I am sharing my revenue-making strategies to grow your income for news websites, with a practical case study I have worked on: www.maritimejournal.com
There are thousands of articles on how to monetise a news publisher, but one thing these articles fail to cater is actually how to monetise using your own Google account.
We all know about gated content, make brands pay for sponsored content, affiliate products, but what if you can use Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Partner Program?
This is what I am going to focus on this blog post, Google tools for monetisation.
The Google Account
Millions of people globally have a gmail.com email address, which give them access to the entire suite of Google products, many of which are free to use and some of which can actually help you make money.
One thing to mention before we get started is that it can get discouraging trying to make money using your Google Account. At the beginning of your adventure with Google it feels you are missing some key skills, but with time you become more proficient.
The reality is most of the monetisation methods won’t make you any revenue until you have got a fair few months into them. Even then, depending on which niche you are in, it can take even longer.
Here is a strategy for you to stick to, even if it feels you are not going nowhere and have no skills.
I have worked with a medium sized publisher running a very niche online magazine within the boating business sector: www.maritimejournal.com. The Maritime Journal gives insights for those working within the marine business, so it’s a B2B publisher with a strong number of returning visitors. They have created in the last 10 years a very loyal audience and I have worked with this website to improve their monetisation methods.
As many other websites, the Maritime Journal installed the Google Analytics snippet in their website to monitor and analyse their online traffic. Before you open a GA account, you need a Google account because Google only allows you to use its services with a gmail account.
You can then use the same email address to have access to the free digital tools. As a recap, here is what you can access with a single gmail account that will help your monetization:
Google Tag Manager
Google Search Console
These are accounts we will use to generate a revenue from your website.
So you have Google Analytics snippet installed on your website, you are tracking traffic and you have finally reduced bounce rate (?) and see that people are searching things on your website.
Are they not searching anything? Have you got a search bar? If you haven’t, I strongly advise you to add a search bar on your website. It helps you to increase your revenue. Here I show you how.
Google Analytics Search Report
This is really important because the last thing you want to do is to write tons of news about brands and the whole industry and bury them in the thousand of pages you have published during the years, only to find out people actually still look for them but cannot find them (at least not on your website).
The main thing to consider is how to make people stick with your website, not to make them leave and how to show search results that are relevant.
I have seen many examples of publishers and website showing search results without any logic and users actually going back to Google to find something because they couldn’t find it on the website. This is very bad, you don’t want this to happen. It’s very important that you show relevant results, kind of like a mini Google Search within your website where you can help your users find out what they are looking for, simply because you need your audience on your website in order to make money.
With the example of Maritime Journal, I found out there were approximately 100 words that people searched more often on the website. With this in mind, I then checked the search Exit rate and search depth reports (the number of pages people viewed after getting results from the search term).
I wanted to make sure people visited as many pages as possible after a search. At the same time, I didn’t want them to exit the website just after a looking for a search term. This was a bad indication that they wouldn’t find what they were looking for and left the website.
The main objective of this analysis is to demonstrate that there is value in searching for a term on the website because people actually find out what they need. So every time someone is searching for a term, the website can return a list of pages relevant to it.
With this in mind, you can charge a brand to position his sponsored news in your search results because of these reasons:
There is a very high number of people searching for that term;
Users normally visit 5.57 pages after searching for that term;
The search Exit is really low at 33.76%
You can add sponsored and suggested results within your organic results and profit from your search report.
Google Analytics Organic Search Report
Once you have found a revenue stream with the Search Report, you can charge brand using the same logic for the Google Organic search report. You need to consider the number of pages visited by users coming from Google search results and, within this report, which pages are the most visited.
Many people think it’s the home page the one with more visit, but that’s not always the case. I have seen websites where the home page wasn’t even in the top 20 list of most visited pages.
You don’t need to set up an advanced report on Google Analytics, you just need the most visited pages report.
With Maritime Journal, the way I have monetised this report is different than the Search report. While with Search report you can add sponsored and suggested results because you control search results on your own website, with the most visited pages, you can’t do the same thing. Each visited page contains content that is relevant to Google search results, so if you change this content, you might risk to lose your rankings and the page will lose volumes of visitors.
You need to consider reasons why this type of content that is among the top 10 most viewed pages is actually receiving so much traffic. With more analysis, I found out that this content is a combination with high volumes keywords + high relevant content.
The way I have monetised this report is not as you might think. I haven’t added any sponsored content on those pages, even though I could probably have done it. I have simply decided to offer jobs from third party companies.
According to Mondovo, jobs are now some of the most searched keywords on the Internet, totalling millions of searches every month globally.
The new job section of Maritime Journal became one of the biggest sources of revenue for the magazine. Lots of recruitment companies want to have access to the Maritime Journal audience, so what I have done was creating a section on the website dedicated to jobs within this niche.
You can split the job home page into two sections, the above the fold section for premium jobs (paying brands) and the below the fold section for non paying brands.
Also you need to create a job search bar. If you are not great with coding, here are a few tools to get your started:
Addsearch: fully featured and customised search engine
Google Custom Search: add Google search bar in your website and customise it
Nextopia: general search bar to customise for your website
Indeed: affiliate search bar specialised for jobs only
If you want to show jobs on your website, then you need to make sure you job search bar returns very good results with as much customisation possible.
Google Analytics most viewed pages report
The reason you need to check this report is because it tells you which pages your users visit the most. I have spent lots of time checking which pages get me more users because it’s where your client brands want to advertise. I always offer them these products:
Sponsored article with a detailed product/brand review on your website’s most visited page (the home page?). Say your client brand wants to pay for your audience, which page are you going to choose to promote it? Check the most visited pages on GA!
