links for 2007-07-17
Inside//Out: Facebook

Metrics shape our perceived value; why the formula matters

iStock_000003339307XSmall.jpgOkay marketers. Let's say you are prepping to run an ad campaign for a mass, commodity good and you have to rank your ad buys over the top content networks. How would you rank the following and what metrics would you use? Go ahead and try it.

  • AOL
  • Ebay
  • Fox Interactive Media
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • MSN/Windows Live
  • Yahoo

Would you have ranked them by total audience knowing that you could reach a more robust and accurate subset with targeted ads? Or, would you have opted for total page views thinking that the more pages served the more eyeballs will take a look? Better yet, did you opt for the new Nielsen-suggested standard of time on site knowing that time leads to engagement and better eyeballs? You may be surprised at how different these results are.

Source: Nielsen/NetRatings,
U.S., home and work, May 2007
Take a look at the chart to the left. The first chart shows each network based on total unique audience with Google in the lead. It is followed by Yahoo, MSN/Live, Microsoft and AOL. Remember AOL's last-place position in this chart for later. There is a gap of roughly 20 million people between first and last place.

But you may not have wanted to go with total audience, instead you want to use page views as your metric. Well, in that case Yahoo is your network of choice. Yahoo is followed by Fox (including MySpace), Google, MSN/Live and EBay. In this case there is a roughly 20 billion page view difference.

However, you may be detered by page views and total audience and find yourself looking at total time on the site. In that case AOL comes out of nowhere to take a firm lead (remember they were last in total audience). They're followed by Yahoo, MSN/Live, Fox and Google who drops like a stone. There is a difference of roughly 17.5 billion minutes between AOL and Google.

So what the heck does this mean to you? Let's look at each network to see what the metrics tell us.

aol_logo.jpgAOL - The AOL network is where to go if you want people who spend a lot of time there, but they are not generating a lot of page views in that time. There are an estimated 90 million people in the audience.

ebay_logo.jpgEbay - EBay pops up only in the page views metric as you would expect. Each listing is a page and visitors crank through them quickly. Total audience is lower as is the time on the site.

logo_fox.gifFox Interactive Media - The Fox network, while not large, generates quite a few page views and stays engaged with that content longer when you consider its size. I think MySpace has a large part to do with that summary. as people stay engaged, but constantly churn through pages of friends as well as adding content.

logo-Google.gifGoogle - Google is still the king of search so if you're looking for SEM and you want the volume, this is your stop (according to 2007 April figures from Nielsen//NetRatings, Google has the largest share of U.S. based web searches at 55.2% (Google Acquisitions), Yahoo is second at 21.9%, MSN is third at 9.0%, AOL is fourth at 5.4%, and Ask is fifth at 1.8%). The downside of Google is that people are coming for a specific task and jumping off hence the low engagement times and high audience.

microsoft logo_qjpreviewth.jpgMicrosoft - The Microsoft audience is large as you would expect, but that's where the company's advantage ends. They don't show up on the total time on site or the page views metrics.

250px-MSN_(logo).pngMSN/Windows Live - MSN represents Microsoft's consumer facing entity and their Live search function. Live has been picking up some momentum in total search volume, but they've a long way to go to catch Google. MSN comfortably sits in the middle of the pack on almost every point. They dip below when it comes to page views. It's a large audience that spends an average amount of time on fewer pages.

yahoo-logo.jpgYahoo - Yahoo comes out the best of any network when you look at each metric. They have the second largest audience, the most number of page views and the second most time in minutes. This should be an attractive combination to marketers especially in targeted display ads. Yahoo still lags behind Google for SEM where there is still a 30%+ gap.

In the end, no matter who you are or who you are marketing to, it comes down to a few key factors:

  • Find your audience. If they're not using Google then you're wasting your money
  • Relevance is key. Making hyper-targeted ad buys will help make sure relevance is there and waste is minimal
  • Nobody likes iterruption. The last thing I want is to have my visit to a network interrupted by your ad. Give me some value and be relevant to what I am looking at. If I'm in the auto repair section, don't offer me camera equipment.
  • Think outside the banner. Look at sponsorships or creating value-add programs to hook users.
  • Think social. Engaging with the community on a social level will lead to more success. Think about shifting dollars to social/conversational media. You may get more bang for your buck.

What do you consider when you run ads? Have you started shifting dollars to digital? Are you shifting those dollars to social media? Let me know in the comments.

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