Why is it important to balance sponsored work with ad income?
Stephie: The old adage “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” is particularly apropos in the world of blogging. Things can change in the blink of an eye. Brands are especially open to incorporating influencer campaigns into their larger marketing plans right now, but we always encourage our own publishers, and any bloggers we meet, to diversify their income. Digital advertising is one of the best ways to do that.
Amber: I don’t think it can be understated that bloggers take on multiple roles as one person, one brand – stylist, photographer, writer, editor, social media strategist. Those skills are valuable, not only to themselves, but to brands that may not have found a voice they love in traditional marketing. Influencer marketing gives brands more opportunity to do that, and to do so authentically. As Stephie mentioned, it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. Just as we would never want a blogger to only use display advertising for their income, relying only on sponsored work is a dangerous proposition. Blogging, especially in lifestyle niches, is cyclical, just as magazine sales in lifestyle niches is. January is scary. Having some sponsored post work lined up to suppliment your ad income is ideal. In reverse, December can be overwhelming. Being able to relax a bit and only choose the work that speaks to you, knowing ad income will take up the slack, makes for an ideal balance.
What is viewability, and how does it tie to how a blogger earns money?
Amber: Viewability was created as a way of tracking whether an ad placement was actually seen by a site visitor or not. There are some technical specs to it, but ideally, it’s 50% of the advertisement in the viewable screen for at least one second.
Viewability is changing the game as far as digital display advertising is concerned. For the first time in the history, advertisers have a way to know for sure that their ad was seen by someone. And they can choose to pay more per impression and to pay only if the ad was seen. That’s a big deal. Up until now, so long as the ad impression was recorded, you got paid. In the very near future, if your ads aren’t seen, you won’t be paid for them. And already we’re seeing bloggers with better viewability being paid more for the impressions that serve than the bloggers with poor viewability. Right now they both get paid (at vastly different CPMs), but soon only the blogger that provides true value for money, i.e. eyes on ads, will be paid.
What can bloggers do to be successful with digital advertising, and how will this help with getting sponsored work?
Amber: There are a few key factors to maximizing your advertising income, and the great news is that they will all make your site more user-friendly as well. Make your site as fast as possible – work on site speed with a tech person to make sure it is as fast as is feasible. Work with an ad company that’s dedicated to speed – you want asynchronous and lazy loading. Write long posts (at least 500 words) with short, web-friendly paragraphs (1-2 sentences each). Include big, beautiful (optimized) photographs that keep your reader interacting with the page – and your ads – for a long time. Your time on site and SEO rankings will thank you, and as a side benefit, your advertising income will increase, too. The longer a reader interacts with your site, the more your site is worth to advertisers. Formatting your content to be engaging is an excellent way to do that, making both readers and advertisers thrilled.
Stephie: From the brand side – influencer marketing is about providing value for the money. Value in this case most often meaning audience and engagement. When a site functions better – when a site is fast; is not bogged down with slow-loading photos, videos or ads; is fully optimized for search; and is easy for visitors to read and engage with – that is a site that becomes attractive to brands because they know that it is attractive to readers.
Additionally, working to make sure that you are getting the biggest “bang for your buck” with regards to ads becomes attractive to brands as well. Making sure that your ads are working for you so that you can have as few ad placements as possible only adds to the reader experience. At the end of the day, brands really don’t want to see the posts they are paying for bogged down with distracting ads, so working with your ad management company to reduce the number of ads while increasing the payout will only help your image with brands in the long-run.
And both Amber and I could not agree more on this point: Keep creating amazing content. Whether it’s sponsored work or ads, a brand is paying for your audience. And that audience came to you because of your unique perspective and voice.
What are some trends you are currently seeing in the influencer marketing world?
Stephie: There are a few big trends that our influencer marketing team has taken note of recently. The first is simply that more and more brands are seeing the brand awareness and sales power that influencer marketing can wield. Last year, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia, San Diego State University and Syracuse University found that consumers are becoming more open to native advertising, particularly when the content is high-quality and useful to the reader. Influencers have spent years, in some cases, building their readership and gaining the trust of their audience – these influencers know how to provide content that readers want to see, and readers trust the influencers to represent brands that they truly love. Ultimately, it’s a win for everyone.
We are also seeing that brands are more open to less “traditional” influencer marketing tactics, such as utilizing Instagram stories or Facebook Live as part of their campaigns. Influencers work hard to build followings on these platforms, and because the engagement is often high on them, they are incredibly valuable avenues for brands to explore. Similarly, brands that have experience with influencer marketing are understanding that numbers are not the be-all and end-all. Brands are looking not just at audience size, but also at engagement, quality of content and the quality of the site itself – just to name a few factors – to determine how evergreen the content truly is. When an influencer can show that they have more to offer beyond pageviews, that is when they will demonstrate their true value to brands.