4 Tips to better monetize your content

This is a follow up to: Content is too hard to monetize, so I’m sticking with consulting

Last week we established that being a digital content creator is hard AF. The post was shared wildly (including by the Financial Times) and it elicited a wave of responses. First, y’all just checked in to make sure I was ok and to share stories about how RadReads has positively impacted your lives. Then, there were the head scratching tweets and posts expressing surprise at how little money was being generated and the magnitude of the costs.

But most importantly, there was part that makes RadReads so special. Readers sent genuine and thought-provoking ideas on ways I could improve the odds of success. I wanted to share these tips and ideas with you, so that you could apply them to your own planning and entrepreneurial ventures.

1. Search engine optimization (SEO) matters a lot

How do people find posts, articles, and videos? Directly (ie via a newsletter), social media, and search. I’ve got a good grasp of the first two, but have really stayed away from search. Why? It’s complicated, nebulous, and honestly extremely time consuming. I think that the “black magic” nature of it (i.e. there’s no clear cut rules about what works) makes me reluctant to invest the time on it.

But think about your own behavior. A good chunk of your content consumption comes from questions you have and specific pieces of knowledge you seek to acquire. Ignoring this channel undoubedtly means leaving chips on the table. As I investigated how to learn about SEO, I was struck by a simple observation: trying to determine what your readers search for requires a huge amount of empathy. Just putting yourself in the shoes of a “searcher” can help you better frame and organize your ideas.

Other resources included figuring out the keywords people are searching for on my site and learning the first principles of SEO.

2. There are affiliates beyond Amazon

I had always assumed that Amazon was the only program for driving affiliate links, but it turns out that there are many more programs including rewardstyle, skimlinks, and shareasale. One reader suggested that I do write more content specifically aimed at converting affiliates towards higher priced products, like a guide to travel or a fitness shopping list. These are worth exploring further, but I’m still skeptical that you can drive enough traffic volume to make them economically worthwhile.

3. Don’t overlook events

This rings very true for a knowledge-based community centered around a few large cities. The suggestion was to crowdsource both an agenda and speakers, while focusing more on the right conversations versus scale and sponsorships. It’s worth further evaluation; where I personally pause is that it would have to be “the thing” to focus on, given the sheer amount of logistics that events require.

4. Don’t forget the 1,000 true fans

Kevin Kelly coined the term 1,000 true fans in 2008 to encourage creators and entrepreneurs to find ways to more deeply serve their existing clients (as opposed to trying to go for scale):

A thousand customers is a whole lot more feasible to aim for than a million fans. Millions of paying fans is not a realistic goal to shoot for, especially when you are starting out. But a thousand fans is doable. You might even be able to remember a thousand names. If you added one new true fan per day, it’d only take a few years to gain a thousand.

Today this means challenging the notion that all content should be free and that – on the contrary – a small number of people want to pay for high quality content. This pushes an individual creator to think about a tiered offering, likely via subscriptions to members-only content. The key question here is are you uniquely positioned to offer insights, tools, and instruction that cannot be found elsewhere on the internet (and for free).

Thank you all for your support and encouragement as I continue to build the RadReads community. You’re involvement is the extra motivation for me to figure it all out.

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