(Guest writer: Ankit Oberoi)
Having a hard time monetizing your blog? After spending hours every week planning, writing and posting great content, it can be disappointing to not make any serious amount of money from all your effort. The good news is improving your blog’s monetization and converting it into a moneymaking machine isn’t too hard – if you have the right tools.
We’ve gathered a list of the top 20+ tools to improve monetization on your blog. Alongside each tool are the pros and cons (nothing’s perfect) of using these tools. This will help you to decide if the tool is the right tool for your objectives and site goals.
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Do share your thoughts or reviews of these tools in the comments section to help aid fellow readers in making their choices. Here are shortcuts to help you get to your preferred section faster:
- Display Related Content
- Ad Server
- A/B Testing
- Monetize Bounce Traffic
- Monetize CAPTCHA
- Affiliate Marketing Solutions
- Membership Sites
An easy way to improve both your monetization and provide relevant content to your traffic is to join a program that displays related content. You’ve probably seen these around the Internet already. They’re designed to look like part of the site, making them much less off-putting to visitors than normal advertising.
However, there are a few things you need to have to qualify for most related content programs. One, your blog has to receive a good amount of traffic (if you’re going to make any money through clicks) and B, you also usually require a PayPal account to receive payments.
Featuring top-tier sites like CNN and Rolling Stone, Outbrain is one of the leading content networks. Outbrain allows you to both promote your own articles and build revenue by showing Outbrain network articles on your site.
- Large Publisher and Advertiser network results in better payouts.
- Webmasters have reported a quick and helpful support team.
- You have no control over the thumbnail size.
- Some have reported the initial “key claiming” process as buggy.
Taboola is an upcoming content network, offering a service very similar to the two above. It is relatively new, but some large publishers have recently shifted from other networks to Taboola. Currently, it is serving more than 3 billion content recommendations daily.
- Claims a very sophisticated discovery and recommendation engine, which gets much higher CTRs than other competitors, since the content is more relevant. A lot of customers, who A/B tested between different networks, confirmed this.
- A detailed analytics dashboard provides insights about the content performance.
- Less control over what you want to show on your website.
Simply put, ad server is the technology that allows you to display ads on your website. Normally websites can make much more money directly selling banner space or ad space than using ad networks. So, with an Ad Server you can easily manage your ad inventory and keep your advertisers happy. Here are some reasons why getting your own ad server is a good idea:
- You have more control over which ads appear on your site. Most ad servers allow you to choose tags relevant to your site instead of relying on them to choose ads for you.
- You have greater accountability over your ads since the software to track ad performance is on your site.
- Like tracking ad performance, having your own ad server will also provide better ad insights. This will allow you to track performance and adjust your inventory accordingly.
Although ADTECH tends to be geared more for larger sites, its features like live testing, user tracking and other add-ons will make it easy to increase monetization (if you have the right site).
- Simple and flexible tagging system that makes it easy to have the right ads appear.
- Good presence in European markets.
- Able to integrate with any preferred ad network, making it versatile.
- Might be a little too advanced for new users. If you don’t keep track of your tags, you could find your interface getting really cluttered.
An open-source option, Oasis requires a little more savvy on the part of the site owner to run. It features many premium tools and settings, making it ideal for power users.
- Allows you to run your own server with minimal processing power.
- Free, so you don’t need to pay any monthly fee to use it.
- Requires customization (and a web developer) to get it properly running with your system.
AdZerk is an ad serving platform, which features a very simple and easy to use user interface. It is currently being used by websites like Reddit & StackOverflow. Oh and it is free for up to 100 million impressions.
- Very easy to configure and use, making it ideal for new website owners.
- No long-term commitments, and great support staff. One of the fastest ad servers on the market.
- Ads tend to appear on sites aimed at a specific demographic that may not match your site.
Do you know that by A/B testing different ad locations, sizes and ad themes you can increase your ad revenue manifold? It works on a very simple model. Different variations of your page are created with different ad locations, sizes and designs. Traffic is then split between these variations to see which variation works best.
