Should you diversify with this new ad platform?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Variety is the spice of life.
We know the clichés.
We’re taught to diversify most things in life. Our investments. Our lifestyle. Vary your exercise. Have a balanced diet from the food pyramid and in what you drink. I tend to take that advice to heart: I never stick solely to one beer and sample a new rum on occasion.
If you’re a farmer you diversify your crops. If you’re a business you build a range of products and find multiple channels to sell them. You don’t want to be in the buggy whip business as the car replaces the horse. Blockbuster meets Netflix.
But there’s something to be said for specialization too. By focusing on our core competencies we can set ourselves apart and create a competitive advantage.
There are riches in niches. Focusing on a well-defined target market will reap better rewards than trying to be too broad. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try.
This is especially true at The Agora businesses. We don’t sell cornflakes and we tend to stay away from the mainstream. We seek our audiences on the fringes, the people seeking contrarian ideas and advice. Our best ideas are polarizing by nature. We take a position and are happy to accept the majority of people won’t like it. But if the number of people who will respond positively is large enough, we end up with a much stronger lifetime customer.
Even if you do diversify, the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle) will likely apply anyway. You’ll probably discover one or two products account for the majority of your sales. One distributor or store will generate most of your customers. Most of your buyers will fit into a core demographic. I mostly drink Sol beer and Flor de Canya rum.
The compromise is “focused diversification”.
The digital marketing world is no different.
Email is not dead. The cockroach of the internet is still our primary sales channel at The Agora.
AdWords and Facebook ads are the go-to platforms offering most of the inventory where we get the majority of our acquisitions.
So, it makes sense to devote most of your budget and attention to those platforms. It’s smart to have specialists who spend most of their time learning the hacks and techniques to get the most bang for your buck. Experts who can stay up-to-date with the changing algorithms and new features to help you win more digital auctions and generate more leads and customers.
But it’s never healthy to be reliant on only two sources of names. Last week’s AMM MasterCast covered the ad platform slap and the impact on your business if Google or FB (or both) shut you down overnight. And Colm pitted SEO vs the Slap in his article about your most important digital asset.
Our “fight the slap” webinar is the main event on September 28 for AMM members. Spoiler alert: one of the key strategies we talk about is diversification. There are several types of diversification to help with the Facebook and Google slap. The primary one is to be active in multiple ad platforms.
There are plenty of established platforms trying to compete with the “big two”. Bing has a small but significant share of search, especially in the U.S. Yahoo can deliver decent results. And the Native ad platforms have been upping their game with bigger players like Outbrain, Revcontent and Taboola competing for your digital ad budgets.
These are all platforms that Agora businesses have proven can work. They are worthy of your attention and some of your budget. As competition continues to increase on both FB and AdWords, it’s healthy to diversify. Not just to prepare for a slap, but to scale your acquisition sources. Some platforms also allow different approaches to creative, strategies and offers to bring on new customers too.
But, again, diversification brings challenges. You run the risk of spreading yourself too thin, taking your eye of the prize and wasting budget. That’s especially true when a new, untested ad platform arrives on market.
It’s one of these platforms which I’m going to review today.
They’re the new kid on the digital ad block.
I like new toys as much as the next guy. But I have a healthy skepticism for them too. As a kid I was dubious about these literally shiny new CD things that were trying to replace cassette tapes and albums. I’m never the first to line up for the latest iPhone. I prefer to wait it out a little bit, let the hysteria subside and make an informed decision.
So, when a new digital ad platform comes to market, I’m curiously cautious.
But part of our job here at AIM is to blaze a trail…to help you make more informed decisions. So, I decided to take one for the team…to take Quora for a spin and look under the hood a little. To test the waters.
A few months ago I wrote about the test drive I took of LinkedIn ads. LinkedIn ads weren’t new but they’d undergone a significant overhaul that made them worth a fresh look.
Quora: a Q&A Engine
Quora itself isn’t new either. It has been around since 2010 and has gained a solid reputation as a good community driven Q&A engine. They have built a network of “experts”, essentially crowd sourcing the best answers to questions like How is the online advertising market changing in 2017?
Quora’s user statistics are impressive. At the end of April, they announced they had nearly doubled their monthly user base from 100 million to 195 million over the past year. That wedges them somewhere between Pinterest and Twitter.
But their user base isn’t as significant as it would be for a true social media platform. Quora is a search engine more than a social one. They don’t require you to be registered to use it and have over 200 million monthly unique visitors. They latestly launched Spanish and French language versions with German and Italian to follow.
Rarely do I go directly to Quora but frequently see their results when I search on Google. That’s what excites me most about this channel. Google ranking Quora content so highly is a good sign. And we know how powerful search intent can be. It’s the perfect chance to deliver the right message, to the right person at exactly the right time…when they’re actively looking.
My research uncovered plenty of (non-Agora) businesses and bloggers listing Quora as their largest source of organic traffic. And claiming it to be high quality, conversion generating, traffic. But does the potential volume justify the work and commitment to devote resources to Quora organically?
Possibly. As with SEO there’s an opportunity to address negative reviews or questions (and answers) that may be arising around your brands and editors. Search on Quora to see what people are saying about your business.
