How Should Publishers Be Using CRO?

Most people think that Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is only for marketers, but publishers should be using it too!

This group needs to approach CRO techniques a little differently for them to be effective. So, to help our publisher friends, we’ve done a quick round-up to make sure their CRO strategy is on track. Take a look:

What is CRO?

You probably know this already, so we’ll be quick:

A conversion is when a visitor to your site takes your desired action. By optimising this process, you can try to get as many visitors as possible to take that action.

At FABRIC8, we do this by studying user behaviour and psychology, and collecting data that will ultimately inform all our decisions.

There are several techniques that can be used to collect this data and improve conversion rates, here are some of our favourites:

Whether you’re a publisher or a marketer, these techniques can be used to test assumptions about your audience, their behaviour and conversion rates, as well as to inform your content strategy. This helps remove the guesswork from things – pretty cool, right?

Why is CRO different for publishers?

So, that all sounds good. And, most of it applies to both publishers and marketers (hooray).

However, publishers have slightly different objectives and priorities to your average marketer, so their CRO strategy needs to account for this.

Where marketers will usually have an individual goal for each page, a publisher’s main goal is to optimise ad revenue through CRO. After all, you can charge more for ad space if the content influences ad performance.

Most publishers concentrate on the immediate revenue from a specific visitor on a specific page. However, we think you should be trying to optimise the lifetime ad revenue a visitor generated by a visitor. (Basically, persuading visitors to stick around or keep coming back to your website for as long as possible).

Yes, this might be harder to track than your simple Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as click-through-rate (CTR) and session duration, but it’s well worth it. After all, it costs far more to attract new visitors to a site than it does to retain older ones.

Looking at the lifetime ad revenue, instead of immediate value, will undoubtedly change the way you look at CRO optimisation. But don’t worry, we can help with this.

3 areas publishers using CRO should focus on

The first thing you need to think about is setting a goal for your pages.

If you don’t have a conversion goal in mind, your content probably won’t have a direction – not very useful – and you won’t know if your page is successful – even less useful!

For publishers, the goal is usually for the reader to click on the ad. While this is important, there are two other goals you should focus on if you’re going to improve the lifetime ad revenue of each visitor.

Take a look at these three goals, and some CRO tips you can use to achieve them.

1. Increase click-through-rate

Increasing CTR is still the primary aim. However, you need to go about it in a different way so that your visitors click on your ads more often.

Think about it – people don’t really want to see ads. 615 million devices now use adblock and the click rates for display ad campaigns are shockingly low (approx. 0.1%)!

So, you have to think long and hard about your ad strategy in relation to CRO if you’re going to get more clicks.

Firstly, it’s probably time to admit that ads in the sidebar don’t work. They get a low CTR because they’re easy to ignore. They’re separate from what the visitor is reading, so don’t tend to grab much attention.

This means you’ve got to get creative with ad layout and placement. Try avoiding traditional locations (header, sidebar etc) and place ads within the content itself.

Make sure that this doesn’t adversely impact the user experience by using A/B testing to confirm the optimum spot for ad placement.

Next up, make sure you use a blend of display and textual ads. We’d probably say use just one display ad so it doesn’t have to compete for attention, then several text ads that will blend with the article and catch the visitor’s attention as he/she skims.

Use contextual advertising to make sure these ads are targeted to the content on the page, and you’ll be well on your way to optimising your CTR!

2. Build up visitor engagement

It’s simple; if visitors browse more pages per session, they’ll have more opportunities to click on ads. So, how do you get them to look at different pages?

Well, it’s all about content recommendations. As soon as your visitors are finished reading an article, they should be presented with other interesting articles on your site.

The recommendation process can be hard to get right, but can also make a huge difference to your revenue – just ask Amazon!

Recommendations should be laid out in a way that catches attention, doesn’t overwhelm, and should only offer relevant suggestions. Get this right, and your recommendation process will really help build visitor engagement.

One other thing, don’t put up a barrier between your site and visitor interaction. A surprising number of sites ask for visitors to create an account just to leave a comment, or rate an article. This disengages your audience almost immediately, so try to avoid it where possible.

3. Grow your content distribution network

Ideally, you want more visitors to share content through social channels as this will encourage their followers to go to your content pages and, perhaps, click on some ads.

To do this, you need to prove your content's worth sharing. Show your audience proof that others have found it useful and share-worthy. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Social proof – a counter showing how many people liked it on Facebook, or how many people tweeted about it
  • Internal rating system – based on algorithm or exit interviews, asking questions like ‘did you find this article helpful’ or ‘would you recommend it?’

Just by having this somewhere on the page, you'll convince your visitor that sharing is the right thing to do.

All that remains is having a frictionless social sharing system. If it’s not, it will lead to a bad user experience and the probability of visitor drop-off will rise dramatically.

Don’t include too many platforms – just the ones used by your target audience – and offer a direct link to their social media platform of choice. It shouldn’t take more than three steps (click, write, send), so try not to overcomplicate things.

So, that’s it: through a combination of testing, promotion and a lot of hard work, you can improve both your CRO and your ad revenue. If you need some advice on where to start, or on testing your website, FABRIC8 is always here to help.

If you think you can do it alone just remember – testing is super-important! To make sure everything’s in the right place to generate ad revenues, you’ll need to test many variations and pay close attention to visitor behaviour. But don’t worry, we know you can do it – good luck!