Subscribe to Our Newsletter

x

Facebook Instant Articles Check In: Feature Still Essential for Publishers

The relationship between Facebook + publishers is complicated — chalk it up to the modern-day romances of Ross + Rachel, Carrie + Mr. Big.

And just like Ross needed Rachel and Carrie needed Mr. Big, we need Facebook.

As publishers, content creators, community managers, and marketers, it's something we've got to figure out. The platform has surpassed Google as the primary driver of referral traffic. 40% of Americans get their news from Facebook.


From The Huffington Post.

Those stats aren't necessarily shocking anymore. The platform is a behemoth, but still, there's something kind of amazing that Facebook has done with Instant Articles. The feature launched to all publishers nearly one year ago, so by now you most likely already breathe a sigh of relief when that headline you want to read more about has the lovely lightning bolt. And in turn, you probably become frustrated when you tap an article on Facebook + the slow load time annexes your phone.

Since its soft launch in 2015, Instant Articles have been widely adopted, and we would be lying if we didn't say it's a trend we're happy is here to stay. But it continues to be a contentious point for media companies and brands who aren't ready to let Facebook take more control.

It's easy to become frustrated with platforms. They wine-and-dine your content while you play third-wheel. And there's no way you're going to get a second date in your part of town. But Instant Articles are also making sure your relationship is a happy one, because a good user experience means loyalty for your brand.

But Instant Articles has had a tough go at romancing publishers.

If you're not taking advantage of Instant Articles yet (and there's still some pretty big holdouts), you're missing some serious unearthed potential. Here's a brief rundown of the rocky road that got us here + why you should table your platform woes on this one.

FB's First Publishing Platform

ICYMI, Instant Articles is Facebook's mobile-only, native publishing platform formatted and optimized to load almost immediately. This is big considering the average human attention span is approximately 8 secs. We like to read things, but only if they load fast. Not to mention IA gets a front seat in the EdgeRank algorithm. Minimal wait time = happy users.

Initially, Instant Articles launched in 2015 with a handful of publishing partners, including BuzzFeed, The New York Times + National Geographic. At RebelMouse, we worked with Facebook closely to create a seamless integration with our publishers, including PAPER Magazine + The Dodo. Then, the platform launched Instant Articles to all publishers during the F8 conference in Spring 2016. Since then, the user experience has paid off:

Still, there were some sharp growing pains as soon as Instant Articles went live. The obvious "Wait, what?" moment came from the shift in inbound marketing. On the surface, Instant Articles seemed to be just (more) hosted + hijacked content that never left Facebook. How could brands justify converting their content to Instant Articles with what seemed like little to nothing in return? This was the source of deep-rooted unknowns that both publishers and the major social platform had to come to a meeting place on. In the past two years, Facebook has worked with publishers to clear up doubt.

Smoothing Things over with Publishers

The turbulent relationship between FB Instant Articles + publishers can be broken down into two big bumps: editorial freedom and monetization.

Editorial Freedom: Brands, new media companies, and especially members of the news industry, were worried about Instant Articles taking away the ability to control design. Not only was Facebook taking control of content, but it was getting rebranded to all fit the Instant Articles aesthetic.

This made everyone in the industry nervous. Facebook is the hub of customer acquisition where readers begin the traditional marketing funnel. It looked like the platform was hijacking the ability for any brand or media company to stand out. This uniformity was even credited with playing a role in 2016's fake news fiasco.


Customer advocacy starts with awareness. Where else can you grab the attention of millions?

To combat this issue, Facebook set up HTML and RSS feeds to display articles with fonts, layouts, and formats to match publishers' editorial look and feel.

And on a larger scale, to preserve journalist integrity for news outlets, Facebook created The Facebook Journalism Project. The FB Journalism Project is a collaboration between the platform and journalists to produce new products, training, and tools to expand IA's creative capabilities. Most notable for publishers are story packages where uber-engaged readers can see multiple stories at a time to help users discover more of the publisher's content.

