Outbrain Native Ads Best Practices Only The Pros Know About
Outbrain native ads are hot.
Over 300 billion ad impressions are served every month by their technology. Outbrain is known for having a network of high-quality publishers and exceptional targeting capabilities.
This makes it an attractive platform for not just publishers to monetize content but also for performance marketers looking to drive better results from advertising.
If you´re here, it´s likely you´re on the advertiser side.
Maybe you´re thinking of adding Outbrain to your media mix. Perhaps, you´re just getting started. Or you´re an experienced advertiser that wants to get a slight edge.
Either way, you can benefit from these actionable best practices.
- Outbrain Native Ad Specs
- What´s A Good CTR On Outbrain?
- What´s The Average Outbrain CPC?
- Outbrain Native Ads Best Practices
- Campaign Settings
- Campaign Structure
- Creative & Copy
- Campaign Optimization
- Outbrain Native Ads: What´s Your Campaign Strategy
Outbrain Native Ad Specs
The recommended image size on Outbrain for optimal performance is 1200×800. You can upload an image of up to 2.5Mb, and 30Mb for mp4 or gif files. The video or gif clip length should not exceed 10 seconds.
For the title, you can have up to 100 characters while the site or brand name is 60.
What´s A Good CTR On Outbrain?
That´s a good question. Because click-through rate is one of the most important leading metrics to judge content performance. If you´ve never advertised on native platforms, this number might seem low. But it´s due to the fact that on native, you get a lot of impressions, so CTR benchmarks tend to be lower than on Facebook, for example.
In general terms, a good CTR on Outbrain is between 0.10 and 0.25%. It can vary depending on your industry, traffic temperature, bidding strategy, publisher targeting, and ad content.
What´s The Average Outbrain CPC?
As a broad benchmark, you can spend anywhere between $0.15 to $0.30 per click on Outbrain.
Those numbers can get a lot higher if you´re targeting MSN sites only, high-impact placements, or more valuable attributes, for example. Here, CPC can get as high as $3.
Similar to CTR, this metric will greatly depend on other factors, the main one being if you sell B2C or B2B. The former will typically be cheaper.
Outbrain Native Ads Best Practices
These are mainly related to tracking and the use of conversion data.
Use First-Party Data For Bidding
With the demise of third-party cookies, advertisers need to come up with new strategies to improve ad performance. The biggest one is leveraging first-party data. In that sense, Outbrain makes it easy for you.
All you have to do is connect your Google Analytics account to Outbrain. Then, you can use their Engagement Bid Strategies to drive better performance without relying on third-party data.
Track Publishers & Sections Via Tokens
This is another way to use Google Analytics data to make informed decisions on your advertising spend. I highly recommend you use UTMs to track your campaigns.
Plus, you can go a step further and track publishers and sections via Outbrain´s URL tokens. These will add certain dynamic parameters to your URL, thus giving you more granular data to analyze performance.
A well-structured ad campaign is half the battle. Without it, you´ll waste time on unnecessary account management and risk decreasing your campaign performance.
Separate Campaigns By Product Line
Not doing this is one of the biggest mistakes advertisers make. Separating campaigns by product line will give you an immediate understanding of where you should put your efforts.
It also helps the ad algorithms perform better because marketing messages and avatars often differ based on the product.
Let´s imagine you have an ecommerce brand that sells men´s shoes. You can have 3 cold campaigns, one for dress shoes, another for casual, and the last one for boots. You can even drill down further and segment dress shoes, for example, by monk-strap, loafers, and oxford.
Separate Campaigns By Traffic Temperature
Another killer mistake is to bundle cold, warm, and hot traffic in the same campaign like a Christmas gift. Different traffic temperatures not only have distinct KPIs but also messaging and buyer journeys are completely different.
Not to mention the negative impact it has on your Outbrain bidding strategy and most importantly, your bottom line.
Segment Campaigns By GEO
It might sound good to put multiple locations on the same native campaign – can be a huge time saver. However, the trade-off is not worth it.
This is because publisher performance varies greatly depending on the location. And that will give you a limited and obscured perspective on your campaign data.
Split your Outbrain campaigns into countries, or if you´re more of a national brand, consider splitting by region. Also, a local business can benefit greatly from zip code targeting.
Segment Campaigns By Device
If publisher performance varies depending on location, then user behavior is different depending on the device. This is especially true if you compare desktop and mobile. Most importantly, CPCs vary widely.
Outbrain recommends that you, at best, mix desktop with tablet but exclude mobile.
Personally, I like to isolate all devices into a separate campaign. That allows you more control and gives you a more focused approach, which in turn, helps to drive better results.
Limit Ads To 10 Per Campaign
According to Outbrain, you should have 5 to 10 ads per campaign. The bigger your ad spend, the more ads you should be testing. Variety is super important because it gives you the maximum chance of finding the winning ads, in the shortest period of time possible.
Send Traffic To Branded Content
Many newbie native advertisers get this wrong.
They think Outbrain is just like Facebook or Google, where you can send cold traffic to your home page or lead magnet landing page and get great results.
Native platforms don´t work like that. It´s mainly related to how users consume content on the publishers´ sites. Your best chance of success here is to send traffic to a pre-sell article or branded content, also known as a blog post.
