Publishing online content is great… if you have something to sell.
Many people who publish online are still seeking that almighty advertising dollar, but the results for most are dismal. And there’s evidence that things will actually get worse, not better.
Well, maybe it’s because current online advertising is fundamentally flawed. Online, you can’t make people look at what they don’t want to see.
Content Goes Where the Reader Wants
Witness the recent uproar about Shyfter, an enterprising company attempting to bring content scraping into the mainstream. While things like this drive those of us who build authority sites crazy, the truth is you’ll have to assume that most of the real action won’t happen on your site no matter what, thanks to email, RSS, and other syndication methods.
So what good do those ads in the sidebar do? How do you make money when your content is where the reader wants it to be?
Plus, when you take into account ad-blocking software and the attitude of the Internet entitlement generation who doesn’t care about copyright or whether you make a living, you have little choice. If you want to make money online, be prepared to use your influence in ways that actually bring in revenue.
Web Ads Don’t Work – Jakob Nielsen, 1997
I don’t agree with everything Jakob Nielsen says, but he seems to have nailed the fact that traditional advertising strategies do not play well on the web—and he did it way back in 1997. While online ad spending has increased dramatically since, click-through rates continue to drop while eye-tracking studies show banner blindness is a devastatingly effective attention filter.
Now, in 2008 Advertising Age (of all sources) channels Nielsen and argues that maybe the web’s not a place for ads at all. The article points out that the best companies (like Apple) don’t buy ads online, and argues the same point I’ve been trying to hammer home—every online marketer is a media owner and every business that wants online exposure is a media company.
There is of course one giant exception… and that’s search engine advertising. This proves Nielson’s point that when it comes to commerce, the web is more like the Yellow Pages than a magazine. When a buyer is in search mode, search advertising such as AdWords works like a charm.
But as those eye-tracking studies show, content consumers are not in the mood to stop reading to look at banner ads or sponsor buttons. So how do you turn a reader into a buyer?
Easy… you periodically offer content that is the advertisement. But make sure you’ve got the reader’s interests firmly in mind… because the Internet is a buyer’s market.
It’s a Buyer’s Market… So Become the Buyer’s Trusted Advisor
It’s likely been hammered into your head by now—focus on the reader, build your subscriber list, earn trust, and establish authority. But for what?
If you don’t have a product or service to sell, and you don’t want to create content to sell, there’s only one other option… sell other people’s stuff for a commission (also known as affiliate marketing). And I don’t mean sticking affiliate ads in your sidebar until some “real” advertisers show up. I mean actively working to recommend quality offers to your readers.
Is it possible to do this without running off your audience? Absolutely… successful publishers have been making big money with permission marketing for well over a decade. If you want a bigger payoff for the time and effort it takes to create valuable niche content, smart affiliate marketing is the way to go.
Copywriting and Content Strategies for Affiliate Marketing
From here, I’ll be starting a series of posts on content and copywriting strategies for affiliate marketing. While I’ve got the series already planned, let me know in the comments if you have specific questions so I can work in specific areas of concern.
About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells.