Tag Archive | "Verticals"

Not just for auto anymore: Google tests giant image search ads in new verticals.

The ads feature a carousel of images.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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All Content is Not Created Equal: Comparing Results Across 15 Verticals

Posted by kerryjones

Are you holding your content marketing to unrealistic standards?

No matter how informative your infographic about tax law may be, it’s not going to attract the same amount of attention as a BuzzFeed Tasty video. You shouldn’t expect it to. In order to determine what successful content looks like for your brand, you first need to have realistic expectations for what content can achieve in your particular niche.

Our analysis of hundreds of Fractl content marketing campaigns looked at the factors which have worked for our content across all topics. Now we’ve dived a little deeper into this data to develop a better understanding of what to expect from content in different verticals.

What follows is based on data we’ve collected over the years while working with clients in these industries. Keep in mind these aren’t definitive industry benchmarks – your mileage may vary.

Content-by-Vertical-01 (1).jpg

First, we categorized our sample of over 340 Fractl client campaigns into one of 15 different verticals:

  • Health and Fitness
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Politics, Safety, and Crime
  • Sex and Relationships
  • Business and Finance
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Sports
  • Automotive
  • Home and Garden
  • Pets
  • Fashion

We then looked at placements and social media shares for each project. We also analyzed content characteristics like visual asset type and formatting. A “placement” refers to any time a publisher wrote about the campaign. Regarding links, a placement could mean a dofollow, cocitation, nofollow, or text attribution.

Across the entire sample, an average campaign received 90 placements and just over 11,800 social shares. As expected, the results deviated greatly from the average when we looked at the average number of placements and social shares per vertical.


Some verticals, such as Health and Fitness, outperformed the average benchmarks by more than double, with 195 average placements and roughly 62,600 social shares. Not surprisingly, verticals with more niche audiences had lower numbers. For example, Automotive campaigns earned an average of 43 placements and 1,650 social shares.

What were the top-performing topics?

The average campaigns in Health and Fitness, Drugs and Alcohol, and Travel outperformed the average campaigns in other verticals. So what does it take to be successful in each of these three verticals?

Health and Fitness

Our Health and Fitness campaigns were nearly nine times more likely to include side-by-side images than the average vertical.

Many of these side-by-side image campaigns were centered around body image issues. For instance, we Photoshopped women in video games to have body types closer to that of the average American woman. We also used this tactic to highlight male body image issues and differences in beauty standards around the world.

Takeaway: Contrasting images immediately pass along a wealth of information that can be difficult to capture as effectively with standard data visualizations like charts or graphs. Additionally, they carry emotional power.

For instance, we created a morphing GIF of Miss America from 1922 to 2015. The difference between Miss America in 1922 and Miss America in 2015 is stark, and the GIF makes a powerful statement. Readers and publishers were also able to access information about the images that wouldn’t have come across in figures alone (such as the change in clothing styles and the relative lack of diverse contestants).

As part of the project, we also charted the decline in BMI for pageant winners. Depending on the project and available information, it may be helpful to provide some quantitative data to support the narrative told through images.

Interestingly, although Health and Fitness campaigns were 36.4 percent more likely to use social media data than the average vertical, each of the social media campaigns were in the bottom 68 percent of all Health and Fitness campaigns by social shares.

Drugs and Alcohol

Our Drugs and Alcohol campaigns were 2.2 times more likely to use curated data (65 percent versus 30 percent) and 1.4 times more likely to have interactive elements (26 percent versus 19 percent) than the average campaign.

Takeaway: When dealing with emotional and controversial topics like drugs and alcohol, you don’t necessarily need to collect new data to make an impact. Readers and publishers value visualizations that can help explain complex information in simple ways. An additional benefit: creating interactive experiences that allow your audience to explore data on their own and make their own conclusions.

One good example of these principles is our “Pathways to Addiction” campaign, in which we created interactive platforms for exploring data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, including information about the sequence in which people have tried different substances.

This format allowed readers to explore a controversial topic on their own and draw independent conclusions.

Pro Tip: Whether you choose to use curated data or collect your own data, it is imperative to be impartial in your presentation and open in your methodology when working on campaigns around sensitive or controversial topics. You don’t need to stay away from controversial topics, but you do need to take precautions for your agency and your client.


Our Travel campaigns were 28.6 percent more likely to use social media data and 30.5 percent more likely to use rankings and comparisons than a campaign in the average vertical.

Takeaway: Travel is an inherently social behavior. For many people, travel isn’t complete until they’ve captured the perfect photo – or five. Travel content that acknowledges this social aspect can be really powerful. Rankings, which also feature heavily in travel content, are strong geographic egobait for readers and publishers and play up the social aspect of the Travel vertical.

Stratos Jet Charters’ Talking Tourists, which combined social media data with rankings, is a great example. For this campaign, we gathered over 37,000 tweets to determine which places were the most and least friendly to tourists.

Talking Tourists was successful (96 placements and over 56,000 social shares) because it used content types with proven success in the travel vertical (social media data, rankings, and maps) to explore a topic that isn’t often explored quantitatively.

