Whether you’re in the early stages of growing web revenues for your publishing business or have had success growing them to significant heights, you’ve probably experienced or will eventually experience growing pains. At some point, that previous spurt of web revenue will hit a plateau, and you’ll find it challenging to develop the next breakthrough, to unlock greater revenues.
Publishers, meanwhile, have tended to earn via these three main revenue streams:
- Ad revenues
- Affiliate offers
Yet, while savvy publishers like BuzzFeed and Business Insider have actually earned by using a combination of all three, for a long time, it’s been no easy task to further increase web revenues for any of these categories . . . until today.
Below are three secrets to send those web revenues of yours surging to that next level that has eluded you:
1. Get serious about ad optimization.
For those of you who are running display ads on your websites to monetize your traffic, life used to be good. About ten years ago, the only ad revenue that made sense was Google AdSense. You could simply slap AdSense codes onto your page and earn passive income from your traffic, with very little management. Google had a monopoly over the display-advertising market, and as a result, there wasn’t much of a reason for publishers to consider other revenue sources.
Times have certainly changed. Not only is AdSense becoming a thing of the past, with Google’s improved product, DoubleClick Ad Exchange, but the display-ad industry has become dramatically more competitive. Now, Google is competing against Facebook, Amazon, AOL, OpenX, AppNexus, Index Exchange and other serious ad networks. Advertisers are no longer solely going to Google for media buying, but spreading their buys across many other ad networks. In short, Google has lost its monopoly over the online advertising industry.
What does this mean for you? You can’t get away with running just Google AdSense within your ad inventory, because you would be leaving significant money on the table. If you’re earning above $1,000 per month, you should make the jump from AdSense to DoubleClick Ad Exchange. If you’re earning over $5,000 per month, you should implement an ad server so that you can begin competing with other ad networks against Google.
There are many ad servers to choose from, but one is clearly above the rest. The most experienced and successful publishers use DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). It’s a Google product that is free for up to 90 million non-Google ad impressions. It enables you to increase and diversify your ad revenues by competing against other ad networks against Google within the DFP platform. This is the first major step publishers have been taking toward increasing their ad revenues.
If you’re earning over $25,000 per month in ad revenues, then you are most likely leaving a large pile of ad revenues on the table by lacking an ad-optimization strategy. This is where you need to make a serious choice: to partner or to go in-house. You can either team with a company that specializes in ad optimization and technology, or you can build an internal team and technology.
If you’re planning to go in house, make sure you’re ready to invest hundreds of thousands in salaries and development of ad tech with a time line over 12 months. That initial investment does sound a bit intimidating; however, there are some great tools that will make running an in-house ad operation (ad ops) team much easier:
- PubGuru: A platform that will enable DIY ad optimization via unified reporting, a header bid ad server, DFP implementation wizard and free tools.
- Prebid: An open-source header-wrapper technology that enables publishers to have ad networks compete against one other in real time.
- MonetizePros Consultants: If you’re not sure where to get started with ad optimization or even how to implement DFP, the company can get you on the right track.
If you’re planning to partner with a company to focus on your ad operations, you have many options to choose from and important things to consider. One of the key things is to avoid giving up control of your ad inventory, and to make sure you get full transparency of your statistics. You should also conduct A/B testing to determine which ad partner earns your sites the highest ad revenues.
We have seen many publisher ad-inventory setups and the performance of several ad-operations partner companies. We have been most impressed with MonetizeMore based on its transparency, open-tech setup and consistently strong ad-revenue performance.
2. Move from pushing affiliate offers to building your own offers.
Many web publishers have done well building niche sites that provide unique value to users via content that resonates; they then refer high-quality products that have a higher chance of converting with that audience. An example: a fitness site promoting health products.
Most publishers have to take a riskier affiliate strategy of buying traffic and sending it to landing pages with affiliate offers. If the conversion rates are high enough, a profit stream will be born. However, with the fluctuation of media-buying prices and conversion rates, it can be tough to stay profitable, especially with the small conversion rates we’re seeing in digital advertising funnels.
Therein lies the opportunity! The companies that own these affiliate offers are getting the major portion of the sales margins while you’re breaking your back trying to convince users to buy them. So, there is no reason why you can’t create your own affiliate offers.
What does this mean? You can create your own online products, as well. Some are obviously tougher than others, but below are some examples of online products that you can realistically build and get the full margin on:
- Information products (e.g., ebooks, content subscriptions, video courses)
- Business-to-business (Offer the service yourself)
Thinking outside the box and making these strategic shifts can do wonders for your profit margins. You will also realize greater revenue opportunities because you’ll be cutting out the middle men and working directly with the product/service. Don’t hold back when you can work more closely with the source of your revenue!
3. Build new ecommerce sales channels.
For those of you who have your own ecommerce sites, you know there are many potential sales channels. Organic search traffic is an important one, but tends to be quite competitive and more of a long-term play. Paid traffic through Facebook and AdWords is another channel with great opportunity. However, with high cost-per-click prices, your margins can get quite low.
Most ecommerce sites already utilize social media, niche forums and PR; however, there is a greater opportunity with channels that are less traditional because there’s less competition. Thinking “different” and going after untapped channels can produce greater spikes than those from conventional channels. Some examples:
- Amazon FBA, Walmart.com and Aliexpress: Why not tap into some of the largest online marketplaces in the world?
- Affiliate Program: This can be done in-house or outsourced to an affiliate network like Commission Junction.
- Bundle with other retailers: You can partner with other relevant retailers with complementary products or services and offer bundling options for discounts.
- Coupons: Offer discount coupons and promote them on some of the largest coupon sites, like Retail Me Not.
By combining iterating your current sales channels and exploring untapped areas, you’ll likely see your ecommerce business experience some major revenue surges!
There you have it: You can increase your web revenue growth with each of the three strategies. Some websites can successfully run ecommerce, affiliate and display-ad revenue streams on the same site. Just make sure you have the proper resources to consistently optimize each channel. Now . . . go ahead and start these strategies to see those web revenues surge!
by Thomas Smale