Frustrated with privacy breaches and ever-more-intrusive digital advertising, consumers are taking control over their ad experience like never before, changing their privacy settings, using ad blockers, and welcoming changes like iPhone’s iOS 14 rollout that will require apps to get permission before tracking users’ searches and other data. What does this shift in both mindset and technology mean for businesses that rely on an effective digital advertising strategy to reach their customers?

How Many Consumers Are Opting Out of Digital Advertising?

How many iPhone users will opt-in to data collection?

There are an estimated 110.3 million iPhone users in the United States in 2021. Of these, how many will offer up their information when the iOS 14 update requires apps to obtain permission before collecting data?

While it’s possible that some users will agree to share information some of the time, it seems that most people will simply say no once it’s easy to decline. Facebook expects a more than 50% decline in Audience Network revenue, and the company has expressed concerns about its own revenue when advertising becomes less effective.

“We know this may severely impact publishers’ ability to monetize through Audience Network on iOS 14, and … may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS14 in the future.”

Facebook blog post

How Many Users are Employing Ad Blockers?

In 2019, almost 30% of internet users enabled ad blocking software at least some of the time. They cited reasons that include:

Ad blocker adoption is expected to continue a slow but steady rise.

Are Users Abandoning Social Platforms Like Facebook?

Facebook lost 2 million daily active users in the 3rd quarter of 2020, and its role in ongoing political and privacy controversies has since caused further erosion. Alternative platforms like (which promises no ads, no spyware, and no newsfeed manipulation) and (which is user-funded) have seen tremendous growth in 2021. 2.5 million users flocked to MeWe in just one week in January and Gab has been offline occasionally as it works to accommodate a continuous influx of traffic.

How Are Search Preferences Changing?

Although Google continues to dominate the search market, alternatives have grown in popularity as the tech giant has moved away from its “don’t be evil” code of contact and into far more revenue-driven territory. However, like Facebook, Google will need to make adjustments to its privacy practices in order to comply with Apple’s next update, and those changes are likely to impact advertisers in a negative way.

How Can Advertisers Counteract Ad Blocking?

Where do users of ad-blocking software find out about brands?

With less-targeted advertising poised to decline in effectiveness, marketers can turn to the above options to reach their target audience. While some options are costly and others will require a bigger time investment to succeed, they offer more organic ways to connect with users – without annoying them the way many digital ads do.

What About Paying Users for their Data?

Specific information freely provided by users is highly valuable to advertisers. Have we reached a tipping point at which platforms will begin to compensate users for their data? Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and lawmakers like Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) support granting people property rights to their data and requiring companies to pay for access. The Data Dividend Project, primarily based in California, is one such effort to pay people when companies use or sell their information.

In 2012, data buyers were purchasing in bulk at less than $0.01 per profile, but the Internet Advertising Bureau said the advertising ecosystem supported $300 billion in economic activity, making user data worth $1,200 per profile.

Similarly, Brave offers a browser that blocks ads while claiming to speed up load times and use less battery, going one step further and allowing users to earn rewards by viewing occasional ads that have been deemed safe by the site. The privacy aspects are similar to many other privacy-minded browsers, but when the rewards system is rolled out in full, it will be a unique difference.

Are you struggling to keep up with changing trends in data, privacy, and advertising? We can help you find an effective strategy to reach your audience – without making enemies along the way! Contact us today.

Digital Advertising Duopoly

If you’ve ever run a digital marketing campaign, chances are you used Google Ads or Facebook to promote your business. Collectively, Google Ads and Facebook made up 60% of the U.S. digital ads market in 2019 and in spite of reports of advertisers abandoning Facebook both platforms will likely maintain their continued dominance for the foreseeable future.

Where once digital advertisers were overrun with choices for allocating their ad budgets, in 2021 the duopoly’s lack of choice can feel stifling. What does its dominance mean for digital marketers? Can we avoid two of the industry’s key players, or will we spend more years looking for ways to make these commanding platforms work for us?

Why Do Google and Facebook Dominate Digital Advertising?

The short answer is reach.

By some estimates, 90% of internet sessions begin with Google.

Facebook, in spite of recent reports of user loss, still logs 2.74 billion monthly active users on its platform. By comparison, Twitter, another tech company name brand, only counts 353 million monthly visitors.

In addition, users are far more likely to make a purchase from Facebook (and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook) than any other social media site.

Is Google and Facebook’s Dominance Bad for Marketers?

