Content Marketing

7 Things You Need to Know From My Content Amplification Test

badge jay says 7 Things You Need to Know From My Content Amplification TestThe new Hummingbird release pushes Google further along as a provider of first-hand information. You’ll be seeing more – much more – of the  Google “Knowledge Box” that sometimes appears on the top right-hand corner of search results, giving you what you need without having to navigate to a different website. This is part of the company’s bigger initiative to play both sides of the content and search game, evidence of which can be found in its purchase of Zagat, among other moves.

With Google getting stingier about directing traffic to you, experimenting with other ways to amplify your content and market your marketing becomes even more of a best practice.

As part of their sponsorship of Convince & Convert and the Social Pros podcast, the fine folks at Cision set me up with a trial of their Content Marketing Suite. Cision has relationships with most of the major amplification networks that power the “you might also be interested in:” elements of thousands of major websites. Primary amplifiers that are part of the Cision solution include Outbrain and Taboola. I’ve been running this amplification option for 16 days, and the results have been staggering and immediate. 7 lessons I’ve learned:

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The Cision content amplification dashboard

1. It’s Incredibly Easy

The same way that Social.com (now part of the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud) aggregates and simplifies social media advertising, Cision makes content amplification quick and painless by aggregating it all into one system. You simply sign up for a Cision account; then log-in and upload content to be amplified. You can choose to amplify specific content pieces, or attempt to boost everything you publish by connecting your RSS feed (which is the option I selected for the test).

2. It Creates Traffic, and Fast

Once the RSS feed was uploaded to Cision, I started seeing clicks immediately. During this 16-day test period, Convince & Convert received 74,954 visits overall. The amplification program generated 8,373 of those visits (11.1%). That is traffic that I definitely would not have otherwise garnered. To provide some frame of reference, Google sent 38,558 visits during the period. My own RSS feed (subscribers) sent 5,652, and all flavors of Twitter (I have several Twitter programs running) generated about the same, nearly 6,000. So, behind Google and direct URL entries (~ 8,500) the amplification program instantly became the third largest provider of traffic to this site.

3. It’s Very Transparent

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Content Amplification report

I particularly appreciate the very clean and obvious reporting that Cision provides, detailing all traffic generated, impressions generated, and which sites are delivering the most clicks. This is key, because your own Google Analytics may not show specific sites, only traffic coming from the Outbrain and Taboola networks.

4. Stickiness is a Problem

Compared to visitors to this site in general, visitors coming from the amplification networks spend far less time here, and are less likely to engage in one of the goals I have set on this site (subscription to our useful daily email; visit the podcast page, etc.). This isn’t necessarily a surprise, as if you’re reading CNN you might be interested in a particular blog post here on Convince & Convert, but you may not be fully enraptured by all things social media and content marketing, as are our typical readers.

I’ve said before that we tend to overrate traffic and underrate behavior in our assessment of online success, and this low engagement rate (your results may vary, of course) is the one element of this program that could conceivably prevent me from keeping it rolling forever.

5. Headlines and Photos are Critical

Screenshot 9 28 13 3 02 PM e1380395437374 7 Things You Need to Know From My Content Amplification TestUnless you are a major publisher in your own right, when potential visitors see your amplified content in the “you might also like” widgets, they probably are not going to recognize the name of your site. Thus, the only clues they have to go on in terms of whether to visit your content are your headline, and your photo (on Taboola, which uses photos prominently in its related news widget). As you’ll see in the results report, the snappiest and most intriguing headlines (like my Facebook and smart watch posts) will perform the best.

One of the great features of the Cision system (although I haven’t used it yet) is the ability to change the headline when you amplify. So, instead of using whatever headline you already have on the post, you can make it a bit more exciting for amplification purposes. Be careful about baiting and switching people, of course. If your infographic is about how to twerk, you probably shouldn’t use a headline about easy fall turkey recipes.

You’ll probably also want to think even more than you already are about what the key photo of your content is, especially if you’re using Taboola.

6. Geo-Targeting Could be Interesting

My content amplification test is running across the USA, on all available sites. You can target the whole world, or any individual country. City and state targeting are coming soon, according to Cision. That might be an interesting option for me, as I could amplify specifically to people located in areas more likely to be true social media folks (Bay Area, NYC, et al).

