Why You Should Target Websites With Bad Content


Yes, you read it right. I'm recommending that when you have a campaign running on other sites, it's a good idea to be on sites that have bad content. That is not to say that being on sites with good content is bad. Of course not.

Many advertisers, planners, and brand managers do their planning and buying before they test their ads, just like they do with traditional media. Therefore, the easiest and safest option for them is to go with known and trusted sites.

Ideally, the decision of where you should place your ads should be made after a good assessment of sites, but most importantly you can best decide on ad placement when you have data on how your ads performed for that specific placement (site) and for that specific campaign. This means that "good sites to advertise on" are only good relative to the other available options, and based on the results you are getting. 

If you agree with my previous post on the power of contextual targeting then we know that you are getting to the relevant audience simply by being present on pages that discuss content similar to and related to your offering.

Many people end up on content pages through search engines anyway. So many people are already searching.

If they land on a page that talks about your content and contains your ads, and that page has bad content, then the user will probably click on your ad to get the better content. You just provided a solution to your audience.

The fear stopping people from doing this is mainly because they don't appreciate how powerful content targeting is, and because they don't want bad 'brand association' or something of that sort.

It's just like saying that you don't want to open a branch of your shop in a certain street because it's not very clean or not trendy.

If your customers walk on that street, you should be there. Very simple. Moreover, since you have full control on how clean and nice you want to make your store, it means that if you do, your will stand out much more, and can become the attraction on that street.

At the end of the day, each campaign, brand, website, and landing page are different, and you can't make the best decision until you have tested some options first.

This is a reason to go ahead and try advertising on sites that don't have the premium content, where you can actually deliver better results for your campaign. You also have a better bargaining power with these sites, and it can be much more cost-effective.


Understanding Users: The Power of Content in Campaign Targeting

Targeting the right audience is clearly one of the most important things to do in your campaigns. This can be achieved in several different forms; demographics, search keywords, behavior, and others. Contextual targeting, mainly brought to mainstream by Google's AdSense program provides one of the most powerful targeting tools out there. I would say it is the second most powerful targeting tool after targeting by keyword.

What does it mean that a user is reading a certain page? How is this page related to their interests and what does it have to do with my campaigns? How do I target my contextual campaigns?

The short answer: people don't just 'end up' on a page, they generally know where they are going, and therefore are interested in the content of the page they are at.

Let's take a look at the different ways in which a user can end up on a certain web page:

  1. Directly: The most straightforward way to go to a page is typing in the URL in the address bar, www.website.com. If you know the URL by heart you know what that page's content is about, and you are interested in it (or interested enough to find out what it's like). The user knows where she is going.
  2. Clicking on a Link: A user might click on a link while they are browsing to go to a new page. Naturally, there is a description of that link and an expectation of what kind of content the user might expect to see if they click. Of course some sites create redirects, or have misleading copy, but we are assuming you want to advertise on a legitimate website that doesn't do these things. Therefore, the user knows where she is going.
  3. Search Result: The search result snippet is a description of what users can expect and again, the user knows where she is going.
  4. Advertisement: Clicking on an ad is another way someone can end up on a page. Again, the ad is promising something, and therefore the user is interested in that thing and goes in the hope of finding that thing. She knows where she is going.


Even if the site is legitimate and the content is created with the best of intentions, several things might go against the above reasoning. Misunderstanding of text, clicking by mistake, are two examples, but we can still say that in most cases people are on a page because they are expecting something. And since the four ways of ending up on a site are all voluntary, then we can safely say that the user is interested in that content.

From an advertising perspective, placing ads on pages (not websites) that have content about a certain topic is highly relevant to the audience on these particular pages. Higher relevancy of course means better placement, and a higher probability of a relevant audience that will be interested in whatever offering you have.

This is completely different from the practice of placing ads on websites, or sections of websites. In the contextual targeting case, you are targeting by page. You are placing ads on any page that has the keywords you want. Although the site might be completely irrelevant some pages might be talking about your specific topics, and therefore, it will make sense to advertise on these pages.

It would be inefficient to go to 2,000 websites, and make 2,000 deals for specific URLs. That would be madness. But AdWords' contextual targeting capability solves this in a great way, and is able to connect advertisers with a very specific audience.

Non-Linear Thinking Lessons from Freakonomics

If you have read the book, you would have probably been intrigued in a very amusing way. The insights and findings are shocking, the relationships and parallels drawn are a clear sign of genius. Very interesting to know certain statistics (like the fact that sending your kid to a friend's house who has a pool is more dangerous than having them go to a friend who's father owns a gun!). Apparently, more kids die drowning in a swimming pool, than from accidents related to guns. The main lesson in all the findings is almost the same. Don't rely on your gut feeling, or any heuristics you may have about a certain decision, but look at data.

