Facebook CTRs and Ad Impression Percentages Grow

Facebook’s ad revenue continues to grow with click through rates (CTRs) and impressions both increasing by double digits quarter-over-quarter (QoQ), according to Adobe’s latest Social Media Intelligence Report.  Although new user growth remains an area of uncertainty for the reigning social media champ, that isn’t of concern for advertisers who are seeing CTRs rise by 20% and impressions by 41% between 2013 Q4 and 2014 Q1, and an increase in revenue-per-visit (RPV) by two-percent QoQ. Furthermore, Facebook has seen a giant 160% year-over-year (YoY) CTR increase and RPV up by 11% YoY. However, cost-per-click (CPC) dropped two-percent YoY and 11% QoQ after what Facebook recalls as a strong holiday season.

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In comparison, Twitter experienced a quarter-over-quarter RPV decline of 23% and Tumblr by 36% (Tumblr reported however that although their quarter-over-quarter RPV percentage decreased, their year-over-year total increased by 55% – Twitter’s year-over-year RPV is up by just 5%).  So what is Facebook doing that other social media platforms are not?

 “Companies like Facebook are making changes to their algorithms and adding functionalities like auto-play of videos, which impact brands and users and how they engage with content,” explained Principal Analyst Tamara Gaffney at Adobe Digital Index in the report.

Speaking of auto-play videos, Facebook’s video plays increased by a massive 785% year-over-year and 134% quarter-over-quarter since the introduction of auto-play videos in 2013 Q4. Video engagement also rose, with a 58% QoQ increase and 25% YoY. In addition, findings also showed that a quarter of videos uploaded to Facebook are played on Fridays as well as almost 16% of post impressions.

The Adobe Social Media Intelligence Report is based on 260 billion Facebook ad impressions, 226 billion post impressions, 17 billion referred visits from social networking sites, and seven billion brand post interactions including comments, likes and shares.  Paid social data is derived from aggregated Adobe Marketing Cloud data.

Internet Advertising Revenues Surpass Television Advertising for the First Time Ever

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) released a report last week that revealed 2013 internet advertising revenues in the U.S.; and for the first time in history, internet ad spend exceeded broadcast television ad spend. Internet revenues came in at $42.8 billion – a 17% increase from $36.6 billion in 2012 – and television at $40.1 billion.

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“The news that interactive has outperformed broadcast television should come as no surprise,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “It speaks to the power that digital screens have in reaching and engaging audiences. In that same vein, the staggering growth of mobile is clearly a direct response to how smaller digital screens play an integral role in consumers’ lives throughout the day, as well as their critical importance to cross-screen experiences.”

The IAB sponsored report is released twice annually to reveal half-year and full-year data. It is conducted independently by the New Media Group of PwC and is considered to be the “most accurate measurement of Internet/online advertising revenues,” according to the IAB website. The data is collected directly from companies selling online advertising, including web sites, commercial online services, email marketers and other companies that sell online advertising. Television advertising revenues are compiled from national networks, syndication and spot TV.   

Notable figures within the report also include a 110 percent growth for mobile ad spending, rising from $3.4 billion in 2012 to $7.1 billion in 2013, a 19 percent increase in digital video advertising spending, a nine-percent increase in search revenues, and a seven-percent increase in display-related advertising. Retail advertisers remain the largest category of digital ad spenders, responsible for 21 percent of the year’s revenues in 2013 trailed by financial services with 13 percent and automotive with 12 percent.  

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“Our survey confirms that we are fully in transition to the post-desktop era,” said David Silverman, Partner, PwC U.S. “Triple digit advertising revenue growth from mobile devices contrasted the more tepid 8 percent growth from traditional computer screens. This is simply a reflection of the change in how and where consumers are viewing their information—on the go!”

View the full report here.

Facebook Redesigns Sidebar Ads

Facebook advertisements on the right sidebar have been given a much needed facelift. After years of unchanged design and subpar performance outcomes compared to News Feed ads, Facebook announced on Wednesday through their official blog that a redesign will unveil itself over the coming months.

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“This updated look will make right-hand column ads more visually consistent with the ads that appear in News Feed. They will use the same proportions as desktop News Feed ads, they will be larger in size, and there will be fewer of them. For advertisers, this offers a simpler way to create ads and an enhanced creative canvas on the right-hand column of Facebook.”

The new ads take on a native presence by mimicking content in the News Feed. Facebook says that early tests show engagement with the ads has increased by up to 3X; a crucial improvement when compared to a study performed last year that found News Feed ads to have a 200 percent better ROI than sidebar ads. A secondary benefit for advertisers  running both News Feed and sidebar ads is that now a single image can be used for both, which couldn’t be done before. However, some people speculate that because there will be “fewer” ads appearing in the right-hand column, less availability could lead to higher pricing for advertisers. During the changeover period both ad formats will be supported until “later this year” when all advertisers will be transitioned to the new layout.  

More Women to Enter Affiliate Marketing

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Affiliate marketing is an undeniably male dominated industry. But according to a study performed by Optimus Performance Marketing, the largest affiliate marketing company in Europe, that is predicted to change as women are twice as likely to engage with affiliate marketing in the future than men.

Optimus polled 632 females and 589 males who all ran their own sites or blogs for professional or personal purposes. Of those polled, 86 percent claimed to have had a basic understanding of affiliate marketing functions, but only 14 percent of men and six percent of females had actual experience with it. Those with zero experience were asked if they planned to take part in promoting products and services on their websites in the near future; forty-seven percent of females said that they had plans to do so within the next year, but only 23 percent of men. Furthermore, 24 percent of females and just 11 percent of men said they would within the next five years. If these women follow through, that would skyrocket the percentage of women in affiliate marketing up to 400 percent at the end of those five years.

