Discover how to boost your revenue by ditching display ads and exploring alternative monetization strategies.
IE 333: How to Increase Revenue by Ditching Display Ads with Monica Froese
We spoke with Monica about How to Sell Digital Products back in episode 317. She is one of the best teachers. You’re going to get a ton of information from this episode.
You are going to want to make sure that you sign up for her free Profit Transformation class that she is offering.
You might have been thrown off by “ditching display ads.” Monica and I do not expect you to turn off your ads right now.
You are going to have specific steps that you can take to start to transition so that you can fully monetize your business by diversifying.
We are going to dive into the best ways to do that.
My name’s Monica Froese. I have been blogging since 2013, very accidentally.
Right after I gave birth to my first daughter, I had horrible postpartum. PTSD.
I was very upset about the lack of maternity leave in this country. I put up a blog with no intention to monetize it.
Around 2015/2016, I got really energized about the idea to monetize it.
I feel like that’s when the online space started talking about blogging monetization.
It was really fun to learn about. It is kind of funny because my corporate career was in marketing.
Essentially, I was doing the things that you do to monetize a blog.
I didn’t make that connection right away either.
I just never imagined that (the blog) Redefining Mom could be something that made money.
It wasn’t the intent behind it but that quickly turned into something.
I quit my corporate job in 2016.
There have been some windy roads but we’ve arrived at a place where I’ve launched well over a hundred digital products.
I have a big digital product shop called The Empowered Shop.
Under the Empowered Business brand, I help other small businesses develop their own profitable digital products.
I love this avenue because for so long, bloggers relied upon display ads and ad networks, especially my food blogging audience.
They kind of dig their heels in and fully rely on that.
We can, however, diversify. We can give ourselves other options.
Why do display ads suck?
I work with a lot of bloggers as well, and sometimes, they pull up their dashboard, and their Google Analytics, and we start talking about their page views.
The first thing I remind them is that a page view is a real human on their website.
It’s a real person that has validated that they’re interested in the topic that you are writing about.
It’s not just a page view, it’s an actual human who wants you to help them with a solution.
When they show me how many page views they have, I often tell people that if I had that many page views, I’d be a multimillionaire.
It always makes people pause and wonder what I mean.
If you do the math, 350,000 pageviews might make you $10,000 a month in display ads.
The reality is, if I had 350,000 page views a month, I’m not kidding, I would be a multimillionaire. I just want to preface that.
That’s the first reason display ads suck.
A page view is a real human.
When you click on a display ad, you are sending these real humans away from you for pennies.
My second pet peeve is that display ads are a horrible user experience.
Even if you have the video ads turned off, when you are scrolling through a page of display ads, the only things standing out are the display ads.
They are obnoxious on a desktop.
If you are on a mobile device, it completely detracts from why you’re trying to attract people to your site to begin with.
If I’m on your site for a recipe and see Target and Crest, why is that relevant?
How are you helping my user experience by providing me with relevant content to click on?
The main point is, they also hinder the ability of people to take action inside of their own businesses.
If the prominent call to action on your post is to click this display ad, what am I doing to benefit your business?
I’m not sticking around in your business.
The reality is, once I click on it, I’m gone forever.
You’re never going to get me back.
You have sent me away on an irrelevant tangent and you made maybe 2-3 cents for that page view.
I have a calculator that I run with people. Every single person who has display ads falls between the 2-3 cent range of what a page view is worth.
That page view, once it’s gone, it’s gone.
There is no scalability to ads at all because you have attracted a person to your website and then you sent them away.
They’re gone. They’re done.
You’re likely never going to see them again.
It blows my mind because it’s so much effort to get people to your website.
One thing I hate the most about online business is lead generation, the process of getting a lead for your business.
It is the hardest thing to attract new people to you. It blows my mind when I see people doing so well with lead generation and getting people to their sites, but then sending them away for a few cents on the click.
Can we stop doing it?
You talked about in your introduction how 2015/2016 was when people started making money.
Everybody was talking about ads. That was how we were monetizing and making money.
There weren’t a lot of people talking about having your own product or service.
For so long we chased page views. That’s all that people cared about.
