Rumblings of an MBA mind...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Importance of utilizing Live Chat as an online marketing tool

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
Live Chat is one of the easy to implement tool that help a business in providing a personalized experience to visitors of it's website. In the jargon world, it is a tool helping in conversion optimization!

Who doesn't like getting the information directly in a chat instantly. When you install a chat application in your website, you are not imposing anything  on your visitors - they don't have to install the messenger nor do they have to compulsorily chat. Of course implementation of live chat depends on how mature the organization and how much can you invest in the sales force. For example a real estate firm may be able to handle it with just one operator while an e commerce firm may need to increase its work-force depending on the traffic. Also how long at least one operator is available to answer questions is also important; since the website is live 24X7; there is always a chance that you may get a query in non-official hours.

Main advantages of implementing a live chat application are -
  1. Understanding buyer behavior
  2. Understanding buyer intention and fill the sales funnel
  3. Support customers or prospective customers
  4. Reduced call center support system since an agent can handle multiple chats at the same time
Let's understand quickly the technical side of implementing a live chat. Once again Javascript comes to rescue. We just need to put another set of code like the tag implementation. You may wonder how live chat vendors are able to understand user behavior? once again cookies comes into picture. (Learn more here). At a high level, the operators are given a platform interface to monitor any chat initiations while a visitor visits the website. This pro-active type of chat initiation is  the normal usage. There are provisions to deliberately pop up with a custom message (based on various criteria) to help the website visitor. This is known as broadcast chat. In case the operators are not online, there are options to even send queries over a form (this is typically same as the forms similar to contact us or registration).
Another aspect of a live chat tool is that it is a registration form in disguise offering a marketer not only an understanding about user behaviors(with its analytics capabilities), improved interaction (with the live chat support); but also opportunities for options like sending brochures, sign-up for newsletters and so on.
Now a days, live chat application vendors are offering even mobile app based solution; thus providing an opportunity to overcome the missed opportunities during non-official hours or unattended chats.Similarly some sophisticated vendors provide capabilities like integrated VOIP possibilities, ticket management, and other integration.
Some of the important live chat vendors are
  • Live Chat Inc
  • Live Persoon
  • Snap Engage
  • Click Desk
  • Zopim
Chat Tool Tester website provides a good analysis/comparison on major chat vendors available in the market. Do check it out! Here is another interesting article for you to read about making live chat working for an online business (The Art of Conversation: Using live chat to market your online business )
What do you think about live chats?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A quick note on online ad serving

Sunday, May 24, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
We are living in a world in which advertisements are uniquely customized for each of us. In the past, a marketer wasn't diving into all the nitty-gritties and optimization of ad campaigns; however with the advent of technology, a (online) marketer is equipped with a plethora of options in how to reach to a prospective customer. Ad servers play a pivoting role in this workflow.

Ad serving is essentially the method by which online advertisements are shown to a specific user at a specific time taking into account factors like target segment, and consumer behavior. Before understanding how an ad server works, we have to understand two sides of the ecosystem - supply side and demand side. By supply side, I mean publishers (like New York Times) who have good websites and willing to lend out ad locations in their web pages. Demand side represent those who want to advertise their offerings (For example McDonald's).

When the internet ecosystem was small; the workflow was simple with publishers themselves deciding the cost for each of the ad placement units in their web pages and then having a human-broker type mechanism to connect with various advertisers. While this may be still prevalent in case of some high-traffic sites, the online advertising ecosystem has evolved to the sophistication that we are now talking about showing relevant ads, contextual ads, re-targeting ads and so on. With the advent of millions of websites, a manual process of ads allocation is also not possible. Thus came the concept of ad serving. It started with ad networks, then ad exchange and then ad servers (we will discuss about the differences later).
Considering the two sides of the workflow, mainly there are two types of ad servers - site side ad servers (publisher ad servers) and third party ad servers. Site Side ad servers serve ad creative every time a page is called. It manages the inventory of ads and make sure appropriate ads are displayed according to the campaign attributes. However managing a dedicated ad server may not be the forte of all publishers; this give rise to third party ad servers. An example could be Google's DFA for Publishers. These days, third party ad servers usually focus on trafficking, reporting and analysis of results across multiple locations. This separation enables the publisher to deactivate a creative on their end without needing to coordinate with the agency.

