In the vast world of marketing technology (MarTech), there are two main types of solutions. Those that are uber-specific, zeroing in on doing one particular thing really, really well (point solutions).
And those that are broader, focusing on providing an all-in-one service (suite solutions or platforms). When you put them together, you get the MarTech landscape — a space that’s seen 5,233% growth over the past decade.
In fact, back in 2011, there were only 150 MarTech tools to choose from.
Fast forward to 2022, and you’ve got over 8,000 of them.
It’s no wonder so many marketing teams are dreaming of consolidation right now. After all, having too many tools in a MarTech stack can lead to inefficient processes, wasted resources, and confusion.
So, we’re going to walk through exactly how to build or consolidate a MarTech stack for large teams in 2022. Let’s get started.
What’s a MarTech stack?
A marketing technology (MarTech) stack is a collection of software tools used to optimize or automate specific marketing tasks, from project management to SEO to lead generation.
The idea is that the tools combine (or stack) to form a cohesive strategy across the marketing spectrum. For example, a typical stack might have a tool for each of the following categories:
- Advertising and promotion
- Content and experience
- Social and relationships
- Commerce and sales
Why consolidate your MarTech stack?
MarTech stacks are notoriously under leveraged, meaning companies are often paying for capabilities they’re not even using.
According to the 2020 Gartner Marketing Technology Survey, for example, marketing leaders reported leveraging only 58% of their MarTech stack’s potential — despite the stack accounting for 26% of their total marketing budget.
If this sounds like your situation, you’re not alone. As you can see, it’s exceedingly common, not to mention understandable, considering all the options out there.
If you consolidate your stack, however, you can eliminate redundant tools and focus on getting the most out of the ones you already have — saving money and improving team performance at the same time.
Best practices for building & consolidating a marketing technology stack
In this next section, we’ll go over 8 best practices to keep in mind whether you’re building a stack from scratch or consolidating what you’ve already got.
1. Narrow down why you need each tool in your stack
Before choosing tools for your MarTech stack, it’s important to think about why you need them in the first place. In other words, your marketing strategy should come before marketing technology — not the other way around.
Hana Jacover, Director of Demand Generation at MadKudu, puts it this way, “When considering new tools, remember that technology is not a strategy but something that supports and enhances an existing strategy.”
A good way to do this is by starting with the needs of your customers and working backwards. What strategies do you already have in place to meet their needs? Are they working? Or are there strategies that would work better?
Make a list of goals with corresponding strategies and tools. Here are a few examples:
|Increase organic traffic||Content creation and SEO||Content management software (CMS) product, a content distribution tool, an SEO tool, content marketing software, etc.|
|Get more website visitors to convert||Redesign the website||Conversion optimization tool, an email marketing product, etc.|
|Improve customer communication||Automate transactional emails||Marketing automation software, email marketing software, etc.|
If you already have a full stack, take a look at each tool and narrow down exactly why you need it. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What specific marketing strategy is the tool supporting?
- Is it doing a good job in this role?
- Could the job be done better? If so, how?
2. Know which task(s) to delegate to human vs technology
The key to building a manageable MarTech stack is knowing which tasks to delegate to technology and which to keep in human hands. After all, technology is awesome but sometimes, it just can’t replace a human touch.
Take chatbots, for example. Many companies are now using this technology to engage with customers alongside traditional customer service channels like phone, email, and social media.
After all, chatbots are great for helping customers with simple problems, often resolving issues faster than human agents. And they can cut operational costs by up to 30%.
However, recent studies have revealed that people really don’t like chatbots in certain situations — namely addressing important matters like medical appointments or financial issues.
So, it’s important to think through your MarTech tools and consider if there are any areas where a more personalized approach would be preferred.
3. Find other alternatives that consolidate solutions you need
As you can imagine (or know all too well?), you could literally end up with hundreds of tools in your stack if you use a different one for every specific marketing task. And that’s just too much to manage — especially for large teams.
Fortunately, there are some really good solutions out there now that consolidate multiple tasks into one tool. Take Welcome, for example (shameless plug, we know 😆).
Welcome’s software brings marketing teams together in a single workspace to share plans, collaborate on assets, and flawlessly execute marketing campaigns.
This means many (if not most) of your marketing tools are in one place. You can execute your entire campaign and content lifecycle, from planning to production to measurement and back again, all within one platform.
4. Determine which tools aren’t worth their cost
Remember that bit about how most companies are only leveraging 58% of their MarTech stack’s potential? Despite the stack accounting for over a quarter of their total marketing budget?
With that in mind, chances are you’ve got some tools in your stack that aren’t pulling their weight from a cost/benefit perspective. To find the biggest offenders, make a list of all your MarTech tools.
Look up how much you’re paying to have them in your stack, whether it’s monthly, annually, or per user. Then take an honest look at how much your team is using the tool. Ask the following questions:
- How often do you use the tool?
