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Helpful Content Update: Not just another Google algorithm update

Ryan Rakover, September 7, 2022

Takeaways:

  • The update process is automated using a machine-learning model. 
  • The goal is to help וsers discover rich, valuable people-first content 
  • People-first content can still rank high from low-quality sites (unhelpful content)
  • The signal is weighted, meaning some sites get hit harder than others.
  • Only English searches will be impacted, to begin with.

update
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


Staying up to date with Google updates requires commitment. Google is continuously working on all aspects of its products, and for those navigating the delicate balancing act of digital media, Google doesn’t let you rest on your laurels. Veteran publishers will remember learning the lessons of not correctly adjusting for the Panda update in 2011. At that time, Google announced that the update would help differentiate low-quality sites. Learning to adapt to those new signals set publishers in different directions.


A little over ten years later, we are seeing Google again taking a more earnest position on defining the quality of content. The ‘Helpful Content Update’ supports “People First Content” –  content that answers questions and satisfies the reader. This update goes further into the user journey, beyond the ‘search results’ experience, and looks at where the user journey leads to answer the question: will those top results successfully connect users to valued content?   


Google released a statement about this latest update, saying it  will “tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.” It aims to boost content written for people and devalue content based primarily on SEO best practices.


If you have been busy building your content department with passionate writers writing on topics that engage your users, you’re off to a good start. Google is saying that your writers should not only be subject experts but have also experienced the topic(s) of choice. The editorial team needs to work on blending the collected voices of your writers to best amplify the mission statement that supports your domain(s). The user is the audience for your uniquely crafted content, not the SEO gods. 


How to change from a search engine-first approach?

Users are frustrated with low-value content at the top of searches because of high attention to SEO rules and best practices. The reader is left going back from one of the top results to redefine their query to better identify the content they are searching for.


To make the switch from an SEO-focused strategy, you must put your readers first. When users visit your site(s), they’re there to understand what you (or your brand) have to say. They’re not looking for redirection to somewhere else or someone else’s content cleverly retitled with key takeaways added below the headline. 


What does it mean to create people-first content? Publishers and content creators should be asking themselves the following questions: 

  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus? Or are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have already said?
  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines rather than made for human consumption?
  • Will a user leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience? Or will they need to search again to get better information from other sources?


No to content for content’s sake…please!

The helpful content update points out that not all content is in fact helpful.  Along the way, while building the open web, publishers became focused on trying to understand the impact of SEO and developed strategies to infuse content with SEO best practices. The result has created a style of content that doesn’t necessarily meet the user’s needs or answer their questions. Search results are inundated with redundant results that don’t add much value. 


Google has long been committed to quality and, through updates, is steadily guiding publishers and content creators in this direction. Below we can see a timeline highlighting some of the Google updates that helped focus publishers and creators on how to best publish their content to get seen by users.  People-first content is valuable, offering users helpful content to answer their queries. With so much information available within each search, connecting users to the right results becomes harder and harder. The goal of this update is to identify those high- and low-quality sites that aim to enrich all participants: publisher, advertiser, and user alike.  


Google updates timeline


Also good to know:

  • “Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them for months,” revealed Google.
  • Google won’t tell you which URLs or pages are considered not helpful
  • The update affects English searches worldwide and will expand to other languages in the future.
  • There is a validation period for Google to trust that you are committed to updating your content and not just making a quick fix. Google will then re-rank the domain(s). 
  • Google needs you to prove, over several months (no clearly defined timeline yet, but it will require commitment), that your content is actually helpful and written for a person-first audience.
  • This is an algorithm update, not a core page signal update. Google is waiting to see how the rollout goes. Based on the rollout, the weight of the overall page signal ranking may change, but not for now. 


Have any questions about this or any of Google’s updates? Want to discuss what it means to create people-first content for your site(s)?



About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn.

Listen up!: Finding the right digital audio ad

Adi Pinco, July 11, 2022

Takeaways:

  • There are three main ways digital ad space can be purchased: manual ad insertion, dynamic ad insertion, and programmatic ad insertion.
  • Manual insertion is the traditional way to purchase ad space and, until recently, has been used for the majority of ad placements.
  • Dynamic ad insertion is the most popular way digital audio ads are placed and offer greater targeting options.
  • Programmatic insertion is in its infancy but offers more personalized messaging thanks to better targeting.
digital audio ads
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Like a lot of people, we feel lost these days if left commuting without our favorite podcast, or winding down at the end of the day without Alexa playing the radio in the background, or if on the treadmill without our well-curated gym playlist. Digital audio has become a staple of our daily lives.

Brands have taken note of our growing love of digital audio, with increased spending over the last few years on all areas. Highly effective due to its personal nature, and with endless creative possibilities, the growth of these formats has been music to many advertisers’ ears.

But like any other advertising channel, brands diving into digital audio need to buy their advertising slots in an effective, scalable, and context-appropriate manner if their campaigns are going to grab the ears of consumers.

For those still struggling to get their heads around the world of digital audio ads, let’s look into the three main ways that space can be purchased.

1. Manual ad insertion 

This is the traditional way to purchase ad space, especially for podcasts. Usually, brands will negotiate directly with publishers or podcasters. Ads are then ‘baked’ into the audio, meaning they are part of a single audio file that cannot change. Hosts or artists can read these ads out, blending seamlessly into the content.

Until recently, a majority of ad placements were run using this method – in 2019 52% of podcast ads were purchased manually. The method also chimes with consumers, with the often personalized tone, familiarity of a host’s voice, and naturalistic insertion leading to a 71% brand recall.

The downside is that these kinds of placements can be taxing to implement and lack true scalability. As the market for digital audio continues to expand, these individual insertions will be time-consuming for advertisers and may cause brands to miss out on potential audiences. 

