Native Advertising: What Is It Exactly?

Native advertising this, programmatic that. The buzzwords fly freely, but does anyone ever take a moment to really explain what the heck is going on in plain English? The reality is that new “trends” are really old ones, re-packaged or spun a bit, and that is definitely the case with native advertising. So what is it, how does it work, and how can you get in on the action? Keep reading.

What Is It?

Simply put, native advertising is a form of sponsored content. Wherever it is, be it Twitter, Facebook or your website, it looks like it’s supposed to be there. It is the definition of contextual. Let’s take a promoted pin, for instance:

Pinterest ad mockup via Digidayvia Pinterest as published by Digiday

 The pin looks and acts like all the other pins, but down at the bottom, you’ll see that it’s marked as “promoted.” Facebook and Twitter are two other big ones that employ native advertising, which they disperse among the content you’ve chosen to see by following or liking.

If you think about it like television, commercials are to traditional advertising as product placement is to native advertising (so long as it doesn’t change the format of the show).

In August 2014, a study by 614 Group and OneSpot revealed some pretty impressive stats:

  • 69 percent of marketers believe that native advertising is valuable
  • 22 percent view it as the future of digital advertising
  • 52 percent of marketers assert that getting to right level of scale is their job No. 1 for native advertising and content marketing
  • 87 percent employ their own websites as a means to promote content
  • 80 percent use social networks

How Does It Work?

In traditional advertising, let’s say for a magazine, editorial and advertising are kept very separate. The editorial team is charged with creating content that is within the voice of the publication, and at it’s core, promotes their mission and brand values. The nature of editorial is truthful and journalistic, and is the main reason why readers will patronize a publication—because they trust it. There is no ulterior motive in editorial besides telling a story in the way the writer intended it to be told.

Native advertising blurs the lines. Take Forbes’ March 2015 cover, for instance:

Forbes cover March 2015 native advertising

This move was a bold one. Typically, what is now known as “native advertising” lived in the back of a magazine, where sponsored content existed but looked and acted very different from editorial content. This new iteration of native advertising made many feel like they were being misled, and the journalists weren’t too happy about it either. Former staff tweeted that they had “just sold-off its last bit of editorial integrity” and were “pushing forward the complete bastardization of journalism”.

The difference between the Forbes example and Pinterest might be subtle, but it’s clear: in order to maintain the trust of your audience and/or potential customers, be clear about your motives.

How Can You Get In On the Action? 

As a B2B marketer, you’ve probably already been thinking about how exactly you can get in on the native advertising action. If you’re using Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, it’s relatively easy—promoted pins, tweets and posts are a regular part of their advertising products now.

Native advertising example Dell on Business.com
Additionally, most B2B publications are prepared for native advertising. Business.com was built to be a native platform, and the opportunity for sponsoring native content was baked into our new design. Want in on the Business.com native action? Contact us.

Native advertising on business.com CA

If you’re looking to create native advertising opportunities for your clients and customers, this is a good time to get to it.

The logical (and most important) place to start is to create for the mindset that native advertising is a marriage of the minds between editorial and sales. Native advertising should present the message of the advertiser in the voice of the publication, while making sure that it’s clear to your audience that the content is sponsored.

In order to do this well, you need to get all stakeholders onboard, and early. Make sure your sales team is talking to your content/editorial team before promising anything to an advertiser. Talk to your design about how you’ll differentiate sponsored native content from published editorial. Talk to tech about how it will be implemented.

Small Business Finds The Internet… It Only Took Two Decades [Survey]

Where would we be without the Internet? We’d still be using paper maps, calling restaurants to make reservations, listening to CDs and reading newspapers. And Business.com,”like millions of other companies, wouldn’t be around.

Clearly, the Internet isn’t going anywhere, but it’s taken quite some time for the mom and pop shops of America to really get their heads (and wallets) around marketing on this juggernaut. Year over year, small business Internet marketing spend increases, and according to the SMB Internet Marketing Survey by BrightLocal and Chamberofcommerce.com, 37% of these SMBs are planning to increase their spend on internet marketing yet again in 2015.

