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Beyond the Banner: The Advantages of Content Based Advertising - GroupUniversity.com


When was the last time you clicked on a banner advertisement? Can you recite the last five banners you have seen today? If you are having trouble remembering, you are not alone. While still important, banner advertising has been continually waning in effectiveness since the creation of the internet. Even before the dot com bubble burst in mid-2000, advertising on the web was becoming difficult to sell. The initial excitement and promise of the new medium could not meet expectations as click-thru rates on banners fell and many advertisers lost faith. A new strategy was needed to secure the internet as a valid marketing platform in the future and many different ideas have since come forth, all with varying levels of promise and success. However, with the domination of search engines as the primary navigational portal to access the online environment, content-based advertising persists as a powerful tool for advertisers and publishers alike.

So what is Content-based Advertising? Simply put, Content-based Advertising is promotional material that takes on the guise of the nonadvertising items that are published on that website. For example, in magazine, newspaper and other similar websites, content-based advertising takes the form of editorial articles, news items, etc. On a traditional blog, content-based advertising could take the shape of the blogger posting a recommendation or review of the advertiser’s product or service.

But Why is it so Powerful? Let’s briefly run through some of the reasons: Article Content is Search Engine-Indexed and Searchable According to the oft misquoted Chinese proverb, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” However, when it comes to online advertising, this does not hold true. When you want to find a product, service or information about something on the internet, what do you do? Like the majority of people, you probably open your favorite search engine and type in a word or phrase, then scan the results. But how do those results appear? I could write another entire whitepaper on search engines and optimizing your content for indexing within them. However at its base level, a search engine’s job is to take a word or phrase and find the most relevant content on the internet that matches it. This means that your product or service is put in front of the people who are searching for it, when they are searching for it, which results in higher lead generation and more sales.


Ethos and Arguing from Authority You may ask yourself, “If writing content is so important, why don’t I just publish it on my website?” The answer is you should most definitely produce content for and publish content on your own website. This is an important factor for establishing your search engine rankings and keeping people coming back to your site once they find it. However, publishing content on other websites, especially websites of prominence within your industry, is equally important. Not only will you have the direct benefit of putting your message in front of the visitors frequenting these other websites, but because these websites will be linking back your site, it will raise your “credibility” with the search engines affecting where you are placed in search results.

The Precision of the Written Word Another major advantage of article-based content is that you can say exactly what you want to say and you have plenty of time in which to say it. Articles allow you to take the reader on a journey through your topic. You can guide them in any direction you wish and provide more enticing, lead-generating detail. Additionally, a thoughtfully designed article will not appear as advertising at all. This is ever important in an online environment where references and reviews carry the majority of weight in a person’s decision to use a product or service. If you can learn to frame your content in a way that comes across more as a friendly gesture of advice, you will see a much better result.

White Noise and Mental Engagement Since shortly after the arrival of the internet users have been inundated with advertising. At first it was novel but, after nearly two decades of surfing the internet, most users completely tune out traditional advertising as white noise. In a research survey we conducted, we exposed 200 of our readership to a landing page containing text content, an embedded video and three banner advertisements. Only 17% could recite correctly the companies in all three banner advertisements, 62% remembered the content of the video and 97% could accurately recall the company and location focused on in the text content.

The Three Most Important Letters in the Alphabet, R OI We are all familiar with the traditional banner contract. A banner is placed online at a specific location for a designed amount of time in exchange for a certain sum of compensation. Once that paid-for time expires, your ad is removed and likely replaced with an advertisement from a competitor.

Beyond the Banner: The Advantages of Content Based Advertising - GroupUniversity.com


The advantage of content-based advertising is that, in most cases, the publisher requires only a onetime fee and the content remains on the site forever. In this scenario, your SEO-optimized content will continually generate more and more views without an increase in cost to you, resulting in an everincreasing ROI. Why would publishers permit and even favor such an arrangement? The answer is quite simple—you are providing content for their site that pulls in visitors, thereby increasing overall site traffic and making it easier for them to sell more content-based advertising. The situation is a win on both sides and, when combined with complementary banners or other advertising, makes a potent one-two punch.

Social and Viral Opportunities When was the last time you saw a banner and said, “I’m going to email this to all my friends and post a link to this banner on my Facebook!”? Likely never. However, you have likely shared a link to an article or other content-based advertising. This is a significant pro content-based advertising has over traditional advertising. There are 750,000,000 users on Facebook, 400,000,000 on Twitter and 150,000,000 on LinkedIn. So whether you are advertising B2C or B2B, the power of social media cannot be ignored. Good publishers should have their own social media outlets they can use to prime the social pump and get your content in front of social networkers. For example, for every piece of content-based advertising that we publish on one of our sites, we also send it to our opt-in email lists and share it on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn* social networks, sharing the content with thousands of potential clients. *We only share B2B-based content with our LinkedIn groups.