2. Dynamic ad insertion 

Dynamic ad insertion (DAI) is currently the most popular way that digital audio ads are placed, seeing explosive growth during the pandemic. Second best to manual podcast insertion in 2019 with around 48% of placements, it now accounts for 84% of podcast ads.

In short, DAI differs from manual insertion in that publishers mark spots within an audio file where ads can be inserted. Advertisers are then able to serve ads the moment audio is downloaded. It’s basically a win-win for brands and creators – ad messaging can be kept up-to-date while back catalogue can continue to be monetized.

DAI gives advertisers greater targeting options, meaning audiences to be found via genre, geotargeting, and even specific episode titles. Data signals can also be harnessed with DAI to serve ad messaging dependent on variables such as time, or even weather data. The use of audience data overlays from third- or first-party data is also possible.

Despite this, murkiness about the true measurability of DAI hampers its effectiveness. While advertisers can see downloads of a podcast, whether an advert was actually listened to remains somewhat a mystery.

3. Programmatic insertion

Programmatic is still very much in its infancy within the digital audio space. Though effectively used on many music streaming platforms – Spotify has Private Marketplaces (PMPs) and Programmatic Guaranteed (PG) buys available to advertisers – the podcast space is slower on the uptake. Only 1.7% of podcast revenue was generated through this buying method in 2021 (compared to 67% for display advertising back in 2019).

Its growth in the space could lower the barrier for entry for smaller brands and creators alike. More personalized messaging can also be served into the ears of listeners thanks to better targeting abilities.

There are however currently big question-marks over the brand safety solution in the audio space. While targeting via show type or description is possible, the ability to screen on an episodic level is not yet effective enough – the recent Joe Rogan vaccine denial scandal would give any advertiser cold sweats. As the technology develops and industry-wide safety standards are implemented, programmatic will start becoming a real contender in the digital audio space.

Any further questions on audio ads? Want to get further into the details on programmatic? Or do you have any other publisher-related questions? Get in touch with our team.

Building an ad tech strategy: 3 elements publishers must master

Adi Pinco, April 28, 2022

Takeaways:

  • Publishers should explore different inventory allocation opportunities to determine which mix best aligns with their business model.
  • Yield management strategies need to be employed to maximize revenues.
  • Publishers are responsible for complying with policies and data protection regulations.
ad strategy, ad tech

Building an ad-tech strategy is perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a publisher. A simple Google search will reveal thousands of ad tech companies, each claiming to offer the best monetization methods and strategies. It’s easy for publishers to quickly become overwhelmed and get lost in a sea of advice and recommendations. 

The result is publishers with overly complicated or underperforming tech stacks, misconfigurations, policy compliance issues, and many other problems, all of which amount to lost revenues and other consequences. 

Creating the right ad-tech strategy is a lot like cooking. Just as you balance flavors to suit your tastebuds, you need to find the right ad-tech mix to achieve your business goals.

In this post, we’ll cover the ingredients you need to make your ad-tech stack sizzle. With the right in-house expertise, you can follow it and create a workable, revenue-generating machine. 

1. Supply allocation 

When it comes to allocating inventory, publishers have several options. How inventory is divided among demand sources can significantly impact revenue, so publishers must do this with great care. Since publishers have different business models and strategies, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Publishers should evaluate various opportunities and determine which types of deals are most beneficial.

Let’s look at some of the most common types of deals.

Private marketplace 

Private marketplace deals (PMP) are invite-only auctions in which a selected group of advertisers get bidding priorities before inventory is made available to all other advertisers. Publishers determine minimum costs, and the advertiser with the highest offer wins.  

Direct deals

Direct deals are struck between sellers and buyers without ad exchanges or intermediaries. CPMs are pre-negotiated and higher than open market rates because deals are for premium inventory.

Programmatic guaranteed and preferred deals

With preferred deals, publishers sell premium inventory to a preselected group of advertisers at fixed prices. Advertisers bid in real-time, and the winner is determined by the highest bid or the advertiser that offers the pre-negotiated price. Guaranteed deals are similar but come with a fixed number of impressions. 

Remnant inventories

Remnant inventories are suitable for open auctions as real-time bidding is open to many advertisers. Demand will vary, but publishers can still get an acceptable price for unsold ad inventory. 

2. Yield management 

Yield management is a variable pricing strategy that enables publishers to sell inventory for the best price. Publishers usually alter prices based on demand, demand sources, seasonality, or user behavior. Yield management allows publishers to maximize fill rates and earn the highest CPMs possible. 

Here are a few ways publishers optimize their yield management strategies. 

Demand partners 

Publishers need to think carefully about the demand partners they work with, adding them to tech stacks to test their value. Some supply-side platforms (SSPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) have commitments or relationships with agencies to provide certain opportunities for buyers. Other demand partners might specialize in specific geo-locations or verticals, which can benefit publishers.

Header bidding 

Header bidding, which occurs outside of ad server auctions, gives advertisers a ‘first look’ at a publisher’s inventory, allowing them to choose high-priority impressions. Impressions are auctioned to all partners simultaneously, and the highest offered price determines the winner.

Varied ad formats

Some ad formats are more valuable to advertisers than others. To maximize profits, publishers should offer a variety of traditional and non-traditional ad formats, including video, application, interstitial, native, and anchor or sticky ads. Advertisers will pay a premium for ads that provide a better return on investment (ROI), resulting in more revenue for the publisher. 

A/B testing 

Every yield management strategy should include an A/B testing component. Publishers can test new technology, ad formats, header bidding solutions, and more against what they already use to determine which mix provides the best yields. 

