Outbrain Bidding Strategies Demystified

Published by Pedro Campos on

outbrain bidding strategies

Outbrain offers a number of powerful bidding strategies advertisers can use to reach their ideal audience effectively.
With so many choices, it can be difficult to choose the right one for you.

In this article, we´ll dive into the different strategies and show you exactly when and who should use each one, and also share with you some best practices.

Outbrain Bidding Strategies Best Practices

Essentially, there are two types of bidding options on Outbrain:

  • Engagement
  • Conversion

Much like other major ad platforms, you will have one strategy per campaign. So, it´s critical that you determine the campaign goal beforehand. For instance, is the goal to simply get clicks to your website or get users to make a purchase on your store?

Once you´re clear on your campaign goal, choosing the right bidding strategy will be much easier. Let’s now break down each strategy and understand their bidding optimization modes.

Engagement Bid Strategy (EBS)

EBS has recently been revamped with the addition of Google Analytics metrics. It´s available only for Traffic campaigns. Within this strategy, you can choose three options:

  • Clicks: optimizes your bids to get you the maximum number of clicks within your budget
  • Pages Per Session: optimizes for the most pages per session possible for a given user
  • Session Duration: optimizes towards getting you the most engaged users possible

Note that only Clicks doesn´t require a Google Analytics integration.

When To Use EBS

To get the most out of this bid strategy, you need to have a Google Analytics account with a decent amount of website data.

Who Should Use EBS

  • Brands that possess first-party data sets
  • Marketers who want to amplify their message and drive engagement on their content

EBS Best Practices

  1. Link your Google Analytics account to Outbrain
  2. Use this bid strategy primarily for top-of-funnel campaigns
  3. Drive traffic to editorial content to build more trust with the audience
  4. Use mainly benefit-driven headlines, “how to”, typically works well

Conversion Bid Strategy (CBS)

CBS is available for campaigns with the Conversions or App Installs objective. Within this strategy, you can choose four optimization modes:

  • Fully Automatic: this is similar to Google´s Maximize Conversions strategy, it helps you get as many conversions as possible within your budget
  • Semi-Automatic: allows you to control bids manually at the publisher and section level
  • Target CPA: optimizes to give you conversions at or below your ideal cost per acquisition
  • Target ROAS: helps you generate as much revenue as possible at or above your target return on ad spend within your budget

Fully Automatic

When To Use It

  • If your goal is to drive as many conversions as possible
  • Ideal if you want to spend the full budget and scale fast

Who Should Use It

  • Advertisers looking to boost conversions
  • Brands that want machine learning to do the heavy lifting

Best Practices

  1. Let the campaigns run for 48 hours without making any changes
  2. Raise your CPC only if the max. CPC is hit

Semi-Automatic

When To Use It

  • If you want to stay on top of the CPC and it´s your main KPI
  • Best used when you have the resources or algorithm that can monitor performance throughout the day

Who Should Use It

  • Brands with large data sets
  • Companies that have the resources to monitor spending and CPA multiple times a day

Best Practices

  1. Monitor CPC and CPA performance closely and regulary
  2. Decrease your CPC if CPA is too high
  3. Increase your CPC if you´re happy with the CPA

Target CPA

When To Use It

  • If you´re restricted to a certain target cost per acquisition
  • When you don´t generate enough conversions per week to use Target ROAS

Who Should Use It

  • Mainly performance marketers looking to generate leads or sales
  • Brands that want to stick to a specific target CPA without compromising scaling

Best Practices

  1. Allow 48 hours before making any campaigns adjustments
  2. Set a realistic target based on data from other platforms
  3. The daily budget should be at least 3 times your CPA goal
  4. Increase the budget incrementally if you´re hitting the target CPA easily
  5. Decrease campaign budget if the CPA is too high

Target ROAS

When To Use It

  • When you´re passing static or dynamic conversion values through pixel events

Who Should Use It

  • Ecommerce marketers whose main focus is to drive sales and increase return on ad spend

Best Practices

  1. Avoid touching the campaigns for 48 hours after launch
  2. Set a realistic target to prevent scaling issues
  3. Start with a budget that generates at least 8 conversions per week
  4. Increase the budget incrementally if you´re happy with your ROAS
  5. Decrease the budget if ROAS is too low

The Right Bidding Strategy For You

It can get a bit overwhelming when you have to decide which bidding strategy to use. The best way to approach this is to go back to your marketing goal. Every campaign starts with the end goal in mind.

If you have an ecommerce business, for example, and you want to generate the highest return on ad spend possible, then choosing Clicks most likely won´t help you achieve your goal.

You have to keep this in mind.
First, understand your business, its data, and secondly, your main marketing goal. From there, it will be much easier to leverage Outbrain´s bidding technology to help you achieve that goal.

If you´d like to get expert advice on how to use these bid strategies for your unique business, book a free ad strategy call with us, we´d be happy to guide you in the right direction.


Pedro Campos

Pedro is a Portuguese-born who fell into the media buying world by chance after watching a video ad online. These days, you can find him running Advertongue, an agency helping global brands grow and scale efficiently by turning native advertising into profit. Outside work, Pedro enjoys traveling, Mexican food, adventure sports, and action-packed movies. Hard to get him to drop a good book too, especially those from legends of the ad business.

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