Let's consider briefly the steps involved in third part ad serving.
  1. When a prospective customer visits a website using a browser, the browser renders the web page. In the HTML code that gets rendered, along with the actual content; an ad request is also activated.
  2. Content is taken from publisher's content server and ad request is sent to the publisher's ad server (if the publisher doesn't have a dedicated ad server; it will be sent to the third party ad server used by publisher)
  3. The publisher's ad server sends a redirect asking the browser to call the third party ad server using a secondary ad tag.Browser activates the code by calling the 3rd party ad server.
  4. 3rd party ad server makes the decision about which ads to send back depending on various factors like geo, interest, and other similar demographic parameters.
  5. 3rd party ad server redirects the browser to retrieve the ad from the content delivery network where resides the actual creative file (if CDN is used)
  6. Browser activates the ad request to CDN.
  7. Ad is delivered to the web page by the CDN used.
Although there are multiple steps as mentioned above, all these happen over a time frame of milliseconds.
Some of the key benefits of third party ad servers are -
  • Tracking, optimization, re-targeting and reporting of all channel types.
  • No worry about ad optimization and instead focus on strategies
  • Minimal level of attribution capabilities like removing duplicates.
  • Reliability in terms of up-time and also consultative information on how their creative is performing.
A brief comparison of ad servers is available in this wikipedia article. Two good articles about this topic that I found useful are --

Monday, May 18, 2015

A bird's eye view of display advertising

Monday, May 18, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments

What is Display Advertising?

Display Advertising is perhaps the oldest form of online advertising. Simply put, its nothing but the ads - banner ad, image based ads that you see often. Presently, it extends to other forms such as rich media. Thus unlike a text based ad, these improve both the attractiveness and interaction capabilities of an ad.First image based ad was from AT&T that appeared in Wired magazine website in 1994. Since then, online display advertising has grown a lot. Here is a good video from IAB on the evolution of display advertising.



If you are in the online advertising field, I am sure you would have come across at least once the lumascapes. If you look at the latest Display landscape lumascape, you can how evolved the ecosystem has become with hundreds of niche players and complex offerings. From a core display advertising vendor perspective (aka what you need to know if you are an SMB), is that there are essentially four or five platforms that you need to consider to do display advertising - Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you become more savvy, you can consider other options like re targeting, trading desks and the buzzword - programmatic buying!
Capabilities such as contextual targeting and re-targeting enables an online marketer to reach the right target audience with the help of display advertising. Plethora of customized targeting strategies can be included in marketing campaigns with the help of vanilla products such as Google Adwords or Facebook advertising. Irrespective of which platform you choose, there are a number of properties that the vendor use for enabling the contextual advertising (like Google - Display Network, Youtube, Gmail and so on; Microsoft - Atlas, Bing, Outlook, Maps, Yahoo mail and so on).Optimization is the key to running an effective display advertising campaign. David Booth & Corey Koberg, in their book - Display Advertising An Hour A Day, suggests the following optimization strategy -

  1. Based on few campaign runs, determine the key sites that are performing well
  2. Wherever possible, consider managed placements to manually bid for more inventory on the key sites and specifically exclude sites that aren't performing.
  3. Keep an eye on the visitor behavior to re-target those visitors with a high chance of conversion.
  4. Study the demographics of conversions for fine tuning

Having said this, display advertising has its own challenges - that many of us don't click a banner ad. So how can an online marketer justify her budget request for display advertising? In my opinion, the question one needs to ask is what's the objective of your display advertising campaigns - is it reach, branding, retargeting - go for it! Are you looking for a more specific advertising, text based search advertising could be enough.A thumb rule often used is - display advertising is more suitable for generating and interest and search advertising for getting into a consumer's consideration set. Proponents of display advertising argues that it is not the clicks an online marketer should worry about while considering display advertising; but the impressions or reach or how many views the banner ad. But again the display advertising industry is plagued with challenges like bots - that mimic web traffic to a web site. This defeats the purpose of reaching to real folks for branding/reach etc. A solution called Viewability or viewable impressions is in making which expected to overcome some of the challenges of fraudulent display advertising.We will look in detail about viewability in a later post.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Three free tools to understand cookies and online privacy

Friday, May 15, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
In the last post, we tried to understand about cookies and pixel tags. Today, let's see some of the free tools available that will help you understand who are tracking you and how each of the market players in the online advertising ecosystem get access to your basic details using cookies - Ghostery, WASP and Cookiepedia.

