Intel’s Data-Driven Approach To Content Marketing

Intel IQIntel dove deep into content marketing to connect with millennials.

For two and a half years, it’s used the IQ website to reach consumers through articles connecting technology to everyday life.

In addition to using homegrown pieces, Intel places articles on sites like BuzzFeed and Mashable. All receive extra pushes to drive traffic.

That’s where the work of Intel’s global media team comes in, headed up by Luke Kintigh, a global content strategist. The group began operating as a standalone discipline in July.

The Intel group approaches native advertising in a data-driven way, from targeting and optimization to content retargeting.

“We’re trying to move into more of a real-time model,” Kintigh said. “Last year, our approach was more like mutual funds, buying and holding. Now we’re going more day trader, looking at results and making adjustments on the fly.”

When one of the 70 to 80 pieces IQ publishes a month goes live, the Intel team will promote the piece through native and social channels like Sharethrough, an in-feed native ad exchange, and Facebook.

“Once we publish, we look at initial insights. If an article has 250 views and 50 shares, for example, that’s a good indicator for us,” Kintigh said. Content measurement technology “SimpleReach will do some of that for us. It assigns a number to an article that will let you know it will continue to do well if you amplify the traffic. Some of it is automated, but it’s also looking at data on a case-by-case basis.”

SimpleReach’s data helps Intel figure out which articles will perform, and allocate budget accordingly. Some posts fall off quickly, while others can generate lively traffic for months.

“Ten percent of articles will drive 90% of the volume, but it’s tricky to predict which 10% will hit home runs,” Kintigh said.

When a piece takes off in one platform but not another, a not uncommon occurrence, the team shifts budgets. Besides clicks, Intel takes into account post-click engagement and optimizes according to the bigger picture: A piece with an effective CPC may not be worth the budget if nobody is sharing the article or spending time reading it.

The advertising channels Intel uses to promote the articles have automatic optimization capabilities. Sharethrough, for example, offers headline testing. The native ad exchange’s technology automatically shifts budget to better-performing articles, which Intel uses conditionally.

“We’re not totally free-market,” Kintigh said. “We might see wearables content is doing well, but if we optimized toward wearables, tablet-focused content wouldn’t get attention. We may adjust a bid for a certain piece of content if it’s, say, around an event that’s a priority and we’re willing to pay more for.”

When evaluating success, Kintigh’s team looks to multiple goals.

“We look holistically at the site, to make sure we’re gaining in readers and return readers,” Kintigh said. “We’re trying to move the needle on average engaged time.”

Beyond that, “we’re going to move to looking at subscription through things like Flipboard, email signups,” Kintigh said. “That will be almost a conversion metric for us. How many people are subscribing on site will become the most important metric for us.”

Conversion data tends not to go farther than someone who subscribes to content or Intel identifies as a frequent reader. “For a brand like Intel, they have to rely on partners like Best Buy to give them data,” Kintigh said. “That’s why we focus on brand awareness.”

Intel measures success based on content engagement, but it buys on CPC or CPM. That means it could spend money on traffic that engages poorly with Intel’s content, which is why it optimizes using information from SimpleReach.

When it comes to determining the value of a user that sees an IQ headline but doesn’t click, or a view-through, the variability between native platforms requires complex math Intel is just beginning to parse out.

“For view-through, there’s more of an impression value with Sharethrough than with other ad units. Outbrain has a text link sometimes, and that’s not going to add a lot of value from an impression perspective,” Kintigh said. “We’re trying to look at the view-through metric more, because there’s a lot of value in the actual impression, especially with something like a video.

Sharethrough, like Outbrain, originally started out with a CPC model, but now offers a CPM model that requires users to pay only for viewable ads according to the Media Ratings Council standard: 50% in view for one second.

According to Sharethrough CEO Dan Greenberg, most of its inventory already fit into that category anyway. But it’s still not standard among other native providers. “Sharethrough doing that gives us ammunition with other partners that aren’t delivering on viewable, because now we know it can be done,” Kintigh said.

Intel wants sustained, repeat engagement, not posts that go viral and quickly fade away. Content sequencing and retargeting offers ways to achieve that goal.

“We have a lot of serialized content, like a 12-part series on gaming. We can retarget that to people who engaged with the initial post,” Kintigh said. “That’s where a lot of integration needs to happen, the ability use Sharethrough to drive traffic to an article, and Facebook to retarget or vice versa. We start thinking about passing over this cookie pool, and using another platform to sequence that user.”

IQ is in “initial tests” to do cookie-based retargeting, Kintigh said. In the meantime, the team plans to look at using display ads to retarget content.

“We’re looking at doing a combination of both: native to drive traffic, but display ads to do retargeting, because the capabilities for retargeting are further along in display than they are in native,” Kintigh said, adding that he expects native technology to brings its capabilities in retargeting closer to those in display advertising in the next couple of years.

Intel uses BlueKai’s data-management platform as “the centralized place to collect audience data and pass it over to different platforms and exchanges,” Kintigh said. BlueKai combines data sets from IQ, and third parties. Intel also takes into account links from referrals.

“We want to get to a place where it’s a marketing automation mindset,” Kintigh said. “If we know where an audience has been, and look at their behavior and product mindset, we can deliver something appropriate to them, from to third-party sites.”

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