3. Stay on top of everything!

The ad tech industry is no longer the wild west it once was. Today, organizations such as the IAB have been working to clean up the ad supply chain and restore confidence for both publishers and advertisers. Publishers that follow the rules, implement privacy policies, cookie compliance, and data protection measures can capture the revenue that would otherwise be headed toward non-compliant publishers.  

Traffic monitoring (trust & safety)

To instill a sense of trust and safety for advertisers, publishers need to monitor their traffic and understand their traffic sources. Publishers that don’t do this consistently will undoubtedly suffer from invalid traffic (IVT). Those with high IVT rates will see revenues and reputation diminish, and persistent IVT can cause publishers to lose access to Google products and other third-party partners. 

Policy compliance 

The ad tech industry and supply chain have suffered due to poor business practices and malicious actors. Nowadays, reputable programmatic platforms require publishers to meet standard compliance terms. For example, many platforms, including Google, won’t monetize publisher content that promotes illegal activity, including harmful or derogatory content, sexually explicit content, and much more. 

Data protection 

Data protection regulations vary by region and country. They include laws such as the EU’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, and Brazil’s LGPD. It is a publisher’s responsibility to make sure they comply with local laws and properly obtain user consent to collect data. 

Should you whip up your own ad tech stack?

As we mentioned earlier, it depends. Does your team have the right ingredients – the required knowledge, experience, and development skills?

While we encourage you to explore your options, we also know that sometimes publishers can be the most successful by focusing on the business activities they do best and allowing an expert like Total Media Solutions to do what it does best – provide publisher revenue management services.  

If you don’t want to waste more time or miss out on monetization opportunities, reach out to us. We’ll get you cooking in no time!

Gated online community: How publishers can build a wall that works for all

Ryan Rakover, March 22, 2022

Key takeaways

  • Login requires authentication which requires a publisher to be secure 
  • Logged in users allow you to build your first party data *always with user consent
  • Login helps grow a publisher’s offering into a community 
Image courtesy of William White on Unsplash

Are your users ready to be authenticated? 

As publishers grow their knowledge on first-party data, they are in turn learning a lot about their users for the first time. Publishers are seeing how to build back the bridges to their communities. Not just capturing data points to pass on or as an answer to the deprecation of cookies but in the roadmap of building the experience their users want.

Publishers have begun to become more engaged with their users and open to new methods. Having users log in is a great way to gain greater insight from their users and widen a publisher’s offerings. However, is it that easy to do? What kind of additional responsibilities does a publisher take on? In turning their domain into a walled garden is there additional consent required from casual users turned logged-in users? 

How a publisher separates content impacts the user experience on the domain. A publisher can choose to lock content, differentiating the casual user from the logged-in user. It is crucial that a publisher understand and test how this change impacts user engagement. The underlying goal for a publisher looking to identify their users through login is to establish a unique community.

Through clearer audience identification, publishers can develop their domain in a responsive tone to their users. The amount of experiences publishers are able to offer is expanding all the time. Looking at how traditional content can be supplemented with video, audio, and the like it has never been more important for a publisher to know what content is in fact speaking to their audience.    

Why users and publishers benefit from having a login community  

A publisher’s understanding of their unique community will connect the dots of their users’ interests and behaviors. This greater insight into a publisher’s authenticated users will be under the publisher’s umbrella instead of third party vendors. This will allow for a publisher to be at the forefront of the experience their users are having. 

With a user account, a visitor creates a personalized profile on a website in order to tailor their experience with the web content. Accounts empower users to access exclusive offers, contribute to a community of fellow users, offer accessibility to support, and receive content recommendations relevant to them.

Publishers should not be afraid to experiment with new offerings. Using the login community of users, a publisher can try out areas of interest for their brand that they may not have thought appealed to larger audiences. For example, publishers could test hosting a podcast or selling products via affiliation campaigns to test the waters of new offerings. This added space of focused users can unlock new directions that a publisher’s original content may have sparked without them knowing.   

Publisher responsibilities

When a publisher decides to build a login it is important that there is clear user consent and the ability to change user choices in an accessible way. When the user has logged in, the experience should be safe and secure. A user has trusted a publisher with their personal information and how that information will be used will determine the future between the user and domain. Showing that the domain is responsive to user choices and selections will build user confidence and trust. In addition, it is important that the user has access to the data that is being collected and clear choices that are editable. 

Offering users a safe way to connect through personalization and community brings greater insight for publishers into what is working for users and what might be missing. With each step of added connectivity with users, publishers must use it and demonstrate added value with this personalization. Through an engaged user community, insights into what’s working and what’s not can help shift thinking to where it needs to be.

As privacy has taken a front seat, publishers are learning fast that it is easier to protect the users they have than to start finding a new audience. For the last several years the power of understanding a publisher’s audience was often at arm’s length from the publishers and siloed by third party vendors. Publishers are now back in control and each choice is valued and weighed by the user community. It is important for publishers to make sure the processes of data collection are clear and accessible.  

Conclusion

As publishers build out their roadmap towards the alternatives to third party cookies, building from within is the necessary first step. Establishing a secure authenticated users will be the foundation for a publisher’s brand’s next pivot. Publishers should remember to make the process simple, safe, and with value. Offering content behind a walled garden is more than an environment free from advertising, it’s an opportunity to offer a rich added level or unique content.

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.


The four most important SEO strategies for publishers in 2022

Naomi Rabbie, March 16, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Preparing for MUM might not be required today, but it will keep you ahead of the game.
  • Make increasing page speed a priority and evaluate your site speed routinely.
  • Leverage Google’s tools for the best chance of earning a spot in Suggested Clips.
  • Refresh old content to build on the wins you previously had. 
MUM, Google, BERT, algorithm

There’s no denying that Google is the king of the internet. As such, all of its subjects, a.k.a. advertisers and publishers, must abide by the rules to court favor with the king in an attempt to win a coveted spot on the first page of search results. That, of course, is no easy feat. Landing a spot on page two is still a good consolation prize, but any further down is the equivalent of being sent to the Tower of London with a fate similar to Anne Boleyn.

