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Is an Unbranded Content Site Worth It? All Signs Point to Yes

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What’s the future for unbranded content sites? SAP runs an unbranded content site whose future’s so bright, that the team behind it had better wear shades (to paraphrase that old Timbuk 3 song).

The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience earned the tech brand a finalist nod for Best Content Strategy and Best Multi-Author Blog in the 2021 Content Marketing Awards (CMAs).

And it’s easy to see why. Total page views for the blog hit the high six figures (767,190 in 2020 and 1,177,123 in 2021). Top-performing content generates between 5,000 and 10,000 views a month.

And those aren’t even the most impressive stats.

Visitors spend an average of eight minutes on the site. Almost all (99%) of its archives get views every month. And its bounce rate has never been over 5%, as SAP explained in their CMA nomination.

Seventy percent of traffic comes from organic search. The other 30% arrives from direct or bookmarked links, with social shares and an email newsletter rounding out the traffic sources.

“We never spent any money on advertising, campaigns, or promoted content,” says Jenn VandeZande, the site’s editor-in-chief.

We never spent any money on advertising, campaigns, or promoted #content, says @jennvzande of @SAP_CX impressively successful #ContentMarketing hub via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

So how did the site become such a success? Jenn shared some principles and practices behind the content marketing strategy.

Downplay the brand to play up trust

The robust content hub operates under a non-branded URL. The (barely noticeable) SAP connection comes through employees, customers, partners, and industry experts they’ve onboarded as freelance writers.

SAP created the site based on two basic principles, and it’s never swayed from these:

  • To become an authoritative source and community for all things commerce and business related by focusing on great content that answers business challenges in an unbiased way
  • To use journalistic standards with an SEO-first, evergreen content strategy

Jenn says the site’s independence is “sacred” because return readers and subscribers expect it and because of the critical role of trust in business relationships: “You can lose a customer in an instant by breaking that trust.

“Nobody wants to be sold when they’re trying to research a problem – at least in the beginning stages. SAP is keeping their eyes on the future, focusing on the importance of unbranded content to lead into the next step of the journey.”

The site draws interest from searchers and a faithful readership of C-suite executives and other leaders with decision-making responsibilities. SAP has found readers come back to places they trust when it’s time to purchase.

@SAP_CX has found people return to the places they trust when it’s time to purchase, says @jennvzande via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

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Use data to please readers and leaders

The initial buy-in was simple. SAP likes forward-thinking, Jenn says, and the site represented a new concept. As the site grew and content competition increased, data led to continued support from SAP leadership.

“It turns out that doing this day after day, year after year, earns loyalty, which then earns sales deals, which has also helped earn executive buy-in,” Jenn says. “It’s a long game with big dividends.”

Data drives content decisions, too. “Most of us on the team are data nerds, and we live by it,” Jenn says.

The hardest decisions she’s had to make involved ideas that sounded great in concept but didn’t resonate with readers. “While it bummed me out to pull the plug on these things, the data made the decision easy.”

To arrive at content decisions, the data nerds looked beyond the general (though impressive) metrics like visits, views, time on site, etc. They wanted a collection of data that would help them better understand their audience’s behavior, such as:

  • Which posts get the most clicks?
  • Where exactly on the site do most people click?
  • What content leads people to the next step on their SAP journey?
  • What parts of the site do they engage with and which ones do they not?

The content team’s developer Aaron Graham created a custom plugin to track those metrics.

Now, they can drill down and identify the typical paths visitors follow on the site and what works and what doesn’t. “It’s been a big game-changer for us and helps us to stay focused on what readers want,” Jenn says.

That doesn’t mean their data game is perfect. Attribution remains the unicorn the team continues to chase. Ultimately, they’d love to be able to show that a reader started on X post and then purchased a product at some point in their journey.

But Jenn prizes the anecdotal evidence from readers who forward that day’s newsletter to her with a comment about loving the subject, the content, etc. “I save those emails in a folder because they’re a great reminder of the purpose of what we do,” she says.

It’s also immediate feedback that can prompt a change. “We’re always tweaking copy, reoptimizing, testing, so when we get feedback that folks love what we’ve written, we use it,” Jenn says.

And the feedback isn’t always positive. One reader complained about the subject line “Not new, not normal” and explained why. Jenn thanked the engaged reader for sharing her opinion. The team assumed others might feel the same. “It can be easy to lose perspective when you’re on the inside looking out,” Jenn says.

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Act big, even if you’re small

SAP is a global company with over 100,000 employees, but The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience site doesn’t involve a big team. Executive Editor Marcia Savage manages the calendar, day-to-day content scheduling, and editing and contributes some writing. She’s the other full-time employee besides Jenn and Aaron (the team developer). Contractors help with site images, and the team relies on TAG Communication Services for freelancers.

