Attention + intensity: Tips for navigating the new age of media strategy

Contributor Mark Williams says marketers must evolve the metrics they monitor to keep up with the changing media-consumption environment.

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As marketers and brands have seen, the prevalence of digital video has transformed how consumers access media and content.

Essentially, video is not the future, it’s the “now”.

According to Cisco, global IP video traffic will represent 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016. Consumers no longer want to read about a brand  — they want to visualize it.

In 2018 and beyond, we’ll see a big shift from before, when advertisers were looking to buy reach and frequency with traditional media, to now, where advertisers will want to capitalize on intensity through the maximum amount of reach and frequency. In a post-pivot-to-video world, it’s time to change your video and media strategy, especially how you measure it.

To tackle all of the changes and innovations in media and digital marketing within the past few years, and especially to gear you up for the further integration of video, here are three tips for navigating the new age of media strategy.

1. Measure your audience with intensity

Rethink your approach to measurement. It’s not just about clicks and views. Viewability and reach are no longer the main indicators of success because they don’t measure how an audience is connecting with the content.

Instead, track deeper actions. Update your key performance indicators (KPIs) with different engagement metrics, such as watch time, engagements, earned metrics and follower acquisition, to track whether or not your intended audience actually viewed your message and reacted to it.

Watch time is one of the most valuable metrics to track in order to gauge whether or not audiences are actually watching your content. It’s also the most important factor for platform algorithms. If you track minutes watched, retention rate and the average percentage of those who watched through, you’ll have a better idea of how you are captivating the audience’s attention, and at what level of intensity.

Tracking engagements (e.g., likes, shares and comments) is also a key indicator of your strategy’s performance. Engagements and engagement rates indicate that fans are making a decision beyond simply watching your content. If they’re sharing, starting up a conversation, or compelled by a call to action from the content, you can measure the intensity with which your audience is consuming the material.

Also, be sure to watch your follower/subscriber acquisition. Growing a fan base is essential to the marketing efforts of advertisers, and it is important to identify what content brings in new followers so that you can focus your content strategy to consider these insights.

2. Rethink content strategy: Transform ads + make content relevant

Given the prevalence of ad blockers, it’s clear that interruptive advertising doesn’t work anymore. Instead, we’re seeing high performance through integrated brand messages. To do this, make your content relevant to your consumer.

Embed your campaign initiatives into publisher sites through partnerships to make for a smoother and natural integration of your advertising.

Consider integrating with influencers. Research conducted by Fullscreen (my employer) and MediaScience found that the percentage of viewers who would recommend a brand after watching a branded video from an influencer was 13 percent higher than the percentage for a TV ad.

Test different content strategies to see what resonates best with your audience, and for a more specific segmented analysis, A/B test different interest sets and demographics to inform your marketing plan.

3. Tailor by platform

To keep your marketing strategy specific and efficient, optimize content and advertising to reflect the platform. Utilize metadata by making campaigns that align with proper titling and tagging across all of your platforms. Keep your branding design consistent to ensure that your content is distinguishable. Ensure that your creative is designed for the specific tech specs of the platform where it will live.

Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all approach. Facebook creative must be treated differently from Snapchat and so on. Perhaps most importantly, the creative must feel endemic to the platform — which explains why repurposed television commercials have some of the lowest engagement metrics.

Identify and maintain a consistent publishing schedule that is tailored to times when platforms reach the highest number of eyes, not only to maximize viewership and engagement but also to help consumers know when to expect your content.

Further, aim to promote circular traffic: Utilize the platforms through their available interactive elements so that you can cross-promote across all channels.

When tailoring your content for specific platforms, you also want to pay attention to how the platform is accessed.

Take a look at the platform functions, according to recent data from each platform and Statista, YouTube is accessed 50 percent of the time on mobile, whereas Facebook is at 95.1 percent and Instagram is at 100 percent.

This means that when creating content for YouTube, you should pay equal attention to mobile and desktop access, whereas Facebook and Instagram should lean more heavily toward mobile usage.

In closing

You’ll want to keep these three tips at the forefront of your digital marketing and content strategy so that you quickly adapt your brand to the changing video and media environments of today.

