Trying to get traffic to your blog or site to drive lead generation, event registrations, or sales is very different than attempting to funnel traffic to your site for online monetisation purposes. Both can be profitable, but they’re going after that profit in extremely different ways.
Despite this, too many publishers and content creators who are focusing on online monetisation end up using the same competitive benchmarks that sales- and lead-oriented sites are, just because it’s what they’re most easily able to find online.
This is the last thing you should be doing, however, because the two aren’t similar enough for those benchmarks to be accurate.
Instead, it’s essential to look at competitive benchmarking specific to online monetisation, which allows you to see what’s really happening with your industries, which strategies may be effective, and how you’re measuring up. All of this can give you actionable information that you can use to find new ways to optimise your site and content moving forward, increasing potential results.
And according to our own data, this is information that’s crucial for all publishers, bloggers, and affiliates to have because an average site we reviewed was missing out on 79% of its potential revenue and was making on average 5x less than their top earning potential.
In this post, we’re going to look at how to create accurate benchmarks to compare your site by looking at the three pillars of monetisation for publishers and bloggers.
Three pillars of monetisation: what they are and why they matter
When you want to monetise your content, there are three distinct pillars we’ve found that you need to focus on for benchmarking: CPC, Organic Traffic, and CTR.
These three pillars all offer key snippets of information, helping you see the overall big-picture view of earning potential that you could achieve.
Because monetisation can be tricky and doesn’t always offer quite as many KPIs as direct-response or sales-oriented campaigns, you need to look at contextual information to help you determine where you stand in terms of profitability and potential visibility, which in turn can help you assess the effectiveness of your current strategies.
Let’s take a look at each individual pillar, why it matters specifically, and how to use it to create actionable competitive benchmarks.
1. The CPC pillar
One of the first things that you’ll want to do is take a look at CPCs within the industry. This will allow you to see how profitable a potential niche is, and defines the average payout you can expect to receive when advertisers are running their ads on your domain.
Here’s how it works: Different niches, audiences, and regions can yield higher payouts because the advertiser is paying more to reach them. In some cases, for example, targeting a US audience may yield higher average CPCs than just targeting general English-speaking audiences.
If you’re able to gear your content towards higher-paying niches, you’ll get more of payout for every click, optimising earning potential.
Keep in mind that Google pays 68% of all ad revenue to publishers, so it’s worth it to take the time and get this right.
In order to find this information quickly, we recommend using the CPC Map tool, which will show you the breakdown of CPC ranges for specific industries in different regions across the world.
You can also compare the average CPC costs of different industries for multiple different regions at once, quickly helping you identify what has the highest profit potential.
One important thing to remember, though, is that the “expensive” part isn’t the only factor you need to be looking at; you’ll want to make sure that your niche is popular enough that you’ll get enough clicks, too. One-click for $5 isn’t as great as 10 clicks at $2 apiece. Try to find a balance here, and consider the general appeal of keywords and industries.
Google’s Keyword Planner and SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool are two other tools that you can use to get a basic idea of the average payout you may expect to receive. They’ll help you find that balance between high cost and high volume keywords and industries, giving you the best chance to maximise your revenue across the board.
You’ll want to monitor this data regularly because the ad market is one that frequently fluctuates. Trends can cause costs to drop, or for popularity in certain topics to decrease. Staying on top of this information will help you adapt quickly before you lose revenue.
2. The (organic) traffic pillar
The traffic pillar impacts monetisation because it directly affects how much traffic is coming to your site. And since you need the traffic to come to your site for people to see an ad and click, organic SEO should be an enormous focus when you’re looking to monetise, especially since you aren’t cutting into your profits by investing in PPC ads yourself for this purpose.
This pillar is, simply put, the lifeblood of your monetisation potential. The more clicks you get, the more you can potentially earn.
Use competitor research tools to examine how your competition (both direct and indirect) are getting traffic to their site. You can break this down into three distinct areas of focus: social media, SEO, and referral traffic. Let’s look at how to track each.
Traffic sources overview
First things first, you’re going to want to know which sources your competitors are getting traffic from and how much traffic they’re getting. You can see who is beating you, take a look at their strategies, and maybe identify that you need to shift your overall strategy.
Use SEMrush Traffic Analytics to get an overview of your competitors’ site traffic.
Social media is a common source of referral traffic, allowing people to discover you and then click on posts shared by either you or someone else to get to your site.
Look at what your competitors are doing using tools like SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker. You can enter in specific competitors to track, seeing if they have active social profiles, their overall engagement rates, and take a look at their highest engaging posts to try to see what’s working for them. Engagement rates are strong indicators of relevance, which is something to look at and make sure you’re measuring up to.
Understanding your competitors’ referral traffic and backlink profile will show you what other sites are sending people their way. Remember that a strong backlink profile will help you when it comes to SEO, but that it’s also a means of direct traffic, too, giving you a powerful advantage on two fronts.
Use the Traffic Analytics report to see an individual competitor’s referring sites and how much traffic each one is driving. You may get a few ideas of who to reach out to about potential guest publications, or try to get on their radar.
3. The CTR pillar
You want to drive relevant traffic to your site so that you can also direct them to a third-party site and get that paycheck. To monetise your site to the max, you need to make sure that the ads on your site are positioned for success as much as possible.
This means choosing strong placements. There are multiple options, like banner ads vs. in-content ads, and multiple different shapes and sizes. You should only enable placements that are both visible and attractive, making them noticeable and appealing.
When you’re doing competitor research and checking out their sites, ask yourself the following questions:
Which monetisation models are they using? Do they seem to be sourcing ads from Amazon, AdSense, affiliate links, or other third-party ad platforms like BuySellAds?
What do the ad placements look like? What sizes of ads are they using, where are they placed, and how do they stand out? ShoutMeLoud, for example, uses trackable-but-discreet affiliate links placed in clickable CTA buttons to drive results.
What ads jump out to you most? Is it based in placement? Do video ads grab your attention more, or do certain sizes seem to catch your attention most? Take note of this.
If you want to monetise your site via AdSense, get some inspiration from our Display Advertising Tool, which allows you to analyse publishers from multiple angels like audience interests, ad formats, and more.
Only 21% of businesses that we reviewed out of more than 30,000 domains (which belonged to 20 different industries) were reaching their full estimated potential with online monetisation. You don’t want this to be the case for your site, so take the time to invest in the knowledge of competitive benchmarking, which will allow you to assess your strategies and potential profitability against hard data instead of best guesses. With so much money at stake, you can’t afford to.