The Return Of The Publishing Genius

**Originally published on Marketing Land**

There’s nothing like a white-hot economy, or a white-hot sector, to create marketing geniuses. Notice that there are a lot of well-known social media geniuses these days. The financial service sector seems to have a shortage of them. Which is not to say there are none. It’s my belief that the very smart executives shine in tough times. They may not get the publicity, but the executives that have deep skill sets understand that businesses have cycles. They live and breathe; expand and contract.

So it is with publishing. It’s easy to point to the decline in print ads for 2011. Easy to find doom and gloom in newspaper circulation drops. But for me, a lot of respect is due to the publishing business. Content can be created anywhere and consumed everywhere, so every producer has gone from living comfortably in their offline sandpit, to a fight to the death in a borderless, endless, ocean.   At the same time, they have had to recreate themselves for the digital platforms that change seemingly every minute, and keep their brand intact while they do it. Not easy.

With the digital migration in full-swing, many publishing companies are focused on monetization, and rightfully so. It used to be a very simple equation. Readership = audience. Audience = circulation. Circulation = advertising.  It’s not so simple anymore. Publishers need to figure in premium branding partnerships, page views, conversions, remnant inventory and cross-media package deals. While they’re doing all this, I suggest they return to a basic tenet of the business: the audience.

The Audience Is The Thing

If you view a title as one publication rather than two separate online and offline properties, you come back to audience. It’s not a reader and a viewer and a social follower. It’s one publication and one audience with many interaction points. Within this landscape the audience is a valuable asset. I think too often that publishers need to have a better understanding of how to monetize that audience. Remember, audiences create data. And their partners in the digital area need to have a better understanding of how audience data can be used.

For simplicity’s sake let’s call the audience “readers” even though they may become viewers, searchers, and other iterations. This reader is the source of a tremendous amount of data. They click on ads, share stories that interest them, search for more information about products and services and then, hopefully, take action. They are not simply passing through. They are engaged. The readers of ForbesThe New York TimesVanity FairThe Chicago Tribune andThe Hollywood Reporter are all going there for a reason. Once they get there, the behavior they exhibit and the data they generate is extremely valuable.

Don’t Give It Away

My question here is: why give it away? Why not monetize it? I’m not suggesting that publishers sell their customers like list brokers (very 20th century). But I am suggesting that they leverage their audience data to better serve their readers and monetize customers at the same time.

It’s logical business sense that a publisher’s sales team will focus its efforts on big-ticket direct sales that fill premium positions. Large homepage takeovers and unique creative executions play the largest role in publisher’s revenue. It also makes sense in the current market to use ad networks and exchanges to fill any un-sold inventory.  However, picking who you will allow to sell your unsold inventory can be challenging.

I suggest all vendors be looked at through this lens: Is the person buying from you because (a) they want to re-sell the audience you have gathered, or (b) because they have data that was obtained elsewhere and are looking to see if their target audience happens to be visiting your site.  Avoid the former, it’s cannibalistic in the marketplace.  But data driven media buying — the buying of audiences — is clearly not cannibalistic.  And, like it or not, no publisher has the scale to do this effectively by themselves — so you might as well take the money.

Take A Close Look At Behavior On Your Site 

For the longer term, I would suggest taking a deeper look at reader behavior including searches within a publisher site, what pages and content are engaging audiences most, etc. For example, if a site visitor conducts a search query for “luxury travel,” the publisher may want to consider showing that reader an ad for American Express Premier Rewards Program or perhaps deliver more relevant content related to travel plans, vacation reviews, etc.

Retargeting search queries, display interactions and text ad interactions allows the publisher to increase ad relevancy, while simultaneously increasing the value of their inventory. Publishers can act on that data without giving up revenue. And, while its not going to be the “bread winner” for the publisher’s business model, it’s certainly a step toward owning and monetizing data instead of giving it away. There’s nothing better than multiple revenue streams for a business. Premium ad sales, remnant ad sales that are driven by data, and data sales are all different pieces of the audience puzzle that advertisers are solving for.

I tip my hat to the publishing geniuses that focus on building a strong business during the digital migration. We all know it hasn’t been an easy transition into the digital world. Those that have shifted with the times rely on their greatest assets — the readers. Readers generate data, which creates a promising market for publishers to live and breathe, expand and contract. And better markets, well, they create geniuses.

Bringing Order to Sequence in Search Retargeting

Last month, we started looking at the types of keywords that make search retargeting campaigns work. This week, we’re going to dive in even deeper by exploring the importance ofsequence in searches and how to leverage that sequence to further improve campaign performance.

The order of the words your company enters into the search engine algorithm has everything to do with success in search retargeting.

For example, let’s look at the search history for someone who is in market for auto insurance. Let’s call her Sarah. Sarah has performed three searches in the past 24 hours relating to auto insurance. In no particular order, those searches are: “auto insurance,” “auto insurance” (again) and “Allstate.”

Now let’s look at the difference in purchase intent when we shuffle those search terms around to create new sequences.

Scenario A

Sarah performs the following searches in sequence over the 24-hour period:

  1.    “Auto insurance”
  2.    “Auto insurance”
  3.    “Allstate”

Conclusion: Sarah has done her homework for auto insurance providers and is now considering Allstate. Allstate should definitely show her an ad, as we want Sarah to request a quote right away.

Scenario B

Sarah performs the following searches in sequence over the 24-hour period:

  1.   “Auto insurance”
  2.   “Allstate”
  3.   “Auto insurance”

Conclusion: Sarah is in market for auto insurance, but has ruled out Allstate. She first did some homework, and then researched Allstate’s offering, and is now back to square one. Allstate should still show her an ad, but should be paying a very low CPM for this impression since it has a low expected value.