Ghostery

It's one of the most used browser extension that helps an user about privacy. It detects web bugs installed in a website being visited. The beauty of the this extension is that it allows users to block individual bugs on the fly. An user can also re-enable those bugs. Ghostery is available for all major web browsers as extensions or plugins. For example, let's visit The Wall Street Journal . As per this extension, they have implemented around 50 trackers.

ghostery2



As you can see some are for advertising purposes, some for analytics and so on. Hence once you visit the website; a plethora of other players like Doubleclick, Chitka, Turn, Twitter Advertising, TradeDesk etc. has the opportunity to learn about you and in-turn in-corporate the information in their algorithms for real-time advertising (We will look in depth about these topics later). Ghostery allows to to disable tracking of each of these trackers individually.

WASP (Web Analytics Solution Profiler)

If you are more tech-savvy, here is a similar app as Ghostery, but provides information about what tags and scripts are implemented in the website you are visiting. The beauty of this extension though is how it visualizes each tag or script. It follows a tree format showcasing details of the nodes. Let's continue with the example of The Wall Street Journal. If you click on a node- it provides more details like cookie variables, headers etc. that's being sent.Unfortunately WASP is only available as a Chrome extension.
wsj

 

Cookiepedia

This website is created by by The Cookie Collective, a privacy centric technology firm. Similar to Ghostery, you can use this website and check out how many cookies are being set-up when you visit your favourite web page. Let' continue with our example from above. Cookiepedia states, Wall Street Journal sets 802 cookies in total (cumulative) out of which First party ones are 214;Third party ones being 588.

Do you find these tools helpful? what are some of the tools that you use?

Building a vibrant online community for your business

Friday, May 15, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments

Online Community Manager is one of the latest and hottest job roles in the online marketing world since last couple of years. Going by the most common job descriptions, an online community manager is responsible for building and managing online communities of users, followers or prospects of a brand, product or firm.From an online marketing perspective, building an online community is of utmost importance from the following perspectives -
  1. Building Loyalty. Having a vibrant community of users is what any marketer/business will be eager to have. It shows loyalty, and in turn benefits a business from network effects
  2. Market Research. A vibrant online community can be considered literally a test bed. Research, surveys, prototypes all will have better reach if a business has vibrant community.
  3. Improving Engagement. Customer/Prospect engagement is the most suggested success mantra for any business. Social media and online channels have made that effort easier to achieve.
  4. Creating a Knowledge-base. With a vibrant community of users and knowledge-sharers, you are building the knowledge-base of your product, service or brand. This in turn is a good starting point for content marketers to build their content strategies.
  5. Technical Benefit. Day by day, search algorithms are improving to take into account the quality of your web pages and how many users are actively mentioning about your brand/web pages had become and important factor for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Now let's shift the gear to focus on what an online community manager should do? How to build a vibrant and effective online community for your business? I would like to put the steps in creating a good online community into three pillars.

1. Creating quality content
Content is the king and will remain the king. Unless you have something useful to share to your customers or prospective customers; nobody will follow you; it's that plain and simple. Check out these two known-secrets that you need to re-learn to make your content fly. Similarly, it's important to give due diligence to your branding artifacts - logo, background images, designs and so on.

2. Identifying and engaging with the right audience
There are hundreds of social media channels today that you can't keep track of all! It's important you choose the right set of platforms to mine for the users you are targeting. Generally, if you are B2C firm, Facebook has to be included. Twitter is more in lines of both B2B and B2C segments. Finally LinkedIn is more suited for B2B segments. Having said that, there are plenty of other channels that you need to consider depending on what's your focus area? For example instagram or yelp may be an important channel if you are retailer/chain-store. Similarly flicker could be a possible platform if you are catering to the photographer community. Not only is choosing the right channel important, it's also equally important to whom you are following - how active those twitter/Facebook users; how influential they are in the case of LinkedIn; how vibrant/profile is the LinkedIn group and so on. Identification is only the first part. Engagement is the second part. It's important that you are genuinely caring the user community. An online community manager needs to take utmost due diligence to keep a look for conversations on both the product and associated themes (like if you are a spreadsheet plugin vendor - are you keeping a track of all conversations related to modeling best practices?)

