Quality or quantity? The eternal balancing act of online marketing. More single-opt-in names or higher-quality double opt-ins? More run-of-network impressions or fewer targeted ones? More clicks, or fewer clicks with a higher percentage of conversions? What makes this tradeoff really difficult, of course, is you're not entirely sure what benefits that "quality" list, impression, or click actually provides. Is performance significantly greater? Enough to justify the cost?
Research fielded by the Online Publishers Association (OPA), comScore, and Millward Brown, as well as a study performed by Atlas DMT, seems to indicate at least one tradeoff - for higher-quality media placements - is worthwhile.
Having scrutinized nine characteristics, the researchers determined three are particular determinants of affinity: likelihood to recommend the site, satisfaction with the site, and how the site is listed in browser "favorites."
The study, conducted using comScore panelists and Millward Brown's survey method, had 4,982 respondents. One of the more interesting findings is folks with high affinity for a site are less annoyed by advertising on that site. They tend to view a site they like as less ad-cluttered than a site they don't like. High-affinity audiences are more valuable to advertisers. They demonstrate brand loyalty and a willingness to pay more for products they perceive to be of higher quality.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the OPA funded the research, the study found sites that produce original content (such as OPA member sites) have a greater percentage of higher-affinity visitors than corresponding portal channels. A financial site such as MarketWatch.com has more higher-affinity viewers than, say, Yahoo! Finance, for example.
The study is a follow-up to OPA research released in May, which concluded loyal site visitors are more valuable to advertisers. An analysis conducted by Media Metrix (now a comScore division) found the 20 percent of users who spent the most time on a site accounted for 64.5 percent of all page impressions. The top 40 percent of users account for 85 percent of all page impressions. If frequency equals advertising effectiveness (a Dynamic Logic analysis found more ad exposures - up to 5 - resulted in increased message association), that would seem to mean loyal users are the ones really getting the message.
Picking the right site seems to impact direct response campaign effectiveness, too. Avenue A's Atlas Institute research division, in a study earlier this year, found "conversion rates across media placements vary six times more than conversion rates across different ad creatives." So, choosing and optimizing media placements impact campaign effectiveness more than choosing and optimizing creative alone.
Researchers arrived at these results by showing the same creative in different placements, then measuring the conversions each placement generated. They also ran multiple ads with substantially different creative in the same placements, then measured the conversion rate. Conversions could be any number of things: purchases, site registrations, or email subscriptions. Media placement had a significantly greater affect on performance than creative.
Good news for publishers, at least for those with high-affinity, loyal audiences who respond to advertising by becoming aware of a brand or converting. The next step for the OPA is to determine whether high-affinity folks who feel positively about a site's advertising actually buy advertised products. In the end, that's what makes buying quality over quantity worthwhile.
Pamela Parker is ClickZ's managing editor. In the same capacity, she oversees internet.com's other advertising and marketing publications including ChannelSeven.com; Internet Advertising Report; TurboAds.com and WirelessAdWatch.com. She joined the company through the 1999 acquisition of @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering the burgeoning Silicon Alley scene, at which she was associate editor. Pamela has written for Business 2.0 and worked as a general-assignment and medical reporter at KTRH Radio in Houston. She received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.