How to achieve content marketing success in every vertical

The three industries listed above are ripe for highly successful content, but does that mean less popular verticals should go in with low expectations?

Even with topics that are more difficult to attract the attention of readers and publishers, it is still possible for your content to perform well beyond other content in the vertical. This is particularly true when campaigns align with trending stories or tell a completely unique story.

However, not every piece of content can hit it out of the park. Rand estimates that it will take five to ten attempts to create a piece of successful content. Even then, the average high-performing Science content will not receive the same amount of attention as the average Health and Fitness content.

So how can you maximize the chances for success? Here’s what we’ve observed about our top-performing campaigns in the following verticals:

  • Automotive: If you want to create automotive content that appeals to a wider audience, consider using data from social media. Four of our top seven campaigns (by placements) in this vertical featured data from social networks.
  • Business and Finance: When it comes to money, people want to know how they stack up. Our top Business and Finance campaigns (by social shares) relied on comparisons or rankings. If you’re looking for social shares, this is the way to go.
  • Drugs and Alcohol: Finding interesting correlations or stories in existing datasets can prove popular in this vertical – the majority of top campaigns used curated data.
  • Education: Our top Education campaigns featured social media data and interactive features.
  • Entertainment: Timely content that connects with a passionate fan base is a recipe for success.
  • Fashion: Successful fashion campaigns focused on solving problems for the audience.
  • Health and Fitness: Side-by-side images that show a strong contrast perform extremely well in this vertical.
  • Home and Garden: To attract attention from readers and publishers in this niche, make your content timely or pop culture-related.
  • Pets: The highest-performing campaign in this vertical appealed to readers and publishers because it focused on the social aspects of pet ownership. We also included a geographic egobait component by highlighting distinct regional differences in popular dog breeds.
  • Politics, Safety, and Crime: Our top-performing campaign (by social shares) in Politics, Safety, and Crime used social media data to explore a trending topic.
  • Science: In this vertical, relating complex topics to pop culture figures, like superheroes, can boost your content’s social appeal. Creating interactive platforms to explore complicated data can also help your audience connect with your campaign.
  • Sex and Relationships: Talking about sex and relationships feels a little scandalous, which piques interest. Two of our top three campaigns in this vertical, both by placements and by social shares, used social media data to measure conversation around these topics.
  • Sports: This vertical naturally lends itself well to regional egobait. Although only two of our Sports campaigns included maps, these were the most shared of all our sports campaigns.

Browse through the flipbook below to see examples of top-performing campaigns in each vertical.

Try a mixed-vertical strategy

For many of our clients at Fractl, we create content both within and outside of the client’s vertical to maximize reach. Our work with Movoto, a real estate research site, illustrates how one company’s content marketing can span multiple verticals while still remaining highly relevant to the company’s core business.

When developing a content marketing strategy, it is helpful to look at the average placement and social share rate for various verticals. Let’s say a brand that sells decor for log cabins wants to focus 60 percent of its energy on creating highly targeted, niche-specific projects and 40 percent on content designed to raise general awareness about its brand.

Three out of every five campaigns produced for this client should be geared toward publishers who write about log cabins and readers who are on the verge of purchasing log cabin decor. This type of content might include targeted blog posts, industry-specific research, and product comparisons that would appeal to folks at the bottom of the sales funnel.

For the other two campaigns, it’s important to look at adjacent verticals before determining how to move forward. For this particular client, primarily creating Travel content (which yields high average social shares and placements) may be the best course of action.

In addition to the data I’ve shared here, I encourage you to analyze your own content performance data by vertical to set realistic expectations. Vertical-specific metrics can also help identify opportunities to create cross-vertical content for greater traction.

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Use Verticals To Increase Reach

In the last post, we looked at how SEO has always been changing, but one thing remains constant – the quest for information.

Given people will always be on a quest for information, and given there is no shortage of information, but there is limited time, then there will always be a marketing imperative to get your information seen either ahead of the competition, or in places where the competition haven’t yet targeted.


My take on SEO is broad because I’m concerned with the marketing potential of the search process, rather than just the behaviour of the Google search engine. We know the term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s never been particularly accurate, and less so now, because what most people are really talking about is not SEO, but GO.

Google Optimization.

Still, the term SEO has stuck. The search channel used to have many faces, including Alta Vista, Inktomi, Ask, Looksmart, MSN, Yahoo, Google and the rest, hence the label SEO. Now, it’s pretty much reduced down to one. Google. Okay, there’s BingHoo, but really, it’s Google, 24/7.

We used to optimize for multiple search engines because we had to be everywhere the visitor was, and the search engines had different demographics. There was a time when Google was the choice of the tech savvy web user. These days, “search” means “Google”. You and your grandmother use it.

But people don’t spend most of their time on Google.

Search Beyond Google

The techniques for SEO are widely discussed, dissected, debated, ridiculed, encouraged and we’ve heard all of them, many times over. And that’s just GO.

