Category: Internet Marketing

Internet Marketing

Fake News Is a Marketing Feature, Not a Hack:…

We live in a post-truth world, and our brains are to blame.

In November, I argued that fake news is the world’s most powerful and socially destructive marketing technique. If you haven’t read that article, I recommend at least skimming the post so we’re on the same page about what fake news is and why it’s a problem for society and marketers.

In this post, I break down the science behind why we’re so susceptible to fake news and discuss how optimized disinformation compromises our behaviors and beliefs—even in the presence of overwhelming evidence of “the truth.”

How Disinformation Hacks Our Brains

Disinformation and fake news prey on the fundamental ways our brains process information to beguile our critical thinking safeguards and dupe us into believing—and advocating for—insidious lies.

Dr. Seth M. Porter, the assistant director of digital teaching, learning, and scholarship at Princeton University, discussed how fake news affects our memory in the research collection, Fake News in an Era of Social Media: Tracking Viral Contagion. Porter argues that fake news is designed to compromise our:

  • Memory recall
  • Belief in misinformation
  • Decision making
  • Collective memory
  • Cultural norms

By manipulating these components of our memory and social interaction, fake news slips into our brains and social circles undetected—a virus biding its time until we unwittingly spread the disinformation to a new host.

And once we’re snared in the web of lies, even if the new host challenges our disinformation, our views rarely change—by that point, we no longer see or care about the truth.

There are several paths fake news peddlers use to hack how your brain processes learning and makes memories. In the following sections, I focus on the options that are closest related to commonplace marketing techniques.

Memory, Emotions, and Fake News/h2>

Before we move further, I want you to reflect on two memories. The first memory should be precious and elicit a strong emotional reaction, like the birth or death of a family member. The second memory should be an emotionally charged event that holds little influence in your life, like overhearing a political conversation you disagreed with or a fun event from your childhood.

Try to remember specific details about each memory: sights, colors, smells, sounds, feelings.

Now, ask yourself these three questions for each memory:

  1. How do you know the details of the memory are accurate?
  2. Are you positive that memory is real?
  3. How can you test or prove your answers?

You should be able to answer all three questions relatively easily for the first scenario and with a good degree of confidence, thanks to how the hippocampus and amygdala create and store memories from novel events with a powerful emotional trigger.

The second scenario may draw more pauses depending on how long ago the event happened. You may initially be sure this memory is true despite the finer details being a bit fuzzy. After pondering the memory, there is a chance you’re left wondering if your brain manufactured the entire sequence with stimuli you’ve encountered elsewhere. The important thing in this situation is that you’re aware your memory may not be perfect.

Here’s where the power of optimized disinformation kicks into gear. If you’ve been infected with a belief from a fake news source, your brain can conjure a “memory” of an event that never happened and make it feel like a scenario one memory.

For example, in the study, False Memories for Fake News During Ireland’s Abortion Referendum, researchers performed an experiment that showed exposure to fake news and political propaganda can create false memories.

In the experiment, scientists gathered registered voters in the week preceding Ireland’s 2018 abortion referendum.

The 3,140 participants read six news stories about referendum campaign events. Two of these stories were fake. During the experiment, almost half of the participants reported a memory that supports at least one fabricated news story. More than one-third of participants reported a specific, first-hand memory of the fake event.

The participants’ political biases further exacerbated the creation of false memories.

Voters who supported the referendum were more likely than people who voted against the law to “remember” a fabricated scandal regarding the campaign to vote “no.” Likewise, “no” voters were more likely than “yes” voters to “remember” a fabricated scandal regarding the campaign to vote “yes,” the study authors wrote.

That fabrication happens because memory plays an essential role in assessing the validity of information. When that memory is compromised, it affects how easily we believe and share fake news, Porter writes.

The Illusory Truth Effect

When a false claim is repeated often enough, people start to believe it’s true. This is called the “illusory truth effect,” and it’s the lynchpin of optimized disinformation.

The underlying power of illusory truth is that the phenomenon still affects people who disagree with the initial falsity. Because they keep seeing the phrase or hearing the claim, the lie earns fluency and begins to have a glimmer of perceived truth.

Fluency relates to how easily our brains process a claim. Repeated claims are easier to represent and comprehend, which requires less cognitive energy and feels good, Scientific American reports. Our brains take this positive feeling as a cue that the claim is true, which leads us to accept the claim the next time we hear it.

Concepts that are too preposterous for the user to consider, like telling an astronaut the world is flat, are excluded from this effect.

This phenomenon is similar to how we associate brands with positive qualities from a catchy jingle or often repeated value proposition. And like a song chorus that won’t leave your head, you only need to encounter a fake news headline once to be hooked by the illusory truth effect.

In the report, Prior Exposure Increases Perceived Accuracy of Fake News, the authors exposed participants to 12 news headlines presented to look like Facebook posts. Six news headlines were factually accurate, and the others were untrue. Some of the headlines were labeled with a disputed claim warning. Users assessed the headlines and then determined if they’d share these articles on social media.

After a few unrelated tasks, users were presented with 24 news headlines. The 12 headlines they already encountered and 12 new ones. The new headlines also had an equal true/fake split, and some had the disputed information warning. Users then rated each headline for familiarity and accuracy.

The authors discovered that a single prior exposure to fake news headlines was sufficient to measurably increase subsequent perceptions of the headline’s accuracy. The increased effect was relatively small, but the headline’s trustworthiness increased again with a second exposure, compounding the perceived validity over time.

Plus, the explicit warning users saw next to fake news headlines did not abolish or significantly diminish the effectiveness of the illusory truth effect, the authors wrote.

The illusory truth effect is also in full swing for marketers.

In the study The Illusory Truth Effect: Exploring Implicit and Explicit Memory Influences on Consumer Judgments, researchers found that repeated exposure to brand or product value propositions, subliminal marketing messaging, and brand recognition techniques (slogans, jingles, etc.) improved brand product validity and trustworthiness.

One of the more interesting effects of this phenomenon, for users and marketers, is how fluency and memory modification interplay with biases to further strengthen the perceived accuracy of fake news and brand messaging.

Confirmation Bias and Cognitive Dissonance

It’s time for another moment of reflection. This is a simple exercise in confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, two factors that play enormous roles in fake news validation and marketing—particularly on social media and in organic search results.

I want you to think of two brands, one you love and one you despise. Now, answer the following three questions:

  1. Why do you have strong positive/negative feelings associated with this brand?
  2. Do you expect further engagement with the brand to reinforce that feeling?
  3. What, if anything, could change your mind about the brand?

Confirmation bias is simply the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of your existing beliefs or theories. You explored this bias in steps two and three of the exercise.

Cognitive dissonance describes the moment when you’re presented with two pieces of conflicting information that can’t both be true. You must choose which piece of information is correct. The fake news warning labels on Twitter and Facebook are examples of creating a moment of cognitive dissonance.

Ideally, users will always rely on sound evidence to override their confirmation biases when they encounter cognitive dissonance. Unfortunately, research shows the opposite is true.

Based on findings from the study, Fake News on Social Media: People Believe What They Want to Believe When it Makes No Sense at All, moments of cognitive dissonance online, such as a disputed claim warning flag, won’t create an epiphany that overrides your confirmation bias. However, these encounters will slightly adjust your behavior.

In the experiment, participants read 50 fact-based news headlines and assessed if the headlines were true or false. Forty headlines were designed to be amorphous and look possibly true or false. A warning matching Facebook’s fake news flag was randomly assigned to 20 of the 40 headlines. The 10 remaining headlines were used as a control.

The study results show the warning label triggered more brain activity in participants and increased the time they spent considering the headline. However, users were still more likely to believe news headlines they wanted to be true and disregard the fake news flag. The unrelenting grip of confirmation bias, even in the face of cognitive dissonance, left users with only identifying factual headlines 44 percent of the time.

Confirmation Bias and Organic Search

Not being able to look beyond your biases and determine what information is accurate becomes an enormous social issue when users research impactful topics on search engines.

For example, a December 30th, 2020 NPR/Ipsos poll shows that 40 percent of American respondents said they believe the coronavirus was made in a lab in China. (For the record, there is no evidence for this claim—scientists say the virus was transmitted to humans from another species.)

Let’s assume these “COVID hoax” believers did some type of online research before coming to their conclusions. (Based on research presented in the first article of this series, it’s more likely that users saw the information on social media and automatically assumed it is accurate.)

Based on Ahrefs data, users may have fallen prey to their confirmation bias and searched for one of the following terms:

  • china created coronavirus (1,100 searches/month)
  • china made coronavirus (600 searches/month)

Now, if the user wasn’t entirely sure they believe the unfounded conspiracy, they may have searched for one of the following terms:

  • did china create coronavirus (900 searches/month)
  • who created the coronavirus (1900 searches/month)

The search results for both options are a smattering of chaos. Here are the first-page results on December 31st, 2020 for “china created coronavirus” and “who created the coronavirus.”

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As expected, the results skew toward the user’s search intent via the keywords they chose. Each first-page result has headlines that confirm or deny at least part of the user’s suspicions; however, only the open-ended question provided information from medical sources: WebMD and the National Institutes of Health.
Fortunately, in some scenarios, like this tame one, Google’s algorithms are getting better at providing results that don’t conform to a user’s confirmation bias for medium-high volume search terms. However, the distinction in result quality is still clear.

One important part of these results to acknowledge is that Google chose not to provide an answer box for these terms, which could teach users the facts upfront.

This issue begets further discussion in part three of this series, but an answer box for confirmation-bias affirming search results could be one way to use the illusory truth effect and cognitive dissonance to society’s advantage—particularly for our collective memory.

The Fake News Mind Meld

The most damning brain-altering power fake news has is to change what people believe on a wide scale, which is done by modifying our collective memory.

Collective memory indicates how groups of individuals remember the past. These memories form in small groups, such as a family vacation, and with society at large, like the details of a historical event. Although we form memories as individuals, those memories get modified over time when the event was a shared experience, Porter writes.

This change happens because of cross-cueing, a key component in collective memory that occurs when information is exchanged among group members, and the group gains a collective understanding about the topic, Porter explains. Cross-cueing benefits groups because individuals can’t understand all aspects of a shared event or experience.

