In our latest Quarterly Trends Report, we call attention to the fact that we measured a year-over-year (YoY) increase in social impressions for the first time in a year.
Now, in describing this trend, we simply said that “the effects of changes to Facebook desktop inventory have mostly worn off, leading to an increase in impression volume compared to last year.” But what does that mean, exactly?
ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY
Let me take you back to the halcyon days of early 2017. La La Land won the Oscar for Best Picture until it didn’t, fidget spinners were all the rage, and if you were looking at Facebook on your desktop or laptop computer, there were generally about 4 largely undifferentiated ads over on the right hand side of your screen, along with a bunch of other stuff.
Then, the other stuff started growing. If you look at the right side of the Facebook desktop page today, you’ll notice, among other things, lots of links to Watch, the original video content section that Facebook debuted in the middle of 2017. There were likely other new ad types and site features that preceded it as well.
PLEASE SKIP THIS PART IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
So like a slow-motion version of Thanos snapping his fingers once he got all of the Infinity Stones, over half of those small, undifferentiated ads disappeared over the first half of last year. Just vanished. And unlike the movie, they’re probably not all coming back in the second part because of stuff that is going to happen in Captain Marvel.
It turns out this was a pretty big share of social ad impressions—one-third of the total for Q1 of 2017, in fact—which means that once we started doing those YoY comparisons where last year’s impressions were before the change, and this year’s impressions were after the change, we saw sizeable decreases in total volume across all devices. With both periods now mostly clear of the biggest drop from that layout shift, the natural growth can finally surpass this structural artifact.
THE PRICE IS (WHAT’S) LEFT
Now, this desktop inventory also had relatively low pricing, and low click-through rates, so another effect of removing those ads was an increase in overall CPM and CTR, since the higher-priced and more engaging ads are the ones that are still around since the change. That’s why we didn’t see drops in clicks or ad spending to go along with the impression drop. Those trends have evened out as well, now that the general ad layout on the page looks more similar from last year to this year.
REVERSE DEJA VU
This type of thing is not new to digital marketing, but more recently, it happened in the opposite direction. Search marketers may recall when an additional ad slot was added to mobile search results. That resulted into big YoY increases in impressions, while CPC and CTR dropped because the ads were less prominent than what already existed.
I hope this was able to shed some more light on the trends we’re seeing in digital marketing across Skai clients, and stay tuned for more insights!
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