Social MediaTechnology

Now is the website of our discontent

More businesses are now offering free content in blogs, videos, and more, but every word, image, or soundbite still takes time and money to produce. How can you ensure your content brings you a return on that investment?

Benjamin Franklin once said: “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”

How true. Sure, he’s using a different definition of ‘content’, but the line holds true while allowing me some particularly terrible puns, like the Shakespearean title. The regularly updated content on your website has the power to make your business successful or drain your resources. Content that costs you more than it adds to your business is a good alternative definition for ‘discontent’.

The free web content you create – the blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, images, news centers, e-books, and more – is far more than just a honey trap to attract website visitors. It has to work as a step towards complementary goals for you and the reader. Unfortunately, there is rarely a clear path from content to revenue. For instance, a blog post doesn’t lead directly to a sale, but can certainly be a step towards brand recognition, link building, customer engagement, positive PR, and other desirable trends that can indirectly result in more sales. These are all marketing benefits that you may otherwise have paid for, hence they’re of value to the business.

There are other tools you can use to track audience trends. By setting goals in Google Analytics, you can see how many people read your content and go on to visit other pages of your site. By analyzing their journeys through your site, you can determine which pieces of content are working for you and which pieces are causing more people to click away.

However, don’t measure success purely by monitoring site traffic. Examine whether your website is able to convert that traffic into a financial return. You may decide that a tutorial in e-book form would help convince readers to buy your product, but if your analysis shows that very few people download it, it may be time to rethink that strategy. But should your analytics reveal that after visiting the e-book download page a large percentage then go on to view products or complete a sale, it may be time to optimize your e-book strategy.

Some people attempt to offset the costs of production with advertising or affiliate links. This demands a balancing act to meet the need for prominent advertising for people to click on against quality content that will attract enough visitors to make those clicks.

However, advertising can only work if you have a high enough traffic flow, to begin with. Plus, the content also needs to attract people that may be interested in the advertising on offer, so some alignment of themes may be more effective than randomly serving tile ads. This is why Google AdSense is quite popular with some webmasters as it uses keywords identified within the copy to serve ads of a similar topic. If you have content discussing pets, the ads may be for a local vet or dog food, thereby increasing the relevance to any potential reader and the likelihood of clicks.

Be careful that your content doesn’t try to serve too many goals. Hoping your readers will click on the ads and buy something from your website may be too high an expectation – a reader will click one or the other, not both and maybe neither – so it is best to decide on one prime method of monetization and optimize your content towards that goal.

By continually analyzing the performance of your content, you can avoid too many virtual ‘winters of discontent. #

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