Getting Started with Native Advertising

Content marketing is a hot topic at conferences and in boardrooms across the country. Over 88% of B2B marketers have adopted content marketing and over 70% are creating more content year over year. As brands continue to invest in the creation process, quality content is key, but many will find that quality content does not always lead to engaged visitors, more leads or higher ROI.

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Even great content needs a boost to reach the masses and the best way to reach customers is with a paid media program that is aligned to your content marketing strategy. At Zemanta, we work with brands to accelerate learning and increase the effectiveness of their content and native advertising campaigns. Below are 4 elements we’ve found in all successful campaigns:

1. Target your customers across channels, devices and location 

Your investment in content and native advertising is only as valuable as the customers you reach. Review each network’s reach, top publishers and audience metrics to ensure they match up with your customer profiles. Some key questions to ask:

  • What formats does the network offer? At Zemanta we enable customers to select from over 25 content discovery, social and mobile networks all designed for content promotion.

  • What is the demographic breakdown of the audience?

  • Can I reach my customers on specific devices?

  • Can I limit my campaigns to specific geographies?

2. Content management can make or break your campaign

With the meteoric rise of of content marketing, brands now have a wealth of content types at their disposal. That said, not all content is created equal and depending on your campaign’s goal some content will perform better than others. We recommend organizing your content by type: blog post, landing pages, infographics, videos, etc. so you’re able to see which content types perform best for each campaign.

Native formats are the easiest to create because they leverage the images, headlines and summary text you've already created for the original articles. There's no banner creation or additional photoshopping required! Here are some best practices for you to consider while creating the original content so you’re set up for success with promotion:

  • Include your brand name in the headline to drive brand recognition and increase engagement

  • Use approximately 6 words or 50 characters in a headline to improve click-thru-rates. Titles longer than 50 characters may not be accepted by all networks and can lead to a decrease in performance.

  • Use casual but emotive language that is understandable for readers of all levels and provokes an emotional response ("That's interesting, I'd like to learn more!").

  • People-based images perform better than images of products or places

  • Avoid adding text to images. If it’s absolutely necessary we recommend using the 20% rule (the text is only visible on 20% of the image).

3. Post-click metrics are critical for making meaningful optimizations

Traffic acquisition metrics such as impressions, clicks and CPCs are important, but if you can’t track engaged users or leads it’s impossible to measure the success of your campaigns. Most marketers already have the measurement tools -- such as Google Analytics and conversion pixels -- to track desired outcomes. This will help give you a deeper understanding of the individual articles, networks and publishers that are driving engagement and conversions. If you’re A/B testing several different content creatives or running across multiple networks it’s important to have this information available so you can re-allocate budget to the top performers.

4. Always Be Optimizing

The key to perfecting your content and native advertising is to constantly review performance and optimize your campaigns. We’ve put together a checklist for you to review as you’re optimizing each campaign:

  • CPCs and Daily Budgets: If you’re currently hitting your daily budgets that means you’re paying too much for the media. Try lowering your bid $0.01 - $0.02 to reduce your overall costs. If you’re having trouble getting enough scale we’d recommend increasing your bids by the same amount as well.

  • Review the CTRs for each headline and image variation. Pause the articles that are underperforming so your best articles can get the most volume. Use this data when you’re brainstorming new topics and headlines during your next strategy session.

  • Review Time on Site (ToS) and Bounce Rate metrics to determine if the audiences you’re reaching are actually engaging with the content post-click.

  • Pause underperforming networks or increase the number of networks you’re utilizing to maximize scale. We always recommend promoting your content to the widest audience possible and optimizing your budget allocation between networks based on performance.

  • Each network is comprised of thousands of premium publisher sites across several verticals. Not all publishers will offer the audience you need to reach. If your networks give you access to the publisher level data use it to blacklist publishers that are underperforming or don’t align with your brand’s core message.

  • Add new articles and landing pages into your campaign as they are created. The more content you promote means more data and more data equals faster learning.

The Bottom Line

With the release of the OpenRTB 2.4 Spec native advertising will continue in its rapid adoption. With so many ad formats and networks available its easy to see how some advertisers might be cautious about getting started. Like all new advertising technologies there will be an evaluation and learning period. At Zemanta we help marketers build, evaluate and scale their native advertising programs. That means no more spreadsheets or homebrewed platforms to debug and manage. We'd love to help you create an unfair advantage for your team as you enter content promotion and native advertising.