We got excited about Pinterest. We loved it because it used to drive traffic.
Then, it started to shift and change. Now, it has gone its own little, merry way.
People started to get frustrated with it because it wasn’t continuing to drive that traffic to them.
But, like you’re saying, if we have our own product or service, it changes the game.
It doesn’t make it so that you have to rely upon those ads that continue driving people to go away and not come back.
There is one thing about blogging that I feel really like was misinterpreted when monetization started being talked about.
Content is a means to attract people to you. It is a means to bring people into your business, but a business sells something.
I don’t care if it’s a service. I don’t care if it’s a product.
Every business has an asset that they’re selling.
A digital product is an asset. A physical product, your inventory, is an asset. Providing a service can be an asset in your business.
To be in business, you are selling something.
That message got very missed in the blogging world for some reason.
You talk about sponsorships.
What’s more attractive to a sponsor?
Telling them “I get 200,000 page views a month,” or, “I get 200,000 page views a month, and my email list is over 100,000 people because I’ve been working to grow it.”
You don’t even have to have high conversion rates on your email list to get to 100,000 people on your email list if you’re getting 200,000 page views.
What’s going to be more attractive to a sponsor? What’s going to make you more money?
The same thing goes for affiliate marketing.
When you are driving a main call to action for someone to click an affiliate link in a blog post, you are still sending people away from you.
The chances of seeing them again are very low.
What if you incentivize them instead to form a relationship with you by getting on your email list and then you promote your affiliates?
If you want to help an affiliate sell a product, course, software, or whatever it is, it will be more attractive to the affiliate partner if you give them a dedicated email to my 100,000-person email list.
Because my audience, that I own, is so big, I would like to have a bigger affiliate commission for that.
What negotiation do you really have? You might be able to drive a few thousand page views to this blog post, but no follow-up is involved in that.
Even when you’re sending to an affiliate partner, you don’t control anything about the affiliate partner.
Once they click over there, you have no control over the conversion to the sale.
When someone comes to you through your lead generation, which is your content, which is your blog, your primary mode should be “how am I going to own this relationship with this person first, and then how am I going to make money from that?”
It shouldn’t be to make 2-3 cents and that’s it. It just doesn’t make sense.
This is part of the reason why when I talk about sponsorships, I talk about the importance of having that email list.
It does matter to a brand.
It’s the reason that brands have gone towards using Instagram and TikTok for immediate gratification of knowing that an action is going to be taken because those people have that relationship.
They are sticking around. They are watching your content.
Like you’re saying with the blog, if you don’t have that email list of them, they can potentially be gone and they are not necessarily returning. Get them on your list. Get them to continue to return. I love that.
Why is it important to have a monetization strategy of your own?
Because you need to own an asset in your business.
You need to have something that you have full control over.
When you own the asset and you are controlling your buying journey, there are so many levers that you can pull.
- What is the entry point?
- How do I get more people to convert off the top?
- How do I get more people to buy immediately? Your easy “yes.”
Some people call the “easy yes” a trip wire or limited-time offer.
If you don’t have a product to sell, it could be that after you get them on your email list, that initial call to action could be to set up a discovery call with you.
If you’re offering a service or a group coaching program or whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be that you’re going for an immediate sale, but it has to be some action that Is leading them to eventually buy something that you control in your business.
When you control it, it’s like a trickle-down effect and you get to focus on all these different levers that you can pull; the initial conversion, the secondary conversion into the sale, or your clickthrough rate on your email.
The opportunities are just endless when you control the monetization stream.
Your primary monetization stream in your business should be something that you own and control that whole buying journey on.
Then to support that, diversification. I am not saying that’s a bad idea. Diversification’s a great idea.
That’s where affiliates, sponsorships, and JVs come in.
Those are things that you can do to support and add value to your customers too.
I can’t solve every issue that my customer has.
No matter what your niche is, you’re not going to be the one-stop shop for everything in your niche.
Nobody is. There’s an area of expertise that you will hold or your main product or service will serve, and then you can go out and form these relationships to better supplement an additional revenue stream.
It’s like an ecosystem that you’re creating but you cannot create an ecosystem if you don’t own the customer relationship. You just can’t.
