Aggregating Green Audiences

August 31, 2007

Online advertisers are increasingly interested in targeting audiences with green affinities and publishers are aggregating traffic in order to provide compelling ways to do so. 

August has seen a fury of acquisitions as publishers move to aggregate existing green traffic and extend their reach to other green sub-segments.  Earlier this month Gaiam  purchased both Lime, an eco site and green ad network, and Zaadz, a green social networking site.  And less than two weeks ago, Cleantech purchased InsideGreentech.com.  All of this consolidation activity follows Discovery’s acquisition of Treehugger, the leading green blogging site, at the beginning of the month.

Alternatively, online publishers are banding together to create green ad networks that provide media planners with significant reach by bundling ad sales across multiple sites and through a single point of contact.  As such, it came as little surprise this week when Adify announced the launch of its latest vertical platform supporting green ad networks.  Today, this platform supports four green ad networks including Green Ad Planet, Washington Post’s environmental blogroll, Matter Network and SustainLane Green Ad Network.   

While today no green ad network ranks among comScore’s Top 50, with 4MM unique monthly visitors, the combined traffic of the green networks supported by Adify’s platform makes it a formidable player in the space.   

Today, there are at least nine individual green ad networks available to advertisers.  Here is Marketing Green’s first Green Ad Network Ranking: 

Network

Target Audience Monthly Unique Visitors
1. Green Ad Planet LOHAS 3MM+2  
Sites: LiveScience (1.4MM), Daves Garden (1MM), Hybrid Cars (0.1MM), Blohas, Cathy’s Crawly Composters, Cleantech Blog, , Eco Sherpa, EcoStreet, Green Harmony Tours, Green Living Tips, Green Maven, GreenBin, Greenedia, Greenona, , Inveslogic, KindWeb, Naturalpath, One Shade Greener, Organic Day, Our Hudson Valley Network, RiverWired, Tea Body’s, TenBees, TerraPass, Throwplace, Zaadz
2. Lime1 Broad 2.3MM2 
Sites: Lime (1.8MM), Mongabay (0.3MM), EcoGeek, EcoSherpa, The Beauty Brains, Savvy Vegetarian, Eco-Chick
3. GreenAds Broad 2MM2
Sites: TreeHugger (1MM+), DrWeil (0.4MM), Grist Magazine (0.2MM), eMagazine (0.1MM), MetaEfficient
4. Blogads Broad <2MM2
Sites: Treehugger (1MM+), The Oil Drum (0.1MM), Inhabitat (0.1MM), EcoGeek, Life After the Oil Crash, PlanetSave, MetaEfficient, Ecorazzi, Groovy Green Blog, You Grow Girl, Garden Stew, Lighter Footstep, GetOutdoors Outdoor Blog, Jetson Green, GardenRant, Great Green Goods, About My Planet, The Good Human, Mighty Foods, green LA girl, Really Natural, Triple Pundit, Groovy Green Magazine, The Evangelist Ecologist, Green Options
GreenAdWorks LOHAS 1MM+2
Sites: Mongabay (0.3MM), Inhabitat (0.1MM), Ecorazzi (0.1MM), Earth Easy (0.1MM), Savvy Vegetarian, The Good Human, Terrapass, Alternative Consumer, Organix Authority, Celsias, Natural Path, Groovy Green, Dr. Briffa, The Healing Mind, The Sunshine Chronicles, Econscious
Washington Post’s Environmental Blogroll Broad 3
Sites: Great Green Goods, Nature Geezer
Matter Network Investment professionals 3
Sites: Matter Network, TerraPass
SustainLane Green Ad Network LOHAS 3, 4
Sites: Sustainlane.com, Sustainlane.us, The Unsustainables
NooTouch (UK) N/A 3
Sites: Ecologist Online, Hippy Shopper, New Consumer

1 Does not include other Gaia community umbrella sites including Gaiam, Conscious Enlightenment and Zaadz

2 Rough estimates based on sum of unique site traffic (from Compete) for key sites in network, assuming no more that 10% overlap of unique visitors across each site

3 Limited traffic or limited visibility into network sites to estimate

4 Does not include 24 affiliate sites with a combined reach of 35MM monthly ad impressions based on Sustainlane data

NOTE: Marketing Green contacted each network as part of the research for this article.  Marketing Green plans to update this posting as more ad networks respond to the inquiries over time.


