Most brands don’t generate nearly enough revenue from their content marketing investment. It’s no wonder. Search engines neutered SEO years ago, leaving little free prominence above the SERPs (search engine results page) fold. Now social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, hungry for their slice of display marketing budgets, spayed free content distribution in favor of utterly organic-looking social feed page promotion ad units. Unless marketers pay, not enough users see a brand’s content. There are too few site visitors and not enough conversions.
With so much less SEO visibility and social distribution, how will marketers get enough eyeballs on precious content? The answer is to fundamentally alter our thinking about the very purpose of display ads, to squeeze triple duty out of our display dollars by thinking of display campaigns as editorial calendar-based social content amplification programs measured against content marketing and conversion KPIs. This post offers profound new perspective on the inevitable confluence of display, social strategy, content marketing, Internet-wide distribution, and conversion. In coming years, most online marketers will think of display along the lines of what’s put forward here. Adapt or risk becoming irrelevant.
There’s also going to be a changing of the guard. Since 2007, a handful of social PPC content amplification marketers have learned to utilize display budgets better than big media companies, who get fat on percentage-of-spend revenue without being nimble enough for the new paradigm. Using display for psychographic content marketing, in social channels (and now Internet-wide) yields all the same awareness and traffic benefits of traditional display marketing and:
- Generates more conversions faster
- Spawns links and social signals, crucial for SEO
- Drives influencer awareness, from a PR perspective
- Earns social followers from key psychographic audiences
- Offers opportunities for social strategists to conduct multivariate social voice testing, much the way SEO marketers use search PPC to prove SEO funnels
This new display approach requires an evolved omnichannel expertise. Social PPC jockeys are psychographic content marketers who long ago learned to sell mini-vans to pregnant couples and pizza to late night pot smokers. We’re the marketers who sell parkas and lip balm to ski instructors using social display. We’re the marketers who sell water treatment plants, costing tens of millions, to city planners with Facebook amplified content, sending traffic external into conversion and other content marketing KPIs, including SEO and friendship. Social psychographic PPC marketers are the players, blessed with years of experience executing editorial calendar based, segmented programs to systematically convert site visitors with psychographics ad units. Of course we’re the new display marketers.
Yep, the display cheese has moved forever. Many shell-shocked brands will be moving their Internet-wide display budgets to social PPC marketers. We’re perfectly equipped for what’s next and already here. Display marketers: Master these skills or risk losing your job. Here are six indisputable reasons why psychographic content distribution IS the “New” display.
1-Razor Sharp, Internet-Wide Psychographic Targeting
Most marketers’ first exposure to psychographic targeting was Facebook Ads. It’s transformational to target users by interests, affinities, proclivities, biases, predispositions, religion, sexuality, occupation, education, workplace, preferences, age, gender, likings, age, predilections, attractions, medical condition, economic status, peccadilloes, desires, correspondences, empathies, relationships, appetites, weaknesses, tastes, inclinations, corporate loyalties, and numerous other highly personal penchants. Rock on!
Facebook was the first to mainstream but now psychographic targeting is everywhere. In reality, radical targeting has been percolating Internet-wide for years. Savvy marketers use DSP and ad exchange technology to target users most everywhere they roam on the Internet. It’s a lot like Facebook Ads, only better, and Internet-wide.
More than 30 networks, consortiums, and other data brokers resell access to their targeting data, making users available to DSPs. If you don’t know the data providers in the following graphic, you will. [Disclosure: Neustar and its property AdAdvisor are long-time aimClear clients.] Data objects from these companies can be layered using both the AND & OR operators to create stunning data combinations.
Consider the possibilities of layering data from such pervasive and definitive sources, in addition to FB, Twitter and LinkedIn. Contemplate clarifying e-commerce marketing targets by financial qualifiers gleaned from Experian, TransUnion, and MasterCard. If you like occupation targeting in Facebook and LinkedIn, how about targeting users Internet-wide with Dun and Bradstreet and Bizo? Wow! We live in a brave new marketing world, where it’s commonplace to layer competitive and symbiotic brand affinities with credit qualifiers. These powerful examples are just a small snapshot of the psychographic display-targeting ecosystem. There are thousands of ways to layer data for the targeting win.