Great information, a big hit to our instinctive thinking, and a reminder that the facts can be completely different from what we feel they are.

The problem is that it ends there. You learn the facts and know that you should be more concerned if your kid wants to go swimming at a friend's house. Most of the stuff is like this. It is a great display of genius and insight, but it hands us ready-made facts based on years of study and data analysis. It gives us a fish, but doesn't teach us how to fish. It's just like if I tell you that eating potatoes is more beneficial than you thought, and that research shows that if you have 5 potatoes per week, you are 27.5% less likely to get a heart attack. Ok, so I start eating more potatoes, if I have the discipline, and that's it.

I'm much more interested in lessons that can become tools for thinking and can be used in other situations. I'm interested in becoming a fisherman. 

There was one really valuable thinking tool that I was able to extract, and is really helpful in explaining many personal and economic behaviors. This is basically the non-linear (on non-absolute) way we take positions toward a certain topic.

This lesson / tool struck me through the Sumo wrestlers study. It shows that the wrestlers are willing to lose certain fights in certain situations. When the stakes are high (determining whether or not a wrestler goes down to the lower levels), things aren't as straightforward as they seem. Wrestlers are likely to have a tacit arrangement, whereby "I let you win this time if you let me win the next time I'm in need". Since one of wrestlers doesn't have much to lose by loosing, they gain a future favor from their opponent who is desperate for winning.

The important learning it gave me is to stop dealing with people's positions in an absolute manner. "This consumer is loyal", "this person loves me", "my boss is really into this project", "the company wants me". All these statements are wrong regardless of whether or not they are true in the moment. The reason is that they are incomplete descriptions of the positions of these people.

To complete these arguments, we need to mention the conditions under which they remain true. The company is really into this project, as long as ... is a more complete argument. The 'as long as' part is crucial, because it might get the other person to have a completely different position, even against their initial position, because their incentives have changed.

Online vs. Offline Marketing: Whatever you Think, Think the Opposite

Whatever You ThinkHaving dealt with many traditional marketers entering the online world, and having gone through the transition myself, the best advice that I could share with anyone joining this world (and everyone will, eventually) is the title of this book. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite is a brilliant book that doesn't have to do anything with online or offline, but the advice makes a lot of sense to me because almost everything that we do online is counter-intuitive to the thinking of traditional economics. Paul Arden presents his ideas by using the medium he is best at, advertising. The pages of the books have the structure of an ad. A big image with a headline and some descriptive text. Each page can be read separately without having to read other pages for context. The only difference between these pages and ads are brand and logos. So, me easy advice would be to think the opposite of the way you think. Most of the thinking and planning works the other way round; big becomes small, one becomes many, decide become discover, etc. Here I outline some of the main differences in doing marketing online compared to the thinking offline.



  Offline   Online
General Implementation: Planing, planning, planning, and then you have one big bang.   Start small, very small, extremely focused, based on results improve, expand, optimize, and grow. Start spending big ONLY when you have good results.
Time to analyze resuts:  Takes several weeks, if not months, needs a different process of a sampled group of people to give their feedback.   Almost immediate results on your campaigns, per creative, per placement.
Restuls Analysis: Based on people's feedback.   Based on actual usage (clicks, impressions, conversions, etc.).
Campaign Analysis:  A separate process, involving additional cost and research.   An integral part of the campaign.
Campaign Cycle:  Ends when the ad is seen, and there is no direct link to the customer behavior based on the ad.    full cycle is measured from impression, to click, to landing pag, to funnel, and finally the 'thankyou' page.
Targeting:  Usually one big market, at best segmented based on medium   Extremely fragmented, potentially every keyword is a segment. 
Customization:  Fixed messages can only be changed in different campaigns or editions of a publication.   Can be tailored to each segment, and can be based on previous performance data. 

Marketers and Greed

Gordon Gekko teaches us that, "greed is good" in the classic movie Wall Street. It is such a relief to get approval for one of our basic tendencies by such a successful person. He's making a lot of money, and enjoy it after all! I agree that greed is good, with some caveats, but that's a different subject. I was recently accused by a good friend of mine that I'm becoming too greedy, and mainly focusing on generating money, as opposed to being passionate about the work itself, and loving it for its own sake. My response is thatWall Street - Money Never SleepsI'm a marketing person, I do business. And my job is to create / manage products and services that liveor die based on whether or not they make money. We marketers get excited when we find a niche in a certain market, and when we can see that there is hope that what we are offering to this niche is making money. Otherwise, it's just a cute idea, without commercial value.I generally judge ideas based on the value they provide to the ecosystem and the world ito which  they belong, but from a strictlymarketing perspective, the name of the game is to create stuff that people are willing to pay money for.Since our measure is generally how much money (or any other result) we can consistently make we tend to enjoy the process the more money there is.A designer's greed consists in creating something useful, beautiful, and easily understood. The engineer wants to create a great system that is efficient, and works nicely. The doctor needs to do difficult operations, and get higher degrees and specialization.The difference is that if a doctor is too focused on the money, he would probably be compromising something of his work's quality. If an actor or musician thinks mainly about what makes money, then there is the risk of being influenced in that direction as opposed to truly communicate their vision to their audience. This could potentially negatively influence the quality of their work.On the other hand, when a marketer doesn't focus on making money, he is not doing his job properly!

