The evolution of content marketing

The evolution of content marketing

 

It is often argued that content marketing has been around for centuries, many early examples cited include the likes of John Deere, Michelin, Lego and Nike. These brands were certainly practicing an early form of content marketing. One which focussed on adding genuine value to the user with a long term focus on user-brand affinity. It’s fair to say Content Marketing 2.0, as we like to call it at Contentise, is a little different.

 

What is Content Marketing 2.0? It is when the Content Marketing Renaissance first began circa 2007. When the likes of Joe Pullizi from the CMI, and other thought leaders like Ann Handley, Michael Brenner began to extol the virtues of content marketing. Off the back of all this promotion came a raft of dollars which flowed relentlessly into content marketing. With this inflow of money came the digital supply platforms like Outbrain, Taboola, and Sharethrough. Brands now had channels to promote their content. Content marketing distribution now had a platform, and that platform was the Content Distribution Networks (CDN’s). Over the next decade paid content marketing activity became ubiquitous across the web, and it now fair to say we are close of reaching a saturation point when it comes to content recommendations.

 

 

 

During the rise of content marketing over the last decade we have seen a paradigm shift in the nature of paid content distribution. In the formative years of the CDN’s, the majority of the paid content recommendations consisted of content that was designed to inform or add value to the user whilst building brand awareness. It was paid for traditional content marketing. Because brand awareness was the only KPI, the content was of a relatively high quality, but the efficacy of the campaigns was difficult to measure. Then as the demands of the marketers became greater, consequently the CDN’s became more complex in their product offering. Post click KPI’s become apart of the product scope, and it was at this point that these platforms began to transcend traditional content marketing. They now were open for business to two new types of advertisers - Arbitrage and Direct Response. These buyers were agile and savvy, and more importantly were scrupulous when it came to measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns. If their campaigns could not sustain a threshold ROI (Return on investment) then they simply wouldn’t buy traffic. ROI was their only KPI. The upside of course was that if they could sustain their target ROI, then their budgets would run in perpetuity. This was great for the CDN’s as it gave them month-on-month revenue stability, something which they had struggled with before when the majority of their campaigns comprised of brand campaigns. The downside was that content quality was compromised. The content was longer focussed on adding value to a user and a building relationship with that user in the long-term like the forefathers of content marketing did over a century ago. It was focussed on short term gains, immediate actions, and instant results. In fairness this ephemerality is reflective of the millennial generation, and it therefore could be argued that these ROI focussed content marketers are simply pandering to the generation which they serve. Is this therefore fair to denigrate them for low-brown content which has now become so ubiquitous that phrases associated with it are entering into pop culture.

 

Either way, content marketing has seen some large shifts over the last decade, and the future of the industry is unknown. What is known is that is that all of these changes we have witnessed have occurred in a capitalist environment where revenue and profit dictate the winners and the losers. Moreover, these changes have come about as a result of the content creators, the CDN’s and the users. Before we look to point fingers at others for something we do not like, remember it is us who perpetuate these content marketing campaigns by clicking on them.

How to Develop Content Strategy

Companies publish more content than ever before. New content teams have been created to stay on top of consumption demands of prospects and customers. But is more always better? Let's step back and make sure your publishing schedule sits on top of a strong content marketing strategy - one that is rooted in business goals and customer research.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a marketing method that involves creating and sharing information that is entertaining, educational, interesting, or emotionally driven with the purpose of building a relationship with a target audience and ultimately generating profitable customer action. Content comes in a multitude of forms such as videos, blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, newsletters, social media messages, and more. By publishing  useful, relevant, and engaging content consistently, and delivering it to the right audience in the right place and time, brands can become a trusted source that consumers will choose over your competitors.

Content Marketing Strategy vs. Content Strategy

Content marketing strategy and content strategy are often confused, and while there is some overlap, they are different concepts. Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute says it is helpful to think of content marketing strategy as the big picture “why” and content strategy as the nuts and bolts of “how” content will be used in your organization. He is fond of saying content marketing is using a thick magic marker, while content strategists choose a fine pen. Content marketing strategy seeks to understand the story your company or organization wants to tell, and looks at different ways to engage your audience. Content strategy breaks down the tactics you’ll use to create, publish, promote, and track the results of your content.