Mark Russell, Managing Director at Optimus Prime said of the results of the study:

At present, with the affiliate sector being largely male dominated, it is hard to see why affiliate marketing hasn’t yet managed to strike a chord with more female bloggers and professionals. Yet our study highlights that, in the future, more women are gearing up to take the plunge into the affiliate world.

Researchers then asked the women why they were interested in affiliate marketing. The top four reasons are as follows: Forty-one percent want to earn extra income, 34 percent believe it associates well with topics already in their blog/websites, 29 percent said they have the free time in the evenings and weekends to dedicate to affiliate marketing and 18 percent believe it will enable them to have better content for their site visitors.

YouTube Reigns as the Post-Click Engagement Champion

Shareaholic, a site dedicated to discovering and sharing content, recently studied which social sites had the highest post-click engagement rates. After analyzing data collected from 250 million unique visitors to Shareaholic’s network of 200,000 sites over six months (September ’13 – February ’14), YouTube was found to drive the most engaged traffic.

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YouTube dominated in all three categories, with users spending the most amount of time on the site (227.82 seconds) and the highest pages per visit (2.99) while also having the lowest average bounce rate (43.19%).  As to why YouTube was able to keep viewers engaged, Danny Wong, wrote in the Shareaholic blog:

“Because video itself is so engaging and viewers are likely to maintain a similar level of engagement with related content. Therefore, video watchers are especially receptive to links within video descriptions which complement the audio+visual content they just consumed. Another reason YouTube takes home the crown is because viewers are simply used to spending minutes — perhaps, hours — educating and entertaining themselves with awesome video and may have fewer qualms about taking extra time to discover more great content post-click.”

Google+ and LinkedIn came in second and third to round off the top three. Granted, these sites bring in the fewest social referrals. However, they bring in “some of the best visitors.” Users of these sites spend more time engaged and have lower bounce rates than social media giants Facebook and Twitter, which come in at 4th and 5th place. Wong told Inside Facebook that he believes this is because Facebook users are suffering from information overload and tend to “skim” stories because their newsfeeds are constantly pushing out new information. 

Rounding out the bottom comes Pinterest, with just an average of 64.67 seconds spent on the site and a 56.35% average bounce rate, Reddit, with the highest bounce rate of all sites at 70.16% and StumbleUpon,  with the lowest average time spent on site at 54.09 seconds.

Gmail Tests New “Pinterest-esque” Layout for Promotional Emails

The pressure is on for marketers to make their email campaigns more visually appealing, that is, with Gmail’s latest layout. The new grid format is reminiscent of Pinterest, with square images, a title and a subject line.

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Last year Gmail unveiled their new inbox layout which categorized emails into either a primary, social or promotions tab. This sent marketing emails into the promotions category, unsurprisingly causing marketer’s open rates to decline. This new layout may once again cause marketers to rethink their email campaigns.

Aaron Rothman, Gmail Product Manager, wrote in the official Gmail blog:

“Promotional mail has a lot of images, from pictures of snazzy new shoes to photos of that rock-climbing gym you’ve been wanting to try. But right now, those images are buried inside your messages—and with only subject lines to go on, it can be a challenge to quickly pick out the deals and offers that interest you most. To help you find what you’re looking for faster, you can now sign up for a new field trial for Gmail that lets you view the Promotions tab in a more visual way.”

Did you catch that? You can sign up for a new field trial. That’s right, not all Gmail account users will see this change in their inbox. This is something users must sign up for, and if selected, will see the new design in your promotions tab.  You can switch back and forth from the standard list view to the grid view, as you can see in the above image. Surely, email marketers should sign up to see what the new layout’s all about.

The official Gmail blog also mentioned to email marketers, “If you send promotional emails, check out the Gmail Developers site to learn how you can give your readers a better experience in Gmail using this feature.”

Fraud Still a Major Concern in Affiliate Marketing

Earlier this year, a study from Solve Media claimed that botnets will cause advertisers some $11.6 billion in 2014. More recently, fraud expert Ben Edelman published a best practices guide for affiliate management, aimed at helping businesses combat fraud. Even though fraud is a major concern in the affiliate space—with more ad networks and brands expressing concern over the occurrences than ever before, the phenomenon continues to grow; according to estimates from ZenithOptimedia, advertisers will be losing on average nearly a quarter of their investment in affiliate advertising right off the top.

This issue is being debated and discussed—and has been for years. Edelman’s paper outlining the best practices for affiliate management is an excellent resource not only for companies but for marketers in general. It is an excellent tool for helping marketers learn what qualities brands are looking for, as well as allowing marketers to identify which affiliate networks are operating in a less than honest way.

In the long run, if the industry doesn’t find a way to effectively combat the fraud that’s going on in growing volumes, brands will increasingly reconsider investing in the expense of affiliate marketing—something that no one in the industry wants. Ari Jacoby, Solve Media CEO, commented on the problem, saying, “It’s a bit like the war on drugs. There are a ton of people perpetuating crimes, in lots of cases there’s no violence to report, and it’s an unusually profitable exercise that more and more people find appealing. And so, it grows.”

In order to get to the roots of the problem and solve it, Jacoby and many other industry experts feel that it will take combined efforts from the industry in general. Many ad networks are hesitant to invest in the necessary security and anti-fraud systems that can save money in the long run; either because they underestimate the impact of fraud, or because they aren’t sure that they’ll be able to earn back their investment. For now, the most important thing that affiliate publishers and advertisers alike can do to secure themselves in the industry is to work with networks that have committed fraud protection measures in place, while the rest of the industry works to create a standard.