3. Maintaining consistency
It's important to keep analyzing how the community is doing in terms of vibrancy, users and sharing. It's important that the content is of high quality; it is also equally important to make sure whether it is aligning with the overall online marketing strategy - is it for brand building? is it for creating a knowledge-base, is there a requirement of call to action?

Here is a great and elaborate illustration from Moz blog post from mackwebsolutions on How to Build an Online Community for Your Business.
 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cookies and Pixel Tags - Foundation stones of Online Advertising

Monday, May 11, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments

What are cookies? A search would give you hundreds of articles about cookies. If we look at the trend of cookies as the search keyword, we can see that the coverage has gained interest especially in the context of privacy issues.

A cookie is essentially a small piece of code or text file (depending on the browser that you use) that is created once you visit a website. This file helps to identify you and some information about you when you visit later the same website.Real life applications of cookies could be as simple as saving your login credentials to the whole gamut of online advertising. Here is a short video that crisply explains what a cookie is in the internet world.Usually the cookies won't have any significant data that will help one identify the personal details.


Here is a cheat-sheet about how you can see all the cookies stored in various browsers. Only Internet Explorer stores cookies in text file format. Other browsers like Firefox or Chrome stores in SQLite format. So you may need SQLite Browser to view the complete details. Once again the actual storing mechanism may vary between browsers, for example Chrome stores all the cookies in one file in the profile folder.

Broadly cookies can be session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies are temporary ones created by your browser while you visit a website. It's life time is only when you are in the website.Persistent cookie files continues to live in the browser's memory and is activated again when you come back to the original website.A typical example could - a cart you created on the previous day in Amazon will be still active if you re-visit today.A set time period is provided for the cookie to live-in.

Another classification of cookies is first-party v/s third-party cookies.First-party cookies is generated through a direct visit - say when you visit economictimes.com. This information is often provided directly by the user - for example a registration. A third-party cookie is the one when it is created by a third-party when you visit a website. In the above example; this could be the result if the publisher is using a analytics tool or for tracking purposes or for serving ads.
Third party cookies find its major application in ad serving (online advertising). At a very high level - this is how it helps and ad serving company. Let's say a website that we visit allows third party cookies. Consider economictimes allowing a third party ad serving company to drop it's cookie to understand all the users visiting the website. Thus the ad serving company gets the basic information about you. Let's assume you were reading a personal finance related article and now you visit a mutual fund's website. Let's assume you now go to a website (say a travel blog) which is also a customer of the ad serving company. Now this enables the ad serving company to show you an ad related to mutual funds while you are reading the travel blog post.Ofcourse this is a very simple way to put it. I will deep dive into this in later posts. For a more elaborate yet easy to understand answer to this puzzle, check out this stackoverflow Q&A thread.

Here is a nice video from Wall Street Journal about how advertisers use cookies to serve ads(How Advertisers Use Internet Cookies to Track You).
Web bugs are similar to cookies; but a small block of code on a webpage that can read and put cookies when a user visits the web page. We can get information such as IP address, browser and so on. Web bugs are also known as web beacons or pixels. Pixel tags and clear GIFs are the terminologies used in the world of online advertising for these.Pixel tags can also be used for user viewability customization.Technically it's a 1X1 pixel transparent image as shown below --
<img src="test.php" alt="" width="1" height="1" />
Here is a detailed article on how to create a pixel tag and it's uses. If you really understood the capabilities of web bug; am sure it will creep you out! - Web Buggery: Analyzing Tracking Images
As a side note, you are an online marketer - here is an article about how to incorporate pixel tags and Google Analytics for Email tracking.
Now that we have understood about cookies and web bugs, let's get into what is a cookie pool? A cookie pool is nothing but a database of cookies. This is the back bone of many market players in the online advertising ecosystem (We will look into this in detail in later posts; but the most important application is search retargeting). You may ask how one can build a cookie pool. As you would have also guessed; one way is through direct implementation of web bugs; another way is when the online vendors put a pixel tag on a publisher's website like The Economic Times.You can easily understand how many folks are tracking you when you visit a website like economicstimes.com (wait for the next post on how :) ).