Of the 736 SMBs surveyed, 29% allocate more than 70% of their marketing budget to online channels. This stat alone is an indication that Internet marketing has become of increasing importance to the local businesses of America as technology and opportunities improve. In fact, since 2013, “there has been a 16% rise in SMBs that plan to increase their Internet marketing spend over the next 12 months.” (more…)

Small Business Finds The Internet… It Only Took Two Decades [Survey]

Where would we be without the Internet? We’d still be using paper maps, calling restaurants to make reservations, listening to CDs and reading newspapers. And Business.com, like millions of other companies, wouldn’t be around.

Clearly, the Internet isn’t going anywhere, but it’s taken quite some time for the mom and pop shops of America to really get their heads (and wallets) around marketing on this juggernaut. Year over year, small business Internet marketing spend increases, and according to the SMB Internet Marketing Survey by BrightLocal and Chamberofcommerce.com, 37% of these SMBs are planning to increase their spend on internet marketing yet again in 2015.

Internet Marketing Spend Increase Plans

Of the 736 SMBs surveyed, 29% allocate more than 70% of their marketing budget to online channels. This stat alone is an indication that Internet marketing has become of increasing importance to the local businesses of America as technology and opportunities improve. In fact, since 2013, “there has been a 16% rise in SMBs that plan to increase their Internet marketing spend over the next 12 months.”

The reasons behind the increased spend can be many, but one of the most important is the increasing effectiveness of Internet marketing. 75% of those surveyed find it to be “effective” or “very effective” at attracting customers. Only 20% said it was not effective, and 4% don’t do any Internet marketing at all. In their analysis, BrightLocal said “it is this increase in trust towards internet marketing that has persuaded 37% of SMBs to up their spending levels over next 12 months.”

Internet Marketing Effectiveness SMBs

So which channels are these SMBs finding the most success on? Next to word of mouth, they said that SEO (20%), online directories (15%), and email marketing (10%) are the most effective marketing channels. In our experience at Business.com, we’d agree that email marketing and SEO are effective channels, but the online directories stat gave us pause upon reading. But, given that the majority of the businesses surveyed in this report are self-taught and not in the business of the internet, it’s not surprising that they’d be a few years behind in their perception of what’s working versus what’s trending in Internet marketing.

Though word of mouth is considered to be an offline channel in this survey, review sites like Yelp are contributing to word of mouth marketing for businesses: “the impact of a great reputation which is shared widely online can earn businesses lots more customers.” The growing importance of online word of mouth will continue to fuel Internet marketing spend for SMBs as they realize the impact it has on their business.

Online Marketing Channel Effectiveness

Though the majority of the SMBs surveyed consider a phone call to their business as the best success metric of their marketing efforts, 40% of respondents said that traffic to their websites and search rankings are the most important. Another 14% said that website inquiries are of the highest value. When compared to the “in-person” success metrics of phone calls and actual customers walking through the door (45%), the online metrics are the clear winner (54%). This is a clear indication that spend will continue on its upward trend as SMBs pursue improvement in these metrics.

Internet Marketing Success Metrics

Of the 18% of SMBs that use a consultant or agency to handle their online marketing efforts, only 11% are not satisfied with the results. Most impressive is the respondents that “love them, think they’re brilliant”—up 30% from last year from 9%! This surprised me. Because small businesses tend to have small budgets for marketing, it could be deduced that when they do empty their pockets on an agency, they have high expectations. For so many SMBs to feel satisfied with their agencies not only indicates that the consultants are not only doing their jobs better, but perhaps that SMBs better understand what value they bring and how they do so. This is great news for Internet marketing agencies.

Marketing consultant performance and sentiment

Similarly, with each passing year SMB owners are becoming more interested in Internet marketing, and are making efforts to learn how they can best apply it to their business. Many SMBs struggle with limited resources including time and money, but the majority of those surveyed are dedicated to taking a DIY-approach to Internet marketing. Only 2% say they’re not interested in Internet marketing for their business.

