The disappearing attention spans of consumers.

Today I was talking with one of my company’s longtime clients about how much of a challenge it is to attract the attention of people in target marketing campaigns.

Her view is that it’s become progressively more difficult over the past dozen years or so.

Empirical research bears this out, too. Using data from a variety of sources including Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Google, Statistic Brain Research Institute‘s Attention Span Statistics show that the average attention span for an “event” on one of these platforms was 8.25 seconds in 2015.

Compare that to 15 years earlier, when the average attention span for similar events was 12.0 seconds.

That’s a reduction in attention span time of nearly one-third.

Considering Internet browsing statistics more specifically, an analysis of ~60,000 web page views found these behaviors:

  • Percent of page views that lasted more than 10 minutes: ~4%
  • % of page views that lasted fewer than 4 seconds: ~17%
  • % of words read on web pages that contain ~100 words or less: ~49%
  • % of words read on an average web page (around ~600 words): ~28%

The same study discovered what surely must be an important reason why attention spans have been contracting. How’s this tidy statistic:  The average number of times per hour that an office worker checks his or her e-mail inbox is … 30 times.

Stats like the ones above help explain why my client – and so many others just like her – are finding it harder than ever to attract and engage their prospects.

Fortunately, factors like good content and good design can help surmount these difficulties. It’s just that marketers have to try harder than ever to achieve a level of engagement that used to come so easily.

More results from the Statistic Brain Research Institute study can be found here.

In copywriting, it’s the KISS approach on steroids today.

… and it means “Keep It Short, Stupid” as much as it does “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

Regardless of the era, most successful copywriters and ad specialists have always known that short copy is generally better-read than long.

And now, as smaller screens essentially take over the digital world, the days of copious copy flowing across a generous preview pane area are gone.

More fundamentally, people don’t have the screen size – let along the patience – to wade through long copy. These days, the “sweet spot” in copy runs between 50 and 150 words.

Speaking of which … when it comes to e-mail subject lines, the ideal length keeps getting shorter and shorter. Research performed by SendGrid suggests that it’s now down to an average length of about seven words for the subject line.

And the subject lines that get the best engagement levels are a mere three or four words.

So it’s KISS on steroids: keeping it short as well as simple.

Note: The article copy above comes in at under 150 words …!

B-to-B content marketers: Not exactly a confident bunch.

In the world of business-to-business marketing, all that really matters is producing a constant flow of quality sales leads.  According to Clickback CEO Kyle Tkachuk, three-fourths of B-to-B marketers cite their most significant objective as lead generation.  Pretty much everything else pales in significance.

This is why content marketing is such an important aspect of commercial marketing campaigns.  Customers in the commercial world are always on the lookout for information and insights to help them solve the variety of challenges they face on the manufacturing line, in their product development, quality assurance, customer service and any number of other critical functions.

Suppliers and brands that offer a steady diet of valuable and actionable information are often the ones that end up on a customer’s “short-list” of suppliers when the need to make a purchase finally rolls around.

Thus, the role of content marketers continues to grow – along with the pressures on them to deliver high-quality, targeted leads to their sales forces.

The problem is … a large number of content marketers aren’t all that confident about the effectiveness of their campaigns.

It’s a key takeaway finding from a survey conducted for content marketing software provider SnapApp by research firm Demand Gen.  The survey was conducted during the summer and fall of 2016 and published recently in SnapApp’s Campaign Confidence Gap report.

The survey revealed that more than 80% of the content marketers queried reported being just “somewhat” or “not very” confident regarding the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Among the concerns voiced by these content marketers is that the B-to-B audience is becoming less enamored of white papers and other static, lead-gated PDF documents to generate leads.

And yet, those are precisely the vehicles that continue to be used most often used to deliver informational content.

According to the survey respondents, B-to-B customers not only expect to be given content that is relevant, they’re also less tolerant of resources that fail to speak to their specific areas of interest.

For this reason, one-third of the content managers surveyed reported that they are struggling to come up with effective calls-to-action that capture attention, interest and action instead of being just “noise.”

The inevitable conclusion is that traditional B-to-B marketing strategies and similar “seller-centric” tactics have become stale for buyers.

Some content marketers are attempting to move beyond these conventional approaches and embrace more “content-enabled” campaigns that can address interest points based on a customer’s specific need and facilitate engagement accordingly.

Where such tactics have been attempted, content marketers report somewhat improved results, including more open-rate activity and an in increase in clickthrough rates.