- How much time does it save you on a daily basis?
- Could you do your job effectively without it?
- Does the usage level justify the cost to your marketing stack?
Most large companies find they have several tools that are just collecting dust (and invoices). These can be eliminated from the stack, freeing up valuable marketing dollars to be spent elsewhere.
5. Always start with a free trial
As a marketer, you might be familiar with shiny object syndrome. You know, when you’re constantly distracted by every new tool that hits the market, thinking each one is going to solve all your problems?
It’s a real thing, especially for entrepreneurs and creative marketers who are naturally drawn to innovation. But the thing is, if you spend all your time adding new MarTech tools, it’s hard to be focused on your core objectives.
Plus, you’ll end up with a bloated, way-too-expensive MarTech stack with overlapping capabilities and complicated integrations.
That said, it’s just so hard to resist some of the new tools that hit the market. And some of them may actually be helpful. A good compromise is to promise yourself to always start with a free trial — no exceptions.
This lets you test out new tools to make sure they’re a good fit before committing to making them a part of your marketing technology stack. Think of it as a test that all new tools have to pass before being allowed into the club.
6. Determine which tools perform too similar functions
As we’ve mentioned, most companies have MarTech tools with overlapping capabilities at this point. Not only is this wasteful from a budget perspective, but it can be confusing when you have a large team using different tools to get the same job done.
So it’s important to take the time to identify areas of overlap. You can flesh this out by grouping your tools according to category. Remember, most tools fall into the following six areas:
- Advertising and promotion
- Content and experience
- Social and relationships
- Commerce and sales
Once you’ve grouped them together, make a list of the exact tasks each tool performs and circle the areas of overlap. Then, sit down with your team to figure out which tools they prefer for each function. Keep the ones that get the job done best and ditch the ones that don’t.
7. Survey your team to identify gaps in marketing technology capabilities
Until now, we’ve been talking a lot about excess tools and overlapping capabilities. But there can also be gaps in your capabilities, processes that aren’t being addressed with your MarTech stack that could be.
Often, this is because the person adding new MarTech tools isn’t fully aware of the team’s day-to-day tasks and challenges. They’re not “in the trenches,” so to speak.
The best way to tackle this? Just ask. Sit down with your team and find out more about their daily routine. Or send it to them in a survey. You can ask the following simple questions:
- What adds a lot of time to your daily workflow?
- What makes your job harder?
- What tasks do you think could be automated?
- Are there any tasks that you feel are redundant or mundane?
- What tools do you wish you had that would make certain tasks easier?
For example, one of your employees may say that keyword research is taking up a lot of their time. If you don’t have anything in your stack that addresses keyword research, then this is a gap in your capabilities.
You can also tie this discussion or survey to the goals that you created earlier. Here’s an example:
Goal: Increase organic traffic
Marketing strategy: Content creation and SEO
Challenge: Keyword searches are taking a long time to do manually
Tool suggestions: Moz, Ahrefs, or other SEO tool
8. Think of your stack like an ecosystem
Scott Brinker, the creator of the MarTech 5000, believes we’re entering the “second golden age of MarTech.” He posits that a new dynamic is emerging in the industry, that the old battle between suite vs. best of breed solutions is being replaced with something more akin to an ecosystem.
In this new ecosystem, the major platforms will serve as the backbone of marketing stacks, designed to be augmented with specialized apps that can plug deeply into their systems.
This means you no longer have to choose between a suite solution vs. a hodgepodge stack of disconnected MarTech tools. You can have both — if you build the right ecosystem.
So, when building or consolidating your stack, find one tool to act as the backbone. This tool should have broad capabilities, including the option to grow or scale your business. It should also allow deep integrations with other tools and apps, not just surface-level add-ons.
Recommended tools for a marketing technology stack
In this next section, we’ll go over the different types of tools you should have in your MarTech stack, along with specific recommendations for tools in each category.
Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)
A good customer relationship management (CRM) system is at the heart of any good MarTech stack. This is the tool that manages all your customer data, keeping contact details up to date, tracking every customer interaction, and managing customer accounts.
Without a CRM, every time someone interacts with a customer or meets with a new sales prospect, all of that information stays with them. At best, maybe they type up some notes to keep on their laptop.
At worst, all that information just stays in their head. Either way, it’s virtually impossible for other members of the team to step in to serve the customer if necessary.
A good CRM system solves this problem by tracking all these details and keeping them in one centralized location — accessible to everyone. This allows all your communication to be personalized, no matter which member of the team is handling the situation.
Salesforce is the top-rated CRM on G2 with over 11,000 reviews and an average user rating of 4.2. Salesforce strives to help businesses of all sizes accelerate sales, automate tasks and make smarter decisions.
It offers the following capabilities: lead and contact management, sales opportunity management, workflow rules and automation, customizable reports and dashboards, and a mobile application.