Ideas come from anywhere – the content team, the contractors, customers, employees, and even competitors. Freelancers craft the content, then Marcia and Jenn edit it for SEO, tone, etc. They also reoptimize and update content every day.

Jenn also keeps an eye out for potential writers on social media. If she reads something interesting, she reaches out to invite the author to contribute. “We’ve gotten some fantastic bylines this way,” she says.

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Grow the platform

A couple of years ago, The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience added more specific sections at the top of the navigation bar based on the topics most critical to their audience:

  • Commerce
  • Customer experience
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Service
  • Purpose

“Those sections have turned out really well and been useful for our readers … They’ve proven to be a simple way for the user to find what they’re looking for and to discover content they didn’t know they were looking for,” Jenn says. “We also discuss the topics that are important to our audience, focusing on purpose and the whole self. In doing so, our authentic tone has won over our subscribers and advocates.

But that isn’t the only growth for the original content hub. The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience team launched a podcast that features guests discussing the site’s most engaging content.

Given a prompt from contributor Jesús Hoyos, who wondered about content in languages other than English, the team is now working on updating its content into regions.

Without a big budget for translation, Jenn uses Google Translate for the content on the site, then sends it to a peer in a region with that language to review before she publishes it.

Inclusion is really important to us, so getting it right has taken time and is constantly evolving, but it’s made a difference for our readers,” Jenn says.

And that’s just one more reason why The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience shines so bright.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

Learn more from Jenn VandeZande at Content Marketing World this fall, where she’s presenting the session CTR, ROI, KPI, Cry: Breaking Through Jargon to Deliver Kick-Ass Results. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples [2024 Update]

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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples

Introduction

With billions of users each month, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and top website for video content. This makes it a great place for advertising. To succeed, advertisers need to follow the correct YouTube ad specifications. These rules help your ad reach more viewers, increasing the chance of gaining new customers and boosting brand awareness.

Types of YouTube Ads

Video Ads

  • Description: These play before, during, or after a YouTube video on computers or mobile devices.
  • Types:
    • In-stream ads: Can be skippable or non-skippable.
    • Bumper ads: Non-skippable, short ads that play before, during, or after a video.

Display Ads

  • Description: These appear in different spots on YouTube and usually use text or static images.
  • Note: YouTube does not support display image ads directly on its app, but these can be targeted to YouTube.com through Google Display Network (GDN).

Companion Banners

  • Description: Appears to the right of the YouTube player on desktop.
  • Requirement: Must be purchased alongside In-stream ads, Bumper ads, or In-feed ads.

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Resemble videos with images, headlines, and text. They link to a public or unlisted YouTube video.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that play outside of YouTube, on websites and apps within the Google video partner network.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: Premium, high-visibility banner ads displayed at the top of the YouTube homepage for both desktop and mobile users.

YouTube Ad Specs by Type

Skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Placement: Before, during, or after a YouTube video.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
    • Action: 15-20 seconds

Non-skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Description: Must be watched completely before the main video.
  • Length: 15 seconds (or 20 seconds in certain markets).
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1

Bumper Ads

  • Length: Maximum 6 seconds.
  • File Format: MP4, Quicktime, AVI, ASF, Windows Media, or MPEG.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 640 x 360px
    • Vertical: 480 x 360px

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Show alongside YouTube content, like search results or the Home feed.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
  • Headline/Description:
    • Headline: Up to 2 lines, 40 characters per line
    • Description: Up to 2 lines, 35 characters per line

Display Ads

  • Description: Static images or animated media that appear on YouTube next to video suggestions, in search results, or on the homepage.
  • Image Size: 300×60 pixels.
  • File Type: GIF, JPG, PNG.
  • File Size: Max 150KB.
  • Max Animation Length: 30 seconds.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that appear on websites and apps within the Google video partner network, not on YouTube itself.
  • Logo Specs:
    • Square: 1:1 (200 x 200px).
    • File Type: JPG, GIF, PNG.
    • Max Size: 200KB.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: High-visibility ads at the top of the YouTube homepage.
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 or higher.
  • File Type: JPG or PNG (without transparency).

Conclusion

YouTube offers a variety of ad formats to reach audiences effectively in 2024. Whether you want to build brand awareness, drive conversions, or target specific demographics, YouTube provides a dynamic platform for your advertising needs. Always follow Google’s advertising policies and the technical ad specs to ensure your ads perform their best. Ready to start using YouTube ads? Contact us today to get started!

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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