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All successful native advertising starts with great content. Regardless of the objectives you’re working to accomplish – sales, signups, app installs, or simply brand awareness – the content you promote must be engaging, relevant to your audience, and true to your brand.

If your content is all of these things, it’s a great fit for native. But quality content alone won’t drive sky-high conversion rates at cost-effective CPAs; you need to master campaign optimization.

As soon as your campaigns are returning initial performance data, you need to determine which ads are performing, which aren’t, and why. Then you need to pull the right optimization levers to ensure you’re maximizing delivery and performance without wasting spend. In this post we’re going to discuss 5 different optimization strategies, all of which are crucial for long-term success with native advertising.

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1.    Test ad unit creative

The majority of programmatic native and content recommendation ads are made up of two types of creative: copy and visuals (visuals can be either images or video, depending on the ad/network). Controlled creative tests are a great way of measuring which combinations of text + imagery resonate most with your target audience. By optimizing both of these over the duration of a campaign, you ensure that only the most engaging ads are being served on publisher sites. A few things to consider:

  • Are there any common keywords in your top-performing headlines? Be sure to include emotionally-charged descriptive and action words when developing ad copy.
  • In addition to keywords, pay attention to headline length. Shorter headlines tend to outperform longer ones.
  • Do your top-performing images feature a common color or composition type (e.g. faces/people vs. product shots)?

 

2. Split placement at the campaign level

How to control your delivery costs by device:

The majority of native networks only allow you to set CPC/CPV bids at the campaign level. What this means is, if you want to serve ads on three different device types (desktop, tablet, mobile) and you build them all under the same campaign, you’re only able to adjust one bid (instead of three). Save yourself time and, potentially, wasted spend by building separate campaigns for each targeted device. Example: if a high-converting desktop campaign is under-delivering, you’ll be able to bump your desktop CPC bid up to improve delivery without making unnecessary changes to other campaign/device settings.

 

3. Adjust bids

Not seeing delivery for a particular campaign? Try increasing your CPC/CPV bids. The more you’re willing to spend per user action, the more likely your ad will be served to those users.

Building a campaign and not sure what starting bids to set? Here are a few tips:

  • Brand awareness/editorial-focused campaigns tend to drive cheaper traffic than advertorial campaigns. Start with bids between $0.40 – $0.60 and optimize from there. Native networks with smaller publisher lists are capable of achieving CPCs < $0.30.
  • Advertorial campaign bids will usually need to be slightly higher in order to achieve high-volume delivery. Start at $0.50 – $0.70 CPCs and optimize as you start to see performance.
  • Sequential remarketing campaigns (direct response content served to users who have already engaged with brand awareness content) will drive the best performance at CPCs > $0.70. Depending on the network, sequential campaign CPC costs can be upwards of $1.00 – $1.20, but you will see much higher CVRs and low CPAs.

 

4. Conversion-optimize landing pages

This was a big, bolded headline in my previous post on native: “Great native advertising is more than just a catchy headline.” Before you launch a native advertising campaign, be sure all destination pages are optimized for view/readability and for the action(s) you want visitors to take. A few things to consider:

  • What is your campaign’s objective? Brand awareness campaigns typically perform well driving traffic to blog posts, earned media pieces and other types of longer-form content. More DR-focused campaigns should leverage splash or content-focused product pages.
  • Are your campaign’s landing pages optimized for the device types you’re targeting?
  • Are there multiple opportunities for users to convert on each landing page? If not, place CTAs within and around on-page content. Also make sure you’re leveraging different on-page elements to drive conversions, as some users may be more inclined to click a button vs. a hyperlink (or vice versa).

 

5. Test performance on multiple ad networks

As native advertising continues to outperform display and command more digital spend, an increasing number of ad networks are developing unique value props for brands to leverage, such as:

  • Exclusive relationships with premium and/or niche publishers
  • Advanced targeting segments
  • Innovative native technology solutions (interactive ad units, advanced reporting metrics, etc.)

The bigger players (Taboola, Outbrain, Yahoo) are generally a good place to start, as all of these platforms offer easy-to-navigate campaign creation/optimization, a number of targeting options, and access to thousands of publishers (with the exception of Yahoo Gemini, which only serves native ads on its own digital properties). However testing content performance on smaller networks can allow you to achieve lower CPCs and CPAs at higher conversion rates if your campaigns are targeted, built, and optimized correctly. Take advantage of the many unique native solutions available to brands in 2016 – your engaging content deserves the exposure!