How to Monetize Your Website Without Destroying Your User Experience

How to Monetize Your Website Without Destroying Your User Experience

If you have a website that publishes content, you know there’s one thing that’s super important… monetizing your traffic.

You’ve poured tons of time and effort into creating a great site, and there’s nothing better than turning all that hard work into cash.

But monetizing your site isn’t as easy as it might seem at first. To get the most out of it, you’ll need to utilize some solid strategies.

Strategies for Monetizing Traffic to Your Website

There are a lot of ways to monetize your website. I’ll explain a few of the most common ones below. But first, let’s talk about traffic:

The More Traffic You Have, the Easier It Will Be to Monetize Your Site.

Some of the common ways to monetize a website (like running ads) won’t necessarily be worth it until you have a certain amount of traffic.

There are still ways you can monetize a website that doesn’t get much traffic. For example, you could use the audience you already have to launch a business (like coaching or freelance writing) based around your site. You could also sell products to your existing audience.

However, with more site visitors, you’ll have more options.

How do you build traffic to your website? There are tons of strategies you can use. Write an ebook, hold a webinar, grow your email list, improve your SEO…  basically anything to help people find you and get them interested in your content.

Monetizing Your Site

Once you’ve built up an audience for your website, here are just a few of the techniques you can use to monetize your traffic.

Paid Memberships or Paywalls

The simplest way to monetize your website is asking people to pay for your content.

Because there’s so much free stuff on the internet, people are hesitant to pay for content. However, if your brand is strong enough, your audience might be willing to pay. Many major news publishers offer only a few free articles and keep the rest of their websites behind a paywall. Here’s what that looks like at the Harvard Business Review:

For bloggers and marketers, a more common approach is a tiered membership system, where most of the content on the website is free, but some is members-only.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing means using affiliate links to refer people to other websites. When people buy products from those sites, you’ll get a cut of the sale.

If you’re using affiliate links on your site, you should let people know that. Try to only recommend products you think your audience will like.

There are tons of companies out there with affiliate programs. Amazon has one of the most popular ones.

Sponsored Posts

A third way to monetize traffic is by doing sponsored posts for brands. Companies might contact you asking you to write a post promoting them, with a link to their site. This is sometimes called native advertising.

Here’s an example of a sponsored post from HR Magazine:

Display Ads

Finally, one of the most common ways to monetize your website is by using display ads.

Display ads are extremely popular and show up on almost every website in the header, sidebars, and other places. In fact, the Google Display Network reaches 90% of internet users around the world. By using display ads, you can “rent out” space on your site to advertisers.

Here’s an example of what display ads look like from Speedtest.net:

Display ads are an easy way to monetize traffic. But to get the most out of them, you have to optimize them.

To do this, you have to understand how display advertising works, and which types of ads work best. Ads can be annoying to users if you implement them wrong.

Read on to learn about how to earn more from display ads without destroying your user experience.

What Type of Ads Should I Use to Bring in Revenue?

First, let’s talk about the types of display ads that are out there. There are a lot of different formats for ads. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has guidelines for ad sizes and specifications.

Here are a few kinds of display ads you might see on publisher websites:

Static Ads vs. Animated Ads

Static ads are the simplest and most traditional kind of display ads. A static ad is a picture, and that’s it.

An animated display ad is usually made up of 2-3 static images, which display one after the other.

These types of ads are sometimes called banner ads, and they come in a variety of different formats. You may have heard terms like “leaderboard”, “skyscraper”, “square”, “full banner”, or “half-page”: these are all different sizes for display ads.

Google has a guide showing some of the most common ad sizes (in pixels) for both mobile and desktop.

Video Ads

Another type of display ad is a video ad.

You may think of a video ad as something that shows up on YouTube, but Google video ads also appear on publisher websites if they are Google video partners.

Video ads may be embedded within content or displayed on the side of the page.

Lightbox Ads

Lightbox ads respond when users engage with them. When people tap or hover over the ad, it expands or displays a video. Advertisers only pay when people engage with their ads.

Responsive Display Ads

Responsive display ads adjust their appearance to fit different ad spaces.