Alas, for you publishers, the way to curry favor with the king and remain in its good graces is to focus on SEO strategies that meet its ever-changing algorithms. So, what does the ruler of the digital land have in store for us as we look at the year ahead? Google is flexing its mighty tech muscle, building on its AI and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and focusing on how to provide internet users with better, more relevant sources of information. 

In this post, we’ll unpack the treasure chest of what Google has been working on so you can adjust your SEO strategy and prepare for tomorrow and the years to come. 

Google MUM is coming

Last May, Google introduced its new AI algorithm called MUM (Multitask Unified Model), which is built on top of its already in use algorithm BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). According to Google, MUM is 1000 times more powerful than BERT and takes a radically different approach towards serving users’ implied search intent by understanding context, concepts, and how topics intersect.  

No one knows how MUM will affect search results. Google has been vague about that so far and about when it will be released, only saying “months to years.” At this moment, you can’t truly create a strategy to beat this algorithm, but you can start producing content that reflects the way this future algorithm will prioritize and display results: based on intent questions.

To put this in more concrete terms, Google gave an example of a person who, after hiking one mountain, wants to know how to prepare for a hike on a different mountain. Google posits that the user currently needs to perform several searches to find out about all aspects of their query – elevation levels, trails, temperatures, gear, etc. With MUM, all of those underlying non-verbalized questions would be answered with one result.

The key takeaway here is to think like a user and create content that answers more of their questions. 

Focus on improving page speed

Google cares about your site’s speed – a lot. A significant part of its last update, Core Web Vitals, focused on speed: how long it takes the largest page element to load, how elements shifted on a page while it was loading, and how quickly elements responded to clicks

You can quickly find out your scores with Google’s PageSpeed tool, and if pages are slow, there could be many culprits. Here are a few of the more technical but quick tweaks you should consider:

  • Minimizing HTTP requests 
  • Minifying files
  • Using asynchronous loading for JavaScript and CSS files
  • Deferring JavaScript loading
  • Using a fast DNS provider
  • Compressing files and reducing image sizes
  • Switching hosting providers
  • Using a CDN 

The list goes on and on, but the point is there are lots of ways to address site speed and eliminate the issues slowing your load times. 

Optimize for Suggested Clips

Video consumption is off the charts these days, and Google offers plenty of video results when users search. According to a global survey conducted by Statista, over 27% of people watch more than 10 hours of online video per week, while another 15% watch 7-10 hours, and 18% watch 4-7 hours. Chances are, you already know this and have prioritized creating video content.

So, if your written content isn’t landing you in the top ten results, try optimizing your videos to give them the best chance of appearing in Google’s Suggested Clips. Using the new structured data types, Clip Markup and Seek Markup, you manually tell Google which timestamp and label to use to create key moments and increase your chances of appearing in the results.

Refresh old content

Experts will always encourage you to create evergreen content, but the world moves fast, and things change quickly, meaning what you thought was evergreen has now fallen out of favor with Google. But all is not lost with those pages because refreshing them with updated content can restore them to their former glory. Google loves ‘fresh,’ and this is one of the quickest SEO 

strategies you can implement.

The best way to get that shine (and ranking) back is by refreshing old content. One of the best tactics is to look at the top ten Google results for a topic or keyword, put on your sleuthing cap and uncover what makes those pages rank. It could be the structure, keywords in the headers, optimized images, new data, or other factors. Take what you learn and apply it to your own page. After all, you already invested in producing this content, so giving it a refresh builds on that equity.

SEO is never done

SEO is like a castle’s defenses – there’s always work to be done, and you can always improve your site’s SEO. Thankfully, today we live in the digital age, and there are countless tools at your fingertips to help you.

Remember that these days, SEO is not just about adding keywords to your content, titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags – although all of those will help. Modern SEO is about thinking of the needs of your readers, prioritizing their experience, and answering the questions they are asking. 

If you prioritize those elements in your SEO strategy, you’ll be well on your way to becoming internet royalty – or at least snagging a top spot alongside other royals in Google-land.

If you need advice about SEO, monetization, or any other aspect of your publishing business, reach out to us.

About the author Leah Grantz is the Marketing Manager at Total Media Solutions. You can find Leah on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email to discuss content and SEO strategy!

5 marketing trends in adtech for 2022

Nadia Ozeri, March 3, 2022

marketing trends 2022, VR, AR, 2022, digital marketing,
Image courtesy: Pixabay

2022 is a year of big changes. Covid changed our lives, not only in the way we communicate with one another but also in how we use technology. Marketers face a challenging year, juggling emerging technologies and changes to online tracking while trying to meet the shifting moods of pandemic-weary consumers. The metaverse has been a hot topic of conversation recently with Microsoft and Facebook both making claims. The metaverse doesn’t quite exist yet. However, the hype still matters, and soon will likely change how we consume content, audio, video, mobile, and gaming. 

1. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

AR and VR are exciting technologies for marketers to tap into because they focus on imaginative and interactive experiences. In the future, these technologies will be used to market products and services, and change marketing forever. Several verticals have major potential: from virtual real estate, with virtual property showcases, staging, and more, to the travel industry where you can receive a virtual tour of a hotel before you book your vacation, to the beauty industry, enabling you to try out lipstick colors and clothes before you buy. Although the metaverse is still in its infancy, there increasingly will be tools that allow marketers to connect with consumers in these emerging digital spaces.

Brands like TOMS Shoes, TopShop, Oreo, Sephora, and IKEA have already successfully used these technologies for marketing purposes. IKEA uses AR to help customers design their own space, Say Hej to IKEA Place. 

