You’ve likely seen third-party “recommended content” widgets on many a news site or blog. You may have even clicked a few of the suggested links. But while these paid content discovery networks sometimes add a sprinkling of tabloid indulgence to the modern online experience, they primarily exist for two reasons: (1) to get more clicks for publishers and (2) to help publishers earn more revenue. Here’s a real example I found on a Huffington Post article about the First Family’s visit to Cuba:
While the widget indicates I “may like” the content, none of the six recommendations have anything to do with my interests, and none of them are remotely related to the subject matter of the article. In fact it makes some sense that the harshest critics of these ads disguised as content sometimes call them spam.
What’s concerning for marketers is that this model — while seemingly a quick and easy way to get clicks on content — may actually do more harm than good.
The reason: these clickbait-y modules are skewed to deliver just that — clicks. This is great for publishers as they get paid by the click. But brands need more than anonymous, one-time clicks. They get paid when people buy or favor their products. That positive outcome doesn’t happen with content marketing unless the brand excels at delivering real value and is able to drive relevance and relationships. Content discovery networks are optimized for easy-come, easy-go click volume, but they’re not purposefully designed to help brands recognize any benefit other than simply making the number of clicks go up.
Because it’s possible to simultaneously earn an “A” in traffic and an “F” in business results, marketers are having to rethink their content engagement strategies. Some have begun to trade raw traffic tonnage for a more nuanced distribution approach centered around repeat engagement. This process of content sequencing — where relevant content is delivered at the appropriate time — closely aligns with the different stages of the customer journey.
Electric shaver maker Remington actually saw a 3X sales lift via Amazon when they segmented and delivered their content portfolio in three waves: Personal Care Tips & How-Tos, Product Features & Benefits, and Product Selection & Offers. Of course, the shift away from driving pageviews requires a change in how we think about metrics. The optics tied to content sequencing are actually quite different. Here’s what you should be benchmarking and tracking:
|Metric||What It Tells You|
|Repeat engagement rate||Percentage of content users who come back for more content|
|Content per repeat user||Average number of pieces of content consumed by repeat users|
|Visits per repeat user||Average number of visits for users who visited more than once|
|Content consumption rate||Percentage of content views with dwell rate of 40 or more seconds|
So does focusing on repeat engagement mean you should forgo traffic-driving techniques entirely? Not at all. Many marketers have found content discovery can be a highly effective means to onboard people into an effective repeat engagement program. After all, retargeted ads require people to be cookied and a site visit is the most common way to do that. Some tips for making your traffic and repeat engagement efforts work together harmoniously:
Give your program realistic runway Repeat engagement is naturally a longer-lived effort, so you’ll want to allot weeks if not months for newly acquired users to experience an appropriate sequence of content.
Don’t compare the two head-to-head Content discovery is for driving traffic into the funnel, while repeat engagement is about driving traffic down the funnel. Judge them on their different respective abilities, not a generic metric.
Tune in to the play-by-play When using retargeting, stay close to the data from beginning to end. Using real-time insights to fine tune your editorial and traffic acquisition strategies can raise the quality of those feeding into repeat engagement efforts.
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