This phenomenon is among the reasons word-of-mouth marketing and user reviews are so effective and important. We spread experiences with brands or products to teach others. By sharing our knowledge, the recipient benefits, and our perceived social value increases.

Unfortunately, cross-cueing also leaves groups vulnerable to distributing misinformation. This process tends to form false memories in individuals when the person is caught in an information bubble and exposed to fake information repeatedly. Eventually, their memories will change and propagate to the greater group, affecting their collective memory and beliefs, Porter states.

This effect is easily observed when tracking conspiracies on social media or observing users’ behavior habits when they only receive news from one source. A simple example is how the average Fox News viewer is less informed about factual events than somebody who doesn’t follow any news source.

Once a community’s collective memory is compromised, the ideas and values “taught” through fake news spread rapidly and become a defining pillar for that culture, thus guaranteeing the fake ideas continue to spread as the culture expands, Porter writes.

This is essentially cultural brainwashing on a wide scale, potentially sparking from a single fake news headline. And this revelation brings us to the ultimate question around online fake news and optimized disinformation: who deserves to be the arbiter of truth?

If we trust a corporate entity like Google to establish what a fact is via rich-text snippets, how can we ensure their chosen facts don’t rewrite history for a more glamorous version, similar to how textbooks in the U.S. gloss over the government’s civil rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism?

Trusting national or local governments to hold this role is out of the question.

But if we continue without an arbiter of truth, we’re stuck with an enormous percentage of the world’s population gulping down lies like tequila shots at happy hour, and believing in dangerous conspiracies peddled by people who manipulate others for wealth and power.

Sadly, our brains are not wired to identify and root out fake news designed for us and presented to us by trusted sources, like family and friends. There is not an easy solution to this quandary. More than likely, we’ll need to sew various patchwork policies, technical safeguards, and community education efforts together into a formidable quilt of truth.

What Can We Do?

With that rosy picture of doom-and-gloom painted, what can we do to protect ourselves from being duped by fake news and other forms of optimized disinformation? And, what can we do as marketers to reinforce that claims we are making about a product or brand are genuine, and the information we are providing is accurate?

Unfortunately, we aren’t Vulcans, so there isn’t a cohesive answer to the question yet, but people are devising possible solutions. I’ll discuss what those are in the final article in this series.

Until more permanent solutions are in place, we must grow our critical thinking skills. Our brains may devour fake news and disinformation, but we can fight back by piquing our curiosity about what we read and hear; and by encouraging our customers to do so. Tap into the benefits of the illusory truth effect and blast facts on repeat. However, instead of repeating value propositions or brand slogans for the sake of the effect, make sure you make it a priority to include context that provides information your audience will need to make an educated decision and share educated opinions.

After all, the best way to fight the neurological effects of fake information is by not offering it up. Don’t swindle your users with promises your product or service can’t keep.

Ultimately, we must question what we read—as citizens and consumers. Why was that article written, who wrote it, and what are their intentions? Is the content sourced from reputable experts? It’s a lot of effort to dig into everything we read—especially in the instant gratification associated with The Information Age—but that’s what a post-truth world requires of us.

Take this post, for example. Are you taking everything I wrote and argued at face value? Or are you being diligent and checking my sources and my sources’ sources? You should be. Because here’s the big question: how sure are you that you’re not being hoodwinked right now? There’s only one way to find out.

In part three of this series, I’ll explore how our current business model perpetuates fake news, and what we can do about it.

The post Fake News Is a Marketing Feature, Not a Hack: Part 2 appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Digital Marketing Trends in Education for 2021

In a relatively new industry that’s rapidly evolving, it can be daunting for recent college graduates to learn about digital marketing. Unlike many other fields of study, digital marketing has been around for only a few decades. And although the field is still relatively new, as recent events have demonstrated, the world is rapidly shifting to digital and these marketing jobs are needed more than ever before.

But this fast-paced transition can be hard to keep up with, especially for college students who are just learning about what the digital world can offer. What’s current and relevant in digital marketing one semester may completely change the next, posing a great challenge for both professors as they teach and students as they learn about the industry.

So how are future marketers preparing to enter the workforce? What and how are professors teaching? Which programs and classes are offered to help students get a feel for the digital marketing realm? We asked professors from colleges and universities throughout the nation about how they’re preparing students to enter the digital marketing field:

  • What marketing channels are colleges and universities focusing on?
  • What digital marketing topics are students learning about?
  • What trends are professors anticipating their students will encounter?
  • What advice do professors have for those entering the digital marketing field?

What Marketing Channels Are Colleges and Universities Currently Focusing On?

While many post-secondary institutions have marketing programs for students looking to step into the traditional marketing world, they vary in terms of the digital courses they provide. Some schools provide a few digital marketing classes, while others offer entire digital marketing degrees. But no matter the approach, it’s clear that the subject is becoming more and more prominent at the college level.

“I have fully immersed myself in digital marketing channels and it is my primary focus in the classes I teach. Four years ago, Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University proposed three new marketing concentrations for our program, one of which was a Digital Marketing track… Two new courses were created for this track, social media marketing and web analytics, and the department placed a course previously offered, Internet Marketing, into this track.”
– Michelle Carpenter, Senior Lecturer, Strome College of Business, Old Dominion University

“My focus is on both traditional marketing channels and digital. Students need to know the foundations and concepts that are used in both of these key marketing strategies, and how they play a role in the solutions for businesses today.”
– Andrew Burnstine, Ph.D., Associate Professor, College of Business and Management, Lynn University

“My focus is ‘Integrated Marketing Communication’ (IMC)- integrating the channels that will reach the clearly defined target. ‘Traditional’ used to be the primary way to reach the target with ‘digital’ as support. Today, digital is marketing … and ‘traditional’ is an important support.”
– Sam R. Goldstein, Instructor of Marketing and Participating Faculty, Welch College of Business & Technology, Sacred Heart University

“I have taught a dedicated digital marketing class every year since 1998. We also have an information systems major in our business school for students who want to combine our digital marketing course with more advanced technology courses.”
– Mary B. Harms, Associate Clinical Professor in Marketing, Smith School of Business

“I teach marketing strategy with a focus on social commerce, D2C startups, digital AI transformation, and ChinaTech. To be an effective university adjunct professor, you have to be current. Hence, we must make our own lesson plans… I want my students to be relevant marketers coming out of Baruch with job offers coming at them.”
– Robb Hecht, Adjunct Professor of Marketing, Baruch College

“Our standard digital marketing courses cover a variety of topics: website design, SEO, paid search, online advertising, social media, and email. At the graduate level, there is also an emphasis on digital marketing strategy. We also offer a social media marketing course both at the undergraduate and graduate level.”
– Mark Bender, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of South Florida

What Digital Marketing Topics Are College and University Students Currently Learning About?

Digital marketing embodies a wide range of channels—you’ve got everything from content and technical SEO to PPC and social media. While each marketing channel is equally important, it can be a lot for students to really grasp and put into practice as a whole when they’re limited to only a few semesters of learning. Professors have to be selective about what topics and tools they choose to teach their students within the short time they’re given each semester. Here’s what they’re teaching with the limited time they have.

“Up to date digital marketing strategies and tactics, such as SEO, User Experience (UX), and website/social media analytics, as well as launching, managing, and analyzing a real digital marketing campaign and consulting projects. These projects allow (students) to work one-on-one, with both faculty and professionals in the field to learn about and create solutions for existing businesses.”
– Andrew Burnstine, Ph.D.

“It is absolutely critical that students are able to function in today’s data-driven, technologically complex marketing world. On the one hand, students need to know how to use current tools… However, on the other hand, tools come and go, so students need to be digitally agile, so the theoretical aspects are equally important. We try to balance theory and application by giving them real-world business projects and teach them critical thinking skills in order to transcend whatever tool they happen to be using at the moment.”
– David G. Taylor, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Marketing Department Chair, Sacred Heart University

“Our program encompasses all the areas that I think students are required to learn for a successful career in DM. UX is incredibly important from a design perspective. Analytics is a really hot topic with the rise of data importance. And equally important, content development and campaign strategies for digital platforms. We want our students to hit the ground running even before graduation.”
– Gerardo Moreira, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Sacred Heart University

“Students are required to complete the first segment of Google Analytics Academy; they are also required to create a personal professional website/portfolio, they also work in teams on a semester-long project where they redesign a website and the online presence for a small business or nonprofit, we also have several guest speakers who present educational segments with followup hands-on projects for the students to complete.”
– Mary B. Harms

“Customer Journey, Social Commerce, Data Strategy, Analytics, Content Strategy, D2C product development, Amazon, Salesforce.com, Google Analytics, Google Ads, are good topics for students to know about and become certified in. As digital certifications gain in importance, university programs must teach logical thinking along these coveted digital credentials.”
– Robb Hecht

“Right now, we ask students to consider how businesses may consider leveraging mobile and geolocation targeting for marketing purposes in a client-based semester-long project (they are also tasked with SEO, paid search, etc. recommendations for this client).”
– Mark Bender, Ph.D.

To properly prepare students for the “real world,” professors work hard to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the digital marketing trends their students may witness as they enter the industry. Especially over the last year, the digital realm has seen some massive shifts, and professors want to make sure their students are ready to dive in head-first and tackle similar challenges that might arise in the future.

“We are seeing a difference in the types of jobs available. More traditional marketing roles are more scarce as companies tighten their belts in this challenging economic environment. Companies are actively looking for graduates who can span the worlds of technology and business. Our vision is to produce graduates who are able to traverse these two worlds with current skills, as well as the ability to adapt as technology changes.”
– David G. Taylor, Ph.D.

“Having an online presence will become even more important for brands, there will be an increased focus on agile advertising approaches, and marketers will try to focus more on the brand experience to provide more assurance to customers. To prepare the students, we are adapting our marketing course materials almost in real time to provide them knowledge about how the industry is changing.”
– Aaron Joyal, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Daemen College

“What I think has changed is the messaging. Marketers need to understand what has shifted in the minds of their buyers, where the concerns are, what matters now that didn’t last year. As marketers, we’re always looking for ways to make sure our messages resonate. The tactics haven’t changed, but what we use them for needs to change.”
– Jerry Rackley, Executive-in-Residence, School of Marketing & International Business, Oklahoma State University

What Advice Do Professors Have for Those Entering the Digital Marketing Field?