Now let's understand how to manage the tags from a publisher's perspective. Once an advertiser (the firm who wants to promote and sell its products online) partner with various vendors for promotion, user experience and analytics, lot's of tags get added to the web page; primarily because that's the primary mode of getting information. Managing these tags for any changes (either in the tag itself or from a web page context) manually becomes cumbersome and error-prone. That's why the whole idea of a Tag Manager or Tag Management Systems (TMS) was born. The most important USP of a tag manager is that it gives the marketer complete control of tags instead of being dependent on IT team in case of an update.With the use of a TMS, we only need to worry about few lines of code in the web page instead of a chunk of code for each vendor. The specific code snippets for each vendor (like tracking, analytics etc.) are handled directly in the tag manager platform.

Before diving into the details of how a tag manager works, let's put some more thoughts on what are the disadvantages of having too many tags in your web page. The obvious one as mentioned above is the maintenance issue. Maintenance is two-fold - we need to take care that an update in web page code is not affecting any of the tags' code and also vice versa. The second challenge is the affect on site loading time. Since each tag needs to be processed by the browser and communicated to a server, it can slow down the website thus affecting usability; more importantly the search engine ranking these days.

Managing tags in one central place while also tackling the above challenges looks promising to a marketer. Apart from the central platform that is easy to use that a TMS vendor provides, there are few other advantages. One is how the tags are getting fired. Often we can control when a tag gets fired, logic behind various tag firings and monitoring & measurement. Having said these, the main benefit for an online marketer from using a Tag Management System is the level of information one can have access to. A TMS allows transfer of wider amount of data (like more cart information, customization or transactions) between vendors in the eco system. So instead of handling everything in browser, we can handle in servers. This is called Server Direct.

When it comes to the type of TMS; they are often three based on how they are developed - client based, server-based and server-to-server. In the client side model; the entire container snippet for all tags is downloaded and cached. This is similar to adding all tags in the web page; but with additional benefits mentioned below (of course keep in mind that it doesn't solve the site load time issue though). Server based TMS tackle the site loading time challenge also in the sense that individual tags get fired according to the logic after a communication with the vendor's server. Server-to-server side technology complicates things little since communication happens better servers (TMS vendor and Publisher) rather than from browser.

Search Engine Watch had published Top 5 Reasons for using a tag management system and Top 5 reasons for not using a Tag Management Solution (TMS). Read them to get both the perspectives.

Friday, May 8, 2015

How to make your content fly? - Here are the two known-secrets you need to re-learn

Friday, May 08, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
As you might have thought while reading the headline - there are no unknown secrets to making your content fly.Put it in plain vanilla words - it needs to be what your reader will consider valuable. Here are the two such secrets that you should keep in mind while writing anything in your blog or website - Relevance and Share-ability. As I mentioned earlier in a post, a reader comes to your site to gain some value - whether it is knowledge or entertainment. Thus the content needs to be relevant for her. How do you ensure the content is relevant? Here are three questions that you can ask yourself -

1. Is your content focused for a specific group? It's quite natural that one expects the content of a blog post or website to be specific rather than generic - are you writing the content for a beginner or a professional? are your writing it for an engineer or a decision maker? are you writing it for a kid or a teenager? Thus keeping in mind your target reader's demographics is really important.
2. Is your content personalized? By this, I mean whether the reader is getting a personal touch - is your content more like a textbook or a guidebook; is it more like mentor writing or a robot writing? Are you getting to crux effectively or are your beating around the bush? Often I have seen content marketers fall into this trap of telling the same thing in different ways.
The second secret - share-ability is often getting prominence today. The things that you need to keep in mind is - is your content short and sweet? Is it something a reader will bookmark - either personally or in a social bookmarking platform? Is it something she will tweet about or share in an email to her friends? Unless you give importance to the online word of mouth, you will have hard time publicizing your content, blog or site. These days even search engines are becoming intelligent enough to understand how good is your content level, how relevant it is for a prospective search engineer user or reader?
Keep these success mantras while you write anything online --
  • Make it relevant to the target audience
  • Make it short and to the point
  • Make it share-able

Monday, May 4, 2015

Three critical factors that decide how successful your blog is?