Visualizing Green

August 16, 2007

Images are powerful marketing tools. For marketers, they provide powerful stimuli that can augment messaging and influence consumer behavior and beliefs.  Here are a few suggestions for marketers using visual images in the green space: 

Chose the right image.  Images can affect change by amplify existing or associating new attributes with a brand or marketing messages.  In the green category specifically, imagery has the potential to evoke strong emotional responses from individuals with a vested interest in or passion for the category. 

Today, consumers have preconceived notions about what colors and images are aligned with green.  Research prepared through a partnership between the Yankelovich Group and Getty Images (“Going Green”, Yankelovich Group webinar, June 27, 2007) yielded powerful insights regarding green imagery: consumers believe that the color “forest” green and images of actual forests, (followed by images of water including oceans, rivers and streams), are the most representative of the environment (based on a palate of green color and image stimuli that consumers were exposed to during research). As such, marketers should carefully consider color palate and image selection in order to align with existing consumer perceptions associated with the environment.  (Getty hosts a gallery of powerful green images on its site). 

Track how visual language is evolving.  How consumers interpret and understand “visual language” is continually evolving.  Understanding this evolution can provide marketers with valuable insights to drive successful campaigns.  Here is one example: As part of its research with Yankelovich, Getty identified “key concepts that will influence the future of visual language” in green.  The key concepts include the following:

  1. The Future 
  2. Goodness
  3. Simplicity
  4. Legacy
  5. Inheritance
  6. Purity
  7. Care
  8. Trust
  9. Sustainability
  10. Fresh & Clean

For marketers, such concepts provide relevant ways to connect consumers with green and should be considered when crafting a marketing campaign.

Moreover, green marketers should take note of emerging patterns across these concepts.  For example, four concepts – “the future”, “legacy”, “inheritance” and “sustainability” relate to what we leave for our children.   Additionally, words like “goodness”, “purity” and “fresh and clean” may perhaps evoke a sense of natural goodness.  (“Going Green,” June 27, 2007).

Pick images that allude to ideas beyond the stated message.  Unlike the written word, images “elude empirical verification”.  This enables marketers to leverage the suggestive potential of an image without being held accountable to the degree that you would be if making written or verbal “product claims or political promises”. (Schroeder, Jonathan, “Introduction to the Special Issue on Aesthetics, Images and Vision”, Marketing Theory, 2006; 6; 5)

Let visual imagery influence new product development and design.  Today, marketers typically choose images as part of the overall strategic branding or marketing campaign tactics.  However, given the strong association by consumers of certain images with green, marketers (and product managers) may want to turn this approach on its head.  Instead, companies should consider perhaps developing products that more closely “fit the image” of green already held by consumers, rather than the other way around.  To do so, product designers and green marketers should leverage this imagery to inspire new designs and shape marketing initiatives. (Schroeder, 2006).


Search Is Paramount in the Emerging Green Category

August 7, 2007

Paid search continues to grow and is now considered by most marketers to be a core component of their online marketing tool kits.  This continued growth is not surprising, however, as it is hard to beat search as a marketing channel for both its efficiency and effectiveness. 

There are several reasons for search’s continued dominance.  Search allows marketers to 1) engage consumers as they actively seek information in market, 2) connect consumers with relevant content based on self-identified interests, 3) pay only when consumers click on a sponsored link, 4) scale spend in the channel (to a point) and 5) enhance the productivity of other channels.  For example, building awareness with a 60-second spot will likely result in more searches being conducted by consumers that turn to the web to find out more information or link to the advertiser’s site. 

To green marketers, search also represents a powerful component of the overall media mix.  In fact, Marketing Green believes that search is even more critical for marketers of green products than for more established products because green is an emerging category that has high consumer interest but is difficult to navigate due to the lack of familiarity and standards.   

