Simple Cross-Channel Optimizations for Digital Campaigns

Forget the fancy custom algorithms and microtargeting; basic blocking and tackling works better.

Many of the largest advertisers have so much budget to spend in digital, they are literally buying anything and everything — display ads, search ads, social, native, etc. They are also buying shiny objects and snake oil, agencies’ favorite things to sell to gullible marketers. Smart marketers have their own monitoring in place, and can make the simple optimizations like the ones we will discuss below to improve their own campaigns.

Optimizing by Relative Quality

In the following example, by having the FouAnalytics code on the page, we can see the relative quality of clicks arriving on the site from the various paid digital channels. Dark blue means humans; dark red means bots; and orange means bots too.

When you compare the two display sources A and B, which one would you allocate more ad budget to? Once we see the relative blue versus red, it should be clear that one would allocate more budget to B — to get more humans to the site, and reduce budget to A, since a third of the clicks that came to the site were dark red bots.

Similarly, when comparing two paid search sources C and D, these are much closer in quality to each other. And both are better than both display sources. You may not need to shift budget between C and D but C has a bit more dark blue. So I would recommend you study this comparison a bit longer.

Finally, when you look at paid social and native, you can clearly see which one yields better quality clicks to the site. Paid social (in this case Facebook, with FAN turned off) is yielding lots of good clicks to the site. Native shows about 23% dark red.

Relative Quality AND Relative Quantity

In addition to the simple differences in quality above, when we take into account the relative QUANTITY of traffic we are getting from various paid digital channels, the difference become even more stark.

CPC is paid search; the clicks arriving from paid search programs accounts for 68% of the traffic to the site/landing page. Social means paid social (in this case Facebook, with FAN turned off) and that accounts for 13% of the traffic tot he site. Finally, Display means programmatic and it accounts for 3% of the traffic on the landing pages. I haven’t even mentioned relative quality yet, but you can see for yourself. Display ads yield far fewer clicks, and of the clicks we got, a full 78% were confirmed or declared bots. Human clicks (dark blue) was only 3% of the 3%. Like we all know, humans don’t click on display ads, except accidentally, like “fat thumb” clicks.

So given the data in the three donut charts, what happens if you shift budget from Display to CPC and social? Not only will you get many more real clicks, more of those clicks will be confirmed humans. To be more concrete, every dollar you shift from Display to CPC will yield 24X more clicks of far better quality (68/3=24). Every dollar you shift from Display to Social will yield you a 4X increase. I realize different folks may pay vastly different rates for each of the above, so your mileage may vary.

I also realize the “branding and awareness” contingent will be crying out “but, we have to do awareness.” As a long time search marketer, I can tell you that search ads also do branding; and you don’t even have to pay for the ones that did the branding, but didn’t receive any clicks (search ads are paid on a cost per click basis - so you are getting free branding!). And from all of my own experiments and those of my clients over the years, when someone is searching for something online, that is the best time to get an ad in front of them. They are in the mind-set to find out more. In stark contrast, when you show a display ad while they are trying to play Candy Crush they will be pissed at you for interrupting their game.

So What?

With proper monitoring and detailed analytics in place, you can make simple optimizations, just by shifting budgets to paid channels that are yielding more clicks and better quality (humans vs bots ratio). This outweighs any of the microtargeting parameters other advertisers paid for, any of the fraud detection, viewability, and brand safety add-on services they paid for, and any custom algorithms which purport to be magical and help you do better digital. I am not sure if they work or not; but I am sure they don’t correct for bots (see the Display donut chart). Bad data in, bad decisions out. Do this work yourself; never let some other adtech company spend your money for you, tell you what works better, or sell you more snake oil. A decade of that crap is long enough. The above optimizations are particularly important for brands that have finite budgets and must get the most out of seldom-changing budgets.

Further reading: Digital Marketing’s Last Decade Is Digital Marketing’s Lost Decade