Designed to make A/B testing simple and easy, Optimizely is use by both large sites and small ones in determining what works best as far as monetization is concerned. Featuring easy-to-use testing setup, you can track engagements, opt-ins, signups, conversions and more.
- A very simple and easy to understand UI.
- You can decide how to split traffic between variations.
(Disclaimer: I’m a co-founder) Different from the two options above, AdPushup is the first A/B testing tool for Publishers; with it, you can easily create A/B testing experiments for ads like AdSense. You can see how different ad locations, sizes and ad themes perform on your website put the testing on auto-pilot mode. Your visitors behavior on the site will be constantly measured and changes will be made to the ad placement automatically to get the best RPM (revenue per thousand impressions).
- Gives you lots of options to customize how your ads will appear
- A/B testing lets you find the most profitable ad placement (and type) on your site.
- Still in beta mode at the time of writing.
When you know how users are interacting with your site, you can determine whether your design, layout, and ad locations are effective. The better you know what your users do, the more you’ll be able to optimize your site for ad placement and other monetization tools. Heatmaps show what your users do when they’re on your site.
One of the most popular heatmap tools, Crazy Egg has a wide variety of options and tools for you to fully understand how users interact with your site. It can show you where your visitors have clicked in a single overlay, letting you analyze a lot of data at once.
- Comprehensive information about your visitors. Gives you data on every interaction but has great summaries to make it easy to know which parts of your site are working and which aren’t.
- Also offers Confetti and scroll maps.
- Sometimes it is hard to know what actions to take with the data.
Like its name implies, Mouse Flow allows you to track and analyze your website visitors’ mouse movement. The best part is it works in real-time. This means Mouse Flow allows you to virtually look over your visitor’s shoulders and watch what they do to better understand visitor behavior.
- Watch what your customers do and know exactly how they interact with your site.
- Gives you accurate, reliable information on their activities allowing you to record and replay visitor’s mouse movement.
- Some Internet users have expressed privacy concerns especially about the recording of the visitor’s session’ keystrokes & mouse flow.
If you’re looking for something open-source and free, Cannoli may be your solution. Unfortunately, it appears active development on Cannoli has stopped, but existing versions of this software can still be installed on your site if you want a free heatmap solution.
- Open-source, modify as you like.
- Free of cost.
Cons: Hasn’t been updated since a very long time.
One of the hard truths about blog traffic is that a large part of your visitors will “bounce,” meaning they leave without opening a second page on your website. New, innovative products which try to stop your users from bouncing have emerged to give you a second chance to earn from your visitors.
A truly impressive technology, Bounce Exchange installs software on your site that tracks customer mouse movement in real-time. The nanosecond your customers move their cursor off your site to close the window or visit a different site, a message will pop up which gives your visitors another chance to give you their email, get a discount on a product, and more. This service is expensive, but for the right site, it’s definitely worth it.
- They have built traction very quickly and are featured on many popular websites.
- Strong Exit intent technology.
- You need a large budget for this – several thousand dollars per month, so only for enterprise customers.
A fully-featured tool that helps to dramatically reduce your bounce rate, Optinmonster boasts a short setup time and the ability to have a customizable anti-bounce strategy. You create optins, determine when they’ll appear, and let it run.
- Allows you to A/B test different forms.
- Page level targeting for customizing message shown to visitors.
- Since it is a WordPress plugin, works only with WordPress.
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Do you know that it takes an average of 14 seconds for people to solve CAPTCHAs? Monetize CAPTCHA services take advantage of this by placing ads in the CAPTCHA puzzles. If your site uses CAPTCHAs frequently, you could earn money every time a user solves one of these puzzles.
Used by many major sites, SolveMedia requires users to answer specific questions and type in brand phrases to solve the CAPTCHA.
- Some bloggers have reported better payouts as compared to other networks.
- Solve Media claims its CAPTCHAs can be solved more quickly than others.
- Some users feel that replacing text with an advertisement and a related question is too invasive.