When you ditch display ads, what should you turn to?
There are a lot of reasons why I would recommend digital products. There are some practical benefits here.
The first one is that a digital product is an asset.
A digital product is something that you create once and that you can sell over and over again.
The overhead is non-existent to a degree.
Of course, we have to support people in our inboxes if they typed in the wrong email or can’t download it.
There’s going to be some labor overhead with customer service.
You want to provide great customer service, but the idea is that you can create an asset and it can be sold over and over again.
There is profitability behind that.
The profit margins can pad other things you do.
Let’s say that you sell physical planners. Those are going to have pretty low-profit margins. You’re going to have to sell quite a bit to make a decent profit.
But, what if you layered on a digital service or a digital product to that, maybe the download version?
What if you offered a goal planning workshop that you host once a year but you put it on evergreen?
It can be sold year-round and you do different pushes.
I have a goal planning workshop. We do a push at the end of every quarter.
Goal planning is not just for December or January. It’s every quarter. It can be every month. There’s always a reason.
Digital products can be paired with physical products and with services, It’s a great way to initially pad your profit.
What is the first step when adding digital products to your business?
We like to skip steps, especially bloggers.
Do you know why I love working with bloggers?
Going back to one of the things I already said, which is, the hardest part of the business is actually attracting people to you
Bloggers. I want you all to hear me because you are amazing and you already know how to do that.
You have taken a big chunk out of the number one problem that most businesses have, whether it be brick-and-mortar online businesses or every business out there.
You know how to get people to you, and since you know how to get people to you, you are already a leg up.
My program teaches the A to Z of creating digital products. The first thing that I start with if you’re a newbie is “What’s your niche? What problem do you solve?” If there’s nothing, you don’t have any foundation.
A blogger has such a foundation because they have real humans already coming to them.
Even if they don’t already have people coming to them, they have an email list.
If you do have an email list, the first thing you should do is you should start by asking them.
You don’t just want to ask open-ended questions either.
If you’re going to send a survey, reign them in with a few ideas.
People are much more likely to respond to you. I usually ask two questions in a survey.
If you have an existing email list, give them four options of things that you think you could create for them that would help solve their problem.
A digital product is a solution to a problem.
People came to your website because they had a problem. That’s why they landed on your content.
If they got onto your email list, it’s because they want to hear more about solutions to this problem.
Narrow it down to four and then from there, give them an open-ended question that’s not mandatory.
You’d be surprised how many people will fill it in if it’s not mandatory.
But if they go to a survey and they’re forced to freeform, they will click off of it.
People automatically think they don’t have time for this.
If you are a blogger without an email list but with a lot of page views, let’s hone in on what the topic is.
Most bloggers I’ve worked with have three to five blog posts that drive the majority of their traffic.
Those topics are why people are coming to you.
What about those topics? What is the problem that the content you’re putting out is solving? Start there.
I do a thing with reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering’s good whether you have a topic or you don’t have a topic.
Because you have a topic, really and peel back and find out why someone arrived at that blog post to begin with.
What was the problem that they were looking for a solution to?
Then, go out and reverse engineer it. For me, that means my top reverse engineering is Pinterest, Google, and YouTube.
Pinterest is visual, which elicits a different response. When you search on Pinterest, you’re getting visual results back to you.
The pin is demonstrating the solution that you’re hoping people will click on.
That will help you see what people are seeing when they’re searching for this problem that eventually got them to me.
Google is great because Google spoon-feeds you.
It’s text-based results mainly, but it is also what people are asking about that topic.
The second thing on the Google search results tells you what people are asking about this topic.
It’s Google telling you the exact problem people are searching for related to your topic.
YouTube is great because that’s the video form of why.
If you have food bloggers who search for something like “drink mixers” when they go to YouTube.
YouTube is in the business of raising the content of the videos that people are watching.
Those three search engines give you a well-rounded view of the things people are searching about that topic that you already know you can get traffic from.
From there. I lead people through this process of identifying what kind of digital products they can create based on these search results around this topic.
It’s really fascinating. I would say 99% of people, especially food bloggers, don’t think they can create digital products.