Finally, the ability to target users is truly Internet-wide. This includes FBX, Facebook’s ad exchange. Using FBX as a targeting channel, as opposed to only REtargeting, has particularly deep ramifications as FB dumbs-down native Facebook Ads targeting. Often times these days, the best available data to target FB users is not Facebook Ads. Rather, use any of the data services via your DSP and serve it into FBX. This also gets around some of the reach limitations marketers are currently experiencing in Facebook Ads. Using your DSP to target into Facebook also limits or removes the expensive and potentially wasteful possibility of users socializing in FB, rather than clicking out to an external site.
2-Predictable Traffic Injects Customers, Deeper Into The Funnel With Content
The best branding is sales. The next best branding is getting site visitors as close to conversion as possible. With the availability of profound psychographic targeting data and ubiquitous content distribution, it’s simply insane to pay for ANY branding exercise whatsoever which fails to introduce visitors as close to conversion as possible. In many case studies, it’s entirely feasible to substantially defray or even fully pay the cost of branding with sales. Yep, it’s true. Let’s break it out.
The sales process is commonly referred to as a funnel. The bottom, narrowest part of the funnel signifies a conversion goal consummated by a conclusive action like a lead generated or sale notched. For publishers, a “conversion” might be tallied when a visitor views multiple pages in the same session and clicks on an ad. Conversion is in the eye of the beholder. The most important goal on a site, the most lucrative objective, and the best we can accomplish on this site today trumping all others – that’s a conversion.
Ah, if only every site visitor converted right away on the first visit, the marketing universe would be a more perfect place. However, many conversions require more than one touch. This is especially true when a conversion requires more information, a personal relationship, or there’s a lot of money involved in the conversion transaction.
While it’s possible to straight-up apply for financing for a car real-time on a local car dealer’s website, not enough car shoppers visit the website for the first time, choose their SUV, give up highly personal information and convert to a financing request on the very first visit. More often, visitors poke around dealer site content, experiment with assembling the perfect SUV and otherwise shop. In some order visitors often leave, read reviews on other sites, return, make an appointment, schedule a test drive, develop a relationship with a salesperson, negotiate, and then buy. While applying for financing is the “best KPI,” other possibilities on the site are interstitial goals, not the be-all and end-all, but still important steps and common pathways to purchase. It could be said that using the build-a-car engine site, emailing, requesting an appointment, etc. options are mid-funnel.
The top of the funnel, the widest part, is a more general awareness, and commonly referred to as branding. Historically, top of funnel traffic, branding was less targeted and aimed at a broader audience. It was measured in CPM (cost per thousand impression) not CPA (cost per action). This is no longer the case. The universe of psychographic data means the cost of “branding” needs to be paid for with sales, first touch, or attributable within a certain time period.
Most online marketers want traffic. Given a choice, most of us prefer to skip the funnel altogether and proceed directly to sales. Of course we do. With the advent of deep psychographic targeting and omnichannel content distribution, display ads begin site visitors further down the funnel and much closer to conversion goals.
Here’s an example of how aimClear uses traditional banner placement, targeting occupational psychographics, and pointing outbound clicks to a blog post to amplify our content marketing.
The banner ad’s destination URL is an aimClear blog post. Now we’ve got serious marketers reading about our bulletproof pay per click auditing process. They see aimClear is a Google Partner, judging the European Search Awards and Top 100 place to work in Minnesota. Visitors are reading are story and what differentiates us PPC auditors. THIS is an awesome funnel entry, arguably a bit further in the process.
3-Filtered Retargeting Melds Layered Psychographics & Search To Form True Personas
Internet-wide targeting, as most marketers think about the practice today, is about wide-open following. All site visitors who touch certain pages and don’t convert are followed wherever they go on the Internet. As powerful as site touch/follow technology is, it’s actually pretty dumb. Why would we want to retarget everyone who visited a page on our site? If given the option, wouldn’t most marketers prefer to filter who sees retargeting ads?
Google remarketing goes a step further and does just that, though only within Google’s properties and not truly psychographic. We build Google remarketing lists, which essentially filter which visitors are followed by analytic and other behavioral data. Google’s remarketing concept is much deeper than wide open retargeting like AdRoll because marketers add another layer of criteria. Fewer users are followed and less impressions tendered. Less clicks means lower cost, but far more focused re-visitors when remarketing is used properly. Facebook offers a solution of similar depth by way of its native retargeting pixel. A visitor touches your website and is retargeted into FBX, with additional FB Ads and partner data filtering. Wow!
