For most brands that buy media across the web, it’s
clear that display advertising is one of the fastest-growing areas of the online ad ecosystem.

But what matters
most to advertisers when choosing which websites for their ad campaigns?

Most media
or brand managers will say that the bottom line is whether or not a website
helps sell more product. The end goal is to move product. Period.

But the business of buying media is tricky. How do media or brand managers cut through the clutter to find those lucrative “product- moving” sites when they are bobarded by pitches from every publisher imaginable and have limited resources for testing?

To cut through the clutter, I’m proposing eight criteria by which websites can be evaluated for your brand.

The goal is not to pit one type of site against another but rather to use this opportunity to compare advertising across different site types—in this case, content sites versus retail websites.  Which will end up being more brand-worthy:


Do content sites have the demographic you’re looking for? The answer can often be unclear. With retail sites, you never need to specify a demo.

The people visiting your brand’s product page and looking to purchase your product have already distinguished themselves as being your ideal demo.


Is your advertising going to be contextually relevant to your audience? Some content sites are better than others, but this is never guaranteed, especially if you’re buying across a blind network/exchange.

Retail sites–and ad servers that tailor to retail–ensure that your brand will almost always be shown in the most logical place.

Tracking ROI 

You can likely track ROI more easily through ad buys on ecommerce sites rather than content sites.

Most retail publishing partners should be able to provide deeper insights into how much your advertising is affecting your product sales.


Is the consumer in “buying” mode? Has s/he already committed to buying something to solve for X? If a consumer is on a retail site, it’s likely the case.

But consumers reading about the most recent celebrity going into rehab are not generally thinking “I’m ready to buy!”

Consumer product research 

Recent stats clearly show that online product research (and mobile for that matter) can heavily influence offline purchases.

Where is the most likely place where consumers are researching products? On retail websites! 

Qualitative research

Can a content site provide you with research data about your brand? Retailers have incredible amounts of data regarding your brand’s product.

What is your product’s share of voice within its competitive category? What specific brand items are being purchased?

Content sites just don’t have this information. By acquiring consumer research directly from the source, you’ll also save on costly third party ad studies.

Privacy protection

Many content sites monetise their sites by packing their pages with tracking pixels from every third party data company around. You can guarantee retailers won’t.

Since almost all have strict privacy guidelines, retail sites are some of the safest in the display ad ecosystem as it pertains to protection against unknown third party cookie issues.

Wisdom of the crowd

The collective patterns of users (purchases, navigation, searches) gives retail sites the data they need to make informed choices about user experience enhancements.  

For example, many sites organise categories and search results by sales (units sold)—enabling users to find products faster when they search for something that has been bought by many others.

At the end of the day, the users themselves—through their collective wisdom—are indirectly helping to optimise their research experiences.

The beauty of the above criteria is that they help define what it takes to actually move product. We’ve not only created a guide to cut through the clutter but also set the bar much higher in terms of what we consider brand-worthy media.  

Some may argue that I’ve set the bar too high—what website/vendor can possibly live up to all eight?

I’d argue that unless we set the bar as high as the market has taken it (i.e. the capabilities of ad servers for retail) no one—content sites in particular—will be encouraged to rise to the challenge.