At no other time in history have people enjoyed such freedom to express their ideas to the world. It takes more than two hands (and two feet, for that matter) to count all the platforms now available to share a thought, opinion, update, or nugget of advice — and that photo, of course.
But such saturation poses a problem for many publishers.
While social media can spread your content to the masses, the millions upon millions of thoughts and ideas filling the space make it difficult to ensure content is reaching its intended audience. It has left some publishers struggling to raise their voices above the noise.
Marketing’s Golden Rule
This is why many publishers must now monetize their websites, and they must do it without losing sight of their readers. Your site should provide a seamless user experience while still adding value to marketers and brands.
Creating valuable, long-lasting relationships with an audience helps. To drive traffic to your site, you must learn from your readers, connect with them, and deliver content they want and need.
Some publishers have already mastered the tactic. Since launching in 2011, digital publishing company, Render Media, has accelerated at a quick clip. It uses socially engaging content to inform, empower and give a voice to its audience through four content destinations: Opposing Views, America Now, Cooking Panda and Watch This.
The strategy has paid off. Render Media has an estimated 28 million unique monthly views, 14 million Facebook fans, and 3 million Vine followers — with 70 percent of its traffic coming from mobile users.
Tactics for Today
Although some of the finer points will vary by publisher, there are a few tactics you should start using today to monetize content:
1. Understand Your Target Audience
Content is a highly competitive industry. Thousands of content creators are vying for the same eyes you are, so choosing to write about any old topic leaves a lot to chance.
Try to put a finger on the reasons your intended audience is consuming your content. Is it to be educated or entertained? What about the emotional connection to the content?
Determine how readers are consuming your content. What devices do they use? How does your content translate on those devices? What’s more, is this their first time visiting your site, or have they interacted with you before?
As you start to recognize their motivation and behavior, you can better tailor content to resonate with your readers. You can tweak the topics, improve the quality, increase engagement, and differentiate yourself from the competition.
2. Embrace Native Advertising
Unlike banner or pop-up ads, native advertising doesn’t disrupt the user experience. It works seamlessly into the platform, looking and feeling a lot like the natural content itself.
As of 2013, 73 percent of online publishers offered native ads to brands. To keep up with reader behavior, a number of publishers have established content studios to create the content for these ads.
Look for ways to supplement original content with native ads. In-feed ads are one option, displaying an ad in story form that offers useful information and is similar in context to the original content surrounding it.
You can also offer paid search ads, where that same advertorial appears alongside other organic search results. Another option is recommendation units: At the end of the original content, suggest to a reader that he might find the native ad of interest.
3. Leverage Technology
As new mediums for content delivery are developed, publishers must embrace new ways to monetize their sites. Adopt new technology to add to the user’s experience with your content.
How would a user consume your content on an Apple Watch, for example? People already use it to read emails. Can the same be true for content? Find ways to deliver and translate content to users on any device.
4. Test, Test and Test Again
Experiment with everything to optimize your content. Test headlines, creatives, content type, keywords and publishing times. You can even test different platforms to determine which network provides the best performance.
Testing and then adjusting your content can have a huge impact on your readership. In fact, something as seemingly insignificant as a new headline can mean the difference between 1,000 and 1 million readers.
If resources are limited, conduct a little A/B testing. Publish the same article with two different headlines or images. After a while, look back at the click-through rates and shares. Then, refine from there to maximize engagement.
Your mission should always be to empower the freedom of ideas and idea discovery in a world where likes on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest dominate the media landscape. Turn your attention to tactics to monetize content. If it’s not about the reader first and foremost, you risk losing your audience.