However, the degree of improvement doesn’t appear to be all that impressive. Only about half of the survey respondents reported experiencing improved open rates.  Also, two-thirds reported experiencing an increase in clickthrough rates – but only by 5% or less.

Those aren’t exactly eye-popping improvements.

But here’s the thing: Engagement levels with traditional “static” content marketing vehicles are likely to actually decline … so if content-enabled campaigns can arrest the drop-off and even notch improvements in audience engagement, that’s at least something.

Among the tactics content marketers consider for their creating more robust content-enabled campaigns are:

  • Video
  • Surveys
  • Interactive infographics
  • ROI calculators
  • Assessments/audits

The hope is that these and other tools will increase customer engagement, allow customers to “self-quality,” and generate better-quality leads that are a few steps closer to an actual sale.

If all goes well, these content-enabled campaigns will also collect data that helps sales personnel accelerate the entire process.

Digital display advertising: (Still) looking like the weakest online promo tactic.

untitledI’ve blogged before about the lack of engagement with online banner advertising, and as time goes on … the picture doesn’t change much at all.

When you break it down, online banner advertising is a bust on several levels:

 

  • As of the most recent stats, clickthrough rates on online banner advertising are running about 0.08%. That translates to fewer than one click for every 1,000 times the ad is served.

 

  • Based on current pricing for online banner ads, that one click might be costing anywhere from $5 to $10 (and it might have even been an accidental click).

 

Despite these “inconvenient truths,” nearly two-thirds of digital ad spending continues to go to online banner advertising based on a “cost per impression” pricing model. Why?

One answer is that it’s an easy way to advertise a product or service. Simply supply ad creative to the publisher and let it be served online.

Another may be that advertisers consider banner advertising to be a basic component of any promotional campaign: prepare a mix of direct marketing, some search engine marketing, some print advertising and some digital display advertising, and you’re off to the races.

A third reason — related to the one above and I suspect one big reason why so much digital display advertising persists in the B-to-B realm in particular — is that publishers who offer a suite of promo tactics as part of a specially priced integrated program always throw in digital display advertising as part of the mix. It becomes the default option for advertisers as they approve bundled programs and the discount rates that come along with them.

Here’s a suggestion for advertisers going forward: Push back a bit and ask publishers to come up with alternative program options that don’t include digital display advertising.  The revised program might not look as promising at first blush, but then remember the stats above and you may well see the attributes of the alternative program in a more positive light.

Tech meets traditional: Digital marketing drives more phone calls by far.

CCIn a classic case of marrying tech with traditional marketing, digital channels are driving more calls to businesses than ever before.

What’s more, digital channels are now responsible for nine out of ten phone calls made to companies as a result of promotional efforts using the ten most popular marketing channels.

These findings come from the 2016 Call Intelligence Index published by Invoca, a phone call tracking and analytics firm that evaluates phone call activity across 40 industry segments.

Invoca’s 2016 evaluation covers more than 58 million phone calls generated from ten marketing channels — six of them digital and four of them “traditional offline” channels.

According to Invoca’s analysis, the biggest single source of phone queries is mobile search — representing nearly half of all phone call volume. But the next five channels that follow in line are all digital as well, as can be seen in this list:

  • INMobile search: Drives 48% of phone calls to businesses from marketing channels
  • Desktop search: 17%
  • Desktop display advertising: 11%
  • Content / review websites: 9%
  • Mobile display advertising: 3%
  • E-mail marketing: 3%
  • Total digital channels: 91%

 

  • Radio advertising: 3%
  • TV advertising/infomercials: 2%
  • Newspaper advertising: 2%
  • Directory advertising: 2%
  • Total non-digital channels: 9%

Comparing the 2016 results against a similar analysis conducted by Invoca in 2014, digital marketing channels have continued to rise in prominence — from representing 84% of the total phone call activity to 91% today.

The Invoca research also finds that phone calls are supplementing digital interactions, which is the result of consumers shifting between various different digital channels as they go about their research — often employing several different ones during the same mission task.

One of the biggest jumps in digital channel usage is in the automotive segment, where it’s clear that a big shift is underway from offline to digital channels — particularly mobile. The automotive industry experienced nearly a 120% increase in digital sources driving phone calls in the current Invoca research compared to the previous one.

So there’s no question that digital now “rules” when it comes to marketing channels. But far from causing the demise of a traditional channel like a phone call — as some people predicted not so long ago — digital channels have simply changed where the consumer might be just prior to heading for the (smart)phone.

