If Measuring Pageviews Is Dumb, Buying Them Is Even Dumber

If one idea has gone viral in content marketing this year—infecting the minds of brand editors and content strategists from San Francisco to London—it’s that pageviews and impressions are terrible primary metrics for determining the success of branded content.

But while it’s important that some brands are looking at more valuable metrics like engaged time and return visitors to measure the relationships they’re building with readers over time, a pretty significant problem remains: Most brands need to use paid distribution platforms—at least initially—to get an audience for their content, and all of that traffic is bought and sold based on impressions and clicks.

How to accurately measure your content marketing strategy

As Contently’s Jordan Teicher found in his excellent breakdown of the pros, cons, and costs of the top content distribution platforms, just about every paid content distribution platform—Outbrain, Taboola, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.—sells content promotion based on clicks (CPC) or impressions (CPM). The same is true for most publishers that give brands the opportunity to run sponsored content on their sites.

But content marketers don’t want clicks; they want people to spend time with their content in hopes of building lasting relationships with an audience and achieving true ROIIf it’s dumb to measure the success of your content based on pageviews, it’s even dumber to pay for those pageviews.

So why isn’t paid content distribution sold based on the time people spend with the content once they click?

There’s some precedent here. The Financial Times recently started selling ads based on the amount of time readers spend with them in-view. “Are we honestly saying that there’s no difference to the brand between one second of exposure and five seconds of exposure?” FT‘s Jon Slade said in an interview with Contently. “Logic would say: Let’s start to value the amount of time spent with a brand.”

Any paid content distribution platform that followed suit and started selling traffic based on time would be doing brands a great service. Currently, if you’re a brand promoting your content through Outbrain, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., you have to track and calculate how much time visitors from those paid channels are spending with your content and then adjust your spend accordingly—and after the fact, which is far from ideal. This can also be a tricky calculation, since it’s often hard to parse traffic coming from paid distribution versus traffic from organic referrals when you’re buying sponsored posts on social networks.

And the technological hurdles aren’t as daunting as you might think. The distribution platforms simply need to ask their clients to add the same kind of tracking code that analytics platforms like Chartbeat add to their clients’ sites. Publishers that don’t want to buy traffic based on time—or don’t want to add that extra tracking code—could still buy traffic on a CPC or CPM basis, but there should be a choice.

In the words of FT‘s Jon Slade: “Quality comes with great service, great ideas, and an appropriate currency.”

Contently arms brands with the tools and talent to become great content creators. Learn more.

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