Attitudes towards internet marketing SMBs

As we get well on our way with 2015, one thing is very clear about Internet marketing for small business: it’s here to stay. This is good news for all of us in the business of making money online, but to me, the most important takeaway from the SMB Internet Marketing Survey is that we continue to see an increased understanding and investment in online marketing efforts across the board from big brands to your favorite family-owned restaurant. With this outlook, the only way to go is up. Here’s to a year full of Internet marketing for ALL!

An Intro to Paid Search by Business.com’s SEM Analyst

Search engine marketing is an important focus for us at Business.com. In an effort to make sure everyone in the company understands what it really is, I presented an overview of paid search during one of our lunchtime learning sessions. So I figured, why not share it with all of you as well?

This presentation was designed for people who have heard about SEM but do not have direct knowledge about it. We explored the very basics of how search engine marketing works, and all the basic tenants of paid search. Here’s the rundown.

What is paid search?

  • Paid search, or search engine marketing, is the management of ads that show next to organic search engine results. Advertisers can get traffic to their website on a cost-per-click basis.
  • Like anything, paid search takes time and money to run effectively.
  • Typically users that search for a keyword on a search engine have high intent. They either wish to buy an item or wish to learn more about something. This is one of the advantages of paid search compared to other paid advertising channels.

(more…)

An Intro to Paid Search by Business.com’s SEM Analyst

Search Engine Marketing SEMSearch engine marketing is an important focus for us at Business.com. In an effort to make sure everyone in the company understands what it really is, I presented an overview of paid search during one of our lunchtime learning sessions. So I figured, why not share it with all of you as well?

This presentation was designed for people who have heard about SEM but do not have direct knowledge about it. We explored the very basics of how search engine marketing works, and all the basic tenants of paid search. Here’s the rundown.

What is paid search?

  • Paid search, or search engine marketing, is the management of ads that show next to organic search engine results. Advertisers can get traffic to their website on a cost-per-click basis.
  • Like anything, paid search takes time and money to run effectively.
  • Typically users that search for a keyword on a search engine have high intent. They either wish to buy an item or wish to learn more about something. This is one of the advantages of paid search compared to other paid advertising channels.

Some facts and figures about paid search:

  • Google owns 2/3 of the US market share for search engine traffic. Bing owns just less than 1/3.
  • There are 40,000 search queries on Google every second.
  • Google’s advertising revenues in 2012 were $42.5 billion.

As you can see, there are a lot of people searching for things, and advertisers are willing to pay real money to get those people to come to their website.

What can you use paid search for?

  • Ecommerce/Retail: Amazon, Macy’s, Nike all use paid search to drive product sales
  • Lead Generation: We use paid search here at Business.com to identity people interested in a product and service. Then we match these people with advertisers that provide that service
  • Website Traffic/Branding: Companies can send paid traffic to their website to increase brand awareness

Others have also used paid search to drive people to special offers on their website, to collect emails for their database or to collect donations. The uses of paid search are only limited by the website that the paid click drives to.

Here’s an example of a paid search ad:

Example of paid search ad

You have undoubtedly seen this screen before. After searching for a keyword (in this instance, “Nike running shoes”) you are shown a screen with a combination of ads and organic search results.

Notice that the paid ad space takes up a majority of the screen. When these ads align with exactly what the user is looking for, that’s when people will click on your ad.

Paid search management is all about matching a compelling ad to the relevant keywords.

If you are a business, you’ll have to balance your costs with your revenue. Each paid search click costs you money. So, you must think about how much you are willing to pay per click. This depends on your average revenue per visitor, or some other performance metric you are trying to optimize for.

When you choose the keywords you wish to advertise on, you can set a maximum CPC (cost per click) for each keyword. We’ll go over that, and some other details about the economics of paid search in the next section.

Basic Terminology

For clarity’s sake, let’s go over some basic terminology:

  • Keyword: the search query that you choose to show ads on.
  • Ad: the ad you write which will be shown for keywords that you bid on.
  • Max CPC: the maximum amount of money you are willing to pay if someone clicks on your ad.
  • CTR: Percentage of the time users click on your ad (as opposed to clicking on organic results or someone else’s ad).
  • Quality Score: the search engine’s 1-10 measure of the relevancy of your ad. This number is calculated mainly from your adcopy’s CTR, but also factors in your landing page experience, and a few other lesser factors.SEM example max CPC

Now that we’ve gotten some definitions out of the way, let’s take a look at what’s going on under the hood.

