When I look for consistent themes within my writings, certainly lead generation, customer acquisition, and performance marketing come to the top of this imaginary tag cloud. What I find myself obsessing on is the monetization ecosystem, namely how sites make money and how companies attract clients. This focus on monetization usually finds me taking countless screenshots not necessarily of best of breed companies but best of breed monetization.
For reasons that can be saved for another post, direct marketers often make up the majority of best of breed. Their creations span from no value-add (the flogs) to solving local (Groupon, et. al). The vast majority of direct / performance marketers, though, have earned for them and the category a desultory reputation. Their downfall is the product of human nature when trying to promote undifferentiated products and service, especially on a performance basis. It leads to false claims and other unsubstantiated promises because they need something to gain the attention of the user. Their challenge, which is not an advertiser challenge, is the difficulty of monetiation.
Some of the best monetization, not in dollars but skill, can be found amongst the crap, the crap inventory it is. But what is crap? Crap is the (almost) unmonetizable content. It has existed since the dawn of the internet, and it will continue to exist as long as we are the users of the internet. Crap is the time waster or the brand unsafe. It is the low quality, bottom feeding content, whose biggest flaw as far as the web is concerned, is being free. For as bad is crap is overall, there is just so much of it, and while at some level those who facilitate the crap do so out of more personal than business reasons initially, that inventory sits there almost begging to be made into something.
What is crap? Here's an attempt to chart the crap landscape (web traffic only).
- Low Intent - Undirected traffic, neither commercially or transactionally
- High Intent - Highly engaged traffic, users with something specific on their mind
- High Quality - Brand safe traffic, high transactional quotient
- Low Quality - Brand unsafe, low transactional quotient and/or ability
is all about the topic. Quality is all about the desirability of the
Low intent is not inherently bad. It is simply people in situations where they aren't actively searching. But, it doesn't mean they can't be high quality. A lot of display traffic can be low-intent but the audience is comprised of people who are clickers and converts. The "crap" in this case is not an intent issue. It's a quality issue. Crap comes in all types of content and intent. We think of a site like Google's own search pages as one standard of good traffic. It is high intent traffic. Then again porn is pretty high intent traffic as well. So what separates the two? Distilled, the difference comes down to the ability to monetize one versus the other. That's at the heart of "quality." Amazon is the easiest example of quality. Although not an ad supported play, the vast majority of its traffic goes there for very specific reasons and they do so in order to transact. On the ad side, quality doesn't mean an audience who will always convert. It can simply reflect desirability - a large number of advertisers for whom that traffic would produce the desired results either branding or performance.
Many a company has done a fine job at monetizing the unmonetizable (CPALead being a great example that has a polished appearance), but
doing so means being realistic about your business. Those sites are
below the line for a reason. You can force their attention into an ad
environment, especially in some of the higher intent areas, but getting
their attention and getting them to convert doesn't equal quality. It
can mean money, but inherently not long-term money.