Express Sees 16% Conversion Uplift With Content Recommendations (Case Study)

Express Newspapers has increased conversions on by 15.5% after implementing Outbrain’s content recommendation tool, which highlights relevant content to users on the site. The publisher also uses the technology to recommend sponsored links to external sites, which it gets paid for if clicked on (pictured below). Geoff Marsh, Express Newspapers online editor, said when initially presented with the model it was viewed as a commercial proposition, but the caveat to that is that it drives traffic.

Description: click here“We’re looking to build loyalty and anything that reduces bounce rate and increases the number of pages per user is something quite exciting…. Plus the commercial team sees it as a success because it’s an incremental revenue stream.” Of the 15.5% uplift, 12.8% is internal, so the vast majority of people who click on recommendations from Outbrain stay on the site to read other Express articles.


It’s pretty extraordinary considering the normal ad conversion rate is sub zero per cent,” said Marsh. “The model works because it is perceived by the reader as editorial content so the click through rates are much higher than they would be for any other form of commercial model.” The other 2.8% generates the revenue, which Marsh said is great, but added “in terms of driving people deeper into the website, the stats prove the point that it is working as a tool to increase interest in editorial content, rather than simply driving them off the site.”

The group is also using the technology across its Daily Star, OK, New and Star websites, which have seen a similar increase in conversions. On the Daily Star the average conversion rate is 9.5%, of which the internal CTR is 8.3% and 1.3% paid for. While on OK magazine, the CTR is 11.9% with 10.5% internal click throughs and 5.4% paid for.

The publisher is also seeing increased interest in older articles, particularly on its news sites where stories tend to become less popular after 12 hours. Marsh said, archive content doesn’t form a huge part of its traffic as “people live in the here and now” but he added, “that said, one of the issues for us, as with all publishers, is that we have this enormous archive which is of great use to people so having a tool that flags up some of that content where it’s relevant to individual users is hugely advantageous.”As a large proportion of traffic to news sites comes from referring sources, such as search engines, portals, social networks or sites like the BBC, Marsh said it is hugely important for publishers to do anything they can to retain users once they arrive.

“It’s a commercial dilemma: the first click is comparatively easy but it is much harder to get people to stay, so anything that can aid us in getting the second and third click and build genuine user loyalty, as opposed to having a large number of people clicking through initially and then bouncing straight off, is the Holy Grail,” he added.

Yaron Galai, Outbrain co-founder and CEO, said increasing the second click rate is what publishers should be focused on. “You can trick the page view number in all sorts of ways to increase the first click,” he said, “whether it’s buying traffic or stuffing content with key words, but if you’re not looking at whether users are satisfied, whether they are engaged and if they are coming back then is it really worth it? The second page view is far more important as it is an indication that content is interesting and engaging.” He likens it to a restaurant in a tourist trap or airport, which can afford to hike up its prices as the owner is looking for a quick fix rather than return traffic.

In line with that, he also warned publishers who may have wonderful content, to be careful of cramming their sites with low quality interruption ads, as it does not invite the second click.

This article was originally written by Lucy Tesseras and published on New Media Age.

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Sabrina Bailey Navalon

Originally from Montreal, Sabrina graduated from McGill University with a degree in Marketing and Finance. Speaking 3 languages fluently (English,... Read more

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