SEO began as a magic pill to “make money online.” Many SEO pioneers were bloggers and webmasters, and most of them were looking to make money from earning ad revenue instead of selling products online.
The industry changed significantly when SEO professionals set up agencies and started offering their services to e-commerce sites and traditional businesses.
However, the ad-supported revenue model has evolved and survived all the changes in the industry. Today AdSense alone makes Google $15.5 billion a year.
So what does it take to run a money-making content site today? How have things changed? Let’s take a look.
1. MFA is Dead But Ad Revenues Are Stronger Than Ever
The acronym MFA will bring back fond memories for some, and terrifying nightmares for many of us.
MFA or “made for AdSense,” was a species of websites built to target specific keywords that received high bids in AdWords. In the wake of algorithm updates MFA sites took a huge hit and the path to revenue changed from hacking keywords to creating content.
Today, the opportunities to make money from content are better than ever. The ad revenue is certainly there, more so than in the days of MFA. Digital ad spending surpassed television in 2017, so there is no reason you can’t make a significant amount of money with ads on your sites.
As for ad networks, by now you should certainly be expanding your sources of ad revenue beyond AdSense.
You can start by including Media.net ads, which will expand your network to include GDPR-compliant contextual ads from Yahoo! and Bing, as well as provide you with access to a dedicated account manager and other perks.
From there you can start capitalizing on retargeting networks and working with affiliate networks, and finally start building personal partnerships with sellers.
So, how should you approach this?
2. Select High Revenue Keywords Without Going MFA
In the modern advertising environment, it doesn’t make sense to think about keyword value in the same way. The majority of display ads are personalized to user histories, not search queries, so bidding doesn’t work the same way.
You should turn your attention away from bid prices and start thinking more about audiences.
If you want to earn significant money from ad clicks, you need to cultivate audiences that spend a lot of money. There are many ways to do this, like targeting women and children who do the majority of the shopping, to targeting CEOs and corporate executives with big-ticket spending habits.
The appropriate solution will be unique to your business, the key insight is to think in terms of audiences, both in terms of their size and their willingness to spend money.
You will also need to move away from targeting specific keywords and towards targeting the long tail, the large collection of miscellaneous keywords that make up the majority of searches. The long tail takes up more and more of the search results every day as people embrace voice search.
A good content site captures this long tail traffic by producing comprehensive content designed to address as many of the searchers’ questions as possible. A good way to identify these kinds of questions is to:
- Look at the queries in the “Searches related to” section of search results.
- Use tools like Keyword.io to identify autocomplete suggestions.
- Visit Quora and other Q&A sites to identify questions people are asking about the topic in question.
- Search forums for questions people ask about the topic.
- Search the appropriate social media to identify questions people ask about the topic.
Developing a comprehensive content pipeline that addresses these questions is the best way to rank well for the long tail in areas important to your target audiences.
Avoid splitting up your content into various small pages unless it is for the benefit of the user. Do not try to target each long tail query on a separate page unless there is a user-focused reason to do so, especially if you’re targeting keyword variations that mean essentially the same thing.
3. Adhere to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines
Google’s algorithms are designed to replicate how human quality raters evaluate sites.
If you produce content designed to get a good quality rating from a human reviewer, you are designing content that should do well within Google’s algorithms.
You can access Google’s quality rating guidelines here.
Here are some of the takeaways:
- Do not allow ads to obstruct users or mislead them into thinking the ads are a part of the main content.
- The quality of a page in a search result page is determined by how well its purpose lines up with the searcher’s needs. Identify the purpose associated with any queries you explicitly target and design your page to meet that purpose better than any other search result.
- Your content should be clearly legible and with minimal distractions.
- Your main content needs to be easily identifiable, satisfactory in length for the purpose of the page, comprehensive, and a significant amount of time, effort, or skill should be evident.
- Google doesn’t explicitly require “pretty” design, but it requires the design to be functional in that it serves the purpose of the page.
- Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are factored into the ratings. When it comes to topics that require expertise, it’s important to ensure that your content creator is an expert on the topic. Where that isn’t possible, citations are a must.
- Your site should have a good reputation online based on reviews and discussions.
- It should be easy to identify who is creating the content and easy to verify that they are somebody who is authoritative and trustworthy on the topic in question.
- This should go without saying, but any factual information you provide should be fact-checked and true.
- Supplementary content, meaning navigation and suggested articles, should be intuitive to interact with and make sense no matter what page of the site you land on.
- Avoid content with excessive verbiage that exists just to pad the word count.
Content sites can still make money exclusively on ads, but the bar is high and the approach must be centered on users and audiences. Invest in trusted content and it’s still possible to build a content empire.
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