Nurture New Opportunities Outside of the Walled Gardens

It sounds like the premise of a dystopian novel: a group of people questioning whether it is worth it to explore the world beyond the high, safe walls they have grown accustomed to. But for today’s retailers, that world might be their reality. The walled gardens of Google, Amazon and Facebook have many benefits, but their restrictions can become equally suffocating. For those looking for new frontiers, it may be time to consider marketing your business on the open web.

This consideration may come with some concerns. After all, the walled gardens have generally been safe, and a somewhat-trustworthy channel for advertisers to connect with consumers. More than that, running advertisements and even whole campaigns across them is fairly easy.

So, why market on the open web at all?

While retailers might prefer the comfort of the walled gardens, users aren’t spending all their time within them. In order to most effectively communicate with your consumers, you need to be able to reach them wherever they are. The open web can bring a wealth of benefits, such as increased conversions and a larger audience.


Reaching the Saturation Point

With an estimated 5.03 billion internet users around the world, it is clear that not everyone on the internet is consistently operating within the walled gardens. In fact, a 2020 study from The Harris Poll found that Americans spend approximately 66% of their digital time on the open web, outside of the walled gardens. Despite this, many advertisers find placing their ads within the walled gardens as an attractive option, since these providers offer easy-to-implement solutions.

Advertising through the walled gardens may seem like the simplest solution — and no one can deny its popularity. However, a plug-and-play option comes with a cost, as these easy-to-implement solutions will not be optimized for your products or target audiences. You may find yourself on a site that you do not want to be affiliated with your product or service. Overall, there are very few ways to optimize your advertising campaigns through these kinds of providers.

Statistics show that Google’s share of U.S. digital advertising revenue is 28.6%, Facebook’s is 23.8% and Amazon’s is 11.6%. Millions of advertisers are using these solutions daily, driving massive amounts of both traffic and competition. In comparison, the open web allows for publishers to create content to draw in more specific and niche audiences. To be successful, ecommerce brands need to promote their products in spaces that are targeted to their ideal customers.

Dispelling Misconceptions

Deciding to test your advertising on the open web can naturally spark some concerns. After all, one of the largest benefits of the walled gardens is that they are commonly used. Many advertisers tend to avoid attempts to monetize on the open web, perhaps because it is more unknown compared to the walled gardens. Additionally, because of the generalized ubiquity of the walled gardens, advertisers can expect C-suite and other executives to approve of marketing strategies that exclusively utilize them. As the adage goes, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” and the same can be said today for these advertising services.

There is also a common misconception that users on the Internet are already “eaten up” by major tech providers like Facebook and Google, and that many people do not explore the open web beyond that. In fact, data suggests that as many as 36.3% of U.S. users do not use Facebook at all. Other statistics suggest an ongoing decline in popularity, with as many as 30% of Gen Z users having reportedly stopped using Facebook, and 72% of users not trusting the site to protect their data. By reflecting on their ideal audience, advertisers can begin to unravel where their users might like to spend their time on the open web.

Testing Your Strategy

In testing a marketing strategy on the open web versus the walled gardens, the most important factor is to have the same goal and the same referee. Ideally, you will have a singular dashboard to track your performance within the walled gardens and on the open web, with the same target goals. It is not uncommon for advertisers to hold the open web to a higher initial standard than the walled gardens. However, in order to accurately assess the impact of marketing on the open web versus the walled gardens, it is important to ensure that the goals you set remain the same.

Additionally, marketers must ensure they hold themselves accountable during this process. Unlike the simple plug-and-play solutions from major technology companies, marketing on the open web requires a bit more maintenance on the advertiser’s side. The rewards for this maintenance are more accurate placements, which leads to a greater return on investment from increased conversions. By keeping track of the keywords you are monitoring and altering as you go, you can ensure that your profits are effectively being optimized for your business as opposed to an overseeing technology company.


With consideration and an open mind, retailers can explore the open web with confidence. Utilizing the power of the open web can give you greater control over your advertising placements, leading to more accurate targeting and increased revenue for your business.

Hector Pantazopoulos is the Co-founder and CRO of SourceKnowledge. With over 10 years of experience in the online advertising and marketing industries, Hector co-founded SourceKnowledge to help ecommerce and retail brands gain incremental lifts in sales with advertising outside of the walled gardens. He is an advocate of the open web and the benefits it brings to the digital marketplace.

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