Content Marketing Strategy Components

Now that we’ve defined content marketing, let’s dive into the components of great content marketing strategy:

  1. Business goals and objectives– The first step is to carefully consider the business outcomes you are setting out to achieve. What does success look like, and does everyone agree on that vision of success? Clearly state these goals, and the objectives it will take to achieve these goals.
  2. Competitive audit– Create a list of your competitors, and do some detective work. Where do they publish content? What kinds of content do they prefer? Look at their publishing frequency and what topics they cover. See if they focus on long-form content with lots of value. Go into as much detail as possible. Knowing what you’re up against is critical to determining how you need to be different to cut through all the noise.
  3. Content audit– Take a complete inventory of the content assets you currently own. Include details for each piece of content including what type of media and its intended marketing channel and audience persona. Evaluate what content is performing, what needs to be updated, and what can be put on the back burner.
  4. Customer personas– Develop a complete persona of each type of existing or potential customer you want to reach and their main pain points. What are their desires, fears, and interests? What keeps them up at night?
  5. Obstacles and opportunities– Plan in advance how you will overcome challenges such as not enough resources, inconsistent quality, lack of trained staff, uncooperative management, and rising competition.
  6. Brand story– Your brand story is the overall narrative you want to communicate. It defines your value proposition and sets the tone for long-term customer relationships. Your content marketing strategy must be completely aligned with your brand story.
  7. Content ecosystem– This is your paid, owned, and earned media channel plan. Owned media is websites and other assets you own outright. Earned media refers to your brand being mentioned, referred or shared by publications and key influencers. Paid media includes content discovery like Outbrain, or sponsored social media posts through sites like Facebook. Map out the content you plan to deploy in each of these areas, and visualize on the entire content ecosystem works together to help you accomplish your goals.
  8. Content distribution plan– Determine how you will get your content in front of your intended audience. Find out where they are already discovering content—for example, social media, email, video sharing sites—and what type of content they prefer. Research which channels are the best fit, and constantly update and refine your approach.
  9. Measurement– How will you measure success? What are your most important KPIs, and what are the smaller KPIs that ladder up to helping you achieve the objectives you set from the beginning? Pageviews, shares, and time on page, can be important, but newsletter subscriptions and followers are critical to building an audience. And qualified leads, purchases, and higher value customers are ultimately what you need to prove a return on investment, and make your case for more resources to drive growth.
  10. Toolbox– What tools will you use to create content? For example, does your company already use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress? Figure out if you will use your own writing staff or utilize services such as Scripted or Contently. You’ll also need good analytics software to track and measure each piece of content. Google Analytics is always an options, but to see a more clear picture of who the people are interacting with your content you may want to test out something like Kissmetrics or TrenDemon.

In Conclusion

Does all this sound like a lot of work? Well, it is! But it’s worth the time and effort to lay down your strategy, define your goals, and plan your tactics before you start. Too many companies start publishing a ton of content with no plan behind the flurry of activity.

Having a mapped out plan that includes all of the above components will also increase the likelihood of getting complete buy-in from all stakeholders. If you don’t get key stakeholders engaged in your content marketing strategy, it will blow up before getting off the launch pad. Tap your powers of communication and persuasion to get top management, engineers, information technology (IT), legal, product management and governance players involved from the start.

And make sure you keep on testing and tweaking—constant diligence will be rewarded with more brand impact, awareness, sales, and profit.

Top 5 Ad Networks for Buying Arbitrage Traffic

What are the key factors in a good traffic sourcing network?

  • Low CPCs. If the traffic isn’t cheap, there will be no margins to exploit with arbitrage.
  • Sticky traffic. If it immediately bounces, it’s a bad traffic source. The more bounces, the lower your ad click conversion rate, and hence eroded margins.
  • Engaged traffic. Surviving the bounce is step 1. But the more pages the user visits, the greater potential that you close the deal on an ad click. This is a function of the quality of the network and the accuracy of the targeting.
  • Users that click ads. This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. If your traffic flow isn’t clicking your ads, it’s next to worthless to you in an arbitrage strategy.
  • No Bots. You don’t want ad networks that let bots sneak in and burn your ad budget up. Every false click is cash out of your account. If the bots get through, your arbitrage strategy will sink like a rock.
  • Geography. Location, location, location, am I right?! To get high CPCs you need to bring in traffic from “tier 1 countries.” But it doesn’t end there, so networks work best with English speaking countries while other have more of a global reach so make sure you choose one that is the right fit for you.

Below are links to 5 of our favorite ad networks for publishing arbitrage. We put together a comprehensive guide based on years of consulting with leading arbitrage publishers. This guide goes in to great detail and contains everything you need to get set up and running for a successful publisher arbitrage strategy.

 

Here are our favorite 5 ad networks for buying arbitrage traffic

  1. Facebook Mobile Ads - Facebook needs no introduction but it is worth noting that their mobile properties are a great place to buy traffic at more competitive CPCs.
  2. Taboola - Much like Outbrain, Taboola has a large network of publisher partnerships where your content can appear. Taboola now has the largest content distribution network in the world, even though Outbrain has a larger reach across premium publishers. A list of Taboola's premium publishing partners is below. Click "Learn More" to download the web's most comprehensive guide on buying traffic through CDN's.
  3. Yahoo! Gemini - Yahoo Gemini is a traffic acquisition channel that buyers are using to acquire traffic. Think of it as Outbrain and Taboola but your content will show upas search and native ads and reach Yahoo’s audience on the Yahoo homepage and in the following Yahoo products: Mail, Mobile Search, News, Sports, Finance, Celebrity, Movies, TV, Music, Travel, Homes, Autos and My Yahoo.
  4. Outbrain - Outbrain recommends your content on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN, People and ESPN, capturing your target audience’s attention to drive better results for your business. According to Comscore, Outbrain has the largest reach across the top 10,000 largest publishers.
  5. Ads Native

The Modern Publisher Approach to Traffic Acquisition

“If you want to see pure-play capitalistic Darwinism as it applies to publishing, CafeMom is it.”