Advertisers can upload a bunch of assets (videos, images, logos, or headlines), and the ad network automatically chooses a combination of these to fit different ad slots.

Retargeted Ads

Ever looked at a website, and then seen ads for that same website a few hours later as you were browsing online?

You can thank retargeting (also known as remarketing) for that.

Retargeting lets advertisers show their ads to people who have already interacted with their website in some way, or who have signed up for their email list.

Native Ads

The term native ad means an ad that blends into the content surrounding it, making users more likely to click.

While you may think of a native ad as a sponsored post or advertorial, display ads may also be called native ads when they are optimized to match the surrounding content.

Here’s a screenshot (from The Independent) of what a native ad looks like. It looks like an article, but note the “sponsored” label at the bottom:

Which Type of Ads Should I Run?

As you can see, there are a lot of different types of ads to choose from. Which kinds should you run on your website?

As a publisher, it’s in your best interest to run ads in a way that will make them perform well. You want to get people clicking, so you can earn those advertising dollars.

But you also don’t want to ruin your user experience. Running too many invasive ads can have a bad impact on your site: it can slow down your page loading speed, potentially tank your SEO, and send your readers running for the hills.

So how can you know which ads will work best? Basically, you should be testing your ads, and you need to be using the right tools.

Read on for more tips on how to get the best possible ad experience for your website.

Tips for Optimizing Your Website’s Ad Experience

To effectively monetize traffic, you’ll want to improve the ad experience that users have on your website.

Here are a few different ways you can do that:

Optimize for Web and Mobile

Users are going to be accessing your site from different devices. The ad experience will be different on web and mobile.

Ideally, you’ll want to optimize the ad experience for visitors based on the device they’re using.

Optimize Ad Display

The way that ads are displayed on your site can affect profitability. This includes their size, their location on the page, the type of ad, and whether other ads are present.

Did you know that ads can actually dilute the effectiveness of other ads? If there are too many ads on a single page, each one may be less effective. Don’t assume that just adding more ads will lead to higher revenue.

Serve Users a Unique and Custom Ad Experience

Advertisers treat every visitor differently, serving them different ads depending on their preferences.

Yet most publishers treat every user the same.

Customizing your ad experience depending on the user could lead you to get better results. You can do this with the help of automated website monetization software (more on that below).

Importance of A/B Testing Your Ads for a Seamless User Experience

When optimizing your ad experience, A/B testing has its benefits, but it may actually decrease ad rates.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is exactly what it sounds like: running a test where you compare two versions of something side by side (Version A against Version B), to see which one gets better results.

A/B testing will give you some hard evidence about which types of ads you should use. However, it’s not going to appease everyone. The limitations with A/B testing means that you’ll never be able to satisfy the B-side visitors

How Do I Run an A/B Test?

To run an A/B test, you should compare one variable that you can control as a publisher (for example, ad type or content position) with one that you can’t control (such as traffic source).

This will allow you to see which ad content performs better across traffic sources, devices, times of day, etc.

Which Ad Elements Should I Test?

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of variables you can test for when running your A/B tests. Some of these you can control, while others you can’t.

Ad Placement

One important variable to test for is ad placement. This has to do with where your ad is located on the page… is it at the top, at the bottom, in the sidebar, or within the content? Ad placement affects your ad’s visibility to users.

Image Size

Another variable is image size. Obviously, larger ads will be more visible on the page. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will perform better. Remember, it’s all about the user experience.

Traffic Source

Which source of traffic is generating the most ad clicks? Optimizing for the source can help you monetize your traffic better, by understanding which traffic is most valuable to you. Maybe it would be worth it to invest more in certain paid traffic sources, or maybe you need to go all-in on your SEO.

Ad Color

This one is pretty self-explanatory… what color are your ads? Should you be aiming to make them blend in, or stand out?

Color psychology can have an impact on conversion rate, so this is actually a more important factor than you might think.

Density

How densely packed are your ads on the page? We already discussed how ads can dilute each other, so ad density can be a key factor to look into.

