Before I begin, let me make one thing VERY clear:
If you’ve come here hoping for a quick way to make money, you’re in the wrong place.
Content marketing is not a lottery ticket or a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, the main “point” of content marketing isn’t to generate revenue.
Yes—content marketing can help you drive sales. And yes—one of the goals of content marketing is to appeal to new customers. But the “point” of content marketing is first and foremost to build brand identity. Content marketing is a tool that you use to establish your niche, build your reputation, build trust, grow your community, generate new leads, and encourage customer retention.
As Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, says, “content marketing is not about ‘what you sell’ it’s about ‘what you stand for.'”
With that said, there are ways to monetise your content marketing campaigns. For those of you who already have dedicated followings and highly-prized content offerings, monetising your content marketing campaigns can be a great way to make your content work harder for you.
Let’s discuss some of the ways you can make that happen…
1) Calls to Action
The first monetisation strategy is good advice for anyone—when you publish a new piece of content, such as a blog post or a video, end it with a call to action (CTA) that directs visitors on where to go next. Your CTA could direct them to a free trial or another piece of content, or it could take visitors to your product page. This works best if your content heavily leads into your core offering.
The key to a good CTA is to pin it to a relevant post that otherwise doesn’t have a sales pitch. People hate being sold to, and they can spot posts that are one giant ad immediately. Try to craft content that is relevant to your offering, but has value independent of them, then finish with your CTA.
For example, this blog post by MailChimp reveals a study about MailChimp Pro user demographics and new features added to their platform. The post ends with a CTA to “check out everything that MailChimp Pro can do,” but this makes perfect sense in a post about MailChimp Pro.
2) Direct Advertising
Selling advertising space is probably the first monetisation strategy you thought of, and it’s still a viable option… if you have the customer base to warrant it. This ad system, called pay-per-click (PPC), places relevant ads on your website and pays you a small amount every time one of the ads is clicked.
Google AdSense is today’s most popular option as far as PPC advertising goes. Not only does Google work to keep the highest paying ads on display, but they bill all the networks and advertisers on your behalf, handling the messy transaction stage for you.
Of course, ads clutter up your website and tend to annoy visitors. Even Facebook kept its ads very small and unobtrusive until 2012, a full eight years after it was first released. If you try to monetise too early, you’ll wind up driving customers away.
Sponsorships are a little bit like PPC advertising, except that one sponsor will pay for dedicated ad space on your website. This offers you a little more peace of mind (you know whose ads you’ll be sponsoring) and stability than PPC ads, but you generally won’t be approached by a sponsor until your website experiences large amounts of traffic.
Generally speaking, you want to promote your sponsors—increased business for them means more revenue for you. Just make sure you’re producing high quality content first and foremost and avoid writing purely for the sake of a sales pitch.
4) Sell Content
If you create a high-value asset, you can consider setting up an eCommerce shop and selling your content. This content typically is typically something like an eBooks, training video, instructional material, worksheet, template, or a seminar. That is to say, it’s long-form content that’s detail-rich enough to warrant the price tag.
Of course, if you’ve got the writing chops, you could also deal exclusively in content. For example, copywriter Joel Klettke just launched a new business called Case Study Buddy. This business deals exclusively in creating complete case studies for digital agencies, SaaS companies, and B2B—but Joel waited until he had existing demand before launching this service.
5) Distribution Channels
About a year ago, Matthew Capala published The New Rules of Content Monetization. While I don’t agree with every point he makes, he does astutely hone in on the rise of “high-growth platforms, such as Amazon Kindle, Audible, or Udemy.”
Find lots of interesting courses on Udemy, or create your own.
In case you’re unfamiliar with these distribution channels:
- Kindle will let you publish and sell your eBooks. You receive 70% of the price of each book sold.
- ACX (Amazon’s self-publishing platform) will let you create an audiobook, which can then be sold on platforms like Audible. Royalties range from 50–90%.
- Udemy lets you create and sell your own course. You get 97% of the proceeds for each sale you drive with your instructor coupon code.
6) Affiliate Offers
Even if you don’t have your own products to sell, there’s money to be made my recommending someone else’s products for a small commission (typically 30-70% of the listed sale price). You can find affiliate offers on sites like Commission Junction and ShareASale.
Be careful when accepting affiliate ads. Understand that you are essentially promoting this product—if it’s low quality, it will reflect poorly on your site. Also, you run the risk of alienating customers if you choose to represent affiliate offers that have nothing to do with your niche.
7) Use Your Email List
Your email list is one of the best pieces of content at your disposal, but you need to tread lightly so that you don’t abuse the trust your readers have given you. The last thing you want to do is start spamming your readers with obnoxious ads.
However, if you’re prudent, there’s good money to be made from email advertising. Your emails can include native banners or affiliate ads. You can also include article teasers for sponsored content that might appeal to your readers, with a link leading to new content published on your blog.
8) Membership Fees
According to Neil Patel’s Advanced Guide to Content Marketing, there are three types flavours of membership-based sites:
Subscription-based – You lock your content, or even your whole website, behind a paywall. Only members paying a monthly or annual fee get access to your content.
Transaction-based – You lock individual pieces of content behind a paywall, but offer your readers a “lifetime pass” membership for a one-time fee that will give them unlimited access to your content.
Metered – Your content is free, to a point. Maybe it’s free for one download, or one article, or until a certain amount of time has passed. After that, they must pay to regain access.
This type of content is rampant in academia, with most scientific and research journals requirement ridiculous amounts of money for access. Recently, Alexandra Elbakyan (a researched in Russia) made headlines by making over 48 million peer-reviewed journal articles freely available online. This is illegal, but as a recent graduate myself, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sympathise.
Before you begin
Before you rush off to start plastering ads all over your content, let’s revisit the wisdom of Joe Pulizzi once more:
“When the majority of brands start out so focused on their own revenue goals, it’s easy to see why the patient, who are focused on audience outcomes, ultimately win.”
Content marketing is a long-term game. You need a large body of high-quality work before you have an offer worth monetising. If you start too early, you risk killing your content marketing campaigns before they’ve had a chance to blossom.
Even Content Marketing Institute, a very successful website whose offerings are entirely based on content marketing, took three years to monetise.
If you’re just beginning to understand your content marketing strategy, it’s still far too early for you to consider monetising your campaigns.
Instead, focus on growing your audience and creating quality content that audience values. Monetisation will come in time.