Don’t forget about the media: the importance of structure in optimization

For most of us, the beginning of a new year usually brings resolutions for improvement – get more sleep, exercise more, do more with your kids, etc. Generally, we are looking to do and be better. However, sticking to resolutions beyond Jan. 8 or, for the more disciplined of you, Super Bowl weekend (Go Cowboys…never mind) when seven-layer dip and Buffalo wings come into play, is a challenge. Similarly, resolving to consistently optimize your paid media for better return has both good intentions and challenges in succeeding without some structure in place.

The first phase of successful media optimization can be covered by three main points.

 1.    Set Objectives163162706 - Drawing of Dart on Target

The first step is to establish the objective. This may be done by plan, by placement or by particular campaign creative; but until you know what you are trying to achieve, it will be a challenge to measure or optimize it. Objectives can be related to anything from awareness to a specific action.

 2.    Set Goals

How do you know if you are successful if you don’t have established goals? Goals should tie back to the objective. If your objective is to generate part sales, the goal would be to increase part sales by 10 percent.

 3.    Create key performance indicators (KPIs) to establish success or failure

How are you going to measure the goal? What performance indicators will you use to determine success or failure? Perhaps it is visits to key part pages, parts in shopping carts and/or bounce rates. All of these data points are indicators of interest and potential growth in combination with the key indicator – completed transactions.

Establishing benchmarks also helps in this process. Realistically identify what equates to success in terms of volume, conversion rate or other key metrics points.

Lastly, part of measuring success and failure is ensuring you have ability to actually measure properly using the correct tools and technology. Check out a past article on challenges of media attribution and the role of technology for more information on measurement tools.

Typically the objectives, goals and KPIs will also drive the development of your media plan so that the media programs and sites support the objectives. Once the plan is underway and there is enough data to analyze, optimization starts.

When looking at online media results, we generally look at the following data points/information and how they measure against the benchmarks and performance indicators determined at the outset. It is important to understand that decisions are not made on any single data point but in combination with multiple points and the “story” they tell.

  1. Click-through rate (CTR) – an indicator of interest in message and content
  2. Number of impressions delivered – an indicator of exposure in relation to other data points
  3. Volume of conversions – an indicator of engagement
  4. Volume of conversions for specific conversion points – an indicator of engagement for a specific action
  5. Conversion rate – an indicator of engagement in relation to initial interest (clicks)
  6. Cost per conversion – an indicator of investment in relation to securing conversions
  7. Duration of exposure – how long has it been running
  8. Type of media and placement
  9. Destination URL and page content

Among many other strategies and tactics, optimization can take the form of some, all or any of the following:

Placement specific

  • Swap out creative
  • Change destination URL, for example, from a general landing page to a specific page
  • Increase exposure within a placement
  • Adjust creative – new call to action, less or more text, different color on banner
  • Optimize the destination page – make it easier to find content and engage; A/B testing

Overall Plan (requires adjustment to the media plan and potentially additional funding)

  • Change the location of the placement
  • Cancel the placement
  • Increase investment in strong performing placements and programs
  • Customize placements and programs to meet objectives or to react to successes or failures

The last piece of this process is to be consistent. There should be consistent timeframes when optimization is conducted when you can “turn dials” to improve performance and then check the improvement, adjust and repeat. This may be weekly, every two weeks or monthly depending on what your objective, goals and timeframe for success are. This should be an ongoing process throughout a media plan and campaign rather than an assessment at the end of a program unless it runs during a very short timeframe.

Coincidentally, the most recent issue of Econsultancy’s Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing explores the topic of media optimization. Their findings show that dedication and consistency in media optimization can be effective and that not many companies are doing this well. Here are a few data points and a graph from the study to help illustrate these points.

  • Only a fifth of companies say they are effectively optimizing their media.
  • The top three benefits of media optimization outlined in the report are reduced cost per acquisition, reduced media costs and more sales.
  • Those companies who are able to quantify improvements from media optimization are seeing, on average, an uplift of 28 percent in performance.

These few data points, from the report summary, show the opportunity and importance of consistently optimizing paid media and why it should be a priority for you.

Since it is now mid-January, a large majority of you have already given up on your resolutions. For those of you still in the game, you can certainly apply the structure and behaviors outlined above for media optimization to your personal lives. Check out this story by USA Today, 6 ways to make your New Year’s Resolutions Stick, to see how similar the tips (one through four) are for personal and media use. Hopefully this will help keep you on your personal path to success. If you are struggling with making your media optimization successful, let us help. We have the expertise and the process down.

Shannon provides guidance and leadership to MCC clients and team members alike. Her wealth of experience in the digital space and her expertise in analytics provide strategic insight to drive our clients' businesses forward. Since joining MCC in 1999, Shannon has leveraged her thorough nature and client-first approach to climb from account manager to supervisor to director and now vice president. In her tenure, she has developed strategies and supervised tactics for global brands and small, privately held companies alike, ranging from Alienware, CommScope and Texas Instruments to Professional Bank, Accudata Technologies and Raze Technologies. Prior to joining MCC, Shannon worked for Flowers & Partners, Grey Advertising, API Sponsorship and the Los Angeles Lakers organization. She has a bachelor's degree from Pepperdine University. Away from work, Shannon spends much of her time cooking, reading spy novels and wrangling her daughter.

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