Like anything, it’s a double-edged sword. Google’s search dominance makes it the ideal platform to introduce your brand to people who don’t know what they’re looking for. But that same dominance means that advertising costs will increase at Google’s mercy, and though cost-per-click appears to have rebounded since the start of the pandemic, we predict it will rise as the economy recovers. What’s more, as Google seeks to grow revenues the search quality is declining, meaning that those brands that can afford to reach the top of the ad heap are pushing down organic results and smaller advertisers.

Facebook is another story. There’s mounting evidence that Facebook’s targeting is much poorer than it has led advertisers to believe, and a recent lawsuit claims that Facebook has used false reach metrics to overcharge advertisers for years.

Beyond Google Ads & Facebook: The Online Marketing Landscape in 2021

Google and Facebook may be the top two by a landslide, but other advertising platforms are gaining some ground. Amazon, advancing as a minor threat to the duopoly, recorded $11.33 billion in advertising for 2019 and grew again in 2020 with 51% year-over-year growth in the “other revenue” bucket that includes advertising earnings. Other players also had strong showings in 2020, including:

  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • SnapChat
  • LinkedIn
  • Tik Tok

S&P revealed some interesting growth into 2019 with marketing platforms outside of the duopoly gaining more revenue.

Despite the global pandemic upsetting some digital platforms in 2020, there was a general sense of recovery and even improvement for many platforms by the end of last year. Pinterest, for instance, reported record engagement in early 2020 as people sought out ways to stay busy and productive at home.

Advertising on Google & Facebook: Do We HAVE To?

Though Google and Facebook are clear industry leaders in advertising revenue, marketers don’t have to advertise through their platforms. However, the current state of the market is such that avoiding the two key players means working harder to identify your audience and zero in on the right places to connect. Marketers who don’t want to play in the duopoly will need to carefully consider the following when planning their campaigns:

Where else is your audience? B2B companies are likely to find key decision-makers on LinkedIn, while retail products can expect some success with Amazon. Products aimed at younger generations can explore Tik Tok or SnapChat for a relevant reach.

What do you need to make your advertising work? Google Ads offers the opportunity to use straight-forward text to get your message across. Other platforms may necessitate developing video, beautiful imagery, and even quirky messaging that will catch the eye of a Generation Z audience.

Can you afford to step away? Google and Facebook have the audiences. They have easy-to-use marketing platforms that reach the majority of the U.S. population. You can expect a certain level of performance for your ads while other platforms are less predictable.

Lack of choice is frustrating for marketers, but we do see some light at the end of the tunnel. Check back next week for the second part of this series, where we explore digital privacy concerns and how they have the potential to upset the digital advertising duopoly for good.

Consumer demand for sustainable solutions is undeniable. NYU’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business studied consumer habit changes between 2013 and 2018, only to find that 50% of growth in the sales of consumer packaged goods came from sustainable products. In addition, products that marketed their sustainability on the package delivered nearly $114 billion in sales, an increase of almost 30% over 5 years. And the demand doesn’t end with packaged goods. Consumers increasingly look for sustainability in everything from home builders and auto manufacturers to office equipment, electronics, and clothing.

Despite this well-known demand, many industries have been slow to make the change to more sustainable ways of producing, packaging, and transporting their goods or services. Typically, companies cite concerns about expenses, difficulty getting sustainability initiatives off the ground, and confusion about what really works when talking about why they aren’t doing more to go green. However, trade associations have an immense power to advance sustainable solutions for their industries – and an ethical responsibility to do what they can to make a difference.

Below, you’ll find 7 critical actions trade associations can take to drive industry sustainability.

1. Defining Sustainability for the Industry

Sustainability: to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

 –Environmental Protection Agency

Even based on that definition, “sustainable” can be a vague term for businesses. Associations can help define what sustainability looks like for their constituents and their unique industries. Some examples would include:

  • Achieving carbon neutrality
  • Zero waste to landfill
  • Conservation of resources
  • Eliminating or reducing pollution

2. Setting Industry Standards for Sustainability

In collaboration with member organizations, associations can help to set and streamline standards for reducing the industry’s environmental impact. The number of voluntary sustainability certifications and standards has grown exponentially since the 1980s, and companies need guidance to know where to focus their efforts to do the most good for the environment – and for their profits.

