Diversification – The secret to surviving bans, crackdowns and suspensions
Traditionally, Google AdWords and Facebook ads have always been the go-to platforms for new acquisitions. However, the first three months of this year saw major upheaval on both these platforms, starting with a Facebook Newsfeed algorithm update (favoring posts from friends over those of advertisers), then a crypto currency ban on both platforms, followed by a major data scandal for Facebook.
As an indirect result, we’ve seen the stricter enforcement of “community guidelines” on these platforms – specifically in the financial and health space – with a strong focus on provocative and contrarian copy with a “fear” and “greed” angle. This earned many companies numerous ad suspensions.
Diversify now, save face later
For the time being, there appears to be a tug of war between Facebook, Google, and digital marketers. Marketers are well aware of the fact that these two media giants hold the lion’s share of inventory for lead generation and acquisition. But in the same breath, they are also beginning to question if the heavy-handed enforcement of these policy changes are just about compliance or whether they also carry a more sinister element of leveraging power through censorship.
Whether the latter is true or not, is a different story for a different day.
Recently, at The Agora’s international publisher’s roundtable in Barcelona, many of The Agora businesses expressed concern about the fickleness of these two media giants and how this could affect the future of digital marketing, as we know it.
Clearly, our concern is real and judged by the events of the past few months it will not be going away anytime soon.
Of course, the first and most logical step to take is to create more copy that these two media giants want to see… tone down any fear-driven claims or anything that can be construed as “misleading content” and ensure that backup (from reputable sources) is available to support such claims.
Secondly, put a game-plan in place to help side-step the looming threat of a potential full–blown ban should you dare to step out of line (again!).
And that’s where diversification comes in.
Previously, AIM’s Associate Publisher Grant Perry used the SLAP acronym to explain the different areas of diversification:
Ad types and creatives and offers
How do you acquire your names? Are you using 1-step (going straight for the sale) or 2-step (lead generation)? Have you ever tried 1.5 step?
The ideal scenario would be to do a bit of each. With the recent crypto bans on Facebook and Google, lead generation (2-step) is a great strategy since your focus is building a free list. The trick with lead generation on Google and Facebook is to keep your Ad copy, landing page and confirmation page copy as vague as possible and within the confines of Google and Facebook’s “guidelines”.
Fortunately, Native Ad Platforms are more lenient. And even though they are still a bit of a Wild-Wild West area of development, many of them offer fewer compliance hurdles. Keep testing these networks so that when a clampdown happens, you’ve got an alternative source to find customers.
Create multiple lists to deliver your messages and that include social lists like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook followers. Facebook Messenger showed great promise for social list building until Facebook was keelhauled over Cambridge Analytica. The hype around this new platform has currently stagnated, but there is hope that developments will pick up again. It’s definitely a platform to keep your eye on.
However, because you don’t really own your social lists (the social platform does), your email list should always be your top priority.
Your email list is where you a begin the relationship-building with your customers. You will nurture these customers with great content – content that you control with very little restrictions – and a consistent service over time. This will ensure that they continue to buy from you even when Ad platforms are shutting the door on you.
Your email list will always be your most valuable asset.
3. Ad Types, Creatives, and Offers
Get creative with your creative. In the past, the only two different types of ads you could run were text and image ads.
These days, a lot has changed. Explore the different ad units on AdWords’ smart display. Facebook gives far more opportunity with their selection of Ad units. They have a virtual smorgasbord of ad types – from canvas, to lead ads, multiple dimensions, character limits and sizes depending on device or placement (in the Newsfeed, Instagram, right-hand ads, audience networks). Take advantage of those different Ad units to ensure you’re getting maximum reach and results.
However, the biggest Ad types for diversifying is undoubtedly video. The volume with video ads is huge, and they may offer a bit more leeway in terms of compliance because they are more difficult to “policy”. And it’s not just on Facebook. Other Ad platforms have video Ad units and YouTube is entirely devoted to video.
In addition to Ad types you work on diversifying your creative hooks, lead magnets and landing page strategy. Where do you send people to after they’ve clicked the Ad? Is it a “squeeze” or “hostage” page with one obvious call to action – like an email signup or to watch a video sales letter (VSL)?
Get your promos out in multiple formats – VSL, HTML and Advertorial. A policy analyst or regulator might read your entire HTML page, but may not view the entire VSL. Or vice versa. An advertorial will allow you to spark interest while also providing an editorial focus – something that policy analysts often favour. Push a little more spend behind the advertorial while you update a VSL.
Another area to diversify is your offers. It’s always good business sense to have different offers and promotions. For instance, in addition to a free report, you can also offer webinars or live events… hook someone in with a quiz, survey or poll… offer a template or resource kit… or provide video training.
Using different formats can be a great way to refresh an offer and find a new way to hook a prospect into your sales funnel. Changing the format may also be a creative way to side-step certain rules imposed by the Ad platforms.
AdWords and Facebook make up almost 70 percent of digital media spend, So, for serious scale and for the best audience targeting, you still want to be on them. And in this case, the big takeaway here is to ensure you create multiple ad accounts for each platform. It’s important you do this proactively before you need them. Many businesses we know have dozens of Facebook and AdWords accounts set up ready to use when one of them gets banned.
However, you also need to get beyond the reaches of Google and Facebook so that when these Internet giants make it tough to run your best promotions, you can invest your time and money somewhere else until the dust has settled.
There are literally dozens of Native Ad networks, and most of them are much more lenient in terms of what you can run. Outbrain and Taboola are the big players, but Dianomi offers fantastic financial specialized inventory and others like Lockerdome and RevContent are serious contenders too. Yahoo Gemini is improving. Bing is often forgotten, but Microsoft is trying to up their game and has also improved the LinkedIn ad platform after acquiring them last year.
The exciting challenge for marketers in the current climate is to be at their creative best in all aspects of marketing. Heavy-handed crackdowns have literally forced our thinking caps on and there is no doubt in my mind that things will only get more challenging and competitive.
As always, we’ll keep you posted on any new developments and continue to give guidance on how best to adapt to the changing field.