Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown

Why “Content First” Creates Higher Engagement: A Data-Backed Breakdown

Looking to rev up your marketing strategy? Consider a “content-first” approach and native advertising with this data-backed breakdown.

Breaking It Down: Native Advertising vs. Content First

There’s a bit of a confusion between native advertising, content marketing, and “content-first” (which is a content-first approach). Let’s break it down:

Native Advertising refers to creating ads that match the form, function, and feel of the content of the page in which they appear – so “native” to their environment (hence the name). Rather than a traditional “banner ad” that is a flat image with branding within, native ads often feature a headline, a description underneath, and an accompanying image.

A “content first” approach or content marketing is an umbrella term that Native advertising falls into. It promotes relevant, targeted content first as a gateway to a brand or product. But a “content first” also refers to a tactic of driving relevant content to targeted consumers over time, creating retention and loyalty. If you are a business owner, you can buy Instagram followers to improve your customer base, and slowly, create a loyal base for yourself. It is an ongoing process, rather than a one-off approach.

Content refers to media, graphics, video, audio, copy, social media communication, and anything else used to tell a story or communicate an idea. This content is created, published, and promoted to a target audience who would be interested in the content provided (an article, perhaps) or the product. This is the same thought process that goes behind a lot of the Link building tactics that companies may employ to ensure that their content is reaching the right audience, and providing value to them in the process. Also think of it as a way to educate potential customers about a product or service, informing them about its benefits in order to gain trust. The content also helps boost SEO, and you can approach any seo agency to learn the methodology behind it.

A Targeted Viewer is a Happier (Engaged) Viewer

Do not underestimate the power of relevant content reaching an interested viewer.

According to DemandMetric, 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it and 68% of people spend time reading about brands that interest them. A whopping 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content (DemandMetric) which creates trust in the brand (Ion Interactive).

This all contributes to… you guessed it… higher engagement and greater sales.

It Helps the Bottom Line

According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing programs, and generates approximately three times the volume of leads…Wow. Ion Interactive reported the same thing.

Leaders are taking notice. 78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing according to DemandMetric, and according to the 2018 State of Content report from Content Marketing Institute, 86% of B2C and 91% of B2B marketers are now using content marketing (CMI B2C Research & B2B Research).

You Can Get Around the AdBlocker

Still not convinced a “content first” approach to marketing is for you? Consider the toughest audience to crack: the skeptical, independent internet user that prefers to ride under the advertising radar – with adblockers.

It’s a large audience: over 615 million devices use an adblocker of some sort, according to PageFair Adblock Report, and interestingly, American adblock users are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree. A HubSpot study reported that 64% of people use adblock services because they consider ads annoying and intrusive.

The good news? Since content is not just an “ad,” but a source of value, content marketing is an effective method to circumvent blockers.

Content Marketing Trends to Look Out For

In addition to affiliate programs (find the best recurring affiliate programs here), the content-first approach and native advertising, short videos, data-drive, artificial intelligence, context marketing, measurement and anti-fraud will likely be the focus of marketers in 2018 and beyond,

The other emerging trend is original content. Consumers are discerning; they want original, useful content that isn’t brand-heavy. Apple committed to spending $1 billion on original content for its streaming platform and PepsiCo opened a brand new content creation studio in downtown NYC with the aim of generating revenue and creating a vehicle for advertising their products.

Overall, listen to what the consumer is saying, indicates the AdMaster.

92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story (Ion Interactive).

According to Forbes, this is a positive: as the industry pivots away from branded content aimed at selling (even gently) to content as a vehicle, there are wide open opportunities for new brands to enter the market and grab the attention of consumers.

Read More: 5 Ways to Increase CTR
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Headline DOs: 5 Ways to Increase  CTR

Headline DOs: 5 Ways to Increase CTR

We told you what NOT to do…now here are some top tips for what you SHOULD do. [b]+studio is back with the top 5 tips for writing headlines for Native ads or “sponsored posts.” Read more! 

The number 1 tip to remember? The definition: Native ad placements should match the form, function, and feel of the content of the environment in which they appear… so “native” to the environment. Headlines are the gateway to the sponsored or provided content…which means the headline and image carry the weight of “the click”!  Let the consumer know that you are offering valuable, worthwhile content that they will want to engage with.

“Headlines are the ‘fish hook’ of Native Advertising. They should be able to stand on their own while offering value, emotion and intrigue to the consumer.”  - Missy Steiner, Sr. Director of Marketing

Think we’re exaggerating the importance of Native advertisements and the copy that goes with it? Check out these statistics:

  • US native digital display ad spending will rise 27.9% to $28.24 billion in 2018, according to Emarketer.
  • 58.3% of all US digital display ad spending will be for native placements (up from 54.0% in 2017), according to Emarketer.
  • In-feed and sponsored content will grow more aggressively in the next year and reach roughly $33 billion this year. (Emarketer)

1. DO Ask Questions 

Will a question entice the reader? Will they want to know the answer? YES… and CLICK to read more! 

