How to Monetize Your Website in Today’s Publishing Environment

In order to define distributive publishing, we have to ask the following question: If you have quality content, but nobody sees it, does it even exist? The answer is no, because your content needs to be supported in a way that lets it move seamlessly across all channels, especially site, search, and social. But let's take this question a step further: If you can't monetize your content to generate the support it needs, how do you create quality content in the first place?

It's a tricky catch-22 that haunts marketers and publishers across the digital space. Clear ROI driven by content marketing and digital advertising has a history of being far from tangible, but it's becoming clearer as technology advances and users mature.

Now that a few years have passed since Facebook's fake news fallout and misuse of data scandal, platform dependency has subsided. This has resulted in more opportunities to create sustainable revenue for publishers. Still, if one lesson can be learned from the maturing age of social, it's that relying on one outlet for survival is not a great idea. Just like content diversification is key to growth, using a multipronged approach is just as important for any monetization strategy.

Here's a look at some of the best ways to generate ROI in today's digital climate.

To Create Any ROI, Performance Is Everything

In late 2018, Google revamped how they measure page speed. PageSpeed Insights now includes new data from Google's Lighthouse platform. Lighthouse is a tool built into the latest version of Google Chrome that helps you determine how well your site is performing, and tells you which pages on your site need improvement.

These new updates ushered in harsh scoring for desktop and mobile page speed performance, and many top publishers saw their pages report failing scores. Google has set a high bar for the open web, and with users ready to consume content off the platforms, the change comes at a vulnerable time.

To put it simply, you can't monetize your site if it takes too long to load and instantly turns users away. In Google's eyes, the faster your pages load, the faster the search engine is able to crawl and index them. If it takes too long for Google to crawl the content of a website, it's possible not all pages will get indexed, making them less discoverable in search results. With Google edging out Facebook for top referral traffic, this means every publisher's SEO strategy has to be flawless, and it starts with a high-performing site.

A faster page speed also means a better user experience, and a boost for your bottom line. That bottom line can be significant, considering sites that load in five seconds experience 70% longer average sessions compared to sites that load in 19 seconds.

The PageSpeed Insights scores for a RebelMouse-powered property.

At RebelMouse, we've made performance our top priority this year. Click here to learn all about how we do it.

Users Are Ready to Pay for Content

Think of the internet as being in clean-up mode. As the platforms work to make their offerings safer and profitable for publishers, the ad space is getting easier to navigate as well. Users are maturing along with technology, which means the stigma around paying for content, usually via a paywall, is subsiding.

Recently, The New York Times reported a new high for paid digital subscriptions — 3.3 million, which is a 27% jump from 2017. The news outlet has a goal of reaching $800 million in digital sales by 2020. While it seems publishers like The New York Times already have a massive enough audience to grow digital subscriptions, the paywall model is gaining steam across the industry. In the UK, subscriptions are serving as a driving force of growth for digital revenue, accounting for a 15% increase over the previous year according to the Association for Online Publishing.

The rise of subscription success can be attributed to an ongoing prioritization of user experience. Users are ready to consume content that isn't held hostage by ads and obtrusive slowdowns, and it all makes perfect sense. The subscription model eliminates the middleman — such as the platforms — so readers get the experience and content they want, and publishers get the cash they need.

Stats from a client powered by RebelMouse using a subscription model.

We've seen incredible success with paywalls for a variety of different media companies. Click here to learn more.

A Modern Approach to E-Commerce and Direct Sales

The steady prioritization of user experience becomes even more relevant in the world of direct sales, including e-commerce. It's estimated that the number of online shoppers will rise to 230.5 million by 2021. The rise of online shoppers also means that competition will increase. For the first time ever, big-box brands have to compete with small buyers on Etsy and similar sites for the same audience. What sets each experience apart is ease of use and personalization.

RebelMouse client PAPER Magazine's collaboration with Neiman Marcus.

For example, publishing conglomerate Condé Nast is not only committed to a subscription model for all of its publications in 2019 as evidenced by its launch of Vogue's VogueWorld — a digital brand that combines style with e-commerce. Pairing the effective content strategy of Vogue with an e-commerce twist is the kind of differentiation that will set digital retail efforts apart. To succeed in direct sales, the experience has to be built for the buyer, not the seller. Buyers in this climate are more compelled to find a shopping experience they can relate to rather than scroll through.

More of PAPER Magazine's collaboration with Neiman Marcus.

Click here to learn more about our modern e-commerce solutions.

Leverage the Rise of Influencers

The start of 2019 saw a number of writer layoffs at major publishers, including Mic and Vice. Feeling crushed by the unpredictable swings of the platforms and the failure to monetize their own tech stack, many in the industry find themselves at a crossroads on how to generate revenue.

