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4 Brain Changers to Help Performance Marketers Succeed with Outbrain

Adam Perl
Adam Perl

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin might have been right in the 19th century, but in today’s modern technological world where things are constantly changing, only those who adapt quickly survive—especially in the world of digital marketing.

Since its inception in the early 1990’s, the game has changed significantly. Remember the first few websites that appeared on the web? Back in those days, it was simple. If you were a marketer, you would just approach a website and purchase media space, (aka display advertising), or run a simple campaign on Google to “try” and get in front of your target audience.

Check out what Yahoo looked like back in the day. Plain and simple:

A Brief History on the Changing Face of Online Marketing

First came PPC, then SEO. Shortly after, social media hit the scene and finally, the era of content marketing was born. While each approach ultimately shares the same goal, most performance marketers still find it difficult to succeed with their content marketing efforts, especially when PPC-oriented.

The problem is that most performance marketers assume if they take their successful landing pages or conversion funnels and apply them “as is,” they are going to generate similar results for their content marketing campaigns. While the copy-paste formula might work for some, most encounter completely different metrics. And, if not analyzed correctly, this will eventually translate into ROI negative campaigns.

The key is to not only understand the platform, its capabilities, and the audience type you are targeting, but also the user mindset and purpose of each platform. Understanding users as they touch different channels (such as PPC, organic search, display advertising, social advertising, and content recommendation platforms), allows you to better craft campaign targeting and messaging to lead consumers to the desired end goal.

As a proof point here, take this research from Outbrain on how mindset impacts audience engagement:

As a PPC marketer, it is critical to not always be so wrapped up in making data-supported decisions. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the key to success with content marketing is recognizing the human being on the other side of your efforts.

In this article, I’m going to focus on four different elements of content marketing and explain how if you make minor adjustments to your approach, you’ll be able to achieve better results from your PPC campaigns.

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1) The Bidding is Different

If you’ve been running PPC campaigns for a while, you’ve probably noticed that over the years PPC giants such as Google and Facebook have updated their algorithms. They’ve incorporated different factors into their overall calculations in order to serve more relevant and quality ads to their users.

Google’s quality score, for instance, takes into account numerous factors (among others):

  • CTR
  • Relevance of each keyword to its ad group
  • Landing page quality and relevance
  • Relevance of ad text
  • Historical AdWords account performance

Facebook works slightly differently and incorporates numerous social factors to determine the quality of an ad. Similarly, Outbrain runs more than 45 algorithms to recommend each piece of content, the two major indicators being your CPC bid and CTR. This translates into their RPM scoring (revenue per 1,000 pageviews) which basically determines the number of visitors you’re going to get.

Up until this point, it sounded pretty simple, right?

But not so fast. You see, the problem with this shift isn’t with the metrics and algorithms themselves, but in understanding the variations of metrics between platforms. (The difference of which is often derived from each platform’s user mindset and can closely correlate with the type of traffic produced.)

As online audiences interact with content from different channels, their mindset is going to vary at these particular moments in time, which will influence their customer journey in different ways, and impact the results of your campaigns.

If you’re accustomed to high-quality CTRs from high-intent users when targeting specific keywords and audiences on a channel like search, you’ll have to settle for much lower CTRs on content recommendation platforms.

Paid search is all about getting ads in front of people who have already indicated they’d like to see that ad, while content recommendations distribute broader targeted ads in the hopes of piquing interest with content.

Quick Tip: By default, CTRs are lower when running content marketing campaigns, so in order to get quality traffic, bid high and start to decrease your bid according to your daily rate of spend. Make sure that your RPM is competitive so you’re receiving traffic and optimizing from there. Produce ads that allow you to stay competitive, but won’t drive too many low-quality clicks.

