Every publisher wants to make money, but what drives that is keeping readers interested and engaged. After all, no one makes money on a site that’s all ads and no content. Today, we’re looking at five ways to earn from your ads while keeping your readers coming back for more:
1) Reader engagement is priority one
Making and retaining engaged readers is probably the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to an ad-driven income strategy. Fortunately, there are countless ways you can improve your readership — and most are relatively easy. Here are three that we consider invaluable:
- Article Discovery: For every piece of content, you can have links to related articles in either a sidebar or at the end of the article, which will lead your readers to visit more content on your site. Websites like Gawker and The A.V. Club are great examples of sites that execute this perfectly.
- “Read More” Jumps: By truncating a full article with a “Read More” jump link, you can display more content on one page and allow engaged readers to click through to expand the particular article that interests them. With the right configuration, you can even track how many readers actually expanded the full text of a given article.
- Social Opportunities: Social media and your comments section are great ways to get people talking about your content. By including social sharing buttons, your readers can easily share your content to an even wider audience.
Next, you’ve got to think about how to design your ad space to fit in with your reader-driven goals.
One great example of strategic placement is putting your sponsored links between your comment box and your article. This way, you can give a lot of options to your readers on what to read next in relation to your content while prioritizing those readers who love to share their thoughts through your comment box. With this kind of site architecture, its a win-win situation.
The placement of your social sharing links is also key. You want them in close proximity to your ads, since many readers will be drawn to the social section of your content, making them more likely to notice your ad space. Putting your Facebook, Twitter, G+, and other social links at the top of your layout’s sidebar just above your ads is typically an attractive choice. Likewise, if you have any paid features or a newsletter subscription option, you can place those below every article, directly above your ads.
2) Incentive Articles: Strategies in monetization via paywalls
Paywalls are a system used by many websites to limit site visitors in what content they can and can’t access. Probably the most widely-known paywall in place is operated by The Wall Street Journal.
There are two kinds of paywalls that you can use: Hard paywalls allow very limited access without subscription, while soft paywalls allow readers to have a choice on what they can access even without subscribing (such as allowing 20 free articles before the paywall kicks in, or abbreviated versions of articles). Soft paywalls are certainly more common, and allow you to earn from users who subscribe after deciding they like what they’ve seen outside of the paywall. If you do decide to use a soft paywall, consider also putting teasers and thumbnails on your site to entice the reader to click through and potentially subscribe.
Social media has definitely been a huge help in driving subscriptions to paywall-bound sites. If you have great content that can start a conversation, using social media to tease articles behind a paywall works incredibly well. We mentioned The Wall Street Journal earlier — they are also a great example of using Twitter and Facebook to tease articles that are behind their hard paywall. Fans and followers will click the teased link, and be more likely to pay for a subscription just to be able to read more.
3) Keep your ads relevant and unobtrusive
No one wants to be interrupted in the middle of reading a great article, and your ads should reflect that. Steer clear of flashy, distracting ads that have nothing to do with your content, and definitely avoid including ads that make it unclear whether or not it’s actually a part of the article.
4) Respect your readers’ time
As much as possible, keep your page load times at a minimum. Too many scripts running at once will cause your load times to skyrocket, and by the time the page loads, your reader’s likely already gone elsewhere — and it’s unlikely they’ll come back.
To keep track of your site’s loading time, you can use testing tools such as WebPagetest. It gives you your overall score and also a list of what slows down your site. These days, the popular metric is that consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less. Do your best to keep your load times in that threshold to make sure you’re not driving people away with wait time.
5) Never, ever use pop-ups
First and foremost, you should avoid running pop-up ads because it’s a violation of Google’s terms of service for platforms like Adsense and Ad Exchange. No one wants to read an article that is incessantly blocked by a huge pop-up that says “OMG LIKE US ON FACEBOOK!!!!!!!” every 30 seconds. In our increasingly mobile-driven world, that pop-up is going to take even longer to click out of on a smartphone, and will most likely send your reader packing. As a website owner, it is important to be considerate of your readers, and trying to earn via pop-ups won’t keep you in business for long.
Related Read: Google Spells Out Adsense Policies in Hangout Video
1) The Golden Rule applies: Treat your readers like you would want to be treated. Keep your user experience enjoyable and fresh.
2) Follow the Dos and Don’ts for Google’s ad platforms: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/1346295