However, the answer is not to fire writers. In fact, your writers are more important than ever. Even small creative teams equipped with the right tools to create quality content can reach massive audiences and drive fruitful engagement. In order to do so, they need to tap into the existing universe of creators. The industry has seen a tremendous swing toward influencer marketing, and even micro influencers are overtaking celebrities and accounts with huge followings, accounting for up to 40% of brands' ad spend.

Every brand and new media company already has an audience of influencers that can be leveraged with the right support. That's why we've upgraded our community engagement features at RebelMouse. Our sites can leverage multiple communities at scale through a robust user journey that makes it easy for influencers and writers to contribute to your digital presence. Whether these contributors are monetized or used organically, they help validate your brand's message in a way that's transparent and relatable.

A look at RebelMouse's Community Dashboard.

Click here to learn more about leveraging the creators who are already passionate about your content.

The Power of Brand Storytelling

Media companies are increasingly finding additional and impactful revenue by providing creative services to advertisers instead of only selling their audiences through banner ads. Thanks to the aforementioned universe of creators, it's now easier for brands that were once shackled by their legacy reputations to create dynamic content hubs. These content hubs can produce beautiful stories that expand your brand's personality via a humanized approach to digital strategy. In fact, branded content is quickly becoming an industry standard. 84% of people expect brands to create some kind of content.

An example of a sponsored content placement on RebelMouse-powered Motherly's site.

There are a number of key ways to make brand storytelling work effectively while drumming up revenue at the same time:

  • Sponsored Articles
  • Sponsored Landing Pages
  • Content-First Ads
  • A Full Brand Content Hub

RebelMouse client United Airlines' #HerArtHere campaign.

For more information about each of these key offerings, including how we implement them for impactful revenue, click here.

Advertise With a Priority on UX

When it comes to the more traditional display style of advertising, publishers are faced with risking the now-coveted user experience more than ever. This means publishers are forced to work harder than ever to keep traditional ads on their sites for a couple of different reasons: 1) Users have become increasingly blind to ads and/or use ad-blocking software to completely remove them from their content experience, and 2) advertisers, in turn, demand that their dollars only apply to viewed ad impressions.

Here's the secret: Audiences are fully aware that advertising exists, and that it's a necessary trade-off to freely consume your awesome content. But it has to be done in an elegant way that doesn't impact page speed (we've come full circle now!) nor obstruct the way users consume content because they will click away.

Since user experience is so important, our platform has a multidimensional ad manager that lets our sites optimize their ad experience, including automatic lazy loading to ensure faster page speeds. Our ad manager can support a mix of media too, including video ads.

Above is an example of how easy it is to customize ad behavior on RebelMouse.

For a full overview of our intuitive and user-focused ad integrations, click here.

Understand Social's Advantages and Limitations

The idea of social ROI has always been a bit ambiguous to say the least. This is why it's important to leverage the strengths of the platforms without ever relying on them completely.

For example, a best practice is to take advantage of offerings that increase readability, such as Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). These options combine coveted load times and user experience with options to monetize. On the flip side, these options are only an extension of a broader, varied ad strategy that uses multiple channels to create revenue.

Social platforms also serve as a great way to learn more about your audience. Through the use of targeting, social platforms make it easy to learn about the kinds of demographics that engage with each particular piece of content, allowing you to adjust your monetization strategy accordingly. While at times it may seem like the age of social is truly over, it's important to remember that social channels still remain a gateway to massive new audiences. 68% of Americans were using Facebook as of early 2018, and 73% were using YouTube. With that, it's up to your own content and site experience to take them past the feed.

Foster relationships with social audiences using RebelMouse's organic growth tool Discovery.

RebelMouse has integrations with Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP to make cross posting a breeze. Click here to learn more about our social Discovery tool to unlock your audiences on social.

Find Your Monetization Strategy

The beauty of each one of these ROI opportunities is that they can be mixed, matched, and blended to create a strategy that makes the most sense for your website. Because if this industry has taught us anything, it's that it takes more than one strategy to create a broader digital architecture that's not only profitable, but personable.

If you're having trouble monetizing your own site, request a proposal today. Let's start working and making money together.

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Maximize Your SEO Potential With RebelMouse’s Entry Editor

Take a peek into how our proprietary technology helps sites surge on search

The RebelMouse platform features a rich search engine optimization (SEO) toolset that guides writers and editors to think about the right search phrase behind every story, as well as how to focus on small but meaningful modifications designed to improve organic search performance.

Our SEO technology centers around best practices for search, including detailed metadata that will help Google's site crawler identify, index, and rank your content quickly. It often leads our clients to experiences traffic surges that look like the following after launching on our platform:

how to increase search traffic

Here's a look inside our proprietary technology that helps our clients experience quick search boosts that turn into long-term SEO wins.