2) From Landing Pages to Editorial Based Content

While a landing page serves a unique purpose for a PPC campaign when it comes to generating leads and conversions, it doesn’t necessarily drive the greatest content marketing results. Unlike, for example, a blog post, which provides value and nurtures audiences, a landing page should be leveraged in a larger conversion funnel in order to extract more juice from a specific content marketing campaign. The idea is to target a broad audience with relevant and interesting content in the form of a recommendation, and then drive them further down the funnel with a contextual ad—and then deeper into conversion.
Essentially, one continuous flow that feels natural and native to the user.

It is misleading and confusing to a reader who may be expecting more content upon a click—depending on the channel and their mindset—to be dropped directly onto a landing page with very little value to them at that stage in the customer journey. A sharp transition like that will cause user friction and can negatively impact the trust a consumer has for your brand.

Content marketing should always focus on providing value and consider the stage the user is in within the funnel.

Quick Tip: Determine the objective of the content you’d like to use in order to create interest in your product or service. This may not produce immediate conversions, but the click-through during the next stage of the customer journey will produce higher quality visitors with a stronger chance of converting when they eventually hit a landing page.

3) Rethink Your Call-to-Actions

How and where to place your CTAs is a form of art.

At TechSors, we’ve found that text-based CTA links tend to work better than flashy CTA buttons that can disrupt the user experience in an article. Readers simply don’t understand that some buttons are connected to the article unless they are contextually relevant and are meant to help the user address a problem or find a solution.

In the following example, we placed two CTA links, both leading to the same place, in a few different spots within an article. The first one was camouflaged in the body of the text. The second one stood alone, reading more like your standard CTA. While the second link with more promotional copy generated better click-throughs, the less pushy and more natural link generated a better conversion rate.

Quick Tip: Place your CTA links / buttons strategically throughout your whole article in order to attract people who don’t make it to the end of the page. We try to place a variety of CTAs every couple hundred words without going overboard.

4) Optimization Takes Time, So Be Patient

You can’t force a user to quickly make their way through the content journey and to a conversion. This is meant to happen naturally, and if done correctly, a strategic content marketing campaign can yield a profitable return on investment in the form of qualified leads and strong brand affinity.

For all you performance marketers out there slashing campaigns because they exceed your CPL or CPA goal, remember to be patient. Don’t forget that driving engaged readers to content produces a different set of behaviors and actions than your standard PPC campaigns, where you are driving users with stronger intent to landing pages and advertorials.

Additionally, you may not always see the various touch points a piece of content may have or how a user interacts with it. For example, a reader might save your link for later or copy and paste it and send it to a friend who may access it at a more convenient time down the line.

Sometimes campaigns that at first look ROI negative, can quickly turn positive if given the right amount of time.

Quick Tip: To expedite the process, try leveraging social share buttons on your each of your articles which allow users to quickly share the content, resulting in additional traffic for the same click you originally paid for. Did you know that each share on Facebook will expose your content to an average of 388 new friends? And that’s not even counting the dark sharing going on which we can’t even attribute visits to.

Final thoughts

Charles Darwin was aware of his surroundings and every marketer should be aware too. Adapt your thinking and you will achieve greater results. Don’t assume that what works well on one platform will always work well on another, and be sure to give your campaigns ample time to reflect the impact of your content.

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Adam Perl

Adam Perl

Adam is VP Marketing at TechSors and Co-founder of ContentGenie. For over 10+ years Adam has helped performance oriented companies to maximize their online marketing efforts in a variety of fields including social marketing, content marketing, and display advertising. Adam specializes in numerous fields including lead generation, CRO and content creation. You can read more of his stuff on the TechSors blog.

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  • Avatar
    Amy Jordan| October 26, 2016 at 12:12PM

    Being a good marketer means knowing you have to adapt to change; over my short career things have moved fast, and I don’t doubt they’re set to continue to move faster!

    I totally agree Adam, hence my reading everything I can on marketing to this day 🙂

    Multiple CTAs throughout the content, and in the most sensible place for the reader at the time, is really important too.

    Thanks for the great article!