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Here at Econsultancy we are many things, one of them being a B2B publisher.

Like most publishers (B2B or otherwise) we carry ads on our site and have an in-house team to sell and manage the advertising. 

A recent in-house project at Econsultancy kicked up the dust on the issue of traffic figures and what gets quoted when selling advertising.

In three years managing ad inventory on Econsultancy, I have only ever been asked for two numbers: unique visitors and page impressions.

Quality, not quantity

Basing your media buying decisions around who has the highest volume of traffic is not the best approach. It's very much a quantity over quality view. 

It's like going to view a flat and asking about the total square footage for the entire block. It does not impact your decision making (unless you are planning on buying all the advertising inventory that site serves).

In a B2C, mass market, brand-focused approach this would work, but in the world of B2B this does not make sense!

Regardless of my opinion, direct advertisers and agencies alike always ask for the same numbers and the publishers have to be able to push the right buttons.

It has become commonplace to ask these questions and, as a result, various figures are always quoted in media kits, sales letters and all other kind of promotions with a view to selling ad space, because that is what the buyers are asking for.

What do these numbers really tell us about the site as an advertising channel?

Er, not a great deal I'm afraid. At a glance, you could suggest that the higher the traffic, the more popular the site is which could lead to all kinds of assumptions about the quality of the audience, the engagement of the reader, the quality of the content etc.

This is a fair, if vague, assumption.

If these factors were genuinely of importance to an advertiser, they would be looking at other metrics.  

Bounce rates, time on site, page views per visit, and frequency of visits can tell advertisers if traffic is actually engaged visitors or just those that stumbled over the site by mistake. But they don’t.

I think, in general, a relevant site that has high traffic and high uniques is better than the same site with low traffic and low uniques.

However, in isolation, these two numbers do not tell an advertiser enough about the site to make a well informed decision.

So where do the figures come from? 

Any online publisher will want to be seen to have as much traffic as they can get away with quoting. That makes sense.

As long as these are seen by buyers as key metrics, then the publishers will quote as high a number as possible.

How as a buyer do you know that the figures are accurate?

Audited figures from the likes of ABC can help reassure buyers that the figures have been checked by a third party and that they were are accurate at the time of audit. ABC works perfectly well for offline media.

Print publications have used this certification for years and it is widely regarded as trustworthy.

In the world of digital publishing, every publisher worth their salt knows what there "vitals" are. With tools such as Google Analytics available for free and fairly straightforward to use for the basics, it is inconceivable that a publisher does not know what their traffic is.

If they say this, they one of two things, dishonest or incompetent. Either way, avoid like the plague!

From a buyer's point of view, it can be tricky to track down details of site traffic for a particular publisher as they are not publicly available. This means emailing the sales team.

Many will not wish to do this as the second you do, you can expect daily calls from 'Johnny Sales-rep' trying to flog you roll-out, overlay, pop ups etcat 34.6% of the rate card price if you sign today. Not much fun.

Why would a publisher not want prospective advertisers to see what their traffic statistics are?

There is only one logical reason, they are not very good.

Econsultancy has always maintained a transparent approach to most of the projects we run, and being open about our traffic etc is a no brainer.

One of the tools available to advertisers is Google Ad Planner, where you can search by a site domain and get an idea of, amongst other things, traffic information.

Each publisher that uses Google Analytics has the option to open up their data to this tool so that when an advertiser is looking at their listing they can see whether the figures are an estimate, or whether they are accurate.

I think there needs to be an acceptance amongst publishers that your traffic is what it is and hiding the fact or quoting misleading figures is not acceptable.

There can't be any real excuses with free tools available to gather the info and to communicate it effectively.

My key tips to any B2B advertiser would be:

  • Do not base your media buying decisions around traffic volumes alone.
  • Think about who you want to target and work from there.
  • Think about where your audience would be. This will stem from content and editorial influence of various publications.
  • Be sure to ask where any traffic figures come from and exactly what they mean.
  • Before you even think about a media campaign, make sure you have some relevant content to offer.
Adam Candlish

Published 30 November, 2011 by Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish is Sales Manager at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

2 more posts from this author

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Bruno Moura

I think you're right, "a relevant site that has high traffic and high uniques is better than the same site with low traffic and low unique", especially in view of an advertiser.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

Some great tips. We work with a couple of large B2B organisations and when sourcing advertising always look for relevance and quality over sheer quantity. It is much more worthwhile to reach highly relevant businesses (decision makers if possible) even if that means sacrificing total numbers.

almost 5 years ago

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Michael Webster

Decent observations about volume, but I think that you need to say more.

The point of most B2B publications is to create a particular audience for each of their writers - an audience who will buy the services being promoted by the writer.

That channel can be 5, 50, or 500 and still be of great value -or it can be 500,000 and of no value.

