News outlets integrating “native ads” into their news stream has become a familiar sight in the news media. Native ads are designed to blend in almost seamlessly with the other content on the site and can potentially be considered regular editorial content by the inexperienced reader. Native ads have eye-catching titles (‘Lose 10 lbs in 2 days: learn how!’) that set high expectations with their readers.
Native advertising offered by content discovery platforms has been hailed by some as a potential savior for a beleaguered media industry. Publishers who have watched revenue from traditional ad sales implode have been looking for ways to generate more revenue from their traditionally “free” online content. Native ads combines the best of both worlds — it showcases talent of their writers and generates ad revenue in a way that is consistent with their content layout.
The rise of native ads came with the emergence of specialized content discovery platforms such as Taboola and Outbrain.
Here are 5 important tips on maximizing the outcome from money spent on content discovery platforms:
5 tips: how to maximize your ROI from content discovery platforms
The content pushed through content discovery platforms tends to have a low engagement rate as ChartBeat CEO Tony Haile illustrated convincingly in this Time contribution. On a typical article two-thirds of people show more than 15 seconds of engagement, on native ad content that drops to around one-third. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that those numbers can’t be improved. Key marketing metrics can and will go up if brand communicators take into account the following 5 tips.
Use a headline and picture that relate to the actual content: There are many ads out there that employ clickbait (intentionally provocative photos) and headlines that have very little to do with the content that is actually being promoted. A stronger correlation between picture, headline and content will get the right visitors to your landing page, which will only increase conversions. While traffic is important, Google’s search engine algorithm does not like landing pages from which people immediately click away. Stronger engagement and conversions over pure traffic will do more to improve a site’s SEO in the long run, which begs for more authentic native ads.
Use a landing page that delivers on the promise: Do you promise content on mistakes people make when installing an HVAC? Are you telling people they will learn 5 ways to save on taxes? Then keep your end of the promise by building a landing page without unnecessary click-throughs and with genuine value added content. And you should have call-to-action buttons to promote your product or service, get newsletter sign-ups, etc. But delivering on the promise of the ad comes first.
Use content that is relevant to the reader: Make sure to use all the segmentation buttons that your content discovery network has in place to ensure the right kind content is offered to the right target audience. Every platform has different functionalities, different value propositions. For example Outbrain will allow you to pick the publishing sites based on the information you shared about your target audience(s). While Outbrain does not let you make a list of the publishers you want to publish on, it does allow you to work with a list of sites that you want to exclude. In other words, you wouldn’t want to push a new Detroit gas-guzzling muscle car in front of an eco-minded audience.
A/B test your content: Use 2 variations of headlines to test what drives the most traffic and, ultimately but what makes for the most conversions on the landing page. Subtle tweaks in headlines can make a big difference, as can the choice of pictures used. Should you offer a 30 days free or a 50% discount? You won’t know until you test it.
Measure and adjust: No marketing campaign can be successful without continuous monitoring, and native advertising is no exception to this rule. Are the different target groups clicking in sufficient numbers on your ads? What is visitor behavior like on the landing page? How long do visitors stay, and do they convert through one or more of your CTA’s; if so, at what rates? Use what you see on your dashboard to your advantage by measuring and adjusting again and again till you max out your desired results.
Finally, here comes the caveat:
Content discovery platforms are not a good fit for high equity brands. Content discovery platforms have let their advertisers push a great many ads over the last years that are little better than tabloid quality. Having presence on a major news outlet like CNN or NBC may have its benefits, but what happens if that B2B market leader suddenly appears next to ads showing celebrity mug shots, or promises scents that will make every woman succumb to a man’s charms? The past experiences of readers with content discovery platforms is a liability for brands that have a lot of equity to lose.