2. HubSpot Sales Hub
Our next pick for CRM software is HubSpot Sales Hub, with an average user rating of 4.4 on G2 based on over 8,000 reviews.
HubSpot Sales Hub strives to help teams close more deals, deepen relationships, and manage their pipeline more effectively — all on one easy-to-use platform.
Popular features include sales engagement tools, configure-price-quote (CPQ) functionality, and robust sales analytics for growing teams.
The third-place contender for CRM solutions on G2 is ActiveCampaign with 8,000+ reviews and an average user rating of 4.6.
ActiveCampaign defines itself as a customer experience automation platform (CXA), combining CRM capabilities with features like email marketing and marketing automation. This allows for segmentation and personalization across social, email, messaging, chat, and text.
Project Management Software
Another essential tool in your MarTech stack is project management software — especially if you have a large team. This is going to help you manage the details of each project while keeping everyone on the same page.
Specifically, project management software helps teams manage goals and long-term projects by assigning and coordinating individual tasks as they relate to one another.
Most project management solutions accomplish this by using a range of tools that manage workloads, monitor productivity, and allocate resources.
Users can typically track multiple projects, track a team or individual’s progress, analyze team productivity, and communicate with other team members.
Ok, so we might be a little biased here 😉 but we think Welcome’s the top choice when it comes to project management solutions — especially if you have a large marketing team collaborating on multiple projects at once.
What makes us so sure? For one, Welcome’s software is specifically built for marketing teams. This means you can create seamless workflows designed for creatives, allowing your team to swiftly fulfill requests, track and proof work, and deliver on-brand work.
You can even keep an eye on the current commitments (and bandwidth) of everyone on your team, helping to avoid burnout and ensuring you have the right people and time allocated to every project.
Plus, you can collect creative requests from anyone in (or out) of your organization, automatically delegate work based on your custom routing rules, lock in SLAs and get back to what you’re here to do — create.
With an average user rating of 4.2 on G2, here’s what a few people are saying about Welcome:
“My business partners can now update, edit and place new requests whenever they want. While my team can see the requests and act upon them. There are no lengthy email chains for now.”
“Stakeholders are able to easily fill out pre-designed briefs at the beginning of a project, attach any requirements or content, and our demand gen team can ask questions, ask for additional documentation and can then accept a project and kick it off. As projects morph, so too can this project brief. Really helps with keeping projects organized and inclusive.”
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation software is exactly what it sounds like — software that automates routine marketing tasks. Common workflows ripe for automation include email marketing, behavioral targeting, lead prioritization, and personalized advertising.
Besides automating tasks, this type of software provides teams with a central marketing database, helping marketers create segmented, personalized, and timely campaigns.
Marketing automation tools also feature strong analytics programs that can help teams determine the success of individual campaigns across segments and channels. They also typically measure the impact of campaigns on marketing team KPIs, campaign ROI, and company revenue.
Something to keep in mind about marketing automation software, however, is that a large database of leads is needed for automation to have much of an effect on your bottom line.
So, it often makes sense to establish a steady flow of inbound leads before adding marketing automation software to your stack — or to choose a solution that can also help you do that.
Our first pick for a marketing automation solution is ActiveCampaign. As we mentioned above, ActiveCampaign defines itself as a customer experience automation platform (CXA), combining CRM capabilities with marketing automation features. They claim it’s like “getting an extra employee without needing an extra desk.”
Examples of tasks you can automate with ActiveCampaign include a welcome series with email automation, tracking contact engagement with tags, custom fields, analytics, and performance reporting, and pulling info from offline and digital channels.
The third-place contender for marketing automation software on G2 is SharpSpring, a Constant Contact company that’s garnered an average user rating of 4.5 on the platform.
SharpSpring frames itself as a revenue growth marketing platform that helps small businesses generate leads, improve conversions to sales, and drive higher returns on marketing investment
All the features in SharpSpring are designed to help users generate quality leads with targeted communication and lead nurturing, win more customers with dynamic content and personalization, and convert leads faster with purposefully designed content and landing pages.
Our third pick for marketing automation software is Klaviyo, a solution with 4.6 stars on G2. Klaviyo calls itself a growth marketing platform and strives to help you deliver personalized, automated experiences to customers.
Klaviyo allows you to automate these experiences across owned marketing channels like email, SMS, in-app notifications, and the web.
Email Marketing Software
Email marketing software is a must-have in any MarTech stack because it automates the process of sending marketing and transactional emails to customers.
Email marketing software can also manage your contact lists, help you design and write compelling emails, and track whether messages were opened or read.
It can even help you build and manage opt-in email lists, segment lists to target your email sends, and automatically manage unsubscribes or subscriber responses.
Many solutions are integrated with other MarTech tools, especially CRM platforms and marketing automation software, while others are standalone.