The Paradox of Specialization

Being a specialist is definitely better than being a generalist. You can achieve differentiation, you can be the top person / company in your niche, and you can make more money. The problem with being a generalist is that you are obviously good at many things, but not great at one specific. Great, so now you want to specialize, you choose your niche and keep focusing on it, until you really master it. Right? Wrong! The problem with specialization is that you cannot achieve it without being a generalist to begin with. Let say you want to specialize in SEO. First of all you must be good at web analytics, because you will need to analyze the current performance of SEO on your site, and you will need to evaluate how keywords are performing, and based on that take your actions. You will need to understand social media very well, because you need to do link-building campaigns and this happens through content creators, and you will naturally need to win their approval. Paid search is something you need to be very familiar with, because you are probably working with the paid search team in parallel, in order to coordinate your efforts on certain keywords. Most importantly you will need to have a very good business understanding, because at the end of the day, there are business results you are trying to achieve through your SEO efforts. This is very generalist! In any field you need to understand how your specific specialty relates to other specialties and where your role ends and theirs start. In a similar argument, I wrote about the long tail person, arguing that similar to the basic concept of the long tail (lots of small niches amount to a large number of sales), a person who is just good at many things, can group these things together, and having them together in one person serving a specific niche would amount to something great. More on this in the tecnician vs. the marketer, talking about the difference between people who have a good understanding of marketing and happen to specialize in a certain field vs. the people who just learned how to operate a certain product like Google AdWords for example. I still insist, although the Jack of all trades is a master of none, I think the Jack of all trades is a master of some. Specialization is great, but it doesn't come without generalization.

Doing Work vs. Doing Business

It's a very important distinction that many people need to make, especially those transitioning from being employed to owning their own business.

As an employee, you do work, and you are rewarded for that work. Mostly, this happens in the form of an hourly, or monthly payment. Typically, you are selling your time to your employer, and during that time you are doing work. There is compensation for that work, and the concept of rewarding you for a good job done in the long run is one of the most important things. Motivation, the feeling of equality, and being treated fairly are central aspects of the game.

Doing business is a completely different ball game altogether. There are no "rewards" in the employment sense of the word. When you buy a piece of land at $100 and then sell it to someone at $150 the buyer is not rewarding you for holding on to that land, or for having invested, or for anything. The buyer is merely paying what the market price is at the time, and what they can afford and negotiate with you. You just happened to have bought that land at the "right" time and benefited from the difference the market has created. You might have had to sell it at a loss, and that is still none of the buyer's business, it's not even a factor in the negotiation.

This difference might explain the completely different approaches employees and business people have. The "work" that an employee does will not get them more money. In some cases, like sales, it does. But usually nothing happens when an employee saves her company $568,000 by implementing things in a new way. She might get a bonus or a minor raise, or some sort of psychological reward, but not money in the way the business partner enjoyed. It's about doing a good job, it's about advancing your career, and it's about becoming a star in a certain area of expertise that gets the rush for employees.

Business people get most of their adrenaline from making money, being a force in the market, and moving and shaking things. Nobody is there to pat you on the back if you make a good deal buying a cheap land and selling it at a profit. You don't need it! The money gained is your reward, and vice versa if you lose. The actual outcome is your motivator.

Being in business is a much lonelier place. The number of shareholders of most organization is usually a tiny fraction of the number of workers in it.

An interesting case is when you are a business person and doing work for a living, it's an intriguing juggle that you have to make, and you get in a better position if you can productize your service. This way you can have the final say on how you want to do your work, as long as you sell certain results for your clients. For example, software companies sell software in a box. They don't sell you the number of hours it took them to create that software. Although it is accounted for in the pricing, but you just buy a product at a price you can afford, and you are not concerned about rewarding them for doing a good job at creating that product for you. You are simply doing business with them. This way, they control how they want to do their work behind the scenes, and you don't get to interfere with that.

Facebook's Headaches for Google: Part II

I've previously wrote about how Facebook is competing with Google, and it doesn't seem to be stopping. This time from a different angle.

The way this is being accentuated is by the two different types of advertising offered by Facebook; "marketplace ads" and "premium ads".