Location Targeting

Are you making use of location targeting to show users ads that are relevant for their local region?

Ad Network

A final variable you can optimize for is ad network. Different ad networks may be paying you less or more for certain ads.

Tools for Testing Ads

There are a lot of different tools you can use for testing ads. I’ll quickly run through some of the most popular ones, and then I’ll let you know about my secret weapon that I use for monetizing traffic.

Google Optimize

If you want a simple tool for running A/B tests, you can use Google Optimize.

The upside is that Google Optimize is free. The downside is that you’ll have to do everything manually, which takes forever.

Basically, you can go into Google Optimize and connect it with your Google Analytics account. You’ll then need to enter the information for each experiment you want to run.

Optimizely

There are also some paid ad optimization platforms you can use. Optimizely is one example, which is fairly popular in the industry.

However, I’m not a big fan of Optimizely, because I don’t find it super intuitive or easy to use.  The free plugin Ad Inserter is an alternative to Optimizely that many marketers like using.

Ezoic

Finally, I want to tell you about my secret weapon: a tool called Ezoic. Ezoic uses multivariate testing to allow the machines to personalize the ad placements/density automatically.

Ezoic is awesome, because it actually allows you to customize your ad experience to what your user wants. This can help you more effectively monetize traffic.

You can use Ezoic to run automated ad tests.

The software uses AI and machine learning to help you optimize your ads, so it makes decisions based on billions of pieces of data. These decisions are more effective than what you could do on your own.

Automating your testing saves tons of time: you can test thousands of variables in minutes. If you tried to do it manually, it could take months.

Ezoic has helped some websites get a 93% increase in total monthly revenue, and an 87% increase in average revenue per session. To me, those are pretty amazing results.

But not only is Ezoic great for revenue, it also helps you optimize your user experience for every single visitor. If your display ads are taking away from user experience, Ezoic will take the ad off the page.

Because of the improved user experience that Ezoic offers, users are likely to spend more time on your site. Companies have actually seen great results with this already.

Simplypsychology.org saw an 84% increased time-on-site after starting with the Ezoic platform.

And Askdavetaylor.com had a 49% increase in pageviews.

You don’t have to just use Ezoic with Adsense. You can use it with any existing ad platforms and get access to thousands of demand partners, helping you make more money faster.

Conclusion

If you’re a publisher, running display ads on your website is a great way to monetize traffic.

But there are tons of different types of ads, and lots of different variables to think about when running them. If you actually want to make money from display ads, you’ll want to make sure they’re optimized for the best possible performance.

Make sure you’re running the right tests, so you can get the most out of your ads.

What did you think about my tips for monetizing your traffic? Have you tried any of the tools I mentioned? Let us know in the comments.

What Data Can You Pull From Cookie Tracking?

What Data Can You Pull From Cookie Tracking?

To a non-marketer, cookie tracking sounds like a scavenger hunt for baked goods.

Sounds innocent, right?

Yet cookies, for all of their sweet-sounding simplicity, have recently come under fire.

With the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), cookies have taken center stage in the fight for internet privacy. This is just one of the latest legal issues facing online marketers today.

Cookies are small text files that collect bits of data about users as they browse the web.

Individually, cookies do not track data about who you are as a person; they simply give information about your web browser and trends. But, when bundled with other relevant cookies, they can be used to create an online “persona” that can predict behaviors and seek out trends in browsing.

This tactic has been dubbed behavioral advertising, and while it offers marketers incredible insights into consumer habits, it can be problematic when used improperly. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a good example of behavioral marketing gone wrong.

That isn’t to say all cookies are bad.

Cookie tracking can be a great way to learn valuable information about who is searching for your product, where they are searching from, and how likely they are to revisit your website.

In fact, cookies are still a strong tool in the marketer’s repertoire, offering detailed insights about the people you are trying to reach.

Ethical cookie tracking is still possible and offers a simple, data-driven way to increase your conversions when used responsibly.

Still unsure? Let’s dive a little deeper.

What is Cookie Tracking?

Cookie tracking helps you collect data on users who visit your pages.

