Monetizing Your Digital Magazine

A digital magazine can be downloaded to your Adobe Reader, rather than mailed to your home. Digital magazines simulate the act of “turning pages” by clicking an arrow. It appears as if you are looking at a Xeroxed magazine through one of those old-school newspaper-viewers they had before computers. You know the ones where you turn the dial and you see a microfiche of the next page?

Of course the quality is a lot nicer now.

There are several ways that you can make money using this business model. You need content, SEO, and analytics in order to get advertisers. It is a bit more complex, but these are the basics. The need for good content is a given, so I will concentrate on the other two areas.


Analytics for Digital Magazine & Content Sites

The primary issue is that your readers are consuming content in two completely different areas: the Adobe Reader Magazine and on the web. Some people will prefer one or the other, some both. You will probably have to reconcile this data for your advertisers.

Or just lose the magazine and go with only web content.

Assuming you must keep the magazine, here are the ways to monetize the content:
a) Adsense/ Doubleclick type ads (“non-guaranteed inventory”)
b) Direct advertiser purchases (“guaranteed inventory”)
c) Affiliate links
d) Paid Subscriptions
e) Selling users’ personal information or using it in some way.

A. To make money with this type of content you need good content (obviously), a lot of pages, and visible ads (because we want people to click on advertisers ads). Advertisers care about getting converting traffic to their traffic. If you don’t provide it, they will stop advertising on your domain.
The advantage of adsense is that you can set it and leave it and the inventory will be filled. The disadvantages are that you can’t place adsense on adobe pages and you have little control over your advertisers.

B. There are two types of ad purchases: An ad in the digital magazine and an ad on the site. Getting companies to buy inventory on the site will be relatively easy. Just provide them stats. Getting them to buy space in the digital magazine will be much more difficult. Obviously it may just involve getting a salesman to talk an advertiser into giving you money. More likely it will involve a complex analysis in which you show how many of your website readers subscribe/download the magazine, and what do you know about those users. You can use analytics for this. IF you have everything set up properly it still will take time (to accumulate historical data) and a great analyst to figure out how to “spin” the data into actual business drivers.

C. Affiliate links are relatively easy to set up. You sign up and then embed links in your content. If someone clicks and then goes and makes a purchase you get a percentage. The risk is that you will alienate your readers if you do it poorly or too often, or you will send readers off your site and they will not purchase.

D. If you can get people to pay you directly for your content- that is great. Signing up for an RSS feed is ok too.

E. If you have people’s info, you can sell them stuff. There is a line between re-marketing and creepy that could hurt your brand.

I would assume that most companies use a combination of all of these methods. The problem is that some of these can be labor intensive (C), require incredible talent (A, B, C), and require tough decisions from upper management regarding how to allocate limited resources. In each case, intelligent business decisions will lead to larger advertisers, so analytics plays a huge role in the content business. Also, content sites tend to be the largest.


Acquiring Readers with SEO, Paid search, and Social

You need readers in order to have a business. Good content is important, but it needs to be optimized for SEO so that the engines will pick up your content. Good SEO takes a long time, and gains are incremental. At times SEO can conflict with content and design, so you must have a strong decision-maker at the top who is responsible for SEO/Content/Design conflicts.

There are some cases it may be worthwhile to purchase readers (e.g. advertise) so that visitors to your website buy from your advertisers (hopefully for more than you paid to acquire them). This is called arbitrage; this practice is looked upon unfavorably by some companies, and can get you permanently banned, so be careful how you use it.

Social media is a great way to get a loyal readership going. I would look to involve an intern in this process. It would be a good introduction into the world of internet marketing.

The-Next-Big-Secret-SEO-Variable: Reading Level

Not only is the search algorithm a secret but it also changes. Who needs that headache?

No one outside of Google (Yahoo, MSN) knows the algorithm for calculating the Google organic SERPS. But we all give advice –and with such certainty!—about how to improve organic rankings. That makes me very uneasy…I don’t like being proved wrong. I don’t need Matt Cutts to issue a statement condemning italics after I tell all my friends and admirers that italics are the secret to high rankings.

For the most part I tell everyone the same thing: concentrate on link-building and good copy if you want to improve your SEO. Your site is not so advanced that you need to think about anything else.
Of course, no exec wants to hear this. I get hateful looks like “how dare he tell me something I could have read on Wikipedia”. They want inside information and conspiracy theories.