Online publishing has changed drastically and building an audience the old-fashioned way - with compelling content and monetizing it successfully with ads from big-name brands takes a lot of work. Nowadays, publishers are able to scale traffic through purchased channels and when they are able to successfully monetize that traffic, it is known as publisher arbitrage.

What is the benefit of this method? Arbitrage publishers don’t necessarily need a loyal, engaged audience to build an ROI positive business operation. Instead, they can just purchase traffic from others, fill their page with a well thought out combination of ads, and skim a little off the top. It’s a simple numbers game — buy a pageview for X, sell it to advertisers for Y, and keep the difference. So what are examples of arbitrage publishers?

CafeMom is a great example, attracting ~ 9 million desktop uniques a month, as reported by comScore. Paid links to the site appear all over content recommendation widgets and point to articles like “5 Celebrity Nip Slips That Made Us Gasp” that are mom-related in a way.  Those pages are filled covered in ads, in the form of both standard display units and content-recommendation modules from Taboola. At Contentise, we have spent years consulting publishers like CafeMom and have put together a comprehensive guide containing all of our learnings. Feel free to reach out to us but in the meantime, this guide will teach you everything you need to know to start generating traffic volume like CafeMom in as little as 30 days.

This is a very new approach to online publishing which has has become a numbers game. Publishers that win are the ones that apply data most effectively - not the ones with the best content. 

One former publishing exec once said, “If you want to see pure-play capitalistic Darwinism as it applies to publishing, CafeMom is it.”

8 Companies Changing Content Marketing

Content Creation

Want to run great content marketing campaigns? It starts with having a thorough and well thought out content creation strategy. The good news is that there is more technology than ever that will help you understand what your audience responds to - that will loop back into the content creation process. Want to get started but don't have an in-house content creation team?

 

Contently

Want to run a Content Marketing campaign but don't have content? Don't worry. Contently has an in-house team dedicated to helping brands create meaningful content. By creating a freelance network that spans 60+ countries and includes over 55,000 award-winning journalists, videographers, graphic designers, researchers, and photographers, Contently has a wealth of content creators to choose from. When you work with Contently's creative services, a team of editors will help pair content creators with your brand. 

And by the way - Contently has one of the most interesting Content Marketing blogs out there. Check out the Content Strategist. That is proof in the pudding that content speaks louder than ads.

Contently also provides enterprise technology to enable brands to create, distribute, and optimize content. 

 

Content Distribution 

CDN’s first entered the ad tech landscape 10 years ago, with Outbrain being the first to market. Their core value proposition was being able to provide users with a seamless and intuitive content consumption journey whilst providing publishers with the new monetization channel. While Content Distribution networks can be a great place to buy traffic at an affordable price, many publishers and brands are still figuring out how to target the right audiences, drive conversions and optimize content for optimal delivery. Contentise has been helping brands and publishers create effective Content Distribution strategies that solve for your KPIs.

 

Outbrain

Outbrain recommends your content on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN, People and ESPN, capturing your target audience’s attention to drive better results for your business. According to Comscore, Outbrain has the largest reach across the top 10,000 largest publishers.

 

Taboola

Much like Outbrain, Taboola has a large network of publisher partnerships where your content can appear. Taboola now has the largest content distribution network in the world, even though Outbrain has a larger reach across premium publishers. A list of Taboola's premium publishing partners is below. Click "Learn More" to download the web's most comprehensive guide on buying traffic through CDN's.

 

Yahoo! Gemini

Yahoo Gemini is a traffic acquisition channel that buyers are using to acquire traffic. Think of it as Outbrain and Taboola but your content will show up as search and native ads and reach Yahoo’s audience on the Yahoo homepage and in the following Yahoo products: Mail, Mobile Search, News, Sports, Finance, Celebrity, Movies, TV, Music, Travel, Homes, Autos and My Yahoo.

Similarweb reports that 37% of traffic comes from the USA which comes out to roughly 11.9 billion PVs/month in the USA. In summary, Gemini has proven to be a major traffic acquisition source for media buyers.