Remember, the overarching difference in paid media targeting online versus traditional targeting is the more refined, specific targeting of individuals, which ultimately leads to higher attention and intensity, as well as greater returns.

With all of these advancements, online media has many new metrics which you absolutely must utilize to expand your reach and retention far beyond that of traditional paid media.

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Beyond keywords: What really matters in SEO content

Going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers and is SEO-friendly is the way to go, says contributor Jessica Foster. Here she shares eight ways to create content that satisfies people and engines.

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Just when we thought the saying “Content is king” was gone for good, there it goes showing its sneaky little face again in the search engine optimization (SEO) world.

Bearing in mind also that “Content is queen,” it appears that content is, in fact, pretty danged important — so important that a new sub-industry has squeezed its way into the search engine world: SEO content writing.

Otherwise referred to as “SEO copywriting,” SEO content writing has a bad reputation for being chock-full of keywords and little else. Though this may be more of a stereotype than reality, there is something to be said for going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers AND is SEO-friendly.

What’s the deal with ‘high-quality’ content?

The focus is typically on “high-quality” content — a term that becomes more subjective by the minute. It leads to questions like

  • What really makes SEO content “high-quality?”
  • Is it measurable?
  • More importantly, can it be recreated again and again?

The standard formula of:

 

 

 

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

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7 ways protections for online content are being eroded

Recent changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act raise questions about how safe from liability publishers will continue to be for user-generated or third-party content. Contributor Wesley Young discusses threats on the horizon to those protections.

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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is critical to the foundation of online commerce as it’s exercised today. That’s why the recent debate about tweaking it to tackle online sex trafficking pitted some of the biggest online players against the interests of some of the most vulnerable victims in our society.

In the end, the law in question (the Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA) was defined narrowly enough to fix the targeted problem, created by Backpage.com, and the large publishers backed off.

But many are still concerned about the impact the change will have on the internet. Additionally, more direct threats have been ongoing for some time, mostly on the state and local level, which have the potential to significantly disrupt all kinds of online content including local advertising. Then there was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, during which he seemed to acknowledge that the social network can and should take responsibility for the content published on it by others.

Below I take a look at the concerns surrounding publisher immunity and how they can affect the local search industry and more.

The issue

One fundamental principle that has shaped how the marketing industry has evolved, including local search content and advertising, is the protection for publishers against liability for third-party content.

“Publishers” is a broad term in this context that includes everyone who controls, hosts, operates or manages online content that includes the ability to moderate user-generated content.

It’s a critical protection since so much content is created by third parties but hosted by publishers, including social networks, search engines, review sites and more. Search results serve up third-party website content; reviews capture user-generated recommendations and critiques; and both print and digital media display advertisements created, and sometimes even served, by third parties.

Even operators of personal websites or owners of social media pages that exercise control over content might be considered publishers when they host ads or solicit engagement with their content. Thus, “publishers” is a broad term in this context that includes everyone who controls, hosts, operates or manages online content that includes the ability to moderate user-generated content.

Without immunity for third-party content, a publisher might be held liable for misleading advertising, false reviews or slanderous comments. For example, if I clicked on a sponsored post that guaranteed a “double your money in one week investment opportunity,” I might sue the website owner when I lose all my money for “promoting” the scam. Publisher immunity laws mean the originator of the content is responsible for its own speech and publishers don’t have to screen every user-generated statement for veracity.

The protections for online publishers come from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Many states have their own protections for publishers via exemptions from consumer protection laws for advertisements that violate those laws as long as the publisher didn’t know the ad was deceptive. For example, California provides this exemption for publishers in its prohibitions of false advertising:

This article does not apply to any visual or sound radio broadcasting station, to any internet service provider or commercial online service, or to any publisher of a newspaper, magazine, or other publication, who broadcasts or publishes, including over the Internet, an advertisement in good faith, without knowledge of its false, deceptive, or misleading character.

These protections have been used for a lot of good, but unfortunately, some bad, too, as detailed by the decade-long battle courts have had with Backpage.com, a classified ads site whose adult section was used widely by perpetrators of online sex trafficking. (That section was shut down in 2017, and the site was seized by The US Department of Justice earlier this month.)

This shutdown of the website, along with Congress’s amendment to Section 230, has brought the debate about eroding publisher protections to the forefront.