“Can Fuller Lashes Make You Look Younger?” “Will The Price of Securities Finally Fall?” “Is Your Business Ready for the New Carbon Levy?”

These headlines spark interest and encourage the reader to click to learn more –  i.e. click and engage with the content!

Image result for question gif

2. DO Build Intrigue and Mystery

“Sleep is the Real Secret to Happiness” vs “Study Shows Sleep Makes You Happier.”

Check out these two examples. The second title gives you all the information you need, presumably, while the first is a little more intriguing; it makes you want to read more, right? Why would you need to read an article when you already know the outcome of the study? Give a reason to click… to learn more!

3. DO Bring Emotion To the Headline

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou famously wrote.

The same goes for Native headlines. Readers are more likely to click on a headline that stirs an emotional response, especially since the brain filters for information that fits previous emotional experiences. If you can tell a funny or exciting story through the headline – that works too!

And as we wrote in our previous post, choose an image to match: one that hits an emotional chord such as people (especially children) and/or animals.

Effective, emotive words that often do the trick? TERRIFIC, BEST, FIRST-CLASS, EXCLUSIVE, BREATHTAKING, TOP, and EXCELLENT

Image result for emotion gif

4. DO Set Up a Problem… With a Solution

This is not to say create a problem, but do present a common or relatable issue and present a call to action as a solution. Again, let the reader know that you have valuable content to offer! For instance, “Beat the Winter Blues: 40% Off Coats” and “Turn Up the Heat with Cool Summer Dresses” present solutions (sales, products) to seasonal temperatures – “problems” everyone can relate to.

“More and more clients are asking us to include a strong call-to-action which leads to higher CTRs.” – Yeni Gordillo, Sr. Creative Manager

5. DO Offer Something…Like a Promo Code

Sales are everywhere and consumers feel accosted by them all day long. But if you were offered something of value, such as personalized discount at your favorite clothing store or on a new item you need for your backyard because summer is coming, you’d click to find out more, right? 

Here’s an example of a promo code headline and long text for a popular organizational store: “20% Off OXO Open Stock Square POP Canisters” with the description or long text beneath it: “OXO square canisters create a completely customized and space-efficient solution for food storage in your pantry or kitchen cabinets. Shop today!”

It offers a promo code and valuable information for organizing your kitchen. Offering valuable information – tips, tricks, and more (bonus: this is especially effective in list form) always encourages clicks. For example, “Expecting Mothers: Here are 5 Running Tips Just for You” offers valuable information and even mentions the target audience (expecting mothers). Yes! 

Image result for save money gif


But remember… don’t “over target.”  There’s a sweet spot here… Don’t create text that is so broad that it could refer to anything, but don’t make it too targeted that you’re suddenly only piquing the interest of, let’s say, women over 75 who eat cereal for dinner. That’s why the example above works – expecting mothers could apply to women of varying ages who could be on their first of fifth child, but is also specific to a population subset.


Keep these 5 tips in mind and your CTRs will be through the roof!


[b]+studio is Bidtellect’s award-winning, in-house creative services team that creates eye-catching content with a data-driven approach and a deep understanding of best-performing images and copy. 


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Why AI Is Not an Empty Promise

Why AI Is Not an Empty Promise

It didn’t take long for the use of Artificial Intelligence in marketing and paid media campaigns to catch on as the new shiny buzzword in the ad tech and mar tech industries. Like many of the trends that consume these industries, most were excited about the potential implications – enhanced personalization at scale, real-time adjustments, smarter media buys etc. – followed by an inevitable shadow of doubt once people began to realize that it was a bit more complicated than they first anticipated.

Skepticism around Artificial Intelligence

Before we dig into why artificial intelligence in marketing actually does deliver on its promise, we first need to take a step back. Artificial Intelligence is not the first thing to complicate digital advertising. Programmatic advertising – the automated buying and selling of digital media – introduced incredible complexities. Even though it is predicted that 82.5% of all US digital display ads will be bought via automated channels in 2018, 10 years after it emerged, many people in the industry are still trying to get a solid grasp on it. Nevermind regular consumers.

So it makes sense that when another extremely complex technology, Artificial Intelligence, emerged as the next game-changer in digital advertising, many were excited at its promise, but confused at how it will actually work and then eventually skeptical if it works at all. For the skeptics, I am not going to explain how it is already being leveraged every day (more on that here), but why it really will deliver on its promise of optimization.

Programmatic decisions are made in real-time and are based on the trillions of data points in the digital ecosystem. It is similar to how software developers make use of application intelligence to see all the connection points between the app and database. For marketers, it is really important to extract the maximum amount of value and understanding. However, when it comes to data, it is yet another code that marketers have had a tough time cracking. It is one of a brand’s greatest assets, but also presents the most challenges, ranging from aggregation, organization, and utilization:

  1. Siloed data across all marketing channels (email, CRM, paid media etc.)
  2. Analyzing this data and applying insights to make customers feel like each experience is unique and personalized to them
  3. Using 1st and 3rd party data to scale content while maintaining relevant, personalized experiences for consumers

High consumer expectations for tailored experiences

Content on demand has instilled a need for instant gratification in consumers. Brands want customers to feel like they understand them and what content they require in any given moment. The best way to create this feeling is to tell personalized stories and create tailored experiences for individuals, and then use the best digital marketing strategies to increase the reach of these stories and Grow Your Business as a result.