Show an exit intent pop-up. I don’t like pops myself but the exit intent is different, it’s a very gentle way to gather users email addresses when an event is triggered, in this case it’s an exit intent.
One of the most popular plugins if you use WordPress is Popup Maker. When users are about to leave your website, the pop up will appear to get their attention.
This leads me to the next monetisation technique, email marketing. Pop-ups are some of the best email list generators because users will get something from you for free and they are very motivated to leave you their email addresses.
The great thing about email lists is that you can directly send an offer to your users, maybe a product review or recommend something. They will get the offers straight into their inbox, so it’s almost impossible to miss.
One of the great ways to charge your clients is by the number of users in your subscribers list. Now, it’s not up to me to give you advice on how much you should charge for your list, but it’s common to charge $5,000 for every 50,000 email addresses. For example, The Maritime Journal delivers each week a newsletter to 24,000 marine professionals and it charges £2,150 each week.
Long Term Monetisation Strategies
Quick wins are great, but there is a lot more on monetising your revenue than simply charging brands for a sponsored article or for search keywords.
Here are a few strategies that I have used to bring your revenue to the next level.
Monetising with Google Search Console
So we have talked about Google Analytics and how to leverage the search report to monetise from most popular search keywords on your website. But you are thinking: “that’s great Luca, but I am not monetising yet with my website because it’s not ranking on Google search!”
I should have covered this aspect earlier in this article, you can’t expect to make money with your website if you don’t have any traffic - not an ideal situation.
If you have no traffic, you won’t see any revenue!
Getting your first traffic from search engines
Traffic coming from search engines is difficult to get, but don’t worry just yet, you need to start somewhere. Here is how…
On page optimisation
Optimising pages for search engines is one of the most basic things you need to do. One of the reasons is that google crawlers are basically sight impaired, they don’t see websites the same way we do, so they need our help to correctly understand what a page is talking about.
This is an example of how Google sees my home page:
So here is the process I would take to set up on page optimisation for my website:
Sign up to free tools like SEMRush to audit your content, start the audit and make the recommended changes - this process might take a few minutes, depending how many pages SEMRush has to analyse
Connect your Search Console and your Google Analytics to SEMRush (this ensures data are more accurate)
Go through and check your content metrics. Make sure H1, Title and content descriptions are updated
Go to post tracking and check your competitors’ posts to reveal its performance by tracking social shares, backlinks and keyword rankings
Identify their backlinks and acquire them by emailing their webmaster
Repeat the process 3 or 4 times in a month to make sure your content is updated and to monitor your competitors’ performance.
Following this simple process will get you better chances of ranking well on search engines. This is not a guarantee that you will see instant traffic, but it’s a good start to make sure Google sees your website is a more positive way.
Backlinks building can seem like a tough activity but the reality is that building a high number of backlinks takes time. This being the case, here are some suggestions on how to get started:
Find a good research content topic within your niche and put together a report.
Outreach news and other industry websites to show your report
Ask them to publish it because the report is of interest of the general public and in return they will links back to your website
Now, every time you have a new research report, reach out your new partners to share the report with them
This sounds quite like time consuming and it is, but if you master the research report for your niche you’ll be producing some of the most shareable contents on the web. You may also want to check out this process from Tom Mcloughlin that enabled him to gain more than 100 links for a travel website with content marketing.
Google Partner Program
Another huge source of revenue can come from offering Google Ads to your clients. You can join Google Ads Partner Program and become a certified Google Partner.
The first step on how to join the program is to visit the Google Partner page. After your company joins the free Google Partners program, it can qualify for Google Partner status. Achieving Partner status means that your company has demonstrated AdWords skill and expertise, met Google ad spend requirements, delivered company agency and client revenue growth, and sustained and grown its client base.
Joining the Partner status gives your company a number of benefits as follow:
Google Partner badge: There are two levels of Partner badges that your company can earn — the Google Partner badge and the Premier Google Partner badge. You can show the badge your company has earned on your website, other online properties, and offline marketing materials.
Company specializations: Earn company specializations to showcase your company's product area expertise.
Connect with Google: Receive invitations to select Google events, and get access to different levels of trainings and support
Requirements to be considered for a Partner Status
Both the Partner badge and the Premier Partner badge show that Google recognises your company as a Google Partner. However, to recognise leading companies that are higher spending and meet additional certification and performance requirements, Google offers the Premier Partner badge.
The table below shows what you need to do to be considered for each badge. To maintain a high standard for our program, Google will review companies to both receive and retain the badge.
If you haven’t started the Partner program with Google, do it now, it’s awesome! You can start offering Google Ads services to your brands and set up your fees.
The great thing about offering PPC services with Google Ads is that you can set up your own fees, from how to get paid to when to get paid. You can ask clients to be paid on the percentage of the amount they spend. For example, if they spend $20,000/month you can charge them 10% and earn $2,000/month extra.
I like Google Ads because it brings so much more new business to your company than simply getting paid for a sponsored article on your website. You basically give access to a complete new audience (google search audience) to your clients and if compared to your own audience, it’s 10x, 100x or 1,000x bigger than yours. You can definitely add value.
This is one of the things the Maritime Journal’s competitors started to do already back in 2014. The International Boat Industry (IBI), an online magazine, started to offer similar products to its clients: SEO audit, content marketing and social media management on behalf of their clients.
Now, this is not the same as becoming Google partners and getting the badge, but it’s definitely a good example of the direction a news company can go to monetise not just their audience, but also their own skills.