3. Sharing the Science Behind Sustainability

Associations can study and develop the science and technology to support sustainability within their industries. Though much controversy surrounds industry-sponsored research in general, industry associations are well-positioned to contribute positively to research that enables their members to work more efficiently while reducing environmental impact.

4. Tracking Sustainability Metrics for Member Organizations

The association can serve as a central repository for data on the metrics that matter for the industry. Because tracking sustainability efforts can be such a heavy lift for organizations, streamlining reporting and providing an effective method of tracking is a critical function of associations.

Environment and Energy Leader reports that only 33% of organizations are happy with the methods they use to track sustainability metrics. What’s more, when you look beyond energy use and consider other factors that influence a company’s environmental footprint, many companies fail to track important metrics at all.

Associations deliver real value to their constituents when they provide a way for them to track all of the metrics that contribute to sustainability.

5. Influencing Government Regulations that Impact Industry Sustainability

As you can see, nearly $3.5 billion dollars was spent on federal lobbying in 2020, and trade associations are one of the top spenders. Although lobbying has negative connotations, not all corporate lobbying is bad. Associations can lobby for changes that make positive contributions to sustainability within their industries. The right legislation and regulations can make it both easier and more profitable for companies to do the right thing.

6. Informing the Community About Achievements in Sustainability

Associations are already positioned to raise the profile of their member organizations to their target audiences. Sustainable achievements are a natural and important topic for associations to share. Press releases, presentations at annual events (online or in person), social media, and newsletters all provide options for associations to promote their members’ good works. News to share includes:

  • Reduction in waste or recycling improvements
  • Innovations in technology
  • Carbon neutrality
  • Sustainable partnerships
  • Unique uses of eco-friendly materials

Not only does sharing these achievements lead to positive relations with consumers, it also breeds competition within the industry and inspires other member companies to do better with their own sustainability.

7. Building Partnerships Within the Industry

Associations can assist member organizations in working together to reduce their environmental impact. There are so many ways companies in the same or related industries can do good when they work together, while also cutting costs, creating efficiency, and opening up new opportunities based on increased volume.

Ultimately, industry associations are well positioned to lead the way toward sustainability. If you haven’t taken steps toward greener practices already, there’s no better time to begin. We can help – contact us today to learn more about our sustainability consulting.

Content is king, engagement is queen.

How do you get your business found online? The answer is content marketing. But before we jump into how to develop your content marketing strategy, let’s talk about what content marketing actually is. Because you’ve got less time than the attention span of a goldfish to capture your target audience’s attention, and if you don’t someone else will.

Defining Content Marketing

More than 3 billion people use the internet every day to find answers to questions, keep in touch with friends, play games, and more. And your goal is to capture a tiny percentage of that traffic and redirect it to your call-to-action. Content marketing is the practice of establishing yourself as a go-to resource for the types of content that will catch your target audience’s attention. Various content marketing tactics could include:

  • Positioning yourself as an online thought leader and expert by answering user questions in forums and discussion groups (for example, on Quora, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc.)
  • Providing fun, shareable entertainment content such as games, memes, or videos (you may want to check out our Six Video Marketing Best Practices)
  • Posting aspirational lifestyle images (of food, decor, etc.), along with how-to tips (we’ll call this the Pinterest/Instagram approach)

But whichever channel you choose, remember that the goal of content marketing is to encourage your audience to take action and join a conversation with you – this could range from signing up for a newsletter, liking a status, or sharing a blog. And that means that you need to give your audience what they want, not what you think they want.

Content marketing is the billboard of the internet, there to catch people’s attention as they whiz by

In a competitive web environment, developing a content marketing strategy requires careful planning and proper execution. The following five content marketing tips will guide your content marketing strategy so you can outwit the competition.

1. Focus Your Content Marketing on the Right Keywords

Many marketers make the mistake of using content keywords that don’t reflect the words their target audience actually uses to describe the product or service they’re looking for (and thus the terms they use to search for it). These keywords could be irrelevant to their products or services, too broad, or too specific. To address this issue, you can research what keywords are popular among your target audience by using a secret weapon: Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner tool. Typing your content topic or target URL into the Keyword Planner will bring up monthly search volume forecasts, which serve as a proxy for the popularity of the terms you’re using.

The example below shows that, if we’re targeting our content toward, well, content marketing, we need to word it properly because much smaller numbers of people are searching for “marketing content”.

