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How to tackle The Long Tail with your digital marketing

How to tackle The Long Tail with your digital marketing

Niche websites and blogs have traditionally been seen as high risks by premium brands, but they also offer the chance to engage with highly targeted, receptive consumers, argues Shakeel Mughal, commercial director, Glam Media.

The web may be an obvious choice for direct response advertising, but for premium brand campaigns it comes with a certain degree of perceived risk. If you’re a premium advertiser, how do you safely position your messages alongside the best content, while also avoiding dubious sites that may damage your brand?

For many brands, the internet today is still seen as the “Wild West;” it might be jam packed with some quality content, but there’s also a lot of rubbish out there. In particular, premium brands fear the lack of control associated with targeting the long-tail and are quite right to be both concerned and intrigued by these smaller, niche sites.

The growth of the internet’s long-tail -a large collection of smaller sites offering highly specialized content -has been fuelled by a dramatic shift in the way people consume media online.

We’ve seen an exponential growth in smaller, dedicated sites better equipped to service people’s desire for content on more personal levels. The days of an internet dominated by a small number of major portals are long gone, with eighty percent of the time we now spend online made up exploring the long-tail.

The bigger players are losing ground fast: Yahoo! reports a £213m loss in advertising revenues in the fourth quarter of 2008 . This figure acts as a stark warning at a time when brands need to achieve maximum bang for their buck and dedicated sites that offer a more engaging experience for visitors continue to thrive.

In a recession, brands can’t afford to take a scattershot approach and ignore content and context in the advertising mix. It’s no longer just about reach--it’s about being associated with high quality content and engaging consumers when and where they are most receptive.

If an advertiser is only interested in direct response marketing then the more clicks the better and it doesn’t really matter how you get them. However, if a brand has spent decades cultivating a premium reputation aimed at a specific audience, then the context in which the brand appears remains key.

So what’s the secret to getting your brand in the right place, at the right time? The emergence of vertical content networks, like Glam Media’s that aggregate inventory from hundreds of niche sites and then present it back to advertisers with proper safeguards and accountability wrapped in, is one answer.

Smaller sites people visit directly offer a more engaging experience. In turn, advertisers can generate better awareness from a dedicated site that is able to understand where its traffic comes from, the content the site offers and how to win the last mile.

The 2009 Online Advertising Response Report showed that targeted adverts on relevant niche sites are 22 per cent more likely to receive a better response than on some of the larger more established portals.

With more than a fifth of consumers more likely to click through on an advert that’s associated with content on a smaller site, the question really is how long can advertisers afford to ignore the power of the long-tail?

Until we recognise the importance of both niche context, online will continue to be seen by premium brands as the Wild West of the advertising world. Premium brands need to raise their game as consumers become savvier to online advertising and how it influences their purchasing decisions. We can learn a lot from the far more mature advertising medium of primetime TV.

Why do premium brands pay so much for these slots? Sure, it’s about reach, but it’s also about targeting consumers when they expect, and even desire, advertorial content. T-Mobile, for example, used the entire commercial break within Celebrity Big Brother to premiere its ‘Dance’ television advertisement.

This not only reached all those watching the show but did so exactly when the viewers were anticipating an advert; when they were in the right mindset to embrace the promotion and be more receptive to its message.

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