They usually come to me and think there’s nothing they can create. It’s not going to work.
We do reverse engineering. Then they have like a hundred ideas. It’s amazing the way that they dig their heels in when it comes to that.
I get it because I did a lot of food blogging. That was the lane that I ran in for the longest time as well.
It was this mentality of just page views and ads,
That’s all you heard as a food blogger.
When we pull it back and look at where your people are coming from and the content you are continually getting people to.
Grow your list with those people and then provide them with one step further, deeper conversations and solutions on that topic.
It makes a huge difference. That’s when we see them realize that it was easy. I just sold $1,000 worth of products.
Yes, it was only a $9.99 product. Your page views for ads are 2-3 cents.
I have a calculator that I run through with people in one-on-one meetings.
It’s fascinating because even with very low conversion rates to a low digital product on the initial sale, you can double that almost consistently.
We can double the 2-3 cents.
The first-time visitor becomes worth 6-7 cents.
Not only are they worth double what they were, but now, you have the ability to continually communicate with them, which you didn’t have with display ads.
It is a no-brainer to switch the mentality.
I know how scary it is, especially when someone’s in like the $3,000- $6,000 range of earnings from display ads.
I would never tell anyone to just turn that off tomorrow. That’s ridiculous.
But what I would say is to go to one post at a time and optimize it.
Dial it in for the conversion onto your email list and then turn display ads off just for that piece of content for 30 days and see what happens.
It’s a risk mitigation strategy. Very few bloggers are willing to just turn it off.
You have to put things in place for that to happen. It’s not like people are just going to convert to your email list overnight.
You have to put some legwork into that.
I always tell people to do one blog post at a time and I’ve had very few people that follow that.
We go through systematic things like turning off your sidebar. Sidebars are a huge distraction.
Ad companies only want them on because it’s another place to put another shiny, flashy ad to distract.
If I have landed on your blog post, I really don’t care who you are yet. I don’t need your picture with a “Hi, I’m this person.”
People also put opt-ins in their sidebar, which usually are not related to the content of the blog post.
Now you’re giving them multiple calls to action. Turn the sidebar off.
Keep your menu very limited. Your menu is also a distraction.
I even turn off social media. I still have to do this on my main site right now.
Share buttons on the top. Can we just talk about that?
Is it more important for someone to tweet or pin your post, or is it more important for them to get on your email list?
Don’t make that the first thing that they see. Nobody’s even sharing it right away. They haven’t even read the content yet.
That’s the emphasis that we really need to walk away with this.
As you said originally, we would say the first step is to attract them to the content.
We already have that as bloggers.
The big thing is your email list. You have to have an opt-in.
I still see my food bloggers making the mistake of putting “Join my list to get the latest recipe.”
They don’t care about that.
That’s not enough. You have to set yourself apart. I don’t want to give an ebook.
Everybody gives an ebook. If you can set yourself apart in that ebook with, not simply just recipes, but making it a bit more about what your specialty is.
For example, be able to tell me the difference between all the different grains, because you are known for creating all different types of grain recipes.
That’s the difference that we need to have to set ourselves apart.
Let’s say your keto food blogger. What if your opt-in was giving me a macro calculator?
Food bloggers get very stuck in the fact that people are coming for this recipe and that’s all they want from me.
But the thing is, they’re coming for your recipe. If you peel it back, there are more reasons why they’re there.
If someone’s on your keto food blog, they’re not there just because they need this one keto recipe.
They’re there because they’re making a lifestyle change.
That is a whole big topic that has a whole lot of moving parts involved in it that revolve around food.
There’s meal prep that has to happen.
There’s the whole tracking of your calories and good ways to do that. How do you keep up with it?
It is such a bigger topic than your chicken recipe.
No, I’m not actually just looking for that.
What is it about that chicken recipe that I’m looking for? Is it made in five minutes?
Is it made in 20 minutes? Is it the ingredients that go in with it? Can you get vegetables snuck in somehow to that chicken recipe mix?
Cooking has just never been a strong suit of mine.
If I look at a recipe and there is one ingredient that I have no idea where I’d even find in the grocery store, I’m done.
I like easy recipes that are like three ingredients and nothing complicated.