1. Constant Contact
The top-rated email marketing solution on G2 is Constant Contact, one of the old-timers in the MarTech world with over 20 years in the business.
Constant Contact has compiled nearly 5,000 reviews on G2 with an average user rating of 4.0.
The platform offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor along with hundreds of pre-designed templates.
Other popular features include automatically sending welcome emails to new subscribers, sending emails based on user behaviors, uploading contact lists from Excel, Outlook, Salesforce, or wherever you store your contacts, and tracking results in real-time.
Mailchimp takes the second spot on G2 with an average user rating of 4.3 and 11,000+ reviews.
This email marketing software is based on AI-powered, user-friendly tools that anyone can use to be successful.
Mailchimp claims to put your audience at the center so you can send marketing emails and automated messages, create targeted ad campaigns, build landing pages, send postcards, facilitate reporting and analytics, and sell online.
3. Zoho Campaigns
Our third pick for email marketing software is Zoho Campaigns, with an average user rating of 4.3 on G2. Similar to Constant Contact and Mailchimp, Zoho lets you create emails using pre-designed templates, layouts, and a drag-and-drop editor.
Other popular features include dynamic content, email polls, and automated list segmentation that help send personalized messages to your audience. Zoho also offers A/B testing, list management, and automatic handling of unsubscribes and bounces.
Web Content Management Software
Web content management software has changed dramatically over the past decade. It’s even gone through a few name changes from web content management (WCM) to content management system (CMS) to digital experience platform (DXP).
No matter what you call it, this software is a critical component in your MarTech stack because it handles all the things that go on behind the scenes of a website — so you can focus on the content itself.
Today, there’s an endless variety of web content management software to choose from, each with its own set of features and benefits.
Some software, for example, is ideally suited for ecommerce sites, whereas others are tailored towards bloggers or service-based businesses. Which one is right for you mostly depends on what you need your website to do and how tech-savvy you are.
Our top CMS pick goes to WordPress, bringing in an average user rating of 4.3 on G2 and powering around 43% of all websites on the internet. WordPress offers the flexibility and freedom to build any kind of website you want (personal blog, online store, membership site, and more).
Plus, with hundreds of themes to choose from, you don’t need any technical skills or coding knowledge. That said, there is a bit of a learning curve with WordPress and many beginners use drag & drop page builder plugins to make things easier.
2. HubSpot CMS Hub
The second choice goes to HubSpot CMS with 4.5 stars on G2. Like WordPress, this software allows users to easily create and manage websites without coding experience.
HubSpot CMS also lets users personalize pages for different visitors and optimize them for mobile devices and conversions.
Another good choice for web content management software is Pantheon, which has a user rating of 4.5 on G2.
Pantheon is a serverless CMS that allows you to build WordPress or Drupal sites on a cloud infrastructure that delivers sub-second page loads using object cache and a lightning-fast content delivery network.
Content Marketing Platform (CMP)
A good content marketing platform helps streamline and optimize the content creation process — something that’s becoming increasingly important as content marketing becomes more and more complex.
In some ways, a CMP is similar to project management software in that it creates workflows and helps manage individual tasks related to larger projects.
But CMP’s dive deeper into content creation itself, providing teams with things like collaborative editorial calendars and workflows, digital asset management, and content performance analytics.
Our top recommendation for a content marketing platform goes to Welcome. Welcome’s CMP helps teams create faster, repeatable processes to deliver content your audience will love.
Plus, Welcome’s platform includes SEO and keyword research to optimize your content and it lets you leverage real-time search data to inform your content strategy, optimize content so that it ranks well for search, and ensure it resonates with your audience.
You can also create and proof content of all formats with Welcome. Have a fresh idea? Use our built-in, rich-text HTML editor to author an original piece, and upload content (.ppt, .xls, .doc, .mp4 or other format) directly. That way, your team can create, proof, and version work — all in one place.
You can even distribute content to every channel from one location and seamlessly push content to your most important downstream systems (social, CMS, CRM), ensuring a consistent, cross-channel content experience.
Our third choice for content marketing software is Loomly, with an average user rating of 4.6 on G2. Loomly is designed to help marketing teams create better content for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO tools are critical to have in your MarTech stack if you want to improve how your website and content rank in organic search engine results pages (SERPs).
Most SEO tools provide insights and help identify the best strategies to improve ranking on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Many also offer competitor data and broad industry analysis.
SEMrush is the top-rated SEO tool on G2, garnering an average user rating of 4.5 with over 1,000 reviews.
SEMrush offers over 50 products, tools, and add-ons to improve online visibility — including tools for search, content, social media, and market research. Plus, SEMrush has data for more than 140 countries, seamless integration with Google, and task management platforms
2. SE Ranking
In second place on G2 for SEO tools comes SE Ranking, boasting a whopping 4.8-star average user rating. SE Ranking is an all-in-one SEO software that claims to offer all the SEO tools needed to successfully complete online marketing projects.
