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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.

NEW: Page Views per Particle Enabled for Google AMP

Increase mobile page views for every particle using Google AMP

RebelMouse has deployed an exciting update: We've enabled particle tracking in Google Analytics for articles using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, which means every particle now triggers a page view event upon scroll. Before, just one page view event would be logged when the mobile page initially loaded.

Not Familiar With What This Means? Read On

The days of static, flat media are over. Sites with low performance scores, obtrusive ad experiences, and poor content structure simply won't make it. Knowing these truths, the way we think of an article can no longer be static either.

An article today now takes several forms: short-form, long-form, listicle, slideshow, etc. Because of this, we've created a simple framework called Particle Assembler that accounts for all possibilities when building out content.

We playfully call each piece of your content a "particle," which is quite literally a "part" of an "article." These particles have become the core way to author content on RebelMouse, and are standalone elements that use their own imagery, title, and copy. For example, let's say you create a post that's titled, "The Best Place for Tacos in Austin." Each taco destination in this article will have a lead image, the name of the restaurant, its location, and a description of the restaurant with images of their food. Each of these restaurant highlights contain enough information to stand by themselves as individual posts.

Building particles in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

And they do stand alone successfully when you're on RebelMouse — each particle can be shared separately on social and each will register as a unique page view thanks to our latest update. This is a critical part of our modern pageview methodology that ensures our publishers deliver an elegant user experience to readers while still capitalizing on a meaningful monetization strategy. For instance, not only is every particle now a page view on Google AMP, but it's also a new revenue opportunity. This is thanks to the various placement opportunities for ads we offer within our Particle Assembler.

ICYMI, Google AMP is the search engine's lightning-fast mobile experience. With this update, sites powered by RebelMouse will not only deliver the best AMP experience to their users, but they'll also earn the page views their content deserves, too.

See the Massive Difference

In just a short period after implementing this change, one client experienced a massive spike in AMP pages per user, where it jumped from 1.6 to 8.2:

Here's what their AMP pages per user looked like just prior to the update:

If you're interested in experiencing this type of growth and getting more page views for your mobile content, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If you're already on RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager to learn more about particle views for Google AMP.

Primary Tags: Structure Your Site for Success

Dynamic taxonomy improves usability and propels SEO strategy

It's not a surprise that quality content can easily be spoiled by a poor site experience. This is why we're extremely proud of the lightning-fast sites we power. But speed is only the beginning of the user experience.

The temperature on platform dependency has cooled in recent years, revitalizing the value of site visits and search strategy. This is good news for both users and publishers who need site stability to survive. Because of this shift, RebelMouse focuses on three primary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure site usability and health:

  • Sessions per User: The average number of site sessions that each user has in a given time period.
  • Pages per User: The average number of page views that each user has in a given time period.
  • Time per User: The average amount of time spent on site by each user.

In order for these metrics to shine, a site's architecture must be organized in a way that increases every user's time on site. The logic is simple: If a site is easier to navigate, the user will likely stick around longer. This is the gateway to user loyalty.

One important way we support these KPIs is through our intuitive tagging structure for content. Let's take a look at our primary tag functionality and how it can set up any site for success.

What Is a Primary Tag?

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

The Primary Tag and Tags sections in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

The Benefits of Primary Tags

Dynamic Taxonomy: One of the primary benefits of using a primary tag is that it exposes the depth of content available to your users. Many publishers do this through the use of sections, which often turns out to be redundant and, in turn, ignored:

Sections can often be annoying to navigate and repetitive.

Using a variety of relevant tags for every article, rather than just repeating the same handful of sections, opens up more opportunities for targeted descriptors. For example, instead of using "Recipes" as a section over and over again, a primary tag can be used to create specific content flows for topics like "Vegetarian," "Soups," or "Cocktails."

Richer SEO: Since a primary tag exposes more information about your article, it also supplies more relevant data to Google's algorithm. Surfacing content in usable ways supports Google's mission to serve content based on audience behavior and intent instead of outdated and frowned-upon SEO methods like keyword stuffing. This approach is called white hat SEO, or ethical SEO.

By targeting specific interests, your dynamic tag structure will allow Google to more accurately understand your article's content and rank it accordingly. On RebelMouse, this creates a trickle-down effect, because users can click a tag and quickly get directed to more relevant articles, which boosts your SEO efforts further.

Here's how the site experience looks on RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch when viewing their primary tag "Plastics."

RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch takes advantage of a primary tag construct.

Improves Crucial KPIs: As mentioned before, RebelMouse traffic experts are constantly focused on improving the three KPIs that matter most to site usability and building audience loyalty. These metrics answer the following questions:

  • Frequency: How often are users coming to the site?
  • Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  • Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

Looking again at EcoWatch's use of primary tags, it's important to note that a primary tag is exposed on every one of their articles. They're also used in a left-hand navigation module that features the latest stories and trending topics:

Start Leveraging Primary Tags on RebelMouse

If you aren't on RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and let's start working together to make sure your site is optimized for user growth. If you're already publishing on RebelMouse, and want to learn more about tagging best practices, contact your account manager or email support@rebelmouse.com.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

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Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

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