Tuesday February 2nd || by Aaron Taube

MonetizationStreams

People often think of user experience and monetization as two opposing sides in a zero sum game, one in which readers’ best interests and the bottom line are continually in conflict.

This perception couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, your user experience and monetization strategy should work hand-in-hand to create a virtuous cycle where your site makes more money because people love coming back to it, and your users grow ever more loyal due to your relevant advertising and useful content recommendations.

Here are four tips for keeping your readers happy while simultaneously filling your company’s coffers.

1. Avoid monetization units that block the user when they first arrive at the page.

Interstitials and full-page app install ads are thought by many to be a great way of getting a user’s attention, but they often actually do more harm than good.

When people are blocked from reaching your content, many of them will just find something else to do rather than taking the time to look at your ad or search for the “X” button. In fact, when Google studied the effects of one of its interstitial app download ads, it found that a full 69% of visitors abandoned the page after encountering the ad. Even if you’re getting great rates for your interstitial ads, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to benefit from chasing away nearly three-quarters of your readers. After all, every reader who doesn’t make it to your page isn’t seeing your on-page display ads, content recommendations, or any links to your other stories.

On top of all that, Google said last year that mobile sites with interstitial app-install ads will not be considered “mobile friendly” in its search algorithm, meaning that using these monetization units will hurt your chances of being found by search users.

2. Measure engagement statistics to make sure your ad units aren’t hurting the user experience.

Another common mistake people make is using the revenue an ad unit generates by itself as the sole factor in determining its utility to the site. But if Ad Unit A offers a 5% increase in CPM over Ad Unit B and causes a 10% decrease in site traffic, it’s actually hurting your monetization efforts more than it’s helping.

This is why it’s so important to test how your different monetization units affect your engagement statistics, which help you understand how much readers enjoy spending time on your site. These metrics include return visitors, time-on-site, pageviews per visit, and scroll depth. Keeping track of them will go a long way toward ensuring that the people who love your content remain loyal to your site.

3. Use mid-article engagement and monetization tools to optimize RPM on mobile users.

With more and more publishers receiving over half their traffic from smartphone and tablet users, it’s imperative to create a separate monetization strategy that caters to the distinct needs of mobile users.

A disproportionate number of mobile users come from social media sites like Facebook, and because these people don’t seek out your content directly, they’re likely to have a shorter attention span than the desktop users who more frequently find you through your homepage. On the bright side, these people are more receptive to engaging with content and monetization units in the middle of the page.

As a result, it’s a good idea to use a “read more” button early in your story, maximizing the visit value of these more flighty types of audiences by presenting them with other items to engage with, such as organic or sponsored content recommendations. You can also use mid-article native placements, which give people an opportunity to click on a piece of sponsored content at a time when they might otherwise be thinking about leaving your page to do something else. You can click here to read more tips on engaging and monetizing mobile users.

4. Personalize your monetization strategy based on what you know about your users.

A one-size-fits-all strategy is no longer sufficient in digital publishing, and the same goes for the monetization units you select.

One big way to optimize your results is to offer different experiences to people based on whether they have arrived via your homepage or social media. Homepage visitors are your most loyal users, spending about three times as much time on a site as social media referrals, so it’s important that the page they see is relatively uncluttered and has a small number of high-quality ad units. While you might not make a huge sum of money on the first visit with an aggressive ad template, you’ll be able to enjoy higher revenues in the long run with less intrusive ads when users return to your site over and over again.

Conversely, social users are less engaged and more likely to merely skim your content before returning to the social platform they arrived from. In order to capitalize on these brief visits, it’s best to use more prominent ad units and content recommendations.

Another personalization tip: with video content fetching big-time CPMs from advertisers these days, it’s important to make sure that visitors who enjoy watching videos can find them on your site. By leveraging your user data, you can identify people who’ve watched a video recently and then show them a page with a larger and more prominent video module.

Last but not least, if you’re using Taboola’s content recommendations, it’s crucial to ensure that your recommendation units are in line with Taboola’s best practices. This means filling your below-article placements with two rows of sponsored content and making sure your mobile placements are at least 1×4 units large. For more best practices information, you can contact your account manager.

By following these steps, you’ll learn rather quickly that user engagement and monetization are not opposing forces, but can instead work together to create more value for both your readers and your bottom line.

Aaron Taube

Aaron Taube is a freelance writer and reporter based in New York City. Prior to striking out on his own, he worked as an advertising reporter at Business Insider and a researcher at the legal news service Law360. He is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.