Monday, May 04, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
For any blogger, the question - how successful is your blog is a tough one to answer. I believe there may more than 200 million blogs as of today.A quick look at the wordpress.com stats that it publishes indicate that close to 45 million new posts are created each month. In this context, making your blog successful is a tiresome job; Well, it may not be as much if you consider these three factors - Technology, Content and Consistency.

Technology
This is by far the easiest factor one can take into account because of the fact that the usage has become very simple even for kids. However the catch here is to find out the critical must-dos to be covered in this. By technology, I mean aspects like the platform you use to host your blog, how much sophisticated you get to measure your performance and the likes. Platforms like wordpress with its huge ecosystem of contributors through plugins has made the part of technology the easiest and fastest aspect one can tackle. I would consider this as the foundation stone to the success you expect for the blog. While there are plenty of things you can do, the main ones would be things like choosing the right blogging platform, tracking performance using either the in-built statistical capabilities or using tools like Google Analytics, and hygiene factors like setting up RSS feeds,publishing in directories and avoidance of HTML faults.

Content
We have heard from many industry experts that SEO is currently moving in the direction of content marketing. Search engine algorithms are becoming more and more intelligent to understand whether a website really add value to a reader. Many of the SEO techniques used few year may be irrelevant, obsolete or even have negative impact today. Today, the internet is literally becoming a place where content makes the difference. You may be able to drive traffic to your blog by various techniques, but to sustain it - your really need the useful and relevant content your target reader is expecting.Content has gone beyond the page that you own - today -- it's about how much you genuinely contribute through the social channels and also how others are expanding it. Today your persona is more important when compared to the impersonal platform.

Consistency
This is a factor that is true not only in the blogging world; but also for any of your communication channels - whether it is social media emails. Unless you are consistent in writing; there is no incentive for reader to come back. No one is free enough to check every now and then on whether you are writing something and which is making sense to them. Consistency indicates you are committed to what you write about; that you are genuinely interested in sharing the information. There are various theories and expert opinions on how much is consistent; but I think - it's really up to the domain you are in; the bandwidth and the expectations. For example a blog like allfacebook may even have multiple blog posts per day; while a personal finance tip sharing blog may have only one per week.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Three steps to consider before you start blogging

Friday, May 01, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments
Getting started with blogging has become easier than anyone can even imagine. At one end, blogging can be at zero cost (of course keeping apart the intellectual effort ;)) or it could be a costlier effort (when you consider hosting, premium themes, plugins, writing resources and so on).
As I mentioned earlier, creating a successful blog is a tough job and it depends essentially on three factors - technology, content and consistency. In this post, let us discuss further about the technology aspects - these are the three foundational steps that you do to have a head start.

Step 1 - Choosing the right blogging platform

There are plenty of platforms available for you to start blogging - blogspot, wordpress, tumblr on the free platform sides to wordpress.org and custom designed hosting on the other end. If you are inclined towards creating a website cum blog, we have platforms like weebly, wix and the likes apart from wordpress.org. Obviously thus two questions arise
1. Whether to go for a free platform or choose a hosted platform?
2. How to choose between various platforms like - blogspot, wordpress, weebly, wix etc.?
There are plenty of resources to help you make this decision; but I guess the key is - what's your objective of the blog - is it a personal log or is it for a commercial purpose? While this line of difference is also getting blurred; I would consider a free platform if you are just experimenting or if it is just kept as a personal log. Another factor you need to consider is - what sort of customization are you interested in? Free platforms offer minimal capabilities; while premium, paid ones offer complete customizability.The catch there is - if you choose a paid option - customization is completely at your own risk. Here are some useful links to make this decision