2. Increasing mobile gaming advertising 

Globally, there were an estimated 3.24 billion gamers in 2021 – no surprise there. Furthermore, according to Adjust data insights, gaming accounts for 50% of total industry ad spend. These spaces have been transformed into effective advertising platforms due to the success of the gaming industry as a whole.

But what about mobile gaming as its own entity? There were approximately 477,877 mobile gaming apps available on Google Play in the first quarter of 2021 – an increase of almost 12% from the previous quarter. Moreover, a report from GlobalData found that after reaching $98 billion in 2020, mobile gaming is expected to reach $272 billion by 2030.

As mobile gaming advertising becomes more competitive, your creative campaigns need to reach the right audience, at the right time, and in the right place. By leveraging the power of programmatic marketing, you can scale appropriate ads to the users that you want to reach. A successful campaign will rely on this and can help achieve impressive ROI in 2022.

Example: Mobile advertising in action 

Anzu designed its in-game ads to appear more organic to users. In Trackmania, for example, they appear as billboards around the titular tracks. Anzu partnered with brands like Samsung, Microsoft, and Vodafone on these ads. Example: Vodafone appearing in Anzu video games: 

Trackmania Multiplayer Session World Premiere @Gamevention #DIGI1 2020

vodafone, anzu, gaming, advertisement,  billboard,

3. Alternative targeting solutions  

After Google postponed the phase-out of third-party cookies to 2023, advertisers, adtech companies, and publishers are expected to implement new ways of tracking consumers and targeting ads in the next 12 months. However, even if Google sticks to its current plan, the future of cookieless browsing is likely to emerge slowly and incrementally.

As third-party cookies will no longer be supported in 2023, marketers will be testing alternative targeting solutions, such as people-based targeting, throughout 2022. Prior to cookies being banned, companies that can leverage and expand upon your first-party information should be vetted

Let’s have a look at Contextual targeting for example. Internet marketing started basically with contextual targeting until third party data was the shiny new revenue toy. Now, with the phasing out of the cookie, contextual targeting is likely to rise again and be the popular strategy for publishers, advertisers, and consumers. This is a great opportunity for you as a publisher to implement and integrate contextual advertising into your marketing strategy.

At the moment, the advertising industry is at a turning point, where organizations must take advantage of the opportunity to be more transparent with their audiences. We must ensure that new identity solutions put consumers in the driver’s seat so they can decide when, where, and how their data is used. 

Example: Contextual targeting used 

Kitchn is already doing it. This online daily food magazine started implementing contextual targeting. I saw an ad for a pizza cutter while reading, “How To Make Awesome Pizza at Home.” This is an excellent example of contextual advertising in action:

4. Video marketing 

The data backs up my claims, even though they sound exaggerated. Search engine giant Google has announced that YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the United States. Facebook reports that video posts receive six times more engagement than photo or link posts on average while Twitter has seen an increase in video views by over 160%. 

In other words, if you don’t incorporate video into your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with your audience and build trust. Video is vital for creating customer relationships since it puts a human face on the brand, which builds trust and loyalty.

It appears that short-form content is on the rise and won’t slow down anytime soon. Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts are among the most popular channels for video content today. With their ability to capture attention and lead to stronger engagement than other content, you can use video marketing to take center stage in your marketing strategy for  2022. 

Example: Make TikToks not ads 

#TikTokmademebuyit is influencer marketing at its best!  In August of 2021, TikTok’s #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag, used by influencers to show off Amazon purchases they found on TikTok, had more than 4.1 billion views—check out this video (don’t mind the spelling mistake in the title though 😉…). 

@heartdefensor

amazon keeps taking my money 🥲 levitating bulb lamp with wireless charger link in bio #amazonfinds #amazonmusthaves #tiktokmademebuyit

♬ Spongebob Tomfoolery – Dante9k Remix – David Snell

Amazon even started a page called “TikTok Amazon Finds”

5. Programmatic audio is about to get big

As a brand’s primary outlet after being dominated by visual media for the past decade, audio advertising has emerged as a significant medium. Through its capability to reach highly targetable and mobile audiences in brand-safe environments without the presence of screens, it enables marketers to evolve their omnichannel strategies naturally.

eMarketer predicts that listeners will spend an average of 97 minutes with digital audio per day -nearly a half-hour more than the average user will spend on social media (70 minutes). As opposed to their visual equivalents, audio ads are delivered one by one to consumers while they are not typically connected to a screen, such as when listening to a podcast or a playlist during a workout. Audio ads provide premium environments and are an effective way to fill otherwise unfilled gaps in the user’s buying journey.

Example: Audio ads in Newsweek

According to the 2021 State of audio AI consumption report, the average LTR (= listen-through rate) in programmatic advertising, was a whopping 96% or 105.8 million ads listened to. Programmatic audio offers remarkable granular targeting capabilities. Media buyers can tap into a range of advanced audience segmentation parameters, including location, point of interest, device, weather, user, agent, format, genre, dayparting, mood, and more. Through this channel, the ability to engage a user in the right place, at the right time, and within the right context becomes just that bit more accessible.

Conclusion 

These are some of the trends that I’m following this year. I think the advertisement industry is going through major changes while the primary focus is on the metaverse. It’s the beginning of a new marketing strategy that we will need to get familiar with and used to.

About the author Nadia Ozeri is the Director of Buy Side at Total Media Solutions. She is an expert in connecting advertisers to ad technologies. You can find Nadia on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email if you’ like to pick your brain about ads.

Google is thinking of taking the F out (…of First Input Delay)

Ryan Rakover, February 23, 2022

Key takeaways

  • First Input Delay will be updated to Input Delay
  • The update will focus on the user journey rather than user moment
  • Expect more metrics to be updated 
  • CWV coming to desktop February 2022

What happened to the F?