As previously mentioned, it’s hard to fit the whole of digital marketing into a few semesters at any post-secondary school. Although professors may not have all the time they would like to get their students ready, they still offer valuable advice to students and recent graduates as they spread their wings and leave the nest.

“If you want to succeed, take on that internship and another if possible, get involved and be a leader in student organizations, and work hard on any student projects so you can build a portfolio that stands out. Build your own personal brand on LinkedIn and become proficient in key social media platforms. Follow the leaders on social media and see what they are doing. Finally, keep writing; content continues to be king. You must be an effective communicator if you are going to be successful in this industry.”
– Michelle Carpenter

“‘According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.’ (1) I say this on repeat more than a scratched disk in a vinyl player and as corny and overly stated as it is, it is highly relevant in the world of DM. The best [digital] marketers are those that can quickly and effectively adapt to the ever-changing industry demands.”
– Gerardo Moreira, Ph.D.

“To become a good marketer, you need to put in the time and the effort. Classes and instruction will only take you so far; you need to get ‘hands-on’ experience as soon as you can. I’d also suggest that they read as much as they can about the field and to seek out experts in the field who make their experience available online for free. Finally, start to attend networking events as soon as you can, as in this industry (like many others), who you know can sometimes be more important than what you know.”
– Aaron Joyal, Ph.D.

“Understand all aspects of marketing: inbound marketing, content marketing, digital marketing, experiential marketing, PR, and a combination of each. Integrate them. ‘Back in the day,’ we would do mass (marketing) to reach the target. Today, we do target so they can reach out to the masses.”
– Sam R. Goldstein

“Students are pretty adept at learning the tools, technologies, and approaches of digital marketing. But many see their professional success hindered because they don’t know how to have a meaningful conversation with someone they just met. Or they don’t know how to write a great blog post. This ability to communicate well is the biggest differentiator I am seeing in the graduate pool these days.”
– Jerry Rackley

Explore Your Options

Just as the digital landscape is constantly developing, so are the teaching and learning approaches in higher education. In the current age, it’s imperative that marketers be familiar with digital tactics. Students interested in digital marketing have many options to choose from and should explore what different institutions have to offer. The world awaits you!

(1) Meggins, L. C. (1963), “Lessons from Europe for American Business,” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly, 44(1) 3-13, at p. 4.

The post Digital Marketing Trends in Education for 2021 appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Programmatic Advertising: Choosing the Right DSP for Your Business

When choosing a DSP for your programmatic campaigns, it’s crucial to select a platform that meets your marketing goals. Selecting the right DSP has a variety of factors to consider once you determine your marketing goals, and choosing the wrong one can prove detrimental to your campaigns and cost your business more money long-term.

Before I jump into how to select the right DSP for your business, let’s take a step back and quickly review what DSPs and programmatic advertising are.

 

What is a DSP?

A DSP, short for demand-side platform, is an advertising platform advertisers use to buy programmatic media in real-time. Programmatic advertising is the process of automated bidding and buying based on targeting parameters that you set within the platform. A DSP is made up of multiple ad exchanges that have thousands of different inventory placements to target. Furthermore, a DSP has various targeting options, and can leverage 3rd party data partners to allow advertisers to target users that make up their ideal audience.

How Do You Choose the Right DSP for Your Business?

Once you know your marketing goals and what you want to achieve from programmatic advertising, it’s time to select a DSP platform. When choosing a DSP, there are a few essential things to evaluate: inventory, technology, brand-safe functionality, reporting, costs, and overall partnership.

Inventory

The type of inventory available within the platform is the first step in determining if it’s a good fit for your business. Most DSPs may offer the same kind of inventory, but some charge a higher price to use it. Confirm the inventory available includes video, display, mobile, and tablet placements to allow you to use different ad creative to reach your audience. Asking what type of inventory they have available will help determine if the platform is a good fit for your business.

Technology

Evaluating how the DSP bids on inventory is another crucial factor in the evaluation process. Is the DSP leveraging its own technology? Is the DSP continually evolving its technology to improve targeting, bidding, and overall functionality? Answers to these questions will provide clarity into the platform and give you a baseline for comparison.

Brand-Safe Functionality

With thousands of inventory options available, that opens the door to your business displaying ads next to unsafe content. This kind of content can be mature content, sensitive or tragic content, or simply content that doesn’t align with your business. Since DSPs leverage targeting the user rather than a specific placement, the user may go to a website that doesn’t align with your product or values. While creating a blacklist of placements you don’t want to display on is important, brand-safe parameters within a DSP are just as critical. This kind of functionality will allow you to select the type of content you don’t want your brand to show up next to. If a platform doesn’t provide this option, it’s worth considering another to ensure you avoid unsafe content.

Reporting and Analytics

Accurate, real-time reports are essential components of a DSP. Depending on your marketing goals, you may need granular reporting to determine what optimizations to make. Custom report builders and reach estimates don’t come standard across all DSPs. Choosing a platform with both capabilities will set your campaigns up for success and allow for better, more accurate optimizations.

Cost

Cost is an obvious factor to evaluate before partnering with a DSP. Management and tech fees may be standard across the industry, but transparency into the rates is critical. Higher CPM or CPC without understanding where the budget is going can cost your business more long-term. While buying on a DSP has certain hard costs associated with it, the actual bids happen in real-time. Knowing how much of your spend is going towards tech, platform, and ad exchange fees will help you eliminate more costly options. Lastly, It’s important to ask each DSP about their minimum spends to make sure your business can afford to partner with them.

Platform Partnerships

While cost and overall platform performance should be the driving factors behind selecting a DSP, a commonly overlooked detail is the relationship between your business and the platform. Partnering with a platform and its people go hand-in-hand. Having a great relationship with the account representatives and analysts can make all the difference to your campaigns. Choosing a platform where its people are transparent and passionate about meeting your marketing goals will take your campaigns to the next level. Establishing and maintaining a partnership with a DSP along with buying programmatic media can be time-consuming. Alternatively, partnering with an agency that’s established a partnership with a DSP will save your business time and money.

Final Thoughts

There are a variety of factors to consider when selecting a DSP for your business. Evaluating the inventory, technology, brand-safe functionality, reporting and analytics, cost, and the partnership are all crucial to choosing the right DSP for your business. Evaluating a DSP may seem daunting, but it’s an essential step in setting your business up for success when launching programmatic advertising.

The post Programmatic Advertising: Choosing the Right DSP for Your Business appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

It’s Raining Marketing: The Importance of Integrated Marketing Communications

Updated on December 10, 2020 to include tips to create a solid IMC strategy.

Halfway through one of my college marketing classes, I noticed a small quote on the bottom right-hand side of the whiteboard. It said, “Which raindrop caused the flood?” My teacher never referenced it once during the duration of the course. However, ten weeks later, it all made sense.

What is Integrated Marketing Communication?

There are a few definitions for integrated marketing communications, but my favorite is from the Northwestern School of Journalism: “IMC is a strategic marketing process specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications strategies are unified across all channels and are centered around the customer.” Simply put, it is the principle that marketing is most effective if every marketing channel has communication that aligns with the same core brand positioning.

Like many good marketing strategies, this initially seems like a “duh” principle. Clearly, you don’t want to have marketing that makes your brand look like it has some sort of split-personality disorder like Gollum from The Hobbit. (“No, not social media! / It will cheat you, hurt you, LIE! / But, social media is our friend!”) But getting all your marketing communications aligned is trickier than you may think.

Why is Integrated Marketing Communication Important Now?

IMC is not a new concept, but it’s more important than ever, as there are now more marketing channels than ever before. Back in the ’50s, marketing campaigns relied heavily on simple traditional media channels like print, radio, and television. It didn’t take much to keep these aligned.

But now, with digital media, we have an abundance of channels ranging from digital PR to influencer marketing to the wild west: social media. Our marketing tool sheds are filled with new and effective tactics that range from broad messaging (your website’s homepage) to targeting more niche groups (via Instagram). But not only is there an abundance of new channels, there is consumption like never before. Media is hyper-accessible and consumed at much higher rates. It’s not about the morning paper or evening television; it’s about constant consumption all day.

In bigger companies, each marketing channel will have a different manager, which is all the more reason to make sure that high-level IMC strategies are in place.

What Are Some Examples of Integrated Marketing Communication?

An IMC expert once told me that when he first engages a client, he would audit their entire property. This included all of their obvious marketing channels, but also included things that they might not expect.

In the case of a restaurant, he’d visit the restaurant and bring a notepad and paper, taking note of everything from the condition of the parking lot to the personalities of the waiters. If the brand messaging of the restaurant is elegance and fresh foods, it really doesn’t help if the dumpster is viewable from the parking lot. Every little piece that contradicts your brand messaging is a step back.

Likewise, let’s take a look at a brand that seems to come up on everyone’s list as the gold standard for marketing–Apple. Apple stands for innovation, simplicity, and style. Not only do their commercials, print ads, and website all share the same design aesthetic, but they bring the same qualities to their retail stores and even their products. For example, their customer service center–the Genius Bar–is set up to be simple, easy, and effective, just like an iPad.

What’s Bad Integrated Marketing Communication?

One of the most common pitfalls for brands in terms of IMC is the use of too many tools for social media. Some brands have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, Yelp, etc., when their audience only really pays attention to one or two of those channels. What ends up happening here is that although one channel looks nice and engages in meaningful conversation, the others look like a barren wasteland that ignores their audience. Not good.

But even when you have someone concentrating specifically on your social media, they need to not only be aware of the messaging they are trying to convey, but the manner in which they are conveying that message. Sometimes, it doesn’t always go well (See Exhibit A and Exhibit  B below).

Exhibit A

Here’s a post from ZzzQuil early in 2014:

And here’s one of the many responses they got:

ZzzQuil2


Exhibit B

And again, what seemed like a genuine post from Gap:

 

Gap1

And as you’d expect, it didn’t get the best response.

A Poor Response to Gap's Tweet

Another thing that sometimes brands forget about is that even though you may not be able to directly alter the messaging for external sources, you still need to be aware of it and try and shape it as best you can. This can be done by how you choose to respond to audience communication. If this is done improperly, it’s the same as having poor communication in the first place.