On the consumer side, they are useful for things like online shopping, where your cart information will be stored even if you exit your web browser.

For marketers, cookies help us understand who is engaging with our content, what pieces they like best, and how often they revisit.

This is valuable information for marketers who are looking to improve, modify, or tailor content to their users.

What’s more, it offers important metrics that can lead us toward useful remarketing techniques.

That being said, not all cookies are made the same. While some cookies are ripe for risk and privacy breaches, others are necessary for web functionality. Let’s take a closer look at our modern cookie jar.

Necessary Cookies

Some cookies are essential to good user experiences. Features such as log-in data, authentication, and session management would not be possible without using cookies.

These types of cookies are considered necessary for proper web function and cannot be deleted by users.

Cookies can also enhance the user interface and provide smooth, personalized experiences for users. We often refer to these as performance and functionality cookies. While useful, they are not completely essential. They can often be disabled by users, but if they are, some functions like video players may no longer work on a site.

Unnecessary Cookies

Web analytic and customization cookies track browser activity through individual users. These help website owners gather data about who is visiting their site, how long they stay there, and what features are being accessed or used.

There are also advertising cookies, which are used to customize a user’s ad experience. These cookies are often tracked across websites and can help marketers ensure a certain ad won’t be shown too many times, or allow them to tailor ads based on a user’s activity.

Social networking cookies are a more recent trend. These cookies allow users to share content from a website directly to their social channels. While useful to user experiences, these cookies have been one of the main reasons third-party cookie sharing has gotten so controversial. They collect personal information and pose a security risk for users.

Because of these cookies, many new regulations, such as the GDPR, have come into effect.

Don’t worry, you can still use cookie tracking to benefit your business while also staying GDPR compliant.

What Data Can You Pull From Cookie Tracking?

Per the GDPR, no website is allowed to track cookie data unless the user gives explicit consent.

Necessary cookies, such as performance and functionality cookies, are exempt from these laws.

Yet, against the odds, the GDPR did not mark the death of cookies.

Many users will give their clear permission to be tracked while browsing your site.

Using this data can give you important information that can help you improve your product offerings and understand gaps or problems in your marketing strategy.

So, what data can you pull from cookie tracking?

Interests and Online Shopping Trends

If you’re looking to maximize your e-commerce sales, then cookie data can be a valuable way to understand your demographic, how they use your website, and how likely they could become repeat customers.

Cookies create a more seamless e-commerce shopping experience. They allow persistent shopping carts that retain items even when a customer navigates away from the page, wish lists, product recommendations, personalized customer interfaces, and the retention of payment and address information.

If there were no cookies, you would have to login again every time you looked at a new product.

No thank you.

Successful e-commerce sites use a combination of necessary and unnecessary cookies to improve customer experiences and create more conversions. They also allow you to create personalized retargeting campaigns, such as notifying users if they left a full cart without purchasing, or offering them coupons if they visited without buying.

Location and Language Preferences

Cookies can also be used for location and language tracking. This is great for geotargeting and also helps to give you a more complete understanding of where your customers are coming from.

By understanding who is shopping for your product and where, you can find out where to focus your ad targeting, or where your marketing strategy is already effective.

This kind of cookie tracking is also helpful for localization practices, which can help increase conversions. Likewise, it allows users browsing in other languages the ability to have their language preferences saved each time they revisit. This can go a long way in increasing time-on-site spend.

Previous Browsing Activity

Cookie tracking can be used to see a user’s previous browsing activity. As long as they haven’t cleared their cookies since the last time they visited your site, you should be able to see details of when they logged on, what pages they visited, and how quickly they returned after leaving.

Understanding previous browsing history can be an important tool when figuring out what parts of your website aren’t operating properly. For example, if you noticed many of your users log off your site after visiting your FAQ page, that may mean you don’t have the information they are looking for. Likewise, broken pages and faulty links can be discovered through browsing activity cookies.

Time Spent

Cookies can tell you how long a user spent on any given page. This is useful information for anyone looking to improve their web traffic or better locate ineffective pages.

By understanding how long a user stays on a page, you can tell whether your content is engaging, if your links are working properly, and if your web copy is converting the way it is meant to.

