Content marketing can easily build a brand’s reputation, increase engagement and familiarity with a brand, funnel readers into opportunities for conversion, and serve as a platform to build authority for SEO.
But one of the drawbacks of content marketing is the difficulty many marketers find in trying to objectively measure its return on investment. Since each piece of content takes time (and therefore, money) to create, there is a finite and objective cost for a content marketing strategy — but the benefits are much less tangible and much less directly measurable. For example, how do you measure the value of brand engagement an individual reader has in terms of a dollar amount? Essentially, you can’t.
As a result, content marketing is still enormously beneficial, and a staple for most modern brands, but its cost can loom over marketers & business owners, especially in the early stage of your campaign.
If you’re looking for a way to offset that cost, or if you’re just trying to add a new line of revenue to your site, consider using one of these strategies to turn your content stream into a direct line of extra revenue.
1. Direct Advertising
Direct advertising is usually the first thing people think of when they consider building their content marketing program into a revenue stream, and for many businesses, it’s a viable option. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases, you won’t have full control over the specific ads that run on your page. For example, you could specify the presence of an ad using Google AdSense, but Google would be in charge of filling that ad space with specific ad content. That could potentially leave your users with a poor impression in the unlikely event that a tasteless ad appears there. Nevertheless, if you’re running a site largely based on content — like a news or entertainment article site — the ads probably won’t have any bearing on your reputation.
Direct advertising is relatively easy to set up, and you’ll instantly start getting a share of revenue for each user who clicks on your ads. Check out Google AdSense if you’re interested in getting started.
2. Write and Sell Whitepapers & eBooks
Instead of writing blog posts for your content strategy, you could move to the next level and start writing long, detailed pieces, like whitepapers and eBooks. Whitepapers and eBooks tend to cover a big topic in very specific detail, breaking down into sections in order to cover each element of the subject. It takes a lot of work to make one, and a lot of skill to make one of high quality, but if you can create a great whitepaper or eBook, people will likely be willing to pay you for the opportunity to read it.
Turn your whitepaper or eBook into a downloadable PDF, and use a landing page to offer it in exchange for a small amount of money, usually one to five dollars per transaction. Then, all you’ll have to do is promote the landing page through social media, email blasts, and regular mentions of it on your onsite blog.
3. Execute Original Research
Using original research to generate revenue is like writing a whitepaper, but taken to the next level. If you want to execute your research properly, you may need to hire an independent researcher, or at least form a team to accomplish the task over a period of weeks or months. Putting together a research report takes an exhaustive amount of time and effort, but if you present data that truly matters to your audience, they’ll pay top dollar for it. Assuming you go all-out with research and there’s a serious demand for the information (think: in-depth market research) you could get away with selling your research for a few hundred dollars. Plus, you could use the results of your research to fuel more marketing opportunities — such as blog posts or new whitepapers that interpret the results.
4. Place Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are a good way to make some extra money, but only if your brand can stand to send some traffic away. For example, if you own an e-commerce site, it wouldn’t make sense to put a link for a competitor’s product in the body of your blog, but if you’re simply running an informational blog, affiliate links would be completely appropriate to include.
Essentially, you’ll be mentioning a product or service in the body of your content, and offering your users a link to purchase that product or service. If a user completes a purchase after clicking that link, you’ll earn a small percentage of the sale. Amazon currently has one of the most popular affiliate link programs, but you could build an affiliate link relationship with almost any major online company. Just be careful not to spam your readers or seem pushy about the sale.
5. Gate Your Content
Paywalls are becoming increasingly popular, especially for massive news sites like the Wall Street Journal. Rather than providing all your content for free, you would hide a portion of some articles behind a wall, which requires payment in order to proceed. While the cost is usually low, like 25 cents per read, using paywalls is risky because you could easily alienate your core audience. Your content needs to be in high demand if you opt for this strategy.
Google also recently launched a new feature called Google Consumer Surveys. Essentially, it functions just like a paywall — portions of your content are hidden, until a user takes action. However, instead of paying directly to see more content, users simply have to answer a handful of survey questions in order to read more. Survey creators have to pay 10 cents to Google for every question that ultimately gets answered, and you’ll earn a whopping 5 cents for each one. Therefore, if you set up a 5-question survey on one of your blogs, which gets 1,000 unique page views a day, you could theoretically get 25 cents per user, and an extra $25 a day for doing nothing. It’s not an enormous amount of money, but it would help offset the cost of creating the content.
6. Publish A Book
Publishing a book is extraordinarily difficult, especially if you haven’t done it before, but if you’ve already built an online reputation for yourself, and you have a dedicated following, you might be able to convince an agent or publisher that you’re worth investing in.
In order to get your idea into print, you need to make sure your plan is solid, well-researched, and unlike anything else on the market. Print is a dying medium, and competition is dense in almost every industry, so you’ll really need a unique, marketable story if you want a chance at publishing. Still, if you take the effort, make the connections, and shop around with a solid proposal, you could potentially net yourself a several-thousand-dollar advance — and a ton of new interested customers once your book starts to circulate. Self-publishing is another option, but it usually requires additional upfront investment.
Keep in mind that if you’re going to use your content as a way to make money, you’ll need to increase the quality of your writing. Users will only pay for content if it’s in-depth, well-written, and unlike anything they can find on the market for free.
Nevertheless, these strategies are perfect opportunities to recoup what you spend on your content marketing efforts, or at least earn you some extra money as you continue executing your core strategy.