As a publisher, you would like to know where your traffic is coming from, and you’d like to know as much as possible about each visitor. But Atlantic admits that it doesn’t know where approximately 40% of its traffic comes from, and the Guardian cannot account for 7-8%.The Guardian’s website is being swamped by unidentifiable “dark traffic”, and executives at the company cannot figure out where it is coming from.
Unfortunately, with the shifts from desktop to mobile and search to social, most publishers know less than ever about where their traffic comes from. So-called dark traffic is increasing year over year while demands for better targeting on the part of agencies and brands do not allow you to ignore it. Dark traffic makes it more difficult to prove to advertisers that you’re the right buy for them. Indeed, with programmatic, they can buy specific pages and placements automatically, so your audience data had better be convincing at a granular level.
Readers no longer come in to publisher sites through the “front door,” or home page. Rather, they come through the side door of Facebook and Twitter links. Social has overtaken search as a way for visitors to choose what content they see. As users, we find our content through trusted recommendation engines, or through friends and colleagues more than through Google.
But then there’s all the under-the-radar sharing that takes place — on chat, messaging apps, IM and in email — outside the mainstays of the social network ecosystem. Then there are sites that are secure, which means that they don’t collect information on users. That’s the dark traffic part. “There’s a general move to people going to secure [sites], and as a general rule, when people go to secure, referral data is lost,” said Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Search Engine Land.
Indeed, they can come through email, where links are virtually untrackable. And now, with the rise of messaging services, they can even come from WhatsApp or WeChat. It is getting more and more difficult to determine who sent you the traffic.
And many mobile apps don’t send referrals either. Facebook mobile is one of them, which makes it hard to find out how much of your traffic is coming from Facebook.
Right now, publishers have few tools they can use other than putting the social sharing buttons on their sites. But Digiday’s article on dark traffic admits,
[Publishers] already tag links that go in their email newsletters, so a publisher can tell if a visit came via a newsletter link as opposed to another source. But the tools are limited. They can watch to see if, say, a spike in mentions of their brand on a dark social platform like Instagram correlates with increased traffic to their site, but causality is hard to determine. BuzzFeed once put a WhatsApp share button on its articles, which would tell the publisher how many people clicked (although not how many people they shared the article with, or if they completed the sharing action at all).
Reach Report by Channel/Country
In addition to the existing Campaign and Creative Reach Reports, customers can now pull a Reach Report for a particular Country and Channel. The Country and Channel reach report is available along with all the existing parameters and can be pulled by month, week or day.
These reports will help you analyze how effective your reach is for a specific Country and Channel.
Upgrade to VAST 3.0
We will upgrade our VAST 2.0 compliant ad server to VAST 3.0, which will include the following features:
- Skippable ads
- Skip event tracking and
- Progress event tracking
The well-respected blogger Ben Thompson wrote quite a controversial post titled Peak Google after seeing Google’s Q3 earnings. While Google’s ad business obviously isn’t in serious trouble, the numbers led Ben to contemplate the fact that while Google has totally captured the search advertising business, search represents a scant 10% ($50 billion), of the $545 billion total online ad spend this year. And in the future, it might represent far less.
Where is the rest of that big spend going? It’s going to brand advertising (through various media like TV and social), the kind of advertising Google taught us to disdain. Google has told us for a decade that we should value only direct response or performance ads. The result is the ridiculous metric of CTRs, which in no way represent the consumer’s entire response to an ad.
Especially on a mobile device.
On mobile, brand advertising is making a comeback.
…over the last few years a new type of advertising has emerged: native advertising. I’ve already made my defense of native advertising here, but just to be clear, I classify any sort of “in-stream” advertising as native advertising. Thus, for a news site, native advertising is advertising in article format; for Twitter, native advertising is a promoted tweet; for Facebook, native advertising is ads in your news feed; for Pinterest (a future giant) a promoted pin. These sorts of ads are proving to be massively more effective and engaging than banner advertisements – as they should be! In every medium (except, arguably, newspapers, which had geographic monopolies) native advertising is the norm simply because it’s more effective for advertisers and a better experience for users.
Thompson goes on to argue that TV commercials are mostly for brand advertising, as are jingles and magazine ads.
And all those are coming to mobile, in large part as digital video. All those brand advertising dollars from TV, flowing to mobile, has already caused the industry to examine potential new metrics for measuring an ad’s effectiveness, such as engagement (time spent with the ad) and video completion rates.
There’s no guarantee that Google will be able to win at this new game. Native advertising, and brand advertising in general, requires immersive content, and the social streams and Tier 1 publishers have most of that. As do some startups like Buzzfeed.
On the other hand, that’s not to say that Google will not continue to be profitable. Thompson compares it to IBM and Microsoft, each of which is still alive and profitable, although not the industry leader it was in the past. He says Google will not get “disrupted,” so much as it will get “eclipsed.”
While ad tech companies themselves are still merging and their IPOS may not be doing too well, the industry they enable is doing just fine. PwC US has just released its latest half year study of Internet ad revenues, an they’ve hit yet another new high, now at $23.1 billion. That’s up 15% from last year’s first half., which was $20.1 billion. IAB released the study at the beginning of Q4, traditionally a strong time for advertising revenues. That means Q4 will probably beat Q2’s $11.7 billion.
Realistically, there’s nowhere to go but up, because mobile revenues alone have increased 76%, and they’re just beginning to take off. They’re at $5.3 billion now, and that’s before advertisers really develop mobile strategies and figure out how to measure their results. Another promising sign is the recent shift of TV dollars to video. Right now, that shift looks like a cross-channel or cross-platform strategy, but it will change further as large networks unbundle from the cable providers and become apps, with their own strategies for attracting those elusive cord-cutters. Or in the case of Millennials, people who never even had a cord to cut.
So we predict that 2015 will be the year of “Mobile. Digital. Video.”
And a recent AOL Platforms study seems to agree with us, citing the following trends:
- VIDEO AD GROWTH IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE.
Advertising spending on online video increased for the 5th consecutive year, and buyers claim spending will grow across the board in 2015. Publishers are reaping the benefits of diversified selling channels, inclusive of programmatic.
- DRAMATIC SPENDING SHIFTS FUEL THE DIGITAL VIDEO REVOLUTION.
Agencies and brands are increasingly tapping into broadcast and cable TV budgets to fund their digital video ad spending.
- PROGRAMMATIC IS OVERTAKING PUBLISHER-DIRECT BUYS.
Brands and agencies are moving away from buying direct from publishers and ad networks, in favor of buying through exchanges and DSPs. With 60 percent of their budgets going to programmatic channels, brand advertisers are most aggressive with their spend reallocation.
- DATA-DRIVEN, PROGRAMMATIC TV HAS ARRIVED.
Video buyers are already running data-driven TV campaigns, evidenced by the 40 percent of brands adopting the practice. Brand budgets for programmatic TV buying are predominantly coming from traditional TV spending, not from digital or incremental spending.
- VIEWABILITY VEXES BOTH BUYERS AND PUBLISHERS.
Brand buyers and sellers cited ad viewability as the most problematic issue for them, compared to verification/placement and bot fraud, which ranked lower. Only 25 percent said they are up to speed on these issues, indicating a need for additional education.
A key driver of the mobile video revolution is social media revenues, which includes advertising delivered on social platforms, including social networking and social gaming websites and apps. Advertising on social media sites and within gaming apps and platforms increased 58% over last year, and will continue to rise.
Interestingly, search advertising is underperforming growth in the rest of the Internet advertising business, perhaps because it is the most mature category of online advertising and also the least interactive. Still, it’s a pretty encouraging set of reports to take us through Q4.