Sequential Next Steps

1.  To get the most out of your search retargeting campaign, it’s important to adjust your bid price not only based on the specific keyword that the user searched, but also based on their search history.

If you only look at Sarah’s last search in both Scenario A and B, it looks like you should show her an ad for Allstate. However, when taking into account her entire search history, it becomes clear that you should use different bid prices for each scenario due to the shift in her consideration.

2.  If possible, use sequential messaging based on the users’ search history.

We’ll explore this topic at a later date but, to put it simply, work with your creative team to create many different creatives with the purchase funnel in mind. Since we can gauge the user’s probability of converting based on their search history, it’s extremely beneficial to have different creatives based not only on where they sit in the conversion funnel, but where they’ve come from.

Using Scenario A, here is how sequential messaging can work for a search retargeting campaign:

Scenario A (with ads)

Sarah performs the following searches in sequence over the 24-hour period:

Query #1  – “Auto insurance”

  • An Allstate ad that is broad and only refers to the benefits on auto insurance is shown

Query #2  –    “Auto insurance”

  • An Allstate ad that promotes the benefits of Allstate-specific auto insurance is shown

Query #3 –  “Allstate”

  • An Allstate ad that detects the user’s DMA and dynamically displays local Allstate auto insurance rates is shown, driving the user to request a quote

Customers demand and respond to the delivery of the most relevant information at a time that is closest to the point of purchase. Ads need to respond with customized messages. If a customer searched for a brand or product and did not convert, then the logical next step is to retarget them with sequential messaging that directly relates to their sequence of searches.

For marketers, the ability to look back at the sequences of customer events helps them to make more informed decisions and ideally impact the end consumer result.

After all, haven’t you ever re-hashed a series of events over a certain period of time and wondered what would have happened if only you had slightly altered your actions?  That’s what keyword sequencing is all about. It’s about addressing the customer’s ability to consider and reconsider.


Article originally published on Search Engine Land on 2/15/2012

Retail buyers search on generic versus branded keywords

Recent research from GroupM Search suggests that retail brands should develop marketing strategies to reach buyers through generic search terms. The 13 month study provided an in-depth look at the relationship between consumer search behavior and in-store purchases. Top retailers were featured in the study, including RadioShack, luxury Audi, and a national entertainment brand.

The research makes it clear that shoppers have established search as their key resource for product discovery and buying decisions. According to Chris Copeland, CEO, GroupM, “This new understanding of the retail shopper represents a behavioral shift. The intent shown in search provides brands and opportunity to maximize their online revenues and encourage and cultivate in-store sales.”

Although paid search on a brand name is a valuable mechanism for driving website traffic, marketers may be overlooking the power of generic terms and organic listings. The new research shows that 86% of buyers who purchase in-store search on generic terms versus brand terms. In addition, the research revealed that when consumers search online and click on a link, 90% of those clicks are on organic search listings.

With such a high percentage of shoppers clicking on organic link results, Copeland suggests that many brands and retailers may want to rethink their strategies, and find ways to connect with buyers.

Another that brands may want to connect with relevant in-market shoppers is through search retargeting. Take a look at SEM – its about being present when the customer begins researching their decision, the beginning of the funnel and when they execute a sale, at bottom of the funnel. However, search retargeting is about being present during the consideration phase, after the customer has raised their hand, signaling intent within the search engine.

Read the full story here

Following up with Super Bowl Searchers

This year’s Super Bowl commercials were a driving force behind top internet searches -this is easily discovered by a simple peek at Google Trends (see below). In many cases, searchers were seeking the ads – in other cases, they were seeking the brands directly. Did Super Bowl advertisers do everything they could to capitalize on this search interest?

In a recent article on Search Engine Land, contributor Vanessa Fox tackles this very question. Out of 53 brands that she tracked, 44 bought a paid search ad, and 51 ranked organically for the brand name. Paid search ads drove consumers to specific landing pages based on their search, including custom YouTube pages designed to engage users. It seems that the Giants weren’t the only winners – Super Bowl XLVI advertisers seem to have carefully strategized how to capture users in the heat of their search.

Read the full article here >>


Google Search Trends – Day After Super Bowl


Google Search Trends – Acura NSX over past 30 days

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Brand Ad Spending to Pass Search in 2012

Digiday and Vizu Report: Online Brand Advertising 2012 Outlook

Consumers are migrating online at a rapid pace, and this year brand marketers are predicted to follow their lead. While online marketing budgets have traditionally been devoted to direct response advertising, a recent report from DigiDay shows that 2012 may be a year of change — brand advertising is positioned to take the lead in digital spending in 2012.

The report, which surveyed more than 450 digital marketing and media professionals, predicts that nearly 60% of digital advertising dollars will be devoted to brand advertising this year. For the first time in history, marketers could potentially spend more on brand advertising than on direct response advertising.

Brands: Projected spending increase over 2011 and allocation of 2012 budgets

Source: Digiday; Online Brand Advertising 2012 Outlook

According to Forbes contributor, Robert Hof, “the findings also come as some analysts, such as J.P. Morgan’s Doug Anmuth, also sees a shift in growth prospects from search and other direct response ads to branding or image ads.” A recent report from Forrester mirrors these predictions and expects the search market share in interactive ad spend to drop significantly in the coming years.

Search Retargeting and Brand Marketing

Despite these predictions, brand marketers and agencies are skeptical that media sellers can even reach their narrowly defined target audiences. According to Digiday’s report, “only 6 percent of brands and 16 percent of agencies surveyed said they “strongly believe” media sellers’ claims that they can reach the custom or niche audiences that brands seek.” As brand marketers explore channels for display advertising, search retargeting’s ability to target in-market ‘hand raisers’ could prove to be a useful tactic to successfully reach those ‘niche’ audiences through online advertising.

Download the full report here >>