Now cutting edge retargeting platforms offer psychographic filters for Internet-wide retargeting. In fact, most of the targeting data discussed above in the targeting section of this post can also be used to filter retargeting. Like targeting, retargeting filters can be stacked using either the AND or OR operators. Would Expedia prefer to retarget EVERY visitor that almost booked a hotel room online, or only individuals with a history of using premium credit cards for Internet purchase and destination travel intent? Would Binoculars.com prefer to retarget every visitor that bailed on the shopping cart, or filter out individuals with bad credit, while focusing on people with a competitor’s brand affinity?
Also, think of how search PPC queries can be dramatically clarified by filtered retargeting. A visitor comes to our site via a query we can identify. A retargeting cookie is set. We follow the user anywhere they go on the Internet, with a clarifying psychographic filter. For marketers up to the challenge of keeping track of the data, now search and psychographics are melded.
Reciprocally, we can drive visitors into our website by way of personas from anywhere on the Internet, especially social. Those visitors can be search-remarketed into Google AdWords SERPS, additionally filtered by queries. Again. Now we’re tracking a query and the persona melded. The new world of marketing is all about filtered retargeting, Internet wide, to form three-dimensional personas which capture and exploit both search and psychographic data.
4-Define Audiences, Cultivate, Follow, & Own Them
The ability to target with psychographics and retarget with the same filters changes the game. The first time a marketer drives a user to her site from a psychographic display ad, the user is captured. Now we follow that user Internet-wide, within certain limits, for as long as we want to. Though some psychographic audiences are vast, all are finite. Once a visitor is introduced to our filtered retargeting system, we OWN that person’s mindshare until we’re done with them.
The new display is all about identifying psychographic audiences, driving the audience deep into the conversion funnel, following the audience with additional filters and cultivating mindshare straight through to conversion. The new display paradigm is about curating “owned” audiences as brand assets. What’s really interesting is how new display marketing is all about keeping track of the data. How do marketers use tagging conventions to keep track of the “data hops” between targeting and various stages of filtered retargeting? Truly, data management defines excellence in marketing, after targeting and creative.
5-Content Marketing KPIs: The Missing Link Between Branding, SEO, & Friendship
Sure! Your team creates and organically distributes amazing content that is intuitive, engaging by nature, and serves well-cultivated audiences. That’s a given. Your community manager distributes the content and organic audiences love it and share. Great! As we content marketers seek new distribution methods, we’re after programs that:
- Drive targeted & scalable social psychographic traffic to content that converts
- Earn real links from sites with good domain authority
- Generate authentic social signals from real users of good authority
- Insulate our sites from harsh search engine algorithm updates
- Distribute PR content to journalists, bloggers, and a myriad of focused media-role users
Social content and SEO distribution used to be mostly free. Now, in the unavoidable effort to monetize, social media platforms and search engines charge for the same distribution. That’s the bad news. The fantastic news is that the “Ads” look very similar and are often barely distinguishable from the same organic page units that used to be free.
The graph below shows organic conversion scaling proportionally to paid psychographic reach. Why wouldn’t we use Internet-wide psychographic display to amplify content?
Another perk is that well-executed organic amplification of relevant content often results in links. Marketers are already learning to ditch old-style link building efforts in favor of paid-organic link building to earned psychographic audiences, bloggers, and journalists. We tell our clients to spend their money building more effective content, and distributing it to social psychographic segments.
6-Multivariate Testing Clarifies Organic Social Voice
Organic-only SEO marketers are running blind without search PPC multivariate testing to clarify, which SEO tactics do and do not work. Even before keyword not provided, intelligent marketers mined brand data from search PPC for use with SEO. We use search PPC to prove our SEO concepts by asking classic questions like:
- What messages resonate with users for which keywords, as evidenced by CTR (click through rate), on-site behavior, and conversion?
- What on-site user experience makes keywords and messages pay?
- What can we learn about organic funnels from search PPC traffic?
- Which keywords drive traffic and don’t convert and which KWs should we optimize for?
