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When considering ways to monetize Web traffic, many site owners overlook the importance and opportunity of email addresses. If you have good content, getting email addresses will be relatively easy; visitors will opt in to your e-newsletters, or hand over their contact information in exchange for access to some unique piece of content or tool. And many sites do collect huge email lists. But often lacking is the execution to turn these email addresses into revenue. How do you sell email addresses legally?
As always, the exact formula will vary depending on the site and audience. But we can provide some guidance for those looking to put their email lists to work for them. (By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send monetization tips straight to your inbox each week.)
Turning email addresses into pageviews is a pretty basic concept: structure your e-newsletter (or other regular email correspondence) so that recipients will have to make it to your website in order to consume the content. For example, giving a preview of the content within the email and providing a link to the rest of it will get your newsletter subs onto your site and boost your pageviews.
The KISSmetrics email newsletter does a great job of getting subscribers to navigate to the site:
Pro: Easy to implement, and generates recurring revenue.
Con: Potential user frustration. (I.e., the user can’t read all your content in their email.)
Good Fit If: You’re able to generate decent CPMs from display ads on your website.
ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse has a good article (a bit dated, but still applicable) about the benefits of getting newsletter subs on to your site.
There’s an additional opportunity to generate revenue at the point of email capture by giving your users the opportunity to also opt in to other email lists. For example, if you run a travel blog you might be able to invite new subscribers to also opt in to the email list of a company that sends out alerts on discounted airfares.
Under such a “co-registration” arrangement, you can get paid for each subscription generated on your site. Ideally, you seek out partners with whom to directly implement such a campaign. Alternatively, there are a number of networks (such as DigiPath Media and CoregMedia) that can set you up with partners who want to advertise their newsletters on your site (for a fee of course).
Pro: Recurring, predictable revenue.
Con: Requires either a network or getting direct relationships in place.
Good Fit If: Your email list is growing quickly, and you have direct relationships with third parties who would work with you to implement a campaign. (I.e., you can avoid a network that will take 50% of revenue.)
Janine Popick has a short but sweet summary of co-reg at the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog, and Jonathan Volk has a good article on the benefits of co-reg as well.
If you have an email newsletter, you have prime ad real estate that can be sold. Find a partner willing to pay to have their banner ad included within your emails to your audience, and you can make money each time you send out your regular correspondence. If done properly, you can deliver great value to your advertiser here. They have an opportunity to appear in a co-branded newsletter, thereby leveraging your reputation for quality content and being presented as the sponsor of the content you provide to audience.
This type of sponsorship would generally be sold on a flat fee basis; the larger your audience, the more you’ll be able to charge advertisers to have their banner appear in your email.
Here’s an investing newsletter from TheStreet.com; notice the ads included within:
Pro: Incremental revenue with little impact on user experience.
Con: Can be difficult to sell directly.
Good Fit If: You can establish a relationship with a reputable partner willing to pay to show their banner ads within your newsletter.
You can make money by essentially renting out your email list to companies looking to promote their products to your audience. “Dedicated emails” include content created by an advertiser and sent to your audience on their behalf. Again, it’s ideal to establish relationships directly with third parties looking to reach your audience, but networks are also an option.
Pro: Opportunity for attractive rates.
Con: Can lead to unsubscribes and complaints.
Good Fit If: You have a valuable audience to which access would command attractive rates, and high quality partners are available, so you can send without diluting your brand.
Scott Hardigree has a great overview of email list rental on indiemark.com.
For sites that have premium content or subscriptions to sell, the emails that you collect are often the most valuable leads. Failing to advertise your paid products to your free audience is a mistake that amounts to leaving money on the table. If you have a collection of “free emails,” you should be promoting your product to them on a regular basis.
Pro: No need for a partner, potential for very high conversion rates.
Con: Can drive unsubscribes.
Good Fit If: You have a quality premium product to sell.
Don Nicholas at Mequoda has some good insights on implementing an audience development plan.
A list of email addresses is one of the most overlooked sources of revenue for many publishers; every address you collect represents an opportunity to generate revenue in multiple ways. If you’re sitting on a mountain of email addresses, you might want to put some thought into converting them to cash through the methods above. If you’re not yet collecting emails, these monetization methods are hopefully the motivation you need to start!