Affiliate Marketing

How Bid Strategy Helps Affiliate Marketers Sleep Better at Night

Rocco Pastonesi
Rocco Pastonesi
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As an Affiliate Marketer, you’re smart and you’re hungry. And that means your business is growing, and fast. If there’s one thing every successful Affiliate Marketer knows, it’s “time is money”, and that’s something you don’t ever want to lose out on.

On the other hand, you see lots of opportunities before you, and you’ve got A LOT on your plate. You are doing loads of testing on different offers across different geos. And this is where your drive to succeed and your lack of time have a head-on collision.

As the complexity of Affiliate Marketing tools and strategies increases, your workload is skyrocketing. And you end up with a long list of “to-dos” for way too many campaigns than you can easily handle.

Something’s gotta give! So what’s it going to be? Do you end up staying awake till all hours of the night, optimizing section by section through a list of hundreds of different publishers, campaign by campaign?

If you answered “yes”, then you are investing too much time optimizing and too little time doing the things that will help you expand your business in the longer term: scoping out new offers, talking with more affiliate networks, fostering relationships, keeping up with new trends, and learning about new products that work great for Affiliates (like Outbrain’s native Carousel ads, which can be ideal if you are working across multiple offers or with listicles).

Now for the good news…

There’s a tool designed to help Affiliates overcome exactly the challenge described above, and it’s called Conversion Bid Strategy.

Why is Conversion Bids Strategy the right tool for Affiliate Marketers like you? Let’s find out.

What is Conversion Bid Strategy?

Conversion Bid Strategy (CBS) is Outbrain’s ultimate tool designed for marketers looking for performance by a specific, set CPA goal — tied to leads, sales, or app installs.

This tool is completely new and different from any other conversion features that have been released in past years — and it’s definitely worthwhile getting to know!

What’s different about CBS?

In order to understand this, let’s take a quick look at the old way to optimize on Outbrain, based on conversions, and then examine the new, improved way, with CBS.

The old way:

After beginning any test, you’d check your campaign performance on the dashboard, analyzing every ad with a breakdown by publisher sections. Then, you’d go through each section CPA, benchmarking them with your target, and manually adjust section bids accordingly.

Now, let’s assume you are launching your top Affiliate offer and want to test it across each device: you already end up with three different campaigns. Plus, considering that on each campaign, you’d get clicks from at least 40 different sections, this means at least 120 source performances. And this is just for one offer. Imagine multiple offers, and do the math…

You don’t need to guess how incredibly time-consuming it can be.

The new way, with CBS:

Conversion Bid Strategy does the hard work for you — not only because it optimizes for you, but because it does it better than you can.

Based on the conversion objective that you define on the dashboard, CBS will optimize your campaigns towards the highest converting sections. It uses machine-learning and sophisticated modeling to continually “learn” the behaviors and conversion patterns of internet users who are consuming content across the Outbrain network.

Imagine this: hands off bids by section. With CBS, all you have to do is look at your campaign’s overall CPA — it’s as simple and powerful as that.

Why is Conversion Bid Strategy so great (especially for Affiliates)?

One of the perks of CBS is that you can dive in and start using it straight away — the system is smart enough to know what to do, even from the get-go.

For ultimate performance, we always recommend having a pixel implemented for the conversion you want to optimize to. Not a pixel fan? No need to worry, as we support server-to-server integrations as well.

What’s more, CBS  takes into consideration aggregate conversion information collected at the Outbrain network level — not just on your campaign or account level. And seeing as Outbrain possesses a huge, unique data pool, stemming from billions of users around the globe, who convert in different ways — whether it be purchasing a wide range of products or leaving contact details for different advertisers and verticals — that’s an amazing cross-section of customer behavior data at your disposal.

Finally the CBS algos have been designed to constantly look at your latest performance trends and continuously adjust the bids in accordance with changes in conversion patterns.

All you have to do is make sure that the CPA is in line with your objectives.

Over a thousand affiliates have already chosen CBS – and most have done this successfully.

Some hard facts here to prove it: for over 90% of the launched campaigns, CBS has meant a substantial CPA improvement compared with not using it. For 50% of marketers, it has lowered the CPA by 20% or more. And 25% of marketers’ CPA has gone down by at least 45%.

Two Ways to Set Up Conversion Bid Strategy

Currently, you’ll find two main modes that function differently depending on the level of control you are looking for:

1. Semi-Automated Mode

If you want some degree of control, and the option to manually modify the auto-optimization, choose Semi-Automated Mode when setting up a campaign and insert the conversion type you want the algos to optimize towards.

Note that when using this mode, you will still manually change the campaign CPC — decreasing it if the current CPA is not in line with your goal, and increasing it if it looks good and you need more volume.

At the same time, you can consider other optimizations, such as by bidding by hour, especially if you see that conversions are much higher during certain parts of the day.

2. Fully-Automated Mode

If, instead, you want the algorithm to get even more control and bring you as many conversions as it can within the set budget, then choose Fully-Automated Mode.

The main advantage of Fully-Automated Mode is that it automatically optimizes your bids across all levels (sections, ads, hour of the day, etc), based on your campaigns’ performance.

It is especially effective when your campaigns cap early and you want to ensure that they can run at the top converting hours of the day.

Finally, with each mode (Semi and Fully-Automated), if you want to A/B test scenarios to see how the Bid Strategy performs for your campaign against a control group, you can easily run experiments, which means you’ll get really accurate and powerful data at your fingertips.

Conversion Bid Strategy: The Good, the Bad and the “Don’t Do That!”

OK, so while CBS is a fairly intuitive (and very smart!) tool, there are still some best practices to keep in mind to get the best results for your Affiliate campaigns. Here are some tips for you:

  • While you can use it at any time, CBS has proven to work best when conversion rates are below 40%.
  • Generally, the more data that gets fed into the system, the better our algorithms will work toward achieving your goal. This is why, for optimal performance, you can also insert the pixel for the step immediately before the final conversion goal.
    • For example, set the conversion for add-to-cart, in addition to the purchase, so you can gather more data. (This does not imply that CBS will optimize towards add-to-cart; it just means it has an extra layer to better understand purchasing patterns and bring you the right clicks)

  • As advised in our guide for affiliate marketers, a best practice is to build a dedicated campaign per each specific platform.
  • If you are using Semi-Automated Mode, it is highly recommended to avoid any manual optimizations (like bid by section or bid by content), as they would “overwrite” what the CBS algorithm will apply to that specific section.
    • When using Fully-Automated instead, these features won’t be available as the algorithm already optimizes at every level.
  • If you are into lead-generation (for example, auto insurance) where you generally don’t get paid for multiple leads from the same user, then you want to build within the dashboard a segment for the users who have converted – and exclude this from your campaign delivery.
  • CBS works great also when using advanced targeting features (such as interest targeting)
  • Reap the rep benefits and follow your Account Manager’s guidance for specific targeting features that can increase the bid strategy conversion rate.

Next Up:

A lot more info at your fingertips coming soon, so stay tuned!

Affiliate Marketing

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Rocco Pastonesi

Rocco Pastonesi

Rocco leads Outbrain's performance team in the Northern European region. Before joining Outbrain, Rocco worked at Tradedoubler, where he began his journey into the world of affiliate marketing.

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