Quora is still relatively unproven, however. Watch this space in the future as I look at possible opportunities for how to use the platform organically.
In the meantime, you’re likely looking for a quicker and more measurable way to leverage Quora. Advertising is generally the best way to get that quick digital sugar fix.
Quora Advertising Review: a look under the hood
Quora hasn’t offered the option to advertise…until very latestly.
Actually, they did launch ads in 2016 but only in a closed beta for a few select advertisers. For regular folk, like you and I, we had to keep our powder dry. So, has it been worth the wait?
The short answer is…maybe.
The real test of any ad platform are the results. What sort of volume can you get… at what CPA… and what return on ad spend are you ultimately getting?
And honestly, I can’t give you any significant insight into those results for Quora. Not yet at least.
At The Agora, we thrive on data. We need lots of it to make statistically significant decisions. And we’re not always focused only on CPA, especially with lead gen (2 step). We have some pretty cool reporting which allows us to look at data downstream too. We like to see how new names monetize once they hit our funnel and respond to our email marketing.
But we are also pretty good at using our experience and instincts to get a feel for how likely we think something will do.
I believe Quora could prove to be a decent platform but it has a way to go and it most likely will never be a serious competitor to the big boys. But I do believe it can be a solid performer to bring you a good stream of additional, quality acquisitions. So, in the absence of much hard data let’s take a look at the mechanics…. a look under the hood to determine what potential it offers and how easy it is to use.
Quora Ads: Report Card
I took a quick look at Quora ads a couple of months ago. Since then they’ve made a couple of slight improvements and seem to progressing slowly but surely. My review of Quora’s new ad platform is below.
Self Service Interface: B-
Not bad for such a new platform. It’s pretty intuitive and easy to use.
You can access it here and it looks like this:
The workflow has similarities to FB, not surprising since their founders are ex Facebookers.
It’s easy enough to add a user to access your account but they will need a Quora account.
Campaign Types: C
Currently they offer two options: Conversions or App Installs. Here you’ll also set your budget and an optional schedule.
Audience Targeting: C+
Decent for such a new platform. They offer a pixel that allows you to remarket to your own website traffic. Otherwise the targeting is using topics, similar to broad match keywords on AdWords. (As seen below). They have a tool which allows you to find additional topics to expand your potential reach. They also have location targeting by country, city or regions.
The potential reach looked good for the US targeting I tested. It was significantly lower in a few other locations but I would expect this to grow.
Device Targeting: B
You can choose desktop, mobile or both.
Satisfactory. The ability to email reports is nice. However, it would be useful to see the performance of individual topics without having to place them in their own Adset.
Ad Types: C-
They currently only offer text ads. I would imagine they will eventually expand this to include images.
Conversion Tracking: B-
They offer two options (again, similar to FB) with url or event based pixels.
I haven’t had to use it yet but they have a decent online FAQ and knowledge base.
Budgets and Ad Cost: D
Budgets and advertising costs are a glaring weakness of Quora’s new ad platform, at least if you’re in the US. Suggested CPC bids are very high, often in the $2-6 range for many topics. If you target only mobile it can lower those suggested bids drastically. You can bid below the suggested range, but from my experience that has resulted in zero impressions. You will be placed in an auction and, like FB and AdWords, it’s not the highest priced bid that will always win. My campaigns are getting CPCs below my bid amounts, but they’re still at ranges that will likely make it prohibitive for many.
For some locations outside the U.S, big suggestions dropped dramatically. The UK and Australia were a little lower. Brazil bid ranges were around a quarter that of the US. And I saw bid recommendations under 10c in Argentina and India for topics like “bitcoin”. The potential reach looked low though.
For now, along with high bids, this is probably its biggest weakness. Good quality, but lacking huge quantity… right now. For instance, a topic of “bitcoin” targeting the U.S shows potential weekly impressions around 80,000. In the U.K it’s around a quarter that reach. Switch to Brazil and it’s only around 3,000.
The jury is still out and I’ve only used very small budgets just to play around with the mechanics of the interface mostly. I’ll report back on results.
They have very clear policy guidelines. They’re fairly standard, but I have no idea how strictly they’re policed or enforced. Generally, my approach with new and smaller platforms like this is to start by pushing the boundaries with the copy I want to use. Most new platforms are fairly lenient and will probably give you a chance to correct any problems. Worse case – if they shut you down – it’s not really going to impact your business anyway. And likely you can create a new ad account easily enough.
Overall rating: C+
One to watch and possibly test with a small budget if you feel like a change of scenery.
Don’t give up FB and AdWords. Quora will likely never be a big player to match the big boys but is it worth adding Quora ads to you marketing strategy? It’s healthy to experiment a little and keep your toe in the water. When FB first arrived on the scene, no one thought they would be a serious contender either. But several of us benefited from early mover advantage and had a leg up on the competitors.
Do I think Quora will be the next FB? No. But is it worth testing? Probably. And should you always be looking for alternative sources of acquisitions? Absolutely.
I’ll keep sampling a few new beers. I’ll even keep testing a new rum, even though I know I’ll probably never find one to top my beloved Flor de Canya. And I’ll keep testing new ad platforms as they come to market.
Let us know your status on Quora ads and share any thoughts or feedback here.