The Publisher Opportunity in Search and Contextual, Part 1

Many Internet publishers underutilize search and contextual media when driving incremental high-value inventory. The publishers with the greatest opportunity to utilize search, contextual, and other keyword-driven media are those with businesses strong enough to buy traffic at low costs and monetizes that traffic optimally. Obviously, the right technology has to be in place to empower the publisher’s marketing team to convert inbound traffic to revenue greater than the cost of acquiring this traffic.

Properly executed, a keyword-targeted traffic-building campaign can turn a marketing expense into a cash machine. Not all publishers have the same opportunity to mine cash from the keyword-marketing ecosystem. Those who should take a closer look at how and when they engage in keyword advertising should weigh whether one or more of the following factors accrue in their favor. The more factors accruing in their favor, the greater the opportunity. Look for:

  • A high CPM (define). The publisher charges a higher CPM for inventory and therefore receives a high revenue per thousand page views (RPM). RPM differs from CPM charged to the publisher’s advertiser because multiple ad units on a page increase the overall revenue per page view.

  • Sold-out or oversold inventory. The greater the publisher’s inventory shortage (or the greater his ability to sell incremental ad inventory), the more pronounced his ability to scale the use of keyword-targeted traffic to supplement existing traffic.
  • Diverse breadth of content. A diverse breadth of content on the publisher’s site properties creates more opportunities to purchase inventory. This is driven by many keyword media providers’ requirement that (at least on the search side) landing pages must be highly relevant for the targeting keywords.
  • Content with popular themes. If the publisher’s content is about popular concepts and themes, there’s more excess inventory available from other sites on a CPC (define) basis or at a low enough CPM to justify a campaign.
  • High average stickiness. The greater the number of page views that site visitors engage in prior to exiting the site, the more leverage the publisher has to purchase traffic.
  • A premium content online subscription offer. By having an up-sell to premium content, the publisher can tie clicks to revenue.
  • Offline subscription potential. Is there an option for site visitors to subscribe to a printed version of the publication?
  • Free e-mail newsletter subscription offers. Does the site include free e-mail newsletter subscriptions, and are these subscriptions useful in generating high numbers of returning visits (lifetime page views)? Plus, are the newsletters ad supported?

If the above factors apply to your organization, you may want to take note of this column, because having a strong monetization engine in the current Internet advertising ecosystem can provide you with an amazing opportunity to print money.

It may seem strange that one publisher could sell ad inventory at high enough CPMs to generate an effective RPM, allowing for the purchase of visitors and page views elsewhere. After all, the user is the same, regardless of which site he’s on when the advertiser reaches him. But in the current media marketplace, the vast majority of media buyers deploying brand dollars are under strict guidelines as to where these branding ads can appear. If you’re lucky enough to be a premium publisher, congratulations.

While this is the biggest opportunity for large sites with in-house sales teams able to charge premium CPMs to brand advertisers, even scrappy, savvy midsized sites may be able to take advantage of the dramatic media price disparity. It’s a huge opportunity for dollars to trickle down to sites that can generate huge numbers of page views but lack the prestige brand advertisers want. Brand marketers have yet to become comfortable with user-generated content, so social networking sites and some blogs find themselves selling to a smaller set of advertisers, often missing the top 20 brand advertisers in each category.

Eventually, more brand marketers may become comfortable with a broader range of context surrounding their ads and their brands. Should this happen, behavioral targeting technology may be facilitated using a cookie set at a premium site to serve ads on second-tier sites as well as on general-interest remnant inventory (such as Webmail sites). In the meantime, dollars will continue to flow disproportionately to the larger prestige Web brands, which have an opportunity to further lengthen their lead though savvy keyword marketing.

Next week: a peek at the nuts and bolts of a publisher keyword campaign, using examples and numbers you can swap out for your own calculations. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if there are specific issues you’d like to see covered.

Kevin is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ. Be sure to check out part two.

Meet Kevin at SES San Jose, August 18-22 at San Jose Convention Center.

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