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Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner provides you with keyword ideas for your content marketing strategy

2. Monitor Traffic Driven by Your Content Marketing Efforts in Google Analytics

Content Marketing: Developing a Strategy that Sticks

Where to find your top performing content in Google Analytics

Forecasting hypothetical search traffic volume is one thing. Monitoring how your content marketing efforts perform “in the wild” gives you actual data on what specific content your target audience is most interested in consuming from your own efforts.

To access this information, make sure to install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools/Search Console on your site. Then, navigate down to Behavior/Site Content/All Pages. This data will show you what content is receiving the most traffic.

A bit further up in the left-hand menu, under Acquisition, you’ll also see a tab titled “Search Console”. If you’ve set up your Google Search Console, this tab will show you how well you’re performing against your specific target keywords.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the features that Google Analytics has to offer, but if you’re focused on content marketing these reports are ones that you don’t want to overlook.



3. Plan Ahead by Setting up Your Content Marketing Calendar

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Use Facebook’s post scheduling tool to schedule content before your vacation

Creating a content calendar is an excellent but often-overlooked organizational tool to ensure you never miss a posting. Planning ahead is also essential during the summertime. If you know you’ll be on vacation, create content in advance and schedule appropriate times and dates for your posts. You can schedule posts within WordPress and Facebook, but you may want to use a management app such as Postfity if you have multiple platforms for your content.

You also want to be thinking about important dates for your target audience. Think about dates such as when their fiscal year ends and when holidays are. For example, you may want to get your content out in front of July 4th so you can capture the most search traffic. As we’ve previously discussed, you can also use Google Trends to identify when your target keywords are in heaviest demand.


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An example of a content calendar


4. Keep Your Content Marketing Theme Consistent Over Time

Content Marketing: Developing a Strategy that Sticks Snowball

Content marketing. It’s kind of like a snowball rolling down a mountain.

When you’re planning your content strategy, keep in mind that repetition and consistency will carry the day. Your theme and viewpoint should remain the same over time, which will allow you to generate enough impressions on your content to capture meaningful traffic. That means that your themes need to stay consistent across social media channels.

It can be very easy to get distracted by posting interesting pictures on Instagram that don’t support your brand’s message, but your topics and themes should address the same topics for your target audience, even if your video and blog executions are completely different. Inconsistent themes confuse your audience about what your company does and how they can help them, which is the last thing you want.

5. Make the Most of Your Content: Leverage by Leveraging it Multiple Times

Content on the internet is a living thing. Data will change, perspectives will change, and once you’ve written something it doesn’t need to stay static. So, make the most of your content by posting it across numerous channels while consistently measuring performance. Make tweaks and changes to your blogs and share them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other channel in order to reach as much of your audience as possible. Break down different elements and share them across channels, while keeping a close eye on metrics such as what content got you the most clicks, how particular traffic behaved on your site, and how your audience interacted on each channel to refine your posts. Social media analytics tools such as Klout will assess your performance across channels, but we’ll talk about that more next week.

We hope these tips gave you a basis for developing a content marketing strategy that sticks. Look out for next week’s blog post on tracking social media marketing metrics.

One of the keys to modern digital marketing is establishing yourself as a thought leader. Your organization undoubtedly has something unique and special to say in the marketplace; creating and marketing content that conveys that viewpoint is one of the best ways you can promote your business in today’s search engine-driven world. Done properly, content marketing promotes your brand over and over again over a long period of time by enabling others to find and share the compelling stories that you tell. As the number of people linking to and sharing your content rises, your website’s search engine ranking will increase as well. Today, I wanted to share a content marketing case study from Young Marketing Consulting client Wanted Analytics.

Wanted Analytics provides human resources departments with talent marketplace data – what companies are hiring for what positions, how much they’re paying, how hard certain skills are to find, etc. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that nothing catches a visitor’s eye more than data that helps them make decisions or provides an interesting insight. And as you can imagine, Wanted’s data set is a content marketing goldmine. So, we worked with them to build a blog-centered digital marketing and lead generation strategy that provides excerpts from Wanted’s data in areas such as bilingual staffing, in-demand IT skills, and more. So far, the results have been generating leads and driving site traffic, and the momentum keeps building.

Our biggest content marketing success so far came when Wanted ran a blog post on the recent meteoric rise in hiring for the “Internet of Things”. A reporter from Forbes came across the post and ran a story on where to find a job doing Internet-of-Things work based on our content. That’s fantastic exposure without paying for a public relations firm, and it’s all thanks to content marketing.