The value to the writer and reader comes when they are matched to "barter, trade and truck". That is the only number worth knowing.

almost 5 years ago

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

This article raises some interesting points. What advertisers and media buyers need is transparent online data showing the audiences they are interested in – that means no robots, no spiders and no internal unique browsers. This data needs to show the reach and engagement of online content and it needs to be provided to the industry in a continuous monthly format so that figures are always up to date and accurate. This is exactly what ABC’s webBase scheme, launched last month, does. In setting the standard for online data our monthly webBase Report will bring web traffic reporting up to the same high level of transparency that buyers already expect in other platforms.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

@Adam Tudor - long time no speak! I think you nailed it there. B2B (broadly speaking) has a far more niche target audience and typically the products and services are higher ticket items so the prospects require some nurturing and engagement. With a consumer banner, advertising a lower ticket item, they may well click though and purchase - not likely in the world of B2B (again, broadly speaking).
At this stage you start to look at you advertising as more than just branding/lead gen/display. It is a content marketing exercise and relevance (and as you say, seniority) is key!

@Steve Garret - Thanks for the input and this is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about. (For anyone interested you can read the press release on this product here http://www.abc.org.uk/-News-And-Views-/News/Introducing-webBase/)

As with any certification/accreditation, it will depend heavily on adoption from publishers. I think ABCe are in a strong position to lead this due the level of trust that exists already as I mentioned.

Although if (as with the Google Ad Planner) people are simply opening their analytics up to the world, is a stamp of approval necessary? And from a publishers perspective, if I can open up my data this way then why would I pay for another service? (Sorry Steve - cynic hat went on there!)

I imagine you are digging a little deeper than page views/uniques? Looking at metrics that better reflect engagement as you mention?

Would be interesting to discuss this new product and if you have any further information please email me at adam.candlish AT econsultancy.com.

almost 5 years ago

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

@Adam Candish - Opening up your books is a great step towards transparency, of course, but trust is earned through demonstrating the books are written to the industry agreed standards. An independent audit shows that analytics data meets those standards. That way buyers can make useful comparisons and review performance over time with confidence. As for paying for another service webBase is priced to ensure it delivers value for money for media owners of all sizes.

almost 5 years ago

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Henry Perks

Traffic stats will only give an indication as to how successful that site is in generating traffic not how it is seen by those visitors or their relevance for a particular marketing campaign.

I certainly agree with the comments above particularly those on the quality and relevance of the editorial environment. However here are a few other points or metrics the potential buyer might consider to ensure they get value for money:

Am I buying time or volume? - will the publisher offer a package with a minimum or agreed volume so there is a defined CPM. Knowing the sites past performance is not a guarantee that your advert will achieve the same for a similar time frame in the future.

Where on the site will my advert appear? Some content sections or channels may be more relevant than others. Some pages might get much more traffic than others

Where in the page will my ad be located? For a single page impression not all banners will get seen. For example the visitor does not scroll to the bottom of the page and misses the bottom ad slot.

Registered visitors to a site provide good indication of engagement levels with a target audience as can data on email subscriptions. Very often there will be aggregated profile information on these individuals. Registration/access may be linked to a print publication which can also provide ABC data. All will help you look beyond the basic traffic data.

So having chosen a site you can secure value by knowing what was delivered at what cost. To do this use tracking codes, ad serving software or third party services all of which are available at relatively low cost. The advertiser is then armed with their own independent reporting on ad impressions and clicks. This should be enough to ensure that publishers deliver what was negotiated or revise the invoice accordingly.

almost 5 years ago

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simon roberts

This is a good article and covers some good points that i agree with.

When we work with clients who use our Cognesia marketing analytics platform to help them decide when their marketing on a site has maxed out engagement. With B2B their are often a core number of hardcore users of a site and often we look at the % of repeat visitors to a site as a good initial indication of this.

This is really where we talk about marketing saturation.

If you monitor metrics carefully saturation comes about where you have reached all the key people on a site and further spend can lead to marginal diminishing returns where more money input leads to less in return. Obviously this depends on so many other factors such as relevancy, transient nature of users and budget but its a good place to focus.

Obviously sites that have a high transient audience are slightly different as you will only have 1 opportunity to reach them so the campaign needs to take this into account.

Therefore an up front metric our clients start looking at is % repeat visitors, where this is available and accurate.

Sadly the Google Analytics repeat visitor metric is highly inaccurate in most cases where sites have cross domains but thats another story but it can help people benchmark one site against another and learning about the hard core user base of a site.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

@Henry - thanks for you input. You are right that measurement from both sides is key. we always encourage advertisers to measure everything and over the past three years across the board this has improved.

It works both ways. As a publisher I want to be able to report back as accurately as possible to advertising clients. An advertiser will want to know the stats so they don't have the wool pulled over their eyes. Comparing the metrics from either side is key. With on-line advertising there will always be a small difference in the number of clicks recorder by the publisher and the advertiser for a number of reasons. Any substantial difference should be a cause for concern.

When we get onto technology, we could be here all day. But I think we can agree that there are enough free tools out there to make it easy for anyone and everyone to measure their on-line ad campaigns. This is certainly a basic best practice and indeed the biggest benefit that on-line has over offline.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

@Simon - thanks for offering some B2B insight.

I think generally your comments about saturation could be true of certain markets.

However, within many markets (digital marketing and e-commerce being one of them) this is not the case.

Taking our industry as an example, the relative youth of the industry and the level of regular innovation and disruptive technology that exists means that there is always new information, products and services that need communicating.

Whether it be for branding, direct response, education or content marketing, innovation will drive the need to engage (new or old) audiences with new messages.

almost 5 years ago

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

@Simon - great point about Google Analytics and cross domain issue it is something we highlight to our publishers when they have an audit.

almost 5 years ago

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