Introducing social psychographic display traffic into social (think Page post ads, FBX, Promoted Tweets), and driving community members deeper into the funnel, provides incredible data for what social content and voice should become. Paid-organic social distribution, such as FB Page post ads and Promoted Tweets is extremely similar in function and performance to pure organic. The page units are almost exactly the same. How focused users in social channels respond to social display tells us a LOT as to how these and similar users will react to organic posts.
Now we ask questions like:
- What occupations consume our product more than others, and what words do a brand use in creative treatments?
- What colloquial tone resonates with engaged, married, retired, straight, or gay customers?
- What images pique the imagination of various personas, as evidenced by CTR and conversion?
- Which thought leaders do our potential customers follow? What are their biases? How about religion? How should a brand tailor content and voice for psychographic audiences as evidenced by performance segmented by targeting and creative?
- How can we use paid social data to advise organic community management?
Truly social PPC is to content marketing, what search PPC is to SEO. Without paid organic social psychographic content distribution, social marketers are literally running blind. We need the scale and focus of paid, to prove organic concepts.
Get The Most Out Of The Display Budget, Or Not…
Most brands don’t produce near enough income from their content marketing nickel. Of course they don’t. Search engines castrated SEO years ago, leaving few unpaid listings above the fold. Now social communities, famished for their wedge of display marketing expenditures, gelded free content distribution in favor of unreservedly organic-looking social feed page promotion ads. Fewer users see your content. There are not enough site visitors and ROI.
The answer is to profoundly alter our strategy and use display ads differently. Start thinking of banners as editorial calendar based social content amplification measured against conversion KPIs.
Those of us who learned to sell with social PPC ads and paid organic amplification feed units have an enormous advantage over big media players. We’re more nimble and used to rolling with the daily flow of content creation and psychographic distribution. The display cheese has moved forever. In the new world, targeting and filtered retargeting mean marketers introduce audiences to content further into the funnel, follow, and ultimately own individuals that comprise audiences. As a side benefit, social ads are so similar to organic that marketers get priceless feedback on what voice and creative work with social audiences. Psychographic content distribution IS the “New” display. Adapt or risk irrelevance.
Melting Brain Image © grandeduc – Fotolia
Brilliant! Do you have a sample strategy showing how you creat a social amplification plan? For example, an infographic is launched. Day 1: amplify to such and such an audience on Facebook. Day 3: promoted tweet. Day 5: pay for stumbles. Id love some guidance on crafting such a strategy! Thanks for sharing Marty!
Love the post, you’ve made a great case for approaching traditional display advertising from a more flexible, tailored perspective. It took me a while to read, but it was worth it! Thanks for sharing.
Great post and too true. I’m curious if there’s gonna be a plateau of psychographic, hyper-hyper targeted stuff that eventually reaches this like niche over-saturation and people start ignoring that stuff. I suppose probably no more than would happen with any other ad dynamic.
This is pretty close to the vision that drove us to build one of the first dynamic creative optimization platforms at Tumri (now Collective). Minus social media, of course (which we never saw coming).
It’s so cool to see retargeting, display and data-driven targeting coming together into such cohesive, omni-channel strategy – that you can actually execute.
One question, though: how are you dealing with psychographic targeting in mobile (which is taking over the world, we hear) ? 80% of mobile time is spent in apps.
I know Facebook & Google apps own a decent share of mobile and offer good targeting, but a LOT of apps don’t support psychographic targeting – right?
Any networks you could recommend that support this… or are close to releasing?
Yeah, the big social networks are running away w/ mobile right now.
My question is more about how we target “the other 5 million apps”.
Laser-sharp targeting down low in the funnel should be possible there. The pay per call guys can tell you a lot about that.
Outside of Facebook and Twitter, mobile app-targeting seems to be limited to running hundreds of A/B tests on hand-picked apps across all the networks, countries and devices you care about; then, use day parting, etc. to optimize.
Seems like a great problem for a long-tail mobile ad network to solve, assuming the no-cookie issue can be overcome.
BTW, I don’t have anything to do with Tumri any more.
@Ryan -I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who had to go back and re-read. Then stop and let it gel for a moment… then gelatin :~ ) still a little mushy in my brain, but it tastes good.
This content was originally published here.