Popular features include keyword position tracking and keyword research, website audit, competitor analysis, keyword suggestion and grouping, backlink monitoring, and automated professional reporting.
Our third pick for search engine optimization software is Ahrefs, with an average user rating of 4.6 on G2. Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset, with free learning materials and a passionate community and support system for beginners.
Popular features include competitor research (unveiling your competitor’s organic keywords, backlink strategies and PPC keywords) and link building (find the strongest backlink opportunities in your niche).
Plus, you can take advantage of Ahrefs’ mentions monitoring feature and get email alerts every time you or your brand is mentioned online.
Web analytics tools
Web analytics tools are important to have in your MarTech stack because they help you understand who visits your website and what they do while they’re there. Here are some examples of the type of data you can collect with a good web analytics tool:
- Number of visits and unique visitors
- New vs returning visitor ratio
- Where your visitors are from (country)
- What browser or device your visitors are using
- Common landing and exit pages
- Frequently visited pages
- How much time visitors spend per visit
- Bounce rate
- How much traffic specific campaigns are driving
- Which websites send the most traffic
- What keyword searches are driving traffic
1. Google Analytics
Used on over 30 million websites, Google Analytics (GA) is by far the market leader in the web analytics space. It has an average user rating of 4.5 on G2 with nearly 6,000 reviews.
GA uses state-of-the-art conversion attribution and testing tools that can help your marketing team build better user experiences and maximize your digital strategy.
Our second pick for web analytics software goes to Mixpanel, with a 4.5-star user rating on G2.
Mixpanel is a bit different compared to traditional traffic tools. It’s specifically designed to help SaaS and website owners get real-time data insights into how people interact with a product.
Mixpanel’s self-serve product analytics solution allows teams to analyze how and why people engage, convert, and retain — in real-time and across devices.
3. Amplitude Analytics
Our third pick for web analytics software is Amplitude Analytics, coming in with 4.5 stars and 1,000 reviews on G2.
Amplitude frames itself as a Digital Optimization System used by brands and disruptive teams to understand and personalize their digital products, and optimize the business value of product innovation.
Popular features include real-time analytics, cross-platform tracking, powerful behavioral analytics, and enterprise-level security and customer support.
MarTech stack FAQs
Still have a few questions about marketing technology? Makes sense, it’s a huge topic. Here are a few answers to some common points of confusion.
What are MarTech and AdTech? Any difference?
As you know, MarTech is short for marketing technology. It includes all the tools used to optimize or automate marketing tasks, from project management to SEO to lead generation.
Adtech, on the other hand, is short for advertising technology. It’s somewhat related to MarTech, in the same way that marketing and advertising are related. But adtech solutions focus primarily on things like ad buying and digital spending.
That said, MarTech and adtech solutions are starting to converge in some places as consumers gravitate more and more towards digital content. Savvy marketers can use this convergence to create seamless experiences that are more engaging for the customer.
One way to do this is to integrate your adtech and MarTech stacks. This can give you a more complete view of your customer by unifying data and communications.
What are some examples of AdTech
Demand-side platforms (DSP) – Companies use DSPs to buy online ad space through bidding auctions. DSPs connect advertisers with ad networks and allow them to access available inventory.
Supply-side platforms (SSP) – Publishers use SSPs to sell ads. The SSPs connect to ad exchanges to make a publisher’s inventory available for DSPs to bid on.
Search engine marketing (SEM) platforms – These platforms help advertisers purchase ad space on search engines for specific keywords. Examples include Semrush and Google Ads.
Native adtech – A native ad is designed to look like part of the web content that a person is viewing, as opposed to an ad. Native adtech platforms help advertisers distribute these ads. Examples include Taboola and Outbrain.
Ad exchanges – This is a marketplace that facilitates the buying and selling of digital advertising spots between DSPs and SSPs, often in real-time. Examples include AppNexus and Verizon Media.
Advertising networks – These are aggregators that collect ad inventory from publishers and sell it to buyers. Examples include AdMob by Google, Yahoo Gemini, Google Display Network, Meredith, and AdCash.
Hopefully, you’re feeling more optimistic at this point about wrangling your MarTech stack into shape. Here’s a quick recap of 8 best practices when building or consolidating a stack for large teams:
- Narrow down why you need each tool in your stack.
- Know where human vs technology is more appropriate.
- Find other alternatives that consolidate the solutions you need.
- Determine which tools aren’t worth their cost.
- Always start with a free trial.
- Determine which tools perform functions that are too similar.
- Survey your team to identify gaps in marketing technology capabilities.
- Think of your stack like an ecosystem.
How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open
Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.
“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.
“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.
Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.
How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.
In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.
“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.
“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.
The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.
Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms
What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).
Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.
One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.
Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”
Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.
“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.
But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.
“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”
Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”
Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.
“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”
Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”
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Ascend | DigitalMarketer
At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.
Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.
So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling?
How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers.
Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.
Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.
The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics.
The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin.
If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs.
Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins.
If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.
The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that?
What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result.
What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good.
It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER.
Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.
You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”
The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition.
The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:
If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.
If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you.
People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works.
Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs.
It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier.
Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.
Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer.
Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.
2023 Facebook Algorithm Guide: Overview & Best Practices
Every month, 2.7 billion people use Facebook, Meta’s globe-dominating social network. For marketers, this is an un-ignorable audience. However, reaching that audience isn’t always easy – to get content in front of a relevant user, they need to make the Facebook algorithm work in their favor.
Unfortunately, the algorithm can feel very mysterious. Why do some posts go viral with engagement while others wither and disappear without so much as a few courtesy likes?
The good news is that while the technical rules governing Facebook’s algorithm may be in a black box, there are plenty of guidelines and common-sense tips that can help ensure your content gets prioritized and seen. Facebook has published many explainers and tutorials over the past few years to break down how its algorithm ranks and distributes content to users’ Feeds.
Here’s how Facebook’s algorithm works in 2023 with ten expert tips on increasing the impact, performance and lifecycle of your Facebook content.
Table of Contents
- What is the Facebook Algorithm?
- A Recent History of the Facebook Algorithm
- How the Facebook Algorithm Works in 2023
- 10 Best Practices for Working with Facebook’s Algorithm
- Final Takeaway
What is the Facebook Algorithm?
The Facebook algorithm is the set of rules and formulas that determine what content users see in their Feeds. Its goal is to make the posts that “matter most to the user” highly visible to that user. To do this, it analyzes each piece of content eligible to be displayed and ranks them according to a set of criteria.
As Facebook explains, the algorithm is actually “not just one single algorithm; it’s multiple layers of [machine learning] models and rankings that we apply to predict the most relevant and meaningful content for each user.”
If that sounds complex, that’s because of the sheer volume of content on the Facebook platform. There are over 2 billion Facebook users and trillions of posts they can see; the algorithm needs to be sophisticated to sort through all that content in an instant between launching the Facebook application and the population of each user’s Feed.
A Recent History of the Facebook Algorithm
Since 2017, Facebook has been increasingly transparent about significant changes in how it ranks and distributes content. That also means the algorithm is constantly evolving. In general, those updates have favored user input, posts friends and family over publishers, and content personalized to a user’s interests… all geared toward generating more “meaningful interactions.” These updates include:
- Meaningful Interactions Update (2018) – This update signaled that the algorithm would predict which posts a user might want to interact with their friends about and show these posts higher in Feed. These posts inspire discussion in the comments and posts that users might want to share and react to.
- Updates to Video Rankings (2019) – This update boosted the rankings of video posts that users sought out and returned to, watched for more than one minute at a time, and were original creations and not repurposed content.
- Addressing Sensational Health Claims (2019) – This update applied some of the existing “clickbait” rules specifically to posts making medical or health claims in an effort to reduce misinformation. Exaggerated or sensational claims were deprioritized, as were posts promoting products that advertised “miracle” cures.
The past three years have seen additional updates, and since they’re more recent, they deserve closer examination.
2020: Key takeaway from 2020
In 2020, Facebook modified its algorithm again to give more weight to original, credible news sources and create more personalized advertising encounters for users based on their interactions. Additional updates this year included changes designed to comply with Apple’s iOS 14’s privacy guidelines.
- Prioritizing Original Sources: In response to users continually reporting a preference for “news stories that are credible and informative,” Facebook announced that it would make ongoing updates that “prioritize articles in News Feed that we identify as original reporting on a developing story or topic.”
- Personalized Ads: The Facebook algorithm serves advertisements to a user’s Feed based on the posts and pages they have engaged with previously. Businesses are also given the option to share information about the actions that users take on their websites and apps so they can show the most relevant content in users’ Facebook Feeds. To balance this process of information gathering and sharing, which also lays the foundation for personalized advertising on the platform, Facebook instituted the “Why am I seeing this ad” feature and the “Ad Preferences” dashboard for users (and to address privacy concerns).
- Retargeting Limitations: Even with expanded personalization, Facebook had to respond to the significant privacy and permissioning guidelines i=within the Apple iOS 14 update released in 2020 (Tinuiti’s Liz Emery takes a more detailed look at this topic here). When Apple users install or update to iOS 14, they will be prompted to opt-in or opt out of data sharing. While Facebook has other variables that can be used to identify devices, such as the associated email address and phone number, targeting that depends on users sharing their data at the device level is restricted based on this update.
2021: Machine Learning and User Control
In 2021, Facebook released new details about how the algorithm governing users’ Feeds works and increased the amount of control users have over what they see.
