The bottom of the page view is garbage in the eyes of those who buy your inventory, so why ask your sellers to sell it? Just dump it. Your sell-through will increase immediately for your paid impressions above the fold, where advertisers like to see their ads, and your salespeople won't spend another second defending impressions versus selling them. Once you do this -- and I mean do this with no exceptions -- share your new strategy with advertisers, and then ask them to consider how many of their paid impressions will appear below the fold, on sites you directly compete with.
Second, formally audit your internal numbers. Many of you are not measured by comCcore or Nielsen, and all of you share issues with how those companies report Web site metrics. So use a third-party auditing service to instantly increase your credibility. The process includes scrubbing your internal numbers of double unique counts, non-human page views, international traffic, and what I think is the most dishonorable aspect of internal numbers, the inclusion of page views generated by your own organization and the ad agencies you call on.
All of these numbers should get backed out of the internal metrics you present, regardless of how minimal they may be. And then stop, as best you can, from serving paid ad impressions onto these types of page views. Especially the page views you and your ad agency counterparts generate. Why should an advertiser pay for one single impression generated by the company that sold it, or the one that gets paid to buy it?
Now take this promise not to double-dip or serve paid ads irresponsibly, along with a physically printed audit statement verifying your internal site metrics, out into the market. And while you're there, ask your advertisers if your competitors have made the same promises, and have they presented their audit?
Finally, stop freaking out. Times as bad as these are when you can become great. Actively look to upgrade your talent and processes so you become easier to work with, while getting better at delivering what gets sold. The inclination is to upgrade sales talent, but my advice is to look inside first. Your operations team may need more head count or a tune-up. Too many publishers new to online fail to understand the revenue implications of a sub-par inside sales force and/or internal processes, so they don't invest in them. This is an ideal time to focus on your insides so revenue flows more simply once it's delivered to your front door.
We talk in circles about social media. We discuss Twitter in tweets, apps versus widgets. We talk about where the business is going or where we have gone awry. But we rarely talk about what business we are in. We're in the "we sell ads business," no matter how many different ways we keep inventing to describe it. Publishers who increase the bare basic value of the ads they sell this year will sell more of them than those who don't.
The title of this column is a quote from a television character who shared this line with a colleague while both were working at a convenience store. Feel free to post a guess as to who said this, along with further specific and actionable suggestions on how to do what it is we do, better.
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