Online publishers today face an increasingly fragmented audience, with readers arriving from a growing number of avenues, including direct, search, email, social, “dark social,” content recommendations, and off-platform offerings like Snapchat and Instant Articles. How can publishers tailor their on-site experience to serve these shifting audiences, and make the most of sometimes fleeting visits?
In the last part of our three-part series on how online publishers grow their businesses with Taboola, we wanted to share strategies for effectively monetizing different audience segments.
Especially as the web moves onto smaller screens, media companies need to think strategically about the value of every pixel on the screen, every time someone loads the page.
These are your most loyal readers, the people who actively seek out your content, day-after-day, amid a sea of other media options. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, “direct” visitors spend three times as much time on a website as people who arrive via search or Facebook, and consume about five times as many pages per month.
Like any business, you need to take extra steps to keep these frequent customers happy and coming back for more. Homepage visitors should enjoy a relatively clean user experience that features fewer, high-quality monetization units.
Even if this doesn’t raise immediate RPMs, publishers benefit from these more sustainable readers in the long term (potentially leading to paid subscriptions).
Unfortunately, most of the publishing industry is seeing a continual drop in homepage visitors, including the New York Times whose homepage traffic fell by almost half between 2011 and 2013.
Web users are increasingly getting content from “push media,” which comes to them in the form of social media posts or content recommendations. Facebook has become the biggest driver of “push media,” responsible for a quarter of all web traffic in December 2014.
This is a major challenge for publishers, as social visitors tend to be significantly less engaged than homepage users. These more fickle audiences skim an article or read a few paragraphs before jumping back to their platform-of-choice, and such “zombie”-like behaviors only become more pronounced on mobile.
In order to monetize these inattentive visitors, publishers can strike while the iron is hot, presenting users with additional monetization units or content recommendations, including prominent mid-article placements.
“Read more” buttons, which shorten the initial article view to three paragraphs, can further increase the visibility of below-article recommendations and maximize your engagement-per-visit.
Optimizing for search visitors requires a more customized approach, as search traffic behaves differently from publisher to publisher. People who arrive at a cooking website may stay only momentarily to print out a recipe, while someone arriving at a medical website searching for their symptoms might hang around to read several pages of content as they seek out a diagnosis.
There can also be variance in audience behaviors within the same website. For instance, TechRadar found that the age of a piece of content provided an important signal about audience intent.
The publisher used Taboola’s programmatic offering — Taboola-X — to adapt its on-site monetization units in real-time, serving more prominent sponsored recommendations for visitors of archived articles, who were more likely to engage.
While social media usage may be pervasive, Taboola’s research has found that just 8 percent of site visitors drive more than 50% of overall social referrals. This small group of people has the potential to bring great rewards to your site, and it’s important to make sure you present them with a user experience that encourages social behavior.
Publishers can present these “social influentials” with an on-site experience that moves comment modules and share tools higher up the page. Taboola’s personalized share tools, which can appear larger or disappear completely depending on the user’s preferences, have increased social shares by over 15 percent for our publisher partners.
Influencers can represent a major source of earned media for publishers, spreading their content to new and diverse audiences. It’s vital that nothing stands in the way of their sharing.
Video has become a major driver of revenue for online publishers, who can charge between 5 and 10 times as much money for a video ad as they do for traditional display. Companies that are invested in video can maximize their return-on-investment by identifying frequent video viewers, improving the user experience for those visitors, and maximizing their overall revenue-per-visit.
Data from Taboola’s network have found that people who have watched a video at some point in the past 30 days are four times more likely to watch another video. Publishers can employ user data to identify these high-engagement segments, and then personalize the on-site experience by making video modules more prominent and easier to find for these users.
A truly efficient monetization plan not only recognizes the unique value of these different segments but also understands that users can float between them throughout the day. A person that reads the NYT homepage in the morning may discover other NYT stories through the Facebook mobile app later in the day.
Discovery platforms like Taboola can work with publishers on analyzing past results and using personalization technology to adapt the on-site experience in real-time, matching each user with the right UX at the right time. Such robust strategies are now mandatory to effectively tailor your website to the many contexts in which people enjoy content today.