You’re not asking me to pull out some sort of processor I don’t have or a tool that I’ve never heard of.
There are a lot of people like me out there and we do eat keto.
My husband cycles on and off keto. I’m fairly familiar with it. When he came to me originally and said he wanted to do keto, I was overwhelmed by it.
I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to feed you.” That was actually how I felt about it.
Once I discovered this macro thing and wondered if there was a “macro for dummies” out there or something to help.
It was so overwhelming for me. I was looking to food bloggers, not just for their recipes, but for making that easier for me.
What is the biggest mistake made when it comes to digital products?
The first objection I get is always “I don’t have an idea what digital product I’d create.”
We get them past that hurdle and then they want to create all the things and put all the things into one thing.
Once they start peeling back the onion, they realize that they know so much about this topic.
We always take for granted that the topic that we’re good at is intuitive for others.
No, it’s really not. It is not intuitive. Now, I have so many ideas that they want to throw the kitchen sink in with it too.
You have earned the human to your site for a specific reason.
If the thing you offer them takes everything you know about a topic and puts it into one product, the person gets totally overwhelmed by what you’re trying to offer them.
The first product, I always tell people, is solving one problem.
It’s one problem and one solution in that first product.
That creates that easy “yes.” If you can get someone success, a transformation easily, that first thing that they buy from you, you have won a fan for life.
Repeat buyers are the lifeblood of any business.
That’s why people talk about recurring revenue and all these things.
It’s because once you acquire a customer, it is cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to keep acquiring new customers.
That easy win is so important the first time.
The biggest thing I see is the revelation that people realize they know so much about this topic and need to give them everything.
No, no, no, no, no!
A digital product is meant to simplify the process. It’s meant to take a problem that they’re having and give them an easy solution to it.
It is not a complicated solution to them that makes them think they can’t do this. That’s the biggest mistake I see people make.
Those bigger things that they ultimately think that they should be creating right out of the gate are multiple products.
We need to think about how we break these into simple pieces and then be able to bundle them together, pull them apart, or make it so it just becomes part of the funnel.
People hear the word funnel and they think that sounds so complicated.
In reality, it’s just the next step that you would take. It is a buying journey. That’s all.
The only reason we call it a funnel is that a funnel’s an upside-down triangle.
At the top of the triangle are the most people who find you, right?
Those are the people that clicked on your website.
But not all of the people that clicked on your website are going to continue to take the action that comes next.
That’s why it’s a funnel.
The people that spit out of the funnel are the people who actually buy from you, but there are less of those than who initially found you.
It’s what you do in the funnel. It’s the steps that you’re asking them to take, the buying journey, that matter.
It is only email. People think they need this software and that software that’s going to do certain things and time it. It’s just an email.
You just send another email that kind of offers them the next step to continue to work with you or buy your next product; whatever it might be.
Tell me more about your Profit Transformation class
I have this profit transformation training. I give real-life examples of digital products across multiple niches.
It is taught live and is very interactive. When people can see examples, they can envision what they could create when they are stuck.
I start going through actual student examples of people who have been in my groups.
Some of them are so obscure but they are digital products that people buy.
It blows people’s minds to see real-life examples. I focus more on actual practical applications and seeing them. It’s fun.
We stay until the bitter end of taking every single question that gets asked.
Sometimes it goes up to two hours.
You can drop after the formal training part or you can stick around and talk to me. It’s, I just have a lot of fun with it. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about.
My hope is that when you come, you just see the possibilities. It opens your mind to the possibilities of what you can do.
I’m super excited about this training being offered to y’all.
I know some of my food bloggers are probably sitting back thinking, “Jenny, why do you always feel like you have to pick on us?”
It’s not that I’m picking on you all because I was a food blogger. I had that mentality.
I’m hoping you see how there is potential to diversify your revenue. Steps that you can take.
If you are, truly ready to make this a potentially larger piece of your business by adding digital products into your revenue streams, then you’re going to want to make sure that you go and take that profit transformation class that Monica is offering.
As Monica said, you are already driving a ton of traffic. Let’s get them on your list. Let’s start selling to them and really, truly solving the problems that they have.