Monetization: Facebook has received the world's longest side-eye from publishers for hosting their content, and potentially making money off it too. When Instant Articles dropped, many publishers feared it would be the final nail in their page view coffin.

But through Instant Articles, publishers who serve their ads on the platform keep 100% of the revenue. If publishers are using Facebook to serve ads through their Audience Network, Facebook takes 30%.

The Facebook Journalism Project also enhanced monetization flexibility with customized ad experiences at the article level. The platform recently increased ad frequency — now ads can appear every 250 words rather than the previous 350. The platform also partnered with ad tech company Polar so native ads could be served just as display ads within Instant Articles. Around that same time in March 2016, Facebook introduced video ads within articles as well.

"We've really heard it loud and clear that [publishers] want a deeper level of collaboration, not just in partnerships but in product and engineering." — Facebook's director of product, Fidji Simo


A Nod to the Future

Still, several big-name publishers are holding off on adopting Instant Articles. The idea of forgoing reader data and losing full control of their distribution remains disturbing to big-time legacy names like ESPN + Bloomberg.

Despite any hesitations, it doesn't change the fact that people spend an average of 50 minutes on Facebook a day. The platform has captivated the eyes of 1.8 billion users around the world. That number will only keep thriving. With innovative features like Instant Articles, the platform can reach even more people around the globe by speeding up content delivery.

But mostly, Facebook's user number continues to grow because the platform does a great job of churning out innovative ways to keep people on their site.

It's now on publishers to adjust their strategy to the current climate. We've seen publishers like The Washington Post convert all their articles to Instant Articles — a factor that helped their engagement + reach jump 68% over the course of one year. Other publishers like BuzzFeed, Vox, and The Huffington Post use Instant Articles most of the time.

According to web analytics company Parse.ly, FB holds the top spot for site referral traffic.

But Instant Articles is just one small way that Facebook has continued to control the global audience. Since then, the platform has launched its algo-happy live feature to all mobile + desktop users, ads in messenger, and its latest Snap-like alternative, FB Stories. Also in 2017, the platform has taken its first steps to reinvent the way we watch television too.

Facebook delivers to its users a better, faster experience that's multidimensional and engaging. The user is smarter than the old model of site-driven traffic sponsored by display ads and pop-ups. And that's why they live on the platforms.

So even if you are the grumpiest of Facebook users, acknowledge that at the very least, the platform is treating your followers right with user experience. The more quality time spent engaging with your brand means the more loyal your fans become. And in the end, a better experience also means better ROI — and yep, a better internet.

Click here to check out the various ways RebelMouse works with Instant Articles.

Header image from VentureBeat.

NEW: Page Views per Particle Enabled for Google AMP

Increase mobile page views for every particle using Google AMP

RebelMouse has deployed an exciting update: We've enabled particle tracking in Google Analytics for articles using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, which means every particle now triggers a page view event upon scroll. Before, just one page view event would be logged when the mobile page initially loaded.

Not Familiar With What This Means? Read On

The days of static, flat media are over. Sites with low performance scores, obtrusive ad experiences, and poor content structure simply won't make it. Knowing these truths, the way we think of an article can no longer be static either.

An article today now takes several forms: short-form, long-form, listicle, slideshow, etc. Because of this, we've created a simple framework called Particle Assembler that accounts for all possibilities when building out content.

We playfully call each piece of your content a "particle," which is quite literally a "part" of an "article." These particles have become the core way to author content on RebelMouse, and are standalone elements that use their own imagery, title, and copy. For example, let's say you create a post that's titled, "The Best Place for Tacos in Austin." Each taco destination in this article will have a lead image, the name of the restaurant, its location, and a description of the restaurant with images of their food. Each of these restaurant highlights contain enough information to stand by themselves as individual posts.

