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The Path to Distributed Publishing (Part 1)

The way people have found content on the internet has gone through some very clear phases. Understanding our history is vital to understanding the present and being able to anticipate the available paths of the present into the future.

Should we talk about AOL?


The internet's first phase of consumer addiction started with text only terminal programs like Lynx, the pre-image internet of pure text hyperlinks. People learned to publish HTML files and how hyperlinks worked. It was the first raw layer of the internet that everything else is still built on top of.

As quickly as it developed, attempts were made to help other people find what had been created. Yahoo! became a winner by quickly organizing a very broad taxonomy for roughly "everything," and by giving human editors simple software to choose links for each category as Mosaic emerged (images on web pages!). Yahoo!'s efforts paid off and they became the central rainmaker.

A relatively small attempt at logical taxonomy was put together, and human category editors became the key path to content on the internet. If you didn't know who the category editor was for your space, you found a way to get to know them. Getting key placements in those categories could change a business dramatically.

Yahoo! categories.Source: http://bit.ly/2aR6Zef

As the open web sprawled, Google emerged to organize the world's information. In a very short time, the tiny informational reach of the human category editors was made irrelevant. We learned not only how to search, but an industry developed in the years after to optimize for better distribution in this new world order. The SEO industry became massive as it controlled the new lifeblood of content to its path to an audience.

At Huffington Post, where I was CTO, we built software to help teach writers how that universe worked, and how to make small changes to the way they put stories together to win. They told the same story, but they also learned to think about how humanity at large searched, and then how to become a top three result in that search. Google was the undisputed rainmaker, and companies like HuffPost that figured out SEO learned how to drink under a waterfall. Those who learned to build around the new rules of this landscape won constantly.

The Huffington Post home page, July 2009.From the Wayback Machine: http://bit.ly/2b4d1oF

The new phase changes the landscape completely once again and radically displaces Google. We are well past the beginning of this phase — the new paradigm is now much stronger and more powerful. Facebook has organized the world's information in a way that Google could never have been able to. Facebook has rendered Google's search technology as irrelevant as Google did Yahoo's categories. What was built into the very core of Facebook was essentially an AI agent for each one of us. It was crude ten years ago compared to what it is now, but it worked.

While Facebook's core positioning is social, the data and software they possess contains all the clues for nearly 2 billion people's interests. And every minute it learns more. Google's tech was focused only on the content that was being created. Facebook's tech sees beyond that to the person reading and sharing that story. The vital leap from Like to Reactions seems to be successfully completed, so the complexity and texture of the data becomes even more effective.

The hyperlinked, interests-based profile.From Mashable: http://on.mash.to/2b4dUxm

The shift to mobile has finalized our relationship with search. We expect content to come to us now, and it does. It isn't just our friends that Facebook has learned from — through Pages, Facebook has learned about our interests as well. Oddly enough, it is sort of a return to human category editors — but this time, instead of a few thousand, there are 85 million and growing daily. Winning on social today often takes the type of awareness and relationship building with other humans leading key categories like it did in the Yahoo! era. But it has to be conducted at a scale that can only be possible through technology. As the interest graphs of social networks have established a clear ownership of the path to content for consumers, a new industry is evolving.

It's called Social Media Optimization (SMO), and it goes beyond learning how to publish into networks to understanding how to optimize for distribution on these networks. Facebook's core offering to solve that problem has been very useful tools to pay for reach. But the core product that we all grew to love Facebook for, and is the single pillar of its success, is in the main column, not the ad slots.

That same single column of UX exists, in a way, as massively parallel universes — different content for each of us. The new waterfall is quite a bit bigger than anything we've ever seen before. When a single piece of content starts to find itself showing even in a tiny percent of the waterfall, a new company worth hundreds of millions can bloom from that in a very short time.

Map of Facebook Live broadcasts (Giphy).From Product Hunt: http://bit.ly/2aR8DfF

The role of Social Media Optimization will be to help people understand how to adapt to this new world as it evolves. One of the most significant core landscape shifts to understand in order to be able to optimize at all is the shift to distributed publishing.

The Google era pushed traffic to the open web. The core business metrics always included page views and unique visitors. Every optimization in this website-centric framework was to act as a funnel to the website. The landscape shift leaves those that stick to what they learned in the Google/website era in a very bad position. The reason this change is happening is because people are tired of clicking from that super-fast Facebook native app to a browser app to load a web page. We all flinch before clicking a link now. This is because we've seen what it's like to get content on the app.

The slideshow became the listicle, and then became the readable video. And the readable video has very long legs. It's a slideshow with no clicks needed, and a listicle without the scroll. It's lazy, it moves fast, and I don't need to hear it. And it plays right there without going anywhere. Instant Articles also keep people inside of Facebook where they prefer to be. Snapchat's emergence offers even less hope for the open web. Like Instagram, Snapchat is thriving by rendering links out unnecessary.

Instagram Stories, 2016. From TechCrunch: http://tcrn.ch/2aR9NrS

Distributed publishing is the solution for this new paradigm. It is one of the first steps of Social Media Optimization. It means publishing fully packaged content to every medium possible. Publishing teasers to stories is simply not enough — the entire story has to be consumable without leaving the platform and medium it's published to. This changes even how we think about email, where people again would rather just read more in their native Gmail app than click through to get more out.

So, let's take a look at how this shift affects what we know today. Check out The Path to Distributed Publishing (Part 2): What It Means for Websites + Tech.

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.

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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.

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