7. It’s Surprisingly Affordable

Set up fee for the Cision system is $1,000 one-time to configure. After that, packages start at $900 for up to 1,500 clicks per month, ranging up to $4,000 for up to 10,000 clicks per month. So at scale, you’re paying 25 cents per click, which is more affordable than what you’re likely to see on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, or Linkedin.

Check out the Cision content marketing suite, including content amplification, here. 

Especially if you have occasional pieces of Youtility or potentially hot content that you want to boost, this content amplification system from Cision is a slick, easy tool set to substantially spike your traffic. My plan is not to keep it running via RSS for every post I publish here, but to instead use it to amplify content that shows signs of taking off, and then throwing gas on that emerging fire. This is the same philosophy we use with Facebook, using our STIR methodology for knowing when to promote a post using Facebook ads. 

Have you experimented with content amplification, Outbrain, or Taboola. With Cision, or directly? How have your experiences been?

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  • Owen McGab Enaohwo

    Jay you mentioned at the end of your blog post that “My plan is not to keep it running via RSS for every post I publish here, but to instead use it to amplify content that shows signs of taking off, and then throwing gas on that emerging fire.”

    Instead of using this content amplification strategy for popular content would it not be wiser to use it for content that actually generates the most email leads and/or customers for your business? I will like to know your thoughts on this?

    • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

      I too find myself a bit dubious on this concept. My hobby blog used to get big hockey sticks of traffic for a day or two if it got some play on Stumbleupon, but the vistors’ on-page times were minuscule and the bounce rates were awful — and within a couple days my traffic was right back where it was before.

      Meanwhile, regularly writing about my topic and engaging my audience produced reliable growth in traffic. So my question for Jay is: is 25 cents a click a good deal if it’s just junk traffic?

      There is another side of the coin, of course: you never know who’s going to become your biggest and best customer or how they’re going to find you — so if you say “well, amplification software doesn’t work for me” you’re ruling out any of those idiosyncratic visitors because they’ll never see your content.

      • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

        I’ve had the same experiences with Stumble, and I believe the going rate there is 10 cents per click. I should mention, however, that because we have ads/sponsors on this blog, we do care about traffic, even if it’s not traffic that “converts” in the traditional sense.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Great point Owen. Yes indeed, that would be the best plan, provided that the presumably evergreen nature of that content will still pull clicks via these amplification networks.

  • Josh Grossman

    It would most likely be a lot more cost effective to use Outbrain or Taboola directly. I’ve used both of them directly, but have not used Cision. I liked Outbrain better because it’s self service and Taboola is not. Also, Outbrain seems to be a few cents cheaper per click. Unless you plan to consistently promote content to build a specific audience, I would not recommend this as the traffic is pretty fleeting. You can help build your brand as shown by content sites like CafeMom and Bleacher Report regularly using Outbrain and Taboola but I think that the promotion needs to be continual to get the effect. Look at the sources of traffic – for example, the image shown by Jay in this post shows that a lot came from the Travel section of CNN or Fox – not really the “tech” audience that is most likely to come to Convince and Convert regularly. At SavingStar, where I head marketing, we did not a see a lot of signups for our grocery eCoupon service, even after getting a lot of traffic from recipe sites.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Good comment Josh. Thank you. I have not used Outbrain or Taboola directly yet, and you may be correct that it’s marginally cheaper to do so. However, if folks are so inclined, the ease-of-use of the Cision option may be worth the price difference.

  • Boaz

    Nice review. Detailed and honest. If most of the traffic is bouncing or not engaged, why not look at alternatives like increasing engagement of quality traffic with local recommendations?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Definitely. I’m always testing new stuff.

  • http://www.briandshelton.com Brian D. Shelton

    This is THE crux of this post: “we tend to overrate traffic and underrate behavior in our assessment of online success.”

    In general, I have found “amplification services” to be very ineffective at driving business results. The only way amplification works is if the (right) message is being amplified to the right audience. My message touting the highest quality rain boots and slickers being amplified to thousands (or millions) of consumers who live in the desert southwest is sure to have little to no impact to my bottom line. Sadly, this is often illustrative of amplification services.