The audience we are trying to connect with, meanwhile, is on a quest for information. On their quest for information, they will use many channels.

So, who is Google’s biggest search competitor? Bing? Yahoo?

Eric Schmidt thinks it’s Amazon:

Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo,” he said during a visit to a Native Instruments, software and hardware company in Berlin. “But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon….Schmidt noted that people are looking for a different kind of answers on Amazon’s site through the slew of reviews and product pages, but it’s still about getting information

An important point. For the user, it’s all about “getting information”. In SEO, verticals are often overlooked.

Client Selection & Getting Seen In The Right Places

I’m going to digress a little….how do you select clients, or areas to target?

I like to start from the audience side of the equation. Who are the intended audience, what does that audience really need, and where, on the web, are they? I then determine if it’s possible/plausible to position well for this intended audience within a given budget.

There is much debate amongst SEOs about what happens inside the Google black box, but we all have access to Google’s actual output in the form of search results. To determine the level of competition, examine the search results. Go through the top ten or twenty results for a few relevant keywords and see which sites Google favors, and try to work out why.

Once you look through the results and analyze the competition, you’ll get a good feel for what Google likes to see in that specific sector. Are the search results heavy on long-form information? Mostly commercial entities? Are sites large and established? New and up and coming? Do the top sites promote visitor engagement? Who links to them and why? Is there a lot news mixed in? Does it favor recency? Are Google pulling results from industry verticals?

It’s important to do this analysis for each project, rather than rely on prescriptive methods. Why? Because Google treats sectors differently. What works for “travel” SEO may not work for “casino” SEO because Google may be running different algorithms.

Once you weed out the wild speculation about algorithms, SEO discussion can contain much truth. People convey their direct experience and will sometimes outline the steps they took to achieve a result. However, often specific techniques aren’t universally applicable due to Google treating topic areas differently. So spend a fair bit of time on competitive analysis. Look closely at the specific results set you’re targeting to discover what is really working for that sector, out in the wild.

It’s at this point where you’ll start to see cross-overs between search and content placement.

The Role Of Verticals

You could try and rank for term X, and you could feature on a site that is already ranked for X. Perhaps Google is showing a directory page or some industry publication. Can you appear on that directory page or write an article for this industry publication? What does it take to get linked to by any of these top ten or twenty sites?

Once search visitors find that industry vertical, what is their likely next step? Do they sign up for a regular email? Can you get placement on those emails? Can you get an article well placed in some evergreen section on their site? Can you advertise on their site? Figure out how visitors would engage with that site and try to insert yourself, with grace and dignity, into that conversation.

Users may by-pass Google altogether and go straight to verticals. If they like video then YouTube is the obvious answer. A few years ago when Google was pushing advertisers to run video ads they pitched YouTube as the #2 global search engine. What does it take to rank in YouTube in your chosen vertical? Create videos that will be found in YouTube search results, which may also appear on Google’s main search results.

With 200,000 videos uploaded per day, more than 600 years required to view all those videos, more than 100 million videos watched daily, and more than 300 million existing accounts, if you think YouTube might not be an effective distribution channel to reach prospective customers, think again.

There’s a branding parallel here too. If the field of SEO is too crowded, you can brand yourself as the expert in video SEO.

There’s also the ubiquitous Facebook.

Facebook, unlike the super-secret Google, has shared their algorithm for ranking content on Facebook and filtering what appears in the news feed. The algorithm consists of three components…..

If you’re selling stuff, then are you on Amazon? Many people go directly to Amazon to begin product searches, information gathering and comparisons. Are you well placed on Amazon? What does it take to be placed well on Amazon? What are people saying? What are their complaints? What do they like? What language do they use?

In 2009, nearly a quarter of shoppers started research for an online purchase on a search engine like Google and 18 percent started on Amazon, according to a Forrester Research study. By last year, almost a third started on Amazon and just 13 percent on a search engine. Product searches on Amazon have grown 73 percent over the last year while searches on Google Shopping have been flat, according to comScore

All fairly obvious, but may help you think about channels and verticals more, rather than just Google. The appropriate verticals and channels will be different for each market sector, of course. And they change over time as consumer tastes & behaviors change. At some point each of these were new: blogging, Friendster, MySpace, Digg, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc.

This approach will also help us gain a deeper understanding of the audience and their needs – particularly the language people use, the questions they ask, and the types of things that interest them most – which can then be fed back into your search strategy. Emulate whatever works in these verticals. Look to create a unique, deep collection of insights about your chosen keyword area. This will in turn lead to strategic advantage, as your competition is unlikely to find such specific information pre-packaged.

This could also be characterised as “content marketing”, which it is, although I like to think of it all as “getting in front of the visitors quest for information”. Wherever the visitors are, that’s where you go, and then figure out how to position well in that space.


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Egobait: How to Get Links & Exposure in a Variety of Verticals

Egobait exists for one main purpose: to increase visibility (which will hopefully generate links). It works well, but it can be done to death. Need some examples of how to do egobait effectively? Eight SEO experts weight in with their top tips.
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