Moreover, green search will continue to increase as awareness and interest grows and consumers increasingly turn to the Internet for answers.  Here are few reasons why, as well as recommendations for green marketers on how to maximize the impact of the search channel: 

Consumers have a growing interest in green, but limited familiarity.  Many consumers are curious about the emerging green category but have relatively low understanding of the category or how to navigate it.  As such, consumers are more likely to research product choices before making purchase decisions and turn to online search when they do so. 

For marketers, this means establishing broad presence in paid search across both the general as well as green vertical search engines in order to intercept consumers when they actively seek category-, product- or brand-specific information. 

Consumers today conduct that vast majority of green searches through general search engines such as Google and Yahoo and will likely to continue to do so in the near term. The popularity of green vertical search engines – including Green Maven, Greener, GreenGamma, LiveGreenOrDie, GreenLinkCentral, EcoEarth, EcoSeeker and Earthle among others – is growing nonetheless based on the perception that green vertical search engines return more relevant results than general search.

greenmaven.gif

In addition, green filters are emerging that allow consumers to search with greater precision either as an overlay to existing search engines or as a way to narrow the results based on a set of business rules regarding green.  Palore is one example which enables consumers to identify green merchants when using Google’s search engine.  Below is Palore functionality loaded into Google Maps.  Note the symbols included under each listing – including the carrot which denotes that the restaurant offers organic foods.

 palore2.gif

In addition, online sites are emerging help locate products and retailers offline.  Evolvist locates products and retailers by geography.  evolvist.gif

Alternatively, Alonovo filters products and retailers based on their relative corporate social responsibility and “greenness”.

alonovo.gif

Products and brands are proliferating.  Green products are being launched every day across almost every product category.  Product “greenness” is relative, however, which results in a spectrum of products, features, benefits and trade-offs that consumers must weigh before making purchase decisions.   

As product proliferate, so too will our vocabulary that describes them.   

Marketers should, therefore, take advantage of this by greatly expanding and testing the number of keyword and keyword combinations purchased.  Moreover, these lists should align with marketing campaigns and their objectives across the purchase funnel.  For example, an awareness campaign should include both branded, category and product-specific keywords.  Marketers should refresh this list frequently as the entire category is still very much in flux.

Consumers are hungry for relevant content.  Lacking familiarity with green products, consumers turn to credible information sources to learn about products, compare features and validate choices. 

Marketers should respond by providing relevant content on landing pages that link from both paid – and natural – search. This is important for several reasons.  First, consumers are more likely to engage in the content if it is relevant to their search.   

Moreover, content that pays off corresponding keywords searched translates into a better, more relevant consumer experience.  This is important with current algorithm-based search engines, as well as with emerging community-powered and/or customized search engines such as Eurekster Swicki, Rollyo and Yahoo Search Builder.   

In a world where consumers put considerable trust in the opinions of their peers, community-powered search engines will likely become more popular as search results are informed by the collective experience of the community.

 swicki.gif

This is especially important in an emerging category such as green.  With green products emerging rapidly, relatively low consumer familiarity and few standards, consumers will likely turn to peers to help make informed purchase decisions; community-powered search engines will likely play an important role in facilitating this process in the near future.


Measuring Green Blogging Influence

August 2, 2007

Bloggers are emerging as key influencers online.  Today, many blogging sites effectively compete with traditional news sources for breaking stories and eyeballs.  Moreover, many consumers trust bloggers more that established news organizations simply because they are unaffiliated.  Green bloggers are no different.  In fact, many green bloggers have built a loyal viewership that gives mainstream news sites a run for their money

Today’s announcement that Discovery Communications was acquiring TreeHugger, the top ranked green blog, reinforces the role that blogs now play in reaching and influencing online consumers. Nonetheless, measuring this influence is an imperfect science. 

In an ideal world, influence would be measured by determining the number of people exposed and the incremental impact of that exposure on key metrics like awareness, favorability and purchase.  Surveys and panels can be used to capture self-reported data pre- and post-exposure to determine lift in key metrics.  Yet, this level of precision is impractical, too costly or, simply, not feasible to implement for most sites.  As such, proxies are required to approximate influence.