Building particles in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

And they do stand alone successfully when you're on RebelMouse — each particle can be shared separately on social and each will register as a unique page view thanks to our latest update. This is a critical part of our modern pageview methodology that ensures our publishers deliver an elegant user experience to readers while still capitalizing on a meaningful monetization strategy. For instance, not only is every particle now a page view on Google AMP, but it's also a new revenue opportunity. This is thanks to the various placement opportunities for ads we offer within our Particle Assembler.

ICYMI, Google AMP is the search engine's lightning-fast mobile experience. With this update, sites powered by RebelMouse will not only deliver the best AMP experience to their users, but they'll also earn the page views their content deserves, too.

See the Massive Difference

In just a short period after implementing this change, one client experienced a massive spike in AMP pages per user, where it jumped from 1.6 to 8.2:

Here's what their AMP pages per user looked like just prior to the update:

If you're interested in experiencing this type of growth and getting more page views for your mobile content, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If you're already on RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager to learn more about particle views for Google AMP.

Primary Tags: Structure Your Site for Success

Dynamic taxonomy improves usability and propels SEO strategy

It's not a surprise that quality content can easily be spoiled by a poor site experience. This is why we're extremely proud of the lightning-fast sites we power. But speed is only the beginning of the user experience.

The temperature on platform dependency has cooled in recent years, revitalizing the value of site visits and search strategy. This is good news for both users and publishers who need site stability to survive. Because of this shift, RebelMouse focuses on three primary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure site usability and health:

  • Sessions per User: The average number of site sessions that each user has in a given time period.
  • Pages per User: The average number of page views that each user has in a given time period.
  • Time per User: The average amount of time spent on site by each user.

In order for these metrics to shine, a site's architecture must be organized in a way that increases every user's time on site. The logic is simple: If a site is easier to navigate, the user will likely stick around longer. This is the gateway to user loyalty.

One important way we support these KPIs is through our intuitive tagging structure for content. Let's take a look at our primary tag functionality and how it can set up any site for success.

What Is a Primary Tag?

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

The Primary Tag and Tags sections in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

The Benefits of Primary Tags

Dynamic Taxonomy: One of the primary benefits of using a primary tag is that it exposes the depth of content available to your users. Many publishers do this through the use of sections, which often turns out to be redundant and, in turn, ignored:

Sections can often be annoying to navigate and repetitive.

Using a variety of relevant tags for every article, rather than just repeating the same handful of sections, opens up more opportunities for targeted descriptors. For example, instead of using "Recipes" as a section over and over again, a primary tag can be used to create specific content flows for topics like "Vegetarian," "Soups," or "Cocktails."

Richer SEO: Since a primary tag exposes more information about your article, it also supplies more relevant data to Google's algorithm. Surfacing content in usable ways supports Google's mission to serve content based on audience behavior and intent instead of outdated and frowned-upon SEO methods like keyword stuffing. This approach is called white hat SEO, or ethical SEO.

By targeting specific interests, your dynamic tag structure will allow Google to more accurately understand your article's content and rank it accordingly. On RebelMouse, this creates a trickle-down effect, because users can click a tag and quickly get directed to more relevant articles, which boosts your SEO efforts further.

Here's how the site experience looks on RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch when viewing their primary tag "Plastics."

RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch takes advantage of a primary tag construct.

Improves Crucial KPIs: As mentioned before, RebelMouse traffic experts are constantly focused on improving the three KPIs that matter most to site usability and building audience loyalty. These metrics answer the following questions:

  • Frequency: How often are users coming to the site?
  • Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  • Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

Looking again at EcoWatch's use of primary tags, it's important to note that a primary tag is exposed on every one of their articles. They're also used in a left-hand navigation module that features the latest stories and trending topics:

Start Leveraging Primary Tags on RebelMouse

If you aren't on RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and let's start working together to make sure your site is optimized for user growth. If you're already publishing on RebelMouse, and want to learn more about tagging best practices, contact your account manager or email support@rebelmouse.com.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

Related Articles

Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

Related Articles

Subscribe to Our Newsletter