The Auction

Every time a user searches on a search engine, there is an auction that takes place in a fraction of a second. The advertiser with the highest ad rank gets shown in the number 1 ad spot. The advertiser with the second highest ad rank gets put in position 2, and so on.

Here is the formula for calculating your ad rank for a given keyword you are bidding on:

Max CPC * Quality Score = Ad Rank

This is a simple and elegant system that rewards advertisers for 1) bidding more money or 2) having a more relevant ad.

At the same time that Google calculates your ad rank, they also calculate the ad rank for all the advertisers that are competing with you. At the end, it shows ads in order of their ad rank.

Using The Auction To Your Advantage

This formula has a few implications for the achievement of your goals. As a marketer, your goals are probably something along the lines of this:

1) You want your ad to be seen by and clicked by as many people as possible and;

2) You also want to pay the least amount of money possible for each click.

The interesting thing is that these two objectives are actually contradictory. According to the formula above, if quality score is equal across all competitors, you need to increase your max CPC to get a better ad rank. So, you pay more money per click. Compounding this, the higher ad rank will cause your ads to get more clicks due to being in a higher position, and those additional clicks will cost you even more money.

Consider the opposite situation. If you bid lower, you will pay less money per click. But then your ad will be shown on a lower position on the page so you will also get fewer clicks, which will also decrease your advertising costs. Thus, the decreased CPC and decreased click volume work together to lower your costs.

As a search marketer, you have to strike a balance between price per click and the click volume you get. If you try and earn the number 1 or 2 spot all the time, you will need to bid high and that will cost you.

Can you afford the top ad positions? Often times it is much better to show ads on a lower position, because the price per click lends itself to overall profitability.

Closing Thoughts

We have just scratched the surface of search engine marketing. Search engines are collecting all sorts of data on user behavior and make it available to their advertisers so that they can improve their paid search efforts. Some advanced topics include:

  • Ad copy testing: testing different ad messaging to improve click-through-rate
  • Geographic targeting: analyzing ad performance segmented by geographic region
  • Time of day optimization: analyzing performance based on time of day or day of the week
  • Ad extensions: managing add-ons for your ads that increase its credibility and visibility. These often take the form of modules that convey your company’s Google+ rating, store address, or number of followers on social media next to your basic ad text.

All in all, the data driven nature of paid search and the real-time auctions are what set it apart from traditional media buying. Check back here periodically for future articles on more advanced topics in paid search.

Questions? Feel free to leave one in the comments section.

Future Selling: The Role of Ad Tech and Programmatic in B2B Media

Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Business Information & Media Summit on the impact of ad technology and programmatic buying on B2B media. The title of my talk: “Future Selling in B2B Media: Yes, there is a future.”

To give you a sense of perspective, #BIMS14 brought together 400 senior executives from business media, information, data and software companies ranging from some of the largest in the world, to start ups.

Related Article: B2B Marketing in 2014: The Trends, Successes and More

It was an audience of smart, experienced professionals, many of whom are still struggling with the havoc that the Internet has wrought on their traditional media and information businesses. To create a sense of context, I started with the major milestones that have shaped the digital landscape in which we currently live and do business:

  • 1995: Birth of the commercial web
  • 2000: First phase of the Internet as a platform
  • 2004: Social Networks introduced
  • 2006: Online targeting emerges
  • 2014: The Intention-Based revolution begins

(more…)

Future Selling: The Role of Ad Tech and Programmatic in B2B Media

ad tech and digital media convergeTwo weeks ago, I spoke at the Business Information & Media Summit on the impact of ad technology and programmatic buying on B2B media. The title of my talk: “Future Selling in B2B Media: Yes, there is a future.”

To give you a sense of perspective, #BIMS14 brought together 400 senior executives from business media, information, data and software companies ranging from some of the largest in the world, to start ups.