My friend who is a salesman always tries to remind me, “No one wants to be ‘leveled with’; make sure you wait until they give you the job to try anything silly like that. In fact, don’t ‘level with’ anyone, ever. In fact, what you need to do is hire me to do your talking for you”.

Since I enjoy work, I am going to let my readers in on The-Next-Big-Secret-SEO-Variable: Reading Level. For a couple months I have noticed that one of the search parameters in Google’s advanced search is called “Reading Level”. The user can select “Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced”. Or you can leave them mixed together.

Why Will Reading Level Matter for SEO
To be clear, right now I doubt reading level affect your SERPS, though it will soon. Answer this question: “Does Google value user-experience?” Yes. Bounce rate and page load time can negatively affect your ranking. The next question would be, “what makes for a better experience, things that are easy to read or things that are hard?” Easy things, of course.

There are many ways that this change could be implemented in the serps. Currently, you are given the choice to choose between basic, intermediate, advanced. I guarantee “advanced” won’t be the highest choice. Thus, if brilliant page ranks #1 but is written in advanced language, it may not be as valuable as something that currently ranks #10 but is written in basic language.

There are other ways the change could be implemented. Google could simply tweak the rankings of sites that are written better. By “Better” I mean “Basic”. Anyone who sat through a horrible class should understand. There is nothing inherently good about advanced language. Even if the subject is a horribly advanced subject like particle physics, basic language is best. The purpose of language is to communicate.

So How Can I Use This Knowledge to My Advantage?
I would still refer you to my first paragraph. Concentrate on links and content. You really shouldn’t be doing anything different. This is a just a way that Google showing us that I am right (I mean, that content is important). 🙂

If you really want to act on this info here are a couple things you can do:
1) Hire a better copywriter.
2) Write shorter sentences.
3) Writer shorter paragraphs.
4) Use shorter words.

A Quick Guide to Metatag Development-the Essentials of SEO

Metatags ARE a fundamental aspect of search engine optimization. Still! (even in 2009.)

There are three primary metatags that we are concerned with-as far as SEO goes- the keyword metatag, the title metatag, and the description metatag. Notice these are three separate things. They serve different functions. They also have different levels of importance to search engine optimization.
In level of importance:
1) The Title Tag
2) The Description Tag
3) The Keywords Tag

The Keywords metatag is a distant third.

The Title MetaTag
If you look across the top of your browser, you will see the Title Metatags I have filled out for this page. On the homepage of the title tag reads:
Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click, Adwords Consultant
These are the primary keywords for the content on this page. This is where you put your best keywords, as this has the most bearing on SEO. It is okay to separate them with a comma, or a |. The goal is to get as many important words in there as possible without overflowing off the screen.
Each page on your site should have unique title tags. Also, you do not need to put your domain or brand name in your title tag. That is wasting valuable real estate.

If you are new to SEO, and you want to fill in your Title tags, how do you choose what words to put into the title metatag field: Look at the page you are editing and look for themes, or categories or products that are unique to this page. Stick those in the title tag.
Or, if there is a special word you’d like to rank for, and you’d like this page to be the landing page, put that special keyword in the title metatag on your page.

The Description MetaTag
The description metatag is used by certain search engines (like google and yahoo) to provide a “blurb” about your site on the search results page. Sometime search engines will show you an excerpt of text from the website, but often it will show the description metatag.
This is an opportunity for the savvy marketer to write some keyword rich copy that encourages searchers to click-through to your website. So, the description metatag will never be a list of keywords separated by commas. It has to actually be a sentence.
Other considerations:
Every page on your site needs to have a unique description metatag.
It should be 2-4 sentences. Too long or too short is not optimal.
The content of the description metatag should relate to the content of the page.
Add as many keywords in the copy as possible- but keep it readable.

The Keyword Metatag
The keywords metatag is a distant third in terms of importance to SEO. Many top SEOs ignore the keyword tag because they feel it is not cost effective, from a time-management perspective, to focus here. Time would be better spent on link building or developing content.
I would not recommend spending much time researching keywords for the metatags, but I do believe they should be populated with words relative to the content on the page.
Another good use for the keyword metatags is to put frequent misspellings of your topic in list form.
If your page is on leveling in Warcraft (the videogame) a good word for the keywords metatag might be “worcraft”(sic). In this way the search engines can know you have that content, but you don’t have to show your customers ugly misspellings.