The content you promote needs to be in line with the users´ behavior.
Creative & Copy
Ad creatives and copy are two of the best levers you can pull to drive performance. They have the highest impact on your campaigns.
Use Tittle Suggestions Feature
You don´t have to figure out what headlines work best. Outbrain does it for you. It takes millions of data signals from high converting headlines on the platform, looks at your website content, and spits out a list of headlines.
This feature becomes activated once you start creating your ad and fill out the Content URL section. It can save you hours of trying to figure out what headlines to use.
Portrait Images Work Better
Avoid stock images, full-screen logos, and fancy graphics. There´s a reason why it´s called native advertising. Native means that it matches the look and feel of the surrounding content.
That being said, use portraits instead of action photos. In other words, avoid movement. Also, use lifestyle images. They look more like the content you see on publishers.
Calls To Action For Conversions
You can test calls to action on any objective.
I´ve actually found them to be effective in Traffic campaigns. However, it can give you the “most bang for your buck” on the Conversions objective. Why is that? Because this objective is optimized towards action.
In advertising, questions are always powerful. Because they drive more engagement and that tends to get the CTR up and CPC down. This means your ads will be more effective.
Instead of saying… “3 Common Mistakes In Real Estate Investing”
Say… “Are You Making These Mistakes In Real Estate Investing?”
Outbrain´s data studies show that questions are more effective. That doesn’t mean you shouldn´t test other headlines. Your own testing can often be the best validation.
Call Out The Avatar
This is good-old copywriting at its best. And one of the most impactful tactics you´ll use. Calling out the avatar allows you to filter the audience you don´t want to attract by saying who the content is for.
Let´s say your target audience is stay-at-home moms.
Instead of saying… “Top Home Workouts You Can Do Under 10 Minutes”
Say… “Stay At Home Moms: Try These 10-Minute Workout Routines”
Easy, right? Let´s move on.
Use Numbered Lists
Outbrain says that lists get more clicks. Also, odd numbers work best. You´re probably already aware of this, from your own experience, as a consumer or marketer.
Nevertheless, it´s always a great reminder.
Don´t say… “Amazing Spring Fashion Tips For Classy Women”
Instead, say… “17 Amazing Spring Fashion Tips For Classy Women”
Got it? Awesome.
Negative Keywords Perform Better
The better you understand human psychology the more you know this. There´s something within us that is attracted to negativity.
This might be contradictory to what the great minds of advertising believed and tested, back in the 20th century. In his classic book, Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins says: “make your every ad breathe good cheer.”
On Outbrain publishers, words such as “worst”, “risky” or “never” tend to perform better.
In any case, it´s always good to implement best practices but also to test and validate them for yourself.
Native ad optimization is like fine-tuning a high-performance race car. There´s always an opportunity to squeeze the most out of it.
One Avatar Per Campaign
You already know you should segment campaigns by location, device, and product line. Ideally, you should also try to include one customer avatar per campaign. It can take your performance to the next level.
The goal of this tactic is to have campaigns that are tailored to a specific audience. This will feed the algorithms with similar data points and help your ads perform better in the long run.
The opposite is true when you mix avatars in one campaign. It tends to confuse the algorithms because there are more variables to consider and optimize for.
The 7-Day KPI Rule
Whenever you launch a campaign, try not to touch it for 7 days. If you´re super impatient, this might be difficult.
Just trust the platform, let the campaigns breathe, and wait for the data to make smart decisions. Don´t get carried away by your emotions. Easier said than done! I know.
Anyway, wait 7 days and analyze your results. Pause any ads above your main KPI and leave the 2 or 3 best-performing. Then, launch another 2 to 5 ads.
Change Ads Once A Week
This best practice is in sync with the previous one. There is a sweet spot here on Outbrain. You don´t want to change ads too quickly and you also don´t want to wait a month to swap ads.
The rule of thumb is to rotate your ad content at least once a week.
Test Top Creatives With New Copy
If you´re always short on time, you´ll love this one.
When you rotate creatives, you can simply test another headline instead of uploading a completely new ad creative.
You might be surprised to find that performance improves by 2, 3, or 5X just by changing the headline. That´s how powerful ad copy is!
Keep CPC Decreases At 10%
Similar to other platforms, Outbrain´s AI and machine learning technology is quite sensitive to sudden changes. It´s particularly sensitive to bid changes.
If you see that a campaign is struggling to bring you a good CPA, for example, be careful reducing its CPC. Do so but in 3 to 5-day increments and no more than 10%.
It´s best practice to target limit your audience targeting to 2 or 3 layers. This is especially important in the first few days, in some cases weeks, of your campaign being live.
Outbrain´s algorithms need space to properly optimize.
Start with a 1M audience size or so, in the beginning. You can always scale down and tighten things up as you gather more data.
Outbrain Native Ads: What´s Your Campaign Strategy
So, where do you go from here? It´s easy to get overwhelmed and sink into “paralysis-analysis.”
Pick 2 or 3 best practices to start with and implement. See what kind of results you get. Keep repeating the cycle until you´ve tested all of these for yourself.
And if nothing works, then you´ve got to comment below and let me know because something is wrong.
I´d love you to drop a comment below anyway. Which of these Outbrain native ads best practices are you most likely to implement first?
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.