Multiple calls to action. Another benefit of content-based advertising is you are not limited to one link. In a well-crafted article, as you progress through the story you want to tell, inserting a series of well-timed embedded links will drive readers to specific products or services. This is a powerful way to generate stronger leads as you are offering the reader something more tailored to their interests. Lastly, let’s look at the numbers. In 2009 ADfusion released one of several reports that identify where online marketing effort should be focused. A whopping 51% of those surveyed said they were likely to read and act upon online advertising articles that include brand information. This is over double the percentage that said they would act upon a banner advertisement and in sharp contrast to the dismal 13% for pop-up ads. The conclusion is clear; people prefer advertising that tells a story. The time of content-based advertising has arrived.

Beyond the Banner: The Advantages of Content Based Advertising - GroupUniversity.com


Questions to Ask Publishers All publishers and platforms are not created equal. Even after twenty years, online marketing is still a nascent arena and knowing which questions to ask potential publishers will help you avoid the snake oil sellers and flim-flam artists who may try to capitalize on the general lack of knowledge of most marketers. 1. What types of content-based advertising do you have? Articles, blog posts, news items, podcasts, video content, social media posts? Make sure that the publisher has the type of platform you need to effectively disseminate your message. 2. What is your reach and demographic profile? Publishers should be able to provide you with statistics on not only basic metrics such as number of visitors, but also a breakdown on metrics like the age-groups, gender and geographic locations of their visitors. If you are trying to reach female college students in the United States, you do not want a blog with the majority of visitors coming from retired Europeans living in Southeast Asia. 3. Do you offer help in creating the content? You are the expert in your product, service or destination, but they are the experts in how best to use their marketing platforms to promote it. Therefore the creation of your content should be a conversation between these expert groups. Good publishers know the value of helping you create your content, so if they refuse this type of service, consider it a red flag. 4. Where will the content be published and how will it be promoted? Will your article be published on the home page of the site or on an interior page? Will your video be posted in the sidebar of their website or in their YouTube channel? Where the content is placed obviously makes all the difference in the level of exposure and your ultimate return. Publishing your content should be the start of the publisher’s job, not the end. How are they going to drive people to see your content? Do they promote your content via their social media network or through e-newsletters? 5. How long will the content be active? There is a noticeable shift in the traditional advertising contract toward permanent content placement for a one-time fee. However, publishers and their products can vary in this regard, so make sure you know what you’re getting. 6. Do they have tracking capabilities? How are you going to be able to measure your ROI? Do the publishers offer their own tracking links or lead capturing system? For example, on all of our products, Premier Tourism Marketing has the ability to collect, parse and email lead information to clients.

Beyond the Banner: The Advantages of Content Based Advertising - GroupUniversity.com


Pulling the Pieces Together Now that we have covered some of the reasons why content-based advertising is effective, let’s turn our attention briefly on some guidelines for crafting your article. 1. Know your audience. Who you are writing to is a critical consideration when outlining your article. Example: if you are targeting the 18-25-year-old bracket, you’ll want to use more causal language and keep your article briefer due to this age group’s shorter attention span. 2. Consider the platform. Will your piece be published on a blog, review site or online magazine? Example: the Site InSpection articles we publish are for our online magazines and therefore can contain up to 1500 words, six photos, video content and even custom contact forms. Whereas a more informal blog post should likely be under 500 words and include only one or two pictures. 3. Outline your Goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your article? Is this a general information article or are you pitching something specific? Different platforms lend themselves better to different goals. 4. Stay focused. Even in a longer, general information article, you don’t want to try and pitch your every product and service. A more effective approach is to use the space you have to elaborate on few related items and really convince the reader. Reducing the number of foci will also allow you to be more creative in your presentation and tell a story. If you have many products and services, then write a series of pieces. 5. Build Landing Pages. Where you send the traffic generated from your article can be the difference between a lead and a closed browser window. Your article is pitching specific items, so make sure to send your click-thrus to specific or custom pages on your site and not just to the home page, the contact us page or some other general page. 6. Research your Keywords. Take some time and examine the SEO quality of your article. Are you using effective keywords and phrases? Sometimes the most popular keywords are not the best to use due to high competition. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this, the publisher will likely be able to help you. For example, we gladly review every Site InSpection article for SEO before it is published. It only makes sense, the better your article is optimized, the more traffic it will generate for both you and for our website. 7. Review and Revise. Writing content-based advertising is not a “fire and forget” marketing strategy. Ask the publisher for your article’s metrics including total views and clicks on individual links and examine what worked and what didn’t and modify your next piece accordingly. Content-based advertising is here to stay and is a continually expanding and evolving marketing strategy. Knowing the reasons why it is so powerful, and learning the skills needed to fully take advantage of the opportunities this medium presents, will allow you to intelligently allocate your online marketing dollars and achieve the higher ROI that we all want. Lance Harrell is the Director of Online Media of Premier Tourism Marketing. He carries over 15 years of online marketing, web design and SEO experience.

Beyond the Banner: The Advantages of Content Based Advertising - GroupUniversity.com


BeyondtheBanner