Digital Ads Up 16% — But You Won’t Reap the Rewards

Digital Ads Up 16% — But You Won't Reap the Rewards

According to eMarketer’s latest forecast, US digital ad spending will reach $83 billion in 2017, representing an increase of 15.9%. For publishers focused on monetization, this may seem like great news for business, but unfortunately, a rising tide is not lifting all ships.

While digital ad revenue is increasing overall, it’s likely decreasing for any company that isn’t Google, Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram.

Google and Facebook Are Costing You

Here are some additional statistics from eMarketer that are troubling for publishers of all sizes:

  • Google will claim roughly 78% of total US search ad revenues this year.
  • Facebook’s US display business will capture 39.1% of the US display market, taking share away from Google, Yahoo, and Twitter.
  • Instagram is helping drive up Facebook’s mobile business, accounting for 20% of Facebook’s U.S. mobile revenue this year, up from 15% last year.
  • In 2017, Snapchat’s ad revenue will grow 157.8% to $770 million in the US.

According to the Wall Street Journal, advertisers are (not surprisingly) attracted to Facebook’s growth in usage and engagement. Now, you might have a large and active audience, but can you say definitively that it’s as large and active as Facebook’s? Not likely.

Unless you work for one of these media giants, you won’t be raking in ad revenue this year. In fact, you might even lose money in 2017.

How You Can Survive—and Even Thrive

Even though Google and Facebook are snagging nearly all the ad spoils, you can still grab a piece of that 83 billion dollar pie (or a piece of a different pie altogether). Here are three steps successfully monetizing your website and thriving in 2017’s digital advertising landscape.

1. Diversify Your Revenue Streams

Monetization is about so much more than banner ads and affiliate links! There is a cure for your advertising woes, and it all lies in your content. Audiences will pay for content if it’s truly exceptional, so consider setting up a paywall in order to sell premium content to the most qualified niches inside your audience.

Not sure where to start? Create a product pyramid to move your audience from casual viewers of free content all the way up to premium members whom you share a deeper, loyal, and profitable relationship with.

2. Make Google and Facebook a Boon for Business

You know what they say: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Yes, it’s frustrating that the rules of digital marketing change all the time, but it’s a fact of life. It’s imperative that you stay on top of the trends, and make the system work for you. In this case, that means embracing Google and Facebook.

All of your free content should be optimized for search engines. Start by educating your editorial team in your keyword strategy, and make sure their content reflects that strategy at all times.

As for Facebook, like all social media channels, it is just an early step in your customer’s buyer journey. Direct conversion such as selling a subscription is a nearly impossible challenge on social, but you can use your profile and posting strategy to build engagement. Not unlike a search engine, Facebook should drive traffic to your website and help you to capture leads.

3. Encourage Your Ad Sales Team to Sell the Whole Brand

It’s tough to go head-to-head with the 800-pound gorillas. But you have strengths that Google and Facebook don’t. Encourage your ad sales team to focus on how you own a unique, specific niche. Because you are available across platforms, you have built a loyal following that trusts the authority of your brand. They are more likely to engage with what you have to say than they are with Google AdWord or Facebook Display Ads. The impressions might be fewer, but the engagement with almost certainly be higher.

Use digital advertising as part of your whole package by embracing both digital and print placements. Remember, you are a well-rounded media entity and can reach their specific customer segment, no matter where they are—online, offline, or somewhere in between.

How The Sterling Woods Group Can Help

We work with clients to build a monetization strategy that utilizes a diverse set of revenue streams. Want a free 30-minute consultation? Contact us at

About the Author, Rob Ristagno

Rob Ristagno is the founder of The Sterling Woods Group and partners with companies to drive rapid digital revenue growth. Prior to creating Sterling Woods, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. Rob started his career as a consultant at McKinsey and holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College. He has taught Product Strategy at Boston College.