The Search Tab

how to find the right search phrase

Every new article presents a new opportunity to win on search. RebelMouse's Entry Editor features an SEO tab that's designed to help you optimize every post to give it the best shot at winning a targeted search phrase. Here's a glimpse into how it guides editors through a perfected search strategy before the "Publish" button is even clicked.

Define Your Search Phrase

search volume data

It can be tricky to nail down which search phrase you want to win. Within the SEO tab, you can brainstorm your ideas in real time. Through the creative usage of APIs, we ensure writes and editors are armed with the right information when optimizing content for SEO. In the example above, the drop-down list is suggesting search phrases that are already performing well on Google. The number next to each recommended phrase is its monthly search volume.

This helps you determine which phrases are easy to win, or perhaps too competitive to strategize for, on an article-by-article basis. Click here to read more about this feature.

Optimize Your Slug to Match Your Search Phrase

submit url to search engines

The SEO tab in our Entry Editor is designed to repeat your desired search phrase throughout your content so that Google's crawler has every chance to index it correctly for search. With this methodology in mind, it's a best practice to have your article's URL slug match your desired search phrase. From the SEO tab, you can click the Optimize Slug button to automatically match your URL slug to the search phrase you want to win. Click here to read more about this feature.

Pick Smart Recirculation Links

seo outlinks

After you've defined your search phrase and optimized your URL slug accordingly, you can select highly relevant links to add as related content to the end of your article. We call these Around the Web (ATW) links. The SEO tab allows you to pick the best links from your own site, as well as from around the web, which leads to truly amazing traffic boosts. This is a proven SEO practice that's rewarded by Google. Since your article will link to pages already winning your search phrase, it can increase your own post's relevance score in the eyes of Google's crawler.

We automate the surfacing of both ATW and internal links for you, so it's as easy as ticking a handful of checkboxes to add them to your post. We've also done the math, and the data is clear: Adding ATW and internal links to the end of your articles can increase traffic coming to your posts from Google by over 300%! Click here to read more about this feature.

Craft Metadata Before Publish

what is seo metadata

When it comes to Google's site crawler, providing clever metadata is one of the best ways to contextualize your content for search. From there, Google's search algorithm will rank your site for search queries that it determines are relevant to your content. Our SEO tab allows you to write your metadata right from within our Entry Editor. Plus, our character counter will help you make sure that your SEO headline and description match Google's best practices for metadata text length.

It's important to make sure your metadata is clearly written in a succinct way so that Google can quickly understand the nature of your content. Click here to read more.

The RebelMouse Particle Assembler

how to optimize an article for seo

RebelMouse's Particle Assembler is a content creation tool within our Entry Editor that makes it easy to transform your posts into media-rich micro pieces of content, which we call particles, that can both be shared individually and crawled separately on search. Our Assembler functionality gives your content more legs, which means more chances to generate more traffic.

The following steps demonstrate how you can use our Assembler to optimize an article to win a search phrase.

Use Particle Headlines to Reinforce Your Search Phrase

how to write headlines for seo

Assembler is accessible via one simple click in the formatting toolbar of our Entry Editor. From there, an organizational layout will be inserted into your article that will help guide you through building out the particles that will shape your Assembler. The best way to think of Assembler is by treating it as an enhanced list format. If your article is about vegan cooking trends, each particle can feature a new trend. But Assembler does not need to be a simple list. It can also cover the main points of your article and feature user-generated content or even related stories.

Assembler is a helpful SEO tool because it can generate a unique URL slug for each particle, maximizing your article's ability to get indexed by Google for more than one key search phrase. Click here to read more about this feature.

Make the Most of Google's "People Also Ask" Module

how to optimize for people also ask

Particle headlines are also a great way to make use of Google's "People Also Ask" module. This will help you identify search patterns of users who are interested in your search phrase. By tailoring your particles to those patterns, it's likely that your post will move up in Google's search rankings. Click here to read more about this strategy.

Add Media to Every Particle

alt text for seo

Each particle is another opportunity to add relevant media to your post, and Assembler makes it easy to add alt text to every image you upload. Alt text is very important for accessibility and can also have benefits for SEO. Briefly, alt text is text that is added to an image to describe it to search engines, and also to allow people using screen readers to be able to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. You can easily add alt text to any image in RebelMouse from our Entry Editor. Adding your search phase into every alt text field will only bring you one step closer to the top of Google Search's first page.

Make the Most of Our SEO Toolset

RebelMouse's proprietary technology works for any kind of site, whether you're a brand, a new media company, or a legacy publisher. SEO doesn't have to be something that only developers and analysts can understand and augment. Our product is designed to put the power of search in the hands of content creators, editors, and social curators, too.

Start winning on search with every publish. Request a proposal today and let's start working together.

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