Conversational media has become an increasingly important component of marketing. As part of this initiative, marketers look to the publishing community to create or curate engaged conversations between publishers and their readers. These conversations live deep within the Independent Web, an area where like-minded people congregate to share thoughts, experiences, and recommendations. This is where buying opinions, and ultimately decisions, are made.
John Battelle, founder and executive chairman of Federated Media Publishing (which recently acquired my company, Lijit Networks), is an expert on conversational media and often talks about how “all brands are publishers.”
On the flip side, I like to say that “all publishers are brands.” Publishers need to think of themselves as a brand in order to attract the top-quality marketers who are interested in working with the most influential publishers to deliver their message -- from standard IAB-sized media buys to more creative, conversational campaigns.
In order to build their brand, publishers should leverage all of the tools and data available to effectively grow their audience, engage their readers, and build influence within their category (think entertainment, men’s health, or food). They need to constantly be thinking about what attracts an advertiser. Is it the content, the conversations that occur in comments, the share through into social media -- or probably all of the above.
Brand marketers will spend top dollar to reach influential audiences that frequent these sites because they believe this is where the most engaged consumers congregate. So how can publishers build influence to best position themselves for success?
At minimum, publishers should take advantage of all of the “actionable” data and analytics available to help them best grow and monetize their site. By “actionable,” I mean data that provides publishers with information that they can do something with: develop better content, grow their audience, earn more revenue, etc.
There are a number of analytics tools and audience data that publishers can leverage to attract and retain brand advertisers. Keep in mind that analytics and data help you learn about your readers so that you can tailor content to your audience. So keep track of the following:
1. Demographics: age, gender, ethnicity, income level, education.
2. Audience understanding: pageviews, reader geography, referring sites, top posts, outbound clicks, and other sites that link to you.
3. Search intent: keep track of referring and on-site search behavior. Where are your readers coming from, and what were they searching for when they got to your site? What are they searching for on your site? Other relevant data includes the number of searches, top searches and last searches, top clicked results and last clicked results, and searches that returned no results.
In addition to using analytics and data to grow their site, publishers should also take the following tips into account:
1. Keep your content fresh.
2. Keep your content centered around something -- it doesn’t have to be highly restrictive but there has to be a “focus” to your publication.
3. Don’t use spicy words in your article titles or URLs. If you use words that would offend your grandma, it will offend the highest paying brands. The body of content is far less sensitive than the URL or title. Exchange buyers won’t bid if they see spice.
4. Your readers want opinion -- that’s what makes the Independent Web so great -- but keep it positive. Say why something is awesome and state why. The more negative you go, the less money you will make.