- Favorites: A new tool where users can control and prioritize posts in their Feeds from the friends and Pages they choose. By selecting up to 30 friends and Pages to include in Favorites, their posts will appear higher in ranked and can also be viewed as a separate filter.
- Revealing the algorithm’s machine learning mechanics: In 2021, Facebook published an in-depth post explaining how the Feed predicts what users want to see. For the first time, it detailed the machine learning processes behind predicting what users see in their Feeds based on various factors, including what and whom they’ve followed, liked, or engaged with recently. These mechanics are largely still in place today.
2022: From ML to AI
Last year, the Facebook algorithm evolved further in the direction of user control and augmented its use of machine learning tools with more sophisticated artificial intelligence systems. These two updates went hand-in-hand. Users were given a new function on each post they saw, the “Show More/Show Less” feature. Selecting “Show More” would increase the ranking score for that post, increasing the likelihood of a similar post or a similar user appearing in the user’s Feed. The inverse would happen when “Show Less” is selected.
These per-post user inputs are simultaneously helping the AI system generalize how relevant future content will be for that user. Or as Facebook puts it, “by offering more ways to incorporate direct feedback into Feed ranking, we’re making our artificial intelligence systems smarter and more responsive.”
Facebook’s AI model generates what the company calls user and content embeddings, which help predict the types of content a person wants to see more of or less of in their Feed. Another Facebook blog post from 2022 explains that a “user embedding captures a person’s tastes, while the content embedding captures the essence of what a post is about.”
One last update from 2022 – what was once called the Facebook News Feed is now just the “Feed.” That’s how we refer to it throughout this article, except where relevant due to historical discussion.
How the Facebook Algorithm Works in 2023
That’s the state of the Facebook algorithm in 2023 – it has evolved to become an AI-powered, user-centric model designed to present users with relevant, welcome content in their Feeds. Even though Meta will admit that the algorithm isn’t perfect (and may never be), Facebook has demonstrated a willingness to modify its processes to give users what they want.
Despite the Facebook algorithm’s complexity and integration of new technologies like AI and machine learning, understanding its core functionality boils down to four ranking factors.
The Four Ranking Factors Fueling the Facebook Feed Algorithm
Prioritizing what “matters” to users has been one of the most consistent purposes of the Feed and all of its previous iterations. The goal of Facebook’s algorithm is to “show stories that matter to users,” according to Adam Mosseri, VP of Facebook’s News Feed Management. That aim is reflected across the platform’s many updates and tweaks to its algorithm, from more user control to increased personalization on advertisements.
With that in mind, you should know how Facebook’s different algorithm factors work together to determine which stories “matter” to a user. And Facebook made these factors easy to understand in its published help center post.
Inventory represents the stock of all content that can display to a user on Facebook’s News Feed, which fluctuates based on user activity once scrolling has begun. This includes everything posted by friends and publishers.
Signals represent the information that Facebook can gather about a piece of content. Signals are the single factor that you have control over.
These are your inputs that Facebook interprets; type of content, the publisher, its age, purpose, and more.
You want your content to signal to Facebook that it’s meaningful and relevant to your target audience.
Predictions represent a user’s behavior and how likely they are to engage with a content piece. Will a user watch a video to completion? Will they select the “Show More” feature on the post?
Predictions take authentic engagement like comments, likes, and shares from real profiles into account.
4. Relevancy Score
Relevancy Score is the final number assigned to a piece of content based on the likelihood that the user will respond positively to it. It also accounts for whether a post is “clickbait,” whether it links to a low-quality webpage, or if it’s misinformative in some way.
10 Best Practices for Working with Facebook’s Algorithm
So how can you tailor your content to ensure a high Relevancy Score and a strong enough ranking to appear in your target audience’s Feeds? Most of the following tips will be common sense if you currently produce content for social audiences, but many are specific to the sophisticated Facebook algorithm.
Here are some guidelines and best practices for keeping your content meaningful in Facebook’s eyes, based on our research, Facebook’s recommendations, and Matt Navara and Paul Armstrong’s coverage of Facebook’s News Feed webinar.
1. Keep posts relevant to your audience
Your content should always be relevant to your core audience — the people you want to build a community around. If your content is relevant to a user, the Facebook algorithm is likely to interpret that content as “meaningful,” a key consideration in ranking.
Stories should be compelling enough for a user to want to share with family and friends. Content should be informative and interesting… and, of course, accurate.
Products, education and lifestyle imagery, should reinforce your post’s meaningful and informative nature and build on your identity as a brand answering to a specific audience.
2. Engage readers and encourage interaction
Facebook’s News Feed algorithm favors content that fosters positive interactions between your followers and others.
Any piece of content, from products to education to entertainment — should provoke conversation. Remember that conversations can’t be one-sided; you want your audience to respond, but you must also respond to them when possible.
