For publishers, being able to run on ad revenue can be a tough pursuit, but quizzes can help. Check out two very different case studies below…

On Tuesday March 16, 2015, an editor at HotNewHipHop reached out to me with a few questions about formulating a quiz.

This was the same day that Kendrick Lamar’s new album To Pimp a Butterfly came out, which I was listening to at the time.

That same Tuesday afternoon I see a post show up on my twitter feed with the text “I got 'expert', How Well do you Know To Pimp a Butterfly”

The quiz was from HotNewHipHop.com, the same quiz I had helped the editor with earlier in the day.

It was a surreal moment, but not that surprising once I realized that the quiz had received over 46,000 impressions that day and been shared thousands of times.

Hotnewhiphop is a site that relies on ad dollars to continue running (and producing amazing quizzes). Today I’m going to show you how quizzes can be used to harness social traffic and drive it back to your website, where you can turn those visitors into cash through ad clicks.

We have two examples to show how quizzes drive ad dollars. The first one is HotNewHipHop, a site that is admittedly less well-known, and the second is Forbes, a site that is globally recognized. 

The two sites take very different approaches but hopefully one of them will spark an idea for you. 

Hotnewhiphop takes advantage of news events to drive surges in ad revenue

To Pimp a Butterfly was big news on the day of its release. Every music news site, and a lot of mainstream news sites covered the story that day.

Most of these news stories were very similar, repeating the same statistics and quotes with a machine-like consistency. HotNewHipHop, however, turned their news story into a quiz.

The result was a massive amount of social sharing and 48,759 impressions to the web page that contained the quiz.

I came up with a simple formula for estimating the ad revenue this quiz delivered based on statistics pulled from Hotnewhiphop. The site gets an average click-through rate to their ads of 1.5% and every click is worth $0.75, which means this quiz itself raked in $548 on that first day.

That’s not an astronomical number, but the process is replicable.

HotNewHipHop has done five more quizzes since this initial Kendrick Lamar quiz and each has had similar results. Because the quizzes are based on news stories, there is always a new subject, and as the site perfects their quiz writing technique the traffic can slowly increase.

How to use this method: 

Follow the news, make quizzes about it, spark an emotional response. 

One of the big advantages quizzes have over static news articles is the ability to create a conversation and therefore elicit some response from the quiz takers. 

I've noticed that news stories are often carbon copies of each other, so there's a big opportunity for publishers to break out from the crowd by integrating quizzes like the Kendrick Lamar test to spice up your news stories. 

Forbes uses evergreen subjects to create consistent ad revenue

In July 2014, Forbes made a quiz about what University prospective students should attend. Since then the quiz has been taken 181,000 times and been shared thousands of times. 

What’s unique about this quiz is that only 60,000 of those quiz takers came in the first week, the rest arrived on the months following the quiz release.

This phenomenon (where most of the traffic comes after the content launch) is referred to as ‘evergreen content’ and basically is a nod to evergreen trees that never die. 

Much the same as an evergreen tree, evergreen content lives a long and healthy traffic life, receiving many of its visitors months after launch. The Forbes quiz is definitely evergreen content, and it has paid off in a big way for them. 

Forbes has an average ad click rate of 1.5%, and since colleges are wiling to pay a lot for ad clicks, their revenue per click is $1.32. Given that this quiz has brought in 182,033 impressions so far, that translates to roughly $3,604 in ad revenue from this one quiz.

How to use this method: 

Creating evergreen quiz content is a bit more complicated because you’ve got to first identify a topic that will continue to be popular. There are methods for doing this, but in general think about big things that just can’t be ignored (like university, or mobile phones, or computers). 

These are the subjects that can be used to create evergreen quizzes. Then it's up to you to create a good quiz and promote it through social channels. 

The Forbes quiz initially got traffic from social, and those social shares led to backlinks which led to search traffic, which is now the main source of views for the quiz. 

In other words, your quiz must be based on a topic that lasts the test of time and also be interesting enough to get shared so that the quiz gets established as a noteworthy piece.

Now over to you

HotNewHipHop discovered a way to consistently drive traffic and in turn ad revenue using quizzes that coincide with current events. 

Forbes showed that creating quizzes based on evergreen topics can lead to strong visitor counts over time that convert into a steady stream of ad dollars. 

The current events strategy is excellent because it doesn't rely on strong brand authority to work, but the evergreen strategy is more sustainable in the long run. 

I'd recommend you try a mix of both and see if you can't replicate the success of these two great publishers with your own quizzes! 

For more examples, read how to drive ecommerce sales using quizzes and for other formats that work wonders, check out these 14 examples of evergreen content formats.

Josh Haynam

Published 13 April, 2015 by Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is Founder at Interact and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter.

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