The “100% ad viewability” gambit: Gimmick or game-changer?

Say hello to the ad industry’s newest acronym: vCPM (viewable cost-per-thousand).

viewabilityA few weeks back, Google announced that it will be introducing 100% viewable ads in the coming months, bringing all online ad campaigns bought on a CPM basis into view across its Google Display Network.

The news comes as a relief to advertisers, who have long complained about the high percentage of ads that never have a chance to be viewed by “real people.”

The statistic that Google likes to reference is that approximately 55% of all display ads are never viewed due to a myriad of factors — such as appearing being below the fold, being scrolled out of view, or showing up in a background tab.

And the problem is only growing larger with the increased adoption of ad blocker software tools.

Google isn’t the only that’s one coming up with in-view advertising guarantees. Facebook recently announced that it will begin selling 100% viewable ads in its News Feed area.

But some are questioning how much of a better benefit 100% viewability will be in actuality. For one thing, ad rates for these program are sure to be higher than for conventional ad buying contracts.

For another, neither Facebook nor Google have stated how long an ad would need to remain in view before an advertiser gets charged. Whether it’s 1 second, 2 seconds or 5 seconds makes a huge difference in the real worth of that exposure to the consumer.

Then there’s the realm of mobile advertising. In a startling analysis conducted and reported on by The New York Times, a mix of advertising and editorial on the mobile home pages of the top 50 news sites was measured.  What the analysis found was that mobile airtime is being chewed up by advertising content far more than by the editorial content people are tuning in to view.

Boston.com mobile readers are a case in point. The analysis found that its readers spend an average of ~31 seconds waiting for ads to load versus ~8 seconds waiting for the editorial content to load.  That translates into a home page visitor paying $9.50 per month — just to view the ads.

ad blockerWhen there’s suddenly a cost implication in addition to the basic “irritation factor,” expect more smartphone and tablet users to avail themselves of ad blockers even more than they do today.

As if on cud, Apple is now allowing ad blockers on the iPhone, giving consumers the ability to conserve data, make websites load faster, and save on usage charges all in one fell swoop.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal all-around.

The lifetime value of a blog post: It’s more than you probably think.

bgHere’s an interesting factoid: In 2014, more than 550 million blog posts were uploaded on WordPress alone.

Add in Tumblr, and there are another 250 million blogs.

Considering the sheer volume of blogging activity, it’s surprising how little intelligence on the “value” of a blog post has been available. But now a study has been published that sheds light on the question.

The evaluation, which was commissioned by branding agency IZEA and conducted by research firm The Halverson Group, has determined that the lifespan of a blog post is far greater than the accepted measurement of 30 days.

The lifespan is more than 20 times longer, it turns out.

Let’s break down the research findings a bit more. The IZEA/Halverson study determined that by Day 700 (about two years), the typical blog post will have received ~99% of its impressions.

That’s a pretty long annuity, and it provides strong ammo for marketers who advocate for blog posts as an important way to maximize the return on their marketing spend.

According to the study, the typical blog post goes through three distinct phases in its useful life:

  • Shout: The initial spike in impressions that happens within the first 7 to 10 days, typically resulting in half of the total impressions the post will ever receive.
  • Echo: The period ending at 30 days, by which time the typical blog post will have racked up ~70% of its total impressions.
  • Reverb: The third phase that stretches from approximately Day 30 all the way to Day 700. This long-tail phase will typically generate the final ~30% of impressions.

Of course, the performance of individual blog posts will depend on the subject matter, the timeliness of the information, and other factors. But as a general rule of thumb, the Halverson findings show the potential value of a blog post as far greater than many marketers may have surmised up until now.

The Halverson study also provides a good rule of thumb for the lifetime impression value of a blog post. It can be calculated by multiplying a blog post’s 30-day monthly pageview total by a factor of 1.4.

In other words, by Day 30, marketers can know with a good deal of confidence how the blog post will perform overall.

Using this formula, marketers will be able to demonstrate the “evergreen” effect of blogging as a marketing tactic.

Certainly, the residual benefits of a blog post look very strong — particularly in contrast to volume-based media such as display or search advertising, which stop performing the instant the campaign investment ends.

The bottom line: Companies should continue to blog away … and if they haven’t started or if they’ve allowed their blogging program to flag, it’s time to get things back in gear!