How Do You Develop an Integrated Marketing Strategy?

The simple answer is to start small and expand over time. Don’t try and manage too many channels and too many different messages at once. Focus on what works for you and get it right. Here are my tips for a solid initial integrated digital marketing strategy:

  1. Create a foundation of solid, meaningful marketing goals. You should have one or two main objectives that are easily measurable and directly contribute to the success of your overall objectives. This is your north star for your entire marketing strategy. If your tactics don’t align with this, then you may need to reconsider and adjust.
  2. Clearly define your core values and create a voice and tone guide that reflects those values. All your marketing content must align with the same voice and tone, or else it will look and feel disjointed and contribute to distrust.
  3. Determine who your core audience is. Who are you trying to reach and what channels do they prefer to consume information on?
  4. Create simple key messaging points for each stage of the funnel. More than anything else, what does your audience need to know at each point in their journey?
  5. Choose the marketing channels that match your core values and are used by your audience. Start small and make sure you have at least one or two for each stage of the funnel. Start small, master them, and then expand.
  6. Create a clear content calendar to determine a good cadence to connect with your audience. Make sure your communications for each channel are regular and are realistic for your marketing team. Don’t overcommit, and don’t ignore a channel.
  7. Track performance and have regular business reviews to identify weak channels and possible new channels.

It’s worth noting that this is less complicated for small and medium businesses to create and execute a marketing plan. For bigger businesses where there may be many different teams that all have a stake in messaging and performance, it is vital that marketing efforts are transparent and collaborative. It’s important that product teams are able to have a voice in how they want to talk about their product individually while adjusting for the bigger picture as a brand.

TL;DR

The point of IMC is to make sure that every piece of marketing is paid attention to. If every piece is in harmony, the overall result is much more powerful, and the audience will be able to hear what your brand is trying to say. Each piece, no matter how small, shares the same responsibility in providing a strong brand identity.

So, going back to my college marketing class, which raindrop caused the flood? Each and every one of them.

The post It’s Raining Marketing: The Importance of Integrated Marketing Communications appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Leverage Cross-Channel Paid Media Strategy to Grow Performance

Executing a productive and cohesive paid media strategy results in two core outcomes that marketers should always be driving towards:

1. A seamless experience for the target audience.

Multiple devices. Multiple touchpoints through the buyer’s journey. An endless variety of platforms, channels, content, and ad units to consume. As ad technology progresses it’s getting easier for marketers to create a seamless experience for end-users as they absorb marketing messages.

The brands that can seamlessly take their target audience through the buyer’s journey with the right paid media marketing mix and the right messages at the right time will win out more often on customer acquisition in the end.

Achieving that seamless experience is only obtainable when a cohesive strategy runs throughout your plan for execution. Doing so effectively will not only increase conversion rates, but it will drive a higher volume of customers down the marketing funnel faster towards conversion.

2. Streamlined marketing operations.

Cohesive campaign messaging, clear performance reporting, and speed to iteration are battles marketers repeatedly fight on the back-end as they continuously work to drive value with their ad dollars.

The brands that can streamline the execution of their paid media strategy will make more accurate decisions faster and, ultimately, will get the most out of their campaign goals and advertising budget.

Strong cohesion across your paid media efforts and the team executing said strategy gives you the best chance to build a streamlined approach when managing a paid media strategy.

Why Siloed Strategies Don’t Work

The key to hitting the two desired outcomes above starts with open communication and de-siloing the teams that execute strategy. Everyone who has a hand in your paid media mix must be on the same page and should be continually working together. There is so much to gain by leveraging your paid media platforms off one another. Allowing them to be managed independently across departments in-house or multiple agencies makes it much more difficult to get the most out of your paid media efforts.

Siloed communication increases your chances of having:

  • Misaligned performance goals
  • Unreliable performance tracking, attribution, and reporting
  • Slower iteration on targeting, creative, and budget-optimization work
  • Inability to leverage cross-platform audience-sharing capabilities

The presence of anything outlined above results in an inability to hit the desired outcomes mentioned earlier.

How to Build a Cohesive Paid Media Strategy

Cohesion across your paid media efforts establishes marketers with the best opportunity to hit their desired outcomes and drive performance.

Here’s where to start building cohesion:

Target the Entire Marketing Funnel

Targeting the entire marketing funnel should be considered when designing a cohesive paid media strategy. It’s common for brands to ignore middle- and top-of-funnel strategies, foregoing longer-term investments to drive as many conversion-based actions for as cheap as possible.

For some brands, that’s fine. Oftentimes, the need to prove immediate value and ROAS dictates a heavy focus on the bottom of the marketing funnel. That focus can drive quick ROAS when done well, but brands leave money on the table by ignoring top and middle-funnel targeting.

Middle- and top-of-funnel ad campaigns drive performance metrics that don’t immediately impact the bottom line, and that can be hard for marketers to stick with. But for those that have the understanding and patience for developing top- and mid-funnel campaigns, the results can be exponential. Later on in this post, I’ll share how lower-funnel metrics can soar further when the entire funnel is targeted throughout your paid media campaigns.

Establish Clear Goals

Don’t spend a dollar until you have clear and concise goals for your ad campaigns.

Create campaign goal segments that level up to create a top-level goal for your budget.

A goal segment is established by combining a channel, platform, and funnel target combination. Each segment should have a unique set of KPIs and a specific goal for that segment.

For example, your KPIs for a campaign using paid social (channel) on Facebook (platform) targeting the top of the marketing funnel (funnel target) should look very different than KPIs for your ad campaign using the search network (channel) on Google (platform) targeting conversion-based objectives (funnel target).

By establishing appropriate goals for each campaign segment, you’ll set better expectations for each campaign’s success.

Below is a table breaking down various types of channels, platforms, and funnel targets that can be used within a goal segment.

CHANNELS
PLATFORMS
FUNNEL TARGETS
Search
Google Ads
Awareness
Display
Microsoft Ads
Interest
Programmatic
DV360
Desire
Social
Trade Desk
Action
Video
YouTube
Influencer
Facebook/Instagram
Podcasting
LinkedIn
Gimlet
Art19

Again, each goal segment should have a unique set of KPIs. When goal segments are accumulated for all of your campaigns, those segments add up to an encompassing goal set for your paid media strategy.

Every party accountable for executing the strategy needs to fully understand the top-level goals and goal segments they are responsible for.

Report Accurately

With your goals in hand, the execution of an accurate tracking plan is a must. Getting this wrong can be detrimental to making reliable performance iterations and optimizations once your campaigns are live.

For most online-based conversion brands, getting the basics in place is pretty straightforward. Reporting can get tricker when online-to-offline conversation paths are in play.

Establishing proper attribution modeling is crucial, especially if your campaigns target multiple stages of the funnel (as they should) or require multiple interactions before conversion where last-click attribution doesn’t appropriately communicate the value of a campaign.

How to establish the right attribution model is uniquely dependent on your business model. There is no one size fits all methodology.

Align Audience Targeting and Iterate

Marketers should cross-leverage platform capabilities, data lists, and performance metrics to further fuel campaign targeting reach across their entire paid media strategy.

Paid social platforms provide a goldmine of audience information to spur targeting for search, remarketing, or programmatically-targeted campaigns. Marketers not cross-pollinating their audiences from platform-to-platform are missing opportunities to optimize their audience targeting.

Where to start:

Create Custom and Similar Audiences with Google Ads from Facebook Campaigns

Generate audience email addresses with Facebook Leads Ads and upload them as a custom audience on Google Ads. Use that custom audience to run highly-targeted search, display, or remarketing campaigns to an already qualified segment of potential customers.

Analyze Demographic Insights from Facebook Ads to Fuel Search and Programmatic Audience Development

Facebook provides marketers with a scary amount of information when it comes to audience demographics. Break audience performance down by age, gender, occupation, household income, interests, and a host of other demographics to gain insight into which audiences respond and which don’t. Those insights should be used to build and refine search and programmatic audiences.

Observe Social Listening on Paid Social Platforms

Paid social ads present the opportunity for audiences to ask questions, give praise, and complain about what’s being promoted directly on the ad. Those interactions are gold and can be used across all of your marketing work. The benefits of analyzing and iterating on that commentary span far past executing your ad campaign, but those comments can provide valuable insights to do things like add negative keywords to your search campaigns or improve the copy on your ad landing pages.

Optimize Audience Bid Modifiers

As performance varies based on the targeted audience, utilize platform-specific bid modifiers to optimize spending for the most impactful audiences to stretch your ad dollars further.

The learning opportunities and cross-platform capabilities across the paid media landscape allow marketers to leverage this work off one another to build better audiences for their ad targeting. Open communication and de-siloing the executors of this work is vital to taking advantage of these options.

Align Creative and Iterate

As ad creative and messaging is designed to hit a singular campaign segment, that creative and messaging should be cohesive across the channels and platforms utilized within that particular campaign.

Platform-specific ad unit requirements will dictate how closely that creative can align, but marketers should strive to provide end-users with similar content throughout all touchpoints of a campaign.

A/B testing your creative within paid media provides a straightforward environment to quickly learn what creative and messaging resonates with your audience and what does not. While creative and messaging performance may vary from channel to channel, marketers should be looking across every paid media platform at how performance differs or aligns to iterate within their campaigns.

Leverage performance data on one platform to boost performance on another platform by looking at the following:

  • High-converting and high CTR search terms in Google Ads. Those search terms provide key insights into what searchers are actually searching for; use those terms directly in your paid social and programmatic ad copy.
  • Analyze high-converting and high CTR visuals, then iterate. As you build complementary visuals on display and paid social networks, iterate ad creative across all platforms based on what’s performing and what’s not.
  • Analyze CTAs, conversion rate, and CTR, then iterate. Your search, paid social, and programmatic ads should have a clear call to action. Find what works where and what doesn’t. Those findings should scale across your campaign creative.

Similar to leveraging these cross-channel opportunities to develop better audiences, open communication and de-siloing the executors of this work is vital to actually taking the learning from ad performance and quickly sharing winners across all of your ad campaigns.

Optimize Budget Allocation

Agility here may be where marketers can make the biggest impact when working within a streamlined, collaborative environment.