One simple proxy is site traffic – either total visits or unique visitors to a website.  Several sources track blog traffic including Compete, Technorati and the blog Truth Laid Bear.  Truth Laid Bear tracks and ranks the top 5,000 blogs based on a 45-day moving average of daily visits.  The site casts a wide net by considering corporate blogs including dozens and dozens of blogs sponsored by sports teams.  

According to this Truth Laid Bear, five green blogs are ranked in the top 500 based on daily visits as follows:

Overall Rank

Blog

Daily Visits

169

TreeHugger

70,783

321

AutoblogGreen

15,500

340

Inhabitat

12,976

341

The Oil Drum

12,861

451

WorldChanging

5,974

 

Technorati also tracks “popular” blogs but it ranks them based on the number of its members that made the blog a “favorite”, rather than using a more objective site traffic metric.  In this ranking, TreeHugger is ranked 70 based on having had 293 Technorati members made the blog one of their favorites.

Compete provides a snapshot of unique monthly visitors (“People Count”) over the past 13 month period.  If we graph the top five green blogs, we see that there has been a significant increase in unique visitors on several of the top green blogs this year, and especially on TreeHugger where traffic peak in April at almost twice its 2006 average.

    

Yet, when evaluating blog influence, site traffic metrics do not tell a complete story.  Specifically, links to the blog’s content from other sites should also be considered as a significant proxy for influence.  Not only do links provide a de facto endorsement of the content; they also provide a valuable proxy for the readership of repurposed content on other sites.

Technorati and Google provide tools to quickly determine the number of links to a site.  Technorati ranks the top 100 blogs based on unique links during the past six months. (TreeHugger is ranked #21 – the only green blog on the list).  Google provides the ability to determine links for a blog like TreeHugger simply by typing “link: www.TreeHugger.com” on the site.   

treehugger-link.gif 

Leveraging Google, Marketing Green determined links for the top five sites ranked by the Truth Laid Bear (TLB) blog as follows:

 

Overall Rank (Daily Visits)

Blog

Daily Visits (TLB)

Links (Google)

169

TreeHugger

70,783

364,000

321

AutoblogGreen

15,500

103,000

340

Inhabitat

12,976

61,800

341

The Oil Drum

12,861

23,400

451

WorldChanging

5,974

28,800

 

Yet, “link” metrics provided by Technorati and Google are still incomplete proxies for online influence.  In the case of Google, links are determined in total and do not take into consideration recency.  Moreover, neither Google nor Technorati have the ability to translate links into the actual number of incremental visitors that view the content on the linked site. 

 

Additionally, links reported only account for sites that are directly connected to the original content (one degree away).  In many cases, however, blog posts are repurposed across multiple sites, resulting in a story that links two or three or more degrees away from the original site.  This network effect greatly enhances a blog’s influence in market simply by the fact that it reaches so many more people.

 

A 2nd degree network effect is fairly easy to demonstrate.  Here is an example from Marketing Green:

 

Zero Degrees: On February 19, 2007, Marketing Green posted a blog entitled “Green Marketing Leverages Social Networking on MySpace”.

 

First Degree: On February 20, the Marketing Strategy & Innovations blog distributes Marketing Green’s social marketing posting and provides a link back to the original story.

 

Second Degree: On February 27, Marketing Vox wrote a story entitled “Cause Marketers have Headstart on Social Networks” linking to the blog posted on the Marketing Strategy and Innovations blog, but not to the original story on Marketing Green.   As such, any measurement of influence using links to Marketing Green as a proxy would not, however, account for content posted on Marketing Vox in this case.  As a result, links would underrepresent the true distribution of the content online.

Thus, measuring the influence of green blogs online is an imperfect science.  Useful proxies are available that track site traffic and links from other sites.  Green marketers should be aware that these proxies likely undercount the true impact online as they do not track content viewership on the linked sites or the number of links that are more than one degree away from the original site.

 

Nonetheless, the learning is clear for green marketers: content distribution increases influence online by increasing the number of exposed people.  Creating content in a format that can be easily distributed or repurposed can result in an increase in the number of links to the site and expand a blog’s influence online.


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