FOSTA

FOSTA (The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) was signed into law by the President last week. (SESTA was the Senate version before some changes were adopted into FOSTA.) It amends some criminal laws targeting those who commit trafficking crimes.

With regard to the Section 230 protections for publishers, FOSTA creates a narrow exception to the immunity granted. Publishers are not protected if their site is managed or operated “with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person . . . .” Thus, the exception only affects those who operate with criminal intent, a standard that shouldn’t cause much concern in the internet industry.

A change in FOSTA to US Code Section 1591 also adds language specifying it is a crime to facilitate sex trafficking when you know the victim is forced into it or that he or she is a minor. While a “knowing” standard is also a high standard, there is enough uncertainty to cause online personal classifieds sites, many of which are well-known for illegal postings, to shut those forums down.

Much of the media coverage on FOSTA criticizes it for weakening publisher immunity. But even to the extent these changes weaken publisher immunity, the changes were necessary to address severe and heartbreaking crimes against child victims.

Between 2010 and 2015, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security found an 846 percent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking, directly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex. Backpage successfully wielded Section 230 for the better part of a decade to avoid prosecution or liability before being shut down just this month. As a result, Congress passed the bill in as close to a unanimous vote as we’ve seen in this contentious political environment.

The bigger threats to publisher immunity

The real concern regarding FOSTA for publishers is the precedent it sets. There have been numerous attempts to make publishers more responsible for content in the past, and the fear is that FOSTA may be used to justify a broader erosion of protections, which would have a much more direct impact on local search and other online businesses.

If publishers are made responsible for third-party content, a variety of online marketing products and services, including local search, will become much more expensive. Uncertainty regarding enforcement, both from regulators and private action, means higher risk for liability. With higher risk come higher prices to cover insurance or pay damages in a civil suit. Or, in the worst-case scenario, publishers will stop hosting third-party content in those areas where there is exposure.

Below are some examples of some bigger threats to publisher immunity, including examples of legislation that has been pushed, and a look at the ways online businesses in general, and local search in particular, will be affected if those proposals or ideas move forward:

1. Public concessions in response to PR crises
There is a growing perception, among lawmakers and others, that publishers ought to have some responsibility for the content on their sites or platforms, contrary to the Section 230 protections. That mindset is being fed by some very public statements by some of the largest publishers in response to PR crises.

It’s understandable and a common PR strategy to apologize and accept responsibility as a way to move the discussion forward from the bad act and on to next positive steps. However, that becomes problematic when the statements are so broad as to nearly invite additional regulation.

The most recent example of this is from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg during testimony at Congressional hearings involving Cambridge Analytica. He made statements that the company is “responsible for the content on its platform” and that Facebook needs to take a “broader view” of its responsibility in the world.

While the hearings were ostensibly primarily about data security and privacy, Zuckerberg’s own words indicate he was not necessarily limiting them to the privacy issue, and lawmakers’ questions covered everything from content censorship to Facebook’s responsibility for illegal pharmaceutical ads. Statements like Zuckerberg’s will likely be cited in arguments for expanding publisher liability.

2. Local businesses are asked to screen ads they host
These questions about ads have also been addressed in a number of state bills that aimed to impose requirements on website operators or administrators to screen ads prior to allowing them to display on their sites.

For example, some call for the websites to identify the products or services being advertised and include mandatory disclosures for certain business categories. Other bills have mandated that website owners check that the advertiser has required permits or licenses before allowing their ad to run. A bill formerly introduced in California contained the following language addressed to the entertainment industry:

The operator of an Internet Web site that posts casting advertisements shall not post the advertisement of a person subject to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) unless the person has provided information to the operator to establish that the person is the recipient of a valid Child Performer Services Permit, including a permit number and a form of identification to verify that the person is the recipient.

Most ads aren’t even placed in a manner that would allow them to be individually reviewed and are instead populated automatically via programmatic advertising (more below). Even if an individual ad was sold, such a manual screening process is not only prohibitively inefficient but burdens small businesses with legal risks of knowledge and compliance outside of their expertise.

For small business owners, requirements like these would make the risk far outweigh the benefit of hosting ads on their sites.