    The only traffic worth paying for, in my opinion, is targeted, relevant traffic based on your specific messaging and intended business outcome.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Indeed. Overall, from a results standpoint, the best social/newfangled stuff I’ve done is Linkedin ads, actually.

  • Cision NA

    Hi Jay!

    Thank you for the review and feedback on our Content Marketing Suite! We put a lot of heart into this product, so we’re glad your results were positive and it drove traffic, was easy to use, transparent and affordable. As you mentioned in #4, results may vary for engagement rate and this is what we’ve found with our own testing. We find that engagement rate increases based on the headline and, the more straight-forward, the higher the rate.

    In addition to content amplification and analytics, the Content Marketing Suite also includes access to a social newsroom to easily publish stories and social sharing.

    We cater to the PR industry, most of whom are unfamiliar with content marketing and how it can impact publicity and the bottom line. Our goal with this product was to give the industry a simple way to amplify content in an all-in-one platform for ease of use. Your review and our client case studies have proven that this tool has done just that and we look forward to helping the public relations industry benefit from content marketing.

    Thank you!
    Best,
    Lisa

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Thanks Lisa. I appreciate you providing some additional context on the role of the suite.

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    I’m with @josh_grossman:disqus, over time these middleware solutions will likely go away if the primary benefit is just managing two different services.

    Your experience with quality matches what I have seen and heard from others. The question, in my mind, becomes: how can you make low quality traffic pay? Obviously, publishers make it pay with CPM-based advertising or big traffic guarantees on (high cost) sponsorships. But what are the winning use cases for a site like yours?

    Here are a couple of my initial thoughts:
    1) Link bait. Let’s face it, link bait titles (and images in Taboola) will get the clicks. Turn that into social shares and links by adding a very focused call to action for traffic that is less likely to hit your traditional conversion activities.
    2) Breaking news / opinion. Very timely posts have the most to benefit from scraping up traffic. Increasing traffic in the first couple hours after its released improves your chance of being the source for the breaking analysis.
    3) Evergreen / How To content. I would expect this to do better in Disqus, particularly once their targeting is approved, than it will in Taboola or Outbrain today because of the types of sites in each of the networks, but I believe these cornerstone, evergreen posts will be one of the opportunities in the future.

    Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing so much detail about your results!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      I totally concur with your assessment of the use cases Eric. Well done!

  • Jake Parent

    I’ve also been less than impressed with Cision as a company. They don’t seem to train their representatives well, and my experience has been that they are trying to do too many things for too many people – so much so that they end up doing none of them really well.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Sorry to hear that. My experiences have been great, but – as acknowledged above – they are a sponsor here, so my mileage may vary.

  • johnblue

    Given that you are an experienced Youtilitarian (is that a new group now?) would you say you are better prepared to use Cision’s product vs. someone not where you are? What level of preparedness is needed to take on such tools?

    Also, would you pay for it?

  • https://www.twitter.com/chadpollitt Chad Pollitt

    Jay:

    Great piece, as always. I, too, have been conducting these experiments as of late. While I agree with most of the comments as it relates to the quality of traffic, I still see massive value in amplification. My current experiment is seeing an average CPC of $0.065 across 12 unique native networks (experiment post-mortem article coming soon). At that price I can easily justify the spend and scale using my RSS feed.

    I’ve also discovered that the bounce rates are no different than normal organic traffic. Conversion rates are low, but in less than 30 days this experiment has delivered 30 incremental conversions and massive amounts of traffic that I otherwise would not have gained.

    While some recommend working directly with native networks, I discourage it in most cases. There are plenty of third parties (like Cision) w/ negotiated rates that marketers can take advantage of. The best CPC I could muster working directly w/ Outbrain was $0.49. You were able to get $0.25 per click working w/ a third party.

    Chad

  • http://www.adlava.com/ Kiyo

    I just tried Outbrain a few weeks ago, and I’m not very convinced of its value. I had the same problem you mentioned in the article – LOTS of traffic quickly, but horrible horrible bounce rate. It’s frustrating because bounce rate from organic is low for me, and bounce from social media is even lower. I’d actually be OK with low conversions if readers were finding value in the content or engaging with the site at all.

    Have you tried Nativo or any other amplification platforms since doing this test?