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Viewability: Just one piece of the content marketing puzzle

The conversation around content marketing has picked up in recent years, fuelled by marketers’ growing sophistication in their understanding of how consumers want to be targeted. A large part of the industry is moving towards filling the consumer funnel from top to bottom, and reaching out to consumers in the micro-moments – when consumers are hungry for products and information.

Brands are also demonstrating in dollars, the commitment to achieving long-term goals rather than quick-wins. According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, the average business in Asia spends about 25 per cent of its marketing budget on content marketing creation and distribution. As content marketing commands a greater role in the marketing mix, it should follow that it encapsulates a larger portion of marketing budgets.

A large part of the industry however, still struggles with measurement. And with good reason –the value in content marketing is completely unique, coming from the consumer’s engagement with the content and not from glancing at or scrolling through a unit promoting it.

Content marketing is all about engagement
The best form of content marketing educates and engages readers. It elicits commitment, and does not operate on a quick-hit mentality.

Most marketers take into consideration standard web metrics such as time spent on page, articles consumed during the visit, video completions and social shares. But where the value lies in post-click user engagement with any piece of content, these vanity metrics are irrelevant, and mean little. After all, readers open multiple tabs at once and walk away from their devices – and all these artificially inflatetime spent on any one page.

I am certain many content marketers would agree when I say that the top priority is defining what constitutes as desirableuser engagement. For example, an auto maker might define someone going from its content to the dealer locater page as a high-value action. For bloggers, comments to a blogpost would be an outlining indication that readers have genuinely engaged with their content. Advanced content marketers are going the extra mile and tracking “high-value actions” – events that indicate that their audiences are more valuable.

The trouble with viewability
In the past year however, a new metric started trending: viewability. This comes at a time where viewability is a hot topic in ad tech; as advertisers shift their TV spends to digital and demand greater transparency into the performance of their ads.

Viewability is important, but it is not the be-all and end-all in content marketing. In fact, it holds little relevance for content marketing. Let me explain why.

The content marketing metrics we’ve discussed above have one thing in common: they all track engagement with the content itself, and are suited to the channels that may be responsible for consumers first becoming engaged with the brand. As a content sales marketer, it is not sufficient to know that my content is being consumed. Did readers interact with the content in a meaningful way? Did they benefit from the content delivered? Were they captivated enough to seek out more information? And, if I am paying to amplify my content, I’d be interested to know how much each individual reader costs me. These questions can’t be answered by viewability alone.

One step further
Naturally, marketers want their content to drive desired user actions. But does that mean content should be optimized, or measured, only for direct responses? Unlike common practice, the effect of content marketing needs to be measured over a sustained period of time, connecting many dots and in many cases working off correlations.

When we talk about engagement, identifying the behavioural patterns that emerge from these correlations is an equally important by-product of content marketing.

Viewability will always have its place in the content marketing funnel, albeit only as the gateway to reaching the right audience in the right place, at the right time – rather than the end goal. It would be a shame to mar content marketing’s momentum with irrelevant display-age metrics.

As millions of content pieces continue to be published on a daily basis, it is high time that content marketers flex their creative muscles and think of adaptive content that works well with the available technology, to truly capture the attention of audiences.

Neeraj Singhal

Neeraj Singhal, Director of Amplify Sales, India, Outbrain