3. Publishers are asked to verify the veracity of directory listings
Similarly, state bills have imposed requirements on traditional local search publishers of search results or directory listings. These bills often involve business categories that have plagued regulators seeking to catch or shut down abusive operators, such as locksmiths and adoption agencies.

Legislative bills have sought to make publishers verify advertisers’ compliance with professional regulations before listings or ads can be displayed. For example, some bills have asked publishers to verify physical addresses or check license numbers against state agency records. Others, like one introduced in Maine, would have made publishers determine compliance with the proposed regulation as a whole, reading:

“Publication prohibited. A person may not publish by means of a public medium an advertisement that violates this section.”

Making publishers ad hoc regulators is not only ineffective, but a responsibility misplaced. It would also place a significant restraint on the development of local search products and services, as publishers would be unwilling to bear legal risk in areas where these laws existed.

4. Programmatic advertising is threatened
Many of the attempts described above arise out of a lack of understanding about the way today’s online system works. We saw clear evidence of that shallow knowledge most recently in Congress’s questioning of Zuckerberg. One questioner asked how Facebook could offer the platform for free. Zuckerberg couldn’t suppress a smile after he answered, “Senator, we run ads.”

Many publisher liability bills are written assuming individual pieces of content, such as ads, cross the publisher’s “desk” on their way to going online. Obviously, programmatic advertising does not work that way. But when laws are passed that are incompatible with an existing platform, that could bring significant components of the system to a screeching halt.

There are also those that understand just enough to be dangerous. Bills have been introduced to regulate the “advertising network” of programmatic advertising, but they include definitions that would rope in ad agencies, software companies and platform developers, as well as publishers and website managers. Disruption to the programmatic ecosystem posed by bills like these has the potential to be costly.

5. Publishers are exposed to low legal standards for enforcement
Perhaps in an attempt to goad publishers into action, many bills that impose publisher liability are drafted with the same penalty on both the advertiser and the publisher for illegal content. Thus, even though the advertiser makes the misleading statement or fails to get licensed, the publisher is held to be just as guilty for allowing the content to be displayed.

This low bar exposes the publisher not just to enforcement by state agencies, but also to private causes of action. For example, a competitor could sue for lost profits because the publisher allowed the unlicensed professional to steal away business.

Publishers are likely to be easier to find and have deeper pockets than the scammer or careless advertiser who placed the ad and would be much easier targets in an enforcement or damages claim.

6. Penalties for violations are unreasonable
If publishers are held to the same liability as advertisers, they would also be subject to the same consumer protection remedies. Consumer protection laws often allow treble damages and attorneys’ fees. Civil fines often have minimum damage limits. But most serious is when violations also include criminal penalties.

The worst example I’ve seen was legislation that imposed strict liability on publishers — that means any violation, regardless of fault or care taken, is subject to penalties. And all violations of this proposed legislation were deemed to be punishable as a felony crime.

7. Large publishers used as the standard for reasonable care
One question that I’ve faced in legislative committee hearings on publisher liability bills is “why can’t they make an algorithm for that?” The perception is that large technology platforms like Google are so highly proficient in programming that they should be able to write code that will implement the legal standards being sought.

First, if software could analyze a factual scenario and exercise legal judgment to determine the appropriate applicability and compliance, then there would be no need for lawyers. Second, legislators often fail to see the forest of other businesses behind the huge Google and Facebook trees. Yet legislation being debated always affects a much broader set of publishers.

As discussed above, “publishers” frequently references a broad group including local business websites, media and news sites, online directories, search engines, map platforms, blogs, retail websites, e-commerce sites, apps, video sites and social media pages. If large technology companies with huge financial and human resources determine the standard of reasonable care that all of those publishers must adhere to, that will place undue expectations on smaller publishers.

Closing thoughts

The amendments to Section 230 of the CDA won’t affect the vast majority of us and are important in the fight to protect the most vulnerable victims of our society. Yet the threat to protections for online advertising and content is real — it’s coming from the strong undercurrent and changing perception regarding the responsibility we have in hosting user-generated or third-party content.

All of the above examples of bill language were dropped or amended before being enacted. But they are indicative of what could be if we’re not careful. We take these protections for granted, but it’s important to be aware of the potential impact laws like these might have on our ability to do business and speak up in support of the protections that keep our online presence open and free.