You want your content to prompt people to stop their scroll, interact, and share. Interaction is a crucial weighting factor for the Facebook algorithm, so all your content should be tailored to maximize engagement.
3. But don’t use clickbait or engagement bait
Remember all those “like if…” and “share if you are…” posts?
This is considered engagement baiting; it doesn’t add value or interaction for users. It may not entirely be clickbait, but the Facebook algorithm will penalize it as though it were.
Avoid asking people to “please comment, like, and share.” Your content should inspire them to engage without having to ask.
Facebook penalizes brands that encourage comments, likes, and shares on organic and ad posts. Keep this in mind when developing content for Instagram and Facebook.
4. Expand your post reach with employees and brand advocates
Because the Facebook algorithm gives preference to posts from users’ friends, families and the pages they interact with, your company’s Facebook page will have naturally limited reach. This is where enlisting employees and brand advocates can have a real impact.
Facebook represents your widest audience, but to reach them, you need to engage the audience closest to home. Encouraging your work team to share your brand’s content with their networks broadens the reach of the post or piece of content and your brand. Directly engaging with Facebook users who are already devotees of your brand and asking them to share content with their friends and family can have a similar effect.,
5. Or put ad dollars behind content with organic momentum
The new Facebook algorithm values content that performs well organically, and you can build off that momentum by boosting or promoting that content with ad dollars.
Content that already has strong organic traction means lower CPCs which, combined with ad dollars, can act as a snowball effect for your content.
Identify opportunities for ads based on organic post engagement and tap into Facebook Ads Manager tools by leveraging these posts in ads.
Conversely, don’t waste ad dollars on poor-performing organic content. It will have higher CPCs and cost you more while offering less in return.
“If a post performs well with engagement, likes, and shares, there’s an opportunity to place additional ad dollars to drive that performance even further.”
— Nii Ahene, Chief Strategy Officer at Tinuiti
6. Create compelling, original video content
2019 was the year that Facebook began leaning into its video offering in earnest, and it hasn’t stopped since. Today, the video formats available on Facebook have expanded to include Reels and Stories (shorter clips), Video on Demand and Live video. Reels, in particular, is Facebook’s fastest-growing content format “by far.” s video continues to be the top-performing content type across all social media networks, focusing on video should be a central part of your Facebook marketing strategy.
For your video content to perform best in the Feed, Facebook recommends that it be original, capture the audience’s attention, spark engagement, and inspire users to seek additional video content from the same source.
To create original and authentic Reels, Stories and full-length videos, make sure they capture your brand’s voice and avoid duplicating content. To retain attention, ensure your creative and copy is optimized towards mobile viewing (i.e., shortened copy, readable overlays, shortened headlines). And to generate engagement, encourage discussion and genuine interactions (but like always, avoid engagement bait).
7. Inspire audiences and evoke emotion with storytelling
Just as videos should be original, engaging and attention-grabbing, so should any content you post on Facebook. Understand the kinds of stories that resonate with your audience and craft your posts to tell those stories in an exciting way.
You can create connections with your audience through authenticity, interactivity and accuracy. But the surest way is by listening. Ask for feedback. Learn their interests. Take cues from their activity on other platforms. When you know what your audience cares about, you have a better chance of inspiring them… and a better chance of rising to the top of their Feeds.
8. Post authentic and truthful content
Facebook says that “authentic stories are the ones that resonate most” and that users want to see accurate information. After the controversies surrounding “fake news” and the spread of dis- and misinformation on the platform in recent years, the company has made promoting truthful content central to the Facebook algorithm’s function.
To signal that your content is genuine and accurate, write clear headlines free from exaggeration or sensationalism. Use well-sourced, reliable information, and avoid sharing content from sources you need clarification on. And above all, don’t lie or try to mislead with your content.
9. Schedule content when readers are likely to engage
The Facebook Feed is no longer chronological, but timing can still impact post performance within the algorithm. You want to post content when your audience is likely to engage with it, which is likely in the evening or overnight, but it can vary widely by the user. There is some research exploring the objectively ideal time for posting, but the ultimate best practice is understanding your audience and when they are most likely to be on the platform.
10. Learn what works by tracking content performance
After you’ve published your content, remember to use Facebook Insights to track the performance of your content. This will help you understand how your different content pieces are performing in terms of engagement, which is the key ranking metric.
Facebook also offers a variety of tools designed to help you measure both organic content and paid ads. Choose the best tools for your brand, and track performance regularly. Learn from your own Insights data and the tools you use, and optimize your content from there.
The Facebook algorithm is sophisticated and constantly evolving. There are few shortcuts and no way to “hack” it. But the steps outlined in this article can help make the algorithm work for you and help you get your content in front of the Facebook users who need to see it.
Want to work with our team of Facebook experts? Reach out today!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Greg Swan in April 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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