Speed here is critical, and the marketers who can reliably gain insights, see performance across the entire paid media mix, and allocate ad spend appropriately set themselves up to make the most with their ad budget.

Effectively doing this requires a clear understanding of campaign goals, reliable reporting, and the ability to move budgets quickly across platforms and channels.

The key here is de-siloing execution teams, providing the transparency and communication needed to move quickly.

Cohesive Paid Media Performance Builds on Itself

At the end of the day, brands market to reach, inform, and convert customers who are looking to fulfill a need. When that need is fulfilled, customers achieve their desired outcome. And when strategized and executed cohesively, paid media channel and platform performance builds on itself. The results can be impressive, and the brands that can leverage their audience targeting, ad creative, and budget allocation will see further growth than when efforts are siloed away from each other.

As you build a complex channel and platform mix to hit your advertising goals and cohesion grows, so will the performance of your campaigns. And when marketers target the entire funnel with cohesive messaging and leverage audience and budget insights, brands will begin to build sustainable growth for the future.

The post Leverage Cross-Channel Paid Media Strategy to Grow Performance appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Programmatic Campaign Optimization Tips and Tricks

With so many buttons and levers available to you within your programmatic platform, the number of optimizations you can make to improve your campaign performance can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s crucial to come up with a game plan beforehand so you don’t make too many optimizations which, in turn, limit the insights into your campaigns.

Before we go into some tips and tricks for these optimizations, let’s start with how to get the most from your campaigns before you launch. However, if you already have programmatic campaigns live, you can skip ahead to some best practices for optimization.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Programmatic Campaigns

Before launching your programmatic campaigns, there are various factors to help ensure you’re getting the most out of the platform, your creative, and your landing page, as well as the audiences you’re targeting.

Choosing the Right DSP

When evaluating what demand-side platform (DSP) is right for your business, there are several factors to consider. Those factors include cost, inventory, transparency, reporting, technology, brand-safe capabilities, and chemistry with the platform team. If you’re paying a considerable amount to reach a limited audience, your ads may not be as impactful as they could be. Lack of reporting and transparency will make it difficult to accurately analyze and make decisions to improve performance. Having up-to-date technology and brand-safe capabilities allows your business to capitalize on safe inventory with the newest bidding, targeting, and reporting technology available to you.

Lastly, it’s essential to partner with a DSP you work well with who provides meaningful recommendations. Working with people that understand your business goals while being transparent allows you to trust in the guidance they provide. This trust enables each party to hold the other accountable while working together to improve campaign performance. Hiring a digital agency to manage these relationships and campaigns will save your business time and money.

Targeting the Right Audience

After you evaluate and find the right DSP, it’s time to build out the audiences you intend to target. These audiences can be determined based on a variety of factors, and can even include your current customers. Regardless of how you build your audiences, it’s essential to include new users in addition to returning users in your targeting strategy. Having new users helps increase your brand awareness and consideration. They also help grow your website remarketing lists, which become crucial since the majority of users don’t convert on their first site visit.

When building your brand awareness, it’s about creating broader audiences that fit within your target demographics. You can make these audiences based on relevant content they’re viewing, custom site or app lists you wish to target, third-party data based on demographics and behaviors, or similar audiences based on site traffic.

Once the user is aware of your business, other targeting tactics become available to you. These tactics are deployed when the user has shown intent or consideration for you or your competitors. For example, including what your audience is actively searching for or researching allows you to bid on inventory with an ad relevant to them.

Lastly, as users visit your landing page, they’re not likely to convert on their first visit, especially if they’re in the awareness phase. That’s why remarketing audiences are a crucial part of programmatic advertising. These audiences allow you to follow the user as they browse other websites. This tactic helps keep your business top-of-mind and encourages the user to come back to your site to convert.

Strong Creative and Landing Page

Once you have the right targeting in place, you will need convincing creative and landing pages to drive users to your site and convert. Knowing what resonates with your audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey is essential to creating the right message for your users at the right time.

When putting together your creative scope, your content must include the following:

  • Brand logo
  • Clear call-to-action
  • Eye-catching design and copy

Your ads should fit within the ad size limit without the copy or design being overwhelming for the user. The ad should have simple messaging that lets the user know more about what your brand has to offer and what action you want them to take.

When the user clicks on your ad, it needs to direct them to a strong landing page that gets them to convert. Depending on where the user is in the purchasing process, the page should reflect information that matches their intent. If they’re in the awareness phase, having more copy-heavy content outlining your products or services works best. If the user is in the consideration phase, provide offers, value propositions, and personalization based on their needs or browsing behaviors. Remarketing to users that previously visited your site but didn’t make a purchase requires more direct copy to drive conversions. It’s recommended you show this audience the benefits of your product or services with several call-to-actions on the page that match the messaging found in the ads.

Best Practices for Optimizing Programmatic Campaigns

After you’ve selected a DSP, determined the audience you want to target, and created your ads and landing page, it’s time to launch your campaigns. Once your campaigns are live, data will begin to flow in, and you’ll want to start optimizing to drive better performance. However, there are various factors to consider before you begin this process.

Data

You have to collect enough data to make precise optimizations within your campaigns. The amount of data you receive depends on your budget and timeframe for each campaign. Optimizing too quickly before enough data is collected will limit your performance and cause your campaigns to underperform and underdeliver. When making any optimization to the creative or placement, we recommend having at least 2,000 impressions served to that specific placement or creative before considering any changes.

Cadence

You’ll need to keep in mind how often you make optimizations within your campaigns. Making too many optimizations at once will make it near impossible to determine what drove better performance. Conversely, you won’t know which optimization caused the decrease in performance either. The best practice here is to make only one optimization to a campaign per week. This cadence will allow the platform to adjust to the changes and give you enough significant insights to consider for future optimizations.

Metrics

There are several metrics to review to determine where the optimization is needed. These metrics are CTR, CPC, CPA, reach, frequency, viewability, and conversion rate. The primary metric you focus your optimizations on will depend on what your campaign goals are. A great place to start once your campaigns have enough data but are still relatively new is CTR and CPC. These metrics will allow you to remove lower-performing sites, creative, and ad exchanges from your campaigns and let more budget go towards better performing tactics.

Three Techniques for Programmatic Optimization

With so many different optimization options available to you in a programmatic platform, it may be hard to know where to start. Below are three recommended techniques to consider when optimizing.

Creative Optimizations

When looking at performance based on ad creative, it’s important to monitor the ad frequency. Showing the same ad to the same user will often result in ad fatigue and make your campaigns less impactful. Setting frequency caps within your ad groups will limit the number of times your audience sees your ads. The default cap is typically set at three times per day but can be adjusted depending on the type of audience you’re targeting. For instance, remarketing audiences are more likely to convert if the user sees the ad more frequently, versus an audience who is being introduced to your product or service for the first time. Because of this, you would want to set a higher frequency cap on a remarketing audience than you would a prospecting audience.

Another approach is to do a split test to determine what part of your ad resonates most with your audience. You can test this based on the message, imagery, CTA, or color within the ad. It’s crucial to change only one of these components during each test to determine what drives higher engagement. These tests can assist you in what creative refreshes to make to your ads to keep them new and engaging for your audience.

Placement Optimizations

The next type of optimization is based on your ad placements. Determining what site or app is driving high engagements at low costs is essential to your overall success within the platform. It’s important to take a step back and evaluate placements based on data and performance and not based on the type of website or app the ad appeared on. When you’re serving ads within a programmatic platform, your goal is to reach the user where they’re browsing online. Unless the placement is on your blacklist or the content is questionable from a brand safety standpoint, you should only evaluate it based on its overall performance.

When determining what placements to remove, focus on cost and engagement. If your CPC or CPA is high and your CTR is low, removing the site or app will allow the budget to go towards cheaper, more effective options.

Ad Exchange Optimizations

The last technique is optimizing ad exchanges. After you have enough data in the platform, you can pull reports based on ad exchange performance. Evaluating what type of ad exchanges are working helps drive better results to your overall campaigns. You can create ad groups targeting specific exchanges and to bid higher on their inventory. Building out ad groups with top-performing exchanges will elevate your campaign performance and provide more insights into targeting.

To Sum it Up

To get the most out of your DSP, you need to partner with the right platform, target the right audience, and create strong ads and landing pages for your campaigns. Before you start optimizing your campaigns, you must have enough data, set up a cadence for optimizations, and determine what metrics you want to optimize. Once you have enough data, you can begin optimizing your campaigns based on creative, placements, and ad exchanges. Using the three techniques outlined above is a great place to start to drive better performance and make your programmatic campaigns more successful.

The post Programmatic Campaign Optimization Tips and Tricks appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Fake News Is a Marketing Feature, Not a Hack:…

Truth is the arbiter of reality; a sacred, unbiased, and unwavering lens we view and understand the universe through.

At least, truth used to hold this esteemed responsibility.

In the digital world, unearthing “truth” is no longer simple or reliable. Search results, social media, legitimate and illegitimate news organizations, and paid advertising overflow with misinformation and disinformation.

This phenomenon is summed up in two words: fake news.

Fake news is the most powerful and socially destructive marketing technique in the 21st century. The fake news pandemic is global, unyielding, and we are all susceptible to its infection. Our widespread vulnerability is exactly why it’s crucial for marketers to understand why and how disinformation is created, spread, and—most importantly—combatted.

This article is the first in a three-part series about the relationship between fake news and marketing. This post lays the groundwork needed to ensure we’re all on the same page about what fake news is, why it’s a problem, and how it relates to marketing. The second article talks about how disinformation affects our brains and manipulates our behaviors. I wrap up the series by discussing how the business model perpetuates fake news and what can be done about it.

What is Fake News?

In the simplest terms, fake news is optimized disinformation.

Optimized disinformation has a veneer of legitimacy and commonly rewrites “the truth” using advertising, fabrication, manipulation, political satire, and propaganda.

Usually, this tactic is employed to manipulate the beliefs, motivations, and actions of like-minded people. The strategy is also used to sow confusion around polarizing topics, stymy constructive public discourse, and erode trust in traditional paragons of truth, like scientists, journalists, and healthcare officials. In some egregious cases, optimized disinformation is used exclusively as a marketing and money-making tool, such as the InfoWars Sandy Hook conspiracy.