Google is adjusting their Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics to focus more on the user journey rather than just a moment within the user journey. Understanding what makes up a positive page experience has always been key to ranking high in Google Search and has been the North Star of the CWVs.  When setting priorities, publishers understand that speed is essential. When calculating speed it is critical to have picked the right “breathing” moments that the user may take – the moment content is either loading or ready for interaction. First Input Delay looks at the first loading event. The Input Delay metric will look not just at the first load but what comes next in the user journey. With this update Google is switching to evaluating more of the user’s journey rather than first arrival to a web page. The belief is that this approach will promote a better user experience and page experience.  

Last year (that would be 2021) Google released Core Web Vitals. This provided transparency for publishers on how their page performance is being “seen” by Google. The update was aimed at building publishers’ understanding about how loading, interactivity, and visual stability is measured/evaluated in Google’s eyes.  We covered this update on our blog last year (Understanding Core Web Vitals). At the time of the announcement Google made it clear that these metrics would be open to change, depending on how best to further the dialogue of helping publishers publish fast, secure, and reactive pages. 

What Core Web Vitals are doing to your page experience score

Lighthouse from Google continues to be the go to for publishers for understanding page performance. With the release of Core Web Vitals, Google integrated the scoring for Core Web Vitals into their transparency tool Lighthouse and Google Search Console, helping publishers see the impact of CWV as well as delivering insights into scoring. Since the launch of these metrics for mobile web in June 2021, publishers have been busy working to use this knowledge to make better page experiences for their users. 

The metric First Input Delay or FID measures how fast a browser can respond to a user interaction with a website. Playing a critical role in response time is a publisher’s content management system (CMS). However, the CMS provider usually has their own interests which are not always inline with Google’s. 

CMS companies offer a great advantage for small publishers but it is often delays in template optimisation and additional CMS features that keep publishers performing poorly.  At the time of the update this was one of many concerns from publishers. What could they do?  However, for the most part, the major content management systems – WordPress, Wix, and Drupal – released versions that score very high. This performance change has given Google the ability to expand their page experience score to look deeper into the user journey.  

What’s new? ID – Input Delay 

The main point to understand about this new metric is that it isn’t measuring a single interaction. It is measuring the collective interactions that are part of the user experience of the page. When a user lands on a page there are a series of events that are loaded. The updated metric will include those “first” events loaded, as well as those subsequent events needed for further interaction. 

In a blog post on Google’s web developer page the following four points were highlighted. The blog points out that these four points will help publishers to focus on the user journey.“These four points take the concept of FID and bring it to the bigger picture. The user journey does not stop when the first interactions are loaded but is only able to be seen in movement.” Towards a better responsiveness metric

  • Consider the responsiveness of all user inputs (not just the first one)
  • Capture each event’s full duration (not just the delay).
  • Group events together that occur as part of the same logical user interaction and define that interaction’s latency as the max duration of all its events.
  • Create an aggregate score for all interactions that occur on a page, throughout its full lifecycle.

LCP, CLS what can change next?

Core Web Vitals and their impact on search ranking is still yet to be seen. What is clear is that Google’s Lighthouse Audit allows a publisher to see under the hood of their domains. The picture isn’t always pretty, the years have brought a lot of legacy, plans abandoned, and an overall weight on current publisher offerings. Having publishers invest in balancing their pages benefits the whole ecosystem and promotes positive user experiences. 

Updates to the Update are expected to continue as Google (Chrome) learns more about the user experience. The expected roll out for Core Web Vitals on desktop is this month. It will be interesting to see what metrics may come into focus with desktop publishing. This update and the CWV initiative is challenging and asks the publisher to really sit in their user’s seat. What comes next we will have to wait and see. 

If you have any questions about Core Web Vitals and what you can do to improve your score, please be in touch. 

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.


References

Google Is Creating A New Core Web Vitals Metric, searchenginejournal.com

Towards a better responsiveness metric, web.dev

Feedback wanted: An experimental responsiveness metric, web.dev

Google Feb 2022 Update of Page Experience – What you need to know NOW!, webvitalsdev.com

How publishers can take advantage of first-party data

Ben Erdos, February 10, 2022

This article was originally published on New Digital Age on January 12, 2022.

Written by Ben Erdos, Chief Services Officer at Total Media Solutions.

Ben Erdos, New Digital Age, Chief Services Officer

The past year has been eventful in digital media; particularly around privacy as regulation tightens and Google reiterates its intention to phase out third-party cookies. 

The good news is that publishers can position themselves in a way to make the most of these changes. With no single scalable identity solution yet available, first-party data has come to the fore. But, what makes it so valuable? 

Getting closer to audiences 

Publishers are increasingly seeing opportunities from deeper, more holistic relationships with their audiences. A greater understanding of what current users respond well to can help  publishers adapt experiences accordingly and even reinvent themselves in line with those preferences. Not only that, but more detailed information can highlight demographic gaps, provide more insights for user acquisition strategies, and help publishers expand their offerings in a way that caters to untapped audiences.

Critically, first-party data will also act as a life-line for publishers who need to maintain their advertising revenues going forward. In a world where third-party data is unavailable to marketers looking to reach their audiences, they are increasingly reliant on data publishers themselves can provide to compare with target profiles. 

However, success in this depends on publishers creating the conditions for a reciprocal situation where their audiences are comfortable trading data for better experiences. Not only that, consumers need to clearly understand what information they will be sharing and what they get in return. 

How to make it meaningful

With the introduction of GDPR in the EU in 2018, the publishing industry had to adjust to creating frameworks to gain not just consent from its users, but meaningful consent – that is, consent in which a user actively opts into the collection of their data.