NLPCaptcha provides users with a variety of puzzle types to keep them engaged when solving. This helps improve recall. You earn money every time a user solves a CAPTCHA, and it also dramatically improves the user experience on your site.
- A wide range of puzzles offered.
- They also offer Fill-in and N-gage captcha.
- Payouts per CAPTCHA are lower than other networks.
Do you often feature product reviews on your blog? By joining affiliate programs, you can earn money whenever your website visitor buys a product you featured. This is especially great if you have a site dedicated to product reviews.
With a huge directory of merchants to choose from, ShareASale is about as easy as it comes. Simply find a product or service you want to highlight on your blog, and then add the appropriate link and button to your site. ShareASale has been around for a while, and it’s a well-respected affiliate network.
- Easy-to-use interface that make it simple to promote a product (and earn commissions).
- A good network, if your audience is primarily webmasters.
- Not a very large affiliate network and sometimes you won’t find products for certain niches.
Through this service isn’t available in all regions yet (it’s primarily a US program), Amazon Associates allows you to simply link to Amazon sales pages using custom URLs. Any products your visitor buys after clicking your URL will give you credit for the sale, earning you a percentage of the income. Since Amazon has millions of products and makes billions in annual revenue, it’s a convenient way to improve blog monetization.
- Allows you to sell any product listed on Amazon.com and get a commission.
- Since Amazon has high trust and authority, conversions are more likely.
- The biggest issue is that it is primarily a US only program.
Very popular with internet marketers, ClickBank has a high variety of products that you can choose to promote. Simply find a product, apply to become an affiliate, and then promote that product to your visitors. Every time one of your visitors buys a product, you get a share of the commission. ClickBank allows its affiliates to see which products are performing well and which aren’t, allowing you to choose products that have a higher likelihood of selling on your site.
- Lots of products to choose from thousands of niche.
- Clickbank Marketplace itself attracts a large volume of traffic.
- They have a great history of helping Internet marketers make millions.
- Some people have reported delay in product approvals and higher than normal refund rates.
- They don’t approve list building products.
Finally, if you have proven your expertise as a blogger, you may be able to sell members-only content on your site. This members-only access to premium content gives your visitors an incentive to pay for a monthly site subscription. As many online business owners know, subscriptions are an easy way to collect recurring payments and therefore is a reliable income you can count on for your blogging efforts.
A powerful WordPress tool from Copyblogger Media, Premise makes setting up membership sites easy and convenient. It’s a one-time charge, so a single investment can go a long way in building a network of membership sites.
- Comes with over 1100 graphics you can use to make your landing pages attractive and easy to navigate.
- Also includes copywriting templates to make it easy to sell your product.
- Allows you to easily create members-only access areas.
- Premise landing page editor somewhat cumbersome to use. No live editor.
Another simple solution that’s popular for many bloggers, Wishlist Member allows you to easily create membership sites with a variety of content. Although it doesn’t play as well with other plugins such as Premise, it’s still an easy, “out-of-the-box” option for setting up members-only access.
- Provides unlimited membership levels.
- Allows you to deliver content gradually, integrates with your current WordPress site.
- Members management panel designed well.
- Not a standalone theme. Adds onto an existing site instead of providing templates, landing pages, etc.
With its recent update Optimizepress has become a powerful plugin that can work with your existing WordPress theme instead of replacing your current site’s appearance. This has convinced many users to make the switch from other membership site tools.
- You can install it on top of your current WordPress theme – no new software needed.
- You can also create attractive landing pages, signup forms, and more with its easy-to-use interface and in-built features.
- Great customer support.
- Limited templates (without paying for an upgrade to the Optimizepress Club)
If you’ve been trying to improve the income you make from your blog, I’m sure the tools I mentioned above will help. Look into the options that will best fit with your site and see how you can improve monetization on your blog today. Good luck!
(This guest post is written by Ankit Oberoi for Hongkiat.com. Ankit is a co-founder at AdPushup, building an A/B Testing & Website Optimization app aimed at publishers. Ankit is a programmer, online marketer, webmaster, and growth hacker. He loves traveling and learning new languages.)