Although disinformation polymorphs into many nebulous disguises with equally shadowy goals, few types of disinformation are more sinister—or more effective—than junk news, which exploded in popularity during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Because junk news is so popular and spreads effectively on social media, it is the primary type of fake news I reference most in this series.

In the research paper, Disinformation Optimised: Gaming Search Engine Algorithms to Amplify Junk News, Samantha Bradshaw, a doctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, defines junk news as a website that misleads people by using at least three out of the following five deceptions:

  1. Professionalism. Junk news sources do not employ the standards and best practices of professional journalism, including information about real authors, editors, and owners.
  2. Style. Junk news relies on emotionally driven language, ad hominem attacks, mobilizing memes, and misleading headlines.
  3. Credibility. Junk news needs and employs false information or conspiracy theories, and sources do not post corrections.
  4. Bias. Junk news sources are highly biased, ideologically skewed, and publish opinion pieces as news.
  5. Counterfeit. Junk news websites mimic established news websites and reporting techniques, including fonts, branding, and content strategies.

Junk news websites that the study evaluated include InfoWars, Breitbart, Zero Hedge, CNS News, Raw Story, The Daily Caller, and The Federalist. There are also more than 450 hyper-partisan websites that often get labeled as fake news, but these groups usually peddle inflammatory misinformation rather than blatantly optimized disinformation.

Granted, at times the distinction is fairly thin. And unfortunately, Google doesn’t do a great job of distinguishing between legitimate and junk websites.

How Does Disinformation Relate to Marketing?

Disinformation campaigns maliciously leverage every nuance of the surveillance-based business model that search engines and social networks are built around.

I’ll dive into the nuts-and-bolts of this topic in the third article of this series, but here are a couple of examples until then.

First, let’s look at junk news and advertising.

In 2019, The Global Disinformation Index, a UK nonprofit that rates websites’ trustworthiness, analyzed programmatic advertising rates among 1,700 junk news websites. The analysis shows that 70 percent of these websites had programmatic advertising and earned $235 million from those ads.

Several of the household-name brands mentioned in the GDI report that inadvertently bankrolled junk news sites include Audi, Sprint, Honda, Office Max, American Airlines, Casper, and Oxford University.

Now, let’s take a gander at organic search.

In 2016, Google’s search algorithms failed miserably at providing accurate information to an extremely serious question: did the Holocaust happen? At the time, the answer was “no.”

As The Guardian reported, the top result was a link to the article, “Top 10 Reasons why the Holocaust Didn’t Happen,” published by stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi site. The algorithmic failure didn’t stop there. The third result was the article “The Holocaust Hoax; IT NEVER HAPPENED.” The fifth ranking was owned by “50 Reasons Why the Holocaust Didn’t Happen.” The seventh position was a YouTube video, “Did the Holocaust Really Happen?” And the ninth result was “Holocaust Against Jews is a Total Lie – Proof.”

Since this event sparked global outrage, Google tweaked its algorithm to change the search results and prevent similarly optimized disinformation from ranking for the term.

The algorithm changes had a noticeable effect on four junk news websites with significant organic keyword growth (InfoWars, Zero Hedge, Daily Caller, and Breitbart), the Oxford Internet Institute report shows. Since August 2017, the report states that all four top-performing domains appeared less frequently in top-positions for non-branded Google searches, based on the keywords they were optimized for.

Despite the progress, Google’s algorithms still have a long way to go.

For example, take the phrase “climate change hoax.” Ahrefs shows the phrase gets 1,000 monthly searches. As of Oct. 26, 2020, three of the top 10 results are disinformation:

  • 31,000 Scientists Say ‘No Convincing Evidence’
  • Climate Change 7: How Global Warming is Both a Hoax and Legitimate Area of Study
  • Climate Change is a Hoax

The Consequences of Fake News

Before the 2016 election, I was naive about the insidious reach and power junk news websites and fake news have across the world. Here are the three significant consequences of fake news that we’ve seen unfold in the past few years.

Conspiracies

Pizzagate, QAnon, birtherism, climate change denial, anti-vaxxers, Holocaust denial, COVID-19 being fake … the list of new, widely-supported conspiracies is nearly endless. For years, algorithmic failures and a lack of gatekeeping at tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter perpetuated these shared delusions and allowed conspiracies to flourish.

Some companies are taking action against some conspiracy-related fake news, such as Twitter and Facebook shutting down QAnon accounts in July of 2020, but these reactionary measures are often too late.

Unfortunately, the fake news marketing tactics conspiracy pushers use have already proved successful and influenced their target audiences’ beliefs.

As an example, let’s look at how fake news marketing amplified the absurd QAnon conspiracy, which is associated with a string of violence and that the FBI labeled a domestic terrorist threat in 2019.

The conspiracy, in case you’ve remained blissfully unaware, spawned on 4chan in late 2017 and notions that Donald Trump is secretly fighting against a “deep state” cabal of cannibalistic child sex-traffickers and satanic cultists. Since its inception and rise in popularity, the conspiracy’s ideology became more malleable and adopted other popular delusions, such as promoting the lie that COVID-19 does not exist.

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the growth of QAnon exponentially. In March of 2020, membership of the largest public QAnon Facebook groups grew by 700 percent, the BBC reported in July. The report ties the popularity growth to increased internet use and more exposure to junk news and social media disinformation during quarantine.

An October report by CBS and Wired highlights how data collection techniques, marketing tools, and content recommendation algorithms from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google create a self-fulfilling prophecy and “rabbit-hole” for users who search for QAnon content, or have demographic markers that associate them with users who participate in these conspiracy groups. These systems start pushing advertisements, videos, hashtags, trending content, sponsored content from junk news sites, people to follow, and online communities that provide users with more and more conspiracy content and confirmations.

The conspiracists transformed from having a negligible amount of political power to earning enormous political capital in an extremely short amount of time.

As of September 2020, a Daily Kos/Civiqs poll shows that 86 percent of Americans have at least heard of the QAnon conspiracy, compared to 65 percent in 2019. Here’s the poll’s breakdown of engagement from the two major political parties:

  • 33 percent of Republicans believe that the QAnon theory is mostly true
  • 23 percent of Republicans say that some parts of the QAnon conspiracy are true
  • 13 percent of Republicans think that it is not true at all
  • 72 percent of Democrats say the QAnon conspiracy theory is not true at all
  • 14 percent of Americans have not heard of QAnon

These conspiracy zealots are now actively shaping the landscape of U.S. politics. There are currently 24 congressional candidates who publicly support and advocate for QAnon conspiracies and are on the ballot for House races in the 2020 election.

Election Interference

As the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections show us, election interference and widespread voter misinformation are the bread-and-butter outcomes of fake news campaigns. Enormous amounts of content have been written about this subject, so I’m not going to rehash that information or harp on it. Instead, I’ll quickly highlight just how easy voters’ behaviors make these tactics to execute.

July and September reports by The Pew Research Center show that 26 percent of U.S. adults get their news from YouTube, and 18 percent of U.S. adults say social media is their primary source for political and election news.

Of the YouTube news crowd, 23 percent get their news from independent YouTube channels, and 14 percent of these channels publish videos that are primarily dedicated to conspiracy theories.

For the traditional social media crowd, only 17 percent can answer at least eight out of nine questions correctly about foundational political knowledge, such as which party supports certain policy positions.

These statistics soften the blow for the following two highlights of the Pew reports:

  • Social media news consumers are 68 percent more likely than people who consume traditional media to report seeing made-up news related to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Only 37 percent of social media news consumers are “very concerned” about the impact of misinformation on the 2020 election.

During the 2016 election, Twitter users shared as much “junk news” as professionally produced news about politics, the Oxford Internet Institute reports. When fake news gets in the hands of its target demographics, users are doing an excellent job at spreading the disinformation without being any the wiser.

And when fake news spreads, it does so extremely fast.

“True news, for example, took about six times as long as false news to reach 1,500 people on average—and false political news traveled faster than any other kind of false news, reaching 20,000 people almost three times as fast as other categories reached 10,000,” Vice reported in 2019.

When this false news is politically inflammatory and has the KPI of manipulating and intimidating voters, the outcome can sway elections and invalidate votes.

As NPR reported in October, “One false rumor circulated in Texas that bar codes on mail-in ballot envelopes can reveal personal information, including whether the voter is a Republican or a Democrat.” After receiving several ballots with blacked-out bar codes, Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia took to Twitter and posted a video warning voters that this could lead to their ballots being rejected.

Although the number of people who succumb to these disinformation campaigns may be the minority of voters, sometimes that’s all it takes. For example, in the 2000 presidential race, 0.01 percent of votes swung the election. In the 2016 election, 0.72 of Pennsylvania voters decided who won the state.

Radicalism

Extremists have a long history of using disinformation and propaganda to gather recruits and sway minds. But, as Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 disinformation campaign showed, the sheer reach and pinpoint user targeting of paid advertising and social media has spurred growth in these ideologies.

In the European Union’s 2019 case study, Understanding Citizens’ Vulnerabilities to Disinformation and Data-Driven Propaganda, researchers analyzed how social networks became platforms where disinformation gets spread exponentially fast. They determined that fake news, often political propaganda, would surge in popularity and then be uncritically picked-up and redistributed to an even larger audience by traditional media outlets and junk news websites.

The EU report’s findings demonstrate that today’s society is increasingly vulnerable to disinformation operations. The vulnerability stems from “information overload and distorted public perceptions produced by online platforms algorithms built for viral advertising and user engagement.”

When content creators and bad-faith actors push content that spews actionable polarization through these disinformation channels, such as the George Soros conspiracy theories or the COVID-19 disinformation infodemic, the results spread radical ideologies and behaviors to larger user groups, some of whom eventually take action. Three recent examples include:

  1. The man who mailed pipe bombs to 16 prominent democrats
  2. The man who tried to assassinate congressional republicans while they played baseball
  3. 14 members of an anti-government “militia” group who got arrested by the FBI for planning to kidnap and execute the governors of Michigan and Vermont

A 2019 report by PBS shows how paid advertisements, content amplification options, and more “have rejiggered the landscape of content visibility on social media websites” to inspire more radical behavior.

