As statistician Nate Silver, famous for baseball and election analysis, related in his 2015 book, it can be difficult to find the signal in the noise. But perhaps harder than finding the signal is the pressing challenge of making it. There are over a billion registered websites in the world, and over 40,000 Google searches a second. With all that noise, how can a company hope to make an impact bigger than a dent? How can they hope to make a profit from hits on their site? The answer is through compelling content delivered with the right context.
It can be tempting to put a lot of stake in ads to gain readers and make a profit, but ads are systemically flawed. Besides the obviously problematic task of gaining traffic to your site, there is the fact that in 2016, 26 percent of desktop users surfed with AdBlock software. When a customer uses AdBlock software, even if they land on your page, the ad won't generate revenue.
Worse than your ads being ignored is the risk of frustrating users with intrusive advertising. If this happens, customers can choose to either adopt adblockers or intentionally ignore or block your website in the future.
When content providers don't want to deal with the risks associated with ads, their sites can remain profitable through affiliate marketing relationships, like with Amazon Associates, or through a subscription model, as is the case with media sites like Slate. The catch is that you need existing traffic to make either strategy successful. But even these strategies can take 2-5 years to turn a profit.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Mansal Denton to learn how he was able to find success so quickly in the online space. Denton's unassuming Nootropedia.com is a location for comprehensive discussion, reviews, and news on nootropics (supplements that enhance mental function). Nootropedia was launched in 2016 in San Antonio, TX and in just nine months has already expanded into new regions and spurred its own specialized app, Nootracker, a sort of MyFitnessPal for nootropics.
Here's what I learned from Denton about producing content that pays for itself.
Put Content First
As marketers, we have a tendency to focus on profit. It makes sense; we're here to make a living. But when you put your focus on profits first, you lose sight of the forest for the trees. Focus, instead, on the content you create for your audience. Only create content that offers genuine value to your audience - no fluff or fillers, which will quickly be ignored or forgotten. This should be your singular vision when creating content.
"I only get the right people's attention because I'm focused on a certain quality of content rather than purely affiliate commissions," Denton says. Nootropedia lives and dies by its content. It is painstakingly written and curated, which makes it an indispensable resource for users interested in nootropics.
Authenticity is Key
In an industry like the supplement industry, it would be easy for Nootropedia.com to succumb to fraud and dangerous fakery. The company owes a lot of its success to the fact that it values authenticity so highly.
"Authenticity is key for me," says Denton, "which means I criticize and remain as transparent as possible." For Denton, that transparency is no joke. In one article, he openly discusses a brief stint in prison, when he did time for stealing historical documents in his youth to pay for college.
By making authenticity and transparency an integral part of your brand, you become more than another site--you become a bona fide resource. That level of authority cannot be bought, but it does yield major profits.
Make a Connection
When creating content, don't spend so much time focusing on SEO (search engine optimization) that you forget the person you're writing to. People like to feel connection. They won't feel a connection if you immediately hit them with numbers, but they may absorb those numbers better if you lead with a story about current events or popular culture.
Says Denton, "I know that they are interested in nootropics or smart drugs because they have searched for it in Google, but if I start with scientific journals and data right off the bat (or even anecdotal reports), it doesn't really do them any good. If I relate to something they may have seen before or know about, it's like their mind opens up to accept the rest of the post."
This strategy pays off. I recently read a piece on a nootropic tea simply because it referenced Tim Ferriss. I clicked on the article immediately, without even realizing that the association was part of Nootropedia's strategy.
Leverage readers' knowledge of and connections to pop culture and salient news items to make the writing valuable, interesting, and yes, SEO-integrated.
As the saying goes, it's not what you know; it's who you know. For Denton, this is more than just a time-tested phrase; it's a core component of his long-term business strategy and content creation plan.
Because he is a thought leader, Denton is able to get on the radar of some very successful, very powerful, and very intelligent people. As Denton puts it, "The way to real wealth is rarely a salary or affiliate commissions from selling products. Equity ownership in large, successful companies is really where the potential is."
Through the content he creates, and the notoriety it generates, Denton can form highly beneficial relationships that will become profitable down the road. Using your content to forge connections with people and organizations isn't cynical--it's savvy. And you never know when knowing the right people might pay off.
Build Your Brand
Part of Nootropedia's success is thanks to Denton's carefully crafted personal brand. Do a quick Google search on his name and you'll be inundated with positive content (which is extremely impressive, given that most of the content is about his time in prison). His persona of hard-earned wisdom and sober clarity is an immeasurable asset for his content. Not only do readers see the clear facts and thoughtfully researched material, but it's coming from a guy who's seen some stuff, and has come out on the other side because of it.
Remember that everything you say and do contributes to your personal brand. Writing for other publications, building strong relationships, and having a solid social media presence can all make your brand more valuable. Just be cautious and choose your actions wisely.
While you may not be able to replicate Denton's strategy 100%, you can absolutely learn from it. Incorporate these five elements into your site's content strategy, and you might just be able to produce content that (practically) pays for itself.