As the owner of an independent blog, you’ve undoubtedly had some time to think about how the hell you plan on monetizing your domain. Should you utilize an ad network to help you implement display advertising? Or should you team up with specific brands and monetize through partner links, merchant links or even content links? Which provider is the best fit for your site? What are the drawbacks of working with these partners? These are all valid and essential questions to your survival, and more importantly, your sanity! Hopefully this article will give you some peace of mind and point you in the right direction.
One of the main things I’ve come to understand is that despite my background in Publisher Development, there is still a disheartening amount of information about this industry that I have yet to comprehend. So I thought I’d sit down and share what I’ve learned about how you, independent digital publishers of the Internet, might go about monetizing your links.
The first thing all online publishers need to realize is that readers don’t come to your site to be viewer-targeted by any form of advertising—they come to your site to be informed, entertained, and in some cases, reminded of how much better you are at decorating living rooms (for instance) than the rest of the other home & garden sites. Some publishers think that by choosing to monetize their site through advertising, they’re devaluing their site’s aesthetic appeal. Why? Ads are an interruption, a betrayal of the purpose and flow your readers expect of a well-written, organized blog post. To some degree, I agree (don’t you dare repeat that—I work for an ad network after all).
Yet blogging and revenue-generation don’t have to work against each other. What many publishers and other independent sources of online content have failed to embrace, is that the very thing people come for—credibility—is a trait that has economic value. Brands can translate their area of expertise into opportunity when they establish themselves as the go-to expert in a particular niche, like learning how to pour the perfect whiskey cocktail while flipping pancakes simultaneously –just kidding. But seriously, great party trick.
According to VigLink, a Sovrn partner dedicated to link monetization, content-driven e-commerce—that is, purchases driven by content sites—is growing more rapidly than standard e-commerce. It’s becoming much easier for publishers who create content to turn their pages into profit through native monetization. If handled properly, content publishers can realize the benefits of native monetization without betraying reader trust. (Seriously, these links are invisible. They look normal. They behave normally.) When blogs are genuine about their purpose and mission, visitors respond. My point here is simple—the greater the perceived value of the content (even if it’s about something as randomly awesome as how to flip pancakes while bartending), the more likely readers are to click something, and in turn, make you more money.
Something to keep in mind—the ideal monetization strategy for your website will vary depending on a multitude of factors: the content, the audience, the amount of traffic the site sees, the overall purpose of the domain, etc. If you do decide to add affiliate links or display ads to your site, be sure to maintain a healthy balance between audience development, monetization, and user experience. More often than not, your optimal revenue-generating strategy will involve some combination of multiple methods of link monetization. The most important thing to remember when searching for your version of the Holy Grail of link monetization is to stay curious, ask questions, and never settle (my mother gave me the same advice right before I left for college, but I thought it might be appropriate here).
Top Providers: VigLink, SkimLinks, BounceLinks, Vibrant Media, Amazon
Questions to ask when considering link monetization: Ask how links will appear or behave if you implement the solution. Make sure the appearance and behavior are in line with your user experience. e.g., Is there just one underline or two per link? Does the actual link target change? Does the link take people off your site? Do you insert new links? Are there rollover ads associated with the links? Is the functionality compatible with your site’s software? What does revenue sharing look like? How often are dividends paid? If you implement link monetization and decide you don’t like the behavior, how difficult is it to remove them?