An Association of National Advertisers and White Ops study estimates that digital marketers will lose $6.3 billion in advertising dollars in 2015. In addition to this loss various viewability studies warn that half of the ads digital marketers pay for are not even visible and the IAB reports that about 36% of the traffic to ads are fake. As such, U.S. digital marketers reportedly will spend $58.5 billion in 2015 half of which spent will be on what we call useless “shmimpressions”. What is even more disturbing is that there are no regulations, and the guidelines established by organizations such as the Internet Advertising Bureau can’t force publishers to clean up their acts. As such, some digital marketers continue spending their advertising dollars on ads that no one will ever see or provide a return on their marketing investment.
Why is this happening? There are several reasons. It seems that it is enough for publishers to taut their audience profile, number of monthly unique visitors and the number of impressions while charging exaggerated amount of money for these illusionary audience. In addition, most digital marketers rely on reports received from the publisher or are tracking the wrong numbers that do not shed light to the online publishing industry’s dirty little secrets.
If you visit the website of most of these publishers and click on their media kit you will notice that most are still not offering programs based on measurable success but only based on the old values such as impressions. This is because they are banking on the fact that marketers do not understand the mechanics of digital advertising and do not measure the result of their campaigns. In most cases they are right. Many marketers are not tracking results therefore the industry is not forced to change their ways.
However, as more technology is available to marketers, the more CEOs, CFOs and CMOs are demanding to know what the return on their marketing investments are. Even if a publisher has 300K impressions it does not mean that the campaign will generate leads for the sales team. As we have learned a large portion of this traffic is manufactured, many of the ads are not visible, and even the legitimate impressions are hard to convert into leads and customers. True, any campaign that is visible to a large audience for a specific industry is good for the company for branding and visibility, however, only larger companies can afford the luxury for paying for such campaigns.
The rest of the companies, especially small to mid size organizations, can’t afford to run campaigns based on the premise that a campaign must be good if it advertises the company on an industry specific publisher site without any tangible measurable return. Therefore, if you are running such campaigns and do not have specific software to measure advertising spend, here are few tips that could help you make decisions and improve the return on your investment:
1. Use a unique landing page for each publisher. This way you can easily see how many people landed on your page through their efforts and how many submitted the form.
2. Each offer/content should have its own unique page. So if you have a whitepaper and an ebook you would have different banner ads for them and when prospects click on the banner ad then they will be driven to specific landing pages. The whitepaper clickers will land on the whitepaper landing page and the ebook clickers will land on the ebook landing page.
3. Compare the outcome. Evaluate the numbers weekly. If you see that one piece of content is performing better than the other then eliminate the poorly performing one and increase traffic to the better performing content.
4. Review the publisher’s report. Generally they will send you numbers they track that show how many times your ad was viewed and clicked on. Reconcile these numbers with what you track with your own landing pages.
5. Calculate the number of visits to the landing pages, the number of form submissions, and the conversation rate.
6. If the publisher’s report shows that your ad was viewed many times but had a low click rate then either there is a viewability issue or your banner ad needs to be revised.
7. If the publisher’s report and your landing page report shows a high number of visits to your landing page but a low number of form submissions then you need to review the relationship between the ad and the landing page, evaluate the landing page to make sure it follows best practices, and evaluate the offer itself.
8. If you are not satisfied with the numbers then you can also explain to the publisher that the renewal will be based on the success of the campaign and if the campaign does not yield leads then it will be eliminated. Most publishers will at least try to improve your results by suggesting some changes to your campaign and showing your ad more in order to generate more clicks.
9. Ask for feedback on the leads from the sales team. You may generate leads but if they are not your audience or sales finds them “tire kickers” then you may need to eliminate the campaign.
10. Add the leads to a database campaign and follow the leads in your systems to see how many become qualified leads and opportunities.
11. Evaluate all results and eliminate campaigns that do not yield the number of leads, qualified leads, and opportunities you hope for your investment.
12. Consider publishers who offer a lead guarantee or vendors who may be generating leads in different ways through the web.
13. Consider using vendors who are not industry specific. While it makes sense to use an industry leading website to generate leads since it is supposed to be your audience, these vendors charge for this premise and seldom can deliver. After evaluating countless campaigns we came to the conclusion that using industry specific publishers does not guarantee the right audience or the best leads. Many non-industry specific vendors are able to deliver leads that are even better and more engaged than those generated from the expensive industry publishers.
14. Utilize available technology, analyze information, and make decisions based on facts not fiction.
15. By demanding more from the industry digital marketers could change the way publishers do business. Demand to get measurable results for your investment rather than accept “shmimpressions” they give you today!
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