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When we talk about native ad campaign optimization, where do we even start?
Maybe you focus on bidding or creatives, perhaps you just worry about placements and that´s it – and go about your day. I know it can get overwhelming especially if you´re new to native advertising.
But don´t worry, I´m here to help you navigate through the treacherous optimization ocean with 9 easy recommendations. I´ll also show you a list of optimizations broken into “performance impact.”
So you know what to focus your attention on first.
Ready to start optimizing?
The Native Ad Campaign Optimization Checklist
You don´t want to waste all your precious time with optimizations that have little impact on performance. This checklist will help you understand what to focus on first and why we do it that way.
Publishers (placements, sites)
Publishers are the heart of native, their quality has a lot to do with campaign performance
Creatives (images, videos, copy)
Content is what publishers are made of and quality ad content will drive performance
Bidding (CPC adjustment, budget, bid strategy)
The right bidding is crucial to get in front of high-quality audiences efficiently and at scale
Devices (platforms, OS, browsers)
Campaign strategies vary because people consume content differently on the various devices
Locations (countries, regions)
Low - Medium
Location is typically the least of your worries since it´s best practice to run single-location campaigns on native
This table gives you a general view of native optimizations and their priorities. It encapsulates all the platforms into one easy-to-follow checklist. Because of the general nature of this framework, it is flexible and can vary depending on your business type, goals, and platform.
A common question when optimizing is “how far should I look back?”
This will depend on the amount of traffic you drive. For most businesses, I´d recommend looking at the last 30 days.
I found this time frame allows for a solid amount of data gathering to make smart decisions.
Now that you know where to put your attention first, let´s get a bit more tactical.
9 Ways Native Ad Campaign Optimization Can Boost Performance
Note that these are not all the optimizations you can do on your native campaigns. They´re just the easiest ones to help you get a quick win. Also, these are data-driven optimizations. We´ll leave our ego at the door for this to work. No place for emotional decisions.
That´s the single biggest mistake made by advertisers when optimizing any campaign. They let their emotions drive decisions so the story almost always ends in disaster.
1 – Block Placements With Zero Conversions
Some publishers can eat your budget without bringing any conversions. If you see that a certain site or section has spent 2-3X your CPA, block it.
The easiest way I found to do this is to sort placements by spend. And then look at the conversions column to guide my optimization.
Remember that some platforms will limit the number of publishers you can block. Outbrain is a good example – where you can block up to 30 publishers and 100 sections per campaign. So it´s best to focus on the highest spenders.
- Rule: spent 2-3X CPA and 0 conversions
2 – Block Placements With No Visits
For this one, I´d recommend you set up a conversion event called View Content.
View Content is pretty easy to set up and will record landing pages views. That will help you visualize what placements bring more than 10 clicks but no sessions or page views.
You can even go a step further and add View Content Conversions, Conversion Rate, and CPA. This can give you an even clearer view of performance since clicks with no sessions will basically equal zero on all those metrics.
Alternatively, you might want to use a third-party click tracking tool such as Voluum, or other optimization software to see landing page view conversion rate.
- Rule: > 10 clicks and 0 view content conversions
3 – Block Placements With Too High CTR
We were taught that a high click-through rate is a good sign, that your ads are working. However, if it´s too high, it can be a red flag.
Placements with “too good to be true” or suspiciously high CTR might indicate bot traffic. Typical CTRs on native are around 0.50%. If you see anything above 2 digits, beware.
Specifically, you want to block placements with at least 1,000 impressions, above 20% CTR, and that brought zero conversions. This will help you prevent most bot activity from publishers.
- Rule: > 1,000 impressions, > 20% CTR and 0 conversions
4 – Pause Creatives Above CPA
Creative rotation is one of the highest-impact optimizations you can make. An easier and quicker optimization is simply to pause ads above your target cost per acquisition.
If you want to go the extra mile, do this. Pause underperforming creatives, and immediately replace them with another one. Sometimes, all it takes is just changing the headline, especially if the CTR is really low.
- Rule: spent 2-3X CPA and 0 conversions
5 – Decrease Budget If CPA Is Too High
This campaign-level optimization is great for auto-bidding strategies such as Target CPA or ROAS. Typically with these strategies, your budget will be the lever. Often advertisers don´t want to deviate from the targets. It´s easier to just adjust budgets.
Your target cost per acquisition will work inversely to the budget. Your target return on ad spend works in the same direction as the budget. If the CPA is too high or ROAS is too low, reduce the budget.
Conversely, if you´re hitting your CPA easily and are happy with your ROAS, increase the budget. A word of caution here, though. Increase it incrementally, say 20 to 50% every 3 to 5 days. Huge, sudden increases can actually spike up your CPA and “crash” your ROAS.
- Rule: increase budget 20-50% every 3-5 days if CPA < $50 (for example)
6 – Increase CPC When CPA Is Good
The most effective use for this one is at the campaign level. And if you´re using any kind of semi-automatic bidding strategy. An example of this kind of strategy is Outbrain´s CBS.
Increase your campaign CPC when you´re happy with your cost per acquisition.
Conversely, you want to reduce the CPC if you see that CPA is too high. Try not to adjust placement or creative bids too much at the same time, if you´re already doing it at the campaign level. As that can cause instability and lead to lower performance.
- Rule: decrease CPC by 10% if CPA > $30 OR increase CPC by 10% if CPA < $20 (for example)
7 – Bid More On High Converting Placements
For this optimization to be effective, you have to define the conversions that are important to your business. In other words, the conversion events included in the Conversions column.
Only include the most valuable conversions. For instance, ecommerce will always have purchases. A more complex B2B company might have leads and demos.
In terms of optimization, look for placements with at least 1,000 impressions and 5 conversions. Plus a conversion rate above your campaign average. The better the conversion rate the higher you can bid.
The number of conversions might be different depending on your average value per conversion. A business where conversions are worth $100 will need significantly more impressions than one where conversions are worth only $10.
- Rule: increase CPC by 20% when 1,000 impressions, 5 conversions and > 25% conversion rate (for example)
8 – Focus On High Converting Devices
You should be testing different devices in separate campaigns, whenever possible. This is because the CPC and user behavior are not the same on all devices. And that will affect performance.
But let´s say you´re targeting all devices in one campaign, which again, is not recommended. You´ve found that Desktop is the highest converting. Simply turn off Tablet and Mobile.
This is more in the area of testing. However, I know there are a lot of native advertisers that mix multiple devices. So removing the “bad apples” or low-performing devices can give you an instant boost in performance.
- Rule: scale devices with > 10 conversions and > 20% conversion rate (for example)
9 – Exclude High CPA Locations
Similar to device targeting, it´s best practice to test single-location campaigns. The reason is US publishers are different from the UK, for example. Audience type, behavior, and CPCs, most of the time, won´t be the same.
However, there are some instances where it´s ok to bundle multiple countries in one campaign. A typical example is remarketing campaigns.
For most advertisers, it doesn´t make sense to segment GEOs on remarketing. That might even decrease performance because bidding technology will always work better with more data.
- Rule: spent 2-3X CPA and > 5 conversions
Optimizing Native Campaigns The Easy Way
Let´s face it.
Pushing a couple of buttons is fairly easy.
Blocking, pausing, or adjusting are examples of that. But just because they´re easy, doesn´t mean they´re not time-consuming. In fact, some of the optimizations can take a lot of time out of your day.
That´s why we partnered with a leading native ad campaign optimization tool, Brax, to help you automate some of these repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
If you want to optimize the hard way, by all means, do it. The important thing is that you start optimizing. That will bring you the best results possible.