Marketplace Ads are basically the ads that anyone can run on Facebook, simply by going to the advertising section, posting some ads, and entering payment information. The great thing about this is that it is, similar to Google, catering for the long tail of advertisers. Global companies with huge budgets, compete with mom-and-pop advertisers running campaigns of $10 / month. This is similar to Google's philosophy of creating a democratic utopia in advertising. Everyone should be given the same tools, and access to the same information, which improves the efficiency of, and increases the number of advertisers willing to compete in the largest ad auction on the web.

Premium Ads is where things become different. These ads are run by Facebook, through agencies (a segment in the market Google never had in its equation when they created AdWords). Google treats its platform as an open system where users or agencies are free to use it in any way they want. This has really disrupted the traditional business model of media agencies who struggle to find a viable way of making money out of a system that doesn't give them commissions, is completely transparent, and needs daily monitoring and updating.

Facebook is giving these premium spots only to agencies and to campaigns that run a minimum of $10,000 / month (or at least in my region). These ads are run in the traditional way (IO, booking order, etc..) and are managed by Facebook employees.

Guaranteed placement: part of this offering is that these ads don't go into an auction, and appear on the home page of Facebook, which is the first page a user sees when they log in. The agency books a certain number of impressions, and they get these impressions.

Commissions: to make things worse, these campaigns include a commission for media agencies, which immediately makes advertising on Facebook a sweet option for agencies, who get to talk the language they are used to; premium placement, large audience, the big boys get better treatment, etc...

Demographics: another aspect of Facebook that make it very easy for agencies to deal with. Keywords and interest-based targeting, although much more effective, are still not that easy to grasp due to the extreme fragmentation they create, and necessitating campaigns to become more geared to results and reponse, as opposed to branding, whatever that may be.

Facebook is now the hot thing, they give agencies commissions and premium guaranteed placement, and provide the most accurate demographics any media has ever dreamed of having. This will cause a bigger headache for Google clearly.

From an ecosystem perspective, what this does, is that it widens the gap between agencies and regular advertisers, and gives them an unfair advantage. If they would have kept the same model, without favoring the agencies, they would have made the whole online advertising ecosystem a much more efficient and effective place to advertise on. They decided to go for the business objective. Time will tell which model will win.

Making Billboards Digital and Accountable

As most offline media have the limitation of not being accountable and measureable, outdoor billboards can be improved with three simple ideas:

- Make them digital: Since electricity is already connected to billboards for lighting purposed, a new digital screen can easily replace the existing one.

- Go Online: With a simple WiMax adaptor connected to those screens, you can take these billboards online instantly, which helps in managing them through a web interface from anywhere in the world.

- Make it measurable(this is the trick): With a simple speed control camera, you can actually count the number of cars passing by the billboard, and therefore start selling impressions instead of time.

Of course, you can easily argue that you don't know how many people are in each car, and whether or not they look at the billboard.

There is a general average of people per car, and even without knowing that you still know that your campaign received X cars x Y people on average. Also, you can easily assume the minimum of 1 person per car and build the numbers on that. Whether people look or not is next to impossible to measure, and so is the case with online advertising. You cannot know if people looked at an impression or not, but the important thing is that you know that 10 million impressions reach more people than 5 million impressions.

A Business Model Based on Data

Selling data, pure data, can prove to become a new business model for companies and sites who are struggling to make money or increase their revenues.

Since aggregate numbers about interactions are highly valuable in giving insights on user behavior, the data gives tools for better decision-making for business and marketing people.

Just like the advertising-driven model, where you make money if you have enough traffic, a similar model can be applied for selling data about usage, if you have enough traffic.

The great opportunity is in the fact that the same data can be useful to different clients in different ways and different geographies. Some clients might be interested in behavior related to certain content, and some others might be interested in purchasing patterns as they relate to certain geographies.

Just like market research companies collect one set of data, analyze them, and produce a report which is sold several times, so can websites if they can provide the data in a structured and segmentable way.

Infochimps is a great example of a platform that allows you to sell and buy data, you can even post data for free and share it with the world. This inevitably leads me to think about micro data (personal data) of people. Will a person be able to make a smalll monthly income by just plugging in her own data? Market research companies have always wanted to pay money and collect data about certain types of people, why not automate it? 

Another form is the corporate model. My friend Waseem updated me on the latest generation of viruses that don't do any immediate harm to your computer, but just lie there trying to find patterns of behavior, loopholes in a system, and ways to steal or destry on a larger scale than computers.

Why not a friendly virus? A software that is installed on the company network and collects anonymous data about the behavior of employees. The company collecting the data will have a lot of companies from which they aggregate data and sell them in a structured useful way to various clients. This way you can make money from your employees' "wasting" their time on social networks and chat applications!