According to Comscore, as of  February 2016, Yahoo had the third largest digital reach in the US

According to Comscore, as of  February 2016, Yahoo had the third largest digital reach in the US

 

Simplereach

Simplereach, a NYC based start up helps publishers target the right audience with your best content on the most efficient channels, including Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Outbrain, and Taboola. Are you running separate campaigns through each of the aforementioned channels? Simplereach can help you tie these channels together because at the end of the day, they are all part of your content campaign.

 

Content Analytics

 

Moat

Moat started out focusing on attention metrics for publishers an advertisers to more effectively understand the quality of media buys. Lately, they allow for content analytics as well which includes attention metrics for videos.

Parsl.ey

Parse.ly provides digital publishers with clear audience insights to answer questions about how readers are responding to content. They give marketers more value than a CTR or impressions report by showing them what about the campaign resonated with your readers.

 

Chartbeat

Chartbeat helps track content attention metrics, allowing you to know instantly when your best content is capturing and holding audience attention.

 

Want to learn more about the content marketing space? Give us a shout!

Do You Know How Content Distribution Algorithms Actually Work?

CDN’s first entered the ad tech landscape 10 years ago, with Outbrain being the first to market. Their core value proposition was being able to provide users with a seamless and intuitive content consumption journey whilst providing publishers with the new monetisation channel.

At that time user content consumption journeys were convoluted as users navigated from one publisher homepage environment to another to find the content they were interested in.

This user journey was siloed and inefficient and often involved reverting to search engines in order to their content consumption journey.  

Users were spending too much of their time online trying to discover interesting content, and so therein lay the very problem that CDN’s came about to solve.

The Algorithms

The secret sauce, and key differentiator for both Outbrain and Taboola are their algorithms. They draw data from 5 key pillars:

  1. Contextual - “this content is related to that content”

  2. Personal - based on users’ cookie and tracked across the web to serve content based on a profile (what content they like to consume and when).

  3. Behavioral - User groups. Look-a-like audience.

  4. Social - Trending content via the major social channels

  5. Popularity - What pieces of content are being clicked on most every day and promote it.

They combine over 50 algorithms that sit across these 5 pillars to serve up the most relevant and interesting piece of content to user in a given session.

The weighting of this formula changes depending on the user, and the supply and demand balance.

 

Want to learn more? We created the most comprehensive guide on the web teaching you how to maximize efficiency across the world's leading CDNs. Click below for our guide on traffic acquisition - the same one used by hundreds of leading content marketers world wide. 


 

 

How to Choose a Content Distribution Channel - For Marketers

Content Discovery Networks (CDNs ) first entered the scene 10 years ago, with Outbrain being the first to market. Since then, the CDN market has been valued at several billion dollars per annum and with barriers being relatively low, there are over 20 players within the space - including Taboola and Yahoo!.  In addition to providing publishers with a new monetization channel, CDNs have opened up new ways for brands to connect with their consumers - a communication channel that major brands now treat as an essential component of their overall marketing strategy.

Savvy brands such as Red Bull and Coca-cola place quality content at the absolute heart of their brand messaging for good reason. It resonates with their audience. Think about Red Bull and the thought of entertaining extreme sports content comes to mind quicker than their product offering. 

On the back of the Content Marketing revolution, companies such as Contently and Newscred have grown to help brands create meaningful content. But once content exists, how do you choose the best channels to distribute it and reach your intended audience? At Contentise, we help brands turn great content into great content strategy. 

Start by defining your goals:

So you have great content and now what? With so many ways to reach your audience, choosing a Content Distribution channel can be a daunting task. The first thing that we encourage marketers to think about is defining KPIs for a content marketing campaign. This will help determine a channel that allows you to achieve those pre-determined goals. What types of goals can you set for your campaign? Brand awareness? Direct ROI?

For example, Facebook is a great place to reach an audience due to the size of their network and their great targeting capabilities. Content Distribution networks can provide rival scale and lower CPCs. To learn more about KPI strategy and realization, you can check out our comprehensive Traffic Acquisition guide below.

Content Distribution Networks:

When it comes to size, Outbrain and Taboola lead the pack with about 50% of market share between the two of them. 

Outbrain shows itself to have a larger reach across the world’s top 100,000 sites, but on aggregate Taboola has a larger reach as it is better represented amongst the long-tail publishers across the globe.

Just how big are these Content Distribution Networks? In March 2016, Taboola showed that across desktop it is just about the same size as Facebook reaching just over 800 million unique users every month.

There is a large degree of fragmentation at the bottom end, whilst at the the top end, Outbrain and Taboola dominate, both in terms of traffic quality, sophistication of algorithms and overall reach.

The majority of the other networks are focussed on Direct Response advertising, and simply use a content recommendation module to able to serve their ads within the main feed of the page.

These DR platforms include, Rev Content, Content.ad, Earnify and MGID. The cost of traffic is CPA based instead of CPC because it is specifically sales-driven. For brand marketers, this can be an interesting approach.