Content Advertising Explained – Part 2

Last week, we began looking at how content advertising really works, and how to control content campaigns to achieve the same high-quality results and ROI (define) you can achieve with search campaigns. I also promised to reveal how PPC (define) advertisers can save a lot of money.

But first, a quick quiz.

Are you absolutely sure whether your current Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft PPC content campaigns are:

  • Profitable?
  • Breaking even?
  • Unprofitable?

If your campaigns aren’t profitable, here’s today’s big advice:

Pause your content campaigns.

If you’re not certain whether your content campaigns are bleeding your ad budget dry, then there’s a good chance they are. Don’t worry, within the next few weeks you’ll learn so much about how to control them that you’ll happily turn them back on, confident of achieving improved results.

The search engines don’t necessarily make pausing content campaigns easy. They’re turned on by default. To pause them, you’ll need to go into your campaign settings and check a box that deselects them.

Go ahead. Do it right now. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. Feel better? You’re saving money already.

Taming the Content Beast

We’ll start with the easy stuff, based on the fact that content ads are displayed on Web pages containing meaty information that is the focal point of every site visitor. That means your advertising is peripheral, tangential to the main attraction. Just like in traditional print advertising, your ads need to distract the reader’s attention away from the articles and toward the ads.

How do print advertisers do that? Eye-catching graphics. Headlines that are controversial. Outrageous promises.

Remember: with search advertising, the reader of the ad is often at or near the end of a research-evaluate-buy cycle — sometimes referred to as the “sales funnel.” In other words, they have performed several searches and are in the frame of mind to take action immediately — or at least soon.

Get That Click

It’s safe (and prudent) to assume that the reader of a content ad is at the very beginning of that process. They haven’t even reached the lip of the sales funnel, so your ad must push them over the edge.

How? Try these:

Scream. Think loud. Your ads can, and should, shout their way off the screen. Don’t be afraid to be borderline obnoxious — it works for HeadOn (apply directly to the forehead) and a jillion other advertisers. Seriously, though, you can afford to be much more disruptive than you are in your search ads. One important reason: Quality Score (define) doesn’t count. Since keywords don’t trigger bold words in your content ads, you can use anything you like in your headlines. The more eye-catching, the better.

Bribe. Remember, the ad reader is at the beginning, or before, the sales cycle. They need a strong incentive to proceed. Complimentary offers, such as free downloads, shipping, or trial versions, work well. If you’re a B2B (define) advertiser seeking leads, bribe readers with a free whitepaper. B2C (define) advertisers can give free samples. Loyalty clubs can give free points. And so on.

Stand apart. Your ads are competing with the Web page’s content and as many as four other ads on the page. Your ad needs to distract attention away from the page content and the competing ads — no mean feat. Study the competition’s ads and make sure yours are different, preferably louder.

Get imperative. Testing has shown that imperatives in headlines and body copy work well to get attention. Words like “Stop!” “Wait!” “Look!” attract the eye as assuredly as if the reader heard them shouted.

Be Malthusian. Prey on the reader’s most basic emotions. For example, people hate to believe they’re missing something important. Tell them what they’ll miss or fail to achieve if they don’t click on your ad. Or take a cue from the insurance companies and scare ’em. Tell them about the dire consequences they’ll experience if they fail to click.

Hopefully you’re getting the picture: shy, understated, soft-selling content ads don’t work. They quietly beg to be ignored. The good news: it’s not hard to write ads that pop off the page and get results.

Next week: examples of good and bad content ads. After that, we’ll look at how the content networks’ matching algorithms really work. The truth will surprise you, and let you control which Web sites display your ads, to get the best possible results.

Join us for SES Chicago from December 3-6 and training classes on December 6.

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