Related Article: B2B Marketing in 2014: The Trends, Successes and More

It was an audience of smart, experienced professionals, many of whom are still struggling with the havoc that the Internet has wrought on their traditional media and information businesses. To create a sense of context, I started with the major milestones that have shaped the digital landscape in which we currently live and do business:

  • 1995: Birth of the commercial web
  • 2000: First phase of the Internet as a platform
  • 2004: Social Networks introduced
  • 2006: Online targeting emerges
  • 2014: The Intention-Based revolution begins

This most recent milestone, the intention-based revolution, is a significant from-to shift. Advancements in digital technology have given us the ability to see users’ behavior in real time, improving both the experience for the audience and also creating more natural engagement with relevant advertising.

The power and potential of the intention-based web is reflected in the sheer number of marketing automation and ad tech companies that exist today. Estimates suggest there over 1,300, with new ones popping up daily. While the capabilities vary widely, the vast majority of these technologies were developed to help marketers leverage intention-based data to drive their digital marketing. Heck, to drive all of their marketing. Period.

The presentation on the future of selling in B2B media pivots on the following two fundamental concepts:

  1. All media today is digital. Regardless of the media you produce, whether it’s live events, data and business information, digital marketing or print, digital is increasingly the way audiences find, engage with and evaluate your offerings.
  2. Digital media and ad tech are converging. As they do so, this convergence is creating the intention-based media era as B2B marketers now have access to real-time data that signal the intentions of their prospects and customers.

For B2B media and marketing professionals, these are both exciting yet challenging times. There are 4 key steps to help start the process:

  1. Understand digital body language: Listen to your audience. Start looking at more than visits and views. Capture, analyze and retain all of the data you can. From initial visit, to content and advertising viewed and engaged with, to time on site, IP address, titles, functions… look at all of the firmographic and demographic data you can.
  1. Leverage targeted content: Start leveraging targeted content that you and your advertising customers produce. Relevant, contextual content is the fuel for intention-based media.
  1. Harness your own data: The data you collect is your best friend. Real-time, first party as well as third party, behavioral analytics data—digging in and understanding your data is an integral part of intention-based media.
  1. Embrace ad tech: In order to take advantage of the intention-based landscape and the future selling that comes along with it, it’s essential that you embrace ad tech. This includes programmatic advertising and media buying, as it’s estimated that by 2017, 83% of all ad buys will be programmatic.

Related Article: Programmatic What? A Comparison of Programmatic Buying & The Stock Market

Historically, B2B media created value for advertisers based on retrospective data; qualification forms, registrations to a trade show or email newsletter subscriptions. Today, B2B media value is based on a publishers ability to use ad tech to act on real-time, intention-based data, and create media inventory that can be sold directly to marketers and/or indirectly through programmatic exchanges.

Publisher to marketer map

Ad tech model diagram and map of content

The Business.com Case Study

We’ve spent the last year rebuilding our platforms, site and business model around this new landscape. Harnessing real time, intention-based data, generated on Business.com, allows us to provide a uniquely contextual experience for our audience of business decision makers. It also allows us to scale digital marketing programs for our advertisers by using this data to intelligently engage these buyers on our site, across our proprietary performance-marketing network and across the broader web. Media, marketing and technology have become inextricably intertwined. To provide value for both reader and marketer however, they need to be engineered to work together, which is the approach we’ve taken with Business.com.

Intention-based media is opening up new opportunities for B2B media and marketing and it’s still in the early stages. We look forward sharing our journey with you and as always look forward to hearing yours. View the entire presentation below.

Future Selling: The Role of Ad Tech & Programmatic in B2B Media from Tony Uphoff

Content Marketing Metrics: Write, Measure, Repeat

Content marketing is all sorts of huge, with only 12% of companies NOT focusing on it. But how do you know if your content is successful? In three words, successful content marketing has to have the following: write, measure, repeat.

The new Business.com”is a content-centric approach to our mission: to help people grow their businesses. Every day, we publish multiple pieces of content daily that all have that exact goal, but that’s just where it starts. In order to learn if our efforts are working, it is imperative that we dig into the analytics and to find out. Below are the content marketing metrics that we measure, how we do it, and what comes after. (more…)

Content Marketing Metrics: Write, Measure, Repeat

Content Marketing Metrics to Measure SuccessContent marketing is all sorts of huge, with only 12% of companies NOT focusing on it. But how do you know if your content is successful? In three words, successful content marketing has to have the following: write, measure, repeat.