Understanding time spent is an effective optimization tool for marketers. If you have a set of pages that cause users to log off quickly, then it may be time to get rid of them. If some pages are getting a lot of long-term visits, those would be effective to push in paid ads or promotions.

Visited Subpages

Information architecture refers to the structural design of a website. A well-architected site should allow users to flow easily through sales funnels and end with strong conversions.

A badly built site will leave users stuck in dead ends, and generally dissatisfied with any product offerings.

Cookies can help you see what subpages a user visited while on your site. This can be helpful if you’re trying to determine how effective your information architecture is and find ways to improve it.

Paying attention to these cookies can help you create a better performing, high-quality website.

The Future of Cookie Tracking

Many browsers are now cracking down on cookie usage and this can make it difficult for marketers to gather the information they need.

Safari now has intelligent tracking prevention, and you can easily clear, enable, and manage your cookies in Chrome. Firefox also blocks third-party cookies by default.

Does that really mean third-party cookie tracking is dead?

Maybe. But it doesn’t mean marketers can’t still gather the information they need to personalize ad experiences.

New developments in web analytics and PPC campaigns offer similar experiences to cookie tracking. By using behavioral data collected from online ads, we can begin to understand what consumers want and tailor our content to those needs.

Techniques like people-based targeting methods can help gather unique user data that can drive new targeting campaigns. Most brands already have access to an assortment of data on their customers, from emails, to purchase data, and device information. This data can be used in a first-party targeting campaign to speak directly to an individual customer, rather than a vague dataset.

There has also been a lot of talk about contextual advertising, where ads are placed on pages with relevant or similar content to what they are selling. For example, if a user is looking for a new car, they might see ads for tires on the same page. This is still considered directed advertising, as we understand a person who is interested in a car is also likely interested in tires for that car. It’s basic, but it works.

It’s also a good idea to look beyond digital data and understand your customer’s complete profile. Call centers, for example, hold a vast amount of data that often revolves around consumer pain points. Certain programs, such as Signal AI, have been developed to track conversions on calls and help brands understand the intricate demographics of their customers.

What’s most important at the moment is to use cookies in a way that is compliant with new regulations.

Remember, there are different cookie laws for the U.S. and EU, so be sure to check your local regulations before committing to a strategy. If you’re still unsure, talk to one of our consultants.

Conclusion

Although we might be witnessing a third-party cookie phaseout, there is still a lot of room to use cookies in an ethical and regulatory way for the benefit of your business.

Cookie tracking is a great way to understand your target audience and find new ways to optimize your conversions.  

They can also improve user experiences and create more seamless sales funnels for your customers to flow through.

Ultimately, cookies are not a black-and-white topic.

If used correctly, they improve web experiences across the board.

If used incorrectly, they can damage important marketer-consumer relationships.

Have you found cookie tracking helpful in your marketing campaigns?

The Best Resources for SMEs Grappling with Big Data

The Best Resources for SMEs Grappling with Big Data

Big data represents one of the most valuable assets any business can hope to gain. It offers a map to your market’s behaviour, and the insights you need to be able to predict the direction in which your target market – and, by extension, your business – is heading. 

One of the toughest problems for SMEs, however, lies in properly gathering and utilizing these massive stores of data. Everything you do online, from making sales to interacting with internet users via digital marketing campaigns, will yield significant insights into the heart of your industry, but finding the time to gather, sort, analyze and utilize that data keeps many from realizing its full potential. 

Read more about some excellent resources for dealing with big data, below. 

Email Marketing Software

Email marketing boasts an enviable list of benefits. While not the most labour-intensive or costly tool for digital marketing, it targets one of the most valuable userbases to which you have readymade access: your existing customers and subscribers. By maintaining an open line of communication with this userbase, and opening up new dialogues during seminal moments in the growth and development of your business, will prove invaluable – provided you can grapple with the data your campaigns gather overtime. 