Step 2 - Implementing performance measurement

How is my blog doing? is a question a blogger must keep track of from Day 0. The bright side of it is that you get a sense of whether you are getting traction and how I can improve my blog readership? The darker side of it is that you may get disheartened untill you get a decent viewership. The import aspect here is that - there are plenty of completely free tools available to help you with measurement. I would recommend tracking your blog through two tools apart from the standard statistical capabilities each platform provide - Google Analytics and Webmasters Toolkit (Google and Bing). While you may think implementing all these is cumbersome; Google and Microsoft have made it so simple and easy to use that you can gain the benefits immediately. Here are some of the resources that will be useful for you to get started --

Step 3 - Taking care of hygiene factors - directories, RSS feeds and social sharing

This step helps you to expand the reach of your blog. One of the important things in this step is to submit your blog to few blog directories.This helps you to gain interest in your blog and also showcase/publicize what you are going to write about. I would include also things like Google Local Listing if applicable.Some of the directories are geography based and some are domain specific. Here are some resources that will help you to identify the directories you may want to list in.

Then create a RSS feed for your blog. This will help readers to subscribe to your blog updates (Check this guide The Complete FeedBurner Guide with Some Cool Enhancements)
The third one is social channel sharing. This has become a must-to-have feature in any blog. This helps readers to share instantly any of your blog posts that they like.Similarly providing options for social bookmarking. Here is a good blog post on this topic. Finally, add your profile and let know the world that the blog is managed by a person and not a robot. Here is a good how-to guide about adding your google + profile. Recent changes to search algorithm gives importance to authorship verification like these.

So what are you waiting for? get started with your blog now!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What is Viewability aka Viewable impressions?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 Posted by Vijay No comments

At CES 2015, Google announced about rolling out viewability reporting capabilities across its ad platforms. The concept of viewability has been there since 2010 from early advocates such as RealVu and OnScroll. However it started picking up heat again when The Media Rating Council lifted an advisory, published few guidelines and advised that the industry can start using viewable impressions as a digital currency metric. Let's try to understand what viewability or viewable impressions represent and how it matters to an online marketer?


What is Viewability?

One of the most used metric in the digital world is impressions. Impression is when an ad is shown in the web page. It's similar to the impression metric used in the offline world. However an ad shown doesn't mean the visitor to the web page actually saw it. There could be multiple cases where the visitor is not actually viewing the ad - It could be that the ad is appearing down the page where the reader is not even scrolling down to; or it could be that the user opened multiple tabs and closed immediately. The concept of viewability is a shift from impression served to impression viewed.   The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) consider a “viewable” impression as the one which is at least 50% visible for a minimum period of one second. When it comes to video viewability, the standard is at least half the video has to be on screen for a period of minimum two seconds. The Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) group, founded by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and IAB is responsible for coming up with such standards and guidelines. Check out the latest guidelines produced by the Media Rating Council here.

Benefits of Viewability

View-able impressions take the digital measurement capability one step ahead. A marketer needs to pay only for those impressions which are actually viewed; thus giving her the opportunity to understand the real impact of ad spend. From a Brand Marketer's perspective, she will be able to understand the lift happening from viewable impressions and understand the elements that increase viewability. From the end customer's point of the view, websites will be more user friendly, and ads will be more relevant ones. Since the ad supply may get reduced, publishers will be forced to improve site designs and find creative ad spots. Premium content (read top slot of ET or The Hindu etc.) will attract more premium for the ad slots associated with those sections.

Challenges in adopting Viewability

First and foremost, it is expected that the amount of impressions that are not actually viewed is enormous. Thus an adoption of this metric without proper standards and authentic technology is a challenge. Secondly technical challenges involved to measure viewable impressions are enormous. Let's take one example - iFrames; cross domain iFrames used in ad delivery takes ads from a  different domain than publisher's site. This means we can't measure whether the impression is viewed. Possible adoption of viewability as a metric has resulted in publisher trying some new design features like  automatic scrolling, click-to-scroll and also more ad formats like takeovers, pop-ups, disruptive reading and so on. This could be countering the use experience. Wikipedia article on viewable impressions provides a good over view of how viewability can be implemented and its associated limitations.

Thus, while viewability is a right step in improving the digital performance measurement, we are still away from adopting it a full-fledged standard!