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How to increase B2B form submissions through conversion testing

Contributor Abraham Nord looks at four tests that illustrate how improving the online experience can lead to dramatic increases in conversion rate and lead results.

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Nearly all business-to-business (B2B) marketers are focused on increasing leads, improving lead quality and improving return on investment (ROI).

Conversion testing plays a key role in all three of these objectives. Let’s look at four tests that illustrate how improving the online experience can lead to dramatic increases in conversion rates and lead results.

We will also analyze why the tests worked so you have a better understanding of how to apply the same principles to your own unique circumstances.

Test #1: Form position and orientation

Test variations:

Hypothesis: By centering the registration form and moving it higher on the page, visitors’ eyes will more easily flow from the call-to-action (CTA) statement to the form. The benefit bullet points and asset imagery will now serve as secondary, supporting content.

Results: Variation 1 won with a 34.47 percent higher conversion rate at 92.04 percent confidence.

Conclusion: Many visitors were ready to get the downloadable asset without needing additional information. The registration process was more seamless and apparent with Variation 1, thus increasing form submissions.

Test #2: ‘Instant download’ badge

Test variations:


Hypothesis: Visitors do not like waiting for an asset to be emailed to them, especially since they often have to check their junk folder to find/receive the asset. By adding a badge indicating the asset is an “instant download,” we will eliminate this pain point, thus increasing form submissions.

Results: Variation 1 won with a 31.93 percent higher conversion rate at 91.61 percent confidence.

Conclusion: Visitors did, in fact, appreciate the straightforward and transparent approach of giving them the asset immediately. There was also no significant difference between variations in terms of the quality of emails provided.

Test #3: Tabbed content

Test variations (desktop):


Test Variations (Mobile):

Hypothesis: By including additional information about the company and organizing that content in tabs, visitors will more easily see how the downloadable asset is relevant and beneficial to them, and thus, more visitors will complete the form and convert.

Results: Mobile: Variation 1 won with a 160.28 percent higher conversion rate at 98.75 percent confidence. Desktop: Control won with a 31.13 percent higher conversion rate at 86.28 percent confidence.

Conclusion: For desktop visitors, the tabbed information was less meaningful than immediately seeing testimonials and partners (as social proof) at a glance. However, mobile visitors appreciated the additional content presented in an easy-to-digest tabbed format on the smaller screen.

Test #4: Overall look and feel

Test variations:

Hypothesis: By testing a different page layout/look, we can make the largest gains in conversion rates in the shortest amount of time. The increased visual prominence of the asset and form area will draw visitors’ eyes to the area where we want the most engagement.

Results: Variation 1 won with a 44.73 percent higher conversion rate at 88.41 percent confidence.

Conclusion: The more prominent form section and front-on view of the asset were the largest factors in Variation 1 winning. Visitors could more easily see the asset they would be receiving and more immediately understand how to get the guide. After finding a winning overall layout/look, we can test additional iterations of this page.

Improve your lead resulting via testing

These four landing page tests represent a small sampling of possible conversion rate optimization (CRO) tests available to B2B marketers. The examples showcase the importance of page layout, registration form placement and format and the information/images associated with downloadable assets.

And as Test #3 reinforced, make sure you are looking at different device types and experiences separately so you can customize and optimize the conversion rate for all of your visitors, regardless of how they come to your site.

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Content nurturing for ABM: Moving from theory to practice

It’s easy to talk about using content to move prospects through the purchase funnel. Contributor Sonjoy Ganguly explains how to turn talk into action.

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Here is a scene that’s all too familiar: Your Sales and Marketing organization has bought into an  Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach — adopted the mindset, organized, suited up on the tools set. You’ve embraced the principles of content nurturing in order to attract, engage and convert the decision-makers inside your key accounts. But you are asking yourself, “What does that really look like tactically?”

I get it.

Moving from theory to practice and actually developing and deploying your arsenal can be a heady, if not daunting, proposition. Here is some basic guidance on how to put one of the best moves of your marketing career into full gear.

The decision, mindset and suiting up was the first part of the move, of course. What comes next is learning how to consult the data analytics to determine the exact right types and composition of content assets, stage by stage, based on the target deciders in your buying groups.

Let’s take a look at the practical phases of a true nurturing plan.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]

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