The same goes for affiliate marketing, which enables the same line of communication while also bringing a financial benefit to you. Utilising software in this ongoing process will ensure that each step is streamlined and targeted towards the right users. You can easily check out how it could help your business to stay on top of this platform, and to curate – and, more importantly, utilise – the data your efforts will yield. 

Google Analytics

Your site is your storefront, but, in the real world, it is much easier to monitor and interpret customer behaviour than it is when you are simply staring at your home screen and witnessing the rise and fall of digital sales throughout the day.

Google Analytics is a free tool that can offer significant insights into the behaviours of your site’s visitors – for instance, where they came from, what devices they are using (mobile or PC) and what your bounce rate is. This offers the opportunity for significant progress, both in terms of increasing site traffic and honing your external marketing campaigns.

Surveys

While surveys are not able to rival the sheer quantity of information housed under the term ‘Big Data’, there exists a growing body of research expounding the value surveys hold when utilised in tandem with it

In this view, big data can be seen as what is gathered organically – for instance, the ratio of subscribers who open your emails, vs those who ignore them or unsubscribe as a result of receiving them. Survey data is manually gathered – it does not hold the same raw organicity – but it can be used as a tool for contextualising big data and broadening your understanding further. It can also be guided by big data, which means that your ability to communicate directly with your users is enhanced, and words are not wasted on questions to which you already know the answers.

Big data is invaluable to all businesses, but knowing how to understand it – and, more importantly still, to put it to use – is an art form in and of itself. Like any specialty, it demands a whole host of resources that will ensure that nothing is wasted, and that every element of your online activity is put to use in order to further your efforts, and gain access to the very heart of your digital audience.

CrazyEgg 

Google Analytics is a wonderful web analytics tool for any business with an online presence. However, it can’t solve every possible online analytics need. You may need to use more specialized web analytics tools for things like UX optimization. 

CrazyEgg  is a very impressive web analytics tool that was developed by Neil Patel. This tool is great for  monitoring user behavior, which can be incredibly important for improving conversion rates. 

There are a lot of ways that you can benefit from using CrazyEgg.  One option is to look at different elements on your website landing pages, such as images and CTA buttons. With CrazyEgg,  you can see how your visitors respond to them. You can change elements and remove any that seem to be too distracting. 

Here is an example of an insight that some companies have found with CrazyEgg.  They would put an image on their landing pages to make it look more engaging. With this web analytics tool, they would find that visitors were unexpectedly trying to click on the image more than the button. They would add a hyperlink to the image, so that it would accomplish the same function as the button itself. Other companies would simply remove the image altogether or reduce its size to make the CTA stand out more. 

ActiveData

ActiveData is a very important ad-on for Microsoft Excel.  This tool can be very useful for tracking conversions, but the same purposes can be applicable for other issues as well. 

One benefit of using ActiveData is that you can help fight fraud more easily. In particular, this add-on is useful for tracking internal theft. This is a benefit that you can’t afford to ignore, because employee pilfering accounts for  almost 30% of all business failures. 

Sage Accounting 

Accounting is one of the least favorite parts of running a business for most entrepreneurs. Few people want to spend a considerable amount of time crunching numbers and tracking the amount of transactions that affect their cash flow. 

Unfortunately, you can’t afford to ignore the importance of sound bookkeeping. You either will need to do it yourself or pay a large amount of money to hire a professional bookkeeper. The latter may not be an option if you are running a new business with limited resources, so you need to find a way to manage your own bookkeeping without taking up too much of your time. 

New advances in data analytics have made it a lot easier. A number of new accounting tools have reached the market, which can simplify your bookkeeping and save you a tremendous amount of time. 

Sage Accounting is one of the best big data accounting tools for small businesses. It is an excellent option for entrepreneurs that don’t have any employees. This tool does everything from income documentation to reconciliation of bank documents. You can get all of the great features for just $10 a month.  You will have access to even more valuable features if you plan to upgrade to the $25 a month plan, which is still a lot cheaper than hiring a professional. These other features include forecasting cash flow and generating financial statements. 

Sage Accounting is a major breakthrough in accounting analytics for small businesses. It is a great option that you probably should not overlook.

Looking for Even More SMM and Big Data Resources?

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