As we move to the post-cookie world, meaningful consent will only become more important. By collecting data in a way that is clearly defined, publishers not only stay on the right side of regulations but also gain user trust. Audiences don’t want to feel pressured into giving their data and want to know how exactly their data is used – a clear on-page design can assist this.

Take, for example, the current cookie consent forms that are required on every site currently operating in regions that adhere to GDPR. Though the temptation may be to add logos, push users towards certain choices and obscure the finer print, having a clear, simple form ensures meaningful consent and establishes trust. As a result of these efforts, users will feel secure to share more data with publishers and a more mutually beneficial relationship can exist.

Third-party data is on its way out and has already been phased out in many cases, which means publishers should start reaping the rewards from first-party data strategy now. It will mean they are in a strong position to secure advertising revenues when the transition away from third-party cookies takes place fully. And a renewed prioritisation of meaningful consent for data exchange can redefine the relationship with audiences in a way that opens up greater opportunities for both parties. 


Curious to learn more and see what strategy suits your site best? Reach out to us here:

Contextual targeting’s return could put publishers in the driver’s seat

Ryan Rakover, January 5, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • The deprecation of third-party cookies and more privacy-focused regulations are the catalysts for changing advertising on the open web.
  • Contextual targeting is likely to become the newest strategy, offering significant benefits for publishers, advertisers, and consumers.
  • Publishers should take the lead and encourage advertisers to adopt contextual targeting.   
contextual targeting, people, advertisement, marketing

Publishers are busy testing solutions for the day that will come when third party cookies will be deprecated. With Google’s  adjustment of the timeline giving publishers until 2023, time has moved over onto the publishers side for the advantage. Publishers can use this time to test new ways that are measurable, scaleable and privacy centric. Before personalized ad targeting and retargeting and programmatic marketplaces, publishers and advertisers used a different word to find a common ground: Context. Now context can be misleading and we can all remember the feeling of holding a flashlight in a dark room before the light comes on.   

In its most basic form, contextual targeting matches the content of a web page or article with that of an advertisement. In its younger non-digital days, contextual targeting existed and proved valuable. Advertisers would buy ad space in a specific section of a newspaper based on the context of that section. There was no need for a local car dealer to place an ad in the international news section when they could reach the right audience in the local or neighborhood section.

Contextual targeting allowed for both the advertiser and the publisher to ensure the best they could that a user would be seeing complementary messages rather than shocking or off brand ones. However, at that time, publisher awareness into the user’s context was missing. Now, with first party data sets, a reimagined user journey can be seen without infringing on the privacy of a user.  

Why is contextual targeting returning?

With the deprecation of the third party cookies and the advances in machine learning and AI contextual targeting is set to rise again. As a publisher, you are the architect of your site and the curation process has only been getting harder. In order to enrich your user’s journey, exploring the option of adding additional elements (video, audio, content recommendation) is essential but all have their impact. Balancing the use of these elements is important to maximize your unique moment with the user.

Understanding your users’ journey will allow you to have access to a wealth of first-party data, and you are able to see when content has successfully found true engagement. You can create more content in the right direction to meet the audience’s true interests rather than perceived interests. Through publishers harnessing the power of first party data, contextual targeting can go one big step forward with additional data points rounding out a user profile that teaches both the publisher and advertiser more about what the user wants to see and will expect to see from their experience. 

Although media spend on walled gardens still outpaces that of the open web, consumer attitudes and behaviors are changing, making it an ideal time for publishers to reclaim lost ad dollars. A recent report found that 26% of consumers plan to decrease their time on social media, and 30% report they zone out while scrolling on these platforms. On the flip side, 56% state they are curious and ready to learn when browsing the open web, and 77% trust articles on the open web – trust that filters to the advertisers.

In what the IAB considers a halo effect, it found that when consumers see a brand ad on their favorite news outlets, 45% are more likely to visit the brand and 43% consider buying from the brand. At a time when consumer trust is at an all-time low, publishers on the open web may be the only ones who can help advertisers rebuild what was lost.

How can publishers leverage the rise of contextual targeting?

As publishers navigate these waters it is an opportunity to build better sites. With today’s knowledge of first party data, along with the tools to learn from your audience, context can be redefined. The amount of insights a publisher can deliver to an advertiser in a safe, privacy-centric manner is opening up. However, user trust needs to be nurtured and renewed. 

As publishers grow their understanding and help shape the new safer user experience we will see how context impacts the next wave of identity solutions. Solutions presenting users in cohorts or bundles will have to be mapped back to the user for the publisher to be able to measure performance and scale.

Publishers, it’s time to push these messages forward. In doing so, you will create better monetization opportunities for yourselves and establish better opportunities for brands your users love and support.

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.


References

The new rise of contextual advertising, Forbes.com

The crawl, walk, run guide to contextual targeting, AdExchanger.com

What’s old is new again: The return of contextual targeting, ExchangeWire.com

Sex sells but Google isn’t buying It

Yosi Cemel, November 23, 2021

Key takeaways

Don’t roll the dice when it comes to Google’s adult content policy – the consequences will be severe. 

  • Online sex violation: Google’s sexually explicit content policy will be considered an egregious violation.
  • Egregious violations result in account suspension without warning. 
  • Advertisers need to be cautious about targeting and local laws.
  • Sexual content can only run under specific conditions, including certain ad platforms, networks, and formats.

If you want to advertise in the Google-verse – the digital space that reaches just about every online corner of the word – you’ll need to play by the company’s rules. While in and of itself that doesn’t seem like a challenge, Google is constantly updating its policies. It’s your responsibility to stay on top of changes and be ready to adapt when new policy updates roll out.

Advertisers, take note: Google has made another policy change related to sexually explicit content. If violated, the consequences are severe.

