After making a huge wave during its rollout in 2015, some legacy publishers are now abandoning Facebook Instant Articles. In fact, more than half of the original launch partners for Instant Articles were no longer using the format in January 2018. For major publishers, Instant Articles has carved out a reputation of being hard to monetize and having limited insights. Still, Facebook announced that the use of Instant Articles grew 25% last year, with more than 10,000 publishers on board.While big-name publishers like The Washington Post may be abandoning Facebook's mobile format, there's still room for growth and revenue on the platform for both brands and media companies. Our RebelMouse clients are experiencing growth using the format every day. However, it does take careful testing and the right strategy to see ROI and audience increases using Instant Articles. If you're still struggling to find the sweet spot on Instant Articles, here are five common missteps that could be throwing off your strategy.
1. You're Only Doing Partial Tests
It's common for publishers to stick one toe in the water with Instant Articles and then quickly give up when they don't experience immediate results. At RebelMouse, our clients make the most of monetization opportunities when they go all in on the format. Posting to Instant Articles for a brief period of time doesn't give the Facebook Audience Network a chance to act in its full capacity to start matching genuine audiences with your content. Setting up a longer testing period — where all of your content is published as an Instant Article at least once — is the only way to really see if it's a worthwhile medium for you.
2. Your Website UX Is Obtrusive
Websites that don't adhere to the new rules of Facebook will never perform. After the platform's turbulent 2016–2017 period, Facebook is making quality experiences a top priority. Not taking advantage of this latest shift is a missed opportunity for publishers. Creating a lean tech site that features unobtrusive ads and a seamless experience across platforms is the only way to build growth. What was once called a "responsive design" is not so much about the size of your screen anymore, but rather the sources of your traffic. You have to publish to a site that not only brings in traffic, but keeps them coming back repeatedly.
3. Your Website Has a Slow Response Time
Facebook cares a lot about page speed. If a user is going to leave its platform via an external link, the site they're headed to must be perfect — meaning no slow load times due to ad overload. Server response time is a deep measure of how professionally a site was built, which means publishers can no longer buy placement into the News Feed with mediocre sites and experiences.
For instance, if your site has a slow response time, you can't take advantage of Facebook Instant Articles — which can go viral more easily, creating opportunities for impactful monetization. If your content isn't using Instant Articles and is hosted on a slow site, you won't even get a chance to make it into the News Feed anymore. So not only will your slow response time turn away traffic, you'll miss out on gaining any new traffic. Slow websites with server response times higher than 100 ms are going to continue to see a deprioritization on the platform.
4. You're Missing Out on Growth Opportunities
It's not impossible for publishers to experience high CPMs using the Facebook Audience Network without implementing the right strategies. But simply using interest targeting on Facebook can bring in mixed results, usually resulting in high impressions and low conversion rates. Using data like customer lists and engagement metrics to create custom and lookalike audiences on the platform is a better way to target relevant audiences that can deliver long-lasting growth. Facebook Instant Articles is an opportunity to deliver an easy experience to new audiences that could be interested in your content.
5. You're Posting the Wrong Content
It's important to publish the right kind of content on Facebook Instant Articles. Using long-form, dynamic content rather than a random selection of thinner articles is a better way to capture loyal readers. It's common for publishers to use shorter pieces of content because social has always been thought of as a faster and lighter experience. But now that everyone lives on the News Feed, there's space for long-form and rich content that makes a visitor stay to read the entire article. That's the kind of content that moves the needle.
Why You Should Get It Right
We're realists at RebelMouse, and we believe every source of traffic matters to publishers. Abandoning any of them at this point in time is directionally wrong for most companies. Embracing Facebook by playing by their rules — while also leveraging other platforms — is the only way to ensure success. Even if you aren't on our CMS, we offer strategy services that include the configuration and optimization of Instant Articles, as well as other formats and practices, including SEO. Publishers solely relying on a pay-to-play strategy aren't going to survive 2018. You simply cannot create a successful, sustainable business without cementing deep, meaningful connections with your audience, and Instant Articles is still a viable way to discover those followers. These are the connections that foster organic growth and bring in revenue.