The new Business.com is a content-centric approach to our mission: to help people grow their businesses. Every day, we publish multiple pieces of content daily that all have that exact goal, but that’s just where it starts. In order to learn if our efforts are working, it is imperative that we dig into the analytics and to find out. Below are the content marketing metrics that we measure, how we do it, and what comes after.

Related Article: Is Content Marketing the Future of B2B?

Site Traffic

This might seem like an obvious one, but what should you do with the metrics once you record? First, here are the traffic metrics we keep track of:

  • Total visitors: the total number of unique visits (sessions in Google Analytics) to your content and the percent of that organic traffic to total traffic.
  • Organic traffic: visitors that are finding your site through search, link backs on other sites, social channels, etc.
  • Referral traffic: further drill-down of organic traffic, referral traffic comes from social channels and links outside of your own site.

With these, you’ll want to view organic traffic percent to total traffic and have a goal to increase that. By choosing the right keywords and answering the questions in your content that people typing for would find helpful, you’ll start to see organic traffic increase. Referral traffic from social networks should also start going up if the quality and shareability is there.

Total Views by Content Type

Which pieces of content perform best on your site? Based on this, you’ll know what to keep and do more of, and what you shouldn’t waste your energy on. Similarly to site traffic, we look at total views, percentage change and percent of traffic.

We produce the following types of content, so we measure the effectiveness of each:

  • Articles
  • Comparison charts
  • Ebooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Blog posts

Top Performing Content Categories

Since Business.com covers quite a few professional disciplines, we want to know which category of content is resonating the most with our readers. This not only tells us what categories of content are performing the best, but also tells us more about our audience’s interest and job function.

Top 10 Performing Pieces of Content

This is a very important metric for us because it indicates which pieces of Business.com content have viral potential. If you look at your top ten pieces daily, you can re-share those articles and keep the engagement snowballing. Since social shares are so important with this metric, be sure to keep track. We use an internal platform as well as SimpleReach to help us identify this content. For performance, we look at the following:

  • Time on site – how long people are staying engaged with your site’s content before going elsewhere. Set goals and measure against them.
  • Bounce rate
  • Traffic by social channel
  • Shares by social channel

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is an important indicator of a few things in terms of content marketing. First and foremost, it shows how good of a job you’re doing (or not doing) with content re-targeting. Are you serving up related content? Trending content? If you’re not, your bounce rate is probably reflecting it. Similarly for time onsite, set goals for yourself and measure your actual bounce rate against them.

Traffic by Social Channel

Utilizing social media as a means of driving traffic to your content is vital. As I once heard it described at a conference, content is the heart and your social media networks are the veins. Measuring traffic by social channels helps you to tailor your strategy depending on where your audience is most engaged, and around which topics. You should track every channel that your brand regularly uses to publicize content.

Shares by Social Channel

If people are not only reading your content, but sharing it, you know you’re doing something right. We place a lot of emphasis on shares by social channel, because we believe it to be an indicator that our audience found a piece of content so valuable that they shared it with their community. SimpleReach has been a huge help in easily tracking this metric.

Once you’ve started tracking these metrics, it’s important to regularly update to track your progress. Set benchmarks for where you’d like to be for each metric, and map out a plan of how you’re going to get there. As you continue tracking your progress, adjust your plan to stay on track towards your goals. Metrics are key to your continued content marketing success.

3 Insights On How Brands Can Create Disruption for a #BrighterFuture

I recently attended the iMedia Brand Summit where top brands from around the country come together to share insights, trends and tips. The theme of the conference was “Marketing in an Always-On World,” and couldn’t be a more accurate statement about the landscape brands and marketers are in today.The good news? The scene is set for marketers and brands to really step up.

As marketers, there are a few challenges we are currently facing:

  1. Tackling the content conundrum
  2. How to master the art of storytelling

(more…)