Before the concept of “real-time” became part of every marketer’s plan, personalization was achieved through batch processing. Data scientists would analyze weeks or months worth of consumer behavior data, derive relevant insights and then activate paid media and marketing campaigns some time later. However, as discussed earlier, consumers have high standards for the content they consume and for the experiences that brands provide them, so data that is weeks or months old, more often than not won’t lead to an optimized experience.

So while there is an element of “learning” that occurred here, it was nowhere near as efficient, effective or impactful as identifying even deeper insights and then using them for real-time media buying decisions.

Personalization made possible by advanced technologies

As human beings, our brains are perhaps the most obvious example of Artificial Intelligence in action. As we go through life, meet more people and experience new things, we are constantly learning and becoming smarter, retaining knowledge that will help us make more insightful decisions in the future.

Now think about this same process, but apply it to the computer that is processing billions of data points per second and automating media campaigns. Consumer actions are expressions of their wants and needs. Might seem insignificant, but every single action taken by a consumer is remembered and made actionable for future decisions.

AI promises to deliver this personalization, but in real-time and with much more relevant data. This is probably why AI has so much value in business and also health analytics. The latter has gained much from machine learning (part of AI), with respect to finding misdiagnoses and clinical decision-making. It is always learning and improving over time, becoming an all-knowing entity. Anyway, AI is driving exponential value out of data, ad tech, and mar technology, extracting insights in real-time and delivering personalized messages.

More than just tailored consumer experiences

Personalized marketing messages at scale is the glaring opportunity that harnessing Artificial Intelligence offers brands: through real time adjustment and learning, personalized customization can happen in real time. But there are a lot of other benefits. The first is greater ROI: marketers can truly make the most out of every dollar by making decisions based on data from the decision before, thus maximizing marketing budget and performance. The second is innovation. Marketers can optimize media in new ways by taking unstructured, unused data and making them relevant to paid media campaigns. The third is ad tech: AI can optimize data within and across paid media channels in real-time, driving a seamless consumer experience.

AI joins programmatic, mar tech, and ad tech efforts into a unified approach that maximizes data and assets to offer a smoother consumer experience and greater ROI. While skepticism still exists, advertisers, marketers, and brands should learn quickly the power of Artificial Intelligence and harness its capabilities, or risk lagging behind.

Bidtellect now offers the most advance Forecasting technology on the market – by harnessing the power AI. Read more: Forecasting 2.0: The Future of Contextual Targeting

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What NOT To Do: 6 Creative Practices to AVOID When Writing Your Next Native Headlines!

What NOT To Do: 6 Creative Practices to AVOID When Writing Your Next Native Headlines!

Creating eye-catching, ready-to-read content for your native ad campaigns can be tricky business… How much text? What kind of image? Who is this for? Check out these common mistakes and what to avoid when creating your next native ad campaign.. and watch those CTRs soar! 

1. DON’T Include an Even Number in the Headline

We broke the first one! Notice something un-catchy about the headline to this piece? It featured an EVEN number.  When using numbers in a headline, odd numbers tend to perform better than even. Consider using 3, 7, or 9, as these had the strongest median CTRs. Numbers also perform better when shown as a numeral, rather than spelled out. In general, numbers and lists perform well!

2. DON’T Write Long Headlines

Wordy headlines are distracting and overwhelming. Let the image speak for itself and remember that a reader will be less likely to read all the way through a long headline. Plus, why would they click on something when there’s already too much information in the title? Leave them wanting more. Short and sweet is the key here! We recommend 60 characters for the title and 150 characters for the description (but again, less is more). And remember, the headline should always be shorter than the description!

3. DON’T Forget Headline Case for the Title

Did you know this was a title? What About This? Headline case immediately communicates importance and draws the eye to the content.

4. DON’T Choose Generic Images

Choose an image that hits an emotional chord with the consumer such as people (especially children) and/or animals. Generic images of a product or landscapes are neither eye-catching nor personal.

The title is written in Headline Case and is short, sweet, and representative of the content. The puppy within the image hits an emotional chord.  

5. DON’T Over-Sensationalize

Nothing builds distrust with a reader faster than “click-bait” or misleading text. The title and description should be a true indication and representation of the content and product.

6. DON’T Cover the Image with Text

This includes branding, logos, titles…any text at all. Images covered with text are busy, look like banner ads and, most importantly, don’t feel native. Again, let the image speak for itself. Readers are discerning – they don’t want to feel inundated with obnoxious advertisements.

This is specific to those who workout or are looking to start a new workout routine with a sense of inclusivity (i.e. not geared only to hardcore gym-goers). The image features individuals in mid-action. 

[b]+studio is Bidtellect’s award-winning, in-house creative services team that creates eye-catching content with a data-driven approach and a deep understanding of best-performing images and copy. 

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