Once upon a time, clicks and impressions were the currency of digital media. But today, times are changing. With banner blindness being the norm, advertisers are looking for new ways to get more out of their digital advertising investments. They’re looking to build long-term relationships through leads that they can nurture. The problem? There’s often a disconnect between media companies and advertisers.

As this MediaPost article points out, viewability is one of the biggest areas of focus in digital media, as “companies are scrambling to develop technologies that improve viewability; trade organizations are hard at work setting new viewability guidelines.” From an audience experience standpoint, these investments are important, but they’re also only part of the digital media ‘success equation.’

To be most successful for publishers and advertisers, viewability needs optimization: campaign owners need to connect the dots between first impressions and transactions.

How Media Companies Can Connect Viewability to Down-Funnel Actions

Sanity Check Your Campaign Goals 

It’s important to drive eyeballs to your campaigns. But you also need to make sure that these audiences are relevant and targeted to your advertisers’ products and services. As impressive as high impression counts may seem, they’re vanity metrics: only a subset of this audience will matter to your advertisers.

The challenge with measuring views and impressions, however, is that it’s impossible to distinguish potential customers from passerbyers. That’s why it’s important to define a clear set of goals for every campaign that you execute. If you’re going to track views, make sure that they’re for very specific initiatives. Top of funnel examples include opt-in offers, webinar registrations, and complementary resources. A rule of thumb is to make sure that you can calculate a conversion rate from every single campaign: this is a metric that publishers and advertisers can both optimize.

For a detailed guide on how to track this progress, check out this resource.

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Stop Equating Clicks With Engagement

Once upon a time, clicks were the currency of digital media. The rationale? They represented a sign of audiences taking action on an offer. But technology has improved dramatically. Why are publishers still relying on the same metrics that they did in 1999?

Both advertisers and publishers know that clicks don’t equal engagement. There are too many variables at play: audiences may click on an ad randomly or accidentally—especially on mobile screens where viewing room is tiny. No matter the case, clicks aren’t substitutes for engagement or even viewability. Your advertising products and even your pricing models need some adjustment. The shortest and most impactful path forward? Price based on value.

When it comes to measuring engagement, there are many audience actions that you’re already equipped to measure. Examples include newsletter sign-ups, offer redemptions, and social shares. What these conversion goals share in common is that they tell a very human story: a person came to a website, saw something that interested them, and took action. The most effective ad products and pricing models reflect this dynamic.

But publishers may be hesitant to make the switch. Since the earliest days of the internet, digital media has been a numbers game, with advertisers using metrics like Alexa and Compete rankings to choose their publisher partners. Big numbers look good, so why make the switch to a model with much lower performance figures?

The short story: advertisers want their campaigns to back out into an ROI. From a sales perspective, it’s better to attract a tailored focused audience than one that is completely irrelevant. From a common sense perspective, more isn’t always better: in fact, it’s a waste of your advertisers’ time. Publishers can optimize quality by tailoring their ad products around engagement—not clicks.

Optimized Earned Media

Earned media is what happens when publishers and advertisers create really awesome content, offers, and campaigns: audiences start hitting the ‘share’ button, which results in free, incremental advertising. The end result? Publishers can justify higher price points on advertising campaigns, and advertisers won’t blink an eye. Even more importantly, target customers end up with products that they love. Earned media is a sign that everyone is winning.

The most common form of earned media is social sharing—the online equivalent of ‘word of mouth.’ But even social metrics can have problems similar to clicks. An extra share doesn’t mean that your ad campaign is getting seen: audiences may be sharing your content, but are their friends responding and taking action?

This question will bring you full-circle to point one from this blog post. You need to make sure that every ad campaign has a clearly defined campaign goal. WIth this mindset, you’ll be able to quantify the value of the earned media that your ad products are generating. Instead of saying “earned media took the form of X extra social shares,” you’ll be able to say, “earned media generated Y incremental revenue.”

In a Nutshell 

To emphasize their added value, publishers need to get close to their advertisers’ bottom lines. Clicks, views, and social shares are important to this equation, but they’re also vanity metrics that are challenging to back into ROI. The reason? It’s impossible to see the intent behind these actions, and without this perspective, advertisers and publishers are limited to their best guesses. Two simple actions can help overcome these challenges: define your goals, and create campaign features that optimize them. Ask your audiences to take action by presenting a value proposition that they can’t ignore.

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