But how does somebody go from reading a false blog article or seeing a politically charged meme to becoming a domestic terrorist?

It’s all about how these stories are made and marketed.

How Fake News is Made

The marketing strategy behind fake news—despite being entirely unethical, dangerous, and socially destructive—is brilliantly executed.

As research from the University of Pennsylvania shows, modern fake news content is carefully designed so its target users can’t detect that the information is false. Understanding this tactic is crucial to seeing how fake news is marketed.

Analysis by the University of Pennsylvania researchers, alongside scores of others, shows that we’re too smart to be deceived by fake news designed for someone else, but most of us can be duped and manipulated by the fake news designed to deceive us as individuals.

There are a lot of psychological and physiological factors in play here. I dive into those issues in the next article. But from a marketing perspective, fake news creators essentially perform user research to build personas and craft their message individually for each group of readers. This personal message taps into their users’ passions and desires to elicit the strongest possible emotional response. From a marketing perspective, this tactic is robust audience targeting at its very worst.

In many ways, modern fake news relies on harvesting and analyz­ing personal information, such as user behavior data meant for advertisers or geo-location history data from cellular service networks.

Let’s take a look at how these pinpoint-accurate personas are used to create tailored, targeted, and effective disinformation campaigns on an industrial scale.

The Fake News Formula

“The first part of fake news is crafting a lie, backed up with a set of supporting arguments selected because they will convince the intended readers, not because they are true,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton report states.

After the lie is chosen, a big balancing act comes into play. Every fake news campaign creates a set of different lies, and each set of lies are backed up by a different set of supporting arguments. Now, both the lies and supporting arguments must be designed to convince a different group of readers. If you get the balance wrong, the wrong user group gets the disinformation and the plan is foiled.

“A fake news story sent to the wrong readers will produce a backlash, since many readers will be able to detect the false statements and deliberate misinformation in fake news designed for others,” the Wharton report argues. “They will sense the intended manipulation, and react negatively to it.”

If I were to create fake news, here’s how I could break down these strategies into an actionable process, according to the Wharton report.

  1. I decide what I want you to believe.
  2. I learn what your current grievances are:
    What makes you furious?
    What do you think has been taken from you?
    What do you want to regain or retain?
  3. I learn what you do and don’t already know, and what you do and don’t already believe.
  4. Now, I construct an argument that explains how you were unjustly deprived of what you want. The people who took what you want away? They’re the people I want you to oppose.
    My lie is carefully constructed with supporting evidence, which relies on the data that I have selected because I know it will elicit a strong emotional response.
    The claims I use as evidence don’t need to be true. All I need is that you don’t know that I’m lying when you encounter the evidence.
  5. Now you’re riled up and in an emotional state. When we’re emotionally charged, we share more on social media. And unless you fact-check my lies, which is unlikely because I know you already ideologically align with my argument, you’ve now spread my lies to other like-minded people.
  6. The cycle continues until it reaches somebody who notices or fact-checks my lie and the “evidence” supporting it.

That’s the entire process. In many ways, this tactic is Mad Men marketing on steroids. Plus, as you probably noticed, this step-by-step technique mimics the honest and authentic marketing formulas we rely on to serve users.

And the terrifying part of this entire strategy? It’s much, much easier to design an effective lie for each target audience and then amplify it on a junk news site and social media using SEO, influencers, and paid advertising. Unfortunately, it’s significantly harder to design a compelling, easily understood counterargument that convinces the recently duped audience that they were fooled.

What Can We Do?

As marketers, our ingenuity and well-honed strategies got the world into this mess. After all, fake news creators simply reverse-engineered our marketing techniques for their nefarious goals. Fortunately, this means that we should be able to devise a solution to this problem.

Here’s my proposal: We need to sell “truth.” Truth must become a hot, desirable commodity. Make people yearn to know if information is false. Remarket fact-checking as the next lifestyle trend.

I know, this idea sounds ridiculous! But it’s possible. The first step is to learn the science behind why we are susceptible to lies and fake news, and then design a strategy to hijack those vulnerabilities for good.

I dive into the science behind why fake news is so compelling in the next article. Check back in then for all of the nerdy goodness.

The post Fake News Is a Marketing Feature, Not a Hack: Part 1 appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Why PDFs Are Detrimental to UX and SEO

It’s true; PDFs can be crawled, indexed, and even ranked by search engines. However, most PDFs lack crucial information (more on this later) that helps search engines understand what the document is about–and this negatively impacts your position in search results. Additionally, PDFs aren’t as easily accessible, as they don’t always allow the user to scan, scroll, or navigate the content with ease.

In this article, we’ll cover common pitfalls of PDF usage and help you decide if your PDF content should be converted to a stand-alone landing page instead. And if you must use a PDF, we’ll cover some best practices to keep in mind.

PDFs and Use Cases

The PDF, which stands for a “Portable Document Format,” was first developed by Adobe in 1992. Since then, PDFs grew in popularity because they allowed people to share links, buttons, form fields, audio, video, etc., regardless of the operating system on which they were viewed. In other words, PDF files were (and still are) universally accessible on Windows and Mac.

Today, PDFs are still alive and well. In most cases, PDFs are uses because of the false assumption that they’re faster and easier to create than a webpage. And while it may be easier to upload the final version of a PDF file, it still takes time to plan, design, and develop its content.

Perhaps the place where websites get into the most trouble with PDFs is the file’s ongoing maintenance. This is especially true if you’re expecting your customers to interact with the PDF content frequently (think restaurant menus or gym class schedules). Keeping track of PDF versions is a huge pain!

If someone downloads a static PDF, there’s no guarantee they’ll come back to your site to get the new version. Not to mention the time-intensive labor of redirecting any links pointing to the version that is no longer up to date.

And if you’re still not convinced of the headache, read on to learn when your PDF usage should be kept to a minimum.

Reasons to Minimize PDF Usage on Your Website

PDFs negatively impact user experience and SEO. Here’s how:

Lack of Navigation

PDFs were designed as stand-alone pages, which means that when a user navigates to a PDF, they typically lose access to the main navigation. And if they decide that the PDF they ended up at wasn’t what they were looking for, they must use the back button or go back to the website’s homepage to continue their research.

In short, PDFs make it challenging for the user to explore the content beyond the PDF file, causing frustration and ultimate abandonment of the website.

Not Mobile-Friendly

PDFs look consistent across all devices, favoring the layout that fits a desktop screen. While this may be ideal for printing, on mobile, the text is typically too small.

For mobile users, PDF files can be rather taxing, mainly because they require users to pinch to zoom before seeing the content. This is especially important to consider for users with limited fine motor skills who cannot complete the pinch-zoom action altogether.

Lack of Meta Data

While it’s possible to add or edit the metadata of a PDF document, most PDFs get published without it. If a PDF is published without optimized metadata, search engines will defer to the document title as the appropriate title tag and will likely decide on their own meta description. Although this could work in some cases–your metadata is just the right length, includes target keywords, and is written to attract clicks–in most cases, document metadata isn’t written with SEO in mind.

Sure, meta descriptions don’t always make it to the SERP results; what really matters here are your title tags. Title tags are an important ranking factor. If it’s too long, search engines will likely truncate it. And if it doesn’t clearly represent what the document is about, the user could get thrown off and not view you as a reliable source.

Information Overload

PDFs are generally text heavy–which can easily overwhelm a user looking for quick takeaways. They are typically made up of countless pages and are tricky to scan and digest.

Before adding yet another PDF document to a website, think about the user’s search intent. How much time do you anticipate the user will want to spend with your content? If it’s very visual and made to be viewed as a magazine or a brochure, a PDF format may very well be okay here. But if you’re hoping to answer frequently asked questions or product details, perhaps it makes more sense to add that information directly on the product or service page.

You never know, that hidden info could very well be what’s stopping them from purchasing from your brand!

Makes Tracking Challenging

While it’s possible to track PDF downloads in Google Analytics, our ability to understand PDF engagement beyond that is limited. Did the user read all of the 10, 20, or 40 pages of content? What elements did they engage with the most? Was it worth all of the 100+ hours you’ve spent writing, designing, and planning this piece of content? If you want answers to any of these questions, PDFs are not the route to take.

To put it simply, if it’s user engagement you’re after, stay clear of PDF files.

Internal Links Lose Value

Internal links establish the hierarchy of a website. They also help distribute page authority while allowing users to navigate the website more seamlessly from page to page. However, because PDF files are built as stand-alone pages, the path users take to get from a PDF to a webpage (and vice versa) feels disjointed. Even if internal linking best practices are followed, the flow is broken, and the value is diminished.

How to Format PDFs for Search

We get it, PDF documents are still relevant. PDFs may be hard to avoid, especially if you don’t get as much say about what gets published on a website–many websites must list large quantities of PDF files, just so they don’t get sued.

If you know that users absolutely love downloading your PDFs, it’s okay to offer them as a download–just make sure the key takeaways are also listed on the live website!

And if adding that extra info isn’t in the cards, follow these rules from Ahrefs to keep your PDFs web-optimized:

  • Write good content
  • Add an optimized title
  • Add an optimized description
  • Use a relevant filename
  • Include image alt attributes
  • Use headings

Above all else, remember to always think about the user! As long as the style in which you share your information meets their demand, you’re doing your part.

The post Why PDFs Are Detrimental to UX and SEO appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

Programmatic Advertising: The Benefits of Partnering With an Agency

There are a few options when it comes to buying programmatic advertising. Brands can work in buying platforms directly, pay the platform to build and manage the campaigns, or work with a digital agency. Selecting which option is best for you will depend on a variety of factors, including budget and bandwidth, but partnering with an agency is the most cost-effective approach.

First, let’s start with an overview of programmatic advertising and how it works.

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic advertising is the process of automated bidding and buying available advertising inventory based on targeting parameters on a buying platform. Programmatic ads include display, native, video, out-of-home (OOH), and OTT/Connected TV ads.

  • Display: banner, video, or text ads in various sizes displayed across millions of different websites.
  • Native: text and image ads that match the environment they display on and are “native” to the website’s format.
  • Video: ads that are played before, during, and after video content across the web. Also known as pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll.
  • OOH: outdoor advertisements such as billboards, posters, and transit. Advertisers can buy digital OOH placements through programmatic platforms.
  • OTT/Connected TV: video ads that appear on Smart TVs within in-app streaming through an internet connection rather than broadcast TV.