In this article, we’ll dive into the details of the new policy, when it will go into effect, and what will happen if you don’t abide by the changes. We’ll also cover how you can ensure your campaigns adhere to the new policies so you’ll be ready when the update goes live.

Adult content in Google Ads: What will change?

Sexually explicit content has always been a slippery slope. This is mainly due to the idea that what one advertiser deems as not being sexually explicit may not line up with Google’s interpretation. Advertisers know that sex sells, so some might try to push the limits to drive clicks and engagement. Others may make a more innocent mistake. For example, a brand that sells lingerie could run into a problem if the campaign features an image that is deemed explicit. 

Starting on December 1st, 2021, and ramping up to full enforcement over the following four weeks, Google is drawing a hard and fast line in the sand. If advertisers violate its sexually explicit content policy, the violation will be considered an egregious one. That’s not fancy or flowery wording.

According to Google, “An egregious violation of the Google Ads policies is a violation so serious that it is unlawful or poses significant harm to our users or our digital advertising ecosystem. Egregious violations often reflect that the advertiser’s overall business does not adhere to Google Ads policies or that one violation is so severe that we cannot risk future exposure to our users.”

An egregious policy violation will result in account suspension without any warning. In other words, those who violate this policy will have their accounts shut down and won’t be able to advertise on Google again.

Although Google does offer an option to appeal the decision, it seems unlikely that the company will be flexible given that they are announcing the policy changes in advance.

How can advertisers prepare ad campaigns to comply with the new policy?

As we have all learned with Google and how it rolls out new policies, it is hard to predict the impact and what will be considered a violation. On the other hand, we can look at what Google has written so far, and know that sometimes Google is just saying what it means. 

Before we dive into the details of Google’s policies, here is the bottom line: review Google’s sexual content policy, and when in doubt, don’t launch an ad campaign that you’re unsure about. The consequences are far too significant.

That said, here’s an overview of the policy — we highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the details below: 

The overall policy states, “Ads should respect user preferences and comply with legal regulations. We restrict certain kinds of sexual content in ads and destinations, which will only show in limited scenarios based on user search queries, user age, and local laws where the ad is being served. Ads must not target minors.”

In addition to complying with regulations and laws, this new policy aligns with those from most other respectable supply and demand platforms and social media platforms. With a substantial focus on brand safety, this policy update helps the industry move closer towards creating more brand-safe environments and standards which benefit publishers and advertisers alike. 

What does Google consider sexually explicit content?

Google breaks sexually explicit content into two categories: strongly restricted and moderately restricted.

Strongly restricted category

Ads that fall into this category include nudity which is qualified as ‘people or representations of people that display exposed intimate body parts, including representations that are blurred or censored.” Sexual encounter dating or ads that promote dates motivated by sexual encounters also fall into this category.

Moderately restricted category

This category is far more expansive and includes ads with partial nudity, sexualized theme dating, sexual merchandise, sexual entertainment, mature cosmetic procedures, and sexually suggestive elements and themes. When you dig into Google’s examples, the waters get a bit murky, and you need to assess their content with extreme care.

To clarify this category, let’s look at an example of an image that could land you in hot water with Google.

Image credit: Uppity Rib

Dita Von Tease is perhaps one of the most well-known contemporary burlesque dancers. Many people would classify this image as tasteful and artistic, never considering it offensive or sexually explicit, given that there’s no nudity or sex depicted. However, with respect to Google’s sexually explicit content policy, running this movie poster as an ad image without care or consideration for the target audience (not only who but also where) could result in an egregious violation because there is partial nudity.

Taking this example above, here’s how to stay on Google’s good side.

Targeting

First off, consider your targeting carefully. Ads that fall into the moderately restricted category will only be shown based on the user’s age, local laws, and SafeSearch settings. Those in the strongly restricted category have an additional condition based on the user’s sexual content Search queries.

Geo-targeting

Google offers a country restrictions list which shows where ads that fall into either category will not be served, regardless of the user’s age or other factors. Familiarize yourself with them and all local laws if you are launching global campaigns or campaigns targeting the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, or South America.

Ad platforms, networks, and formats

Provided that an ad campaign meets the geographical restrictions, it now needs to pass the next hurdle.

Sexual content ads can run on Google Ads but not AdMob, Google Ad Manager or YouTube.

Sexual content ads can run on Google Search Network but not Display Network or Google Ad Manager Network.

Ad formats are the trickiest of the campaign settings to consider. Google states, “Sexual content ads cannot run, though acceptable ad formats can vary depending on factors such as the platform you’re using, the status of your ad, and whether a publisher or partner has opted to show such ads.” Those formats include app ads and app extensions, consumer ratings annotations, dynamic display ads, Gmail ads, image ads, lightbox ads, reservation display ads, responsive ads, and TrueView video ads.

Conclusion

Sex is a hard sell. Whenever you find yourself wondering if your content will violate Google’s policy, ask yourself if you would be comfortable having it handed out in a third-grade classroom or be on your screen as your boss walks by. If you have any hesitation, it’s best to err on the side of caution and switch directions unless you’re sure your campaign complies with the specific conditions set out by Google. 

When we agree to participate in the Google marketplace, a “family safe” environment, we must play by their rules.  Google strengthening its position on how it values and welcomes “adult content” on its platforms is a good sign for standards in our ecosystem.  Content should be shared, and advertisers and publishers should feel safe. The challenge lies in remembering that the common sense that Google is asking advertisers to use is GoogleSense. What may have been acceptable yesterday could be ok again in the future (maybe under a different demand value), but it is not welcome now. The penalty is strict and swift and, frankly, just not worth the risk of losing your account. 

This article was written by Yosi Cemel, Programmatic Media Specialist, at Total Media Solutions.


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