option for you via search or social – as long as you’re retaining a good portion of that traffic.
I’ve had a couple of companies come to me and speak to me about acquiring Martech Zone and I’ve been impressed with the offers, but they didn’t seem worthwhile for the amount of work that I’ve done here. Perhaps that will change as I’m nearing retirement… for now, you’re stuck with me, though!
Disclosure: Martech Zone is using affiliate links in this article.