How Does Programmatic Advertising Work?

Using software found within buying platforms, you’re able to set up targeting parameters and bid on inventory in real-time. These platforms use software with built-in algorithms to match advertisers to users that fit within their targeting criteria.

Platform Types

There are two main types of platforms used within the programmatic landscape. The first is on the buy-side and is called a demand-side platform (DSP). These platforms are made up of multiple ad exchanges and work with advertisers to serve ads relevant to their target audience. The second platform is on the sell-side and is called a supply-side platform (SSP). Like a DSP, these platforms use ad exchanges to work directly with publishers to manage their advertising inventory. Both platforms work together to show available inventory advertisers are bidding on in a matter of seconds.

Bidding

Using a DSP allows you to bid on inventory in real-time. This type of bid strategy is called real-time bidding (RTB). RTB allows advertisers to reach their target audience at the right time. When a user who fits the targeting criteria goes to a website, the SSP communicates with the DSP and sends it to the auction. The advertiser with the winning bid has its ad served to the user. This entire process happens in real time as the website loads-in a matter of seconds.

Targeting

Another key aspect of using a DSP is the variety of targeting options available for users at various stages of the marketing funnel. Below is an expanded list of capabilities:

  • Prospecting: an upper-funnel tactic used to find high-performing inventory and grow remarketing lists.
  • Contextual: an awareness and reach tactic used to share ads to users on contextually relevant content they’re viewing.
  • Custom Site/App List: an upper-funnel tactic used to display ads to users on a pre-approved list of sites and apps.
  • Private Marketplaces (PMPs): a mid-funnel tactic that gives advertisers access to purchase premium inventory.
  • Behavioral: a mid-funnel tactic used to target different audiences based on various user behaviors such as intent or interest.
  • Remarketing: a lower-funnel tactic used to retarget users who previously visited your website.
  • Demographic: target different audiences based on various demographic factors, including age, gender, and household income.
  • Lookalike/Similar: target lookalike/similar audiences based on current customers or recent conversions.
  • Hyperlocal: target users based on their real-time location.

How to Start Using Programmatic Advertising

Once you understand programmatic advertising, the next steps are choosing the right DSP to work with and dedicating a strategist to manage the campaigns.

Evaluating a DSP

There are several factors involved when choosing which DSP to use. It’s essential to find a DSP that has a large amount of inventory and targeting options available. The DSP needs to innovate its technology to stay ahead of digital trends. It’s crucial that the platform has brand-safe functionality to prevent ads from showing up alongside questionable content. Reporting will need to be evaluated against your business goals, and have the ability to connect to your API to enhance campaign performance. As with any service you partner with, you will need to evaluate costs and fees associated with the technology, targeting, and platform management.

Lastly, an undervalued factor when choosing a DSP is partnering with someone you trust. Look for account representatives that understand your business goals and are transparent with their communication and deliverables.

Dedicate a Strategist

Managing campaigns within a DSP is a full-time job. It requires daily observation, communication, and optimizations within the platforms. Hiring a dedicated strategist with experience in programmatic platforms will alleviate stress from marketing managers and allow time to be spent in other areas of your business. However, you may not have the means to hire a dedicated strategist to handle your programmatic campaigns, which is why you can benefit from partnering with an agency to create and execute your campaigns for you.

The Benefits of Partnering With an Agency for Programmatic Advertising

Partnering with a digital agency to manage and fulfill programmatic campaigns is an efficient way to save time and money for your company. Below are just some of the benefits of hiring an agency for your programmatic efforts.

Established Partnerships With DSPs

When you work with a digital agency for your programmatic campaigns, they’ve done the DSP evaluations for you. In many cases, digital agencies have vetted and partnered with multiple DSPs in recent years to determine what works well for their clients. They’ve done the hard work in advance to create efficiencies within their campaigns.

Lower Costs While Maintaining the Same Value

Since the agency owns the partnership with the DSP, the cost for you, the client, goes down. Because an agency works with multiple clients within a DSP, the tech and management fees are distributed among those using the platform. These fees are conveniently rolled up into media spend, so you won’t be surprised by the platform’s additional expenses. In summary, you’re paying a much lower cost while maintaining the same value the DSP provides.

Leveraging Expertise of a Digital Agency

Working with an agency allows you to avoid hiring a dedicated strategist in-house. The agency will save your company expenses associated with an internal team member, and you’ll have access to the agency’s dedicated strategists with years of experience buying programmatic display media.

Creating Efficiencies Through Collaboration With Search and Social Efforts

If you are already partnering with an agency for all your search and social media advertising efforts, having them manage your programmatic strategy allows them to collaborate and drive better performance across all of your digital campaigns. The team can create efficiencies through audience building and sharing, creative insights, and campaign optimizations. These efficiencies also give the agency the ability to develop in-depth reporting on all of your digital advertising campaigns, so you have a clear understanding of the health and performance of your advertising strategy as a whole.

In Short

Programmatic advertising gives businesses the ability to buy inventory across websites in real time, using a variety of tactics to reach their target audience. However, buying in a programmatic platform is a time-consuming process that typically requires a dedicated strategist to manage campaigns. Partnering with a digital agency to manage your programmatic advertising efforts will save time and money while creating efficiencies within your overall digital marketing campaigns.

The post Programmatic Advertising: The Benefits of Partnering With an Agency appeared first on Portent.

Internet Marketing

How to Improve Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is a proprietary measurement created by a leader in SEO, Moz.com. It measures your site’s likeliness to rank in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) in comparison to your competitors. When evaluating your DA, it is always important to only compare your Domain Authority with others in your industry or vertical. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense to compare the New York Times to your favorite site, UnderwaterBasketweavers.com. But you can compare the New York Times to the Chicago Tribune.

Note: Domain Authority is not a ranking factor metric used by Google, and it will not directly impact your position in the SERPs. It merely reflects your ability to rank.

When you improve your ability to rank, your Domain Authority naturally reflects this and will increase accordingly. And an increase in Domain Authority means you’re doing something right! But how do you do this? TLDR: (and much like underwater basket weaving), it’s complicated.

How Difficult is it to Improve Domain Authority?

One thing is for certain: improving your Domain Authority takes time. Doing it the right way is a long game, and everything you do to accomplish it should be above-board. It might be tempting to pay someone to get a lot of links for you quickly, but it can really hurt you in the end. This is called black-hat link building, and it can earn you costly penalties. “White-hat” is the only way that will get you the quality links you need.

It is also important to be consistent with your strategies. Tending to your on-page SEO once a year, or doing one link building campaign every six months or so, isn’t going to help you much. You have to keep at it. This is a long-term investment in your organic strategy.

Another observation that may come as good news is that the lower the Domain Authority, the more quickly it moves. It’s much easier to get from a DA of 22 to a DA of 35 than to get from a DA of 75 to a DA of 80.

Strategies for Improving Domain Authority

The following recommendations will get your Domain Authority moving in the right direction: up.

Button Up Your On-Page SEO

We’ve seen on-page SEO changes improve rankings and slightly elevate Domain Authority in and of itself. Suffice it to say, always have your on-page SEO in order. Title tags, meta descriptions, and internal linking strategies should always be paid the proper attention and time. On-page SEO can significantly affect your rankings, and therefore your Domain Authority.

Take Care of Your Off-Page SEO (Link Building)

There’s no getting around it; you need off-page SEO to improve Domain Authority—it carries more than 50% of Google’s ranking factors. There is no doubt that link building done right drives organic visibility, improves rankings, and your Domain Authority reflects this. Each backlink earned is a signal of trust for the search engines. Backlinks are directly correlational to Google’s rankings in the SERPs. There are various ways to build links, and different strategies affect Domain Authority more than others.

Guest Post Link Building

In its heyday, guest posting moved mountains. But Google’s search algorithm is giving less authority to guest post links. It still improves Page Authority (PA), though, and we’ve seen six links to a priority page improve the PA of that page by over 20%. Guest posting can’t provide the heavy lift that other strategies can, so while valuable, it should still be done in combination with other more powerful strategies.

Link Reclamation

Link reclamation is simply an effort to repair broken links, or ask for links when your brand or product is mentioned without including one back to your site. When a link is broken or doesn’t exist at all, no link equity is passing to the domain. Reaching out to these publications where a broken link or unlinked brand mention exists and asking them to add the correct link can regain link equity and those valuable trust signals that search engines rely on. It must be done in large quantities to be effective, and can be a long, tedious process to complete. Some sites have thousands of broken links and/or unlinked brand mentions.

Consider link reclamation to be your site hygiene. Keeping users from reaching 404 pages is always ideal. You should always be repairing broken links and asking for links when someone mentions your brand.

Does it impact Domain Authority? Yes, but again, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. Keep weaving that basket.

Content Promotion

Content promotion is by far the fastest and most effective way to boost organic visibility and therefore improve Domain Authority. I’ll say it again. Content promotion is by far the fastest and most effective way to boost organic visibility and therefore improve Domain Authority. Effective promotion of quality content is a win-win for everyone.

What is content promotion? At Portent, our content strategy team ideates, creates, designs, and develops newsworthy, notable, engaging content for our clients. Then, we reach out to thousands of our media contacts to make sure it’s seen, seeking coverage from online publications who, in turn, link back to our client’s content.

The amazing thing about content promotion is that, in one calculated effort, we are creating:

  1. Excellent content for your users
  2. Positive brand awareness
  3. Referral traffic as people read coverage
  4. More backlinks for your backlink profile
  5. Trust signals to search engines
  6. Media attention
  7. Increased organic visibility

All this results in improved Domain Authority and likelihood to rank in the SERPs. It can sometimes be a moderately heavy lift involving several teams, but in our experience, it is well worth the effort.

To Recap

There is no predictable course or formula for improving Domain Authority. If you are putting forth consistent effort, your DA will improve over time. People often neglect off-page SEO to their detriment; regular link building campaigns can drive organic visibility in ways even you crazy basketweavers haven’t imagined.

The post How to Improve Domain Authority appeared first on Portent.

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