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How Social-Media Guidelines Changed Advertising

November 16th, 2010

social media guidelinesBOSTON — SEO killed the advertising star.

After I graduated with a journalism degree from Boston University in 2002, my first staff-reporting job was for the Boston Courant — a weekly, neighborhood newspaper that covered the downtown neighborhoods of the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, and South End.

In addition to covering various subjects including crime, urban development, and the city council, each reporter also helped with the final-stage production of the newspaper each Thursday. One of the tasks was to check the positions of the advertisements on the draft pages to ensure that they did not conflict with nearby articles. If an advertisement for the Red Sox appeared on page four, a story about the Red Sox could not appear on that page or the facing one.

The reason is obvious: Every media outlet that claims to be objective and neutral needs to eliminate any possible appearance of a conflict of interest. The advertising department that worked with the Red Sox would be completely separate from the newsroom that interviewed the Red Sox. (Although, the smaller the newspaper, the more that these departments actually overlap in practice.) In short, advertisements never matched the content along which they would appear.

On the Internet, however, the best online-advertising practices take the opposite approach for one simple reason: Traditional advertisers generally pay a newspaper for the simple privilege of appearing in the publication. Online advertisers, on the other hand, do not simply want people to view the advertisement — they want a click-through, and the website owner is usually not paid unless someone clicks on an advertisement (at the least) or even “coverts” by performing a later transaction at the outside website resulting from the click. This is how Internet SEO and SEO software changed the nature of advertising.

How SEO and Social-Media Guidelines Changed Journalism

Advertisers, understandably, want proof that the placement is working — and this is one reason why online advertising is increasing while print advertising is declining: The results are quantifiable. (How much revenue or brand-awareness did the Red Sox gain specifically and directly from advertising in the Boston Courant? It was nearly impossible to tell.)

Online advertisers like Google Ads tailor their ads to website viewers as much as possible. The process chain is quite astounding. Say you enter a search term that brings you to this blog. Google knows they keyword you used, the geographic location of your computer’s IP address, the content of your Gmail, the content of the blog post you will view, and some level of the search-engine history at that IP address. In the microseconds between the time that you visit this website and the time that the blog loads, Google processes all of this information and delivers that specific ads that the company thinks will most likely interest you.

On the other side of the advertising-transaction coin, website owners also know that advertising should be geared towards the specific person that is viewing the web page or blog post for the same reasons. My other site, Considerations, has several advertising partners (click here for more information) and I match the advertisements to the content as much as possible.

Take Friend Finder, for example. I already know through past-performance data that the click-through rate for Google Ads here is higher when the network shows advertisements for online-dating websites and health/medicinal sites. (Sex, forex trading, and online gambling are generally the three most-profitable streams of advertising revenue on the Internet. Read into that what you will.)

As a result, I put forex-online ads on posts dealing with economics and finance. I place general Friend-Finder ads on specific blog posts in the Dating category. Since the Internet is a highly-segmented marketplace, I tailor the Friend-Finder advertising to a specific post. A post dealing with Christianity will get a Christian Friend-Finder ad. One about Judaism will receive a Jewish Friend-Finder one. Posts on health issues will have an advertisement for HerbalBiz. Considerations is an Amazon affiliate, so book-review posts have affiliate links there as well. The key is to target your online advertising to the viewer as specifically as possible. I’ll discuss this more in the future.

Still, it needs to be said that these advertisements never affect what writers publish at Considerations. When I place ads on posts, it is always as an afterthought at the end after the post is written or published. You can take the journalist out of journalism, but you cannot take the journalistic integrity out of him. Companies have offered to pay me to write posts that highlight their websites in a subtle way, but I have always declined. Online advertising — at least as described earlier — seems to be the optimal way to match advertisements with those most likely to be interested after reading quality content on those issues.

There are many tips on how to make money from blogging or creating a website, and these are only a few. If I can be of any additional service as an SEO consultant, please feel free to contact me on oDesk or through this site.

Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.